It is now a year and a half since Iran jailed three American hikers on trumped-up spying charges. The three, Shane Bauer, his fiancée Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal were detained on July 31, 2009; Shourd was released on September 14 of last year. Recalling the hostage crisis that helped bring down Jimmy Carter in 1980 and that ended on the twentieth of January thirty years ago, it is striking that the administration appears only mildly disturbed that they continue to sit in jail—as does Congress.
Nor are Bauer and Fattal the only American hostages. The USAID contractor Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba for 13 months now. He was there to help the tiny Cuba Jewish community connect with Jewish communities around the world, and for this “crime” he is accused of espionage. If that verdict of administration indifference seems too harsh, it is striking that the administration just two weeks ago announced a loosening of travel restrictions to Cuba whose goals include to “enhance contact with the Cuban people and support civil society through purposeful travel, including religious, cultural, and educational travel” and especially to “Allow religious organizations to sponsor religious travel to Cuba.” To encourage contact with religious communities in Cuba while the last guy who tried remains in jail does not suggest that Mr. Gross’s release is at the top of the Administration’s agenda.