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

 

Palm Beach Newspaper Warns American Firms of Cuba’s Espionage Threat 2

SpyvsSpySeveral Caveats to be Aware of Before Doing Business in Cuba

PalmBeachPost.com / Filed in: Business

Get ready for another round of “Let’s go do business in Cuba” enthusiasm on Friday. That’s when Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to raise the Stars and Stripes for the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Before you go rushing into a business venture on the island that was the communist outpost in the Cold War, you might want to have a talk with Ross Thompson at Classified Worldwide Consulting, which has an office in West Palm Beach. Thompson, the firm’s managing director, has a few caveats to share.

In particular, Thompson cautions that Cuba’s foreign investment and business laws present six key challenges that Americans need to think through ahead of time. They are:

  1. The Cuban government will own a majority stake in the company. A 49-51 percent split is common, but Havana has required a larger share in some sectors.
  2. Your local workforce will be selected by the Cuban government. This selection may not be based on skill or merit but by seniority or cronyism.
  3. Cuban managers will be appointed to mirror your handpicked managers, especially if your senior leadership includes Cuban exiles. The Cuban managers will ultimately control many decisions, or influence them, when dealing with your majority partner, the Cuban government.
  4. Everything in Cuba is heavily influenced by Cuba’s intelligence service, the DGI. You must be very careful to guard your own corporate proprietary information. [Emphasis added]
  5. Vendors you may work with may be fronts, or “cutouts,” for other foreign intelligence services such as those from China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. The capture and exchange of corporate confidential information is a lucrative business, so guard your files. [Emphasis added]

Feature continues here: Cuban Economic Espionage

 

Congressional Hearing Next Thursday: “The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security” 1

CongressSubcommittee Hearing: The President’s New Cuba Policy and U.S. National Security

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere | 2200 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Feb 26, 2015 10:00am to 1:00pm

Chairman Duncan on the hearing: “In 1982, Cuba was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism for providing critical support to many terrorist organizations. Today, given the links between Cuba and China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia and the close proximity to the U.S. homeland, I am deeply concerned about the U.S. national security implications of the Administration’s Cuba policy change. Cuba continues to support terrorist organizations and it was caught red-handed proliferating weapons to North Korea as recently as last year. Cuba has also been stunningly successful in espionage against the U.S., in trafficking U.S. national security secrets to hostile regimes, and in benefiting from a criminal pipeline spanning Cuba to Florida. This hearing will examine the U.S. national security implications of the President’s Cuba policy change and potential vulnerabilities to Americans as a result.”

WITNESSES:

Mr. Chris Simmons:  Editor, Cuba Confidential

Mr. Fernando Menéndez:  Senior Fellow, Center for a Secure Free Society

José Azel, Ph.D.:  Senior Research Associate, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies – University of Miami

The Honorable Dennis K. Hays:  Director, The Emergence Group

***Any changes to witness list will be reflected above.

Cold War Games? Russian Spy Ship Docks Unannounced in Havana on Eve of Historic US-Cuba Talks 1

Arriving unnanounced: The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, a Russian Navy intelligence warship, is seen docked to a pier in Old Havana after sailing into the harbour on the eve of historic talks between the U.S. and Cuba (Getty Images)

Arriving unnanounced: The Viktor Leonov CCB-175, a Russian Navy intelligence warship, is seen docked to a pier in Old Havana after sailing into the harbour on the eve of historic talks between the U.S. and Cuba (Getty Images)

— Viktor Leonov moors up in Old Havana pier during key diplomatic talks 

— U.S. officials play down arrival saying it was ‘not unusual, not alarming’

By Simon Tomlinson for MailOnline

In a throwback to the Cold War, a Russian spy ship caused a stir after unexpectedly docking in Havana on the eve of historic talks between the U.S. and Cuba. There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities.

The timing also raised eyebrows as it came on Tuesday, the eve of historic U.S-Cuba talks aimed at normalising diplomatic relations. U.S. officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary. ‘It’s not unprecedented. It’s not unusual. It’s not alarming,’ a defense official told AFP news agency.

The Vishnya or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, according to Russian media. The vessel previously docked in Havana in February and March last year, staying there for a few days. Those visits were also unannounced.

The Russians said the visit was scheduled a long time ago and was yesterday opened up for the children of Russian diplomats. For Cubans, who became increasingly dependent on Russia after the 1959 revolution, the ship’s latest visit has taken them down memory lane. Raphael Hernandez told ABC News: ‘We have normal relations with Russia.

‘One day, when we have normal relations with U.S., we could have an American ship visiting.’

The highest-level U.S. delegation in 35 years will conclude two-day talks in Havana today with both sides cautioning an immediate breakthrough was unlikely.  Senior U.S. officials say they hope Cuba will agree to reopen embassies and appoint ambassadors in each other’s capitals in coming months. The United States also wants travel curbs on its diplomats lifted and unimpeded shipments to its mission in Havana.

During talks on Wednesday, the Americans vowed to continue granting safe haven to Cubans with special protections denied to other nationalities. Cuba complained the U.S. law promotes dangerous illegal immigration and protested against a separate U.S. program that encourages Cuban doctors to defect, calling it a ‘reprehensible brain drain practice.’

Read more: Cold War Spy Games?