The Stupidly Simple Spy Messages No Computer Could Decode 1

Numbers station_The Daily BeastEvery day, hour after hour, the world’s spies send top secret information you can easily listen in on.

By Shan Harris, The Daily Beast

When I was 10 years old, I found a shortwave radio in a crumbling old leather trunk where we kept family photos and other memorabilia. As I spun the dial, tinny, modulating noises, like the song of an electronic slide whistle, emanated from the radio’s small speaker. Staticky cracks and pops competed for airtime. The sounds swished and swirled, unintelligible and unremarkable. But then, emerging through the clamor, was a voice.

I might have run right over it with the dial, but the voice’s rhythmic, steady pacing caught me up short. It wasn’t a deejay. Nor a commercial. And he wasn’t singing. He was just speaking. The same line, over and over again.

“7…6…7…4…3.” Pause. “7…6…7…4…3.”

I don’t remember if those were the exact numbers. But they were numbers. A repeated sequence which had no obvious meaning, and was entirely devoid of context. To find him here, amidst the screeches and howls of the shortwave frequencies, was like coming upon a man standing in the middle of a forest, talking out loud to no one.

How long had he been here? Who was he talking to? He had that officious tone of the recorded telephone operators who chastised you for dialing a wrong number. “Please hang up, check the number, and dial again.” And the same distracting static I’d heard in those messages filled the background. I wasn’t sure if he was speaking live, or if he’d been recorded and set loose to play into the air.

But there was an urgency to his tone. And a purpose. As if he were talking to me. Imploring. Listen. Hear me now. 7…6…7…4…3. Did you get that? 7…6…7…4…3.

I was simultaneously terrified and captivated.

I never touched the radio again. My curiosity was suppressed by a feeling of dread that I had heard something not meant for me. But I never stopped thinking about it. The voice became a character I passed around with friends during late-night ghost stories. The Bell Witch. The Killer in the Back Seat. The Numbers Man.

Article continues here: Numbers Stations

 

Miami Herald Ignores Abundant Spy Ties in Coverage of “Cuba Conference” 10

Yesterday’s Herald featured the innocent sounding article, Supporters of Stronger US Relations With Cuba Stage Rare Gathering in Miami. The author, longtime Cuba-watcher Juan Tamayo, wrote “A rare conference of supporters of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations heard calls Saturday for the Obama administration to allow more travel to the island and remove it from a list of supporters of terrorism.”

The career journalist noted that over 100 people attended the one-day event that offered panelists such as “Arturo Lopez-Levy, a Cuban foreign policy expert at the University of Denver, and Antonio Zamora, a Miami lawyer and member of the Brigade 2506 that invaded Cuba in 1961. He now favors normalizing bilateral relations.”

Conference promoter Hugo Cancio, however, lamented that Washington denied a visa to “invited panelist, retired Havana diplomat Jesus Arboleya, and denied permission to attend the conference to two Cuban diplomats in Washington – First Secretary Juan Lamigueiro and General Counsel Llanio Gonzalez.” Tamayo also spoke with Collin Laverty, a U.S. citizen who works with U.S. visitors to the island, who told him about 90 percent of Americans visiting Cuba are funneled through the Cuban government’s Havanatour agency. (Note: The actual name is Havanatur).

Alarmingly, you could fill volumes with all the intelligence service connections the Herald conveniently omitted. A few of these key facts would include:

Arturo Lopez-Levyin his own book – admitted to having been a spy with Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT). Likewise, the Herald failed to note the seven-year PhD candidate’s close family ties to Raul Castro’s son-in-law, MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

• The banned panelist, Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by intelligence service defector Jesus Perez Mendez in 1983. Years later, Arboleya’s intelligence service was further corroborated by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez.

Arboleya served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section. During his US tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was inspired by the DGI, (then) Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

• The Havanatur office in Miami surveilled Cuban-Americans seeking to visit the island and recruited agents from among them, according to 1981 Congressional testimony. Subsequently, the US Treasury Department identified Havanatur and CIMEX (among others) as Cuban front companies. In the intelligence arena, a “Front Company” is any entity created, controlled, or heavily influenced by a spy service to fulfill espionage missions without its actions being attributed to the host intelligence service.

In March 2004, the US Treasury identified Havanatur as a CIMEX subsidiary. Public records reveal CIMEX’s involvement in everything from weapons purchases for leftist guerillas in the 1980s to more genteel import/export endeavors.

Havanatur, as well as the remainder of Cuba’s tourism sector, is run as a joint venture by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) and the Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR). For almost 20 years, credible defectors and émigrés have reported that part of the earnings from tourism are channeled back into the operating budgets of these two agencies. As a result, US tourists are actively funding Cuban repression and espionage.

• The entry point for the much heralded “people-to-people” tours is the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). DGI officer Jesus Raul Perez Mendez was the ICAP director before his defection. So well known is ICAP’s collaboration that in 1983, the New York Times cited a State Department spokesman who said ICAP was suspected of having an intelligence collection mission in support of the DGI.

More recently, former DI officer Juan Manuel Reyes-Alonso reportedly that ICAP is not a DI entity per se, but that it was overwhelmingly influenced by the intelligence service. He further claimed ICAP was penetrated by a small cadre of bona fide DI officers, aided by a large staff of agents (i.e., collaborators). As a result, roughly 90% of ICAP was thought to be DI-affiliated.

So the question of the day remains: why is the Miami Herald so adamant about ignoring, suppressing, minimizing or discrediting news on Havana’s spy services?

Editor’s Note: A copy of this post was sent to the Miami Herald as a “Letter to the Editor.”

Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying 9

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

A top aide to one of Cuba’s veteran political figures, Ricardo Alarcón, and the aide’s wife, have been convicted of spying and sentenced to 30 and 15 years in prison, according to persons close to the case.

Miguel Alvarez and Mercedes Arce, both former Cuban intelligence analysts in their 50s, were tried and convicted in December, the persons said, 22 months after they were detained in Havana for interrogation on March 3, 2012.

Alvarez was sentenced to 30 years on charges that he leaked secret information to Arce, according to the sources. Arce got the lesser sentence for allegedly using the information to write analytical reports on Cuba that she sold to private companies in Mexico.

Alvarez is the most senior Cuban official known to have been convicted of spying against the communist government in decades. At least three other Cubans are imprisoned on the island for spying, including two former Interior Ministry officials.

The Cuban government has repeatedly offered to swap U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross, imprisoned in Havana since 2009, for four Havana spies held in U.S. prisons since 1998. But it has made no mention of the spies held in Cuban prisons.

The island’s state-controlled news media, which almost never reports on politically sensitive crimes, has published nothing on the Alvarez-Arce case. Relatives also have not commented publicly, hoping their silence will lead to better treatment for the couple.

There has been no indication of the seriousness of the breach of security allegedly created by Alvarez and Arce, but the Cuban government jealously guards even routine information such as sugar harvest figures and Fidel Castro’s home address.

Alvarez was a senior advisor to Alarcón on international and political affairs when Alarcón served as president of the legislative National Assembly of People’s Power, sitting in on many of his meetings with foreign dignitaries and journalists.

Alarcón, 77, a veteran specialist on U.S. relations, headed the National Assembly for 20 years but was replaced in February of last year, 11 months after the Alvarez and Arce arrests.

He is believed to remain a member of the powerful Political Bureau of the Communist Party. Alarcón is seen in public now mostly pushing the government campaign to free the four Cuban spies in U.S. prisons.

Former Florida International University professor Carlos Alvarez (no relation to the Alarcón aide), who was convicted of spying for Havana, described Arce in his confession as one of his Cuban intelligence handlers. He and his wife, Elsa Prieto, were sentenced in 2007 to five and three years in prison, respectively.

Read more here:
Aide to Cuba’s Ricardo Alarcon Sentenced to 30 Years for Spying

New York Daily News Uses “Former” Cuban Spies as Unattributed Sources in “Handshake” Coverage 1

The recent article by Albor Ruiz “Obama-Castro Handshake More Than Just a Gesture” used former Cuban Intelligence Officers Jesús Arboleya and Arturo López-Levy as central sources in the feature. However, Ruiz failed to identify either man as a former spy, instead referencing Arboleya as a “Cuban writer and political analyst” and López-Levy as a “Cuba expert and Political Science professor at the University of Denver.”

Editor’s Note: Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by intelligence service defector Jesus Perez Mendez in 1983. Years later, Arboleya’s intelligence service was further corroborated by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez.

Arboleya served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section. During his US tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was inspired by the DGI, (then) Cuba’s primary foreign intelligence service. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

Arturo Lopez-Levy is a self-professed “former” Intelligence Officer in Havana’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT). He is also a relative of MININT Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the regime’s business monopoly.

“Retired” Cuban Spy Pontificates on Cuban Support to Terrorism Reply

Cuba and the List of Countries That Promote Terrorism

By Jesús Arboleya Cervera, appearing in Progreso Semanal/Weekly

HAVANA – Every year, the U.S. Department of State publishes a list of “countries that promote terrorism” that serves as a basis for Washington’s policy toward them. The list includes a set of sanctions established by Congress. Many are the questions that arise from this practice. In the first place, the very concept of “terrorism” has yet to be defined by the international organizations of justice and the United Nations, due to the political manipulation to which it is subjected.

In other words, the U.S. government describes as “terrorist” whoever it sees fit and omits others who might deserve the description but whose inclusion is inconvenient. For example, Afghanistan was invaded in 2002 at the start of the “world war against terrorism,” yet it doesn’t appear on the list. Many believe that the United States itself could be on the list, if the list were made up with rigor and fairness. In sum, more than a moral condemnation, the list of countries that promote terrorism is a boast of unilateral power, whose true importance is to announce where the shots are coming from.

Cuba has been included since 1982 because of its support for the revolutionary movements in Central America. It is revealing that it was precisely the administration of Ronald Reagan that took the initiative, while at the same time he was promoting a “low-intensity” war in the region that led to his condemnation in the International Court of Justice. Later, he was rebuked by Congress itself, due to the Iran-Contra scandal. Anyhow, even after those conflicts were over, Cuba remained on the grim list. Other excuses were used then, such as saying that Cuba sheltered fugitives of U.S. justice in the 1970s, gave refuge to members of the Basque group ETA, and “offered medical aid and political assistance” to combatants in the Colombian FARC.

Various international analysts, legal institutions and American politicians have for years refuted the legal pertinence of those arguments, so I’ll simply quote recent statements by Congressman Jim McGovern, in which he made clear that the abovementioned fugitives never committed terrorist acts and that the ETA members are in Cuba at the request of the Spanish government itself. As if that weren’t enough, Havana at present is the site for the peace talks between the Colombian guerrillas and the Colombian government, as it has been previously, throughout the years. {emphasis added]

The Congressman also said that, due to the state of relations between the two countries, there are no extradition accords that justify that complaint. I should add that, if negotiations to that effect were to begin (as the Cuban government once proposed), the list submitted by Cuba would include hundreds of people who have actually committed terrorist acts against Cuba, among them the notorious Luis Posada Carriles.

In truth, the inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries that promote terrorism cannot withstand any serious scrutiny. Years ago, due to the weight of reality, Cuba abandoned the practice of supporting armed revolutionary movements, whose denomination as “terrorists,” from a historic perspective, is as questionable as the American list.
But that’s not what the problem is about. Cuba’s inclusion on the list is an excuse to keep up the belligerence promoted by the American far right, especially the Cuban-American groups that serve as activists in Congress and various public opinion media in that country. Even if Raúl Castro became Mahatma Gandhi, those people would consider him a terrorist anyway.

The current debate has to do with the U.S. policy toward Cuba in the current circumstances. On one side are those who advocate maintaining the economic blockade and as many punitive measures as possible; on the other, those who posit that this policy is counterproductive for U.S. interests. It should be said that, except for some exceptions, the argument is the same: the efficacy of the method to achieve a “regime change” on the island. It has nothing to do with the truth.

For those who promote change, Cuba’s elimination from the list constitutes one of the most favorable targets. It is not based on reality; its arbitrariness affects the credibility of Washington’s policy against terrorism. Also, the decision, in whatever direction, rests entirely on the government, including the State Department, without involving the President directly. This does not mean that it will be a simple task. There will be a big hubbub from the conservatives; more than one functionary will be subjected to third-degree interrogations in Congress; some laws and appointments will be used as exchange currency to revert the decision. We shall then see if Obama’s administration is willing to face the storm in order to proceed with the change it proposes.

As a result, for more than its practical importance, inasmuch as the sanctions against the island exceed what’s established in the provisions, Cuba’s elimination from the list of countries that promote terrorism would serve as an indicator of this willingness, placing us on a stage that’s qualitatively different, where the adoption of more transcendental measures could be possible.

Some in Cuba believe – with reason – that what’s proposed is a bear hug. I think a hug is preferable to a bite. Besides, wishes don’t necessarily come true, and the simple fact of recognizing that Washington’s current policy toward Cuba is not viable shows us how times have changed and proves that our resistance was worthwhile, as phrased by Manuel Calviño, a famous Cuban psychologist on his television program.

Editor’s Note: Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by DGI Captain Jesus Perez Mendez after his defection in 1983. Arboleya, who served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section, was also identified by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez. During his tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was DGI-inspired. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

Since Colonel Arboleya promoted the subject of Havana’s role in peace talks (see “emphasis added” above), be sure to read about the following posts discussing the exploitation of peace talks by Cuba’s spies:

Cuba Dupes UPI; Uses Peace Talks to Hide Decades of Support to FARC Terrorists, December 14, 2012, https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/cuba-dupes-upi-uses-peace-talks-to-hide-decades-of-support-to-farc-terrorists/

Cuba’s Terrorist Allies Open Peace Talks With Enraged Rhetoric, October 19, 2012, https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/cubas-terrorist-allies-open-peace-talks-with-enraged-rhetoric/

Colombia Nears Possible FARC Peace Talks, August 28, 2012, https://cubaconfidential.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/colombia-nears-possible-farc-peace-talks/

Havana Gives Literary Award to One of its Master Spies 2

Writer Jesus Arboleya Wins Casa de las Americas Award

Havana, (PL).- Cuban writer Jesus Arboleya said that winning the Casa de las Americas Award is a special honor because this is one of the most prestigious awards worldwide, and also because it is a revolutionary award. Arboleya earned the highest distinction in the social-historical literature category, for his book “Cuba y los cubanoamericanos. Un analisis de la emigracion cubana” (Cuba and Cuban Americans. An Analysis of Cuban Migration). The jury that unanimously granted the award, announced at the Casa de las Americas in Havana, was comprised of the French Salim Lamrani, Colombian Renan Vega Cantor, and Cuban Sergio Guerra Vilaboy. According to the decision, the jury took into account that Arboleya´s work reconstructs in detail, with solid supporting documentation, the issue of relationships between the United States and the Cuban Revolution from the perspective of migration policies between both countries. The clarity and expository text fluently allows the work to be accessible to all readers, without diminished rigor and analytical depth, and demystifies one current issue that has been subject to many interpretations, the jury added. For his part, Arboleya stated that this award, in its 54th edition, is “deeply connected to the history of our struggles, the defense of our identity, and the dignity of our people.”

Jesus Arboleya Cervera (1947), is a PhD in Historical Sciences, and has collaborated with the Center for Policy Alternatives, the Center About the United States at the University of Havana, the Center for American Studies, and the Center for European Studies, as well as having worked with the Chilean newspaper La Nacion. Among his books are “Las corrientes políticas en la comunidad de origen cubano en Estados Unidos” (The political currents in the Cuban community in the United States (1994), Havana-Miami: The US-Cuba Migration Conflict (1995), and “La contrarrevolución cubana” (The Cuban counterrevolution) (1997).

Editor’s Note: Colonel Jesus Arboleya Cervera was identified by DGI Captain Jesus Perez Mendez after his defection in 1983. Arboleya, who served as a Second Secretary at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City before transferring to the Washington-based Cuban Interests Section, was also identified by convicted spy Carlos Alvarez. During his tour, Arboleya was the architect of the 1970’s US-Cuba normalization drive, which almost succeeded in 1977 following the formation of a group of prominent Cuban-Americans who called themselves the Committee of 75. Although headed by respectable Cuban-Americans, including two clerics and several businessmen, the Committee was DGI-inspired. According to Senate testimony of March 12, 1982, at the time, Arboleya may have been the longest serving DGI officer in the United States.

On a related note, Arboleya’s co-author, Rafael Betancourt Abio, along with his brother, were founders of the pro-Castro magazine Areito in April 1974. He was also a founder of the Antonio Maceo Brigade in December 1977. On April 28, 1978, he met in D.C. with Arboleya and Ricardo Escartin Fernandez, another DGI member. Rafael Betancourt Abio was born in Havana April 23, 1952.

Cuban Agent Communications: [The] Failure of a Perfect System 1

By Dirk Rijmenants

Abstract The Cuban Intelligence Service has a long record of broadcasting encrypted numbers messages by shortwave radio to communicate with its clandestine agents abroad. Although it is considered a secure way to communicate covertly, there have been espionage cases where the use of this type of communication provided hard physical evidence, resulting in criminal complaints and convictions.

Cuban Intelligence

The United States is the principal foreign target of the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS).  Therefore, it is no surprise that CuIS officers and agents, recruited and controlled by CuIS in the United States, are important targets of the counter-intelligence efforts of the FBI. In recent years, the FBI has uncovered several important Cuban spy operations.

One common link between all recent spy cases is how these agents received their operational messages. Apparently, the clandestine communication methods, presented in this paper, are standard CuIS procedures. Despite CuIS using a cryptographic system, proven to be unbreakable, the FBI did succeeded in reading some of these operational messages and subsequently used them in court.

This paper is based on official FBI documents and the court papers on these espionage cases.  It shows procedural and implementation flaws by the CuIS and its agents. These flaws resulted in incriminating evidence that contributed to arrest and the conviction of the clandestine agents.

Read the entire assessment here:  http://users.telenet.be/d.rijmenants/papers/cuban_agent_communications.pdf

McCarthyism and Castroism: A Case Study 1

By Miguel Fernandez

Soon after Professor Carlos Alvarez (Florida International University- FIU) and his wife, Elsa Prieto, were arrested on espionage charges, the Castroite parliamentary speaker Ricardo Alarcon branded this FBI operation as a move to create a sort of “McCarthyist atmosphere” in order to have an influence on the Cuban Five’s case.  The last Antonio Maceo Brigade militant, Andres Gomez, pealed the bell in Areito Digital.  He stated that the alleged guilt of Alvarez and Prieto was the base for “a dangerous McCarthyist campaign” against those who advocate the normalization of Cuba-U.S. relations.  Alvarez’s lawyer, Steven Chaykin, argued that the reputation of his client and his wife was being destroyed by “the McCarthy-like hysteria” stirred up by the prosecutor.  “This kind of hysteria also grows in the Hispanic media from Miami,” remarked the Castroite agitprop cadre Max Lesnik. Nevertheless, Alvarez and Prieto ended up pleading guilty. Since the first Alvarez’s debriefing by the FBI on June 23 and 24, 2005, the case did not anything to do with the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, but with the still alive Fidel Castro.

Every time Castroite espionage becomes an issue in the U.S. academic world, McCarthyism is the quick response.  The doctoral candidate Arturo Lopez-Levy gave a sort of updated operational definition:  McCarthyism is “the use of anonymous reports, which mix defamation with half-truths, for condemning and persecuting those who dissent from the undemocratic right.” Thus, the report with full names and truths, without any intention beyond the clarification of the issue, seems to be no McCarthyist at all.

See the entire article here:  McCarthyism and Castroism

Respected Cuba Expert Takes on the Miami Herald 3

[Email from Dr. Tony de la Cova to Miami Herald journalist Juan Tamayo]

Sent: Thursday, June 7, 2012 1:49 AM
Subject: Mercedes Arce

Juan Tamayo

Miami Herald

Good morning Juan,

          I noticed that in your article in today’s Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/06/ 2836372/cuban-police-arrest-top-aide-to.html) you indicate that Mercedes Arce “was mentioned in Florida International University professor Carlos Alvarez’s confession that he worked for Cuban intelligence.”  I brought that to your attention in the exchange of emails on October-November 2009 that I sent you, Miami Herald Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos and Herald Editorial Page Editor Myriam Marquez, that I copied other Herald editors and posted on my academic website at http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/Miami-Herald-spy-polemic.htm

          In those emails I stated that “Herald editors and reporters demonstrate naiveté when asking [Marifeli] Pérez-Stable to admit to the same espionage criminal activities for which her friend and colleague Professor Carlos Alvarez was sent to prison. Your article omits that it was Alvarez, during his FBI interrogation, who admitted that Mercedes Arce was his intelligence handler (p. 80-82)  http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/Alvarez-spy-1.pdf and linked her (p. 489) to Pérez-Stable. http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/Alvarez-spy-6.pdf

          My email on November 5, 2009, to Ms. Marquez concluded by indicating: “Hopefully, what people will remember is that Perez-Stable and her intimate friend Mercedes Arce are spies and the Herald suppressed the truth.”

          Two-and-a-half years later, the Miami Herald now acknowledges that Mercedes Arce worked for Cuban intelligence but selectively omits and continues to suppress the link between her and Miami Herald Board of Contributors member and FIU professor Marifeli Perez-Stable. The Alvarez deposition revealed that Arce stayed in the residence of Perez-Stable when she visited Miami.

Sincerely,

Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D.

Declassified FBI Documents Identify Another Cuban “Scholar-Spy” 2

          The declassified FBI interrogation of convicted spy Carlos Alvarez identified Miriam Rodriguez as a Cuban scholar tied to Cuban Intelligence.  Prior to his conviction, Alvarez was a professor at Florida International University (FIU).  He and his wife, Elsa, were convicted in 2007.

          Miriam Rodríguez Martínez is with the University of Havana’s Center for the Study of International Migration, a sub-element of the Center for the Study of Alternative Policies (CEAP).   In 2010, she lectured at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference in Toronto, Canada. 

Note:  See yesterday’s story, “Washington Post Clueless Again: Wants Spy Admitted to US” for amplifying information on the CEAP’s intelligence connection.