Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Castro's Spies Still a Threat

Castro's Spies Still a Threat
Paul Crespo
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cuban spy cases uncovered in recent years have U.S. intelligence
officers and policymakers increasingly worried about Castro's
intelligence threat.

While the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union ended 15 years ago,
the Cold War between America and Cuba is still going strong. As part of
that ongoing hostility, experts say, Castro maintains an extensive
espionage network in the U.S.

According to Ambassador Otto Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State
for the Western Hemisphere, Castro's intelligence penetration in the
U.S. is a 46-year, relentless endeavor by the communist regime.

"Of course Castro has spies in the U.S.," says Reich. Cuban intelligence
penetrations have spanned diverse institutions from the Pentagon and
military bases such as Southern Command, to the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) and a Florida university, he adds.

The media have tended to downplay Cuban spy cases, treating them as
minor, isolated incidents. Some in the U.S. government have treated them
the same way. Reich says this partly is due to biased or compromised
intelligence at the highest levels that regularly downplayed the Castro
threat. He believes that the spies that have been uncovered are only the
tip of the iceberg of an impressive Cuban spy network in the U.S.

Over a 15-year period from 1983 to 1998, 15 members of the Cuban
mission to the United Nations were expelled for espionage activities.
"Maybe half of the Cuban officials in the U.S. under diplomatic cover
today are spies," Reich declares.

American counter-intelligence officers believe Castro's East
Bloc-trained intelligence service, the Direccion General de Inteligencia
(DGI), remains one of the best in the world.

And intelligence officials note that Cuba's spying benefits other rogue
regimes and sworn U.S. enemies such as North Korea's communist despot,
Kim Jong Il, and Iran's radical Islamic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Closer to home, Castro has joined forces with Hugo Chavez, his
authoritarian, oil-rich clone in Venezuela, who is inheriting Castro's
Latin American subversion infrastructure. Castro's intelligence services
reportedly run the Chavez security agencies.

The most recent example of Cuban spy work in the U.S. was the 2006
arrest and conviction in Miami of two Florida International University
(FIU) employees for being unregistered foreign agents. In that case,
federal prosecutors assert Carlos Alvarez, a psychology professor, and
his wife Elsa, a social worker at FIU, used their positions to spy on
the local community.

They also helped identify students and others as potential future agents
or Castro sympathizers, also known as "useful idiots." Found in the
Alvarez backyard was high-tech radio gear able to send encrypted
messages to their handlers in Cuba. Under cover of legal "educational"
travel to Cuba, Alvarez also reportedly met in Cuba with his spymasters.

Their arrests are the first case of Cuban spies uncovered at a U.S.
university and showcase how our educational institutions also are
targets of enemy penetration.

More significant was the 2005 case of Alberto Coll, the Dean of the U.S.
Naval War College and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense,
who was arrested for traveling to Cuba illegally and lying to investigators.

While he was convicted only of these minor crimes, several senior
American officials told NewsMax that he was likely working with Cuban
intelligence. If true, he could be one of the most senior spies ever
co-opted by Castro in the U.S.

In his book "True Believer," published earlier this year, Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA) mole hunter Scott Carmichael describes the
events leading to the 2001 capture of Ana Belen Montes, the senior Cuba
analyst at DIA.

He wrote his book while still a counterintelligence officer with DIA
because he says Cuban spies are a serious ongoing menace that has
received scant attention. Carmichael has said Montes may have done more
damage to U.S. national security than even higher-profile spies Robert
Hansen in the FBI and Aldrich Ames at the CIA.

The FBI arrested Montes shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, because it feared
she would pass on vital military intelligence to Castro, who would
funnel it to the Taliban – as he had previously done with Saddam Hussein
during the first Gulf War.

Other counter-intelligence officers believe Montes' greatest damage was
in minimizing Cuba's threat within the higher echelons of the Pentagon
and in the broader intelligence community. She had tremendous
interagency access as well as relationships with the military and senior

Professor Antonio Delacova, Director of Latin American Studies at
Indiana University, emphasizes that the cases of Alberto Coll, Carlos
Alvarez and of Ana Belen Montes highlight the role of Castro's 'agents
of influence.' These are expected to influence both elite and grass
roots opinion. "Ana Belen Montes, Carlos Alvarez -- and others I am sure
-- have been doing so for years," says Delacova.

Evidence in prior cases has suggested Cuban spies have been sent to
penetrate and manipulate local media outlets as well. Delacova points to
FIU professor and Miami Herald contributor Marifeli Perez-Stable as
having been "outed" in 1983 by a Cuban intelligence defector. According
to Delacova, Cuban Captain Jesús Pérez Méndez, in an FBI debriefing,
identified Perez-Stable as "controlled" by Cuba's DGI.

Then there's Janet Comellas, currently a copy editor at the Nuevo
Herald, who until November 2005 was a senior propaganda writer for
Castro's official state-run newspaper, Granma.

Other U.S. agencies are not immune to Cuban penetration. In 2000,
Mariano Faget, a senior official at the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, was convicted for being a Cuban spy. According to federal
prosecutors, Faget regularly passed information to Castro on
confidential asylum cases of Cuban refugees, including high-ranking
defectors, escaping Cuba.

While these American citizens were recruited as spies in the U.S., other
Cuban intelligence officers entered the country illegally. Cuba's
so-called "Wasp Network," cracked by the FBI in 1998, was one the
largest foreign spy rings ever uncovered in the U.S.

In that case, 10 Cuban military intelligence officers were arrested
after being illegally infiltrated into the U.S. to spy on Cuban-American
political groups as well as American military installations.

Five of these "illegals" confessed and were convicted. Significantly,
federal investigators tied this cell to the deliberate downing by Cuban
fighter jets of two unarmed U.S. civilian aircraft flying in
international waters in 1996.

Three American citizens and one legal resident were murdered in that
premeditated ambush. They were members of Brothers to the Rescue, a
humanitarian group that monitored and reported on Cuban refugee rafters
in the Florida Straits.

One member of the Wasp spy ring, Juan Pablo Roque, penetrated the
Cuban-American group and even married an unwitting Cuban-American woman
to aid his cover. He was instrumental in preparing the ambush prior to
the planes leaving on their regular patrol. Roque surfaced in Havana the
day of the attack.

The number of "illegal" agents in the U.S. not under diplomatic cover
has probably mushroomed with the waves of recent arrivals.

Intelligence officials, including Scott Carmichael, believe that despite
the recent blows it has suffered, Cuba's intelligence service may still
have as many as a few hundred spies operating in this country, including
some at very high levels.

"They are one of the most aggressive intelligence services there is,"
said Hector Pesquera, the former head of the FBI's Miami office. "They
made some mistakes and we were able to capitalize on them, but they are
still very good. They are very determined and they work the numbers.
They know we can't cover everything."

© NewsMax 2007. All rights reserved.

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