FBI: Cuban Intelligence Aggressively Recruiting Leftist American
Academics as Spies, Influence Agents
Sexual entrapment a common tactic
BY: Bill Gertz
September 5, 2014 5:00 am
Cuba's communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting
leftist American academics and university professors as spies and
influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.
Cuban intelligence services "have perfected the work of placing agents,
that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the
assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to
positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to
information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service]," the five-page
unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans "devote a
significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia."
"Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence
services, including the [Cuban intelligence service]," the report concludes.
One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American
leftists' ideology. "For instance, someone who is allied with communist
or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because
of his/her personal beliefs," the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.
Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future
post-U.S. embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant,
all-expense paid visits to the island.
Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal
weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.
The Cubans "will actively exploit visitors to the island" and U.S.
academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.
"This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence
resources the government of Cuba can marshal on the island," the report
said. "Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic
travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in
the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an
opportunity to identify targets."
In addition to collecting information and secrets, Cuban spies employ
"influence operations," the FBI said.
"The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific
image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into
particular courses of action," the report said.
Additionally, Cuban intelligence seeks to plant disinformation or
propaganda through its influence agents, and can task recruits to
actively disseminate the data. Once recruited, many of the agents are
directed to entering fields that will provide greater information access
in the future, mainly within the U.S. government and intelligence community.
The Cubans do not limit recruitments to "clandestine agents," the report
said. Other people who do not have access to secrets are co-opted as
spies because of their political position or political views that can be
exploited for supporting Cuban goals, either as open supporters or
"Some of these individuals may not be told openly that they are working
for the [Cuban intelligence service], even though it may not be too hard
for them to figure out," the report said. "The relationship may openly
appear to be a benign, mutually beneficial friendship."
Chris Simmons, a retired spycatcher for the Defense Intelligence Agency,
said Cuban intelligence has long targeted U.S. academics. For example,
Havana assigned six intelligence officers to assist Council on Foreign
Relations Latin Affairs specialist Julia E. Sweig in writing a 2002 book
on the Cuban revolution, he said.
"College campuses are seen as fertile grounds for the recruitment of the
'next generation' of spies," Simmons said. "Cuba heavily targets the
schools that train the best candidates for U.S. government jobs, like
Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Washington
One goal of the Cubans is to recruit students prior to federal
employment, a method that allows Havana to direct a recruited agent into
targeted key spy targets, like Congress or the FBI, Simmons said.
"A preferred target are 'study abroad' programs in Cuba, as
participating students are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the
Cuban revolution," Simmons said.
Cuban intelligence has recruited numerous spies in the past that became
long-term penetration agents inside the U.S. government. According to
the CI Centre, a think tank, there have been 25 Cuban spies uncovered in
the United States since the 1960s, including former CIA officer Philip
Agee to who defected and worked closely with both Cuban intelligence and
the Soviet KGB starting in 1973.
One of the most notorious Cuban spy cases involved Ana Montes, a senior
analyst who worked in the highest levels of the U.S. intelligence and
Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, pleaded guilty in
2002 to spying for Cuba for 17 years. She is serving a 25-year prison term.
Montes was recruited by Cuban intelligence in 1984 while a student at
the Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS),
where she was a graduate student and had voiced her hatred of the
then-Reagan administration policy of backing anti-communist rebels
fighting the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
She was recruited at SAIS by another Cuban spy, Marta Rita Velazquez,
who worked for U.S. Agency for International Development and fled the
country after Montes was arrested in 2001.
Two other notable Cuban spies were Walter Kendall Myers, a State
Department Foreign Service contractor who worked for Cuban intelligence
from 1979 to 2007, and his wife Gwen Myers. They were recruited after
visiting Cuba. Walter Myers was a leftist who criticized "American
imperialism" in a diary entry after visiting Cuba. He held a top-secret
security clearance and in 2010 was sentenced to life in prison after a
conviction for spying.
Cuba's spy agencies "actively target academia to recruit agents and to
support Cuban influence operations."
"Unfortunately, part of what makes academic environments ideal for
enhancing and sharing knowledge also can assist the efforts of foreign
intelligence services to accomplish their objectives," the report
concludes. "This situation is unlikely to change, but awareness of the
methods used to target academia can greatly assist in neutralizing the
efforts of these foreign intelligence services."
The FBI report was based largely on testimony from José Cohen, a former
officer of the Cuban Intelligence Directorate, known by its Spanish
acronym as DGI, who defected in 1994.
The targeting of American spies takes place at schools, colleges,
universities, and research institutes. "Cuban intelligence services are
known to actively target the U.S. academic world for the purposes of
recruiting agents, in order to both obtain useful information and
conduct influence activities," the FBI said.
The academic world, because of its openness and need for networking,
"offers a rich array of targets attractive to foreign intelligence
services," the report said, noting that U.S. government institutions
draw on academia for personnel, both for entry level staffing and for
consultation from established experts.
Cuban intelligence seeks leftists and others sympathetic to Cuba's
communist regime because it lacks funds needed to pay recruited agents,
the report said.
The process includes targeting American and Cuban-American academics,
recruiting them if possible and eventually converting them into Cuban
Cuban front groups also are used to recruit spies in the United States,
including a network of collaborators and agents in Cuba that make
contact with counterparts in the United States.
Specific universities in Washington and New York that were not specified
by the FBI are targets because they are close to Cuban intelligence
posts in those cities.
An example of the recruitment effort was provided to the FBI by a
"self-admitted Cuban intelligence" officer outlining how a spy is
recruited at a U.S. university.
"The Cuban intelligence officers located at the Cuban Mission to the
United Nations in New York, New York, or the Cuban Interests Section in
Washington, D.C., obtain a published work by a specific professor or
student … from a university the [Cubans] are monitoring," the report said.
A Cuban control agent in Havana studies the work and works together with
a co-opted Cuban academic and together the pair analyzes published
material and forms a plan of action that may include a personal letter
to the targeted individual in the United States.
"The letter will suggest a 'genuine' interest in starting a friendship
or contact regarding the topic of the article," the report said. "The
personal letter becomes a pretext for the Cuban intelligence officer
stationed in the United States to use for initial contact with the
A Cuba spy posing as a diplomat develops a relationship with the
academic that can last months or years of assessing motivations,
weaknesses, and current future and access to information.
In some cases, the Cubans use compromising video or audio and sexual
entrapment to develop U.S. spies.
"Ultimately, when the time is right, the plan will be executed and the
targeted individual will be approached and formally asked to help the
government of Cuba," the report said.
Source: FBI: Cuban Intelligence Aggressively Recruiting Leftist American
Academics as Spies, Influence Agents | Washington Free Beacon -