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.

Advertisements

Guest Comment: Radio Still Medium of Choice for Many Spies

Typical Cold-War-era advert of Radio Moscow By PAUL BEAUMONT* | intelNews.org |
In 1975 whilst the Cold War was still being fought, short wave listeners were treated nightly to whatever stations they chose to listen to from wherever, propagation permitting. These broadcast stations carried a catholic mix of information, political views and insights, propaganda, religious ideology (usually with a political point) and music and other cultural statements of the government of the day. Broadcast stations with good signals were the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Radio Moscow. But not all was as it seemed. Radio Moscow used very high powers so that those furthest from their transmitters still received signals at good strength whilst the propagation conditions ensured the frequencies were selected for the most efficient transfer of radio programs. One could sit in one’s armchair with no more than a telescopic antenna raised from the radio set and hear news from a foreign station and quickly retuning, could hear the same news but with a totally different bent. Even the music was not what it seemed, especially for two particular British spies, one being Frank Clifton Bossard, an officer with Britain’s Ministry of Defence Missile Guidance Branch, the other John Symonds, an ex-Detective Sergeant wanted in connection with Operation COUNTRYMAN.  Bossard was strapped for cash and approached the KGB, whilst finding himself overseas with no funds Symonds found himself working for the KGB as a ‘Romeo Spy’ seducing wives of diplomats for information. Interestingly MI5 denied that Symonds acted as he did and suggested such actions were a figment of John Symonds’ imagination. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #339 (arrest edition!)

  • US couple arrested for spying for Cuba cooperating, say authorities. Admitted spies Walter and Gwendolyn Myers have met with US federal officials “50 to 60 times” to divulge details of their three decades of spying for Cuba, Justice Department officials said Tuesday. The couple pleaded guilty in November to working for the government of Caribbean island.
  • Indian diplomat arrested for spying for Pakistan. Madhuri Gupta, a second secretary at the Indian high commission in Islamabad, Pakistan, has been arrested and accused of passing on secrets to Pakistan’s ISI spy agency. Indian officials believe she may be part of a wider spy ring.
  • Former CIA station chief arrested in Virginia. Andrew M. Warren, the CIA’s Algiers station chief, who is accused of having drugged and raped two Algerian women at his official residence, has been arrested at a Norfolk, Virginia motel, after he failed to show up for a court hearing last week. It is unclear why he skipped the hearing and why he was staying at the motel in his hometown.

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0194

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0171

  • Court date for US couple accused of spying for Cuba. Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, who were arrested by the FBI last summer on charges of spying for Cuba for over 30 years, have a court appearance scheduled for Thursday. Meanwhile, the judge overseeing their case is trying to decide how to make evidence available for their trial while protect US intelligence sources and methods.
  • CIA responds to declassification request…20 years later. The CIA has finally released a small number of documents relating to Manucher Ghorbanifar, a shady weapons trader who mediated between Washington and Tehran during the Iran-Contra scandal. The declassification comes two decades after the Agency was asked to release the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
  • Kalmanovic was Shin Bet informant, says Ha’aretz. It is well known that Shabtai von Kalmanovic, who was gunned down in downtown Moscow on Monday, had worked for the Soviet KGB. He confessed as much and was jailed in Israel in the 1980s for spying. But Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that Kalmanovic was also “a Shin Bet [Israel’s internal security service] informant”. In a new article, the paper says Kalmanovic “was a low-level informer for the Shin Bet” before his arrest for spying for the KGB.

Bookmark and Share

Low-tech radio ciphers helped Myers couple avoid detection for years

Walter Myers

Walter Myers

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The recent arrest in the US of Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, on charges of spying for Cuba for over 30 years,  have prompted discussions about how the couple managed to escape detection by US counterintelligence authorities for so long. The reasons are many, and undoubtedly include careful spycraft and shrewd handling. But Carmen Gentile offers another suggestion in The Washington Times: low-tech shortwave radio transmissions. Specifically, the Walter and Gwyn Myers “appears to have avoided capture for 30 years because their communications with [Cuba] were too low-tech to be detected by sophisticated US monitors”. Read more of this post

Analysis: What is the state of Cuban spying in the US?

Gwen Myers

Gwen Myers

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The recent arrest by the FBI of Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, on charges of spying for Cuba for over 30 years, offers a good opportunity to contemplate the current state of Cuban espionage in the US. In an article published in The Miami Herald, Juan Tamayo relays a brief history of Cuban espionage in the US, from the first decades (1950-1980), when the island’s intelligence services were “regarded as among the world’s best”, to the purges of the late 1980s, to today. Read more of this post