The Tampa Tribune’s recent editorial, “Get behind consulate effort,” is an interesting read, mostly because of its total lack of understanding of US national security and Castro’s Cuba. For example, the feature claims “warnings by several former military officials that the local Cuban consulate would become a hotbed for espionage seem to us overwrought.” It then concedes that Havana undoubtedly DOES collect against MacDill Air Force Base, but proposes that a consulate would actually “make it easier to keep tabs on Cuban officials.”
It seems the Tribune is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. Just last month, it ran a story highlighting several Cuban espionage operations in the area. Now it insists adding more spies – this time based out of consulate – would make it easier to find them.
What the paper meant to say is finding spies hidden among a consulate’s diplomats is easier then finding them operating somewhere within the greater Tampa/St Pete metropolitan area. That point is true – and totally irrelevant. Operationally, the local Cuban spy networks already in play would avoid contact with any of their diplomatic facilities because of the inherent risks. These covert spies – when caught – go to jail – as did many members of Cuba’s Wasp Network, a branch of which was headquartered in Tampa. Diplomat-spies are different, as immunity precludes their arrest.
Furthermore, who will monitor these new Cuban spies? I suspect local counterintelligence entities are already busy hunting down other clandestine networks run by the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Cubans, ISIS, etc. What will local politicians say when these unmonitored Cubans are later caught conducting economic espionage against local businesses?
Havana’s acquisition of a Hellfire missile should remind everyone that US secrets are for sale around the clock. Cuba’s intelligence services would welcome the opening of a Tampa consulate – but only as a tool augmenting a very lucrative revenue stream.
By Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), THE HILL
In the 12 months since President Obama publically announced his normalization effort with the communist Castro regime, the White House should have learned two painful lessons. First, the Castro brothers have not and will not change their oppressive ways. Second, the regime’s role as “intelligence trafficker to the world” ensures it will continue seeking opportunities to undermine U.S. national security.
The Cuban military and intelligence service will use this rapprochement as a pretext to expand Cuba’s espionage efforts within our borders.
One year ago, as a concession to the Castro regime, Obama made the grave mistake of releasing the last three of five incarcerated Cuban spies known as the “Cuban Five.” These five Cuban intelligence agents were arrested by federal authorities in 1998 and subsequently convicted on several counts, including failing to register as a foreign agents, using false identities, and conspiracy to commit espionage. The network’s leader, Gerardo Hernandez, was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for his involvement in the shoot down of two U.S. search and rescue aircraft operated by Brothers to the Rescue, which led to the murder of three U.S. citizens and one U.S. legal permanent resident.
Cuban Military Intelligence officer Hernandez, head of the espionage ring known as the Wasp Network, was convicted in 2001. Soon thereafter, the Cubans aggressively aided the San Francisco-based National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. Now, the Cuban regime and their sympathizers are taking similar actions on behalf of Ana Belen Montes. Press reports suggest Washington and Havana are thinking about another spy trade, but this time for Montes, the highest-ranking American ever convicted of spying for Fidel Castro in our history.
A senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Montes was arrested on September 21, 2001, just ten days after September 11. She later pled guilty to spying and was sentenced to a 25-year prison term. The timing of her arrest was based on the fact that the U.S. government did not want a spy in the Pentagon to endanger American combatants headed to Afghanistan.
Montes had learned of military plans for our operations in Afghanistan and we did not want her to pass along that information to our adversaries. For several years during the latter half of the 1980s, she routinely provided Cuba with information on El Salvador’s Armed Forces and its embedded U.S. advisors. In a notorious March 1987 incident, a major Salvadoran base was attacked mere weeks after Montes visited it. Sixty-eight Salvadoran soldiers and their Green Beret adviser were killed during the battle. Simply put, Montes probably has the blood of one American on her hands and the U.S. didn’t want to risk the lives of untold Americans, including American service men and women.
Feature continues here: Montes – Forgotten Spy
How I Helped the Cuban Five Escape from a Cold War Prison
Behind the Unlikely Havana-Washington-Halifax Connection
By Stephen Kimber, The Coast (Halifax)
Halifax: December 17, 2014 Inside the second-floor King’s College boardroom, close to a dozen of us huddled around a meeting table, wake-up coffees in hand, listening while our university’s director of finance walked us through her PowerPoint presentation of bad news we already knew, but in far more excruciating detail than any of us wanted to know.
We were in the trough of an existential crisis, struggling with a North America-wide decline in enrolments in liberal arts and journalism, programs we specialized in. I’d spent the last year on a succession of sub-committees, ad hoc working groups and now this College Task Force “to ensure… the institution is financially sustainable on an ongoing basis.” The projections on the screen starkly showcased the crisis. “Given our expected beginning cash balance at the end of 2014-15 and those assumptions,” the school’s finance director explained, “our deficit by the end of 2015-16 will rise to—”
Hi Hey Hello…
My iPhone was ringing! Worse, the phone was in my backpack. Worst, my backpack was on a chair on the other side of the room. Embarrassed, I scrambled to find it. My ringtone was the chorus from one of my hip-hop-musician son’s songs. Why not? Samsung thought the song’s lyrics so phone-perfect they’d built a slick, Hollywood-style video around them to advertise their Galaxy 4 phone. Normally, I found a way to work that father-brag into any conversation when my phone rang. But this did not seem the time or place.
I just want to say hello.
And hear your voice. And watch you talk.
And smell the breeze as you come across.
Hi Hey Hello.
I found the phone, stole a quick glance at the screen. The call was from Alicia Jrapko, the American head of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. I quickly pressed “Decline.”
Feature Continues Here: Kimber Claims Credit
Several spies, collectively known as the “Cuban Five,” have been hosted and toasted before adoring socialist crowds around the world for several months. Decorated with much fanfare in Havana, these over-hyped “Heroes of the Revolution” are the latest circus performers in Havana’s theater of the absurd.
You see, in reality, the “Five” have been put out to pasture. “Golden Exile” you might say. Members of the Wasp Network, they were five of an estimated 42 spies in the largest espionage ring ever known to have operated in the United States. A rare joint venture between Havana’s civilian and military intelligence services, it was led by Cuba’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (DIM). Its primary targets were the Pentagon’s regional headquarters responsible for military operations in the Americas (SOUTHCOM) and the Middle East (CENTCOM), as well as US special operations worldwide (SOCOM).
In a massive sweep stretching 152 miles, the FBI arrested 10 of the spies in September 1998. Seven more Wasps were arrested or expelled over the next several years. Many of those arrested accepted plea agreements and turned against their masters in Havana. The “Five” held fast and were found guilty of espionage associated-crimes. Career DIM case officer Gerardo Hernandez, the former head of the deadly network, was sentenced to two life terms for conspiracy to commit murder in the February 1996 deaths of four Americans.
Once convicted, the regime could ill-afford for its lethal cabal to switch sides like their subordinates. The destitute island invested considerable monies to sustain their morale with family visits and a never-ending parade of diplomats from the (then) Cuban Interests Section in Washington and the Cuban Mission to the United Nations. A global propaganda campaign known as “Free the Five” was initiated. During the secret talks to restore diplomatic ties, the United States even helped artificially inseminate Adriana Perez, the spy-wife of incarcerated killer, Gerardo Hernandez. The effort, which tragically misguided Obama officials saw as a goodwill gesture, was prompted by Perez’s personal appeal to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), who passed the request to White House officials.
But to the ever cynical regime, its “heroes” are now little more than famous liabilities.
Moscow’s KGB long ago taught its Cuban allies that incarcerated spies can never again be trusted. The leftist dictatorship sees its freed spies as failures. After all, three were spy-handlers (“Case Officers”). Theoretically the best of the best, it was their mistakes – or that of their underlings – that had attracted the attention of US spy-catchers.
Despite the propaganda mission of the “Felonious Five,” there is an important lesson for America to learn. Given Havana’s extraordinary investment in five men who meant nothing to it — imagine what it can accomplish when it truly cares.
‘What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five’ is a fascinating piece of fiction by Castro apologist Stephen Kimber. Despite objective reviews which found his research unencumbered by facts, the Canadian writer has long sworn his manifesto is accurate and balanced. At long last, the charade is over. Comrade Kimber is currently in Havana celebrating the Spanish-language release of his work, with a new foreword by convicted spy René González, who described the novel as “the best written treatise on the case.” The Castro regime’s enduring love for Kimber was further demonstrated during Wednesday’s presentation at the University of Havana, when Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada – who served as Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations for nearly three decades – served as the keynote speaker.
PPPFocus.com reports Havana is adamant that “normalization would not happen as long as the economic blockade against Cuba stays on, as long as the US maintains its naval base in Guantanamo and as long as Cuba is not compensated for the economic damage caused by decades of hostility.”
Reuters reports Cuba is aggressively pushing a claim for more than $300 billion in economic damages because it understands “President Barack Obama is attempting to advance normalization as much as possible before his second and final term ends in January 2017.”
Meanwhile, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) continues its unfettered loathing of Cuban exiles in features like “Miami Anti-Cuban Mafia Rejects Reopening of Cuban Embassy in the U.S.”
“We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.” — Gerardo Hernandez, Cuban spy who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court for the murder conspiracy of Americans, thereafter commuted and released by President Obama as part of his one-sided deal with Raul Castro [Courtesy: Capitol Hill Cubans]
By Dareh Gregorian, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
A Miami woman who was married to a Cuban double agent wants JPMorgan Chase to pay through the nose for allegedly hiding Cuban cash.
Ana Margarita Martinez won a $7.1 million judgment against the Cuban government for “emotional distress” in 2001, after she found out her husband, Juan Pablo Roque, wasn’t the man she thought he was.
She’d met Roque in 1992, after the former Cuban Air Force major made headlines for allegedly braving shark infested waters to swim to Gitmo seeking political asylum in the U.S.
They dated for three years before getting hitched.
Unbeknownst to Martinez, Roque was an FBI snitch – and an undercover Cuban agent who’d been sent to gather intel on the Cuban exile community in Miami. She found out both after he snuck out of their home one night in 1996, and then appeared on CNN in Cuba a few days later crowing about his accomplishments.
Adding insult to injury, when asked what he missed about Miami, he said just one thing: “My Jeep.”
Martinez, who’d been born in Cuba, said she’d been completely duped. “She believed that Roque shared her anti-communist ideals,” court papers say.
A federal judge in Florida found Cuba liable for Roque’s actions, saying he was “especially offended that Cuba – a country that disregards human rights – has callously trampled the rights of one of our own citizens on our own soil in furtherance of a vile criminal conspiracy.”
Feature continues here: JPMorgan Hides Cuban Assets
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
After spending 16 years in US prisons, Gerardo Hernandez shares his remarkable story behind his liberation.
Cuban intelligence officer Gerardo Hernandez was a central character in the frosty relations between Cuba and the United States.
His return to Cuban soil on December 17, 2014 marked a dramatic new beginning for both countries.
After 16 years in US prisons, he was given a hero’s welcome, and remains defiant and loyal to his government.
In 2001 he was convicted by a Miami court and handed down two life sentences for sending intelligence back home to Cuba.
The court said his actions assisted in the murder of Cuban exiles – in the shooting down of two planes – who were attempting to overthrow the Castro government.
He was a spy, but Hernandez, and the other members of the so-called “Cuban Five” spies captured on US soil and now released, have been declared national heroes by Fidel Castro and were decorated by Cuban president Raul Castro earlier this year.
All this time he had been separated from his wife Adriana Perez, yet, to the surprise of many she was nine months pregnant when he returned to Cuba in 2015. What hadn’t been revealed was that in an unusual diplomatic gesture of good will, officials on both sides had worked to send Hernandez’s sperm to Panama, so that the couple could have a child through artificial insemination.
Hernandez’s surprise release, and the story involving his wife and their baby, which may never have been born, was a key ingredient in secret negotiations leading to a historic agreement to end more than half a century of hostilities between the US and Cuba.G
Now, for the first time, Hernandez and his wife share the story of his imprisonment and release, Perez‘s experiences, how Hernandez posed as a Puerto Rican graphic artist in the US before his capture and how their child was conceived in a diplomatic move, as they talk to Al Jazeera in Havana, Cuba.