Target USA: Episode 120 — Rethinking the Illnesses of US diplomats in Havana: A New Theory 1

On Aug. 9, 2017, CBS correspondent Steve Dorsey broke the story that U.S. diplomats in Havana had been sickened by a mysterious illness, the cause of which no one could put their finger on. At the time no one had any answers about what happened. Doctors determined they were likely suffering from some kind of ultrasonic device. But since then other possibilities have arisen. Chris Simmons, a retired supervisory counterintelligence officer from the Defense Intelligence Agency with deep experience related to Cuba, has a theory and supporting evidence that makes perfect sense and is very plausible.

Podcast link:  Cuba’s Sonic Attacks

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New Enhancements at Cuba’s Primary Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Base Suggests Improved Targeting of United States 1

Image Credit: Victor Robert Lee & Digital Globe

Satellite Images: A (Worrying) Cuban Mystery

The new radome in Cuba is unprecedented. Who is behind it?

By Victor Robert Lee, The Diplomat.com

Satellite images from February and May 2018 show a newly constructed radome on the signals intelligence base near Bejucal, Cuba. Its protective dome and elevated mounting make it the first of its kind among the numerous long-standing SIGINT antennas at Bejucal, which have been used to intercept electronic communications from the United States.

The new steerable parabolic antenna and its spherical enclosure (together called a radome) were erected on a site adjacent to other known Cuban surveillance antennas south of Havana near the town of Bejucal between March 2017 and February 2018. The functions of the new antenna are not discernible from the current satellite images, but similar antennas have been employed for signals interception, missile tracking, satellite uplinks and downlinks, radio communications, tracking of objects in space, and in some cases to disrupt satellite communications. The radome, approximately 6-7 meters in diameter, sits atop a square building approximately 11-12 meters wide. If the antenna can be tilted to horizontal – a common capability – its elevated position could also enable direct communications with vessels at sea or other signal sources on the horizon.

The Bejucal signals intelligence site had a relatively static number of parabolic antennas –approximately two dozen– from 2010 until 2016, and only one of them, considerably smaller than the new radome, was covered, although such coverings are common in many other nations, particularly at facilities with military or intelligence functions. Such specialized coverings can protect from weather and wear, but another advantage is that they conceal the orientation, and thus the possible purposes, of the antenna within.

Satellite images of the signals intelligence base near Bejucal also show that two smaller steerable parabolic antennas were installed in April-May 2017, the same period as the beginning of construction of the new radome. These antennas, located 460 meters south of the newly constructed radome, are linked by above-ground conduits to two other antennas installed as recently as May 2016.

Feature continues here: Cuban SIGINT

 

Rubio, Díaz-Balart Want Investigation of Raúl Castro in 1996 Shoot-Down of Exile Planes 1

 

The four Brothers to the Rescue pilots who were shot down by Cuban aircraft in 1996. C.M. Guerrero el Nuevo Herald

By Nora Gámez Torres

ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Two Florida Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, have asked President Donald Trump to consider an investigation into whether Cuba’s former ruler, Raúl Castro, should be indicted for the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes.

The shoot-down by Cuban military planes resulted in the deaths of three U.S. citizens — Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre and Mario de la Peña — as well as the death of Pablo Morales, a U.S. permanent resident.

“We urge you to consider new, additional actions to hold the Castro regime accountable for its crimes. For that reason, within all applicable rules and regulations, we urge you to direct the Department of Justice to review whether Raúl Castro should be indicted for the illegal and heinous act” of shooting down the two civilian aircraft in international waters, Rubio and Díaz-Balart said in a letter they sent to the president on Monday.

Brothers to the Rescue made volunteer flights in the Straits of Florida to search for Cuban rafters who had fled the island by sea. The organization also made flights inside Cuban territory to drop pamphlets denouncing the government of the late Fidel Castro. At the time, Raúl Castro was the minister of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.

Cuban authorities asked the U.S. government to ground the flights, but they continued and on Feb. 24, 1996, two Cuban military planes shot down two of the Brothers to the Rescue planes.

In 2003, a U.S. federal court in Miami indicted three Cuban officials on charges of murder, but Raúl Castro was not among them. None of them were tried. Gerardo Hernández, leader of a Cuban spy ring known as the WASP network, was sentenced to life in prison in connection with the shoot-down but he was freed by the Obama administration as part of a prisoner exchange.

The legislators also asked Trump to direct appropriate agencies to assess whether Interpol “red notices” should be issued for the arrest and extradition to the United States “of all Cuban operatives responsible for the murders.”

Editor’s Note: “Operation Scorpion” was the codename Havana’s primary service used for their mission supporting the murder of Brothers to the Rescue members. Due to their central role in the shoot down, key members of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) should be included in any attempt to issue Interpol “red notices.”

 

County Court Writes A $15,000 Check To One Of The FBI’s ‘Most Wanted Terrorists’ 2

FILE – In this April 25, 1977, file photo, Joanne Chesimard, member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, leaves Middlesex County courthouse in New Brunswick, N.J. Now known as Assata Shakur, Chesimard was convicted in 1977 of killing a New Jersey state trooper four years earlier, and was sentenced to life in prison but escaped and wound up in Cuba in the 1980s, where she continues to reside. AP Photo, File

By Camila Molina, cmolina@newsobserver.com

A county in North Carolina wrote a $15,000 check to Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Deborah Chesimard, a woman whom the U.S. government has identified as a convicted murderer, fugitive and domestic terrorist.

Shakur was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.

In the 1970s, Shakur was convicted for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. Shakur escaped prison in 1979 and lived underground for the next five years, according to Vice.

In 1985 she fled to Cuba, where she received political asylum and continues to live today. In 2013, The FBI identified her as one of the agency’s “Most Wanted Terrorists,” offering $1 million and an additional $1 million offered by the state of New Jersey for information leading to her capture and return to the U.S.

So why would New Hanover County, a coastal community in North Carolina, write a check to one of the federal government’s top priority fugitives?

Shakur is one of the last Freeman family descendants sought by a private company that has purchased land near Freeman Park in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, Port City Daily reported. The Superior Court of New Hanover helped negotiate a selling price for the Freeman descendants and held the company’s payment to be given to the heirs.

A superior court judge signed a court order saying it was not aware of a legal reason to withhold the payment from Shakur, the daily reported, and on April 3 the Superior Court Clerk of New Hanover County wrote a check to Shakur for $15,351.39.

Although the land deal began more than 10 years ago, the sale was delayed until this April because at first Shakur’s whereabouts was unknown, and there were multiple attempts to contact some of her family members, based on court documents the daily reviewed.

Shakur made at least one appearance in the U.S. for the land deal in May 2015 when she went to Manhattan to sign a power of attorney to her sister Beverly Goins.

By August 2017, the same attorney who represented her during her murder trial began the process to secure the company’s payment through her sister.

The FBI and the Office of the U.S. Attorney are investigating whether any laws were broken during the deal, the daily reported.

She’s the first woman on the FBI’s most wanted list and is still being sought.

 

Cuba Spy Josefina Vidal Becomes Cuba’s Ambassador to Canada — 15 Years After Her Expulsion From The US For Espionage 3

Cuban Spy Josefina Vidal (in blue) as Cuba’s new Ambassador to Canada

(Courtesy:  Cuba’s Prensa Latina) The Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette, today received Josefina Vidal in solemn audience, who introduced her to the Letters accrediting her as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Cuba in this country.

During the ceremony, which took place at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor, Vidal had an exchange with Payette, who expressed the interest of the Government of the Greater one of the Antilles to broaden and strengthen the traditional mutually beneficial relations between the two nations and peoples, a note from the Cuban embassy here.

Before being appointed to represent the government in Havana in Ottawa, Vidal was director general of the United States in the Chancellery of the Caribbean island.

On December 17, 2014 the Cuban president Raúl Castro and his American counterpart, Barack Obama, announced the decision to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries and to move toward the normalization of bilateral ties, a process in which Josefina played a role of first order.

From 1999 to 2003 was first secretary of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and subsequently took over as General Manager of North America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean island, work which she did until being appointed ambassador to Canada.

Payette occupies the position since October 2017 and her functions eminently protocolary meetings as representative of the Queen Elizabeth is also preside over the inauguration of the Prime Minister, the chief judges and members of the Cabinet.

During the first 85 years of the existence of Canada only British personalities occupied that position, all with aristocratic titles, and became the first Canadian to reach the post was Vincent Massey in 1952, while the first female to head that office was Jeanne Sauvé, in 1984.

Editor’s Note:  Josefina Vidal was among 16 Cuban spies handpicked by the FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency for expulsion in 2003. The Cuban spy-diplomats were thrown out in retaliation for Havana’s targeting of US operations against Iraq. Vidal is assigned to Department M-I (US Targets) of the Directorate of Intelligence. Theoretically, Havana’s spies must retire from their spy service before they came become an ambassador.

How a Miami playboy, a Russian Gangster and a Cuban Spy Plotted to Buy a Soviet Submarine and Sell it to a Colombian Drug Cartel Reply

Exotic car dealer Juan Almeida, left, Cuban spy Nelson ‘Tony’ Yester, center, and Russian strip club owner and former mob enforcer Ludwig ‘Tarzan’ Fainberg, right, conspired to buy a submarine and sell it to the Cali cartel of Colombia

 

  • Former mob enforcer and strip club owner Ludwig ‘Tarzan’ Fainberg,  exotic car importer Juan Almeida and Cuban immigrant Nelson ‘Tony’ Yester conspired
  • The trio planned to buy a Soviet submarine for the Cali drug cartel of Colombia for the purposes of trafficking cocaine
  • Tarzan and Tony even toured a Russian naval base and posed near a submarine with Russian military officers to show the cartel evidence the deal could be done
  • Tony told the Cali cartel that he needed money in installments to broker the deal but absconded with $10million – and remains on the run
  • Tarzan, a Russian immigrant, testified against Juan but recanted after he was deported to Israel – meaning none of the three remained behind bars
  • Tarzan, Juan and fugitive Tony – as well as members of the law enforcement task force who tracked them – agreed to be interviewed for a new documentary
  • The film is named for the task force, Operation Odessa, which was set up to monitor collaborations between Russian criminals and Colombian cartels
  • Director Tiller Russell smuggled himself into a Panamanian prison and followed Tony to an undisclosed location in Africa during the making of the film
  • Russell says he hopes the film is a ‘rock’n’roll thrill ride into the underworld, where you get a passport to a life and lifestyle and characters that you didn’t even imagine existed – much less having a ringside seat with them’

By Sheila Flynn For Dailymail.com

A large Russian man called Tarzan sits in an armchair against the backdrop of a cracked and stained wall, a pack of cigarettes, lighter and an ash tray on a table to his left, and he shrugs as he talks about a deal he tried to broker more than 20 years ago.

‘I had a friend of mine living in St. Petersburg, and I said, “Misha, tell me something,”’ Tarzan – real name Ludwig Fainberg – says in a heavy Russian accent. ‘”I know it’s gonna be a strange question. Is this possible, to buy a military submarine – used one?” And he said, “What a question! Let me check.”

‘He called me in two days and he asked me, do we want the submarine with missiles or without missiles?’ says Tarzan.

He raises his eyebrows and looks upwards to the left to emphasize just how flabbergasted he was with Misha’s counter question. But Tarzan – a seasoned wheeler-dealer, strip club owner and former mob enforcer – took it in his stride and went back to his partners with the response.

He was, after all, working with an American playboy in Miami and a fugitive Cuban spy to procure this submarine. And they were doing it on behalf of the notorious Cali drug cartel in Colombia, who planned to use the underwater vessel to smuggle cocaine undetected.

The entire situation sounds like something dreamed up for a Miami Vice-inspired action thriller, but it actually happened in the 1990s – and the trio came very close to pulling it off before one of them pocketed the cartel’s millions and went on the run.

Now the stranger-than-fiction story is brought to life in new documentary Operation Odessa, a film that’s closer to a roller-coaster ride than anything else and premieres on Showtime March 31.

Feature continues here:  Operation Odessa

 

The Spy Who Loved Fidel Castro Reply

Castro with Marita Lorenz

By Nathalia Ortiz

Marita Lorenz was just 19 when she met and fell in love with Fidel Castro.

It was February 27, 1959. The Cuban revolution had just taken over. She sailed into Havana Harbor aboard the German ship her father captained.

“I didn’t even know he was in power. He could have been a mechanic somewhere,” she said. “I fell for him hook, line and sinker.”

Almost six decades later, Fidel Castro’s former lover lives in an assisted living facility in New York City, yet can recount her story of love and lies in full detail.

What to Know

  • Fidel Castro’s alleged former lover described Castro as “very into himself, narcissistic.”
  • She said she was recruited by the CIA to work as a spy in New York.
  • She claims to have met Lee Harvey Oswald in Miami shortly before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

She’s German American and is not fluent in Spanish. But she says she picked up a few words because of her time with Castro.

She says Castro came aboard her father’s ship looking for her dad. But she says her father was napping, so she greeted Castro and the others.

“I told Fidel, ‘Okay, you can come on board on the steps outside of the ship and he just looked at me,” she recalled. “He was the tallest of them and I said, ‘Put your guns off, no guns. This is Germany.” She says his response, “But I am Cuba.”

She says after meeting him, she returned home to New York but got a call that he wanted her by his side. So, she returned to Havana and stayed with him for eight and a half months living in the Havana Hilton Hotel, renamed the Havana Libre after Castro took power and turned it into his headquarters. She says it was there in Room 2408 that their love affair began.

Lorenz, 79, describes Castro as “very into himself, narcissistic.” She concedes she was “very submissive and stupid in staying there waiting for him and believing him.”

Lorenz says she soon became pregnant with Castro’s child, but says it didn’t end well. Over the years, she’s given conflicting versions of what happened to her pregnancy. She told NBC 6 that the last thing she remembers is being given a glass of milk to drink at eight months pregnant.

“I was totally out of it. Drugged,” she said. “I woke up in a room with lights like that, and in severe pain, and that’s all I remember. I don’t know if the baby died or lived.”

Story continues here:  Castro’s Lover

 

Media Fact Check: Cuba Found to Have Targeted U.S. Tourists and Canadians More Frequently Than Alleged CIA Spies Reply

Cuba apologist Peter Kornbluh, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame the United States for events in Latin America, has struck again! In last week’s issue of the progressive weekly, The Nation, Kornbluh published “What the US Government Is Not Telling You About Those ‘Sonic Attacks’ in Cuba.” His scintillating subtitle makes the incredulous statement: “The key victims were CIA agents. Not a single tourist was affected….”  We are fortunate Kornbluh wrote that, since his complete disregard for the facts saves us from wasting any further time on this inaccurate and poorly-researched diatribe.

For example, the Miami Herald reported on 1-29-18 that 19 American tourists reported symptoms similar to those suffered by diplomats after they returned from Cuba. However, Kornbluh dismisses these reports because he apparently sees their complaints as inadequately investigated. Additionally, it does not appear he attempted to contact those tourists to get their first-hand accounts. Similarly, Kornbluh appears blissfully ignorant of the Associated Press report of 10-19-17 entitled “U.S. tourist, FBI agent may have been victims of Cuba sonic attacks.

Meanwhile, the Canadian media has recounted that 10 of the 20 Canadian diplomatic households in Havana reported at least one household member with unusual symptoms. A National Post article on 1-4-18 found that children were among those targeted. Shortly thereafter, Global News announced on 1-10-18 that eight Canadian diplomats had fallen ill. It’s information came from a Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation.

So, in reality, at least 19 American tourists and members of 10 Canadian diplomatic families fell victim to Havana’s unexplained sonic attacks. In contrast, 24 American diplomats and family members became sick from the same occurrences. So perhaps Kornbluh’s headline should have read:  “Cuba Targets U.S. Tourists and Canadians More Frequently Than Alleged CIA Spies.”

The Sound and the Fury: Inside the Mystery of the Havana Embassy 2

One of the U.S. diplomats affected by the health incidents reportedly lived in this home in Havana. (Courtesy of NBC News)

More than a year after American diplomats began to suffer strange, concussion-like symptoms in Cuba, a U.S. investigation is no closer to determining how they were hurt or by whom, and the FBI and CIA are at odds over the case. A ProPublica investigation reveals the many layers to the mystery — and the political maneuvering that is reshaping U.S.-Cuba relations.

by Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella

It was a cool night for Havana, with the temperature falling into the mid-70s, and the diplomat and his family were feeling very good about their assignment to Cuba. They were still settling into their new home, a comfortable, Spanish-style house in the lush enclave that had been called “el Country Club” before wealthy families abandoned it in the early years of the revolution. “We were just thrilled to be there,” the diplomat recalled. “The music, the rum, the cigars, the people — and a very important moment for diplomacy.”

Eight months earlier, in March 2016, President Barack Obama had swept into town to commemorate the two countries’ historic rapprochement, vowing to bury “the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” Now, weeks after the election of Donald Trump, that entente was suddenly doubtful. Fidel Castro had just died, opening a new chapter in the Cuban saga. The diplomat could hardly have imagined a more fascinating time to arrive.

As the sun slid into the Florida Straits on that late-November evening, the diplomat folded back the living room doors that opened onto the family’s new tropical garden. The warm night air poured in, along with an almost overpowering din. “It was annoying to the point where you had to go in the house and close all the windows and doors and turn up the TV,” he recalled. “But I never particularly worried about it. I figured, ‘I’m in a strange country, and the insects here make loud noises.’”

A few nights later, the diplomat and his wife invited over the family of another American embassy official who lived next door. Around dusk, as they chatted on the patio, the same deafening sound rose from their yard again.

“I’m pretty sure those are cicadas,” the first diplomat said.

“Those are not cicadas,” his neighbor insisted. “Cicadas don’t sound like that. It’s too mechanical-sounding.”

The colleague had been hearing the same noises at home, sometimes for an hour or more at a stretch. After he complained to the embassy housing office, a couple of Cuban maintenance workers were dispatched to look around. They checked for electrical problems and scanned the yard for strange insects, but they left without finding anything out of place. In February, the nightly racket finally began to fade. Then it went away altogether.

Feature continues here:  Sound & Fury