Mystery surrounds CIA spy ‘of Cuban origin’ released last week

Rolando Sarraff TrujilloBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Almost nothing is known about a Cuban intelligence officer who spied for the United States and is now believed to be on American soil following his release from a Cuban prison last week. His release was part of a wider exchange between Washington and Havana of persons held in each other’s prisons on espionage charges. It included the release of Alan Gross, a contractor for the US Agency for International Development, who was imprisoned in the Caribbean island in 2009 on charges of political subversion. The deal also involved the release of the remaining three members of the so-called “Cuban Five”, a ring of Cuban intelligence officers operating on American soil, who were convicted in 1998 of spying on anti-Castro exile groups on behalf of Havana. But the ample media coverage has shied away from another prisoner who was exchanged as part of the deal, a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency who was described by US President Barack Obama as one of the most important intelligence assets that America has ever had in Cuba. The initial piece of information came from Cuban President Raul Castro himself, who on December 17 announced that an American spy “of Cuban origin” was to be released. Castro did not identify the spy. But later on that same day, Newsweek’s Jeff Stein said his name was “Rolando ‘Roly’ Sarraff Trujillo”, a former cryptographer in the Cuban Ministry of Interior’s Directorate of Intelligence. Trujillo was allegedly recruited by the CIA in the 1980s and spied for Washington until 1995, when he was arrested by Cuban counterintelligence, charged with espionage and sentenced to 25 years in prison. One source told Stein that the damage that Trujillo had caused Havana was so great that “the only thing that saved him from execution was the fact that both his parents were retired senior intelligence officers”. In a report published last Thursday, The Washington Post’s Adam Goldman said Trujillo’s release had been “a major priority for the [US] Intelligence Community” and would have been part of any spy swap with the Cuban government. Both Stein and Goldman claim that Trujillo was instrumental in the capture by the FBI of the Cuban Five, as well as in the 2009 arrest of State Department analysts Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, who spied on America for Cuba for 30 years. He is also said to have had a role in the capture of Ana Belen Montes, the top Cuba analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency, who was convicted in 2002 of spying for Cuba. All this is speculative, however, as no official confirmation has been issued on Trujillo from either Washington or Havana. One former senior CIA official told The Post that the Agency had another spy in Cuba, alongside Trujillo, codenamed TOUCHDOWN. But, unlike Trujillo, he managed to defect to the US in the late 1980s, before getting captured by the Cubans.

News you may have missed #871

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Britain denies visa for Cuban spy freed by US. Rene Gonzalez, one of the so-called “Cuban Five” intelligence agents convicted by the US of spying, has been denied a British visa to attend a London symposium. Gonzalez, who served 13 years in US prison before his release in 2011, had been invited to a two-day conference put on by “Voice for the Five”, an organization that campaigns in support of the convicted Cuban spies. The Cuban state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Gonzales, 55, was denied a visa because British law prohibits entry of a person sentenced to more than four years in prison.
►►Canada fires intelligence analyst over contacts with Russians. Irina Koulatchenko, a 36-year-old who came to Canada as a Russian refugee via Cuba, has been fired by Canada’s financial-intelligence agency, known as FINTRAC. A Canadian Security Intelligence Service probe recommended she not be trusted to do that job, allegedly because “she had had several social encounters with Russian diplomats”. The latter included one she met “at a Cirque du Soleil show, another who was friends with her ex-fiancé and another she bumped into all the time at various social events”.
►►CIA suspected of spying on Congress members. The United States Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Senate aides removing documents from CIA headquarters that they reportedly “weren’t authorized to have”. It turns out, however, that the CIA found this out because they were secretly spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and their staff who were working on a high-profile report on CIA torture of detainees. What is more, Democratic Senator Mark Udall has claimed US President Barack Obama knew of the CIA’s secret monitoring of the Committee.

News you may have missed #835 (Americas edition)

Rene GonzalezBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►‘Cuban Five’ spy member renounces US citizenship. Cuban intelligence officer Rene Gonzalez, who was a member of the “Cuban Five” spy group in South Florida, was released from a US prison in 2011, after serving 10 years for espionage. He was required to serve three years’ probation in the US. But on Friday US District Judge Joan Lenard ruled that Gonzalez, who had already been allowed to temporarily return to Cuba for his father’s funeral, could stay there if he renounced his US citizenship. Gonzalez is the first of the Cuban Five to return to the island. The other four men continue to serve lengthy sentences in US federal prisons.
►►US Defense Intelligence Agency contemplates austerity. Since 2001, intelligence agencies have had just about all money they wanted, but not anymore, as the cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act are hitting even previously inviolable spook accounts. In a reflection of this new reality, the Defense Intelligence Agency plans a conference with industry at its headquarters on June 27, 2013. Agency leaders will focus on “current and emerging challenges in the context of an increasingly austere fiscal posture”.
►►Report says Canada spies caught off guard by Arab Spring. The 2011 Arab Spring uprising in the Middle East came as a surprise to the Canadian government, which risks getting caught off-guard again without a new approach to gathering intelligence. This is according to a new report by Canada’s Intelligence Assessment Secretariat, a unit of the Privy Council’s Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Office of the Canadian Prime Minister. On the other hand, the report states, “there is no reason to believe that [Canadian intelligence agencies] did any worse than other allied agencies in its analysis of the Arab Spring, and in a few areas it appears to have done somewhat better”.

News you may have missed #610

Charles S. Faddis

Charles S. Faddis

►►Australian agency warns spy cells ‘lie in wait’. In its annual report, Australia’s intelligence service, the ASIO, warns that foreign powers may be recruiting sleeper agents in Australia to carry out sabotage in future conflicts. The report further notes that, despite the rise of cyberespionage, there has not been a marked reduction in the intensity of more traditional forms of espionage.
►►US frees convicted Cuban spy but debate rages on. Few topics illustrate the gulf in perception between the governments of Cuba and the United States like the case of the Cuban Five. The five Cuban agents were arrested in Florida in the 1990s and convicted on espionage charges. US federal prosecutors said the men were trying to spy on military installations. But Cuba’s government has long maintained the men were trying to monitor Miami-based exile groups that were planning attacks on the island nation.
►►Analysis: It’s time for the Pakistanis to pick a side. Former CIA operations officer Charles Faddis (pictured) argues that the US government needs to immediately designate Pakistan’s proxy army, the Haqqani network, as a terrorist organization. It has avoided taking that action for far too long and only because of crass political concerns, says Faddis, but the time has come to change course.

News you may have missed #605

Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai

►►French intelligence ‘spied on Socialist politician’. Hand-picked” French intelligence agents allegedly spied on the private life of François Hollande, the Socialist whom polls predict is best-placed to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections. They are also said to have spied on Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler –-potentially France’s future first lady.
►►US to release Cuban spy under supervision. Rene Gonzalez, the first of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States as spies since 1998 will regain his freedom Friday but won’t be able to go home for three more years because of a court order requiring he remain under US supervision.
►►Afghan intelligence says it stopped plot to kill Karzai. A plot to kill Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been foiled by Afghan intelligence agents in Kabul who arrested six men with links to al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. The discovery of the plot comes just two days before the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the September 11 attacks in the US and, had it been successful, would have plunged the country further into chaos.

News you may have missed #591

David Irvine

David Irvine

►►UK Prime Minister criticizes Russia over murdered spy. British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Russia on Monday over its refusal to hand over Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB agent suspected in the 2006 poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. He also rejected a call from Russia for the restoration of links between the two countries’ intelligence agencies. But the two sides did “set aside their political differences […] to sign multi-million dollar business deals”. Oh, well.
►►Aussie spy agency investigating more terror threats than ever. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization has trebled in size over the past decade and now has unprecedented powers. In a rare interview, ASIO Director General David Irvine says he is worried about the potential of an attack similar to the recent shootings and bombings in Norway.
►►‘Cuban Five’ spy member seeks return home after prison. Rene Gonzalez, a former Cuban intelligence officer convicted of spying in the US, wants a federal judge to permit his return to Cuba after his release from prison next month. But US government prosecutors say Gonzalez never showed remorse for his crimes and that there’s no justification for him to go to Cuba.

News you may have missed #0214

  • Cuban Five member’s prison term cut to 30 years. A Miami court has reduced the earlier prison sentence of yet another member of the Cuban Five. Ramon Labanino has had his original sentence of life imprisonment cut to 30 years. The Cuban Five were sentenced in 2001 for spying on US soil for Cuba.
  • Part 3 of CIA defector’s writings now available. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Eringer has published the third installment of the writings of Edward Lee Howard, a CIA officer who defected to the USSR in 1985 (see here for previous intelNews coverage). Did you know that “KGB officers always preferred Malév (Hungary’s national airline) whenever they crossed to [Western] Europe”?

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News you may have missed #0144

  • Cuban Five convict’s sentence cut to 22 years. As intelNews reported on October 12, Antonio Guerrero, a member of the Cuban Five spy ring, has had his life sentence cut to 22 years, following a successful appeal. Given the time he has already served since his 1998 arrest, and benefits for good behavior, Guerrero could be released in seven years. The Cuban Five were sentenced in 2001 for spying on the US for Cuba.
  • Was British MP a Czech agent during Cold War? A recently published book on MI5’s history by Cambridge historian Dr. Christopher Andrew has reignited rumors that Labour Party parliamentarian John Stonehouse worked as an agent for the Czech StB intelligence agency in the 1960s.
  • West German spies collected East German jokes during Cold War. West German spies diligently recorded popular East German jokes about communism during the Cold War, in an attempt to gain insights into the public mood, according to recently released intelligence files.

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News you may have missed #0140

  • CIA Intellipedia gurus get Homeland Security Medal. Don Burke and Sean Dennehy, the CIA agents behind Intellipedia, have been awarded a medal for “promoting and expanding information-sharing in the Intelligence Community”. As intelNews noted last August, Intellipedia, the intelligence community’s version of Wikipedia, has grown markedly since its formal launch in 2006. It now averages more than 15,000 edits per day and is home to 900,000 pages and 100,000 user accounts.
  • Cuban Five resentencing delayed. A US federal judge has accepted requests from the lawyers of Antonio Guerrero, a member of the Cuban Five spy ring, to delay their resentencing, after the US government refused to turn over any national security damage assessments in the case. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. But an appeals court ruled earlier this year that the sentences they received (ranging from 19 years to life) were too long. It appears that Guerrero’s sentence will be reduced from life to 20 years behind bars.
  • Was Christopher Columbus a spy? An independent researcher is raising eyebrows by suggesting that Columbus was a Portuguese spy who knew exactly what he was doing when he supposedly “got lost” in the Atlantic in 1492.

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News you may have missed #0128

  • US government appeals judge’s order in Cuban Five spy case. US government officials are contending a judge’s order because they say it would be detrimental to US national security. The order requires the US government to turn over any national security damage assessments in the Cuban Five case. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. Three of the five are to be given new sentences on October 13 after an appeals court ruled that the initial sentences they received (ranging from 19 years to life) were too long.
  • Indian spies want access to missed calls. Indian security agencies have told the country’s Department of Telecommunications that they need access to missed calls because “anti-social elements” may be using the system to communicate without actually making a call. Last month, India’s Intelligence Bureau asked for all VOIP (internet-based) calls in the country to be blocked until it figures out a mechanism to track them. It also said it wants access to the content of all mobile phone calls in the country.
  • New book investigates Stasi’s scientific espionage. Documents from the vaults of HVA (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung), the foreign department of the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security, which were purchased by the CIA from a German informant in 1992, were made available in 2005 to Kristie Macrakis professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Her book, Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi’s Spy-Tech World, offers a rare look into the Stasi’s secret technical methods and sources. Macrakis’s analysis of the CIA material reportedly reveals that about 40% of all HVA sources planted in West German companies, research institutions and universities were stealing scientific and technical secrets.

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Lawsuit claims US government paid reporters during Cuban Five spy trial

NCFCF rally

NCFCF rally

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Campaigners in support of the release of a group of Cuban government agents jailed in the US have sued the US government for allegedly influencing media coverage of the trial by paying journalists in Miami. The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 of spying on US soil on behalf of the Cuban government. But now the Washington-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has joined forces with The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, in accusing the US government of employing journalists to shape American public opinion about the Five. According to the lawsuit, 16 American journalists working for Radio y Televisión Martí, a US government-funded TV and radio station targeting Cuba, were employed by the US government to air critical views about the Cuban Five through non-governmental news outlets. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0092

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News you may have missed #0050

  • Cuban Five to be given new sentences in October. Washington accuses the Five of spying on the US for Cuba. But an appeals court has ruled that the sentences they received (ranging from life to 19 years) were too long. New sentences will be imposed on October 13. The Cuban government has said that it would be willing to swap jailed political dissidents for the Five.
  • CIA invests in web-based software company –again. The CIA’s venture-capital investment arm, In-Q-Tel, appears to be really fond of Lingotek, a tiny software company in Draper, Utah. Last month, In-Q-Tel funded another software start-up, Lucid Imagination.
  • Canada to investigate spy service’s role in Abdelrazik’s torture. Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee has agreed to probe the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was renditioned to Sudan by Canada’s Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). He says he was severely tortured by Sudanese guards and interrogators.

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News you may have missed #0010

  • Kim Jong Il’s son to head North Korea secret police. Since 1987, Kim Jong Il has been the official leader of the State Security Department of North Korea. However, South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo reports that Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il’s third son, has now been named as the agency’s head. There are rumors in South Korea that the move could signify that a handover of power in Pyongyang may be imminent.
  • First US economic espionage trial winds down. A US court is preparing to sentence Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a Chinese-born engineer accused of passing critical trade secrets on the US space program to China for three decades. 
  • US and Venezuela to restore expelled ambassadors. The move appears to be a thawing gesture toward the new leadership in Washington by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Latin American leader has toned down his criticism of US foreign policy since Barack Obama took office in January, partly because the US president is popular in Latin America in contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush. 
  • US to send ambassador to Damascus. Washington has confirmed it is to send an ambassador to Damascus, ending a four-year diplomatic absence in Syria. The US envoy in Syria was withdrawn in 2005, following the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM Rafiq Hariri. 
  • Cuban Five spy case an obstacle to US-Cuban thaw, says Havana. The Cuban Five were arrested in 1998 and convicted of spying on anti-Castro exile groups on behalf of Havana. Cuba regards them as political prisoners and has lobbied intensively for their release. Cuban President Raúl Castro has said he would be willing to swap jailed political dissidents for the Five, but the US government has rejected the idea.

News you may have missed #0005

  • Republican Senator’s extra-marital affair endangered national security. John Ensign is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, including its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, giving him and his staff access to extremely sensitive national defense information. His extra-marital affair made him vulnerable to blackmail by hostile spy services or other interests eager to pry secrets from his position on sensitive national security committees, veteran counterintelligence officials say.
  • Thank goodness reformists didn’t win in Iran election, says Mossad. Israel spy chief Meir Dagan, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on June 17 that if reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi had won the elections “Israel would have a more serious problem because it would need to explain to the world the danger of the Iranian threat”.
  • CIA still fighting full release of detainee report. According to two intelligence officials, the CIA is pushing the Obama administration to suppress passages describing in graphic detail how the agency handled its detainees, arguing that the material could damage ongoing counterterrorism operations by laying bare sensitive intelligence procedures and methods.
  • US electricity industry to scan grid for spies. The planned scan is part of a pilot initiative to see whether Chinese spies have infiltrated computer networks running the US power grid. IntelNews has been keeping an eye on revelations that foreign spies have penetrated the electronic infrastructure of America’s electrical supply grid.
  • US Supreme Court declines review of Cuban Five case. It and its supporters argue Cuban spies received a fair trial in heart of Miami Cuban-American community, but Cuban government says it will continue to campaign for their release.