The Nation’s “Meet The Spies” Tour 3

by Elliott Abrams, Council on Foreign Relations

Travel to Cuba is a new fad, helped by the changes the Obama administration has made in U.S. policy. It’s easy now for almost any group to go there, under the guise of some educational program or purpose.

But travel to Cuba has long been a practice for American leftists, who have seen the Castro regime not as a brutal oppressor of human rights but as a beacon of light in the Hemisphere. No democracy, free expression, freedom of the press, free trade unions? Who cares, after all? The thrill of visiting the communist island has been too much to resist.

Still, there was usually a pretense that the visitors were not there to celebrate the regime. But not in the coming visit organized by The Nation, the old leftist magazine. Its September trip includes many of the staples, according to The Nation’s invitation letters. The trip will feature:

museum tours with eminent art and cultural historians; seminars and lectures featuring renowned Cuban economists, government officials, community activists, physicians, and urban planners; exclusive concerts with popular jazz artists, troubadours, and folk musicians; performances by students of Cuba’s internationally acclaimed ballet institutes; visits to artist’s colonies and studios; guided tours of Old Havana, the Latin American Medical School, and the University of Havana; and visits to many other inspiring locales and events.

No surprises there. But actually I left out a key clause in that paragraph. The trip will also include:

a meeting and discussion with the Cuban Five, the intelligence agents considered national heroes after spending many years imprisoned in US jails.

This is pretty remarkable. The Nation describes the tour as “a particularly inspiring and extraordinary time to experience the people, politics, culture, and history of Cuba in a way few ever have before.” In a way few Americans ever have before? Now, that’s true enough: how many American get to meet with and celebrate people who spied against our country and were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder? How many Americans want to?  Due to their actions four Americans died, in a Brothers to the Rescue plane shot down in international airspace. But the frisson of meeting people who actually—the Cuban government has admitted this—were intelligence agents and were convicted of spying on the United States is so wonderful that it is worth the $5,550 per person fees for the tour.

Feature continues here: The Nation’s Spy Tour


CODEPINK’s Itinerary For This Week’s Visit to Cuba – Meet With Spies, More Spies & Even More Spies! 4

CODEPINK at their Havana press conference.

CODEPINK at their Havana press conference.

By Chris Simmons

The left-wing group, CODEPINK, is currently in Cuba as it heads a “a historic delegation” that – from February 8-15, “will have high-level meetings with government officials, visit members of the Cuban 5 who were recently released from US prison, talk to doctors who combated Ebola in Africa, and interact with local people about cultural, economic, environmental and health issues.”

However, a closer review of their agenda finds scheduled meetings with intelligence officers and co-opted agencies, including:

Monday, February 9 @9am:  Meeting with Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), followed by a possible meeting with Fernando Gonzalez and the rest of the Cuban 5.

Friday, February 13 @9:00am: Meeting with Josefina Vidal, an expelled Directorate of Intelligence officer currently serving “undercover” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more details on the intelligence activities of the highlighted groups and individuals, simply use the search tab. For CodePink’s full schedule, click here.

Former Cuban Spy & Conspiracy Theorist Bill Gaede Offers His Interpretation of US-Cuba Spy Swap 7

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.

U.S. Spy in Havana Exposed American Moles 4

An image provided by Cuba shows President Castro, right, Wednesday with members of the ‘Cuban Five’ who were released in a U.S. prisoner swap.  European Pressphoto Agency

An image provided by Cuba shows President Castro, right, Wednesday with members of the ‘Cuban Five’ who were released in a U.S. prisoner swap. European Pressphoto Agency

Intelligence Officer Whom Obama Singled Out for Prisoner Exchange Helped Convict Agents for Cuba in Washington

By Felicia Schwartz , The Wall Street Journal,

WASHINGTON—In announcing the prisoner exchange that set up a momentous shift in U.S.-Cuba relations, the Obama administration this week made an unusual disclosure, revealing the existence of a key intelligence agent, and detailing specific cases he helped to crack.

The U.S. informant, identified on Thursday as Rolando Sarraff Trujillo by those familiar with his role, had been convicted and imprisoned in Cuba for nearly 20 years for helping Washington. He was recently freed and flown to the U.S.

Undisclosed before this week was Mr. Sarraff’s secret role as an American operative in Cuba who provided critical information that prompted the 1998 arrests of a group of spies known as the “Cuban Five,” intelligence operatives sent to infiltrate U.S. groups opposed to the regime in Havana.

In remarks at the White House, Mr. Obama, without naming Mr. Sarraff, said that he was “one of the most important intelligence agents the United States has ever had in Cuba.”

In a separate set of prominent U.S. espionage cases, Mr. Sarraff also provided information leading to the detection and conviction between 2001 and 2009 of a group of American government officials for funneling information to Havana, the officials said.

The Americans included the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuba analyst at the time, Ana Belén Montes, and former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Myers, officials said.

All are still serving prison sentences.

In a speech Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro didn’t name Mr. Sarraff but said he was “a spy of Cuban origin.” He has been widely identified as a former Cuban intelligence officer imprisoned in Cuba on espionage charges since 1995.

Mr. Sarraff was a cryptographer in Cuba’s intelligence service, said Chris Simmons, who headed a unit on Cuba for the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1997 to 2004.

Mr. Sarraff was arrested in Cuba in 1995, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1996. He had provided information about the codes used by Cuban spies in the U.S. to communicate with Havana, Mr. Simmons said. Cuba typically used shortwave radio to communicate with agents in the U.S., he said.

U.S. officials used the information to decipher communications and identify spies, even long after he was arrested. “Once you have the insight, if you’ve got enough time, money and resources, you can go back and look at everyone,” Mr. Simmons said.

Feature continues here: Roly


Crucial Spy in Cuba Paid a Heavy Cold War Price 1

Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, in a photo released by his family.

Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, in a photo released by his family.

By Mark Mazzetti, Michael S. Schmidt and Frances Robles, New York Times

WASHINGTON — He was, in many ways, a perfect spy — a man so important to Cuba’s intelligence apparatus that the information he gave to the Central Intelligence Agency paid dividends long after Cuban authorities arrested him and threw him in prison for nearly two decades.

Rolando Sarraff Trujillo has now been released from prison and flown out of Cuba as part of the swap for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States that President Obama announced Wednesday.

Mr. Obama did not give Mr. Sarraff’s name, but several current and former American officials identified him and discussed some of the information he gave to the C.I.A. while burrowed deep inside Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence.

Mr. Sarraff’s story is a chapter in a spy vs. spy drama between theUnited States andCuba that played on long after the end of the Cold War and years afterCuba ceased to be a serious threat to theUnited States. The story — at this point — remains just a sketchy outline, with Mr. Sarraff hidden from public view and his work for the C.I.A. still classified.

The spy games between the two countries lost their urgency after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the spies have stuck to their roles for more than two decades: pilfering documents, breaking codes and enticing government officials to betray their countries. “There were a number of people in the Cuban government who were valuable to the U.S., just as there were a number of people in the U.S. government who were helpful to the Cubans,” said Jerry Komisar, who ran C.I.A. clandestine operations in Cuba during the 1990s.

With Wednesday’s exchange of imprisoned spies and the leaders of the United States and Cuba talking in a substantive way for the first time in more than 50 years, some people who were part of the spy games between the two countries now wonder just how much it was worth it.

In retrospect, Mr. Komisar said, there was little need for American intelligence services to devote so much attention to Cuba — a country with a decrepit military that he said posed no strategic threat to the United States since the Soviet Union pulled its missiles off the island in 1962.

Continue reading the main story


Baltimore Sun Commentary: Maryland Delegation Should Petition for Release of Cuban Five 1

Two U.S. senators who traveled to Cuba are extremely disappointed they're returning without Maryland's Alan Gross.

Two U.S. senators who traveled to Cuba are extremely disappointed they’re returning without Maryland’s Alan Gross.

By Kurt L. Schmoke

In 1999, I accompanied the Baltimore Orioles on their historic trip to Havana, Cuba. This marked the first time since 1959 that a Major League Baseball team played in Cuba. Many of us hoped that a baseball game involving teams from the United States and Cuba might be a precursor to normalized diplomatic relations the way a ping-pong match signaled a change in U.S. relations with China. Unfortunately, those hopes were not fulfilled.

see how life had changed since the Orioles’ visit. What I learned was that, on a people-to-people basis, the citizens of Cuba and the United States desire close ties and normal business relations, but the governments of our two countries remain stuck in Cold War-era political battles. Although both Cuban and American doctors are in West Africa fighting the Ebola crisis, such cooperation remains the exception rather than the rule.

One hears statements from some government officials about a willingness to begin a new era of diplomatic relations the way a new era seemed to begin in U.S.-Soviet relations with the destruction of the Berlin Wall. However, there always seems to be a roadblock erected just as the parties move forward. The current roadblock involves the imprisonment in Cuba of Maryland resident Alan Gross and the imprisonment in the United States of a group known as the Cuban Five. I believe that the Maryland delegation to Congress may hold the key to opening the prison doors for all these men and subsequently opening a new era of diplomacy for these two countries.

Alan Gross, a 65-year-old from Montgomery County, was arrested in Cuba in 1999 while working on a contract sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase Internet access in small communities across the country. The Cuban government alleged that his work entailed acts detrimental to the Republic of Cuba (essentially labeling him a spy) and sentenced him to a term of 15 years. He has served four years. His friends and supporters indicate that he is in very poor health, having lost about 100 pounds while incarcerated.

The Cuban Five are, in fact, intelligence officers sent to Miami in the 1990s to collect information on local anti-Castro groups allegedly engaging in activities that violated U.S. law, including acts of violence designed to bring down the Castro regime. Although the U.S. government received evidence supporting those allegations, U.S. prosecutors targeted not the groups in question but instead the five Cuban intelligence officers. The government chose to prosecute the Cuban Five in — of all places — Miami.

Opinion continues here:  Schmoke

Could a U.S.-Cuba prisoner swap break the ice? 1

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Ray Sanchez, Elise Labott and Patrick Oppmann, CNN (CNN) — Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba for smuggling satellite equipment onto the island, is being held at Havana’s Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital.

With peeling canary-yellow walls and hordes of people coming and going, the aging building doesn’t look like a place where Cuba would hold its most valuable prisoner.

But police officers and soldiers surround the hospital. Inside, Cuban special forces guard the 65-year-old U.S. citizen, emotionally and physically frail and approaching his fifth year in confinement.

North of the Florida Straits, Gross’ imprisonment is seen as the major impediment to better relations with Havana.

Now, however, midway through the second term of President Barack Obama, several signs of possible change have emerged. Senior administration officials and Cuba observers say reforms on the island and changing attitudes in the United States have created an opening for improved relations.

The signs include the admission this week by senior administration officials that talks about a swap between Gross and three imprisoned Cuban agents — part of group originally known as the Cuban Five — have taken place. In addition, recent editorials in The New York Times have recommended an end to the longstanding U.S. embargo against Cuba and even a prisoner swap for Gross.

Video with article continues here:  CNN

Delegation Returns From Cuba Without Alan Gross 2

FILE - This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

FILE – This undated handout photo provided by the Gross family shows Alan and Judy Gross at an unknown location. An attorney for a Gross, who has spent over four years imprisoned in Cuba, argued before a federal appeals court that his client should be allowed to sue the U.S. government over his imprisonment. (AP Photo/Gross Family, File)

By Suzanne Pollak

Senior Writer, Washington Jewish Week

Bethesda Jewish Congregation Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer returned Wednesday from a two-day trip to Cuba “saddened and disappointed Alan [Gross] did not come away in our care.”

Schnitzer was part of a three-member Joint Delegation of American Religious Leaders that participated in meetings with high level Cuban officials on Nov. 3 and 4 with the goal of freeing Alan Gross, the Potomac man serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for crimes against the state.

Prior to his departure, Schnitzer said talks with the officials seemed more ambiguous than he could remember and therefore he had hoped Gross would be allowed to leave Cuba.

“We all feel this an especially auspicious time,” Schnitzer said, noting that the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April of 2015 creates “a window of opportunity.” Panama has invited Cuba to attend for the first time, and if there is any movement in negotiations to free Gross, it might be possible for officials from the United States and Cuban to meet and work things out, Schnitzer said.

Gross, 65, was arrested in December 2009 while in Cuba working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross was there to connect Cuba’s Jewish population to the Internet but was convicted in 2011.

Schnitzer, who represented the Cuban American Jewish Mission, was joined on the trip by Rev. John McCullough of Church World Service and Rev. Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church.

The delegation, along with the Cuban Council of Churches, called for “the humanitarian release” of Gross and the Cuban Five. The Cuban government has insisted it will free Gross only if the United States frees the Cuban Five, three of whom have been in prison in the United States since 1998 following their convictions for espionage, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges. The other two have completed their prison sentences and returned to Cuba.

Freeing the Cubans still in American prisons “is the best and only way to get Alan out,” Schnitzer said. “The Cubans are waiting for this country, waiting for America, to engage” in talks, he said.

At the end of the trip, the delegation issued a joint statement. “Our common prayer is that by working together, we can help reunite these families and our countries.”

During the short visit, Schnitzer tried several times to visit Gross, but “Alan is not taking any visitors except his wife,” he said. However, he did learn that Gross, already in failing health, is having trouble walking due to “hip issues,” has difficulties with one eye and “lost another tooth.”

Since February, members of the delegation have met with members of Congress, the State Department and American religious leaders to pave the way for their two-day trip.

On Monday and Tuesday, the three men met with Cuban First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Chief of Mission, United States Interests Section Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Assistant Foreign Minister Josefina Vidal Ferrerio, Minister of Religions Caridad Diego Bello and Rene Gonzalez, one of the freed members of the Cuban Five.