Have Seen The Enemy . . . And He is One of Them!
By Servando Gonzalez
A few days ago I finished reading a book that
has been in my reading list for more than a year: Brian Latell’s,
Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence
Machine (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Latell is a
retired CIA intelligence officer and currently a Senior Research
Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies
at the University of Miami.
I am always wary about books written by ex-intelligence officers
or by authors who use intelligence officers as sources  The
problem with ex-intelligence officers is that intelligence work
is actually very boring — good intelligence officers die
in their beds of old age and not even their families or close
friends ever know their true jobs. Exciting spy stories always
come from the sloppy officers, the ones who get caught.
Nevertheless, in order to sell their books, intelligence officers
put their fertile imaginations to work and creatively enhance
their spy stories. Therefore, it is recommended to take everything
they say with a big chunk of salt. The reason for this is because
of some characteristics intrinsic to their profession.
Two key principles of intelligence and espionage are compartmentation
and need-to-know. Translated into plain English, this means that
the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
Like in the old Indian story, the blind men only see in their
minds the part of the elephant they are touching, which amounts
to confusion on the overall idea of what kind of animal they are
So, unless you have been the director of an espionage service,
you have no idea of the whole picture. But ex-CIA directors don’t
write books, and when they do, the book is just a collection of
funny fiction and outright lies — e.g. Allen Dulles’
The Craft of Intelligence.
Latell’s book compounded my wariness, because it has been
written by an ex-CIA officer whose main source of information
is an ex-intelligence officer. Unfortunately, my suspicions were
confirmed as soon as I began reading the book. Latell’s
main source of information is Florentino Aspillaga, a Cuban intelligence
officer who defected some years ago and is now living in the U.S.
I am not implying that what Aspillaga told Latell is not true.
But in the field of intelligence and espionage, intelligence is
just information that has been evaluated, validated or appraised.
So, because we have no way to confirm the true value of what he
told Latell, most of what Aspillaga said becomes useless and irrelevant.
What it is simple incredible, at least to me, is that a trained,
experienced ex-intelligence officer, as Latell is supposed to
be, has taken as intelligence the unconfirmed information Aspillaga
Well, there are some reasons for it. In his book, Latell tries
to describe himself as a field intelligence officer: “During
one of my visits to Havana, when I was a senior intelligence community
official well known to the Cubans, I was followed by a large squad
of surveillants …” [p. 40] Anyway, I’ll bet
that the “large squad of surveillants” that were following
him were more interested in what he carried in his wallet than
what he carried in his brain.
We need to keep in mind that, despite his effort to paint himself
as a sort James Bond, Latell was just an intelligence analyst
at the CIA — as he himself tells in his book, he was a “CIA
Cuba desk analyst.” [p. x] So, most of what he knows about
tradecraft most likely he learnt reading spy novels and books
written by ex-intelligence officers. Castro’s Secrets is
proof of this.
A close reading at this book shows his supreme ignorance of key
elements of the field officer’s trade. An example of this
is Latell’s total ignorance of firearms. He reproduced without
evaluation the information about how one of Castro’s intelligence
officers, Miguel Medina Pérez, used a Makarov pistol on
a failed assassination attempt on Aspillaga. But, according to
what Aspillaga told Latell, and he took at face value, Medina
was not a field agent, and had no experience with handguns, so
he fired the Makarov “erratically, with one hand, the large
pistol wavering and recoiling sharply with each shot.” [p.
32] In the previous page Latell describes the Makarov as a “larger
and heavier weapon.”
It seems that Latell confuses the Makarov, a relatively small
semi-auto pistol modeled after the Walter PPK, with the selective
full-auto Stechkin, a big pistol comparable in size to the Desert
Eagle or the 1911 .45 ACP. Actually, the Soviet Makarov fires
the underpowered 9X18 mm cartridge, and its recoil is minimal.
Overall, Latell’s book reads like a spy novel. Actually,
it is a spy novel. Most of what he wrote is pure fiction, or fiction
Aspillaga told him and he was unable to evaluate and appraise
to change it into true intelligence. Analyzing in detail the undiluted
poppycock passed as intelligence in this book would make this
review too long, so, I am going to mention just a few items.
In another section of his book Latell tells the story about the
first encounter of Aspillaga, after his defection, with a CIA
officer he admired. Aspillaga told Latell how just after a few
minutes of their first meeting, “The rivals were suddenly
now professional colleagues, playing on the same team. Aspillaga
told me his respect for the CIA officer soared. They hugged in
a tight Cuban-style abrazo.” [p. 29] It is simply amazing
that Latell has taken this unadulterated hogwash at face value
and has reproduced it verbatim in his book.
Latell is apparently unaware that a few pages below he provides
information that clearly points to the fact that Aspillaga’s
story can't be true. According to Latell, “With or without
an American polygraph exam, defectors often are vetted and verified
within hours of their first meetings with knowledgeable intelligence
professionals.” [p. 35]
So, if just a few minutes after he met Aspillaga, this CIA officer
accepted at face value Aspillaga’s bona fides, this CIA
officer should had been fired because of gross incompetence. The
fact that he wasn’t confirms that Aspillaga’s story,
as reproduced by Latell in his book, is pure fiction.
In his book, Latell devotes several pages to tell us about an
amazing “new” discovery: a secret letter Castro sent
to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis,
asking him to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the United
States. (pp. 49-62) According to Latell, “… for twenty-eight
years Castro ‘Armageddon letter’ was one of his best-kept
secrets.” Well, not really, because in my 2002 book The
Nuclear Deception I study it in detail. Moreover, in it I
show evidence that asking Khrushchev to launch a nuclear attack
on the U.S., and shooting down a U-2 plane flying over Cuba were
not the only attempts Castro has made to push the world into a
nuclear Armageddon. 
By the way, on page194, Latell mention en passant that Oleg Penkovsky,
a Soviet GRU colonel who played an important role in the Cuban
missile crisis, “was a fully vetted and trusted spy.”
Despite Latell’s claims, however, not everyone in the American
and British intelligence services bought Penkovsky’s story.
James Jesus Angleton, the legendary CIA’s Chief of Counterintelligence,
had serious doubts about Penkovsky’s bona fides. According
to Joe Bulik, one of the CIA officers who had an active participation
in the Penkovsky case, the last time he saw Angleton, he told
him that every case he had ever worked on inside the Soviet Union
over the past seven years had been controlled by the KGB, including
the Penkovsky case.
Angleton was apparently not the only one skeptical about Penkovsky.
Some members of the British Security Service, MI5, believed that
Penkovsky was nothing but a Soviet “plant,” the key
figure in a Russian disinformation exercise of the highest political
Moreover, according to the widely accepted legend, the CIA analysts
had been able to determine what was being built because several
months before the crisis Penkovsky had given them the operational
manual of exactly the same type of missiles the Russians were
now deploying in Cuba. But CIA analysts who accepted Penkovsky’s
information at face value made a big mistake.
An elementary rule of tradecraft states that when there is an
unexpected, unexplainable change in the opponent’s behavior,
the first thing to suspect is deception. According to the CIA’s
own prescribed tradecraft practices, as stated in the document
A compendium of Analytic Tradecraft Notes, there are
warning signs to detect enemy deception which address the likelihood
that a country or organization is engaged in a disinformation
attempt. One of the warning signals is “suspicious confirmation,”
defined as “A new stream of information from clandestine
sources or technical collection seems to reinforce the rationale
for the [opponent’s] action.” That was exactly
what Penkovsky did.
The author of the Notes was Jack Davis, a retired officer
who spent 40 years as practitioner, teacher, and critic of intelligence
analysis. Though the Notes were published in 1997, they just summarized
tradecraft practices that have been standard operating procedures
in the CIA for many years, including during the Cuban missile
crisis. Therefore the gross failures in tradecraft by the CIA
analysts and the CIA officer’s inability to detect the Soviets’
deception efforts cannot by any stretch of the imagination be
attributed to errors, but to a willful desire to mislead the American
In his analysis of the Bay of Pigs invasion, Latell just parrots
the old disinformation story that the only one to blame for the
disaster was President Kennedy. He fails to mention, though, that
behind every single “mistake” that caused the failure
of the Bay of Pigs invasion was a member of the nefarious Council
on Foreign Relations (CFR) “advising” Kennedy to do
so. They were the ones who manipulated Kennedy to make the fateful
decisions that contributed to the disaster
For example, both CIA Director Allen Dulles (CFR) and Deputy Director
for Plans Richard Bissell (CFR) were so enthusiastic about the
operation that Dulles told President Kennedy he was certain that
“our Guatemalan operation would succeed,” adding that
the prospects for the invasion’s plan to succeed were even
better than they were for that one. Kennedy assumed that Dulles
and Bissell’s optimism about the success of the Cuban invasion
was because the operation had “the Agency’s full authority
behind them.” Kennedy ignored, however, that both Dulles
and Bissell had never informed the analysts working in CIA’s
Intelligence Directorate about the upcoming invasion.
Other authors blame President Kennedy for giving the fateful order
that changed the invasion’s landing point. They don’t
tell, however, that Kennedy ordered the fateful change following
the advice of McGeorge Bundy (CFR), Adlai Stevenson (CFR), and
John McCloy (CFR) A few days later, on April 4,1961, CIA’s
Richard Bissell (CFR), outlined an alternative plan for the invasion,
with the Bay of Pigs instead of Trinidad as the landing place.
The trap had been set.
It is also true that Kennedy ordered the cancellation of the rest
of the planned air strikes previous to the invasion. As a result,
some of Castro’s fighter planes were left untouched. These
were the planes that shot down the invaders’ planes and
sank their ships, thus guaranteeing that the Bay of Pigs invasion
failed. But Kennedy cancelled the air strikes only after McGeorge
Bundy (CFR), Dean Rusk (CFR), and Adlai Stevenson (CFR), persuaded
him to do so.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that since its very creation the
CIA has been an organization controlled by the Council on Foreign
Relations, and that most CIA directors and chiefs of covert operations
have been CFR members, the CFR is never mentioned in Latell’s
In another part of his book Latell repeats without an attempt
to analysis Aspillaga’s story that Castro, out of revenge,
had ordered the assassination of several Bolivians —two
generals, an army captain and a peasant— who had contributed
to the capture of Che Guevara. Then, Latell adds his own contribution
to Aspillaga’s story. According to Lattell, “We [CIA
desk analysts] had no doubt that the Bolivians had been murdered
by killers intent on avenging Che.” [pp. 120-121]
Really? Let me add some information that apparently the clever
desk analysts at CIA never considered in their analysis
Granted, revenge for Che’s death was most likely the motive
Castro told his team of assassins. The true motive, however, was
quite different. Actually, Castro suspected that, in the last
minutes of his life, Che told his captors that he had suspicions
that Castro was not what he claimed to be and that he betrayed
Che’s suspicions were not off the mark. Information surfaced
in the mid-1970s confirmed that Castro, in cahoots with Bolivian
Communist leaders, arranged the betrayal of Che Guevara. According
to Dariel Alarcón Ramírez (“Benigno”),
one of Che’s trusted men, previous to Guevara’s departure
for Bolivia, Castro held a secret meeting with Mario Monje in
Havana on December, 1966. Monje, secretary general of the pro-Soviet
Bolivian Communist Party, was instrumental in Che’s demise
by denying the guerrilla any help and leaving them in total isolation.
Benigno is convinced that Monje was following Castro’s orders
when he left Che in the lurch. 
Benigno is not the only one who had suspicions about Castro. In
November 18, 1967, L'Humanité, organ of the French
Communist Party, published a long article by Jacques Arnault accussing
Castro as the hidden hand behind the capture and death of Che
Guevara. Moreover, Gary Prado, the Bolivian officer who captured
Guevara, some years later told the Journal do Brasil that, before
he was killed, Guevara told Prado that Castro had abandoned him.
The possibiity that Castro betrayed Guevara is also mentioned
by Daniel James in his biography of Che Guevara. Also, a close
reading of Guevara’s diary shows that he was resentful because
Castro had stopped supporting him.
So, unknown even to most of the people who participated in the
operation, the capture and killing of Che Guevara in Bolivia was
a joint Castro-CIA operation. Later, Castro ordered the killing
of some of the men who partcipated in the operation not because
of revenge, but because secret operations should leave no loose
ends and dead men tell no tales.
Guevara’s words previous to his capture, when he shouted
to soldiers approaching him, “Dont shoot! I’m Che
Guevara. I’m worth more alive than dead,” seem to
indicate that Castro and his CIA masters had reasons to shut Guevara’s
mouth forever. What information Guevara had that he considered
was so valuable? Unfortuately for him, fool Che Guevara tried
to sell his information to the wrong buyer. Big mistake!
Why Castro and the people who control the CIA decided to guarantee
Che Guevara’s failure? Because, contrary to Castro, Guevara
was a true believer. Had he been sucessful in Bolivia, and had
taken control over some countries in the area, he may have become
not a pseudo-enemy like Castro, but a true enemy of the people
who control the CIA, and that was a risk they were not willing
to take. That possibility sealed Guevara’s fate.
In another part of his book Latell mentions as a fact the fairy
tale that the CIA tried many times to kill Castro. According to
Latell, “In his memoirs, Félix Rodríguez admitted
participating in an assassination plot against Fidel in 1961.”
But there is more than meets the eye in the CIA’s alleged
assassination attempts on Castro.
Referring to the many alleged assassination attempts on Castro,
author Ronald Kessler stated, “The ineptitude of the operations
was astonishing.” I would add that it was astonishing
to the point of being incredible. Actually, some members of the
anti-Castro exile community in Florida have mentioned several
times that their attempts to assassinate Castro failed because
the CIA and the FBI either obstructed their activities or alerted
Until very recently those allegations were just rumors, because
nobody had brought concrete proof of these suspicions. But on
May 18, 2010, a true insider gave his support to the allegations.
During an interview for Miami’s Channel 23, Félix
Rodríguez, an ex-CIA operative who participated in many
CIA covert operations, including the capture of Che Guevara in
Bolivia, mentioned that the assassination attempts against Castro
carried out by the CIA were designed to fail.
On the other hand, confirming the principle that every dark cloud
has a silver lining, Latell unwittingly provides some information
confirming my thesis that Fidel Castro has always been an agent
of the people he claims to hate.
Over and over in his book Latell mentions how Castro personally
controls even the smallest aspects of his intelligence services,
to the point that Latell calls Castro Cuba’s “supreme
spymaster.” (p. 13) Everything is done “following
guidelines laid out by Fidel Himself.” (p. 12) This actually
means that, because of the principles of compartmentation and
need-to-know, Castro is the only one who really knows the big
picture of what’s going on and what are the true goals of
his intelligence services.
It is common knowledge that one way to detect an accountant that
is fixing the books to steal money is that the never takes vacations.
In the same fashion, one explanation as to why Castro exerts this
extremely tight control over his intelligence service is because
he has to be sure that none of his intelligences officers get
enough information to connect the dots pointing to him as a CIA
Latell entitled the first chapter of his book, “Better Than
Us.” According to Latell, a former FBI officer who tracked
Cuban intelligence once told him: “They outperformed us
by any objective measure.” In his naïveté, Latell
fails to suspect that this “outperformance” of Castro’s
intelligence services is just because, parodying Pogo’s
often quoted expression, “We have seen the enemy [Castro],
and he is one of us [a secret CIA agent].”
The collaboration between Fidel Castro and the people who created
the CIA and have been using it to advance their goals since its
very creation began a long time ago. In my book Psychological
Warfare and the New World Order I devote the longest chapter to
provide extensive evidence proving that Fidel Castro was recruited
by the CIA in early 1948 and sent to Bogotá, Colombia as
an agent provocateur. His job consisted in planting false clues
to implicate the Communists in the assassination of Colombian
populist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the Bogotazo
riots. He did such a good job that, some years later, the people
who control the Agency used to CIA to help Castro take power in
Just a few weeks after he grabbed power, Castro traveled to New
York, where he met David and Nelson Rockefeller. Since then, Castro
has bypassed the CIA and has been dealing directly with the Agency’s
Proof of this is that recent evidence points to the fact that
not only the capture and killing of Che Guevara, but also the
killing of Salvador Allende, the assassination of Hugo Chávez,
and perhaps even the downing of the Cuban airliner in 1973
were CIA-Castro joint operations.
But probably the piece de résistance of the whole
book is Latell’s allegation about the possibility that Fidel
Castro new in advance of the coming assassination of President
Kennedy. Well, it seems that either Latell is not a thorough researcher
or he reads only books written by CFR agents, because, like most
things he mentions in his book, Castro’s possible involvement
in the Assassination of President Kennedy is not new.
In the first place, of all the usual suspects —the Mafia,
the anti-Castro Cubans, the South Vietnamese, the military industrial
complex, J. Edgar Hoover, and many other — the only one
who publicly threatened the American president was Fidel Castro
Secondly, despite the fact that President Johnson first reaction
to the assassination was: “Kennedy was trying to get Castro,
but Castro gt to him first. … I twill come out someday,”
most books about the the assassination of President Kennedy have
ignored this aspect. Nevertheless, at least some authors have
explored the possibility, amog them Gus Russo in Live By The Sword,
Andrei Moskovit’s Did Castro Kill Kennedy?, and my own The
Secret Fidel Castro, in which I devote a whole chapter to study
But the bottom line is that Castro knew in advance of the plan
to assassinate President Kennedy, because some people at highest
levels of the CIA knew, and they knew because they were part of
the plan. So, one may safely surmise that the people who control
the CIA and hated Kennedy so much, informed they secret agent
Castro about their plans. Why? Because Castro played an important
role in the assassination.
Nonetheless, reading Latell’s book, it seems obvious that
he is still proud of his job as a CIA analyst. However, I don’t
see any reason why somebody can be proud of having being part
of such sloppy work.
The main reason given to the American public for the creation
of the CIA, was to avoid Pearl Harbor-like “surprises.”
Yet, if one is to believe CIA’s critics, over and over,
the CIA has been taken by surprise by events it didn’t foresee.
The Bogotazo riots in Colombia in 1948, the Soviets launching
the Sputnik in 1957, Castro grabbing power in Cuba in 1959, the
Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961, the Cuban missile crisis in 1962,
the coup that deposed Nikita Khrushchev in 1964, the Soviet invasion
of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the attack launched by Egypt and Syria
against Israel in 1973, Castro’s invasion of Angola in 1975,
the fall of the Shah in Iran in 1979, the fall of the Berlin Wall
in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, India’s
testing of a nuclear bomb in 1998, and the events of September
11, 2001, just to mention a few, are cases in which the CIA analysts
were apparently caught asleep at the wheel — or perhaps
not, but that’s another long and convoluted story.
The CIA’s branch of covert operations has not performed
any better. A recent Senate Intelligence Committee report on the
investigation of the CIA’s torture programs shows that that
the Committee investigators found substantial evidence that the
CIA lied about the extent of its use of torture and kidnappings.
Contrary to CIA’s claims, detainees did not undergo some
mild form of “enhanced interrogation techniques” but
were subjected to brutal and inhumane forms of torture. Moreover,
the Committee found that, contrary to its claims, the CIA torturers
did not get even a single piece of intelligence useful to fight
terrorism. It was torture for the enjoyment of the psychopaths
who did it.
So, there is not much to be proud of having being part of such
an inefficient and corrupt organization.
Nonetheless, it seems that, like most patriotic young men and
women who became CIA officers during the Cold War, Latell was
recruited under the false flag of defending America from its communist
foreign enemies. In the course of their job, however, some of
them reached the unavoidable conclusion that the CIA has never
protected America from its enemies, particularly from the domestic
ones, and they became CIA’s critics.
Unfortunately, Latell is not one of these CIA officers who have
seen the light. This book is enough proof that he is still a true
believer in a mythical CIA as a bastion of freedom and democracy
that has never existed.
In synthesis, despite the catchy title, Castro’s Secrets,
by ignorance or by deliberate omission Castro’s best-kept
secret —his close relationship with the CIA and the Agency’s
true masters—is not mentioned in Latell’s book.
1. See, i.e., my review of Joseph Trento’s Prelude to
Terror, which I aptly titled “A CIA Cock and Bull Story.”
2. Servando Gonzalez, The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev
and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Oakland, California: Spooks
Books, 2002), pp. 149-161)
3. See, Central Intelligence Agency, A compendium of Analytic
Tradecraft Notes, Washington, D.C. February 1997.
4. See, Dariel Alarcón Ramírez, Memorias de
un soldado cubano. Vida y muerte de la Revolución
(Barcelona: Tusquets, 1997).
5. Ronald Kessler, Inside the CIA (New York: Pocket Books,
1992), p. 53.
6. Both Castro and the CIA collaborated in destabilizing the Allende
government —the CIA by painting him as a radical leftist
and Castro by openly criticizing him for not being radical enough.
Moreover, if recently surfaced information is true, Allende did
not commit suicide: his Cuban security chief, General Patricio
de la Guardia, killed him, following Castro’s direct orders.
See my article “Fidel Castro: asesino de Allende?,”
7. See, Servando Gonzalez, “Hugo Chávez: Another
Victim of Castro’s High-Tech Political Assassinations?,
8. On the downing of the Cuban airliner, see, Servando Gonzalez,
The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol (Oakland,
California: Spooks Books, 2001), Chapter 3, note 39, p. 383.
9. Ibid., pp. 96-131.
10. In his book Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall
of the CIA, professor Melvin Goodman, a former CIA intelligence
analyst, devotes a whole chapter, to show how most of the alleged
CIA intelligence failures actually have not been attributable
to CIA analysts, who alerted timely about the outcomes, but to
CFR agents in the U.S. Government who paid no attention to the
alerts. See Melvin A. Goodman, Failure of Intelligence: The
Decline and Fall of the CIA (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2008), pp. 63-88.
11. See, Spencer Ackermann, “CIA and White House Under Pressure
After Senate Torture Report Leaks,” The Guardian,
April 11, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/11/cia-white-house-pressure-leaked-senate-report
12. These are the cases of ex-CIA officers like Victor Marchetti,
Ralph McGehee, Frank Snepp, and CIA assets like Col. Fletcher
Servando Gonzalez, is a Cuban-born American writer,
historian, semiologist and intelligence analyst. He has written
books, essays and articles on Latin American history, intelligence,
espionage, and semiotics. Servando is the author of Historia
herética de la revolución fidelista, Observando,
Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol, The
Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis
madre de todas las conspiraciones: Una novela de ideas subversivas,
all available at Amazon.com.
He also hosted the documentaries Treason in America: The Council
on Foreign Relations and Partners in Treason: The CFR-CIA-Castro
Connection, produced by Xzault Media Group of San Leandro,
California, both available at the author's site at http://www.servandogonzalez.org.
His book, Psychological Warfare and the New
World Order: The Secret War Against the American People is
available at Amazon.com.
Or download a
.pdf copy of the book you can read on your computer, iPad,
Nook, Kindle or any other tablet. His book, OBAMANIA:
The New Puppet and His Masters, is available at Amazon.com.
Servando's book (in Spanish) La CIA, Fidel Castro, el Bogotazo
y el Nuevo Orden Mundial, appeared last year, and is available
and other bookstores online.
His most recent book, I
Dare Call It treason: The Council on Foreign Relations and the
Betrayal of the America, juste appeared and is available
at Amazon.com and other bookstores online.