When it comes to the U.S. war on terrorism, hypocrisy is rampant, especially in regard to Cuba. Contradictions surface too when the U.S. approach to spying is seen from the angle of Cuba. These recurring themes, highlighted in recent news reports, suggest serious misbehavior.

The stories of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and five Cuban men jailed in the U.S. for combating terrorism epitomize the Bush administration’s hypocrisy. It has protected the terrorist and persecuted the anti-terrorists.

Posada engineered the destruction of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all aboard. He organized Havana hotel bombings in 1997, causing one death and many wounded. He lives at home in Florida now, undisturbed. Meanwhile René González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González are in jail.

Also showing up on the hypocrisy watch is Osvaldo Mitat. On Aug. 16, authorities released him from a Miami prison, cutting 15 months off a 37-month term. He and wealthy developer Santiago Alvarez were arrested in 2005 after police discovered Alvarez’s store of weapons intended for attacks on Cuba.

Initial charges called for 20-year jail terms. But the pair, described in the Miami press as “freedom fighters,” got federal prosecutors to reduce charges and sentences.

Alvarez’s release is said to be imminent. In June he gained one year of freedom when associates were persuaded to hand over weapons. Note that Alvarez transported Luis Posada into the U.S. illegally from Mexico in March 2005.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 27, Robert Ferro was sentenced to 65 months in jail, 13 more than prosecutors requested. He was nabbed in April 2006 after police discovered 1,571 weapons stored in his California home, a find described by Cuba’s Granma newspaper as the largest cache of illegal weapons in U.S. history.

Originally Ferro faced 10 years in prison. But in June, prosecutors allowed him to trade a reduced sentence for a guilty plea on one charge of illegally possessing 17 weapons. Ferro was jailed 15 years ago for possessing explosives and operating a military training camp. “I want to go to Cuba and get rid of Castro,” Ferro told the court this time. “They didn’t charge me in 1991, so I thought it was OK to keep them [the weapons] until we went to Cuba.” Observers predict an early release.

Speaking in August, Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon catalogued recent sentences given convicted spies by U.S. courts, highlighting the contradictory behavior on spying as applied to Cuba. Jean-Guy Allard, writing in Granma, has added to the list. Here is a run-down of sentences:

• 46 months for conspiracy and failing to register as a foreign agent, for Khaled Abdel-Latif Dumeisi, for monitoring Iraqi exiles in Chicago for the Saddam Hussein government, 2004.

• 10 years for an unnamed Indonesian citizen for stealing documents from the White House, Pentagon and State Department.

• 10 years for Leandro Aragoncillo for delivering documents from U.S. vice presidential offices to Philippine government opponents, 2007.

• 12 years for former Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin, for passing secret material on Iran to Israeli agents, 2006; he has been free on bail.

• 366 days and a $25,000 fine for former CIA operative Donald Keyser for sending secret documents to Taiwan, 2007.

However, the U.S. justice system put the Cuban Five in prison for four life terms plus 75 years. Prosecutors charged them with conspiracy to spy, not with spying. To the jury, prosecutors admitted their inability to prove actual espionage. The defendants had investigated private paramilitary groups, not U.S. government entities.

Consistent fakery on terrorism against Cuba must stem from imperial chieftains’ presumption of impunity. They are guilty of more than mere lying. They trash the rule of law.

The people of the U.S. have fought long and heroically for equal justice under the law. When rulers take over the law, denying rights to Cuban anti-terrorists or protecting terrorists like Posada, then ordinary citizens have reason to fear for their own rights. That’s a good reason for making common cause with the Cuban Five.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician active in the Cuba solidarity movement in Maine.