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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘SIM’

Alan Gross Revelations Could Hamper Campaign For His Release

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

WASHINGTON – For the Jews of Cuba, it was the ultimate Internet connection. The high-tech equipment that U.S. contractor Alan Gross brought with him to Cuba in 2009 to help connect local Jews to the Internet reportedly included a SIM card that makes it almost impossible to track satellite signals and is generally unavailable to civilians, even in the United States.

That was one of the revelations in an Associated Press report earlier this month that has exacerbated concerns Cuba will hang tough on its stated determination not to release Gross, a 62-year-old Maryland Jewish man who was in Cuba to do work for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for crimes described as “acts against the integrity of the state.”

Yet the AP report, apparently based on mission reports by Gross, helps reinforce the claim that Gross, his family, his employer and the State Department have made all along – that Gross’s mission was straightforward and not at all nefarious: He wanted to hook up Cuba’s Jews with their brethren worldwide.

The AP article “doesn’t change what we’re doing,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We never argued the matters that were raised” regarding Gross’ activities, he said.

According to the AP story, Gross understood the dangers he faced. That is evident both in his reports – he called his enterprise “risky business in no uncertain terms” in one memo – and his actions. He recruited Jewish tourists to help bring in the devices, and the most damaging evidence, according to AP, was the sophisticated SIM card he has in his possession.

Yet the story also makes clear that Gross, who was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, hardly fits the profile of a spy, which is how Cuban President Raul Castro described him.

“Alan Gross was working as a contractor for the U.S. government to promote democracy in Cuba,” said William Daroff, the Washington director for Jewish Federations of North America.

“He was convicted by a court in a country that does not respect the rule of law. His now over two years in a Cuban prison is unjust and we demand the Cuban government release him and that the American government use all of its influence to bring him home.”

The Jewish Federations and the local Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington have taken the lead in pushing publicly for Gross’s release, including petitions and vigils outside the offices of Cuban representatives.

“It hasn’t had any impact at all, if anything it’s only strengthened peoples’ resolve,” Ronald Halber, the director of the Washington JCRC said, of the AP story. The JCRC is set to launch on Wednesday a petition at FreeAlanGrossNow.com urging Pope Benedict XVI to make the case for Gross’s release when he visits Cuba next month.

Gross is said to be ill, having lost 100 pounds of the 250 pounds he weighed before his arrest. His daughter and mother have suffered bouts with cancer during his incarceration.

Those close to the case say privately that the AP’s revelations would not be news to the Cuban authorities. However, they are concerned that making them public will inhibit any Cuban willingness to release Gross.

The AP story describes Gross’ mission as setting up hundreds of Cubans – particularly the island’s 1,500 Jews – with WiFi hotspots for unrestricted Internet access as part of the democracy promotion by USAID, a State Department program. The story depicts Gross’s interactions as primarily with Cuba’s Jews.

“He did nothing wrong other than to connect peaceful non-dissident Jewish communities to the Internet,” said Steven O’Connor, the spokesman for Development Alternatives Inc., the USAID contractor that hired Gross.

Gross’s wife, Judy, addressed the AP story’s claims for the first time on Sunday in a breakfast with congregants at Congregation Chizuk Amuno in Baltimore.

“To suggest that Alan had any ulterior motive other than to help Cuba’s small Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and Intranet is categorically false,” she said in prepared remarks shared exclusively with JTA.

“Unfortunately, in countries like Cuba, the free flow of information is forbidden, and therefore it should come as no surprise that Alan had to be careful and discreet while he was in Cuba.”

She added, “That members of the media and the blogosphere continue to debate and analyze Alan’s work – a discussion in which the participants openly speculate as to his motives and his actions, despite having never met the man or even spoken with him – while he rots in a Cuban prison without the opportunity to freely and openly respond, is deplorable.”

Judy Gross described her husband’s mission as setting up unfettered Internet access to communicate with Jews outside Cuba and an Intranet so the communities – some in remote areas – could communicate with one another, “allowing them to share things like recipes, prayers and even sports scores.”

Cell Phonies

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

       Last week, to my deep distress, my cell phone disappeared from my purse. I don’t know whether it somehow fell out, or if someone on the very crowded street purposely brushed against me and slipped a hand into my purse. All I know was that it was gone – and it became obvious that whoever found it was planning on keeping it because it was shut off in the middle of the second ring when I called from a friend’s phone. Also, an honest person would have called one of my speed dial numbers or the last call I made (it’s on the dialed numbers menu) and would have said that he found the phone, etc.

 

         And that was the source of my distress. Not that I had lost the phone (since it was easily replaceable for a rather small sum, and with the same phone number), but because a stranger had access to the phone numbers of family members and close friends.

 

         That had me quite worried – more than my normal everyday “worry” that is the sad but all too common legacy of the children of Holocaust survivors. Many of us, sensitive to our parents’ moods, couldn’t help but absorb and integrate the fears, suspicions and worst-case scenarios that our parents presented – pretty much on a daily basis – as they tried to get through each day. That, along with a rather creative imagination and the fact that there are evil people in this world has left its mark. Thus, I worry.

 

         Ironically, it was my fear of personal information possibly falling into unsavory hands that stopped me from having an all-out panic attack – because while my family and friends’ phone numbers were available on the phone, their names were not. I always use initials or clues when entering a contact name.

 

         I mentioned this to some colleagues, and while some shook their heads and told me I worry too much – that people keeping lost phones are just interested in the actual cell phone, and not the dozens of strange phone numbers it contains – one validated my extreme caution. She told me that her pre-teen children do not have “home” listed on their cell phones, but rather the name of their street, which sounds like a regular name. Nor does she have “Mom” or “Grandma” as contact names.

 

         And she is right. As unlikely as it is for someone who finds a cell phone to do more than toss the SIM card and keep the actual phone for his own use, there is still the possibility that a malicious predator or some kids looking for some fun can call “Mom” and say that their child (the owner of this phone) was hurt at this and that place, and they should come right away. At best, it could be a nasty prank; at worst, the mom/grandmother/sister, etc. could come running to an out-of-the-way place to their great peril. I recommend that people have “pareve” names on their speed dials or even in the contacts menu. A name I suggest to use for children with cell phones is “Mat,” short for Mummy and Tatti.

 

         The first thing an adult or child who has lost a cell phone should do is call family members and friends who they call frequently. They should alert them that their phone is lost, and if someone calls to say that the owner of the phone “was in an accident and to come right away,” they should realize it is a prank or a dangerous lure. I admit that this is very unlikely to happen – but it can happen. Hence the worrying! Remember, winning a million dollar lottery is also very unlikely. But it does happen to someone.

 

         At any rate, I would recommend that if anyone ever gets a call from a stranger to meet them somewhere, they should notify the police and explain that it may or may not be a legitimate call. If someone calls to return a lost phone, ask the person to leave it at a library or coffee shop, or somewhere in public. I personally would not give out my home address even if they say they will bring it to me.

 

         Likewise if they gave me an address where I could pick it up, I would go with someone and wait outside. Never enter a stranger’s home no matter how honest or personable he/she appears.While chances are the person is what they seem to be, take nothing for granted.

 

         Years ago near Toronto, several teenage girls were abducted and brutally murdered by a serial killer and his girlfriend. The abductors were very good-looking and nicely dressed, and would pull over to girls walking alone and ask for directions. The girls, no doubt seeing what looked like a nice, middle-class, young married couple, saw nothing wrong with approaching the car. A seemingly common, benign act – giving strangers directions – is committed by so many of us all too often; but in this tragic case the ordinary became extraordinarily horrific.

 

         I now have a new cell phone, but I made the decision to be extra cautious and not save certain phone numbers – even with initials or clues. Instead I have memorized them, and delete them when they come in as incoming calls. The fact is that these days you can type in a phone number on the Internet and get an address. That scares me.

 

         If, for example, your child’s yeshiva’s phone number is in your speed dial menu and a pervert or Jew-hater finds your lost phone, he may be able – based on obtainable information – to cause mayhem via prank calls to the school. The situation could become even worse if there are family names listed in the phone.

 

         As I said, it is highly improbable that the above scenarios would happen when losing a cell phone, which, like misplacing umbrellas, is a common occurrence. But, like winning the lottery, it is not impossible. For this worrier, better to use up a few brain cells and sleep at night than use the cells that ring – and wonder the whole night through.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/cell-phonies/2007/06/13/

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