Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The freedom to travel and the need for caution

The freedom to travel and the need for caution
What comes next for Obama administration and Cuba?
Naples Daily News
Posted August 30, 2010 at 5:11 p.m.

The Obama administration is considering further easing the restrictions
on Americans traveling to Cuba, as it should. As a general principle,
Americans should be free to travel where and when they want. But as
several recent developments have clearly demonstrated, it's a right that
should be exercised with both care and common sense.

On Friday, the administration again urged the release on humanitarian
grounds of an ailing U.S. contractor whom the Cubans have held since
last December on espionage charges. So far, the administration's
entreaties have been to no avail.

Over the weekend, Iran's minister of intelligence said the regime was
close to a verdict — curious, since there's been no proceeding that we
would consider a trial — on the fate of three young Americans who
apparently wandered over the Iranian border while hiking in Iraqi
Kurdistan. They have been held since July of last year.

Earlier this month, the Iranians brusquely dismissed a personal plea for
their release from President Barack Obama. It is still unclear whether
the regime plans to charge the three with illegally entering the country
or the more serious charge of espionage.

It took a personal visit to Pyongyang a year ago by former President
Bill Clinton to secure the release of two young American journalists.
They had been arrested by the North Koreans that March on the Chinese
border while filming a documentary and had been sentenced to 12 years at
hard labor.

And late last week, former President Jimmy Carter returned from North
Korea with Aijalon Gomes, a Boston schoolteacher working in South Korea,
who, for whatever reason, set out last January across the North Korean
border where he was arrested and sentenced to eight years at hard labor.

The State Department regularly posts warnings about the risks of travel
to various countries. The Clinton and Carter missions of mercy prompted
the department's chief spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to Twitter, "Americans
should heed our travel warnings and avoid North Korea. We only have a
handful of former presidents."

Americans should be free to travel where they like, but they should also
understand that there are places in the world where if they get into
trouble there's little their government can do to help them. After all,
as Crowley says, the supply of ex-presidents is limited.


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