Obama's Cuba Deal Poses Major U.S. Counter-Intelligence Challenge

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
We disagree with the first half of this assessment by former U.S. defense and intelligence official, Daniel J. Gallington, regarding the impact that American culture and capitalism will have on the Cuban people -- for they have been exposed to this (with limited impact) for decades through geographical proximity, American relatives, and millions of foreign tourists.

Sadly though, Mr. Gallington may be right about a successor to Castro stemming from the military, which Obama may have just facilitated thanks to his betrayal of Cuba's democrats.

Moreover, he's absolutely right regarding the influx of Cuban spies that will emanate from Obama's announcement -- and the imminent challenge it poses for U.S. counter-intelligence officials.

By Daniel J. Gallington, in U.S. News and World Report:

Keeping an Eye on Cuban Spies

America's new relationship with Cuba will likely mean an influx of Cuban spies.

On balance, it was probably a good idea to move forward with a new relationship with Cuba. The Castros are old, getting older and will soon be gone – and it’s doubtful that the Cuban people will choose, voluntarily of course, to succeed them with another such family dynasty. When the Castros are finally gone, there likely will be a muffled internal insurrection or two, as the competing factions for power seek to kill each other off – and there is likely to be a period of uncertainty before the emergence of a new personality that can coalesce a central government. The most likely successor will probably come from the military. No real surprises here.

During the coming next few years, we really don’t have to actually do much to influence the people of Cuba except inundate them with our media, social or otherwise, movies, TV, investments, business, travel, sports teams, tourism and the Internet. They continue to be huge consumers of American culture and capitalism will creep into their lives whether they want it or not, and no matter what the Castro government says or does to keep it out. In short, President Raul Castro can say that they will remain Communist all he wants, but that system will not be able to sustain itself in the face of the onslaught of American commercialism. Like the old Soviet Union, Cuba will soon implode from American and Western cultural influence – especially as they realize how poor they have become compared to their neighbors from the North.

What do we want from them? Cigars and resorts for our tourists? Not a whole lot really, nor do we need much of anything to let the natural symbiosis of the new relationship work out in our favor. In short, it will happen, and it will be to our advantage – especially after Raul is gone, just as Fidel is already mostly out of the picture.

So is that the end of the story with Cuba?

Not by a long shot, because we must now prepare ourselves for an onslaught of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Cuban spies. And I have bad news for you – they are very, very good at it, probably the best in our hemisphere, including us, who look like amateurs compared to them, especially when it comes to the long-term penetration of high-value intelligence targets and getting critical information therefrom. In my day, the Cubans were thought to be every bit as good as the East Germans, who were probably the best in the world, next to the Israelis, of course.

It is not surprising, therefore, that part of the deal we made to establish the new relationship was to release three members of the notorious “Cuban Five” from federal prison, one of them serving multiple life sentences for espionage and murder.

The Cuban Five, if you may remember, were a group of spies who successfully penetrated the Brothers to the Rescue and other Cuban-American groups in the U.S. that advocated overthrow of the Castro regime. The FBI broke them up in the late 90’s and they were all sentenced to prison. While there is lots of controversy surrounding them, the Cuban government later acknowledged that the five were intelligence agents.

The record of Cuban spies in our country is long and of major concern to our counterintelligence services and agencies. While the Chinese, just for example, are probably the largest and most prolific spies in our country, the Cubans make up for it with their specialized skills and knowledge of American social structures.

So one can only hope that an essential part of the new relationship with Cuba will also be an aggressive counterintelligence program on our part to protect ourselves from Cuban spies. And Cuba's spying program will no doubt also be enhanced by the Castro government as it expands its ability to gather national security information against us, both in Cuba and in the United States.

I say “only hope” because counterintelligence has long remained the unwanted step-child of our intelligence community, despite some new attention to its organization and structure. It remains to be seen, however, whether we have really improved our ability to actually catch spies, both outside and inside our government. And the Cubans, because of their consummate skills and abilities to penetrate our most sensitive targets, will no doubt be able to decide this for themselves – and probably before we realize it.

In short, I’m not optimistic. The Cubans are good, real good!