Yoani Sánchez Calls for the Release of 5 Cuban Spies and End to Embargo 1

By Juan Carlos Chavez, jcchavez@elnuevoherald.com

Arguing that Cuba’s government wastes money, time and resources in an international campaign for the release of five Cuban spies, opposition blogger Yoani Sánchez said Wednesday in Brazil that she would support their release. The five men were convicted in a highly-publicized trial in Miami in 2000 for being part of the Wasp Network, the largest the biggest Cuban spy ring known to have been dismantled in the U.S.

“The amount of money that my country’s government is spending on this worldwide campaign, on [ad] space of international media by the Interior Ministry, the number of hours spent in schools talking about those five people, in order to bring that campaign to an end, they should free them,’’ said Sánchez, 37. “I’m worried about my country’s coffers and would prefer their release to see if they save more [money] because there are more issues on the table.”

Sánchez is the creator of the blog Generación Y, an award-winning journalism and human rights blog published in various countries. She is in Brazil as part of an 80-day trip outside of the island and was received on Wednesday at the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia where a documentary titled, Cuba-Honduras Connection was screened. The film was supposed to be shown on Monday in the northeastern city of Feira de Santana but was canceled due to violent demonstrations and protests by Cuba government supporters.

In his meeting with Brazilian lawmakers, Sánchez also criticized the U.S. trade embargo. She referred to it as “interventionist” and said that it has not worked. “As a pressure method, it is a failure. The third reason, and not in order of importance, it should end as soon as possible is that it is used by the Cuban government as the fundamental reason to explain its economic failure and political and social repression,” Sánchez said. Sánchez’s remarks began to spread quickly on the Internet. The remarks were first reported in the Viewpoint blog of journalist Joan Antonio Guerrero Vall, a collaborator Martí Noticias.

One of the five spies is serving two life sentences on charges of conspiracy to murder and help Cuban warplanes shoot down two civilian planes in 1996, killing the four crew members from Miami who were aboard. Three others are still in prison and the fifth finished his 13-year prison sentence last year and is now completing three years of probation. Trial evidence showed that ring members, some using fake identities, tried to infiltrate U.S. military installations and Cuban exile groups in an effort to feed military and political information back to Havana.

Sánchez arrived Monday in Brazil and was met with protests by supporters of the Cuban regime at airports in Recife and Salvador, but the most serious incident occurred in Feira de Santana, where a larger group interrupted the scheduled Monday night documentary with shouts of “Long live the revolution” and “Cuba yes, Yankees no.” Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, the ruling Workers Party (PT), who participated in the act, tried in vain to mediate between the protesters and the blogger, who could only speak a few minutes in an impromptu debate. Deputy Mendonça Filho, of the Democrats opposition party, also asked the Federal Police to take charge of Sánchez’s safety while in Brazil, the first stop in the blogger’s visit to a dozen countries.

Sánchez, who is scheduled to visit Miami on April 1, had been denied permission to leave Cuba 20 times in six years. Her trip was approved by Cuban authorities under new immigration reforms that took effect in January.

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“Former Spy” Recycles Tired Call For Cuban 5 Swap 1

Earlier today, the Huffington Post published this shameless propaganda piece by Arturo Lopez-Levy, an admitted “former” intelligence officer closely connected to Cuban President Raul Castro Alan Gross: Time to Negotiate

Other than a few light edits, Lopez-Levy published the exact same piece in “Open Democracy” on January 23, 2013.Alan Gross: time for a negotiated solution

For more on Lopez-Levy’s intelligence career, see his recent book, Raul Castro & the New Cuba

U.S. Congressional Delegation Leaves Cuba Empty-Handed 1

(Reuters) – A U.S. congressional delegation left Cuba on Wednesday after meetings with President Raul Castro and other top officials, but no sign the countries had resolved their latest dispute: the fate of imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross. Delegation members and their staff said they were encouraged by the relaxed tone of their meetings and indications the Cuban side wanted the dialogue to continue.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont canceled a news conference scheduled for Wednesday morning before taking a stroll with his wife in downtown Havana then leaving for Haiti. “We met with President Raul Castro and discussed the continuing obstacles and the need to improve relations between our two countries,” he said in a brief statement. Leahy said upon arrival in Cuba on Monday that he had spoken with President Barack Obama about the trip and would report back to his administration. He said the delegation hoped the imprisoned U.S. contractor would fly home with them, but added it was a long shot. Leahy and U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Gross’ district in Maryland, visited the American contractor on Tuesday at a Havana military hospital where he is being held, a U.S. diplomat told Reuters. They had no comment on the visit.

Other members of the delegation included Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.
Leahy led a similar delegation to Cuba a year ago.

Gross, 63, was arrested in Havana in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing Internet networks under a secretive U.S. program the Cuban government considers subversive. The United States insists Gross was merely helping the local population get connected as part of a democracy-building project. The case halted a brief detente in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations that marked the first months of Obama’s presidency.

Cuba has linked Gross’ fate to that of five Cuban agents imprisoned in the late 1990s for infiltrating Miami exile organizations and U.S. military bases. The agents, known as the Cuban Five, were sentenced to long terms, ranging from 15 years to life. They are considered heroes in Cuba, where more than a dozen exile-orchestrated attacks on international tourism facilities occurred in the 1990s.

The U.S. delegation was the first since Obama was re-elected and came just days before Castro was expected to be named for a second term on Sunday. Castro replaced his ailing brother, Fidel, as president in 2008. Despite political tensions that have led to the suspension of immigration and other talks, the two leaders have presided over an improvement in people-to-people contact, increased flows of cash remittances from Cuban Americans and continued U.S. food sales for cash.

Between 450,000 and 500,000 Cuban Americans and Americans visited Cuba last year, according to tourism industry sources, and food sales increased by $100 million to $457 million, making the United States one of Cuba’s top 10 trading partners and its second-largest provider of tourists after Canada.

This week’s visit by the U.S. lawmakers represented the latest failed effort to obtain Gross’ release. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in New York in 2010 to discuss the Gross case, according to Foreign Affairs magazine. Former President Jimmy Carter also met with Raul Castro on the matter during a visit to Havana in 2011. The Obama administration has said relations will not improve while Gross remains in custody. Under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, U.S. sanctions cannot be lifted until Cuba’s one-party Communist political system is changed, a demand rejected by the Cuban government.

(Reporting By Marc Frank; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Havana Continues Pressing For Swap: One Hostage For 5 Spies Reply

Cuba’s Raul Castro Meets with U.S. Congressional Delegation

By Marc Frank | Reuters

HAVANA (Reuters) – A seven-member U.S. congressional delegation met on Tuesday with Cuban President Raul Castro, official media reported, to improve relations that have been strained since U.S. government contractor Alan Gross was imprisoned there in 2009. Members of the group, which arrived on Monday, also met with Gross, said a delegation member who asked not to be identified.

A statement issued by the Cuban government on Tuesday said Castro and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met first with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont to discuss “issues of interest for both countries,” then held talks with other lawmakers. Leahy met with Castro, Rodriguez and Gross last year. The senator, who spoke with reporters on Monday, said Gross’s fate and reforms under way in Cuba would top the group’s agenda.

The Cuban statement, released Tuesday with video of the meeting, said the U.S. delegation also held meetings with parliament president Ricardo Alarcon and Rodriguez. Leahy was expected to issue a statement on Wednesday. Other members of the delegation included Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who represents Gross’ district in Maryland.

Gross, 63, was arrested in Havana in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing Internet networks under a secretive U.S. program the Cuban government considers subversive. The case halted a brief detente in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations. Cuba has linked Gross’ fate to that of five agents imprisoned in the late 1990s for infiltrating Miami exile organizations and U.S. military bases. The agents, known as the Cuban Five, were sentenced to long terms, ranging from 15 years to life, and are considered heroes in Cuba.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, met with Rodriguez in New York in 2010 to discuss the Gross case, according to Foreign Affairs magazine. Former President Jimmy Carter also met with Raul Castro in Havana in 2011. The Obama administration has said relations will not improve while Gross remains in custody. Under the 1996 ‘Helms-Burton’ law, U.S. sanctions cannot be lifted until Cuba’s one-party Communist political system is changed, a demand rejected by the Cuban government.

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

Havana’s Smear Campaign Against Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Follows Her To Brazil Reply

BY Ryan Villarreal, International Business Times

Cuba’s most prominent dissident Yoani Sanchez has described the ridicule she encountered upon her arrival in Brazil by pro-Fidel Castro leftists as an extension of Havana’s “information war” against her. Waving Cuban flags, protesters called Sanchez a “mercenary” for the U.S. government and tossed photocopied dollar bills at her she passed, flanked by her own supporters, through the Guararapes International Airport in northeastern Brazil Monday morning.

“On arrival many friends welcomed me and other people shouted insults. I wish in Cuba we could do the same. Long live freedom!” Sanchez wrote in a post on her Twitter account, which has been blocked by the Cuban government for the few Cubans that have access to the Internet. Later in the evening, more protesters showed up in the city of Bahia to picket the screening of a documentary featuring commentary from Sanchez, titled “Connection Cuba-Honduras,” forcing the event to be cancelled. Sanchez, who was in attendance, attempted to open a dialogue with her detractors but was ignored and shouted over. “They repeated a hackneyed, identical script without any intention of listening to my response,” Sanchez wrote in her latest blog entry. “They responded to orders … I could see the long arm that moves from the Revolution Square in Havana.”

The Brazilian magazine Veja first reported that the Cuban government was coordinating a local defamation campaign against Sanchez through its diplomats. “The plan to spy on and embarrass Yoani Sanchez was drafted by the Cuban government, but will run with the knowledge and support of the PT (Workers’ Party), the party activists and at least one employee of the Presidency,” wrote Veja reporter Robson Bonin. The presidential employee, Ricardo Martins Poppi, an aide to Gilberto Carvalho, chief minister in President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet, told Veja he had attended a clandestine meeting on Feb. 6 which discussed migration policy and Sanchez’s upcoming trip.[emphasis added] “That doesn’t surprise me, it’s part of an information war,” Sanchez said in her initial response, the Miami Herald reported.

Sanchez, 37, has gained international recognition for her blog Generation Y, established in 2007 and in which she has written about her experiences living in Cuba. Her writing, which has been critical of the Cuban government at times, has gotten her blacklisted. Her blog has been blocked and she is only able to publish it through the covert help of supporters who can transfer her entries from her portable hard drive onto the Internet. In the past five years she has been denied an exit visa to leave the country over 20 times until the travel restriction was universally lifted last month. Sanchez has also reported multiple instances of harassment, intimidation and physical abuse from Cuban police and Castro supporters, though she has never been arrested. [emphasis added]

One of Sanchez’s supporters, Sebastian Arcos, a Cuban exile and Associate Director of Development at the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University, said the Cuban government is threatened by her because she was born and raised in Cuba, a product of the education system and therefore her criticisms are rooted in the genuine experiences of a Cuban citizen. Aside from two years Sanchez spent studying in Switzerland from 2002 to 2004, she has spent the rest of her life in Cuba.

“They see her as an internal threat and she has been able to disarm them by engaging them in a civilized way,” Arcos said. “There is nothing more dangerous to a totalitarian regime than a well-educated, articulate and civilized opponent.” Arcos added that Sanchez is considered even more threatening because her writing is not overtly political. “She is not an active member of any dissident movement,” he said. “She is a human being, and she has political opinions, but her primary goal is free expression in its purest form.”

Sanchez has embarked on a three-month world tour, making her first stop in Brazil among roughly a dozen countries, including the U.S., Mexico and Spain.

Alan Gross, Jailed Jewish Contractor, Gets New Hope as Lawmakers Arrive in Cuba 1

7 Members of Congress Land in Havana for Talks With Castro

(Reuters) A seven-member delegation of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Cuba on Monday in the latest effort to move forward political relations that have been at a standstill since U.S. government contractor Alan Gross was imprisoned there in 2009. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who saw Gross and met with Cuban President Raul Castro and other high-ranking officials a year ago, is leading the group of five senators and two members of the House of Representatives on a three-day visit to communist Cuba.

Despite the stalemate, more people traveled between the two countries in 2012, cash remittances sent to the island also increased, as did food-for-cash sales under a 2000 amendment to the U.S. trade embargo. Between 450,000 and 500,000 Cuban Americans and Americans visited Cuba, according to tourism industry sources, and food sales increased by $100 million to $457 million, making the United States one of Cuba’s top 10 trading partners and second provider of tourists after Canada.

“Every one of us has an interest in Cuba,” Leahy, of Vermont, said upon arrival. “We all want to see relations improve and both sides take steps in that direction,” he said. Leahy said the delegation would like to take Gross with them when it leaves for Haiti on Wednesday, but doubted that was possible. “There are obvious problems between our two countries, but we are not here to negotiate. We are here to listen and then go back home and talk about what we see,” he said.

The lawmakers, all Democrats except for Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, include congressman Chris Van Hollen who represents Gross’s district in Maryland, Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts. Members of the group said they planned to meet with Gross, parliament president Ricardo Alarcon, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and perhaps Raul Castro.

They will also visit famed U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway’s estate on the outskirts of Havana and meet with members of the diplomatic corps.

KERRY HAD DISCUSSED GROSS CASE

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, when he was a senator from Massachusetts, reportedly met with Rodriguez, the Cuban foreign minister, in New York in 2010 to discuss the Gross case, according to Foreign Affairs magazine. Former President James Carter also met with Raul Castro in Havana in 2011. Delegation members said they were also interested in reforms in Cuba.
President Castro has lifted most travel restrictions and freed Cubans to buy and sell homes and cars over the past year, even as he accelerates efforts to reform the Soviet-style economy in a more market-friendly direction.

The Obama administration has said relations will not improve while Gross remains in custody. In addition, under the 1996 ‘Helms-Burton’ law, sanctions cannot be lifted until Cuba’s one-party communist political system is changed, a demand rejected by the Cuban government. Gross, 63, was arrested in Havana in December 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for installing Internet networks under a secretive U.S. program the Cuban government considers subversive. The case put the brakes on a brief warming in long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations during the first 11 months of President Barack Obama’s first term in office. Cuba has linked Gross’ fate to that of five agents imprisoned in the late 1990s for infiltrating Miami exile organizations and U.S. military bases. The agents, known as the Cuban Five, were sentenced to long terms ranging from 15 years to life and are considered heroes in Cuba.

Chávez is Home, But What’s Next for Venezuela? 1

By Andrew Rosati & Jim Wyss, jwyss@MiamiHerald.com

CARACAS — President Hugo Chávez was spirited into Venezuela in the pre-dawn hours Monday, sending his followers pouring into the streets but leaving many wondering what comes next for Latin America’s fourth-largest economy. Chávez, 58, returned home early Monday without warning and no fanfare after spending more that (sic) two months incommunicado in a Cuban hospital recovering from cancer surgery. But his homecoming yielded little about his state of health and is likely to revive speculation about who should be at the helm of this oil-rich nation.

“We want to see him and we want him to tell Venezuela what his decision is,” Omar Avila, the secretary general of the opposition Visión Venezuela political party, said in a statement. “Is he capable of governing the country or if he is going to step down due to the delicate state of his health?” If Chávez were to resign or die, it would trigger new elections within 30 days. Before he traveled to Cuba on Dec. 10, the president asked the nation to rally behind Vice President Nicolás Maduro if new elections were needed. But since then, his followers have never acknowledged that the ailing comandante won’t assume power.

Even so, some sort of transition is probably imminent, said Robert Bottome, an analyst and director of the Caracas-based Veneconomy publishing group. While Chávez may have been brought home because he truly is recovering, Bottome said, the government’s thinking might also be that “he’s deteriorating so fast we no longer have freedom of action, so let’s bring him back right now before it’s too late.” After winning an additional six-year term in October, the socialist firebrand missed his scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration as he battled his disease in Cuba. Even so, the Supreme Court ruled that he remained in charge and the ceremony could take place anytime he returned.

In the short term, Chávez’s homecoming is a boon for his supporters and may catch the opposition flat-footed, said Oscar Schemel, president of Hinterlaces polling firm. Administration critics had been gaining traction with charges that the government was violating the constitution by insisting that Chávez was in control even though he was languishing in Cuba. “This is a boost for Chavismo,” Schemel said. “On the other hand, it leaves the opposition without a strategy.”
As Maduro emerged Monday afternoon from the military hospital where Chávez is being treated, he said the president was “conscious and very happy and motivated to be back in his country.”
Aside from four pictures released Friday, it has been more than 70 days since Venezuelans have seen their president in the flesh or heard his voice. And Monday’s secretive arrival didn’t help.

‘WE’VE RETURNED’

The first notice that Chávez was back came from his own long-dormant Twitter account. “We’ve returned to Venezuela,” Chávez wrote at 3:45 a.m. EST. “Thank you my God!! Thank you beloved nation!! We’ll continue our treatment here.” In the past, Chávez’s medical trips have been high-profile and broadcast on national television. This time, there were no images of his return. “It’s shameful that he arrived like he was a contraband package,” Diego Arria, an opposition politician, told Noticias24 radio. “Nobody knows how he arrived; it’s as if he were merchandise.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/18/3240715/venezuelas-hugo-chavez-makes-surprise.html#emlnl=The_Americas#storylink=cpy

Supporters Decry Restricted Family Access to Spy Involved in Murder of Four Americans 2

Family Visits With Ramon Labanino: Does Mrs. Alan Gross Deal With Stuff Like This?

By the International Committee For The Freedom of the Cuban 5
Written by W. M. Tillow

Ramon Labanino’s 74-year-old father, his younger brother, and oldest daughter were slated to visit him at the Federal Prison in Jesup, Georgia from December 23rd through January 11th.

This would allow him to have visits on 12 days, the maximum number of days allowed under the 8-point system at Jesup Federal Correctional Institution (FCI).

In June of last year, Ramon was told that. because of his cumulative good behavior, he would be moved to a lower- level security facility. On December 11th he was told to pack all his personal belongings and be prepared to move at any moment. Because he was afraid that he would be moved before his family arrived, or in the middle of their two -week visit, he decided that the visit should be postponed and airline tickets and hotel reservations were cancelled.

He was moved from Jesup FCI on January 11th and returned there on Jan 22nd after the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) admitted that he was sent to the wrong facility. Because he knew that the BOP would keep him at Jesup for a minimum of 15 days and because the visas of his father, brother and daughter were about to expire, he made a decision that his family should make a hurried visit even though it meant that they would only be allowed to visit on eight days.

His family arrived on January 27th and left on Feb. 9th. They saw him on the first two visiting days. When they arrived at the prison (a 30-mile drive) on day three, a sign said “Lockdown No Visits.” The lockdown lasted for three visiting days. After the lockdown ended, his family saw him for a third day of visiting.

Ramon told them that he had been notified that he would be moved on Friday, Feb. 8th and therefore they would not be able to visit him that day. They arrived at the prison on Thursday, Feb. 7th, for what they thought would be their 4th and last visiting day, only to be told he had already been moved.

In total, they were able to see him on 3 of the 8 days he was eligible to have visits and they made two wasted 60 mile round trips to the prison and back. They returned to Havana on Feb. 9th. Being experienced visitors in the ways of the BOP they were able to say their goodbyes and have prison pictures taken with Ramon on the last day they actually got to see him.

Ramon’s oldest daughter, Aili, explained that as an older teenager, she traveled alone to visit him at the maximum security prison in Beaumont, Texas where he was jailed after the trial of The Five concluded. When she arrived at the prison she found it was locked down. Every day for 30 days she traveled from her hotel to the prison only to find the lockdown still in effect. After 30 days, with her visa about to expire, she went home without seeing her father.

In Jesup, visitors have had to wait for up to three hours before being admitted, while prison authorities waited for a fog to lift (you read it correctly). Visitors have been turned away because someone said their jeans were too tight, or blouses too suggestive, or shoes were not the correct kind. Only a quick trip to a 24-hour Walmart nearby saved that day’s visit.

One wonders if Judy Gross, or any of Alan Gross’ other visitors, has to endure anything like this?

Editor’s Note: When initially assigned to the Wasp Network, Major Ramón Labañino Salazar, a spy-handler, served in in Tampa where he collected on military operations at MacDill Air Force Base, the home of the Middle-East focused Central Command (CENTCOM) and the globally oriented Special Operations Command (SOCOM). He was transferred to Miami in 1996 where he assumed control over espionage operations against Boca Chica Naval Air Station and US Southern Command, several local, state, and Federal entities, and several major anti-Castro organizations. Sentenced to life in prison for his espionage-associated crimes, including the 1996 shoot down of two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft, his term was later reduced to 30 years. His alias is Luis Medina.

Cuban Surfers Face Challenges + Surf Spies Reply

(Source: The Inertia) The New York Times published an interesting story today about some of the challenges that surfers face in Cuba, namely negotiating governmental regulations that seem to discourage participation in the sport – as well as a lack of technology and commerce to support a surf community.

But behind the tale of struggling surfers in Cuba was an intriguing nugget: at one point, surfers were clearly linked to international espionage, as a C.I.A.-backed NGO that staged a fake surf contest to smuggle banned satellite equipment into the country. Writes Nick Corasaniti:

A Cuban report linking surfers to the international spy game. In 2011, the state-run newspaper Granma reported (Operation Surf) that members of a C.I.A.-backed nongovernmental organization tried to smuggle banned satellite equipment into Cuba. Dishes were festooned with fake fins and broad stripes to replicate bodyboards and skimboards. The group tried to use the surfers as middlemen, even going so far as to stage a fake surf event in Baracoa, on the eastern end of the island, to create an air of legitimacy. The mission was eventually “uncovered” by a Cuban double agent. International surf spies. That’s pretty badass. The rest of the article is too, but that’s the type of made-for-tv grandeur that’s too interesting to be untrue.

Read the full New York Times story here. Before the Waves, the Hurdles

Editor’s Note: Jean Guy Allard, one of the three “journalists” who authored the Granma article, was identified as an agent of Cuban Intelligence in 2008 by a former member of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), Havana’s foreign intelligence service.

OPED: Forgotten Cuba? Is Washington Playing Word Games in Latest Espionage Estimate? 3

By Chris Simmons

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that “A new intelligence assessment has concluded that the United States is the target of a massive, sustained cyber-espionage campaign that is threatening the country’s economic competitiveness, according to people familiar with the report. The National Intelligence Estimate identifies China as the country most aggressively seeking to penetrate the computer systems of American businesses and institutions to gain access to data that could be used for economic gain.”

The newspaper goes on to note that “The National Intelligence Estimate names three other countries – Russia, Israel and France – as having engaged in hacking for economic intelligence but makes clear that cyber-espionage by those countries pales in comparison with China’s effort.” [emphasis added] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-said-to-be-target-of-massive-cyber-espionage-campaign/2013/02/10/7b4687d8-6fc1-11e2-aa58-243de81040ba_story.html

While the story makes for tantalizing reading for the layman, it raises several red flags with this retired intelligence officer. Let’s start with the most fundamental: why is cyber-espionage, which in this NIE is reportedly narrowly focused on America’s “economic competitiveness,” separate and distinct from the NIE on economic espionage? Computer hacking is simply a technique used to steal industry secrets. It should be nothing more than a chapter in the NIE on Economic Espionage. To remove and spotlight this tool is to distort the actual intelligence targeting of our economic interests.

Cuba, for example, runs the largest Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) complex in the Western Hemisphere outside of our own National Security Agency (NSA). Since the 1960s, economic espionage has been a priority for the DI. For example, a declassified CIA report noted that in 1964, Havana appointed General Directorate of Intelligence (DGI) officer Orestes Guillermo Ruiz Perez as Vice-Minister for Economics within the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Separate CIA documents stated that in 1973, DGI officer Alberto Betancourt Roa served as president of Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce. During 1986-1987, he served as Vice-Minister of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade. By the early 1990s, Betancourt headed Cubazucar, the national sugar corporation.

A key example of Havana’s success in economic espionage is the case of Guillermo “Bill” Gaede, In the 1980s, Cuba recruited Gaede to steal information on computer software and provide it to case officers in Mexico. Havana, in turn, passed the information to the USSR and East Germany until the end of the Cold War. Gaede, an Argentine communist and software engineer, worked for Advanced Micro Devices, Incorporated in Sunnyvale, California from 1979-1993. He provided Cuba with AMD specs, designs, “Blue Books,” masks, wafers, and small measuring devices.

Experts said Russia, with whom Cuba shared its stolen information, possibly narrowed the US technology lead by exploiting the chip designs and manufacturing techniques, which AMD spent millions of dollars to develop. Experts opined that Gaede’s damage was limited, as the technology used in the semiconductor industry advances so quickly that designs and manufacturing techniques quickly become outdated. However, the damage control provided by the experts failed to address the true effect of systematic and long-term economic espionage.

Gaede later claimed his initial motivation was his belief in communism, but this motivation waned after he repeatedly traveled to Cuba and became disillusioned. He left AMD in 1993 because of mistaken fears that the company would soon detect his misconduct. The technology giant Intel then hired him and greed became his motivator. He filmed the entire process used to make the Pentium chip, down to the smallest technical detail. He subsequently sold the information to China and Iran, which paid him handsomely. The secrets stolen from ADM and Intel ultimately earned Gaede the nickname, the “The Billion Dollar Spy.” He was arrested in late 1995.

The following year, the CIA advised the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Cuba ranked sixth of the seven nations worldwide that “extensively engaged in economic espionage” against the US. The CIA rated France as the most serious threat, followed by Israel, China, Russia, Iran, and then Cuba. Havana, it noted, liked to target American firms whose facilities were based outside of the US. In a separate 1996 report, the US government reiterated that Havana collected “political, economic, and military information within the United States.” The report went on to note that the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) had begun targeting those technologies needed to help Cuba’s ailing economy.

Subsequently, Cuba appeared prominently in a classified list known as the National Security Threat List (NSTL). The NSTL is compiled by an FBI-led, interagency group which identifies the issues and countries which pose the greatest strategic intelligence threat to U.S. security interests. The 1999 list, apparently the most recent to have been declassified, declared that out of approximately 180 countries in the world, only 11 were so dangerous that they were included on the NSTL. These strategic threats were China, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Similarly, a 1999 report by the US government’s National Communication System identified Cuba as having used electronic intrusions to collect economic intelligence. Additionally, during the latter half of the 1990s, the Department of Energy included Cuba as one of 22 nations on its “Sensitive Country List.” The DOE list is now restricted, so it is not known whether Cuba remains on the list.

Fast forwarding to late 2007, the Heritage Foundation had this to say about Cuba’s espionage capabilities:

• Since Raul Castro took the reins as acting head of state in 2006, Cuban intelligence services have intensified their targeting of the U.S. Since 9/11, however, U.S. intelligence agencies have reduced the priority assigned to Cuba.

• Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence (DI) is among the top six intelligence services in the world. Thirty-five of its intelligence officers or agents have been identified operating in the U.S. and neutralized between 1996 and 2003. This is strong evidence of DI’s aggressiveness and hostility toward the U.S.

• Cuba traffics in intelligence. U.S. intelligence secrets collected by Cuba have been sold to or bartered with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and other enemies of the United States. China is known to have had intelligence personnel posted to the Cuban Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) site at Bejucal since 2001, and Russia continues to receive Cuban SIGINT information. Additionally, many Cuban intelligence agents and security police are advising Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

• Cuban intelligence has successfully compromised every major U.S. military operation since the 1983 invasion of Grenada and has provided America’s enemies with forewarning of impending U.S. operations.

• Beijing is busy working to improve Cuban signals intelligence and electronic warfare facilities, which had languished after the fall of the Soviet Union, integrating them into China’s own global satellite network. Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal has noted that this means the Chinese army, at a cyber-warfare complex 20 miles south of Havana, can now monitor phone conversations and Internet transmissions in America. (For the entire Heritage Foundation feature, see http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/10/cuba-at-the-crossroads-the-threat-to-us-national-security)

Then, in July 2008, Dr. Joel F. Brenner, Director of the U.S. Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (an element of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) said: “The Russians and the Chinese remain big problems for us. The Cubans are a problem for us and the Iranians are a big problem for us… and the Cubans have a very accomplished set of intel services and they are something we have to watch.”

Last year, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told the Senate Armed Services Committee “Cuba remains the predominant foreign intelligence threat to the United States emanating from Latin America.” Shortly thereafter, former Director of the National Counterintelligence Executive, Michelle Van Cleave, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that “…measured by its reach, history, objectives and success against us, Cuba is easily within the Top Ten list worldwide.”

Cuba earned its position as “Intelligence Trafficker to the World” by stealing U.S. secrets, not necessarily hacking our computers. Knowing this, it is disingenuous for Washington to split hairs between old-school “economic espionage” and “cyber-espionage directed against economic targets.” Everyone understands that Washington insiders exploit the cyber threat to generate publicity for themselves and funding for their projects. It’s time for the administration to stop minimizing the threat from Havana and revitalize our Counterintelligence services so they can better identify and destroy foreign spy services operating in America.