Falling Short in Understanding Cuban Intelligence: Part I in a Series 5

In “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” the newly released assessment by The University of Miami’s Cuba Transition Project, Dr. Brian Latell provides a breezy and very readable summary of Cuban Intelligence with two notable exceptions:

  1. The primary mission and target of Cuban Intelligence is incorrect.
  2. The number of Cuban operations known to have been destroyed/degraded by US Counterintelligence is grossly understated.

Today, I will address the first issue.   In “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” Latell claims the United States is “the raison d’être” of Cuban intelligence, according to still another experienced defector I interviewed.” 

In reality, the primary target of the Castro regime’s intelligence services are the Cuban people.  The core mission of its five-service Intelligence Community remains regime protection.    Maintaining domestic stability in support of government continuity is the overriding concern.  This is consistent with other totalitarian regimes and characterized by its two Counterintelligence services dominating the manpower of Cuba’s Intelligence Community.  The collection of intelligence on foreign enemies has remained second to domestic control and monitoring of the Cuban people.

Historically, Castro’s foreign intelligence services focused on the collection of intelligence on foreign enemies. Throughout the Cold War, these services were also viewed as primary tools “to export the Revolution.”  Currently, the United States is the regime’s sole foreign target. 

According to defector Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, the General Directorate of Counterintelligence (DGCI) [now called simply the Directorate of Counterintelligence (DCI)], has remained the most important intelligence service in revolutionary Cuba.  According to the Library of Congress, at its peak, the DGCI/DCI numbered 20,000 personnel.  However, as the Castro regime consolidated its domestic controls, the DGCI/DCI drew down.  At the time of Rodriguez Menier’s 1987 defection, its manpower had declined to roughly 3,000 personnel.  

Likewise, during the Cold War, the Cuban Military’s Counterintelligence service (CIM) was reportedly as large as the DGCI/DCI.  However, during the 1990s, armed forces manning was slashed by an estimated 53 percent.  This likely led to similar manpower cuts in the CIM.  Despite these losses, according to defectors and émigrés, the CIM still reportedly numbers several thousand personnel. 

In stark contrast to Havana’s robust Counterintelligence organizations, its three foreign intelligence services, the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM), and the intelligence wing of the Cuban Communist Party number less than 3,300 total personnel.

Latell’s error has been to focus overwhelmingly on the DI, rather than examine Cuba’s entire “intelligence machine.”  Additionally, his research is further undermined by excessive reliance of DI defectors.  The US has been blessed with an abundance of Cuban defectors and émigrés, many of which can and have provided ample insights into the inner workings of regime intelligence.  This information is further enhanced by intelligence provided by defectors from Cuba’s Cold War allies.   Successful US Counterintelligence investigations and operations have also produced a veritable treasure trove of information on Havana’s “intelligence machine.”  For example, government holdings from the Wasp Network alone are said to number roughly 100,000 pages. 

Brian Latell has devoted his life to providing valuable insights into regime dynamics in general and the Castro brothers in particular.  That said, when it comes to Cuba’s spy services, I fear he has stepped outside his realm of expertise.

See his assessment, “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” here:  The July 2012 Latell Report

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5 comments

  1. Mr Simmons is totally correct (FALLING SHORT ON UNDERSTANDING CUBAN INTELLIGENCE) The primary function of the Cuban intelligence is the protection of the Cuban dictators,Fidel and Raul, their second priority is the collection effort against United States with the mean of obtaining valuable intelligence.to sell to other repressive regimes,Iran,Syria. The DGi,also has other priorities such as the repression of internal dissidence,we must understand that the Cuban communist apparatus depend on information from the Ministry of the Interior and its different departments such as the department of prisons it also collects feedback from the CDR which monitors Cuban citizens on every city block,the local Cuban Police (PNR) the Professors and instructors from Cuban Universities and High School campuses where at least one of their instructors are members of the Cuban Intelligence which collect and provide the Cuban regime with a fresh assessment of the opposition within Cuban Students and professionals and The common joe that polishes your shoes in the street corner.For the Castro brothers everyone and anyone that left the island coming to the United States is an enemy of his revolution and should be penetrated and exploited.The DGI mainly based their collection effort on their network of informants.

  2. What bothers me the most is that there are Cubans that are fervent supporters of the Cuban Government as well people that have tortured and they have stained their hands in Cuba with innocent victim’s blood and then they come to America to enjoy freedom and criticize the American Society,like for instance.Mirta Cuervo,she travels to US to visit her family members in the US,then upon returning to Cuba,she once again turns in typical her,attacking the ladies in White and turning to the Minint whoever denounces the Cuban Government abuses.She travels to the US in the regular basis and this is WRONG!

  3. Agreed. All though I would say that the Castro brothers are as obsessed with being recognized as legit by any US administration as they are with some within the Cuban exiled community. I also agree with the assessment about relying on Cuban defectors to much. The overall assessment that the number one job and priority of the Cuban regime is staying in power at all costs -and they will act on that “at all costs”- is correct. The 2nd priority is to gain legitimacy from any US administration, that is 1 of the reasons lifting the US embargo is so important to the Castro brothers and their clan. I strongly disagree with those that affirm that the Castro’s don’t want the US sanctions lifted.
    This blog is a daily must stop for anyone who wants to be in the right context when understanding today’s Cuba. There is nothing glamorous about the “Cuban revolution” period, bunch of cunning crafty thugs. Having my father there now, being invited to go there myself now for a series of concerts, and our family being such a pilar of Cuban culture, being born and raised there myself, makes me question myself sometimes, are we in the right path with regards of policy here in the US towards Cuba? I always come back to: Yes, we are. There should be no economic brakes for the Cuban regime or their kids. There should be no American tourists bringing loads of US Dollars to the Castro brothers. There should be neither lifting of any banking sanctions, credits of any kinds for the Castro’s backed by us, American taxpayers, nor by private American banks. We all saw what happened in 2008 and how US taxpayers ended up bailing everyone out. The Castro brothers and their clan need a bailout quick, we should not make this possible for them and it really has nothing to do with human rights violations in Cuba, everything to do with the National Security of this country.
    Thank you.
    Have a wonderful day.

  4. Agreed. All though I would say that the Castro brothers are as obsessed with being recognized as legit by any US administration as they are with some within the Cuban exiled community. I also agree with the assessment about relying on Cuban defectors to much. The overall assessment that the number one job and priority of the Cuban regime is staying in power at all costs -and they will act on that “at all costs”- is correct. The 2nd priority is to gain legitimacy from any US administration, that is 1 of the reasons lifting the US embargo is so important to the Castro brothers and their clan. I strongly disagree with those that affirm that the Castro’s don’t want the US sanctions lifted.
    This blog is a daily must stop for anyone who wants to be in the right context when understanding today’s Cuba. There is nothing glamorous about the “Cuban revolution” period, bunch of cunning crafty thugs. Having my father there now, being invited to go there myself now for a series of concerts, and our family being such a pilar of Cuban culture, being born and raised there myself, makes me question myself sometimes, are we in the right path with regards of policy here in the US towards Cuba? I always come back to: Yes, we are. There should be no economic brakes for the Cuban regime or their kids. There should be no American tourists bringing loads of US Dollars to the Castro brothers. There should be neither lifting of any banking sanctions, credits of any kinds for the Castro’s backed by us, American taxpayers, nor by private American banks. We all saw what happened in 2008 and how US taxpayers ended up bailing everyone out. The Castro brothers and their clan need a bailout quick, we should not make this possible for them and it really has nothing to do with human rights violations in Cuba, everything to do with the National Security of this country.
    Thank you.
    Have a wonderful day.
    Alina Brouwer

  5. Note from my previous comment: “The Castro brothers and their clan need a bailout quick, we should not make this possible for them and it really has nothing to do with human rights violations in Cuba, everything to do with the National Security of this country” I add, “this country being the United States”.
    Thank you.

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