Now Russia is Suspected of Attacks Against Diplomats in Cuba. Will U.S. Strike Back? 6

File picture showing a vintage US car passing in front of the US Embassy in Havana on December 17, 2015. (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)

By Nora Gámez Torres, ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Cuba is again in the middle of what could be another confrontation between the United States and Russia, after Moscow was identified in a news report as the main suspect in the string of mysterious attacks against U.S. embassy personnel and relatives in Havana.

An NBC report quoting unidentified U.S. officials said federal agencies investigating the incidents have intercepted intelligence communications that point to Russian responsibility for the attacks, although the evidence is not conclusive enough to formally accuse Moscow.

But if a Russian role is confirmed, “that would be unprecedented. That’s never happened,” said Frank Mora, who served as deputy secretary of defense for Latin America and now heads the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University.

“Russia has meddled in the U.S. elections and has been behind the attacks on former Russian spies in England, but to provoke serious injuries to U.S. officials, that is much more complicated and the United States has to react in some way,” he added.

Cuba is again in the middle of what could be another confrontation between the United States and Russia, after Moscow was identified in a news report as the main suspect in the string of mysterious attacks against U.S. embassy personnel and relatives in Havana.

An NBC report quoting unidentified U.S. officials said federal agencies investigating the incidents have intercepted intelligence communications that point to Russian responsibility for the attacks, although the evidence is not conclusive enough to formally accuse Moscow.

But if a Russian role is confirmed, “that would be unprecedented. That’s never happened,” said Frank Mora, who served as deputy secretary of defense for Latin America and now heads the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University.

“Russia has meddled in the U.S. elections and has been behind the attacks on former Russian spies in England, but to provoke serious injuries to U.S. officials, that is much more complicated and the United States has to react in some way,” he added.

The NBC report said the U.S. military is working to replicate the weapon or weapons used to injure 26 employees of the State Department, the CIA and other federal agencies as well as relatives who were based in Havana. The victims suffered symptoms such as loss of hearing, cognitive problems and some experienced brain damage.

A team of doctors that investigated the incidents at the request of the U.S. government has said it’s possible the attackers used a “neuro-weapon” of directed energy that could damage the brain by causing a “cavitation” effect with ultrasonic, electromagnetic or microwaves. The U.S. Air Force research program on directed energy is participating in the investigation.

Article continues here:  Russians in Cuba?

 

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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

 

Living and Loving the Cold War: The Wild Ride of a Canadian Diplomat and Spy Reply

Former Canadian high commissioner Bill Warden, centre, stands with his daughter, Lisa, in an arms bazaar in Darra, Pakistan, 1982. (Submitted by Lisa Warden)

From spying for the CIA and dodging the KGB, to rallying Afghan warlords, Bill Warden’s life was an adventure

(CBCNews – Canada) They don’t make careers like this anymore.

Dodging the secret police in Cold War Berlin. Cranking up the music to deafen the KGB bugs in Moscow. Spying for the CIA in Havana. Rallying Afghan warlords to thrash the Russians. Wrangling former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s meditation session with Indira Gandhi. Faking documents to spirit a hostage out of Tehran.

Diplomacy is not designed to be a wild ride, but Bill Warden’s lasted three decades. He died in 2011, before his vivid journals were collected and published this fall by his daughter, Lisa, under the title, Diplomat, Dissident, Spook.

A sometime spy and eventual peacenik, Warden is little known to Canadians but well known to the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev, who writes a glowing forward to the book.

Roaming, off the radar, from Havana to Hong Kong, Warden relished the halcyon days of diplomacy when real spies wore fedoras and before, he says, ambassadors became trade commissioners. He watched the “Great Game” of the superpowers from the front row and didn’t mind jumping into the ring.

To all appearances, the polite Niagara Falls, Ont., kid was a dutiful member of the striped-pants set, patiently enduring the rants of Iranian mullahs or Fidel Castro.

But behind the scenes, his life was intrigue and adventure.

A typical chapter begins like this:

“Berlin, 1961. As I rounded the corner onto Unter den Linden and headed for the café, the black Wartburg sedan slid to a halt and four men in the black uniforms of the East German Security Service emerged looking as if they meant business. My back was drenched in instant perspiration.”

That’s where Bill Warden got his start, as a student in the world’s spy capital — ambling with fake nonchalance from the West to the​ Communist East, before the Berlin Wall was built. He rebuffed the CIA’s bid to recruit him and soon, RCMP officers back in Niagara Falls came to grill his father about why young Bill was spending so much time in the East.

Cockroaches and the KGB

His interest in fighting the Cold War was the reason — and he got his wish in his first Foreign Service posting: Moscow, in the tense aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Warden was constantly tailed by KGB goons, partly because he spoke Russian — so there was a danger he might learn something.

Article continues here:  Canadian Spy in Cuba

 

 

Donald Trump Crackdown Looms For Cuba as Repression Continues After Obama Outreach 3

Cuban President Raul Castro and his government have benefited more than his people from the Obama administration’s détente. (Associated Press)

Cuban President Raul Castro and his government have benefited more than his people from the Obama administration’s détente. (Associated Press)

By Dave Boyer – The Washington Times

President Obama’s historic move to normalize relations with Cuba hasn’t slowed repression by the Castro regime, and the incoming Trump administration is likely to take a tougher stand on restricting tourism, recovering stolen U.S. assets and demanding human rights reforms by Havana, analysts say.

In the two years since Mr. Obama announced a thaw in the United States’ half-century policy of isolating the island nation, the administration has paved the way for increased engagement, approving such measures as daily commercial flights, direct mail service, cruise ship ports of call and the reopenings of long-shuttered embassies in Washington and Havana.

But Mr. Obama’s policy has not been fully embraced on Capitol Hill and is vulnerable to reversal under the Trump administration, though the president’s aides say his détente is already bearing fruit in Cuba and beyond.

“We’re seeing real progress that is making life better for Cubans right now,” said White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. “Sustaining this policy will allow for further opening, further travel, further U.S. business opportunities.”

But critics say the U.S. money now flowing to Cuba is being pocketed directly by the military and the Cuban intelligence services, not benefiting Cuban entrepreneurs. They also say the government of President Raul Castro has become more repressive since the formal resumption of diplomatic ties with Washington.

“This year, they’ve had over 10,000 politically motivated arrests,” said Ana Quintana, an analyst on Latin America at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “During President Obama’s visit [in March], there were 498 people arrested in those three days.”

Judging by the standards Mr. Obama laid out in December 2014, she said, “the policy has been a failure.”

“It was originally intended to help the Cuban people by providing greater freedoms,” Ms. Quintana said. “It’s been diluted, because they found that they’re not going to get the concessions from the Cuban government that they expected. The vast majority of people who have benefited from this have been the Cuban military and the Cuban government.”

President-elect Donald Trump is likely to take a less rosy view than Mr. Obama of the U.S. engagement with Cuba, say those familiar with his team’s thinking. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for “turning a blind eye” to Cuba’s human rights violations and denounced Mr. Obama’s initial deal with Havana as a “very weak agreement.” Several anti-Castro Cuban-American conservatives are part of Mr. Trump’s transition team.

Article continues here:  Espionage & Repression Continues

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Dangerous U.S. Spy You’ve Never Heard Of 4

Ana Montes with then-Deputy DCI George Tenet, after receiving an award.

Ana Montes with then-Deputy DCI George Tenet, after receiving an award.

By Thom Patterson, CNN

Programming note: Explore untold stories of American spies: CNN Original Series “Declassified” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNN.

(CNN) — She put American combat troops in harm’s way, betrayed her own people and handed over so many secrets that experts say the U.S. may never know the full extent of the damage.

Ana Montes was the Queen of Cuba, an American who from 1985 to the September 11, 2001 attacks handed over U.S. military secrets to Havana while working as a top analyst for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

But despite her crimes, Montes remains largely unknown.

You might not think Cuba could do much harm to a superpower like the U.S., said retired DIA official Chris Simmons, appearing on CNN’s “Declassified.”

But you’d be wrong.

The threat increases, he said, when Havana goes on to sell those U.S. military secrets to nations like China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

Montes’ anger about U.S. foreign policy complicated her relationships and drew the attention of Cubans who enticed her to turn her back on friends, family and her own country.

The fascinating spycraft that surfaced from her case offers a rare glimpse into the invisible world of espionage, where some experts believe there could be as many as 100,000 foreign agents working inside the U.S.

The two Anas

Montes grew up like millions of other girls during the Cold War, in a large, middle-class family, the oldest of four children.

Born to Puerto Rican parents on a U.S. Army base in Germany in 1957, Montes‘ father served his country as an Army doctor. By the time Montes entered high school, her father had left the military and settled the family about an hour north of Washington, D.C., in Towson, Maryland.

She attended the University of Virginia, and in 1977 and 1978, she spent a liberating year studying in Spain. There, she met a Puerto Rican student named Ana Colon.

The two Anas quickly became friends — bonding through their Puerto Rican roots — not politics. “I had no political awareness whatsoever,” said Colon, now a Washington-area elementary school teacher.

Feature continues here:  Ana Montes

 

 

Moscow Building Spy Site in Nicaragua 1

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, attend a welcome ceremony at an airport in Managua, Nicaragua, Friday, July 11, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, attend a welcome ceremony at an airport in Managua, Nicaragua, Friday, July 11, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

Signals intelligence facility part of deal for 50 Russian tanks

By Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon        

The Russian government is building an electronic intelligence-gathering facility in Nicaragua as part of Moscow’s efforts to increase military and intelligence activities in the Western Hemisphere.

The signals intelligence site is part of a recent deal between Moscow and Managua involving the sale of 50 T-72 Russian tanks, said defense officials familiar with reports of the arrangement.

The tank deal and spy base have raised concerns among some officials in the Pentagon and nations in the region about a military buildup under leftist Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.

Disclosure of the Russia-Nicaraguan spy base comes as three U.S. officials were expelled from Nicaragua last week. The three Department of Homeland Security officials were picked up by Nicaraguan authorities, driven to the airport, and sent to the United States without any belongings.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the expulsion took place June 14 and was “unwarranted and inconsistent with the positive and constructive agenda that we seek with the government of Nicaragua.”

“Such treatment has the potential to negatively impact U.S. and Nicaraguan bilateral relations, particularly trade,” he said.

The action is an indication that President Obama’s recent diplomatic overture to Cuba has not led to better U.S. ties to leftist governments in the region.

State Department officials had no immediate comment on the expulsion.

The action is an indication that President Obama’s recent diplomatic overture to Cuba has not led to better U.S. ties to leftist governments in the region.

Nicaragua’s Ortega has remained close to the communist Castro regime in Cuba and the leftist regime in Venezuela. He was once part of the communist Sandinista dictatorship, and after winning election as president in 2006 has shifted Nicaragua towards socialism.

No details of the intelligence site, such as its location and when it will be completed, could be learned.

However, the site could be disguised as a Russian GLONASS satellite navigation tracking station that is said to be nearing completion. GLONASS is the Russian version of the Global Positioning System network of satellites used for precision navigation and guidance.

Article continues here:  Russian SIGINT

Editor’s Note:  While the Russians and Cubans maintain an intelligence sharing agreement, it seems Moscow isn’t satisfied with what they are receiving from the Cuban SIGINT system headquartered at Bejucal. Or perhaps Chinese Intelligence, which has had personnel embedded at Bejucal for at least 15 years, isn’t interested in seeing an expanded Havana-Moscow relationship.  

 

 

Russia Highlights Cuba’s Role As Most Loyal Ally in Western Hemisphere 4

Los presidenteS Raúl Castro y Vladimir Putin durante la visita del mandatario ruso a Cuba en 2014. Foto: AP.

Los presidenteS Raúl Castro y Vladimir Putin durante la visita del mandatario ruso a Cuba en 2014. Foto: AP.

[Cuba] is not only a strategic partner, but [Russia’s] most loyal and trustworthy ally in the Western Hemisphere.    

— Nikolai Sofinski, sub-director for Latin America at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cuba Debate (see below)

Relaciones estratégicas entre Moscú y La Habana no responden a coyunturas, afirma cancillería rusa

Las relaciones estratégicas entre Rusia y Cuba pasaron por una prueba y no responden a coyunturas, afirmó este viernes en Moscú una fuente del Departamento de América Latina en la cancillería del país euroasiático.

El subdirector Nikolai Sofinski ratificó el carácter de prioridad a los vínculos con la isla en la política exterior rusa, durante un panel dedicado a una actualización sobre el desarrollo socio-económico de Cuba y a la cooperación bilateral.

Sofinski definió a la nación antillana no solo como socio estratégico, sino el aliado “más fiable y seguro en el hemisferio occidental”, y no es una definición coyuntural, puntualizó el funcionario ante un grupo de investigadores del Instituto de América Latina, de la Academia de Ciencias de Rusia.

Enfatizó que las relaciones bilaterales pasaron por una prueba, que revalida esa asociación estratégica, y tienen grandes perspectivas, aseguró.

Valoró la interacción dinámica de los dos países en la arena internacional a instancias de diversos foros y el apoyo cubano manifiesto públicamente en contra de la ampliación de la OTAN cerca de las fronteras rusas, las sanciones ilegítimas unilaterales y los intentos de glorificación del nazismo, entre otros asuntos de la agenda global.

El subdirector del Departamento de América Latina de la cancillería consideró que existen amplias posibilidades de colaboración, al identificar al sector de la salud como un área en la que Cuba podría apoyar a Rusia.

Para el embajador Emilio Lozada las premisas de esa alianza ruso-cubana descansan en los sólidos lazos de hermandad y de amistad que fueron restablecidos el 8 de mayo de 1960.

Lozada destacó la constancia de unas estrechas relaciones entre los dos pueblos y gobiernos, la cual demuestran la intensidad de los contactos bilaterales al más alto nivel, con una particular dinámica entre 2009 y 2015, puntualizó el diplomático.

Recordó el Embajador la dimensión histórica de la visita del presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, a La Habana en julio de 2014 para los vínculos bilaterales, y la presencia del mandatario cubano, Raúl Castro, en las celebraciones en Moscú del 70 aniversario de la Victoria, el 9 de mayo de 2015, además de sus tres visitas a este país.

Cubadebate

 

 

Will Spy Wars Between Cuba and the U.S. End with Restored Relations? 3

spy_vs_spyHIGHLIGHTS

Since Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959, and over the next five decades, Havana built one of the world’s most active intelligence services

Some of the biggest crises in U.S.-Cuba relations can be traced to the involvement of Cuban spies and agents

Cuban espionage against the United States intensified in the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan stepped up rhetoric against Cuba at the height of the Cold War

By Alfonso Chardy, Miami Herald    achardy@elnuevoherald.com

Though the United States has restored relations with Cuba, and President Barack Obama is planning to visit the island later this month, it’s unclear if the two countries have declared a truce in the spy wars they have waged for more than 50 years.

Lawmakers in Congress have warned the Obama administration that allowing Cuba to operate an embassy in Washington and consulates throughout the country will only make it easier for Havana to deploy spies and agents in the United States.

“We are all too familiar with the Castro regime’s efforts to utilize their diplomats as intelligence agents tasked with the goal of committing espionage against the host countries,’’ according to a letter sent in 2015 to the U.S. Department of State by five Cuban-American lawmakers including Miami Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, as well as presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J.

Since Fidel Castro seized power in January 1959, and over the next five decades, Havana built one of the world’s most active intelligence services — one that dispatched spies and agents to penetrate the highest levels of the American government and some of the leading Cuban exile organizations.

In fact, some of the biggest crises in U.S.-Cuba relations can be traced to the involvement of Cuban spies and agents — from the downing of two Brothers to the Rescue planes to the theft of U.S. military secrets at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the spying of U.S. military facilities in South Florida and infiltration of leading Cuban exile organizations in Miami by members of the now-defunct Wasp Network.

Story continues here: Miami Herald

Editors Note: It seems the Miami Herald didn’t pay attention during last month’s testimony by Director of National Intelligence, General James R. Clapper, who told Congress Russia, China, Iran & Cuba pose the greatest threat to the United States.

 

Director of National Intelligence Tells Congress: Russia, China, Iran & Cuba Pose Greatest Espionage Threat to US 2

General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI)

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said (in part):

Moving to counterintelligence, the threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and nonstate, is persistent, complex, and evolving. Targeting and collection of US political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated. Russia and China pose the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale. As well, the threat from insiders taking advantage of their access to collect and remove sensitive national security information will remain a persistent challenge for us.”

Complete testimony here:  DNI Testimony

Cuban Military is in Syria; Can Havana’s Spies be Far Behind? 5

Castro_KhruCuba is Intervening in Syria to Help Russia: Its Not the First Time

By James Bloodworth in The Daily Beast:

Reports that Cuban forces are now fighting in Syria follow a long history of the Castro brothers working closely with their patrons in Moscow.

Not for the first time Cuban forces are doing Russia’s dirty work, this time in Syria. On Wednesday it was reported that a U.S. official had confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and Special Forces units were on the ground in Syria. Reportedly transported to the region in Russian planes, the Cubans are rumoured to be experts at operating Russian tanks.

For President Obama, who has staked his legacy on rapprochement with America’s adversaries, the entrance of Cuba into the bloody Syrian civil is one more embarrassment. Russia, Iran and Cuba—three regimes which Obama has sought to bring in from the cold—are now helping to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, ruler of a fourth regime he also tried in vain to court early on in his presidency. Obama has been holding his hand out in a gesture of goodwill to America’s adversaries only for them to blow him a raspberry back in his face—while standing atop a pile of Syrian corpses.

Yet for seasoned Cuba-watchers the entrance of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces into the Syrian civil war is a surprise but hardly a shock. A surprise because Cuba was forced two decades ago to curtail its military adventurism by a deteriorating economy (the Cuban military has been reduced by 80 per cent since 1991).

Largely thanks to the involvement of Cuban troops in the fight against Apartheid South African in Angola in the 70s and 80s (not to mention the more recent medical “missions” to disaster-stricken parts of the world) Cuba has gained something of a reputation for internationalism. At one point the Cuban presence in Angola reached 55,000 soldiers, inflicting a defeat on South African forces which helped precipitate the end of Apartheid. “The [Cuban army’s] decisive defeat of the aggressive apartheid forces [in Angola] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor,” Mandela told the Cuban leader on a visit to Havana in 1991.

In recent years Angola has lent the Castro regime a romantic penumbra which says that, for all its faults, the Cuban revolution is on balance progressive (watch the film Comandante by the ludicrous Oliver Stone to get a sense of what I mean). Yet while everyone remembers Cuban heroics in Angola, few remembers Cuban terror in Ethiopia.

Feature continues here: Cubans in Syria