Obama Just Opened the Door for Castro’s Spies 1

President ObamaCuban intelligence will have a field day in the United States thanks to Obama’s latest outreach to Havana

By John R. Schindler • 10/14/16, Observer.com

Normalization of relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba has been one of the big foreign policy initiatives of Barack Obama’s presidency. During his two terms in the White House, Washington has overturned more than a half-century’s worth of American policies toward the Communist regime in Havana.

Calling that legacy a “failed approach,” Obama’s outreach to Havana, particularly in his second term, has been pronounced, including a visit by the president and the first lady to Cuba. By the time he leaves office in three months, Obama will have substantially re-normalized relations with the Castro regime.

Obama has pressed forward over the opposition of many Cuban-Americans and human rights groups, who note that Washington’s gifts to Havana have not been reciprocated with greater respect for democracy and the rule of law in Cuba, as many had anticipated. In the words of Amnesty International, “Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.”

Obama seems unperturbed by all this, and today he issued revised guidance for the U.S. Government in its re-normalized dealings with Havana. Presidential Policy Directive 43 is likely to be this president’s last push on Cuban matters, and its call to Congress to drop the Cold War-legacy embargo on the Castro regime seems like to fall on deaf ears.

Most of PDD-43’s guidance won’t impact average Americans, unless they happen to travel to Cuba. Obama has now permitted them to bring back as much Cuban rum and cigars as they like—something Americans were last able to do when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.

There’s the usual Obama boilerplate about promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba, though there’s nothing in PDD-43 that seems likely to make any impression on Havana. The document omits the word “Communist” entirely. Cubans expecting this president to demand concessions from the Castro regime in exchange for trade favors and diplomatic recognition have been let down yet again by Barack Obama.

Some of PDD-43’s guidance will have important national security implications. It directs the Defense Department to expand its relationship with Havana, especially in “humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counternarcotics in the Caribbean.” It further orders the Pentagon to “support Cuba’s inclusion in the inter-American defense system…which will give Cuba a stake in hemispheric stability.”

It’s far from clear that Havana’s Communist rulers—whose entire worldview for more than a half-century has been based on resistance to Yankee hegemony—actually want to be part of any American-led defense apparatus in our hemisphere, but the Pentagon follows orders, so we can expect the U.S. military to have more meetings and conferences with Cuban counterparts at the table.

Perhaps the most curious aspect of PDD-43 is what it tells our Intelligence Community to do. Obama has ordered American spies “to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.”

Feature continues here:  Castro’s Spies 

Editor’s Note:  While much of the author’s assessment is correct, he errs on several significant facts. First of all, a spy war has not “raged between Washington and Havana since the early 1960s.”  It actually began before the Castro Revolution when Raul Castro met and partnered with the Russian KGB’s Latin America department. Subsequently, Castro and the other anti-Batista allies came to power in January 1959. By that May, roughly four dozen Cuban spies were reportedly active in South Florida according to the CIA.

Secondly, the Wasp Network did NOT consist “of five Cuban intelligence officers and their many agents.” The five Schindler is referring too are the small group of senior officers and agents who did not make a deal with the US government in exchange for a lighter sentence. In reality, most of the personnel in the 40-plus member network escaped to spy again.

Cuban Spies Jubilant with Their Fancy New Base in Washington D.C. 1

New Cuban EmbassyHumberto Fontova, TownHall.com

Granted, Obama administration spokespersons and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself) describe this week’s event differently than does this column title. Something about a “Cuban embassy” formally “opening?” in “Washington, D.C. ?” If I read these things correctly?

Nonetheless, the people actually in-the-know about these matters are cutting to the heart of the issue:

“All Cuban personnel now working in the [U.S] Interests Section [in Havana] work for Cuban State Security,” said high-ranking Cuban intelligence defector Pedro Riera Escalante. “All housing for [U.S.] officials may have microphones and other devices installed.”

“Virtually every member of Cuba’s U.N mission is an intelligence agent,” revealed Alcibiades Hidalgo, who defected to the U.S. in 2002 after serving as Raul Castro’s Chief of Staff and himself as Cuba’s ambassador to the U.N.

So you can just imagine what’s going on in Cuban Intelligence’s plush new Washington D.C. station, speaking of which:

“It (the Cuban embassy opening) is going to be a celebration on our part,” gushed Gustavo Machin, deputy director for U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry. “Many Americans who have supported the Cuban Revolution will be among the 500 celebrants at the new Embassy.”

Despite the innocuous professional title the mainstream media insists on using for Gustavo Machin, he’s actually a KGB-trained Cuban spy who was burnt and booted from the U.S. back in 2003 shortly before the invasion of Iraq. He was among 14 other Cuban spies suspected of trafficking in U.S. military secrets (more on this shortly.)

The currently elated Machin was an accomplice of Castro’s master-spy Ana Belen Montes, who today serves a 25 year prison sentence after conviction in 2002 for the deepest and most damaging penetration of the U.S. Defense Department in modern history. Machin was neck deep in the same spying as his accomplice Montes, but enjoyed “diplomatic immunity,” which saved him from prison or the electric chair.

Now he’ll probably be visiting Washington D.C. often “on business.” In fact it was Machin who conducted the recent “negotiations” with Obama’s team of crackerjack “negotiators” which led to this “diplomatic breakthrough” with Cuba. So who can blame him for celebrating?

Feature continues here: Cuban Embassy Spy Base

 

Spy-Diplomat Gustavo Machin Delighted With Opening of Cuban Embassy 15

A worker removes the Cuban Interests Section sign in Washington, D.C., on July 15, 2015, just days prior to the building being accredited as the Cuban Embassy. (Bill Gorman / AP)

A worker removes the Cuban Interests Section sign in Washington, D.C., on July 15, 2015, just days prior to the building being accredited as the Cuban Embassy.
(Bill Gorman / AP)

“It is going to be a celebration on our part,” said Gustavo Machin, deputy director for U.S. affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry (Chicago Tribune). The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) spy – thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Montes spy case, told reporters many Americans who have supported the Cuban Revolution will be among the 500 celebrants at the new Embassy. From Machin’s perspective, it would certainly be a Cuban spy-handler’s dream – hundreds of media, politicians, academics and Castro apologists all in one place at the same time. The DI staff embedded within the Interests Section/Embassy will certainly be working overtime – I expect they also brought in temporary help within the “30-member delegation of diplomatic, cultural and other leaders” that arrived for the Embassy opening.

Cuban National Released in White House Deal with Havana Now Back in the U.S. 3

Rolando Sarraff in 1996, the year he was imprisoned by the Cuban government (L)and more recently (R). Sarraff was sentenced to jail by the Cuban government for spying for the United States. He was freed in a prisoner exchange with the United States last month. (Family photo)

Rolando Sarraff in 1996, the year he was imprisoned by the Cuban government (L) and more recently (R). Sarraff was sentenced to jail by the Cuban government for spying for the United States. He was freed in a prisoner exchange with the United States last month. (Family photo)

By Missy Ryan, Washington Post

A Cuban national imprisoned for nearly two decades as an American spy is now in the United States, his family said Tuesday, the first confirmation of the former U.S. agent’s whereabouts since he was released in last month’s deal to overhaul ties with Cuba.

Rolando Sarraff, a cryptographer with Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence, was imprisoned in 1995 on suspicion that he was passing secrets to the United States. Information provided by Sarraff helped U.S. officials dismantle networks of Cuban spies in the United States, one illustration of the mutual hostility that characterized U.S. dealings with Communist Cuba for more than 50 years.

The White House secured Sarraff’s release last month as part of President Obama’s sweeping agreement to thaw U.S. ties with the island nation. The deal also included the return of an American aid contractor held by Havana and the release of three Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned in the United States.

But since the deal was announced Dec. 17, Obama administration officials have declined to confirm whether Sarraff was taken to the United States, or whether he was in U.S. government custody somewhere else. For weeks, family members in Cuba, Spain and the United States said they had not been informed by either the U.S. or the Cuban government about his whereabouts.

This week, his sister, who lives in Spain, said she finally heard from her brother. “He’s well, and he’s in the U.S.,” Vilma Sarraff told The Washington Post. She declined to give details.

The Sarraff family’s confirmation of the former agent’s whereabouts were first reported Tuesday by the Associated Press

Missy Ryan writes about the Pentagon, military issues, and national security for The Washington Post.

 

Former Cuban Spy & Conspiracy Theorist Bill Gaede Offers His Interpretation of US-Cuba Spy Swap 8

Bill Gaede

Bill Gaede

Rolando Sarraff Trujillo

By Bill Gaede

Spy vs. Spy

The recent spy swap between the United States and Cuba puts an end to 50 years of wrangling between the two countries. Washington finally decided to smoke the peace pipe with the Castros, kiss and make up. Conservatives and anti-Castro groups are outraged, and that’s an understatement. They see it as capitulation after over 50 years of cold war with the little squirt down south.

As a token of good faith, the U.S. released the remaining three Cuban Five prisoners and Cuba paid back in kind by releasing communications spy Alan Gross. The deal also included a mysterious Cuban national who President Obama credited with helping expose Cuban spies such as the Cuban Five, Ana Belen Montes, and Kendall and Gwen Myers.

However, unlike Alan Gross who took the spotlight and gave a press conference, this agent, who came on the same plane that landed at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington D.C., was whisked away secretly to an undisclosed location. His name was ‘leaked’ to the press by an anonymous intelligence official of the United States and the story of why the spy is so important and why he was included in the swap was read off a carefully worded text by Brian P. Hale, an expert with an extensive career in dealing with the media. Everyone from the NY Times to the LA Times quickly picked up on the story quoting these sources and each other. The entire frenzy is actually a study in how information is manipulated in the U.S. and how popular opinion is formed.

To help the Obama Administration make its case, Raul Castro, the president of Cuba also remained silent on the mysterious spy that Fidel’s Revolution coughed up. The U.S. and Cuba may not agree on much, but here they had to cooperate, and that was one of the things that obviously was negotiated between the two sides: the U.S. would handle the public relations aspect of the swap and Castro would remain silent. Cuba had nothing to lose by putting their three heroes on TV shaking hands with Raul Castro any more than President Obama had anything to lose by putting Alan Gross on camera. None of these agents had to be ‘debriefed’ or checked by the doctors before appearing in front of the cameras.

The only reason people strongly suspected that the mysterious spy might be Rolando Sarraff Trujillo (a.k.a. Roly) is that his family can’t find him. Cuban prison officials told them that their son had been transferred, but not to worry about him. He was in ‘good hands’. Certainly, Roly fit most of the description made by Obama at his press conference announcing reestablishment of relations with Cuba: a Cuban intelligence officer locked up for 20 years for providing cryptographic information that led to the capture of the aforementioned spies. So who else could it be? And if in addition the Obama Administration ‘carelessly leaks’ the name through ‘unidentified official’ sources, we have the makings of what appears to be ‘disinformation’.

Ramblings continue here:  Bill Gaede

Editor’s Note: Cuba recruited Guillermo “Bill” Gaede in the mid-1980s 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. He 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. Intel then hired him and greed became his motivator. He began committing espionage for China and Iran, which paid him handsomely.

On a personal note, analysis of Bill Gaede’s current and previous writings found numerous errors, based in part on his flawed interpretation of facts and a predisposition to see conspiracies everywhere.

The American Spy Traded in the U.S.-Cuba Diplomatic Breakthrough 5

People cheer for the "Cuban Five" while holding a poster of the five Cuban intelligent agents, in Havana December 17, 2014. After 18 months of secret talks facilitated by the Vatican and Canada, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed by phone on Tuesday on a prisoner exchange and the opening of embassies in each other's countries. Obama said the moves were made possible by Havana's release of American Alan Gross, 65, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years. Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and was held for nearly 20 years, and the United States in return freed three Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States. The poster reads "Freedom now !". REUTERS

People cheer for the “Cuban Five” while holding a poster of the five Cuban intelligent agents, in Havana December 17, 2014. After 18 months of secret talks facilitated by the Vatican and Canada, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed by phone on Tuesday on a prisoner exchange and the opening of embassies in each other’s countries. Obama said the moves were made possible by Havana’s release of American Alan Gross, 65, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years. Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and was held for nearly 20 years, and the United States in return freed three Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States. The poster reads “Freedom now !”. REUTERS

By Jeff Stein, Newsweek

The unidentified United States spy being swapped as part of a diplomatic breakthrough between the U.S. and Cuba is almost certainly a former cryptographer in Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence who worked secretly for the CIA until he was arrested on espionage charges in the mid-1990s, according to a former U.S. intelligence officer and other sources.

Rolando “Roly” Sarraf Trujillo was “an expert on cryptography for the Cuban Ministry of Interior who was arrested in 1995 and sentenced to 25 years in jail,” says Chris Simmons, a former Defense Intelligence Agency specialist on Cuba.

“I know of all the Cubans on the list of people in jail and he is the only one who fits the description” of the unnamed asset who U.S. officials said was part of the deal to reestablish diplomatic relations between the two former Cold War adversaries.  The agent, U.S. officials said, was swapped for the remaining three members of the so-called “Cuban Five” spy ring, a group of operatives arrested in Florida on espionage charges in 1998. Another element of the agreement, which ended a decades-long feud, was Cuba’s decision to free Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor imprisoned on the island since 2009, on charges of trying to subvert the state.

“I am 99.9 percent sure that Roly is the guy…” Simmons said in a telephone interview  “He’s the only one who fits the description” of the unidentified U.S. intelligence asset being released by Cuba, he added.

In a speech on Wednesday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that a spy of “Cuban origin” was being released. And the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition also reported that its sources believe that Sarraff Trujillo was that man.

Neither Cuba nor the Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI) would identify the spy in question or comment on Sarraf Trujillo.

DNI spokesman Brian P. Hale said in a prepared statement that the asset being released spent 20 years in a Cuban prison for his work for the United States. Many of the details of his cooperation are classified, but Hale said he was “instrumental in the identification and disruption of several Cuban intelligence operatives in the United States and ultimately led to a series of successful federal espionage prosecutions.”

Indeed, according to Hale, the spy “provided the information that led to the identification and conviction of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) senior analyst Ana Belen Montes; former Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers and his spouse Gwendolyn Myers; and members of the Red Avispa network, or ‘Wasp Network,’ in Florida, which included members of the so-called Cuban Five.”

Simmons said that, “just as a matter of elimination,” it’s Sarraf Trujillo.

Feature continues here:  Spy Swap

 

AP Story Renews Focus on Fulton Armstrong; Former Confidant of Ana Montes 3

Fulton Armstrong

Fulton Armstrong

By Chris Simmons

Recent articles by the Washington Free Beacon and other media outlets have challenged the credibility of the Associated Press. A central figure in the newswire’s use of suspect sources is Fulton Armstrong, the one-time National Intelligence Officer for Latin America.

Following the conviction of career spy Ana Montes, several administration officials – including Otto Reich – sought the reassignment of NIO Fulton Armstrong, one of the government’s senior specialists on Cuba. The New York Times cited critical officials as describing Armstrong as overly “soft” on Cuba threats to U.S. interests. Behind the scenes, they were deeply concerned not only with Armstrong’s strong ties to Montes, but how closely his analytic conclusions mirrored or endorsed hers.

In Newsmax, Kenneth Timmermann wrote that Armstrong would minimize or trivialize everything “derogatory to Castro, Venezuela, or to the FARC.” Several former U.S. intelligence officers confirmed that Armstrong, aided by Janice O’Connell, Senator Christopher Dodd’s top staffer, went so far as to continuously defend Montes “in closed-door sessions with top policy-makers” long after her arrest.

Armstrong is well-known for consistently minimizing Cuba’s ability to threaten U.S. interests and its continued support to terrorists. In one interview, Scott Carmichael – the senior Counterintelligence investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency – said Montes was “on a first name basis” with the Armstrong. In fact, Montes and Armstrong confided in one another by phone into the final stages of her investigation.

Dr. Norman Bailey, who previously served as the Issue Manager on Cuba & Venezuela for the Director of National Intelligence noted, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Fulton Armstrong had something to do with Ana’s products not being pulled.”

In his book, Sabotage: America’s Enemies within the CIA, Rowan Scarborough recalled a meeting convened by Fred Fleitz, a CIA officer on an interagency tour with the State Department. Representatives from most of the Intelligence Community attended, including Fulton Armstrong. Citing the damage caused by Montes, Fleitz called for a review of all intelligence products on which she’d worked. He felt such a review might provide insights into disinformation and biases built into her analysis. Armstrong opposed any such review as wholly unnecessary. “He had worked on the same assessments as Montes and was sure she did not distort them,” wrote Scarborough.

Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, was so repulsed by Armstrong’s openly biased stance that he banned him from his office. In a view shared by many, Noriega said: “I didn’t question his patriotism. I questioned his judgment.” Noriega went on to tell his assistant he “didn’t want to see a single scrap of paper he was involved in. I was not interested in a person with such a profound lack of judgment.”

In conclusion, a 2012 post by Capitol Hill Cubans reported the following:  “During his three-year stint as a staffer to Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Armstrong often forgot who was the elected Senator … and led a mostly unauthorized assault on all-things Cuba policy under the Senator’s name.  This led to Armstrong’s retirement in 2011.”

 

Critics Question Sources for AP Report on Cuba Democracy Program 1

AP

 

 

 

Say sources had political agenda to undermine U.S. policy

By Daniel Wiser, Washington Free Beacon

Critics are raising questions about the Associated Press’s recent report on a U.S. program to foster civil society in Cuba and have accused the news organization of cooperating with sources who have a political agenda against U.S. policy toward the island.

The AP recently reported on the program that sent Spanish-speaking youth to Cuba to help build health and civil society associations, which the news organization described as a “clandestine operation” with the goal of “ginning up rebellion.” Human rights groups involved in the program criticized the report and said it mischaracterized the nature of the civil society projects.

Defenders of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program say the AP has been less than forthright about the sources for its reporting. They also allege that the AP obtained information and documents from longstanding critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba’s communist government.

The anti-Castro website Capitol Hill Cubans alleged that the key source for the AP’s reporting on both the civil society program and a separate project, an attempt to develop a Twitter-like social media service for Cubans, was Fulton Armstrong. Armstrong is a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) staffer and senior intelligence analyst for Latin America.

Armstrong told the Washington Free Beacon in an email that although the AP contacted him, he was not the main source of information and documents. “The AP’s reports are pretty obviously based on documentary evidence provided by insiders concerned about the regime-change programs,” he said, adding that he was never fully briefed on what he called USAID’s “clandestine, covert operations.”

“Because the SFRC had investigated these scandalously run secret programs during my tenure on the Committee staff, and because my boss (Chairman [John] Kerry) was concerned enough to put a hold on the programs for a while, I was logically among the dozens of people to be called by the AP reporters,” he said.

Armstrong has long raised the ire of U.S. officials and activists advocating a tough line against the Castro regime. Foreign policy officials in the George W. Bush administration attempted to reassign Armstrong from Latin American intelligence after arguing that he was “soft” on threats from Cuba, according to a 2003 report by the New York Times.

Feature continues here:  Critics Question Credibility of AP Sources

 

Latell’s Latest Assessment Reveals Why Analysts Should Not Perform Counterintelligence 7

Ana Belen Montes

Ana Belen Montes

By Chris Simmons

Writing first in the Cuba Transition Project and then the Miami Herald, Dr Brian Latell recently energized readers with his feature, New revelations about Cuban spy Ana Montes

I, however, was greatly disappointed with the article. To start, he sensationalized several trivial issues and recycled old news stories (yes, she was a “true believer”  volunteer and yes, she was brought to the Cubans by talent-spotting agent Marta Rita Velazquez). None of this information is new.

However, he then misinterprets several key facts due to a lack of understanding regarding the field of counterintelligence, in layman’s terms – spy-catching.

For example, Latell claims that Montes met with her handlers “initially in New York, and later at her request in the Washington area…” Any Counterintelligence officer knows Havana would never consider running a penetration of the US government from 225 miles away. Having an agent or officer travel that distance once or twice a month for an extended period would be a huge risk to the security of the operation. Montes may have “asked” the Cubans for a DC-based spy handler, but the reality is she was going to be transferred to a local operative regardless of her wants and wishes.

More dangerous (and out of context) is his claim that during her interrogations, she was told that investigators “had information from a senior official in the Cuban intelligence service concerning a Cuban penetration agent that implicated Montes.” While that may be – in part – what the Pentagon document said, rare are the instances wherein an interrogator would truthfully tell a suspect they were betrayed by a colleague. That said, it is a common ploy to lie to a suspect and tell him/her their own people gave them up. This is what occurred with Montes.

Another major error is his wildly speculative and erroneous statement: “Did she work with other American spies? The report is ambiguous; it states that after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 pressure intensified to arrest Montes. The FBI preferred to wait, however, in order “to monitor Montes’s activities with the prospect that she may have eventually led the FBI to others in the Cuban spy network.”

The FBI wasn’t the only organization that preferred to wait – those of us in the Defense Intelligence Agency wanted to continue building the case as well. The “others in the Cuban spy network” weren’t part of some mysterious massive spy ring, but rather the compañeros she’d served during her espionage career.

Dr Latell is an exceptional analyst in his field. That said, Counterintelligence is a discipline unto itself, rendering any analytic generalist a poor job fit for analyzing spy services. Counterintelligence analysis is – and will always be — best performed by badge-carrying Special Agents skilled in investigations, operations, and collections.