New Enhancements at Cuba’s Primary Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Base Suggests Improved Targeting of United States 1

Image Credit: Victor Robert Lee & Digital Globe

Satellite Images: A (Worrying) Cuban Mystery

The new radome in Cuba is unprecedented. Who is behind it?

By Victor Robert Lee, The Diplomat.com

Satellite images from February and May 2018 show a newly constructed radome on the signals intelligence base near Bejucal, Cuba. Its protective dome and elevated mounting make it the first of its kind among the numerous long-standing SIGINT antennas at Bejucal, which have been used to intercept electronic communications from the United States.

The new steerable parabolic antenna and its spherical enclosure (together called a radome) were erected on a site adjacent to other known Cuban surveillance antennas south of Havana near the town of Bejucal between March 2017 and February 2018. The functions of the new antenna are not discernible from the current satellite images, but similar antennas have been employed for signals interception, missile tracking, satellite uplinks and downlinks, radio communications, tracking of objects in space, and in some cases to disrupt satellite communications. The radome, approximately 6-7 meters in diameter, sits atop a square building approximately 11-12 meters wide. If the antenna can be tilted to horizontal – a common capability – its elevated position could also enable direct communications with vessels at sea or other signal sources on the horizon.

The Bejucal signals intelligence site had a relatively static number of parabolic antennas –approximately two dozen– from 2010 until 2016, and only one of them, considerably smaller than the new radome, was covered, although such coverings are common in many other nations, particularly at facilities with military or intelligence functions. Such specialized coverings can protect from weather and wear, but another advantage is that they conceal the orientation, and thus the possible purposes, of the antenna within.

Satellite images of the signals intelligence base near Bejucal also show that two smaller steerable parabolic antennas were installed in April-May 2017, the same period as the beginning of construction of the new radome. These antennas, located 460 meters south of the newly constructed radome, are linked by above-ground conduits to two other antennas installed as recently as May 2016.

Feature continues here: Cuban SIGINT

 

Advertisements

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.  

 

 

Havana’s Spies Seen as Big Winner in New US-Cuban Relations 11

Headquarters of Cuba's dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT) [Photo -- Havana Times

Headquarters of Cuba’s dreaded Ministry of the Interior (MININT) [Photo — Havana Times]

By Chris Simmons

Havana long ago earned the nickname “Intelligence Trafficker to the World” for its sale and barter of stolen US secrets. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the loss of Moscow’s $3 billion annual subsidy, Cuba’s auctioning of US classified information skyrocketed. Defectors and émigrés report the island’s leadership sees America’s secrets as a commodity to be sold or traded to the highest bidder. These sources say Cuba’s intelligence brokering is now a key revenue stream, earning hundreds of millions of dollars annually in cash, goods, and services for the regime.

Cuba’s intelligence and security services are undoubtedly celebrating the legacy-making breakthrough in US-Cuban relations ordered by President Obama. The US leader’s intentions – while noble – will be undercut by five apparently unanticipated consequences that will trigger an increase in Havana’s targeting of the United States.

First, opening Cuba to American travelers will bring a huge influx of desperately needed cash to Cuban coffers – more specifically, the intelligence and security services that – along with their military brethren – run every major component of the tourism industry as profit-making enterprises.

Second, an estimated million Americans are expected to visit Cuba yearly, as compared to the 60,000 US tourists it currently enjoys. This endless parade of Americans will provide Cuban spies unprecedented opportunities to assess and recruit new American traitors.

Third, unrestricted access to US technology will allow Havana significant upgrades in the technical aspects of espionage and internal repression. While it may seem counterintuitive, Fidel and Raul Castro have long viewed the Cuban people as the greatest threat to regime survival. This explains why their two counterintelligence entities remain Cuba’s largest spy services. Conversely, the island’s three “foreign intelligence” services are directed against a single target – the United States.

The fourth benefit Cuba receives is a huge enhancement in the long-cultivated notion that it poses “no threat” to the US. Spying against an unsuspecting enemy is infinitely easier than operating against a suspicious one. That’s the reason this well-choreographed myth has been aggressively promoted by major Cuban spies like Ana Montes and the husband-wife team of Kendall and Gwen Myers, as well as countless Castro apologists. The boost President Obama gave Havana with his new initiative elevates this myth to heights Havana could not have achieved by itself.

The fifth and final gain will be the end of travel restrictions on Cuba’s US-based diplomat-spies, whose unrestricted travel is currently limited to a 25 miles radius from Washington DC and New York City. Open travel throughout the nation will be a godsend to Cuba’s espionage operations. This new advantage will eventually be enhanced even further by the opening of Cuban diplomatic consulates and Prensa Latina news agencies from coast to coast.

The combination of cash, US tourists, American technology, new diplomatic facilities and unrestricted freedom to travel will markedly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Havana’s intelligence trafficking. In turn, this further incentivizes the regime to use this opportunity to drive up the profit margins and sales of US government and corporate secrets.

A crown jewel in Havana’s intelligence arsenal is its network of communications intercept sites headquartered at Bejucal. This facility — Cuba’s equivalent to NSA — is the only “signals intelligence” site in the downlink of almost every US satellite. This gives Havana a unique competitive advantage the intelligence services of China, Russia, and Iran can only dream about. Several well-placed defectors said the volume of Pentagon, White House, NASA, and other US communications collected by Bejucal is so vast Cuba only had staffing to process the crème de la crème of stolen secrets. When the Castro brother’s pair this daily flood of material with the information and insights contributed by hundreds of human spies serving covertly throughout the US, the result is a terrifyingly real danger to the United States.

Cuba is not a benign nation, but rather a hostile dictatorship that poses a significant, albeit one-dimensional threat to the United States. For example, the Castro regime has warned America’s enemies of every major military operation from the 1983 Grenada invasion through the most recent intervention in Iraq. Its spying has also resulted in the deaths of America citizens.

Cuba is a police state and its apparatchiks respect one thing:  power. As such, its spy services will see Washington’s olive branch as a sign of weakness. They will declare “open season” on the American government, its businesses, and Americans themselves to enrich and maintain the regime to which they have sworn their lives, loyalties, and families’ futures.

Everything We Know About The Huge Spy Base In Cuba That Russia Is Reopening 4

New LourdesBy Corey Adwar & Michael B. Kelley, Business Insider

Moscow and Havana have agreed to reopen a Cold War-era signals intelligence (SIGINT) base in Lourdes, Cuba.

An agreement was reached during Putin’s visit to Cuba last week to reopen the base, Russia business daily Kommersant reported last week. That was confirmed by a Russian security source who told Reuters: ”A framework agreement has been agreed.”

The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis had brought the U.S. and Soviet Union close to confrontation over Moscow’s proposal to place nuclear weapons on Cuban soil.

Havana shut it down in 2001 because of financial issues and American pressure. (Editor’s Note: This statement is incorrect. Russia’s shut down of Lourdes infuriated Fidel Castro).

Located south of Cuba’s capital Havana and just 150 miles from the U.S. coast, the base left many parts of the U.S. vulnerable to Soviet communication intercepts, including exchanges between Florida space centers and U.S. spacecraft. (Editor’s Note: The first statement is partially incorrect — Lourdes is roughly 100 miles from the U.S. coast).

Here’s what a Congressional report from 2000 said about the facility:

• The Secretary of Defense formally expressed concerns to Congress regarding the espionage complex at Lourdes, Cuba, and its use as a base for intelligence directed against the United States.

• The Secretary of Defense, referring to a 1998 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, reported that the Russian Federation leased the Lourdes facility for an estimated $100 million to $300 million a year.

• It has been reported that the Lourdes facility was the largest such complex operated by the Russian Federation and its intelligence service outside the region of the former Soviet Union.

• The Lourdes facility was reported to cover a 28 square-mile area with over 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel working at the base.

• Experts familiar with the Lourdes facility have reportedly confirmed that the base had multiple groups of tracking dishes and its own satellite system, with some groups used to intercept telephone calls, faxes, and computer communications, in general, and with other groups used to cover targeted telephones and devices.

• News sources have reported that the Lourdes facility obtained sensitive information about United States military operations during Operation Desert Storm.

• Academic studies cite official U.S. sources affirming that the Lourdes facility was used to collect personal information about United States citizens in the private and government sectors, and offered the means to engage in cyberwarfare against the U.S.

• The operational significance of the Lourdes facility reportedly grew dramatically after Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a 1996 order demanding the Russian intelligence community increase its gathering of U.S. and other Western economic and trade secrets.

Read more here:  The Lourdes SIGINT Base  

Editor’s Note:  The caption under the lead photo in the Business Insider posting of this article is highly misleading. During the Cold War, Moscow provided Havana with subsidies exceeding three billion dollars annually. Given this massive foreign aid influx, it is grossly disingenuous to claim that Cuba allowed the Russians to stay there “rent-free” through 1992.

Russia Rejoins Cuba’s Espionage Apparatchik in the Americas 1

The former Russian listening station at Lourdes some 20 miles south of Havana is seen in this December 2000. It was mothballed a year later but could reopen, it is reported. [Courtesy:  The (London) Daily Mail]

The former Russian listening station at Lourdes some 20 miles south of Havana is seen in this December 2000. It was mothballed a year later but could reopen, it is reported. [Courtesy: The (London) Daily Mail]

By Jerry Brewer, in Mexidata-Info

In order to effectively monitor aggression, hostile intelligence acts, interference, and other forms of insurgency within their homelands, democracies throughout the Americas must immediately address their governments’ counterintelligence missions against those rogue and dictatorial style regimes that pose obvious threats.

Russia’s recent decision to reopen its electronic spying center in Cuba is once again an obvious act that aggressively demonstrates support for the Cuban Castro regime, and a shared dispute versus the United States.

The Lourdes base closed 13 years ago, having been built in 1962. The closing was reportedly due to the economic crisis in Russia, along with repeated requests from the United States.

Lourdes served as a signals’ intelligence (SIGINT) facility, among other applications, located just 100 miles from the United States at Key West, Florida. During what has been described as the Cold War, the Lourdes facility was believed to be staffed “by over 1,500 KGB, GRU, Cuban DGI, and Eastern Bloc technicians, engineers and intelligence operatives.”

In 2000, it was reported that China signed an agreement with the Cuban government to share use of the facility for its own intelligence agency.

Despite pro-Cuba chants for economic aid and the lifting of the 50 year old Cuban Embargo, placed via President John F. Kennedy’s Proclamation 3447, there appears to be no shortage of funding by Cuba for that nation’s energetic spy apparatchik.

The original U.S. manifesto regarding Cuba, in 1962, expressed the necessity for the embargo until such time that Cuba would demonstrate respect for human rights and liberty.  And today, there certainly cannot be much of an argument that the continuing Castro regime has ever complied with any aspect of that mandate.  In fact, Castro’s revolution has arrogantly continued to force horrific sacrifices on Cubans in their homeland, as well as suffering by those that fled the murderous regime over the decades and left families behind.

Neither of the Castro brothers has ever, even remotely, disguised their venomous hatred for the U.S., democracy, or the U.S. way of life – even prior to the embargo.  Their anti-U.S. rhetoric continues, along with Russia and Venezuela, and they continue to extol radical leftist and communist governments throughout the world.

The Russian parliament recently pardoned 90% of Cuba’s US$38.5 billion debt dating back to the now defunct Soviet Union.

Feature continues here:  Russia Rejoins Cuba 

Russia Plans to Reopen Post in Cuba for Spying 1

Lourdes Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) base in Cuba (Courtesy - Federation of American Scientists)

Lourdes Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) base in Cuba (Courtesy – Federation of American Scientists)

By ANDREW E. KRAMER, New York Times

MOSCOW — Russia has decided to reopen an electronic eavesdropping post in Cuba that it closed more than a decade ago, reaching out for a onetime symbol of its global superpower status, Russian officials and newspaper reports said on Wednesday.

President Vladimir V. Putin agreed with Cuba’s leader, Raúl Castro, during a visit to Cuba last week to reopen the post. In exchange, Mr. Putin agreed to forgive about 90 percent of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt to Russia, or about $32 billion. News of the debt relief emerged last week, but the agreement to reopen the listening post was first reported Wednesday by the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Members of the Russian Parliament appeared to confirm the report in public statements praising what seemed to be a step by Russia toward re-establishing a military presence in Cuba, at a time when the conflict in Ukraine has sent Russian-American relations spiraling to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Russia vacated the listening post site at Lourdes, outside Havana, in 2001. At the time, Mr. Putin cited the strapped finances of the post-Soviet Russian government and said the war in Chechnya was a higher priority than maintaining a Cold War relic half a world away.

The United States Congress had also pressed Russia to move out of Lourdes, linking the abandonment of the site with deals to restructure Russia’s heavy foreign debt.

Russia closed a listening post at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, at that time as well. There were no indications on Wednesday that the Kremlin intended to revive that post.

In its heyday, the Soviet signals intelligence base at Lourdes enabled Moscow to listen in on microwave transmissions of telephone conversations in the southeastern United States, keep an eye on the United States Navy in the Atlantic, monitor the space program at Cape Canaveral and communicate with its spies on American soil. In 1993, when Mr. Castro was chief of the Cuban armed forces, he boasted that Russia obtained 75 percent of its strategic intelligence on the United States through Lourdes.

Article continues here: Russia to Reopen Spy Base 

Cuba Believed to Have Intercepted Details of U.S. Aid to Dissidents 2

By Juan O. Tamayo, JTamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

The documents were definitely not classified as secret. But they contained detailed information about U.S. government programs to help Cuban dissidents that Havana has outlawed as a semi-clandestine campaign to topple the communist system.

So when the U.S. Agency for International Development mistakenly used an unencrypted line to send the documents to U.S. diplomats in Havana, USAID officials were chagrined and some of the authors of the document were incredulous.

“An amazingly stupid thing to do,” said an official of one of the groups that generated the documents — minutely detailed applications for a $6 million USAID program to train emerging leaders of Cuba’s non-government sectors.

His application of more than 200 pages contained a complete history of his past work with USAID’s pro-democracy programs in Cuba, the official said, some names of possible trainees and venues where they might be trained.

USAID has played down the impact of the mistake, arguing that the U.S. government never classified the pro-democracy programs as secret or even confidential.

“Nothing about USAID’s Cuba program is classified. We simply carry out programs in a discreet manner to help ensure the safety of all those involved,” said USAID spokesman Karl Duckworth.

But the agency’s own documents highlight the security concerns surrounding the program.

“Given the nature of the Cuban regime and the political sensitivity of the USAID Program, USAID cannot be held responsible for any injury or inconvenience suffered by individuals traveling to the island under USAID . . . funding,” one agency contract states.

A slide presentation for non-government organizations (NGOs) that have been awarded USAID grants advises them to report any “Security Concerns, including Government of Cuba harassment and detention.”

Alan P. Gross, a USAID subcontractor from Maryland, is serving a 15-year prison term in Havana for delivering to Cuban Jews three satellite telephones, paid for by the U.S. government, so they could have direct and uncensored access to the Internet.

It was therefore shocking when USAID officials told applicants for the $6 million in grants in September that their applications had been sent to U.S. diplomats in Havana for their review on an unsecure line instead of the usual encrypted line.

Read more here: Cuba Believed to Have Intercepted Details of U.S. Aid to Dissidents

Russia Boosts Cuba Ties 2

By Bill Gertz, The Washington Times

The Russian military recently dispatched a guided-missile warship to Cuba as part of what U.S. officials say are growing military, intelligence and economic ties between Moscow and Havana. The missile cruiser is the Moskva, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, according to state-run Russian news reports. “The cruiser Moskva and the large seagoing tanker Ivan Bubnov set off for Havana on the fourth week of their long-distance deployment,” a fleet spokesman told Interfax-AVN on Friday. On the way, the ship conducted a test launch of a cruise missile, he said.

After Havana, the warship will visit Caracas, Venezuela; Managua, Nicaragua; and Praia Port in the Cape Verde Islands off eastern Africa. The visit to Cuba is part of what the U.S. officials said is a push by Moscow to boost relations with Cuba in the military, energy and transportation sectors.

The effort was kicked off in February when Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that Moscow is canceling most of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt, estimated at close to $30 billion, while he denounced the U.S. embargo against the communist island nation.

The closer ties also appear related to Russian efforts to maintain influence in the region after the death of leftist Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and the expected retirement of Cuban President Raul Castro in the coming months.

Russian military ties with Cuba were bolstered during a visit to Havana in April by Russian Chief of Staff Gen. Valeri Gerasimov. US officials said Gen. Gerasimov’s visit included stops at Cuban military and intelligence sites and was viewed as an indication that Moscow wants to step up both its military and intelligence presence in Cuba. During the Soviet period, the Russians operated a large electronic spying facility at Lourdes, near Havana, that was capable of intercepting most U.S. communications in the southeastern United States. It was less than 100 miles off the coast of Key West.

Now there are signs that the Russians want to return to Lourdes for more electronic spying. The Russians also are assisting the Cubans economically with offshore oil prospecting, plans for a new international airport near Havana and deliveries of Russian passenger jets. The warship visit follows Panama’s recent seizure of a North Korean freighter covertly ferrying Soviet-made missiles and aircraft from Cuba to North Korea, in apparent violation of U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear tests.

This Year in History: Havana Shares Intelligence With Iraq on Forthcoming Allied Invasion 2

Winter 2002-2003: Cuban Intelligence collected against the forthcoming US-led mission known as Iraqi Freedom, which began on March 19, 2003. Their finished intelligence product, believed to be a compilation of information stolen by US-based assets, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) from the Military Intelligence site at Bejucal, Cuba, and in-depth historical analysis, was shared with the Saddam Hussein regime. After the air war commenced, Cuban personnel are believed to have visited the sites of allied missile and airstrikes to assess the accuracy and damage inflicted. As hostilities intensified, Cuba closed its Embassy and likely ceased sharing US secrets with Iraq.