Cuba, Intelligence and Security
Cuba has a security and intelligence apparatus that, when considered in light of the nation's size and its weak economy, is on a scale many times larger than that of the United States. Whereas its poverty, lack of exports, and depressed economic conditions would normally make Cuba an irrelevant player on the international scene, its clandestine operations extend its influence throughout the globe.
Chief among Cuban intelligence agencies is the Dirección General de Inteligencia (DGI), or General Intelligence Directorate. Established within the Ministry of the Interior in 1961, DGI initially took an aggressive role in fomenting third-world Communist revolutions. By the late 1960s, however, Cuba's Soviet sponsors had grown wary of this adventurism, and pressured Castro to purge DGI leadership. Thereafter the agency focused on intelligence collection.
Operations against the United States. Today DGI collects a wide variety of data through its operatives in Europe, the Third World, and North America—especially the last of these, because the United States is Cuba's self-declared number-one foe. The Cuban delegation to the United Nations in New York City is the third-largest in the world, and it has been estimated that nearly half of its personnel are DGI officers. In 1982, United States authorities convicted four Castro aides of smuggling drugs into the United States, and subsequently uncovered a vast drug-smuggling ring that operated in cooperation with General Manuel Noriega's Panama, as well as with Colombian drug lords.
Over a period of five years beginning in 1998, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uncovered a Florida spy ring consisting of at least 16 Cuban operatives. They functioned on a shoestring budget, and had to account to Havana for money spent, but in the realm of spying at least, Castro's regime often manifests what analysts contend is a certain economic genius. In some cases, Havana receives intelligence free of cost. Ana B. Montes, a senior intelligence analyst at the Pentagon arrested in September 2002, received no money for activities on behalf of Cuba. Referring to the United States economic embargo against Cuba, in force since 1961, Montes claimed her actions reflected her concern over allegations of Washington's alleged unfair treatment of the Castro regime.
After the DGI reorganization, responsibility for "national liberation movements" shifted to the National Liberation Directorate (DLN), that in 1974 became the America Department (DA) of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee. DA, which supported the Communist movements that gained control of Nicaragua and Grenada in the 1970s and 1980s, is reported to have trained and supported guerrillas and terrorists. Many of its operatives function in supposedly innocuous positions, including the diplomatic corps and Cuban-front corporations.
In addition to DGI and DA, there is the Military Counterintelligence Department of the Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces, which conducts counterintelligence, signals intelligence, and electronic warfare activities against the United States.
The New York Times called "Cuba's intelligence apparatus the "Little Spy Engine That Could." Despite a stagnant economy crippled by Castro's policies—and sustained almost entirely by foreign aid and tourism—the Cubans have managed to maintain a security apparatus unequalled by that of any similarly small country other than perhaps Israel. And whereas, by comparison, Israel has a prosperous economy, Cuba has had to weather the loss of considerable aid following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1908s and early 1990s. The post-Soviet Russian government has continued to offer support to its old ally, but on a much smaller scale than did its communist predecessor at the height of the Cold War.
The administration of President George W. Bush has accused Cuba of aligning itself with worldwide terrorist networks. Indeed, Castro has maintained friendly relations with all three members of what President Bush has publicly labeled the "axis of evil": Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
█ FURTHER READING:
Bennett, Richard M. Espionage: An Encyclopedia of Spies and Secrets. London: Virgin Books, 2002.
Golden, Tim. "White House Wary of Cuba's Little Spy Engine That Could." New York Times. (January 5, 2003):p. 1.3.
Cuban American National Foundation. < http://www.canfnet.org/ > (January 22, 2003).
Cuban Intelligence Agencies. Fellowship of American Scientists. < http://www.fas.org/irp/world/cuba/index.html > (January 22, 2003).