U.S. subcontractor jailed in Cuba was aiding Jewish groups with Web access

A U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Cuba and branded as a spy was helping Jewish groups get "unfiltered" Internet access to sites like Wikipedia, sources said Wednesday.

The identification of Alan P. Gross, 60, of Potomac, Md., and his mission on the island cast a new light on a case that has sharpened the discord between Washington and Havana.

"If this is true, it moves the case away from politics, and the world Jewish community could make a lot of noise," said Max Lesnick, a Cuban Jew and Miami radio commentator who often visits the island.

"But we have to ask if he's also been in contact with other groups that Cuba considers more destabilizing," added Lesnick, referring to political dissidents.

The sources, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said as far as they knew Gross was only helping two or three Cuban Jewish groups obtain "unfiltered access to the Internet."

Cuba's government tries to control all Web access, but there are many ways to get around the controls and the filters blocking access to sites considered to be hostile.

"His role was pretty innocuous, helping them to access the Internet sites like Wikipedia, enabling them to download music and to establish contacts with Jewish groups abroad," one of the sources said.

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