Al-Qaeda’s Cuban connection: terrorism with a Latin beat
Al-Qaeda's Cuban connection: terrorism with a Latin beat
By Toby Westerman
November 1, 2011
Recent news of a Cuban national arrested apparently acting in sympathy
with Al-Qaeda and earlier reports of Cubans working with Al-Qaeda
operatives in the Western Sahara region of Morocco only hint at an
on-going and highly developed link between Havana and fundamentalist
Islam, including the terror group responsible for the devastating 9-11
attacks on American soil, Al-Qaeda.
Cuban intelligence, one of the best spy services in the world, appears
to have established close contact with Al-Qaeda through Pakistani
contacts in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, according to an analysis of
a veteran Cuba watcher and former Counterintelligence officer. A working
relationship between Havana and fundamentalist Islam in one of the most
volatile regions of the world threatens the lives of U.S. service
personnel and those who cooperate with them.
In an exclusive interview with International News Analysis Today, Chris
Simmons, a retired Counterintelligence Special Agent with 28 years
service in the Army/Army Reserve and 25 with the Defense Intelligence
Agency, tied the stationing of high-level Cuban intelligence operatives
in Pakistan with Al-Qaeda personnel operating in the region. Simmons has
briefed members of Congress on the Cuban intelligence threat, including
members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"I don't have definitive proof, but abundant circumstantial evidence
points to Cuba and Al-Qaeda assisting each other in Islamabad," Simmons
Havana and fundamentalist Islam are no strangers. The terror group Hamas
is reported to have a presence in the Cuban capital, and Communist Cuba
has close contacts with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The latest, and possibly the most dangerous, point of contact for Cuba
and militant Islam, including Al-Qaeda, is the reopened Cuban embassy in
Pakistan. The man who established that contact and became Cuba's
ambassador to Pakistan is Cuban master spy, Gusatvo Machin Gomez.
Machin came to Pakistan with an impressive pedigree, which made him a
key figure for the Cubans and insured a warm welcome in Pakistan.
Machin's father fought and died with Cuban Communist idol Che Guevara in
Bolivia in 1967. Simmons told International News Analysis Today that
Machin followed his father's political fight in the arena of espionage.
Machin became a "U.S. Targets Officer," a member of a select and highly
trained group of some 50 individuals who concentrate on understanding,
manipulating, and inflicting damage upon critical nodes of the United
"They know us better than we know ourselves," Simmons observed regarding
the intense training commitment of U.S. Target Officers.
Unlike Cuba, the United States tends not to provide its intelligence
officers with the same concentration on a single target, Simmons said.
Machin rose to the rank of Deputy Chief of the U.S. Department of Cuba's
Foreign Affairs Ministry, which is dominated by Cuban intelligence
personnel. In 1998, he went undercover as a diplomat in the Cuban
Interests Section in Washington, D.C., a prime post for Cuban spies
targeting the United States.
Cuba and the United States maintain limited diplomatic contact through
Interests Sections within the Swiss Embassy in Washington and Havana
respectively. Machin held the rank of First Secretary, which is one step
below that of ambassador.
Simmons informed International News Analysis Today that Machin's rise
through diplomatic channels is a common path taken by particularly
skilled Cuban intelligence officers. The object of the intelligence
officers is to obtain information, both secret and sensitive but
unclassified, which Cuba regards as valuable, as well as exerting
influence on U.S. actions in Cuba's favor.
In 2002, Machin, who became well-known in Washington, was expelled from
the United States in retaliation for the activities of Ana Belen Montes,
the senior Cuban analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency who was
convicted of spying for Havana.
The influence Machin exercised within various sectors of U.S. society
can be seen in the expression of regret by the president of the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, John S. Kavulich, following the
announcement of Machin's expulsion. Kavulich stated that, "The expulsion
of Mr. Machin hits at the epicenter of the Cuban interface with the
business community and the U.S. Congress."
Machin's next major overseas role was in Pakistan. In 2005, an
earthquake killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis, and Cuba responded by
sending some 2,500 medical personnel and 32 field hospitals. Machin
directed the operation. Then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf
complimented the Cuban government on its aid to his country. The Cuban
embassy, which had closed in 1990, was reopened the next year.
An espionage jackpot for Cuba, Pakistan, and militant Islam followed.
Just as he had plied the halls of Congress and the U.S. business
community for the benefit of Communist Cuba, now Machin took advantage
of the unsettled situation in Pakistan, a nation with nuclear weapons
capability, to advance Cuban interests, which often includes the death
and injury of U.S. military personnel.
By 2008, Machin not only established technical, scientific, and
agricultural interchanges, but the chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs
of Staff Committee, General Tariq Majid, began talks on military
Machin continually has emphasized Cuba's success in withstanding
American power, a message well received by Pakistanis seeking ways to
assist brother fundamentalist Muslims, including the Al-Qaeda network.
Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is also well known to be
sympathetic to fundamentalist Islam, and Cuba is able to provide
important information on U.S. military movements to the Pakistan
government and its militant Islamic friends.
Within the pro-Cuba environment of Pakistan, Simmons sees cooperation
between the ISI and Cuba, established and nurtured by espionage expert
Simmons observed that, since the beginning of the Communist Cuban
revolution, Cuba has been watching and carefully noting patterns of U.S.
military logistics and communications activities. Cuba monitors U.S.
communications both from the island and a base of operations within the
U.S., probably from the Interests Section in Washington, D.C.
Any deviation in that pattern alerts the Cubans to possible U.S.
actions, and then "their spies can fill in the blanks," Simmons stated.
Cuba's espionage techniques have been mostly successful in anticipating
U.S. actions from the invasion of Grenada to the American-led invasion
of Iraq. Pakistani intelligence and its fundamentalist allies, including
Al-Qaeda, value highly any information on U.S. actions in Afghanistan
and the region.
An intelligence advantage of the kind Cuba can offer would easily
translate into an increased number of American military deaths in the
plains, valleys and mountains of the region.
The Cuban information is not complete. While Cuba can provide
information regarding anomalies in White House, Pentagon, Special
Mission, and intelligence communications, the precise meaning or the
target intended would be left to the best speculation of ISI and Havana,
a sometimes difficult situation as the killing of Osama bin Laden
Machin left his post in Pakistan in February 2011, but remained in the
country for another two months for reasons that remain unclear. His
replacement, Jesus Zenen Buerga Concepcion, is from the Cuban Mission to
the United Nations (CMUN), a diplomatic center in New York historically
known as the hub for Havana's U.S.-based espionage operations.
Cuban defector Alcibiades Hidalgo, who served at CMUN, stated that most
of Cuba's diplomats to the UN were committed to intelligence activities,
Simmons informed INA Today.
Machin's present position is chief of Cuba's International Press Center,
the office which grants credentials to all entities wanting to station
reporters in Cuba, a post traditionally held by Cuban intelligence
personnel, Simmons noted.
The American public is not being informed of the dangers that Cuban
intelligence presents to the United States. International News Analysis
Today is working to fill this dangerous gap. The public should demand to
know why the media, even the "conservative" media, almost never
addresses this pressing and growing threat.
© Toby Westerman