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Obama should do more to free those who’ve helped us

December 15, 2013

The United States should provide support to anyone who risks their lives to help the U.S. government.


It’s a matter of principle, and, more important, respect.


Overall, the U.S. has a pretty good track record of doing all it can to get those jailed or held hostage back to their families in our country.


But two cases come to mind in which the U.S. has seemingly turned its back on those who have helped us. The most publicized case is Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track and kill al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden. Afridi has been rotting in a prison cell for nearly two years. A Pakistani tribunal continues to hold him without bail.


Pakistan has always played both sides of the fence when it comes to the U.S., so for them to hold Afridi without bail is really no surprise.


The Obama administration hasn’t done enough to help Afridi gain his freedom. The hundreds of billions of dollars in aid we direct to Pakistan each year should provide some leverage in getting him released.


What kind of message does this send to others who might help the U.S. down the road? It’s not a message we should want and, in this dangerous world, could further compromise our security.


Another disturbing case where the U.S. could do more is that of American Alan Gross. He was arrested four years ago in Cuba while working covertly in the communist-run country to set up Internet access for the island’s small Jewish community, access that bypassed local restrictions. At the time, he was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government’s U.S. Agency for International Development, which works to promote democracy on the island.


Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison for what he was doing.


This man was working to advance the goals of a government agency and now the U.S. leaves him to rot in a Cuban prison.


Something is clearly wrong with this picture.


As a country, we are better than this.


— The Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.