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We Have Seen The Enemy . . . And He is One of Them!


By Servando Gonzalez
05/05/2014

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 [1] 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 dealing with.

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 told him.

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. [2]

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 consequences.

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.”[3] 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 decision-makers.

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 book.

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 him.

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. [4]

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.” [p. 121]

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.”[5] 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 Castro.

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 mole.

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 Cuba.

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 true masters.
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,[6] the assassination of Hugo Chávez,[7] and perhaps even the downing of the Cuban airliner in 1973[8] 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 this possibility.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.

Notes:

1. See, i.e., my review of Joseph Trento’s Prelude to Terror, which I aptly titled “A CIA Cock and Bull Story.” http://www.intelinet.org/sg_site/intelligence/sg_trento_review.html
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?,” http://www.intelinet.org/sg_site/articles/sg_castro_allende.html.
7. See, Servando Gonzalez, “Hugo Chávez: Another Victim of Castro’s High-Tech Political Assassinations?, http://www.intelinet.org/sg_site/articles/sg_high_tech_assass.html
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 Prouty

 

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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, The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol, The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis and La 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 at Amazon.com 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.

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