Falling Short in Understanding Cuban Intelligence: Part I in a Series 5

In “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” the newly released assessment by The University of Miami’s Cuba Transition Project, Dr. Brian Latell provides a breezy and very readable summary of Cuban Intelligence with two notable exceptions:

  1. The primary mission and target of Cuban Intelligence is incorrect.
  2. The number of Cuban operations known to have been destroyed/degraded by US Counterintelligence is grossly understated.

Today, I will address the first issue.   In “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” Latell claims the United States is “the raison d’être” of Cuban intelligence, according to still another experienced defector I interviewed.” 

In reality, the primary target of the Castro regime’s intelligence services are the Cuban people.  The core mission of its five-service Intelligence Community remains regime protection.    Maintaining domestic stability in support of government continuity is the overriding concern.  This is consistent with other totalitarian regimes and characterized by its two Counterintelligence services dominating the manpower of Cuba’s Intelligence Community.  The collection of intelligence on foreign enemies has remained second to domestic control and monitoring of the Cuban people.

Historically, Castro’s foreign intelligence services focused on the collection of intelligence on foreign enemies. Throughout the Cold War, these services were also viewed as primary tools “to export the Revolution.”  Currently, the United States is the regime’s sole foreign target. 

According to defector Juan Antonio Rodriguez Menier, the General Directorate of Counterintelligence (DGCI) [now called simply the Directorate of Counterintelligence (DCI)], has remained the most important intelligence service in revolutionary Cuba.  According to the Library of Congress, at its peak, the DGCI/DCI numbered 20,000 personnel.  However, as the Castro regime consolidated its domestic controls, the DGCI/DCI drew down.  At the time of Rodriguez Menier’s 1987 defection, its manpower had declined to roughly 3,000 personnel.  

Likewise, during the Cold War, the Cuban Military’s Counterintelligence service (CIM) was reportedly as large as the DGCI/DCI.  However, during the 1990s, armed forces manning was slashed by an estimated 53 percent.  This likely led to similar manpower cuts in the CIM.  Despite these losses, according to defectors and émigrés, the CIM still reportedly numbers several thousand personnel. 

In stark contrast to Havana’s robust Counterintelligence organizations, its three foreign intelligence services, the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM), and the intelligence wing of the Cuban Communist Party number less than 3,300 total personnel.

Latell’s error has been to focus overwhelmingly on the DI, rather than examine Cuba’s entire “intelligence machine.”  Additionally, his research is further undermined by excessive reliance of DI defectors.  The US has been blessed with an abundance of Cuban defectors and émigrés, many of which can and have provided ample insights into the inner workings of regime intelligence.  This information is further enhanced by intelligence provided by defectors from Cuba’s Cold War allies.   Successful US Counterintelligence investigations and operations have also produced a veritable treasure trove of information on Havana’s “intelligence machine.”  For example, government holdings from the Wasp Network alone are said to number roughly 100,000 pages. 

Brian Latell has devoted his life to providing valuable insights into regime dynamics in general and the Castro brothers in particular.  That said, when it comes to Cuba’s spy services, I fear he has stepped outside his realm of expertise.

See his assessment, “Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” here:  The July 2012 Latell Report


The JFK Assassination: What Did Castro Know? (an Opposing View) Reply

A former lecturer in Havana takes issue with author Brian Latell’s conclusion that Castro knew in advance that Oswald intended to kill JFK

By Arnaldo M. Fernandez

When you believe in things you don’t understand, you’re in trouble. That’s the case of former CIA analyst Dr. Brian Latell and his supporters. After five-years’ research , Dr. Latell asserts in his book Castro’s Secrets: “I believe Florentino Aspillaga had it right: ‘Fidel knew’.”

Dr. Latell means Castro knew Lee Harvey Oswald “was going to shoot at Kennedy.” Therefore, “Castro lied” when he stated on Nov. 23, 1963, “we never in our life heard of him [Oswald],” and when he “issued a second critical denial” in his speech of Nov. 27, 1963.

For catching Castro in these two lies, Dr. Latell starts with a fabrication of his own: “While in Mexico City Oswald had tried to defect to Cuba so he could become a warrior for the bearded man he worshipped.” In the manuscript It Came to Little in the National Archives and Records Administration, the chief of Mexico City’s CIA station, Win Scott, gave the account that Oswald visited the Cuban consulate for getting an in-transit visa to go on with his family from Cuba to the Soviet Union. That’s exactly the information rendered before the House Select Committee on Assassinations by the Cuban outgoing and incoming consuls, Eusebio Azcue and Alfredo Mirabal.

Let’s concede that Dr. Latell was misled; then he would be much obliged if his sources are subjected to a careful review.

According to Dr. Latell, the first reliable indication that Castro lied about Oswald came from Cuban intelligence officer Vladimir Rodriguez (codenamed AMMUG by the CIA). He defected in 1964 and told his CIA handler that Castro had lied because “before, during and after” Oswald’s visits to the Cuban consulate “he was in contact” with the Castro intelligence.

Dr. Latell writes: “It is not clear that any of this incriminating information from a proven and trusted source was shared with the Warren Commission that investigated Kennedy’s murder.” On the contrary, it’s very clear that AMMUG simply didn’t know what he was talking about. He was debriefed again by the CIA for clarification, and the conclusion appears in a memo from March 8, 1964. The source “does not claim to have any significant information concerning the assassination of President Kennedy or about the activities of Oswald.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/30/v-fullstory/2876687/what-did-castro-know-an-opposing.html#storylink=cpy

Castro and Kennedy’s death: Connecting the dots? 4



            In 1987, Florentino Aspillaga, the most valuable Cuban intelligence officer ever to defect, provided the CIA with detailed information that Fidel Castro’s security forces knew and could have directed Lee Harvey Oswald’s plan to assassinate President Kennedy in Dallas. This potentially provocative news was buried among thousands of documents written on the tragic subject.

Now this vital piece of information has been made public as the main thesis of the book  Castro’s Secrets: the CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine, by Brian Latell, a historian and the CIA’s former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America. The book is a well researched and factual narrative that unmasks the official secrecy and ideologically driven theories that for many years have distorted the fundamental premises of the JFK assassination.

The son of a high-ranking communist official, Florentino Aspillaga was, in 1963, monitoring Miami radio communications from the CIA and Cuban exile operations working against Castro’s Cuba. This was his only assigned duty that year, until Nov. 22, around 9 a.m., when he was instructed to cancel the CIA radio monitoring and redirect his antennas to Texas. Aspillaga was ordered to immediately report on anything happening in that U.S. region. About four hours later, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Did Castro know that JFK would be killed?