Fidel Castro Supermole
By Servando Gonzalez
Copyright © 1995-2004. All Rights Reserved
In November 1959, less than a year after Fidel Castro took power
in Cuba, Alexandr Ivanovich Alexeev arrived in Havana, ostensibly
as a correspondent for Soviet TASS agency. But Alexeev, whose
real name was Alexandr I. Shitov, had other duties to perform.
He was also a senior KGB officer with a long, successful career.
As a Soviet intelligence officer Alexeev had been previously
deployed, under different covers, in France (1946-51), the Netherlands
(1946-51), and finally in Argentina (1954-58),1 where he polished
both his proficiency in the Spanish language and in the mastering
The fact that Alexeev was sent to Cuba at such an early date
clearly indicates that, from the very beginning, the Soviets
saw Cuba and Castro essentially as an intelligence operation.
With this in mind, and in order to do justice to the Soviet approach,
let's analyze the unconventional beginnings of the Castro phenomenon
the way the Soviet counterintelligence would have: with extreme
suspicion, almost to the point of paranoia.
The hypothesis3 of this study, however, is not to prove that
Castro is or has been a mole,4 but to suggest that, at least
for a time, Soviet intelligence had strong suspicions that he
was a mole-an enemy agent infiltrated into the Soviet bloc. To
be sure, this is a highly speculative hypothesis, but, considering
the elements of suspicion involved in espionage and counterintelligence
work, not a farfetched one. Like all counterintelligence cases,
the Castro affair is a maze of contradictions that invite alternative
Was "The Horse" a Trojan Horse? 5
As Khrushchev admitted later in his memoirs, at the time Fidel
Castro took power in Cuba, the Soviets had little contact with
the island and, therefore, very little knowledge of what was
happening there. (Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Soviet
Union had been severed since 1952, when Batista took power).
To the Soviet intelligence Fidel Castro was a strange and enigmatic
figure. By late 1959 they had gathered many fragments of information
about him, but had not been able to put all the pieces together
into a meaningful whole. 6
The proverbial inefficiency of the Soviet system had perhaps
only one exception: its intelligence apparatus. If something
seemed to work smoothly in the Soviet Union it was its intelligence
services. But, even for them, Fidel Castro was certainly a riddle
wrapped in an enigma.
A characteristic common to all intelligence officers, East
and West, is that they have a special open-mindedness. For them
nothing is impossible just because it is improbable.7 Moreover,
Russians have always been paranoid about secrecy and betrayal-an
attitude that has nothing to do with Communism, it goes back
to Tsarist days. Consequently, it is safe to surmise that, as
Americans had a James Jesus Angleton-a former CIA's chief of
counterintelligence, who firmly believed Tito was Stalin's Trojan
horse and that the Soviets had been successful in infiltrating
a mole into the CIA-, the Russians should also had their KGB's
Ivan Ivanovich Angletonovich, Chief of the Second Directorate8-counterintelligence-who
firmly believed that Fidel Castro was a super mole, an enemy
agent infiltrated into the Communist camp.9
An issue of the secretive magazine Intelligence Articles,
published and almost exclusively read by CIA personnel, featured
an anonymous article explaining the difference between a "write-in"
and a "walk-in." According to the article, the agent
of a rival service who wishes to approach another intelligence
service can choose between either presenting himself physically
as a "walk-in" or, if he wants to retain a certain
anonymity, sending a message as a "write-in." Both
are volunteer spies, but the term identifies the way in which
they offer their services.10 If the Russians were to accept the
terminology advanced by the anonymous author of the article,
they would have had a new term to add: a "speech-in,"
and as clear an example as Fidel Castro they could not have cited.
A simple rule-of-thumb for all intelligence work is that the
intelligence officer must always suspect any outside approaches.
An intelligence officer needs to be absolutely sure that the
initiative on all new contacts is his. In Castro's case, he was
the one who approached the Russians, presenting them with his
ready-made "Marxist" revolution. (The available record
shows that, as early as the fall of 1959, just 9 months after
gaining power in Cuba, Castro was already maneuvering trying
to contact the Soviets. See, i. e., Carlos Franqui, Family Portrait
with Fidel. New York: Random House, 1984., and Alexandr Alexeev,
"Cuba después del triunfo de la revolución,"
América Latina (Moscow), October 1984, 62-67.)
Yet, if anything characterized Soviet intelligence, it was
not its gullibility. Fidel's advances and his self-proclaimed
Marxist faith made red lights flash in Moscow and put the Soviet
intelligence services on extreme alert.
After studying in detail Fidel Castro's case, the first thought
that struck our hypothetical Soviet Angleton was that the Cuban
leader was insane. In the intelligence world agent recruiting
operations are long, tedious affairs in which hundreds of specialists
work long hours over tiny bits of information, forming a single
piece of a jigsaw puzzle that might-or might not-fit into some
larger picture. As a rule, strangers simply don't walk in off
the street and offer you the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Wittingly or unwittingly, a walk-in could be a provocateur or
a plant sent by an enemy service to make you swallow false information.
Security applies to all echelons of command. Laxness has no place
in it, even if it may seem overbureaucratic and ridiculous. The
application of security measures has to be executed ruthlessly,
precisely and in every detail. There is no place for overconfidence
in friends or old acquaintances, and even less in newcomers.
The basic job of all intelligences services is to penetrate
foreign services-hostile and friendly alike. And yet, one of
the many misunderstandings of the intelligence job is that no
service will accept an agent who volunteers his services. In
the convoluted world of espionage, volunteers have produced some
of the best results. As some intelligence officers put it, "It's
the walk-in trade that keeps the shop open."11 But anyone
volunteering information is suspect until his data and sources
have been identified and tested.
During the thirties, when Hitler was on the rise and the economic
depression in the West was at its peak, the Soviet intelligence
services recruited scores of young men and women, trained them,
and instructed them to go underground and conceal their sympathies.12
For years the Soviet intelligence services knew of similar
American intelligence efforts in recruiting young promising leaders
in Latin American and elsewhere.13 Particularly important to
American intelligence was the early detection and recruiting
of people who could be used immediately as agents of influence,
or later, as sleepers, who could, when the necessity arose, be
called up for collecting specific information or performing specific
tasks. Those penetrations-human "moles"-were directed
not only against the enemy, but also against potential enemies
and even against key friendly countries. The recruiting process
was so subtle that most often the people recruited would not
feel they were acting as agents.14 This activity gave the U.S.
a sophisticated "Trojan Horse" capability inside the
The accepted intelligence formula for dealing with a walk-in
is very simple: he must answer the four classical questions-who,
what, when, and why. Who is he?, What does he have to offer?,
How did he get it?, and Why is he offering it? Only after these
questions have been answered satisfactorily is the walk-in accepted.
Yet, there were too many unanswered questions about Fidel
Castro that made some Soviet intelligence officers nervous. Who-reasoned
the Russian intelligence analysts-was this son of a wealthy landowner,
educated in the best Jesuit schools? Who was this sometime brother-in-law
to a wealthy member of Batista's cabinet, heir to a fortune,
eligible for the best salons of Havana and Santiago? Who really
was this privileged darling of the Cuban oligarchs, who had a
degree in law-the theology of Capitalism? What were Fidel's true
links to William Wieland, a U.S. "diplomat"-first in
Havana, and later in Colombia during the Bogotazo ? 16 Why was
the CIA Station Chief in the U.S. Embassy in Havana so overtly
pro-Castro? Why did the New York Times, through Herbert Matthews,
contribute so much to the spread of the Fidelista myth to the
On October 12, 1948, while still a law student at Havana University,
Fidel Castro married Mirtha Díaz Balart. A few months
later he had a violent argument at the university with a man
named Camaid. To avoid problems with Cuban authorities, he flew
to the U.S. with his wife and voluntarily exiled himself in New
York city for about a year and a half.17 Nothing is known of
his whereabouts during that long stay in the U.S., and he carefully
avoids any mention of that period of his life when he practically
disappeared into thin air. Nobody, including close friends and
relatives, seems to know what he did, where he lived or how he
made a living. That a man like Fidel, who had always tried to
attract attention to himself, had disappeared for a year and
a half in the U.S. was very suspicious for the Russians.
It is KGB's standard operational procedure not to trust anymore
any of its officers who, for any reason, has been serving time
in a foreign jail or stayed for any unaccounted time in a foreign
country. They were very nervous, for example, when somebody discovered
that Hafizollah Amin, the puppet they had put in power in Kabul,
had resided in the United States as a student. For an intelligence
operative to be trusted, all of his time has to be accounted
for. How come were they put their trust on Castro, whose life
was full of long unaccounted periods of time?
One constant concern of the Soviet intelligence services was
the possibility of being penetrated by the West.18 Indeed, this
Soviet concern about enemy penetrations was a legitimate one.
CIA operations against the Soviet Union have been carried out
mainly within a counterintelligence framework, converting Soviet
agents to double-agent operations wherever possible. The CIA's
main objective has always been to penetrate the KGB or GRU in
order to have inside information about what the Soviets were
As events in Cuba continued developing, Alexandr Alexeev became
the de facto case officer for "running" the newly recruited
agent Fidel Castro. But this case was very unusual, because the
defector was the country's leader.
As a rule, case officers don't like ideologically motivated
agents. They agree that the best agents are the ones motivated
by purely personal considerations. But, even though the Soviets
never fully believed Castro's Marxist claims, he insisted on
repeating over and over the old Communist slogans. A further
reason to be cautious was the professional way Castro had approached
the Soviets, offering his services, but setting his own terms.
Once the initial contact with the Soviets was made, Castro made
clear that the Soviet intelligence could take him or leave him.
This was an unmistakable sign of professionalism and that he
had some previous intelligence training. The Soviets, however,
swallowed the tempting bait, hook, line and sinker. But things
in Havana very soon seemed not to be running as smoothly as they
According to the rules of tradecraft, once the walk-in is
accepted, the case officer must do everything necessary to run
the operation as if the walk-in had been recruited at the service's
initiative. Even though walk-ins usually try to sell their information,
not themselves, the case officer must initiate the routine procedures
of agent management which over time have been found effective
in controlling the agent rather than his material. But, from
the very beginning, the whole Castro operation had turned into
a big flop. Alexeev had proved unable to "run" Castro,
who was not only "running" himself but sometimes seemed
to be the one actually "running" Alexeev. Reports began
piling up in KGB files informing that the Soviet intelligence
officer had even become Castro's personal friend. They had been
seen drinking and womanizing together and apparently Alexeev
had fallen under the spell of the Cuban leader.20
Also, under ideal circumstances the agent's only contact with
the intelligence service that recruited him must be his case
officer. Involving other persons dilutes the case officer's necessary
authority and gives the agent a chance for second-guessing. In
the case of Fidel Castro, the essential rules of Soviet tradecraft
were constantly violated. This diffused authority was one of
the many weaknesses of the Castro operation that worried the
Russian counterintelligence officers.
At the KGB's Second Directorate our hypothetical Russian counterpart
to Angleton felt highly displeased with Alexeev's unprofessional
work. An effective intelligence officer has to keep in mind that,
whatever his motives may be, the role of the recruited agent
is to betray trust. Consequently, a man who had committed treason
could not logically be trusted again. Every aspect of an agent's
relationship with his case officer stems from this basic premise.
The case officer's first task when dealing with a new agent is
to maneuver him into a position where there is nothing he can
hold back-not even the smallest bit of information nor the most
intimate detail of his personal life. Until this level of control
has been achieved, the agent cannot be said to have been fully
recruited. But Alexeev proved absolutely incapable of controlling
his agent. Our Angleton's mirror image began producing report
after report to the KGB Director, asking for the immediate replacement
of Alexeev as Castro's case officer.
Our Soviet Angleton found that some fellow officers in the
counterintelligence section were also expressing their doubts
about Castro. Either Fidel was the biggest catch they had ever
landed-the most significant recruit ever made by the Soviet intelligence
services-or he was the greatest fraud since Pildown, and therefore
the worst catastrophe that had ever befaled the KGB.
But, surprisingly, Angletonovich found unexpected opposition
among other KGB officers. The sole idea that Castro may be a
plant struck them as insane. "All this suspicion is sheer
speculation," they told him, "Not one hard fact there."
Angletonovitch agreed. But he also thought that in this business
one can never get much closer than to establish a strong likelihood.
And there were all sorts of things about Fidel Castro that pointed
to him as a suspect, because in the counterintelligence business
things are almost never what they seem.
Counterintelligence is a nightmare of worst-case assumptions.
It's a snake pit, an acid trip in a hall of mirrors. In the counterintelligence
business relity means nothing. In it everything is inside out:
suspicion is sanity, trust is lunacy, paranoia is a healthy state
of mind. Counterintelligence is a world where 'certain' mewans
'possible,' 'probably' means 'probably not,' ans assumption of
innocence is a joke.
There were, however, many others at high levels inside the
Soviet intelligence and the Communist Party who could not bring
themselves to conceive of Castro as a fake, if only because,
after having accepted him as the greatest Western defector ever,
their professional reputation was bound up with his integrity.
Still, our Soviet Angleton was not satisfied. There were many
things about Castro that invited speculation. To him Fidel was
the main pawn of an extraordinary disinformation scheme devised
by the American intelligence services to carry out their most
cherished dream: penetrating Soviet intelligence.
Did Americans Give Cuba to Castro?
In 1961 the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee issued a
12-volume study entitled "Communist Threat to the U.S. Through
the Caribbean." The study features the testimonies of some
senior U.S. government officers who firmly believe that Castro
could not have been brought to power in Cuba without the continued
assistance of the U.S. State Department.
The subject came up again in the course of a press conference
held by President Kennedy on January 24, 1962. President Kennedy
was asked about the security risks involving State Department
employee William A. Wieland, who had helped Castro come to power
according to three American ex-ambassadors in testimony before
the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. Though Kennedy denied
that Wieland was a security risk, doubts about him persisted.21
As a protegé of Sumner Welles, William Wieland was
promoted four times in just nine months in the State Department,
and later was assigned to Brazil in 1948 as a press attaché.
During his stay in Brazil, the American ambassador to that country,
William Pawley, filed reports on Wieland's "leftist"
ideas and activities, after which Wieland was promoted again
and transferred to Colombia as Vice Consul.22
Wieland joined the Foreign Service in a very irregular way.
Evidence shows that he lied in his application forms. The fact
that Wieland had no problems in advancing his career despite
grave accusations about his alleged pro-Communist leanings was
interpreted by Soviet intelligence analysts as a sign that his
diplomatic position was a cover for intelligence work. Moreover,
the impetuous fashion in which President Kennedy denied that
Wieland was a security risk was, in Soviet eyes, further evidence
that he was not what he seemed to be. But there were more strange
things about the Castro-Wieland connection that made him even
more suspicious to the Soviet intelligence.
While the American Consul in Bogotá in 1948, Wieland
must have known about Fidel Castro. Castro was in Colombia at
the time and participated in the Bogotazo riots during the Foreign
Ministers Conference in Bogotá in 1948. Both Wieland and
Roy Rubbotom, Assistant Secretary of State and Wieland's chief
at that time, were in Bogotá during the riots and must
have known about Castro's activities.23 Moreover, before joining
the Foreign Service during World War II, Wieland had lived in
Cuba under the alias of Arturo Montenegro.24 Some people claim
that Wieland met Castro while living in Cuba and was on friendly
terms with him. There is also good reason to believe that, during
his fight against Batista, Castro received support from Wieland
when Wieland was the head of the Caribbean Desk in the U.S. State
Something that attracted the attention of the Soviets was
the American haste to recognize Castro's government after Batista's
escape on January 1, 1959. This haste was not only surprising
to the Soviets, but also to some American diplomats. According
to Ambassador Smith, the U.S. were very hasty in its recognition
of the Castro government. Usually the U.S. withholds recognition
from a new government until it is formally established and operating.
Normally, the U.S. does not want to be among the first nor among
the last to recognize a new government. The U.S. usually waits
until assurances are given that the new government will honor
its international obligations. In Latin America it was the custom
for the U.S. to wait until several Latin American countries had
recognized the new government. However, in January 7, 1979, just
six days after former President Batista fled from Cuba and one
day before Fidel Castro arrived in Havana, the U.S. officially
recognized the Castro government.25
Soviet suspicion was also aroused by the CIA's behavior toward
Castro. In his well read column Drew Pearson revealed, on May
23, 1961, that persistent rumors in the diplomatic corps indicated
that the CIA had been helping to put Castro in power for years.
The rumors had further stated that the CIA agents, in their efforts
to get rid of President Batista, had supplied arms and ammunitions
to Castro during his guerrilla war in the mountains.
There are more reasons to believe that the CIA, in fact, delivered
weapons to Fidel. When he was in the Sierra Maestra fighting
Batista's troops. Castro received some weapons delivered by the
International Armaments Corporation, the company that sent weapons
to Guatemala, under the CIA's orders, to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz's
government, and also because the Company was organized by Samuel
Cummings, a former CIA operative.26 Also, there is evidence,
that between October 1957 and the middle of 1958, the CIA gave
no less than fifty thousand dollars to Castro's men in Santiago
On February 24, 1957, the New York Times published the first
of a series of three articles written by its correspondent Herbert
L. Matthews, who had interviewed Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra
mountains in eastern Cuba.28 He depicted Castro as a liberal
and a folk hero-a Latin American Robin Hood crusading against
evil. Matthews' articles gave Fidel instant international publicity.
One of Fidel's closest followers, Armando Hart, commenting about
the coverage and the high impact of Matthews articles, told Mario
Llerena, the M-26-7 public relations man in the U.S., that both
Matthews and the New York Times could be considered practically
in their pockets.29 Knowing of the connections between the CIA
and the New York Times, the Soviet intelligence analysts were
Matthews' articles in the Times were just the beginning of
a barrage of information about Castro. On February 4, 1958, Look
published an extensive interview with Castro. On February 25,
1958, the Times continued giving coverage to Castro and published
an interview with the Cuban leader conducted by its correspondent
Herbert Matthews put Llerena in contact with CBS,30 which
was also interested in an interview with Fidel. Some weeks later
CBS broadcasted a special program by Taber and Hoffman entitled
"The Story of Cuba's Jungle Fighters." On May 27, Life
published a long, illustrated article about Fidel and his struggle
against Batista, and a much longer Spanish version, directed
to Latin America, appeared two days later in Life en Español.
As 1958 advanced and the situation in Cuba tilted toward Fidel
Castro and his guerrilla fighters, outside Cuba things also seemed
to be going Fidel's way. In the United States both the government
and the press were becoming more and more favorably disposed
towards Fidel Castro and his men. Thanks mainly to the selling
of Fidel Castro by the American media, people all over the world
were being conditioned to see Fidel's guerrillas of the Sierra
Maestra as legendary liberators of an oppressed people. Thus,
Castro's road to power was conveniently paved by the American
government and media.
When Ambassador Earl T. Smith was preparing to assume his
new post as Chief of Mission in Havana, no one in the State Department
ever mentioned Fidel's involvement in the Bogotazo to him. Rubbotom
and Wieland arranged to have Smith briefed on Castro's virtues,
not by the exiting ambassador, as it was the common practice,
but by Herbert Matthews, whom they portrayed as an expert in
Cuba affairs. Nor was Ambassador Smith told that both Rubbotom
and Wieland were in Colombia during the Bogotazo.31
It is customary in the U.S. diplomatic service, when a man-on-the-spot
returns from his post abroad, to be questioned by the State Department
as to his latest views and his estimate of the situation. This
process is called debriefing. After Ambassador Smith resigned
in January 10, 1959, he was never debriefed. His predecessor,
Ambassador Gardner, testified that he was also not debriefed
at the end of his mission in Cuba.32
U. S. Ambassador Smith commented that, during his mission
in Havana, it was so evident the pro-Castro leanings of the CIA
station chief at the embassy that from time to time he asked
him in jest if he was not a Fidelista.33 Testifying before the
Senate Internal Security Committee on August 30, 1960, Smith
affirmed that the chief of the CIA section in the American Embassy
in Havana was pro-Castro, and that the number 2 CIA man in the
embassy encouraged a revolt of Cuban navy officers against Batista
in September, 1957.34 Ambassador Smith went further and accused
the United States government, i.e. certain members of the Congress,
the CIA, the State Department, as well as some segments of the
press, of being directly responsible for Castro coming to power.
"Castro never won a military victory," declared Smith.
"The fact that the U.S. was no longer supporting Batista
had a devastating psychological effect upon the Cuban armed forces
and upon the leaders of the labor movement. The U.S. actions
were responsible for the rise of Castro to power." 35
In October, 1957, one of three young American navy men who
had joined Fidel that summer, was designated to go back to the
U.S. in a propaganda mission on Castro's behalf. The American
entered the U.S. through the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo,
with the full approval of American authorities, and received
considerable publicity in the U.S. media. 36
During his visit to the United States in April, 1959, Fidel
received a lot of coverage in the American media. What the media
barely mentioned, however, was that Castro visited the headquarters
of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he spoke
on "Cuba and the United States."37 Nor did the media
cover Castro's meeting of over an hour with a friendly, persuasive,
and fluently Spanish-speaking representative of the CIA. According
to some witnesses, the CIA man emerged in a state of ecstasy
over Castro's receptivity, responsiveness and understanding.
The subject of the conversation still remains a secret. 38
As our Russian Angleton knew quite well, the real profession
of a counterintelligence officer is not espionage, but gamesmanship.
In the intelligence game, first, you figure out what the enemy
service is doing. Then, they figure out what you are doing. Next
you try to figure out what they think you are doing. Then they
try to figure out what you think they think you are doing. And
so it goes ad infinitum. That is why Angleton (the American one)
called counterintelligence a "wilderness of mirrors."
One thing that seemed very suspicious to Soviet intelligence
were the sudden American efforts to prove that Castro was a Communist.
The Americans, who before Castro took power denied he was a Communist,
now had changed their minds, and were accusing him of being a
Communist. To top all, Castro himself was telling everybody that
he was a Communist. But no one knew better than the Soviets that
this was far from being true. According to the information the
KGB had gathered, Fidel Castro never joined the Cuban communist
party, nor any of the Communist front organizations. He was not
a crypto-Communist, nor was he ever recruited by the Soviet intelligence
services. So, why were the Americans so eager to prove he was
In the convoluted world of counterintelligence the American
actions were interpreted by the Soviet intelligence as efforts
to convince the Soviets that Castro was real. Of course, if the
Russians suspected that Castro was not real, the American intelligence
must have expected that the Soviets were going to interpret these
blatant efforts as deception, a proof that he actually was not
real. But the CIA must have assumed that the Soviets were going
to think that the American efforts were too crude to be a deception
and, therefore, that Castro was real.
Suspicious Snafu at the Bay of Pigs
Four days after Yuri Gagarin went into outer space, just three
months after Kennedy's inauguration, on the morning of April
7, 1961, 1400 Cuban exiles sent by the United States were wading
toward disaster at a beach called Playa Girón, near a
bay south of the central part of the island-the Bay of Pigs.
The first news about the invasion that appeared in the Soviet
press reflected the general consensus that Fidel's revolution
was living its very last hours in the face of an American direct
invasion.39 But then, the Soviet leaders and the intelligence
analysts watched in disbelief as John F. Kennedy, with enough
military force at hand to destroy the world, did nothing as Fidel
Castro rounded up prisoners off the beach. A few days after Castro's
declared his victory, a small team of KGB's counterintelligence
officers were assigned to difficult task: to analize the whole
Bay of Pigs operation and "walking back the cat," a
counterintelligence term for taking a failed operation apart
piece by piece looking for mistakes, leaks or enemy penetrations.
Normally, the technique is applied to your own failed operations,
but it can also be applied to the analysis of an opponent's operation.
The findings by the KGB team were extremely disturbing.
While CIA officials were privately assuring the Eisenhower
and the Kennedy administrations that Cuba would become another
Guatemala, as early as March, 1960, Castro began warning publicly
that Cuba would not be a Guatemala.40 Castro's intelligence sources
inside the CIA must have been quite efficient, for it was in
March, 1960, that President Eisenhower approved the invasion
The original invasion plan, on which the Joints Chiefs of
Staff and the CIA had agreed, involved a one-shot confrontation
of Castro's already formidable armed forces with a vest-pocket-sized
force of Cuban exiles trained in regular WWII combat techniques
rather than in guerrilla operations and political subversion.
The plan amounted to asking the fifteen hundred patriots landed
at the Bay of Pigs to seize control of seven million fellow citizens
from over a hundred thousand relatively well-trained, well-armed
Castroite soldiers and militia.42
It was clear beforehand that, in the event that the invasion
failed, Castro's prestige and strength were going to be greatly
enhanced. Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles, who had heard
of the plan, expressed precisely those concerns to Secretary
of State Rusk.43 Yet, to the suspicious Russian eyes the evidence
pointed to the puzzling fact that the whole operation had been
planned to fail.
In the first place, the American government supplied the Cubans
with obsolete aircraft and decrepit ships allegedly chosen with
the idea that such equipment would not be identified with the
one used by American regular forces. That justification must
have seemed unconvincing to the Russians, because the Americans
would never be able to hide their participation in the invasion,
even if it was indirect.
Second, when President Kennedy approved the initial plan he
had promised that air cover to the invasion would be provided
by the American forces. Two U.S. carriers were to stand by, within
easy range, their decks loaded with armed fighter planes, to
secure the vital air cover for the invasion. Confident in this
assurance from the highest American levels of government that
air support would be provided, the invaders disembarked. Castro
hurriedly sent his tanks and infantry, and the invasion force
fought valiantly while waiting for the U.S. air support to arrive.
But that very Sunday evening, against the advice of his surprised
advisors, President Kennedy made the fateful decision to prohibit
the U.S. planes from providing the vital air cover. Without that
support, the invasion could only fail.44
Several authors have popularized the notion that the failure
of the invasion was not due to President Kennedy's order proscribing
U.S. air cover, but because of lack of Cuban popular support
to the invaders, a key assumption in the CIA's invasion plans.45
The invasion failed, they conclude, because the people stood
for Castro instead of turning to back the invaders as expected.
These authors seem to forget, however, that, because of the gross
error of alerting Castro two days in advance by way of an ill
planned and ineffective air attack on his planes, the Cuban dictator
was put on alert. After the air raid Castro moved quickly, sending
all potential enemies to jail and also avoiding any internal
upheaval. People usually support a winning invasion, not a failed
one, and just a few hours after the invasion began it was evident
that it had failed. As a matter of fact, in the first hours of
the invasion some peasants of the region, including a few of
Castro's militiamen, voluntarily joined the invading forces.
The invasion did not fail for lack of popular Cuban support;
it failed because Kennedy, the very commander and chief of the
operation, refused to support it.
Kremlim "Americanologists" followed with extreme
interest the heated controversy that started behind closed doors
in Washington.46 Intriguing details on why the Bay of Pigs invasion
had failed began to appear through the dust clouds of official
accusations, counteraccusations, admissions, denials and contradictions.
Controversy raged for several months over whether or not air
cover was originally planned and later withdrawn from the invasion.
Then, in the last months of 1961, the Russians obtained some
amazing information about the testimony given to a U.S. Senate
committee by Whiting Willauer three months after the failed invasion
On December 10, 1960, Willauer was recalled from his ambassadorial
post in Honduras and charged with planning an invasion of Cuba
in conjunction with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. According
to his plans, air cover, both for low-level and high-level support,
was to be provided by Cuban-flown B-26 bombers and by carrier-based
Willauer's job began before President Kennedy took office
in the White House. He held the title of Special Assistant to
Secretary of State Christian Herter. After Kennedy's inauguration,
Dean Rusk asked him to continue in this capacity. But, within
two weeks, he was "frozen out," his CIA contacts were
ordered to avoid him and he was completely ignored in the State
Department. For 30 days, his immediate superior, Chester Bowles,
refused to see him. He was never debriefed by a successor for
the useful information he could have passed on. After nearly
two months in "isolation," Willauer received, on April
16, 1961, the day before the Bay of Pigs invasion, a telephone
call dismissing him from the State Department.48
Though the story was largely ignored by the American press,
Soviet intelligence found the disturbing information they gathered
about the Bay of Pigs invasion extremely significant. Was the
whole event planned to fail? Were the invaders deliberately sent
onto the Cuban beaches to die? At the trial in Havana of 1,179
captives of the failed operation, some of them reportedly said
that false intelligence, presumably by the U.S., led them to
Plans for an underground uprising, coordinated with the invasion,
were so mismanaged as to indicate deliberate sabotage. To be
successful, even with air cover, such a small force had to be
supported by uprisings all over Cuba. Some of the reasons why
the uprisings never occurred were that the underground was never
alerted about the landing date and did not know whether the Bay
of Pigs operation was a real or a diversionary invasion. The
CIA's short wave broadcast station (Radio Swan) failed to broadcast
the prearranged signals to trigger the waiting underground into
action. Instead the station broadcasted a series of conflicting
and false reports of uprisings in Cuba.50
In 1960 Richard M. Bissell, Jr., a Deputy Director of the
CIA, was made responsible for the unification of the exiled anti-Castro
Cubans under a single leadership movement called the "Cuban
Revolutionary Council."51 Just before the invasion began,
the coordinators of the Cuban Revolutionary Council, based in
the U.S., and of nearly 100 underground anti-Castro organizations
in Cuba, together with the invasion leaders, were rounded up
by CIA agents and held incommunicado at a secluded spot on an
American military base in Florida. They were not alerted that
the invasion had started until it had already failed and were
in that way prevented from alerting their contacts in Cuba.52
The Bay of Pigs invasion presented the skeptical and suspicious
Soviet intelligence officers with an incredible collection of
mistakes-perhaps too many to be real. First of all, the operation
was one of the worst kept secrets in the recent military history
of the United States. The CIA plans were exposed in the press
more than a month before the actual invasion began. It started,
in fact, when Professor Ronald Hilton, editor of Stanford's authoritative
Hispanic American Report, called attention to the anti-Castro
bases in Guatemala. In due course the New York Times, Time magazine,
UPI and AP were leading the press barrage about the coming invasion.
The Soviet counterintelligence officers suspected that the CIA
had used Hilton's newspaper as a "mighty Wurlitzer"53
to blow the whistle about the invasion.
On April 15, 1961, rebel planes struck Havana and Santiago
de Cuba. The ineffective air strike two days before the invasion
had only the effect of alerting Castro about the coming invasion.54
As in a classical example of Murphy's Law in action, everything
that could possible go wrong went wrong on the Bay of Pigs. Calamity
followed calamity to turn the invasion into a real fiasco.
Among the most incredible blunders, the followings were paramount:
In an effort to avoid identifying the invasion force with the
U.S. the CIA armed the 1400 men with weapons requiring 30 different
types of ammunition. The invaders made the big mistake of placing
most of the ammunition and communication equipment in a single
ship, the Houston. By a strange coincidence the Houston was sunk
at the very beginning of the landing, and the vital communication
and ammunition cargo in it was lost.
An aerial photograph of the Bay of Pigs taken from a U-2 plane
at an altitude of more than 70,000 feet shows coral reefs clearly
visible off the beaches. The photograph and several ones, were
actually used for intelligence purposes in the invasion operation.
It is therefore difficult to explain how the photo analysts didn't
detect the dangerous reefs and alert the invaders.55 The invaders
discovered the coral reef when most of their landing crafts had
been destroyed by it. Soviet intelligence also knew that, early
in November 1960, just six months before the invasion, Castro
and Major Félix Duque had carefully inspected the Bay
of Pigs area. Was this another coincidence? 56
On June 11, 1961, a New York congressman and Chairman of the
Republican National Committee, charged that the Bay of Pigs invasion
had failed because Kennedy rescinded and revoked the Eisenhower
plan to have the invaders protected by American air power. Almost
two years later, in January, 1963, Robert Kennedy denied the
accusation in interviews with the Miami Herald and U.S. News
and World Report. According to Robert Kennedy, his brother never
withdrew U.S. air cover.57 Admiral Arleigh Burke, however, believed
that the invasion very nearly succeeded and probably would have
if the President had not cancelled the second air strike. The
invasion might have worked even without air support of any kind,
the admiral argued, if the first strike had not been scheduled
two days in advance of the landing, eliminating the element of
To the Soviet intelligence analysts it seemed little short
of amazing that Kennedy could ever have embarked upon the ill-fated
Bay of Pigs venture. It was poorly conceived, poorly planned,
poorly executed, and apparently undertaken without adequate knowledge-if
it was what it seemed to be. Soviet intelligence could not have
but remembered that in his book The Strategy for Peace, published
in 1960, Kennedy compared the Castro revolution to the American
revolution, saying also that Castro was part of the legacy of
Simón Bolívar. They also had information that Kennedy
had been in Cuba a number of times in 1957 and as late as January,
1958, when Fidel was fighting in the Sierra Maestra, to visit
his good friend and Palm Beach neighbor Earl T. Smith, U.S. Ambassador
in Havana.58 Were Kennedy's visits to Cuba in any way related
to Castro's revolutionary activities?
It is standar operating procedura among intelligence services,
to sacrifice some of their assets in order to provide a high
level penetration with succeses to boost his career. One of these
events, according to Angletonovich, was the Bay of Pigs invasion.
The Bay of Pigs adventure was not merely a military disaster;
it strengthened enormously Castro's iron grip over the island.
The U.S. had given Castro a legitimacy he could not have won
any other way. No other American act could have helped him any
more. In addition, the invasion struck a mortal blow to the anti-Castro
underground movement in Cuba. The invasion allowed Castro to
easily neutralize his most active opponents without raising any
criticism, because he seized the opportunity to appeal to the
Cubans' nationalistic sentiments. Since the image of the opposition
to Fidel has always been an American one, with Cubans in the
U.S. appearing to participate in a subordinate capacity, the
harsh treatment given to the anti-Castro underground appeared
to be justified by the circumstances. All opposition to the regime
had been identified in the Cuban mind as American-inspired and
counterrevolutionary, thus playing right into Fidel's hands.
The most important underground movement among the many destroyed
was the People's Revolutionary Movement, of whom Manuel Ray was
one of the key leaders. Later CIA intrigues, which had been always
intent on dividing the anti-Castro forces so as to control them,
completed the destruction of the PRM.59
One might agree that it was CIA's wishful thinking to believe
that a force of 1,400 men could seriously threaten a regime with
a military force of upwards of 400,000. But at least the invasion
would have had a better chance if the CIA had supported the underground
organization that had the most popular appeal among Cubans. The
CIA people, however, disliked Manuel Ray from the very beginning.
The most widely accepted explanation for this is that they thought
Ray was too tilted to the left, and so sabotaged his organization.
But this may not be the real explanation. Knowing first hand
that lying was an important part of their jobs, Soviet intelligence
always suspected CIA explanations of its motives.
In October 1959, Huber Matos, a Rebel Army major in charge
of Camagüey province, was accused of treason and condemned
to 20 years hard labor. The prosecution of Huber Matos stirred
strong opposition among several anti-Communist leaders in the
Rebel Army. Some months after Matos was sentenced, several anti-Communist
clandestine groups became active in the cities and in the countryside.
By mid 1961 the Escambray Mountains in the central part of Cuba
were teeming with anti-Castro rebels. For a while the Escambray
guerrillas were a virtual focus of anti-Castro resistance, but
they were desperately asking for military supplies.
But the CIA apparently had decided some months before the
Bay of Pigs invasion that the guerrillas were not useful to American
objectives. At the beginning of the operations the CIA supplied
them with 30.06 caliber ammunition, but with M-3's grease guns
which fired .45 caliber bullets. In other areas the CIA supplied
.45 caliber ammunition to accompany Browning Automatic Rifles
which shoot 30.06 caliber bullets. Finally, the CIA stopped sending
supplies and urged the rebel leaders to stop fighting and wait
for the invasion that was about to take place. In this way the
CIA paralyzed the ongoing guerrilla campaign and the spontaneous
opposition against Fidel's regime and brought about the guerrilla's
defeat.60 Why did American intelligence seem to be helping Castro?
Some Soviet counterintelligence analists had a good answer
for that question. If you are going to use an assest to manipulate
an enemy intelligence service with your lies, you have to convince
your opponent with your truths about the bona fides of your asset.
Castro's victory at the Bay of Pigs proved, beyond a reasonable
doubt, that his anti-American feelings were real.
Castro's Strange Connections.
As soon as Castro took power in Cuba, a special KGB section
began collecting information about him and putting it together,
bit by bit, in his Comprehensive Personality Profile. And what
our hypothetical Russian Angleton found in Castro's CPP was not
reassuring. Among other things, the Russians' antihomosexual
biases had been awakened, and they began having serious suspicions
about Fidel's strange relationship with homosexuals. Was Castro
a homosexual himself?
Soviet intelligence knew about Fidel's special appeal to homosexuals.
During his early days as a law student in the University of Havana
a group of known homosexuals made up some of his closest friends.
The most prominent of these friends, and the one closest to Fidel,
was Alfredo Guevara (no relation to Ché Guevara). He traveled
with Fidel to Colombia in 1948, was with him during the Bogotazo,
and was now holding an important position in Castro's government.
Raúl Castro, the only one of his brothers that Fidel
seemed to get along with, was rumored to be a homosexual. Some
of his ex-classmates affirm that Raúl had been expelled
from Belén High School, allegedly for engaging in homosexual
acts. Among the attackers of the Moncada barracks and later in
the guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra homosexuals were Fidel's
most close associates. None of them-Celia Sánchez, Armando
Hart, Melba Hernández or José Martínez Páez-came
from the "exploited masses," but were members of a
small elite segment of Cuban society; pro-American, well educated
and affluent. None of them-perhaps with the exception of Alfredo
Guevara-were known for their Communist faith or had been members
of the Cuban communist party. When Fidel began to emerge as a
political leader they were attracted to Fidel's personal magnetism
and drifted to his side. Almost overnight they became fanatical
radicals of Fidelismo and active leaders in the revolution. Their
very intellectual background and their easy life acted, paradoxically,
as fertile soil for the seeds of radicalism to germinate.61
In 1960, two young mathematicians working for the National
Security Agency, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell defected
to the USSR. They were soon discovered to be homosexuals. The
fact lead indirectly to the resignation of the NSA's Personnel
Director, and the firing of twenty-six other employees for sexual
deviation.62 Was it just by chance, reasoned the Soviet intelligence
analysts, that Fidel's access to power coincided with the existence
of this group of homosexuals in the U.S. State Department and
in American intelligence?
Though there was no direct evidence that Fidel were a homosexual,
some of his actions seemed a little odd, such as his close friendshipt
with Alfredo Guevara, a known homosexual, or his efforts to impose
in the 26th of July Movement strict sexual discipline. When Fidel's
group was in Mexico preparing for the invasion, heterosexual
abstinence was enforced, sometimes with angry protests from some
As Nikita Khrushchev later admitted, at the time Fidel Castro
took power in Cuba the Soviet Union had little contact with the
island and very limited knowledge about what was happening there.
The information they had gathered about Castro, mostly through
members of the old Cuban communist party, was fragmentary and
The Soviet Premier met Castro for the first time in New York
in September, 1960, when both leaders were visiting the United
Nations. Khrushchev invited Fidel to a dinner at the Soviet U.N.
mission in New York. Castro, as usual, was a half hour late and
kept Khrushchev waiting.64 We don't know what Khrushchev's first
impression was about Fidel, but is probable that it was not too
different from the one Fidel made on other world leaders. After
meeting Fidel for the first time Richard Nixon said that Castro
had a compelling, intense glance, with sparkling black eyes,
and that he radiated vitality. "He was intelligent, shrewd,
at times eloquent." 65 Also, George McGovern affirmed that,
"In private conversation, at least in a diplomatic setting,
because in his intimate circle he is known by his temper tantrums
and bad temper, he is soft-spoken, shy, sensitive, sometimes
witty, sometimes slightly ill at ease." 66
But not everybody, particularly the people who knew him better,
had fallen under Castro's spell. Dr. Manuel Antonio de Varona,
a Cuban politician, told about Fidel's "ambition, unscrupulousness,
opportunism, lack of principle and known amorality." 67
"I can affirm that Fidel Castro had the mentality of a gangster,"
said his onetime good friend Luis Conte Agüero. 68
Fidelo-Communism or Fidelo-Fascism?
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on August 13, 1926, in
Birán, a small village founded by the United Fruit Company
near Mayarí, close to Nipe Bay, on the north coast of
the province of Oriente. He spent his first years at the Manacas
Estate, owned by his father, in Birán.
When Fidel reached school age his parents sent him to Santiago
de Cuba, the capital of Oriente province, to study at the La
Salle School, operated by the Christian Brothers. Later he was
transferred to the Dolores School, operated by the Jesuits. In
1942, after finishing grade school, he was sent to Belén
High School in Havana, also operated by the Jesuits.69
At Belén Fidel stood out as an athlete, an indefatigable
speaker and a good student -perhaps not too brilliant, but with
a photographic memory. Some of his ex-classmates affirm that
at Belén Fidel fell under the influence of Father Alberto
de Castro (no relation to Fidel), a Jesuit that was a supporter
of Francisco Franco's Falange and harbored strong anti-American
At Belén High School Father de Castro had founded an
elitist secret society named Convivio, through which he attracted
young students with leadership qualities. Fidel Castro soon became
one of Convivio's more active members. In 1943 Father de Castro
and his disciples of Convivio signed a pact in which they swore
to fight for a united Hispanic America, large, united, and opposed
to the treacherous Anglo-Saxons' control over the New World.70
Fidel graduated from Belén in 1945. The school year
book of that year said of Fidel Castro: "...we do not doubt
he will fill the book of his life with brilliant pages. He has
good timber and the actor in him will not be missing." Jesuit
father Armando Llorente, who had been Fidel's Spanish language
and public speaking teacher, as well as his spiritual adviser,
is reputed to have repeated to many: "Fidel Castro is a
man of destiny. Behind him is the hand of God. He has a mission
to fulfill and he will fulfill it against all obstacles."
Dr. José Ignacio Rasco, Fidel's schoolmate at Belén,
recalls that on one occasion, during an academic discussion,
Fidel defended, as a thesis, the necessity of a good dictator
in lieu of democracy. Fidel believed that, in the specific instance
of Cuba, problems would remain unresolved unless a strong hand
took hold of the island, since democracy had proved incapable
of solving the problems.72 The Cuban communists, and later the
Russians, must have known about Fidel's ideas regarding class
struggle. He considered that, instead of an organized proletarian
struggle, leadership could provide the catalyst that would mobilize
the masses behind the revolution.73
Fidel's axiom "leadership is basic," repeated several
times in his articles, letters and speeches, appeared to the
Soviet analysts more closely related to the Nazi führerprinzip
than to any known Marxist principle. 74 Moreover, Fidel's hatred
for capitalism was no evidence that he was either a leftist nor
a Marxist, because Fascists were also known to attack capitalism
and foreign imperialism.75
Fidel's last words in his own defense at the Moncada trial,
"Condemn me, never mind, History will absolve me,"
didn't pass unnoticed to the intelligence analysts in Moscow.
They were too similar to Hitler's final words in his own defense
at the trial for the frustrated 1923 putsch.76 The Soviets also
noticed that the first Cuban militia units, formed at Havana's
University, wore dark shirts resembling those of the Nazis. There
were also some mass rallies at Havana University where torches
were burnt and people chanted rhythmically "Fi-del!, Fi-del!
Fi-del!," resembling too close for Russian comfort the Nazi
"Zieg-Heil!, Zieg-Heil!, Zieg-Heil!." 77
Mario Llerena, a prominent member of the M-26-7, claims that
many people have seen in Fidel the characteristics of a Fascist
dictator, and affirms that he often heard it said that one of
Fidel's favorite books was Mein Kampf.78 Hitler was called "the
Führer" (the chief) by his close followers. Among his
intimate circle Fidel is called "el jefe" (the chief).79
In addition, as Hitler used to defile his enemies calling them
vermin, so Castro describes his enemies as "gusanos,"
It was fashionable in Cuba, particularly during the prewar
and war years, to play with the totalitarian theories espoused
by the then powerful members of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. It
was only after WWII, when Fidel Castro was a student at the University
of Havana, that the ideas of Communism began gaining popularity
Apparently Fidel evidenced from his early days a strong totalitarian
bent. In April, 1948, Fidel took a trip to Colombia together
with his friend Rafael del Pino. Once in Colombia Fidel lectured
at the university in Bogotá on the techniques of the coup
d'ètat.81 Knowing Fidel's mind it is easy to conclude
that it was just a matter of political pragmatics as to which
of the two ideologies, Fascism or Communism, would best serve
his purposes. 82 Dr. Raúl Chibás, a long time political
associate of Castro, said that he believes Fidel was just "utilizing
Communism as the most appropriate system for reaching the objectives
of one-man government." Totalitarian Communism, Chibás
believes, was useful for establishing Fidel's one-man rule in
Cuba. "Twenty-five years ago it could have been Nazism or
Castro's revolutionary strategy resembled in fact more Fascism
than Marxism, and from the very beginning the Cuban Communists
noticed the similarities. After Castro attacked the Moncada garrisons
in 1953 they criticized the action and labeled its participants
as "putschists" and "petty bourgeois," terms
that in Communist parlance mean Fascist.84 Moreover, the revolutionary
movement led by Fidel was never defined by the Cuban Communists
as Marxist or Marxist-Leninist, but "petty bourgeois"
and "nationalist," a characterization that all Marxists
have used to represent Fascism throughout the interwar years.85
The similarities between Nazism and Castroism didn't pass
unnoticed to the Russian intelligence analysts in Moscow-as they
didn't pass unnoticed to the Trostkysts. As early as April, 1961,
The Militant published an article by Trent Hatter titled "Danger
Signals in Cuba," in which the author pointed out the similarities
between Hitler and Castro.86 Despite Fidel's later rhetorical
attempts to make the rebellion seem a poor man's revolt, it was
in fact largely a petty bourgeois phenomenon, opposed by most
of Cuban blacks, who filled Batista's army, and apathetically
watched by the great bulk of urban poor and rural masses.
In December 2, 1961, Fidel Castro delivered a televised speech
in which he declared to his amazed audience that he had always
been a Marxist-Leninist by heart and would remain so until the
last day of his life.87 Castro's non-Communist affiliation had
been so widely taken for granted internationally, particularly
in the U.S., that his speech caused a commotion. It was also
received with extreme suspicion by the Soviet intelligence analysts.
Evidently, Fidel Castro was trying to create for himself, a posteriori,
what in intelligence parlance is known as a "legend."88
There is evidence that Castro chose a Marxist path, not because
he had drawn its support from embittered peasants and workers-middle
class disgust was, in fact, Batista's worst problem-, but because
it was the only path Fidel knew would allow him to forever exercise
the unlimited power he had suddenly achieved. Fide's history
shows that he was temperamentally more akin to Fascism than to
Communism. But Fascism, after the defeat of Nazi Germany, was
not fashionable any more.89 As Professor Paul Seabury observed,
"Under different circumstances of international conflict
a movement as Castro's in Cuba might well have simply been an
anti-American Fascist one. Castro's philosophy of revolutionary
activism bears closer resemblance to Mussolini's than to Lenin's."
The decision to declare his revolution Marxist was Fidel's
personal choice. No one could have made it at the time. He had
all the power, and there was no restriction on how he used it.
Faced with the multiple uncertainties of responsibility, and
fearing the loss of the power he had obtained, he grabbed the
only path which seemed likely to preserve his leadership forever
and also deal with the difficulties.
The Soviet intelligence analysts knew that neither "Yankee
imperialism" nor economic conditions were responsible for
Fidel's alleged turn to Communism. Adding still further to the
mystery and complexity of the enigma was the fact that the Cuban
communist party never really opposed Batista. On the contrary,
they opposed all of the anti-Batista movements, including that
of Fidel Castro.91 How could Cuba become a Communist state when
the Communists opposed the revolution that produced that state?
If Fidel was a Communist, why had the Communist party initially
made such a contemptuous estimate of his military operations?
If he represented interests which were hostile to the United
States, why did a responsible journalist from the New York Times
describe him as sympathetic to the Americans? If he was a Communist,
why did a CIA officer, testifying before a congressional subcommittee,
declare that the available evidence did not warrant such a conclusion?
Castro was frantically trying to sell himself to the Soviets
under an image of anti-Americanism, but the facts pointed to
the contrary. The available evidence indicated that, contrary
to conventional wisdom, Fidel, like most anti-Castro Cubans in
Miami, was an admirer of the American Way of Life. His favorite
sports were basketball and baseball. He only watched American
cowboy films, and most of the women with whom he had been involved
were of the same profile: upper-class, Americanized, English-speaking,
most of them blondes.93 Moreover, when he was just 12 Castro
wrote a revealing letter to President Roosevelt asking for money
and offering the Americans his cooperation in locating Cuba's
mineral resources they needed for shipbuilding.94
The Soviet intelligence analysts were extremely concerned
with the turn of events in Cuba. And their concern was genuine,
because it was difficult to say that Castro had been forced to
trade with the Soviet Union. Perhaps the United States was not
supporting the revolution as it might have, but it is questionable
whether Fidel explored all the possible avenues of support. For
example, why didn't he ever try to negotiate a trade agreement
with Canada, Great Britain, or West Germany? The fact remains
that Cuba and the Soviet Union signed their first trade agreement
on February 13, 1960. Castro consciously chose the support of
the Soviet Union, a support he had been pushing for a long ago.
Apparently Fidel was delivering to the Russians what they had
never dreamed they of having.
A parade of Communist leaders all over the Americas had been
preaching Communism thirty years, and not one of them had been
ever able to attain power. Now Fidel, not a Communist himself,
was gratuitously presenting the Russians with a power base ninety
miles from the Unites States. The Russians had ample reasons
for being suspicious. Why was Fidel delivering Cuba over to Communism?
How could Fidel become a Communist when the Communists themselves
opposed the revolution that brought him to power?
One may safely guess that our hypothetical Russian Angleton
was at least as distrustful as his American counterpart. Like
many counterintelligence officials, he believed that the motto
of his profession was Virgil's words: "Timeo Danaos et dona
ferentes" (I fear the Greeks when they bring presents.)
We may safely surmise that he must have warned the Soviet leaders
about never accepting gifts from the Greeks-particularly when
the gift was a Horse!
Marxism-Leninism, the ideology of the Soviet Union, doesn't
officially subscribe to what is called the conspiracy theory
of history, but what we know about Soviet behavior strongly suggests
that, at the more pragmatic level of intelligence work, the Soviet
intelligence services (like all intelligence services around
the world-out of déformation professionnel) are always
trying to discover occult relations and covert identities, and,
now and then, they hit the jackpot.95 Indeed, intelligence officers
all around the world have enough reasons to believe in conspiracies:
their job is precisely conspiring to manipulate society towards
It is important to keep in mind that, according to Soviet
official ideology, all politically relevant events were explainable
by the laws of Marxism-Leninism. The Soviets, therefore, rejected
the idea that history could be shaped by accidental events or
by chance. Consistently with this general belief was the Soviet's
tendency, often noted by Western scholars, to perceive hidden
connections between events where we see none; to regard unrelated
details as symptomatic of major political trends; and to believe
there is complicated planning behind events which we suppose
to be fortuitous.96
To make things even more complex, it seems that some intelligence
officers in the West share a similar, paranoid view of the world.
Howard Hunt's novel The Berlin Ending, reflects the belief, apparently
widespread in the Western intelligence community, that Willy
Brandt was a Soviet-controlled agent. Some American intelligence
officers have been accusing Henry Kissinger for years of being
a Soviet mole, and some others believe that Harold Holt, Australia's
Prime Minister who disappeared under strange circumstances in
December 17, 1967, was a Chinese mole. Also, rumors persist that
Stalin began his political career as a mole planted by the Okhrana,
the Czarist secret police, in the ranks of the Bolsheviks.97
Soviet intelligence had an almost irrational fear of penetrations
by enemy agents, and they had their own valid reasons for justifying
that behavior: they themselves have successfully penetrated the
higher levels of other intelligence services. It is now widely
accepted by the Western intelligence community, that Sir Roger
Hollis, head of Britain's MI 5 from 1956 to 1973, was a Soviet
mole.98 On the other hand, accepting that they had been penetrated
would had been a severe blow to the prestige of Soviet intelligence.
It would had been taken as an affront to the Soviet Union itself.
And Soviet intelligence, like all intelligence services, had
a penchant for concealing its own screw-ups.
Castro's Deep Game. 99
By the end of 1961 a great concern about Fidel and the Cubans
had been raised in Moscow, not only among the intelligence analysts,
but among the Soviet leaders as well. First of all, Cuba under
Castro had become a real economic embarrassment to the Soviets,
who had made a great mistake in trying to undertake the development
of a country whose tastes, needs, and economy had been modeled
on American patterns. Cuba, which was intended to be a showcase
of the Soviet model of development in America, was in fact quickly
turning into a showcase of Soviet inefficiency, mainly due to
the Cuban leader's inability to make good use of Soviet aid.
Furthermore, Cuba was an ideological source of distress due to
the propagation of Fidel's "heretical" ideas and his
immature propensity to preach to the Soviets about how to conduct
things in their own backyard. Fidel's behavior was creating a
new focus of dissent in a field already engaged in internal quarrels.
In addition, his front line position on the Latin American anti-imperialist
struggle put a question-mark on the Russian thesis of peaceful
coexistence, and played right into Mao's hands.
Therefore, notwithstanding Castro's continued and persistent
pounding at the Russian gates, the Soviet leadership had some
serious doubts as to where it might lead in the future. Though
his defiance of the United States was according to their interests,
the alliance with Castro presented certain problems. Was he real
or was he the main element of a game of strategic provocation
staged by the CIA? Also, accepting that he was real, were the
Soviets able to contain Castro's ambitions? How far would he
embroil the USSR in Latin America and at what cost? Opposition
to Castro was already strong among the Latin American communist
parties; they were reluctant to endanger their precarious status
by taking up arms. Furthermore, to adopt Castro's tactics would
had been an abrupt shift to "putschist" and "adventurist"
policies, denounced by both Lenin and Krushchev.100
As early as mid-1959, the old-guard Cuban communists and the
Kremlin leader were rightfully worried about Castro's radical
theories and concerned with the secret training of revolutionaries
in Cuba for military adventures against Cuba's neighbors.101
Yet, having mistakenly come to Castro's rescue-if only for the
initial bait of exploiting the political propaganda opportunities
offered by the US-Cuban dispute-Khrushchev found itself with
an unsolicited client on his hands which he cannot disavow, at
least overtly, without great embarrassment and loss of prestige.102
Khrushchev had been caught on the horns of a dilemma: abandoning
Cuba would mean jeopardizing Soviet pretensions of leadership
of the Communist camp; but allowing Cuba to exist would probably
have the same result, because Castro had his own aspirations
for control over the international communist movement.
Fidel's guerrilla activities was also a big concern of the
Soviet intelligence. On the one hand, even if Fidel was real,
the Soviet Union could simply never afford to have a bunch of
Castros in Latin America. A Fidel-style takeover of Bolivia,
Guatemala or the Dominican Republic would suck up Russia's resources
like quicksand, and the resulting fiasco could only hurt the
Soviet's and Khrushchev's prestige. The Soviet Premier was not
interested at all in Pyrrhic victories. On the other hand, there
was the possibility that Fidel was not what he purported to be.
If this were the case Castro was acting as an agent provocateur,
pushing the Soviet Union into unwanted, risky adventures.
Khrushchev's Deep Game
The sequel to the Soviet commitment in Cuba had been a calamitous
failure. In such circumstances the sensible course for Khrushchev
was to cut his losses and get out of the game, particularly considering
that the Soviet lines of supply to Cuba were long and extremely
vulnerable. But to leave Cuba voluntarily would have been tantamount
to an admission of failure and would had involved substantial
loss of face. If, however, Castro could be eliminated as a result
of American "aggression," then Khrushchev and the USSR
could retreat from Cuba, their honor relatively untarnished.
After an American invasion of the island the failure of Communism
in Cuba could be blamed not on deficiencies in Soviet-style communist
management of Cuban affairs, but to "Yankee Imperialism."103
As seen from the Kremlin, Castro was unpredictable, volatile,
undisciplined, and often nonsensical. His wholesale executions,
mass arrests, and terrorist adventures against his Latin American
neighbors, together with the sight of hundreds of thousands of
Cubans attempting to flee his rule, raised the very Stalinist
specter Khrushchev was trying to dispel. Moreover, Castro was
making a shambles of the Cuban economy and neglected to pay attention
to "suggestions" coming from Moscow. Thus, even though
Khrushchev never fully agreed with the theory that Castro was
an American mole, the Soviet Premier decided to follow the KGB's
advice to overthrow Castro and replace him with an old-time Communist,
obedient to the Soviet Union.104 Now Khrushchev faced the dilemma
of getting rid of Fidel by force, but, given the Soviet role
vis á vis the Third World and the Chinese, he couldn't
resort to direct action or threaten him with force. It was less
easy, however, to resist the temptation to proceed to overthrow
him by indirect means, with the help of the KGB's section of
The first Soviet plan to overthrow Fidel Castro was handed
over to the Soviet Ambassador in Havana, Sergei Mikhailovich
Kudryavtsev, an experienced KGB officer who had been expelled
from Canada accused of heading a Soviet spy ring.105 Since his
arrival in Havana in 1960, Kudryavtsev had been a conspicuous
figure in Cuban politics. Unlike many Soviet envoys, he never
bothered to conceal his power or to limit himself to behind-the-scenes
activities. Khrushchev's plan consisted in eliminating Castro
and replacing him with Aníbal Escalante, a trusted member
of the pro-Soviet Cuban communist party.
There is evidence that Castro discovered the plot from its
very beginning, early in 1962, but he let it go on for a while,
playing a cat and mouse game with the Russians. Finally, at the
end of May, he decided to move swiftly and detained the plotters
and neutralized Kudryavtsev and his KGB operatives. In May, 30,
1960, Ambassador Kudryavtsev left Havana for good. Some time
later Castro confessed that he "had expelled Kudryavtsev"
for having engaged in "open and excessive political activities."106
When Nikita Khrushchev received the news of the failed coup
he was furious. He now tried to find a way to, once and for all,
get rid of his Cuban "Communist." But, if Fidel was
in his hands, he was no less in the hands of Fidel. After the
purging of Escalante and several of the "old line"
Cuban communists, some members of the Cuban communist party,
out of fear, were following Fidel's line and had become an instrument
of his policies rather than Moscow's. In addition, Castro not
only had expelled the Soviet Ambassador, but also had actually
handpicked the new Soviet Ambassador: Alexandr Alexeev.107
This state of affairs highly irritated Khrushchev. Still,
the Soviet Premier could not afford to openly destabilize the
Castro government. The cost in terms of Soviet international
prestige-vis á vis Peking, Washington and the Third World-would
have been intolerable. Any direct Russian action against Cuba
would have led to serious political and ideological consequences
for the Soviet Union.
Therefore, after the Kudryavtsev-Escalante frustrated coup
d'état, Khrushchev conceived another plan.
This plan was simple: it consisted of provoking President
Kennedy to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro. After Kennedy had
invaded Cuba he would find himself empty handed because he would
have no Soviet nuclear missiles to show to the American public.
This would make Kennedy the laughing stock of the world and place
the U.S. in a very embarrassing and difficult position before
the world and its own conscience, as the big, powerful nation
that unjustifiably attacks a very small, innocent one. Thus,
President Kennedy would unknowingly have helped Khrushchev in
the dirty work of getting rid of Castro. With an American invasion
of Cuba Khrushchev would have solved his Fidelista problem and
made good use of the U.S. loss of face. He would, in the end,
have inherited Fidelismo, but without the troublesome Fidel.
According to Khrushchev's own version, it was during his visit
to Bulgaria on May 14-20, 1962, that he conceived the idea of
installing strategic missiles in Cuba-that is, just after he
received the news of Kudryavtsev's failure. Khrushchev was aware
that a large part of the American public and a number of political
leaders were calling for an invasion of Cuba. The American leaders
were hysterical about Castro at the time of the Bay of Pigs and
thereafter. The Kennedys had their Irish up, and were determined
to get even with Castro at any cost.
In his memoirs Khrushchev claims that his main concern in
sending missiles to Cuba was Castro's fear of an American invasion.
But it is very difficult to believe, however, that Khrushchev
planned to install missiles in Cuba to protect Castro after he
had tried to overthrow the Cuban leader just a few days earlier.108
Even if that were not the case, simple logic dictates that no
great power is going to give missiles to any newcomer who just
asks for them. The USSR installed missiles where it wanted, and
nowhere else. When Mao asked for missiles the Soviets turned
him down flat.
Neither before 1962, nor after, did the Soviets deploy nuclear
warheads beyond their borders. It was not until recently, only
after they had developed reliable devices to control its arming,
that the Soviets allowed a limited number of nuclear warheads
to cross their borders, and always under strict KGB control.
Why, then, would the Soviets would missiles so close to the trigger-happy
Castro? Khrushchev rightly believed he could exploit Fidel's
megalomania. Castro would surely accept his offer because the
Cuban leader harbored secret intentions. The Cuban leader believed
that, once in Cuba, it would be easy for him to capture the nuclear
missiles and use them for his own purposes.109
At that moment Khrushchev had practically unlimited powers
and the authority to use them as he saw fit, not only at home,
but also in foreign affairs. So he ordered that missiles be sent
to Cuba, but without the nuclear warheads-which he never sent,
and never intended to send to the island.110 Moreover, there
is the possibility that the missiles, like the ones Khrushchev
was displaying in Moscow's parades, were a ruse de guerre; nothing
but empty dummies.111
To maximize the effectiveness of the missiles as a provocation,
Khrushchev used every possible means to make the Americans believe
that, after the installation and further training of Cuban personnel,
the missiles would be under Castro's control. This is clearly
implied in the Soviets' first statement of the crisis on October
23 in which they affirmed that Cuba alone had the right to decide
what kind of weapons were appropriate for its defense.
The plan to set up the missiles was carried out in such a
way that they would inevitably be discovered by the Americans.
If one assumes that the antiaircraft SAM's were intended to protect
the installations of the strategic missiles, then they should
have been installed and ready to shoot the U.S. planes before
the strategic missiles arrived. Actually the SAM's and other
associated antiaircraft nets only became operational when the
construction of the strategic missile sites was well along, and
the Soviets employed almost no camouflage at all to hide either
set of weapons. In any case, since the SAM's could not shoot
down planes flying below 10,000 feet, these antiaircraft missiles
would not have been useful in the event of an American invasion.
One of the most commonly accepted myths of the Cuban missile
crisis is that Kennedy's success was mainly because of the information
about the missiles in Cuba provided by Col. Oleg Penkovsky, a
GRU officer recruited by the CIA.
Penkovsky was originally recruited by the MI-5, Britain's
counterinterespionage service, who eventually passed him to the
CIA. He provided his controllers with over 5000 photographs of
secret documents; economic information; and scientific and technical
data on top secret Soviet weapons systems. According to Sir Maurice
Oldfield, head of the MI-5, Penkovsky was "The answer to
a prayer. What he provided seemed like a miracle, too. That is
why for aso long he was mistrusted on both sides of the Atlantic."
Sir Oldfield, however, apparently forgot the golden rule of
intelligence and espionage work: if it seems too good to be true,
it is too good to be true. In retrospect it seems clear that
Penkovsky was just another key element in Khrushchev's own game
of deception. The Soviet Premier wanted the Americans to know
exactly what type of missiles were supposedly placed in Cuba,
their presumed range, and the danger they apparently posed. Penkovsky
gave them all the "information" they needed.112
But Khrushchev's carefully conceived plans had not counted
on the unexpected and apparently irrational behavior of President
Kennedy. All reports received in Washington about the strange
developments in Cuba seemingly aroused less suspicions than Khrushchev
thought they should provoke. Even the CIA, which is often denounced
as unnecessarily alarmist, seemed, in this case, rather unimpressed.
Finally, Soviet developments in Cuba were so blatant and political
pressure in the U.S. so strong, that Kennedy was forced to act.
But, when he announced the blockade of the island, he unexpectedly
stated that the American actions were not directed against Cuba,
but against the Soviet Union. Kennedy's behavior was so surprising
that Khrushchev was caught completely off balance and panicked
before the possibility of a nuclear confrontation which he had
not anticipated and was not prepared for.113
Khrushchev's sixth sense, which had always told him just how
far he could safely go, was now telling him that his Cuban gambit
must end. When he realized that he had deceived himself about
Kennedy's response, he retreated and called it a day. Fortunately
for the world, Khrushchev was enough of a political realist to
recognize when a gamble had been lost, and knew how to employ
all of his demagogic arts in patching up the failure. Nikita
Khrushchev never undestood why Kennedy had acted in such an irrational
and foolish way, by not attacking Cuba and, thereby, allowing
Castro to stay in power.
But the hypothetical Soviet Angleton suspected that the American
President was no fool, but rather a clever, tough politician
who knew a lot more than he claimed to know. In addition, Kennedy's
actions during the Cuban missile crisis deepened our Soviet Angleton's
worst fears about Castro even more.
The Cuban missile crisis was a further irritant to Khrushchev's
already risky political situation. Though the state of the Soviet
economy was the main factor in his demotion in October, 1964,
undoubtedly his Cuban misadventure contributed to his fall. A
few days after Khruschev's departure from the scene, our hypothetical
Russian Angleton followed in his steps.
Angleton's Deep Game.
In October, 1983, Harper's magazine published an intriguing
article written by Ron Rosenbaum, titled "The Shadow of
the Mole." In his article Rosenbaum-who is not only a masters
of this subject, but also shows he has access to inside sources
of information-tells about the curious relationship developed
between James Angleton and Kim Philby-the British intelligence
officer who turned out to be a Soviet mole.
The most widely publicized story is that Philby, who trained
Angleton in the double-cross system, somehow managed to outwit
his former student. Some reason that Angleton's later efforts
to find a mole inside the CIA were probably just an embittered
reaction to his failure in detecting Philby. But the counterintelligence
techniques used by Angleton in his fruitless search for the Soviet
mole bordered on paranoia. He created an internal climate of
suspicion that paralyzed the CIA. People believed that Angletonian
thinking was "too convoluted" -'sick thinking' they
called it-and at that point Angleton was fired.
But Rosenbaum introduces a new, unexpected angle in his article.
He believes that "James Angleton's thought was not convoluted
enough." 114 According to Rosenbaum, Philby planted in Angleton's
mind the idea of the existence of a high level Soviet penetration
in the CIA. But this was a false idea-a notional 115 mole. This
is what Rosenbaum calls the double-double cross system. But wait.
There is subtle evidence that Angleton, in fact, detected Philby's
treachery. Moreover, according to Rosenbaum, it is also possible
that Angleton, using the double-cross techniques he had learned
from Philby, had turned the Soviet mole into an American mole.
This is what we may properly call the double-double-double cross
One of Angletonovich's gospels was his fight against what
he considered a serious misconception, commonly found among junior
and some senior Soviet intelligence officers. He, for one, never
believed the abundant stories about how bungling and inept the
CIA was. As in the case of most intelligence services, including
the Soviet ones, all you ever hear about are their occasional
failures. You never hear about the successes, and you never will.
And, for the CIA, success is the rule, not the exception.
Though, like his American counterpart, our hypothetical Russian
Angleton was also eventually fired and accused of being a functional
paranoid, later events seem to confirm his worst suspicions about
Fidel Castro. It was Castro who pushed the Soviet Union into
an African quagmire. It was Castro who tried to push the Soviets
into supporting never-ending guerrilla wars in Central America-an
effort they strongly resisted. As a matter of fact, one way or
another, for many years, Dr. Fidel Castro has been providing
the American military-industrial complex116 with the medicine
it badly needs: enemies.
In the summer of 1975 Castro moved Cuban troops to Angola
with a swiftness that stunned the Soviet intelligence analysts.
It was simply incredible, reasoned the Soviets, that American
intelligence had failed to detect Castro's bold move. Once in
Angola, the Cuban troops were paid in dollars for protecting
Gulf Oil refineries in Cabinda from the attack of "saboteurs".
In 1970 the Soviets tried to overthrow Agostino Neto, but the
Cuban troops openly participated in crushing the attempt.
A significant detail, not missed by our Russian Angleton,
is that during the time Castro kept a puppet regime in control
in Grenada, the American government paid no attention to his
apparently provocative activities. But just a few days after
the Soviets had overthrown Bishop to replace him with a pro-Soviet
man, President Reagan rushed in to order an American invasion
of the island.
And yet, apparently the Americans had won the match. There
were unmistakable signs that some senior KGB officers had fallen
under Castro's spell and were accepting Castro's subversive ideas.117
Trying to find at least circumstantial evidence to prove his
case, our KGB's Angleton may have analyzed the problem from a
very different perspective. The best approach may have been what
in counterintelligence parlance is known as "walking back
the cat;" taking a failed operation apart, piece by piece,
looking for mistakes, leaks, or enemy penetrations.
One way to do that is by carefully seen the case from the
Soviet intelligence point of view. If some opposing intelligence
service were running Castro they would have boosted his career
with an occasional success among a long list of failures. Working
on that assumption he may have combed Castro's thick personal
dossier looking for that particular pattern. If he had done that
he may have been amazed with his finding: the pattern was there
for everyone to see.
Looking in detail at Castro's photographs in his KGB's dossier
Angletonovich found one, a close-up, taken some time ago. Castro's
face, it seemed to Angletonovich, was a mask without depth; the
mouth expresionless, the eyes clouded and opaque. There was certainly
intelligence, particularly in the high forehead and the humorous
lines of the mouth. Strengh, also, in the rough-cut solidity
of the features. Intolerance, too, perhaps, in the way each feature
seemed a little out of balance with the rest: the classical Greek
nose too prominent, the chin too jutting, the eyes too deeply
set. Above all, there was this quality the Romans had called
gravitas, a sense of weight and purpose. Whateter Castro had
done or been, he had chosen it deliberately, after careful consideration
of the alternatives and the consequences.
A line from Shakespeare intruded suddenly on Angletonovich's
thoughts: "There's no art to find the mind's construction
in the face." And that was true, particularly to counterintelligence
officers. Faces are all masks, conveying here and there a hint
of the character behind them, but leaving the real man hidden.
Actions alone, not words, reveal the man. But in the case of
Fidel Castro, the actions were hidden behind a barrier od words.
So he must work with what he had-words, pictures, impressions,
fragments of behavior and bits of history-attempting to reconstruct
the image of the man.
Angletonovich focused again his mind on Castro's personal
dossier. It was very thick. The KGB had been collecting information
on Castro for just a few years, but the amount of information
was outstanding. Angletonovich read it all, making notes on a
scratch pad, and paying special attention to the handwritten
comments, many of them faded and barely legible, scrawled in
the margins of some of the entries. He was adept at reading files,
skipping the irrelevants details, mentaly processing the fcts.
It was the accumulation of details like these, he knew, that
would enable him, eventually, to create an in-depth portrait
of Castro. Nevertheless, when he looked over his notes after
several days of patient reading, he found they added little to
the impression he gained fom the photographs.
Like most, if not all, counterintelligence officers, Angletonovich
was a man of boundless cynicism concerning human beings and their
real motives. He believed nothing unless it showed evidence of
venality, and Fidel Castro was too pure and good to be true.
Castro was actually bidding for power, and he had chosen a policy
which had the appeal of patriotism for the Cubans and pro-Soviet
feelings for the Russians. That knowledge didn't satisfy Angletonovich,
because it left the man's true motivation in doubt.
Lust for power alone was not sufficient explanation for Castro's
behavior. Obviously he wanted to become undisputed leader of
the Cuba-that was the obvious explanation-, but to Angletonovich's
convoluted thinking that was too obvious. Again, it was too good
to be true. He rejected it and told his people in the Second
Directorate to dig deeper and go back further in searching Castro's
early days. There had to be something discreditable in the man's
The balance of more than thirty years of Soviet-Cuban relations
was, on the long term, highly negative for the Soviet Union.
All Castro's theories about anti-American liberation wars erupting
all around the world proved to be wrong-that is, provided we
accept the view that Castro is the person he claims to be. In
the eyes of our now retired hypothetical Russian Angleton, Castro's
efforts were further evidence of an extraordinary exercise in
strategic deception concocted by the CIA's counterintelligence
section, that is, by James Jesus Angleton himself. Moreover,
our hypothetical Russian Angleton is convinced that Fidel Castro
was instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Adding
to their own insurmountable internal difficulties, Cuba's political
and economic cost was too high for the Soviet Union to pay.118
Central to understanding Angleton's fall, is the role played
by Anatoly Golitsin, a KGB counterintelligence officer who defected
to the West in 1961. Golitsin, who was handed over to Angleton
to run the operation, claimed that the KGB had been successful
in planting a mole at the highest levels of American intelligence.
This marked the beginning of Angleton's paranoid search for the
mole. At some point, Golitsin warned Angleton that Soviet intelligence
would attempt to prevent the CIA from discovering the mole by
sending disinformation agents to obstruct the investigation.
Soon after, as Golitsin had predicted, Yuri Nosenko, another
KGB officer, defected to the West. From the very beginning Angleton
was convinced that Nosenko was the disinformation agent sent
by the KGB to obstruct his search for the mole. But the CIA was
never able to prove that Nosenko was a Soviet plant.
While researching for his book about Lee Harvey Oswald, author
Edward Jay Epstein told Angleton about a meeting he was planning
to have with Nosenko. Angleton gave Epstein a list of questions
that he suggested he ask Nosenko. Among Angleton's proposed questions
for Nosenko is a puzzling one: "Why was a KGB officer named
Shitov sent to Cuba as the first [lit.] Soviet Ambassador, under
the pseudonym Alexeiev?"119
One of the most fascinating features of intelligence work
is that sometimes a single and apparently unimportant piece of
information can set a whole bunch of apparently unrelated facts
into a meaningful pattern. If you can find that elusive piece
of information-intelligence officers believe-you can rewrite
large parts of history from a surprisingly different point of
Now, why was Alexeev important to Angleton? Epstein believes
it was because Oswald had tried to obtain a visa to travel to
Havana. But Alexeev was deployed in Cuba in late 1959, long before
anybody could have planned or even thought about the assassination
of President Kennedy. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Angleton's
interest in Alexeev had anything to do with Oswald. Then, was
Angleton really interest in Alexeev because he suspected that
Alexeev was playing an important role in a Soviet counterintelligence
I think this is a good point to stop these seemingly never-ending
speculations on the convoluted, paranoid world of espionage and
come back to the real world. But, as is customary in spy stories,
let's end this one with a question: Was Angleton interested in
Alexeev because he suspected the Soviet intelligence had their
own suspicions that Fidel Castro was a CIA mole?
Servando González is the author autor of Historia herética
de la revolución fidelista, The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing
the Symbol, and The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and
the Cuban Missile Crisis. He lives in California.
1. References to Shitov's career in John Barron, KGB. London:
Corgi, 1974, 534.
2. The methods and techniques of intelligence and espionage.
According to CIA veteran William Hood, tradecraft , though mysterious
to outsiders, is just "a little more than a compound of
common sense, experience, and certain almost universally accepted
security practices. . ."
3. An eminent Russian astrophysicist observed one day, in
a conversation with friends, that there are two types of hypotheses:
the working hypothesis, formally read at a scientific congress
and intended to be a point of departure for further study; and
the conversational hypothesis, which serves to pass the time
agreeably between two meetings of the congress. The hypothesis
presented in this paper is a conversational hypothesis-with the
potential for becoming a working hypothesis.
4. The correct intelligence term is "penetration agent."
The term "mole," never previously used by intelligence
officers, was actually introduced by writer David Cornwell (better
known by his pseudonym John le Carré) in one of his spy
novels, and it has been widely adopted by the intelligence community-an
outstanding example of the two-way link between reality and fiction.
5. Cubans call Fidel Castro "El Caballo" -"The
Horse." See Georgie Anne Geyer, Guerrilla Prince. Boston:
Little, Brown & Company, 1991, 205. Also, Servando González,
"Real History of 'The Horse'." Impacto Literario, (Miami)
Vol. I No. I, Nov. 1993.
6. On the initial reluctance of the Russians to accept Fidel
Castro as a member of the Socialist camp, see Edward González,
The Cuban Revolution and the Soviet Union: 1959-1960, Ph.D. dissertation,
University of California, 1966 (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University
Microfilms, 1967; also Andrés Suárez, Cuba: Castroism
and Communism, 1959-1966 . Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1967.
7. Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets . New York:
Pocket Books, 1979, 406
8. KGB's Second Directorate is so secret that it was not until
1960 that the CIA knew about its existence. See Edward Jay Epstein,
Deception. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989, 35.
9. The idea that the Soviets had suspicions that Castro was
a mole came to the author after a conversation with Vadim Lestov,
a Pravda correspondent in Havana. Lestov-actually a KGB officer-was
expelled from Cuba in 1968 accused of participating in the "microfraction"
affair-the third Soviet instigated attempt at overthrowing Castro.
It is also interesting to note that, in the early seventies,
two jokes were going around in Havana. One said that Face the
Nation, the American T.V. program, had announced that a very
important guest will appear in its next program. When the moment
arrived, Fidel Castro appeared on the screen, clean shaved, sporting
a tie and a dark business suit, and said: "Now let me tell
you about my experiences as a CIA agent in Cuba." The other
joke consisted in explaining that the Cuban revolution was just
"CIA's experimental plan to discredit Communism in Latin
America." It seems likely that Soviet intelligence officers
in Cuba must have heard the jokes and must surely have informed
Moscow about them. Also, see Juan Archocha's Operación
Viceversa. Barcelona: Arcos Vergara, 1983. The novel's plot is
about the adventures of a CIA operative in Cuba trying to save
Castro's life from KGB's assassination attempts. Luis Conte Agüero,
at some time one of Castro's closest friends, wrote about Fidel
that "So good has been his work fostering the cause of the
"hated Yankee," that it would not be strange that sometime
he would be accused of being a traitor and a CIA agent."
(Castro fostering Yankee cause in Luis Conte Agüero, Fidel
Castro: psiquiatría y política. Mexico: Editorial
Jus, 1968, 18) In the same fashion, Carlos Franqui, wroting abuot
the BAy of Pigs invasion, noticed that, "the CIA, which
is overtly Fidel's enemy, has always been his potential ally."
(CIA as potential Castro ally in Carlos Franqui, Family Portrait
with Fidel. New York: Random House, 1984, 115) It seems also
that at least some anti-Castro Cubans have arrived at similar
conclusions. Physician-turned-terrorist Orlando Bosch, who has
been actively fighting Castro since the mid-sixties, always cautions
Miami Cubans about not trusting the CIA in their war against
Castro. See Taylor Branch and John Rothchild, "The Incident,"
Squire, March 1977, 57.
10. Quoted in Wise and Ross, The Invisible Government. New
York: Bantam, 1964, 244-245
11. "Its the walk-in trade...," in William Hood,
Mole. New York: Ballantine, 1982, 15.
12. See Miles Copeland, Beyond Cloak and Dagger. New York:
Pinnacle, 1974, 29.
13. On CIA's efforts in recruiting young leaders see Bob Woodward,
Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987. New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1987, 302. On the other hand, some authors have
tried to prove that, when he was a teenager, Castro was recruited
by G. W. Bashirov, a Soviet intelligence officer in Havana. This
is the main thesis of Nathaniel Weyl's Red Star Over Cuba. New
York: Hillman/MacFadden, 1961. Weyl apparently got his inspiration
from an article written by Cuban journalist Salvador Díaz-Versóns,
"Desde 17 años atrás Fidel Castro trabajaba
para Rusia" ("Fidel Castro has been working for Russia
for 17 years." El Mundo in exile, October 19, 1960. The
theory, however, has so many holes that not even the lunatic
fringe has tried to pursue it.
14. The Soviet intelligence also knew about CIA experiments
involving the use of powerful drugs. On CIA and mind control
see John Marks, The Search for the 'Manchurian Candidate.' New
York: MacGraw-Hill, 1980; also Walter Bowart, Operation Mind
Control. New York: Dell, 1978.
15. On American recruiting activities in friendly countries
see Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987, 309.
16. Information about Wieland in State Department Security,
The William Wieland Case. Hearings. Committee on the Judiciary,
U.S. Senate, 87th Congress. U.S. Government Printing Office,
1962; also in State Department Security, The Wieland Case Updated.
Hearings. Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 89th Congress.
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962.
17. Incident with Camaid and Fidel's self-imposed exile in
New York in Manuel Dorta-Duque, Alejandro (alias) Fidel. Hato
Rey, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Joyuda, 1981, 14.
18. On Soviet penetration fears see Nathan Leites, Kremlin
Moods, Memorandum RM-3535-ISA, the RAND Corporation, January
19. On CIA's interests in penetrating Soviet intelligence
services see Melvin Beck, Secret Contenders: The Myth of Cold
War Counterintelligence. New York: Sheridan Square Publications,
20. Alexeev drinking and womanizing with Castro in Arkady
N. Shevchenko, Breaking with Moscow. New York: Ballantine, 1985,
21. Kennedy's press conference in The New York Times, January
25, 1962. In the course of the conference, reporter Sara McClendon
asked the President about the Wieland case. Kennedy was evidently
upset by the question, and emphatically denied that Wieland constituted
a security risk.
22. Wieland's early career in Hearings, Communist Threat to
the U.S. Through the Caribbean, Senate Internal Subcommittee,
86th-87th Congress, Parts 1-12, 736.
23. Activities of Wieland, Rubbotom and Castro in Bogotá,
Colombia, in Communist Threat, 725, 756, 806.
24. Wieland under alias in Cuba, in Communist Threat, 746.
25. American haste in recognizing the Castro government in
Earl T. Smith, The Fourth Floor, New York: Random House, 1962,
196; also in Communist Threat, 683.
26. Cummings selling arms to Castro in Alexandra Obrenovich,
Who is Responsible? New York: Carlton Press, 1962. Also, rumors
ran that a CIA agent, known as Robert Chapman, spent a long time
in the mountains with Raúl Castro. CIA agent with Raúl
Castro, evidence of Bruce McColm to the author.
27. CIA giving money to Castro in Tad Szulc, Fidel: A Critical
Portrait. New York: William Morrow, 1986, 427.
28. Bernstein claims that a senior CIA officer told him that
between 1950 and 1966 the NYT provided cover for about 10 CIA
29. Hart about Matthews and the NYT in Mario LLerena, The
Unsuspected Revolution. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,
30. Accusations that the New York Times has acted as a CIA
instrument are in Daniel Schorr, Clearing the Air. New York:
Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
31. Smith briefed by Matthews in Earl T. Smith, The Fourth
Floor. New York: Random House, 1962, 67-68.
32. Failure of debriefing Gardner in Smith, The Fourth Floor,
33. Smith asking the CIA officer if he was a Fidelista in
Smith, The Fourth Floor, 33.
34. Smith affirmations in Wise and Ross, The Invisible Government,
35. Smith accusations in Smith, The Fourth Floor., 135, 47.
36. American navy men in Mario LLerena, The Unsuspected Revolution,
37. Fidel's lecture at the CFR in Lawrence Shoup and William
Minter, Imperial Brain Trust, New York: Monthly Review Press,
1977, 42, and in Dan Smoot, The Invisible Government. The Dan
Smoot Report, 1962, 18. It is interesting to notice that Castro's
visit to the CFR is one of the best kept secrets of his visit
to the U.S. It is not mentioned in any other source about Castro.
38. CIA's representative talking with Castro in Bonsal, Cuba,
Castro, and the United States. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh
Press, 1971, 64.
39. Soviet consensus about Fidel's revolution living its last
hours, Professor Mikhail Berstram in conversation with the author
at Stanford University.
40. Castro's warnings in Szulc and Meyer, The Cuban Invasion.
New York: Praeger, 1962, 74.
41. President Eisenhower's approval of invasion plan in Szulc
and Meyer, 77.
42. Invasion plan in Bonsal, 183.
43. Bowles concerns to Rusk in David Halberstam, The Best
and the Brightest. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Crest Books, 1972,
44. Invasion failure in U.S. News and World Report, September
45. CIA's assumptions about popular support for the invaders
in Daniel M. Rohrer, Mark G. Arnold, and Roger L. Conner, By
Weight of Arms: American Military Policy. Skokie, Illinois: National
Textbook Co., 1969, 44-45.
46. In 1962 FBI's Director G. Edgar Hoover told a House Committee
that "Over the years no phase of American activity has been
immune to Soviet-bloc intelligence attempts. The Soviets have
attempted to obtain every conceivable type of information."
House Subcommittee on Appropriations, testimony by J. Edgar Hoover,
January 24, 1962.
47. Willauer's story in Communist Threat, 874-875.
48. Willauer "frozen out" and dismissed from State
Department in Communist Threat, 875-878.
49. Invasion prisoners' report of false intelligence in The
New York Times, April 1, 1962, 40.
50. Radio Swan's false reports in St. Louis Post Dispatch,
April 22, 1961.
51. Bissell reunifies anti-Castro Cubans, in "Inside
Story of the Cuban Fiasco," U.S. News and World Report,
May 15, 1961.
52. Invasion leaders held incommunicado in National Review,
August 13, 1963, 106.
53. A disinformation technique consisting in inserting a "news"
notice in a small or cooperative newspaper, in hopes that paper
after paper, and eventually the wire services, would pick up
this item of black information and disseminate it around the
world. The supposed source is soon forgotten as the planted story
works its way to the front pages of the world's leading papers.
The technique was used at one time by the CIA in Italy.
54. Rebel air strike in Szulc and Meyer, The Cuban Invasion,
55. Failure to detect coral reefs, in Peter Wyden, The Bay
of Pigs. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979, 219.
56. Castro and Duque inspecting Bay of Pigs area in Wyden,
The Bay of Pigs, 104.
57. Robert Kennedy denied accusation in Wise and Ross, The
Invisible Government, 201-202.
58. Kennedy's visits to Cuba in The Joints Appearances of
Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon,
Presidential Campaign 1960, 263.
59. CIA's destruction of anti-Castro underground movement
in Javier Felipe Pazos, The New Republic, November 1962, 17.
60. For an interesting testimony on how the CIA left the anti-Castro
guerrillas in the lurch see the declarations of Air Force Colonel
Fred D. Stevens, "J. F. K. Muzzled Me," The Miami Herald,
December 1, 1961.
61. Background of Fidel's close associates in LLerena, 97-98.
62. Homosexuals in NSA in Wise and Ross, The Invisible Government,
63. M-26-7's enforced morality in Jesús Montané
Oropesa, "El estilo de trabajo de los combatientes del Moncada
y de Bayamo", Verde Olivo, 19 July 1964, 8, 9, 52.
64. Fidel attends dinner at Soviet mission in Franqui, Family
65. Nixon's impression of Castro in Bonsal, Cuba, Castro,
66. McGovern's impressions in "A Talk With Castro,"
The New York Times Magazine, March 3, 1977, 20.
67. Dr. de Varona's characterization of Fidel in Daniel James,
Cuba: The First Soviet Satellite in the Americas. New York: Avon,
68. Fidel's gangster mentality in Luis Conte Agüero,
Los dos rostros de Fidel Castro. Mexico: Editorial Jus, 1960,
69. Fidel's early days in Jules Dubois Fidel Castro. New York:
Bobbs-Merrill, 1959, 14-15; also in Servando González,
Historia herética de la revolución fidelista. San
Francisco: Ediciones El Gato Tuerto, 1986, 9-12.
70. Convivio secret society in Carlos Alberto Montaner, "Quiere
Castro abandonar a los Soviéticos?" La Estrella de
Panamá, February 22, 1985.
71. Belen's Year Book and Father Llorente's prophecy in Dubois,
72. Dr. Rasco's comments on Fidel in James, 31-32.
73. Fidel ideas on leadership principles in Luis Conte Agüero,
Cartas de presidio. Havana: Editorial Lex, 1959, 60.
74. Fidel's axiom on leadership in Theodore Draper, Castroism,
Theory and Practice. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965, 9.
75. For an example of Fascist attack on capitalism see A.
Grandi, La futura civiltá del lavoro nel mondo. Bologna:
Stiassi and Tantini, 1941.
76. Fidel's and Hitler's words in their own legal defense
in "History Will Absolve Me," in F. Castro and R. Debré,
On Trial. London: Lorringer, 1968, 40, and in Konrad Heiden,
Der Führer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1944, 206. See also
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Greenwich,
Conn.: Fawcett, 1962, 118.
77. Masses chanting "Fi-del!" in Franqui, Family
Portrait., 13; also in Lee Lockwood, Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel.
New York: Macmillan, 1967, 7, 22.
78. Mein Kampf said to be one of Fidel's favorite books in
Mario LLerena, The Unsuspected Revolution, Chapter 5, note 7.
79. Fidel called "el jefe" in Lee Lockwood, Castro's
Cuba, Cuba's Fidel. New York: Macmillan, 1967, 50, 52, 55.
80. Anti-Castro Cubans called gusanos in Lee Lockwood, Castro's
Cuba, Cuba's Fidel. New York: Macmillan, 1967, 57.
81. Castro lecturing at Bogotá's university in Communist
Threat Through the Caribbean, 544.
82. Fidel's totalitarian bent in Daniel James, Cuba, 33-34.
83. Dr. Chibás words in Daniel James, Cuba, 34.
84. Cuban Communists criticizing the Moncada attack in A.
Suárez, Cuba: Castroism and Communism, 1959-1966, 40.
85. Fidel characterized as a Fascist by Cuban Communists in
A. James Gregor, The Fascist Persuasion in Radical Politics.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974, 283.
86. Hatter's article in The Militant, April 17, 1961. (According
to some Russian interpretation of History, Hitler was originally
a creation of the right wing of British intelligence. In line
with this view is the belief that he remained a secret agent
of British "geopolitical policies" through 1938. After
1938 certain problems obscured the relations between Hitler and
his British patrons. With Hitler's strike westward he became
not merely London's Frankenstein's monster, but a monster more
immediately dangerous to its master than to the foe against which
the monster had been originally deployed: The Soviet Union. It
could not have passed unnoticed to Soviet intelligence analysts
that the New York Times was also instrumental in Hitler's rise
to power. After a sudden rush of interest in Hitler, beginning
on September 15, 1930, the New York Times published in the September
21, 1930 issue a feature article entitled "Hitler, Driving
Force in Germany's Fascism." Contrasting with the year 1929
when the NYT published only one brief item on Adolph Hitler,
in 1931, it ran a score of substantial articles depicting a favorable
image on Nazi Germany, including no fewer than three "Portraits"
87. For an excellent analysis of Castro's "I am a Marxist"
speech, see Loree Wilkerson, Fidel Castro's Political Programs
from Reformism to "Marxism-Leninism." Gainesville,
Fl.: University of Florida Press, 1965.
88. In intelligence parlance, a false biography or cover story,
supplied mostly to illegals and sleepers, enabling them to live
undetected within a foreign country. A legend may be a false
trail completed to cover a false or notional biography.
89. Castro temperamentally akin to Fascism in Adam B. Ulam,
The Rivals. New York: Penguin, 1976, 315.
90. Seabury's remarks in The Rise and Decline of the Cold
War. New York: Basic Books, 1967, 68.
91. The Cuban Communists never had much faith in what Castro
was to do in Cuba, affirmed former President Carlos Prío
Socarrás. During the two years of Castro's war the 26th
of July Movement never received a single bullet nor a single
peso from the Cuban Communists. Prío Socarrás quoted
in James, Cuba: The First Soviet Satellite in the Americas, 29.
92. CIA officer's testimony about Castro in Communist Threat
to the U.S.Through the Caribbean, 86th Congress, 1st Sess., Part.
3, Nov. 5, 1959, 162-164.
93. Geyer, Guerrilla Prince, 71.
94. The letter was found among the retained files of the American
Embassy at Havana, and is now housed in the records of the foreign
service posts of the Department of State, National Archives,
Washington, D. C. A facsimile of the letter was published in
the American Archivist, whose editor, Bill Burk, kindly sent
me a copy. See "From the Archives," American Archivist,
Vol. 50 (Spring 1987), 284-288.
95 . It is surprising to find that, at this pragmatical level
of intelligence work, the Soviets shared an almost identical
view of the world with the American ultraconservatives-exposed
in the theories advanced by Dan Smoot, Phyllis Schlafly, and
John A. Stormer, among others-which see a small group of men
secretly meeting and carefully planning to manipulate society
toward certain goals. In that sense Soviet intelligence was not
far from what Richard Hofstadter calls "the paranoid style"
in American politics. See Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style
in American Politics. New York: Knopf, 1965. For a detailed account
of conspiracy theories in America see George Johnson, Architects
of Fear. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1983; also Carl Oglesby,
The Yankee and Cowboy War. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1976;
and William P. Hoar, Architects of Conspiracy. Boston: Western
Islands, 1984. A wealth of information about tongue-in-cheek
conspiracy theories is found in Robert Shea and Robert Anton
Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy. New York: Dell, 1975. On the
other hand, G. William Domhoff cautions about the other side
of the spectrum, which he calls "the compulsive style in
American Social Science." This compulsive style is narrow,
restrictive, highly phobic about flights of fancy, and usually
partial to the status quo. See G. William Domhoff, The Higher
Circles. New York: Vintage, 1971, 302-303.
96. The Soviet vision of history in Alexander L. George, "The
Operational Code," International Studies Quarterly Vol.
13, No. 2 (June 1969), 204-205.
97. Stalin as an Okhrana mole in Eric Lee, "A Mole Who
Vaulted to the Top," Military History, April 1987, 66. Holt
as Chinese mole in "Was the P. M. a Spy?," Newsweek,
December 5, 1983, 84.
98. Hollis case explained in detail in Peter Wright, Spy Catcher.
New York: Dell, 1987; also in John Costello, Mask of Treachery.
London: Collins, 1988, and in William J. West, Spymaster. New
York: Wynwood Press, 1990.
99. For this part of my paper I have relied heavily on David
C. Martin's Wilderness of Mirrors. New York: Ballantine, 1980.
Martin's book is mainly about James Angleton's struggle to find
a Soviet mole infiltrated in the CIA.
100. See, David D. Catell, "Soviet Policies in Latin
America," Current History, November 1964, 288.
101. See M. Michael Kline, "Castro's Challenge to Latin
American Communism," in Jaime Suchlicki, ed., Cuba, Castro,
and Revolution. Coral Gables, Florida: University of Miami Press,
102. See Leon Goure and Julian Weinkle, "Soviet-Cuban
Relations: The Growing Integration," in Jaime Suchlicki,
ed., Cuba, Castro, and Revolution. Coral Gables, Florida: University
of Miami Press, 1972, 149.
103. For an appealing argument about what the Soviet Union
would have gained with an American invasion of Cuba see John
N. Plank, "Monroe's Doctrine -and Castro's," The New
York Times Magazine, October 7, 1962.
104. Richard Lowenthal, "The Logic of One-Party Rule,"
in Abraham Brumberg, ed., Russia Under Khrushchev. New York:
Praeger, 1962, 36. Some people bring out the Brezhnev doctrine
of irreversibility of Communism to argue that Khrushchev would
never have tried to get rid of Castro. But the Brezhnev doctrine
should not be overgeneralized. It is not certain that other leaders
before Brezhnev and Kosygin would have responded in the same
way to Castro's challenges. Stalin obviously felt no hesitation
on cutting Tito off completely from Soviet support-even if that
meant forcing Yugoslavia into the capitalist camp. Similarly,
Khrushchev-despite the lessons of Yugoslavia-did not hesitate
to withdraw support from China in an equally hostile and abrupt
manner when the Marxist leadership dared to challenge his control
of the international revolutionary movement.
105. Information about Kudryavtsev in Barron, KGB,. 26-27.
Sanche de Gramont, however, refers to Kudryavtsev as a GRU officer.
The Secret War. New York: Dell, 1962, 532.
106. But, since Soviet ambassadors do not carry out personal
policies-particularly when they are also high-ranking KGB officers-,
it seems likely that Kudryavtsev had enjoyed the full confidence
of the Soviet leadership in performing the difficult task of
taming the Castro. On Kudryavtsev's expulsion see The New York
Times, June 5, 1962, 3, also Lisa Howard, "Castro's Overture,"
War/Peace Report, September 1983, 4.
107. Castro selecting new Soviet Ambassador in Arkady N. Shevchenko,
Breaking with Moscow. New York: Ballantine, 1985, 187.
108. Khrushchev was not crazy, nor was he a masochist, so
it is highly improbable that, as he later claimed in his memoirs,
he had decided to give nuclear missiles to Castro just after
the Cuban leader had expelled the Soviet Ambassador and his KGB
operatives from Cuba.
109. There is evidence that Castro has been secretly trying
to develop his own means of mass destruction, through research
and development of chemical, bacteriological and nuclear weapons.
After the missile crisis Castro began experimenting with missile
technology, using modified Mig 21s as a platform for his coming
nuclear bomb. See Juan Vivés, Los amos de Cuba. Buenos
Aires, Emecé, 1982, 181-183. For Castro's research for
nuclear and othe weapons see John Barron, "Castro, Cocaine
and the A-Bomb Connection," Reader's Digest, March 1990,
110. I am aware of recent claims that nuclear warheads were
actually on the island, and that more were bound for Cuba in
Soviet ships. But CIA reports at the time consistently denied
the presence of nuclear warheads in Cuba. Also, American planes,
flying low over the missile sites and the Soviets ships, never
detected any of the radiation that would be expected from nuclear
warheads. The technology to detect radiation existed at the time.
In the 1960s the NEDS 900 series of radiation detectors had been
developed and deployed in the Dardanelles as a way to monitor
the presence of nuclear weapons aboard Soviet warships transiting
the strait from the Black Sea. Gen. William Y. Smith, who was
a Major and an assistant to Gen. Maxwell Taylor in the White
House at the time, has reported a very intereasting detail. While
reviewing message traffic from U.S. intelligence sources on Soviet
military activity, Gen. Smith found out a report that a U.S.
Navy ship had picked up suspicious levels of radioactivity emitted
by a Soviet freighter, the Poltava. He suggested to Gen. Taylor
that he ask Admiral Anderson if the emanations meant the ship
was carrying nuclear warheads. At the next Joint Chief's meeting,
Taylor posed the question to Anderson, who replied, somewhat
embarrased, that he had not seen the message. Later that morning,
Anderson's office informed Smith that the report had little significance,
that Smith had misread it. See Anatoli Gribkov and William Smith,
Operation Anadyr. Chicago: Edition q, 1994, 139-40.
It makes sense to believe, therefore, that the Americans had
the means to detect radiation from nuclear warheads leaving Cuba,
without having to board the Soviet ships. But, again, no mention
is made of this important fact in any of the declassified documents
on the Cuban missile crisis. Also, Admiral Anderson's behavior,
as described by Gen. Smith, is strange, to say the least, because
that report was extremely significant.
Therefore, either the Americans detected no radiation from
the Soviet ships, and they kept the fact secret, or they simply
forgot that they had the means to check indirectly the presence
of nuclear warheads, or they never tried to detect radiation
from nuclear warheads in Cuba because they were pretty sure there
never were any in the island. Which explains the strange behavior
of the Kennedy administration in not forcing on the defeated
Soviets the physical inspection of their ships who allegedly
were bringing the missiles and their nucalear warheads back to
the Soviet Union.
The main force behind a concerted effort in proving that nuclear
warheads were in Cuba is Robert McNamara, whose main goal has
been to justify his absurd policies as Secretary of Defense during
the Kennedy administration. Recently McNamara has found support
for his theories from none other than his former executive action
target, Fidel Castro, and from a group of Russians, among them,
Sergei Mikoyan, an old KGB hand. It is very difficult to believe
as some American researchers and retired senior Soviet officers
now claim, that Russian field officers in Cuba had been authorized
to use tactical nuclear warheads without further authorization
from Moscow. Such an action would have been tantamount to mass
suicide, since a single nuclear warhead fired by Russian troops
in Cuba would had been tantamount to a declaration of nuclear
war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The fact
is that McNamara, Castro, and the KGB operatives are very questionable
sources of intelligence.
The appraisal or evaluation of items of information or intelligence
is indicated by a standard letter-number system. The evaluation
simultaneously concerns both the credibility of the information
itself-a process involving a check against information already
in hand, and an educated guess as to the new information-and
the reliability of the source. The two cannot be totally separated
from each other. The authoritativeness of the source can never
be ignored, though it is sometimes overdone in the light of the
credibility of the information. The system is shown below:
Reliability of the Source
A Completely reliable
B Usually reliable
C Fairly reliable
D Not usually reliable
F Reliability cannot be judged
Accuracy of Information
1 Confirmed by other sources
2 Probably true
3 Possibly true
6 Truth cannot be judged
Both evaluations should be entirely independent, and they
are indicated in accordance with the system shown above. Thus,
information adjudged to be "probably true" received
from a source considered to be "usually reliable" is
designated "B2". To the question of how reliable is
Robert S. McNamara as a source, I would like to bring this example.
In his book Out of the Cold (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989),
McNamara claims that "The Soviet response of the following
day [he is talking about October 23, 1962] was menacing: The
Ministry of Defense placed its missile bomber and submarine forces
on alert and cancelled all leaves," (p. 64).
But one of the more striking things of the Cuban missile crisis
is that, contrary to McNamara's assertion, the Soviets never
placed their troops, nor the civilian defense, under alert. This
astonishing fact is mentioned in most of the early accounts of
Recently declassified top secret CIA documents (CIA, The Secret
Cuban Missile Crisis Documents. Washington, D. C.: Brasseys (US),
1944) confirm the fact. A top secret CIA memo of October 25 clearly
states that "We still see no signs of any crash procedure
in measures to increase the readiness of Soviet armed forces"
[p. 304]. A top secret memo of October 26 gives the first indications
of a state of alert, but in some european satellite countries,
not in the Soviet Union [p. 316]. It is only on October 27 that
a top secret CIA memo clearly aknowledges that "No significant
redeployment of Soviet ground, air or naval forces have been
noted. However, there are continuing indications of increased
readiness among some units," [p. 328]. (See also note 113).
Coming from a writer or scholar such false information as
the one brought by McNamara may be attributed to faulty or sloppy
research. Coming from him, who had acces to that classified information
at the time of the crisis, it is simply a lie.
Therefore, seen under the light of the system for the evaluation
of information given above, McNamara's claim that nuclear warheads
were actually on cuban soil is probably no higher than a D4-reliability
of the source: not usually reliable / accuracy of information:
doubtful. As of Castro and the Russian ex-kagebistas I encourage
the reader to make his own evaluation. The question of what is
authoritative and what is not is very relative. A highly authoritative
source may produce credible information, but the intelligence
officer must always ask himself the question "Why?"
The higher the authoritativeness of the source, the higher the
danger of disinformation. There is evidence that the CIA had
recruited scholars at the most prestigious American universities.
From the point of view of intelligence, a stolen document
is often more valuable than a gratuitously conveyed secret from
whatever source, since it diminishes the risk of deliberately
misleading information. The "why?", however, does not
apply only to the danger of planted information. It must also
be asked of the source whose bona fides is beyond question. The
danger here is of an intelligence service believing what it wants
to believe-a problem that has affected all the world's intelligence
services at one time or another. The problem of the bias of the
evaluator is one that is unavoidable in intelligence; it extends
even to information of fullest credibility from the most reliable
Bias in evaluation can never be fully overcome in an intelligence
service and, more importantly, in high government circles, and
it can only be compounded by creating evaluators to evaluate
the evaluators. Superpatriots, doctrinaire partisans, politicians,
bureaucratic climbers, people of provincial outlook-all are potential
dangers to sound intelligence evaluation. Perspective, perspicacity,
worldliness, a soundly philosophical outlook, the knowledge and
sense of history and perhaps a bit of skepticism-these are the
individual qualities which minimize error in the interpretation
and evaluation of information.
The problem with accepting the fact that there were no nuclear
warheads in Cuban soil, or on their way to the island, is that
it blows away all the grand theories developed and supported
by the American establishment and tacitly accepted by the Soviets.
As James Angleton used to say, "The past telescopes into
There are some researchers who honestly believe the theory-some
of them even claim to have seen the actual Soviet documents-that
proves that nuclear warhead were actually in Cuba. These researchers
are wedded to the theory that "facts explain events"
which, in the last resort, depends on the way in which you choose
your facts. They seem to forget that facts are just information,
and information is not true intelligence until it has been validated.
As a rule, a counterintelligence analyst believe that only information
that has been taken from the enemy and turned over is bona fide
intelligence. But if the enemy had intended it to be turned over,
it is disinformation. Some intelligence officers think that intelligence
could be distinguished from deception by judging how well it
fits in with the rest of the intelligence reports. If it neatly
dovetails with other validated reports, it is assumed to be valid
intelligence. The case for the nuclear warheads on Cuban soil,
however, has more holes than a Swiss cheese. First of all, it
doesn't fit in with the rest of the available data. Secondly,
it presupposes, among other things, that Nikita Khrushchev, the
Soviet military, and the Soviet intelligence were inept fools.
But we know for sure that this was not the case. That theory
is probably good for polishing some egos at home, but nobody,
particularly in the American intelligence services, is going
to buy it.
For a fascinating and extremely well annotated transcription
of the discussions this group of professional liars (I am not
using here the word "liars" in a pejorative sense,
but to indicate that, as it is expected from seasoned intelligence
professionals, lying and disinformation are essential parts of
their trade) held in Havana in January 1922, see James G. Blish,
Bruce J. Allyn and David A. Welch, Cuba on the Brink: Castro,
the Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse. New York: Pantheon,
111. There are strong suspicions that, as late as 1960, even
some units of the newly created Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces
were not getting real missiles, but dummies. See Viktor Suvorov
(pseud.) Inside the Soviet Army. New York: Berkley Books, 1983,
69. One should not forget that the Rusians have along history
of deception, from Potemkin to modern times. It is known that,
since WWII, they have operated a highly sophisticated factory
located at the Ural mountains fully devoted to the creation of
dummies for their armed forces. As an officer of the Cuban army
during the missile crisis, this author was assigned to general
headquarters to inspect military units. During an inspection
visit to the San Antonio de los Baños air force base,
he saw at close range Migs made out of plywood and cardboard
parked on the apron while the real Migs were kept hidden under
camouflage nets and other masking devices. In fact, maskirova
(camouflage) was an important specialization in the Soviet army.
If somebody thinks that the notion that the missiles in Cuba
may have been dummies I would like to mention that the deception
was not by far the only or the largest in scale in the history
of war operations. Operation Fortitude, the plan conceived by
the Allies to convince the Germans that the invasion of the continent
was going to take place anywhere but where it did, is perhaps
the largest of the successful ones.
Operation Fortitude consisted in creating a phony invasion
force, including the non-existent British 4th Army, of 35,000
non-existent men, complete with wood and carboard made guns,
and inflatable rubber battle tanks and trucks. The non-existent
force had a real radio net, totally devoted to fool the Germans.
Joining this impressive force was the also non-existent FUSAG
(First United States Army Group), with 50 non-existent divisions
totalling a million non-existent men, who was getting ready to
invade France near the Pas de Calais. The deceivers managed to
fool German air photo reconnaissance and radio interception,
and kept the main force of German divisions away from Normandy,
thus guaranteeing the success of the real invasion. On July 27,
1944, almost eight weeks after the Normandy landings, the main
force of the German army, including heavy artillery and several
Panzer units, were still behind the fortification of the Atlantic
Wall at Pas de Calais, waiting for an invasion that never came.
The fact that the Germans had no live agents on the field
in England to verify for themselves the truth of the information
was the decisive element in the Allies' success in deceiving
the Germans. One should not forget that, during the Cuban missile
crisis, the Americans had no agents on the field in Cuba to verify
the accuracy of the visual information captured by the U2's cameras.
As Sun Tzu asserted, "All warfare is based on deception."
112. Strong evidence indicates that Penkovsky was either a
Soviet plant or had been compromised from the very beginning
by Russian intelligence. See, Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is
Treachery. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1981, 183-187. Also,
it seems that CIA's James J. Angleton was never convinced of
Penkovsky's bona fides. See, David C. Martin, Wilderness of Mirrors.
New York: Ballantine, 1980, 221. Further evidence that Penkovsky
must have been compromised from the beginning are allegations
of questionable tradecraft practices. For example: on his first
trip to London Penkovsky met twenty Soviet defectors; an apartment
was made available for him for an affair with a woman from a
Soviet embassy; a large number of persons met him in Paris and
in England; he not merely photographed top secret documents,
but sometimes actually gave his controllers the original documents-a
gross violation of one the most elementary principles of tradecraft
adopted by most, if not all, intellgence services. See Greville
Wynne, Contact on Gorky Street. New York: Atheneum, 1968. For
an interesting discussion of Penkovsky and the doubts about his
bona fides, see Richard Deacon "C"-A Biography of Sir
Maurice Oldfield. London: MacDonald, 1985, 130-138. Sir Olfield's
words about Penkovsky on p. 131). Also, there is the possibility
that Penkovsky was never shot and was still living in Russia
under a different name. Victor Marchetti claimed that, after
Penkovsky allegedly had been executed, someone in the CIA had
said, "Why don't we try to contact him?" and that this
suggestion had led to the agency's becoming "involved with
mediums." (Marchetti on Penkovsky in Martin Ebon, Psychic
Warfare. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983, 193-194) But, after knowing
the particularities of the Penkovsky case, one may guess that
the CIA guy may have in fact not been talking about contacting
Penkovsky through any psychic with mediumnistic abilities, but
directly in Russia.
113. At 10:00 in the morning of Tuesday the 23rd of October,
CIA Director John McCone reported a strange thing to the ExComm:
no signs of a general alert of Soviet forces in Cuba or around
the globe had been reported. He also said that the Russians were
beginning to camouflage the missile sites. Nobody could explain
why they had waited so long to do so. As late as Friday, October
26, American intelligence reported from Cuba, from Moscow, and
from the United Nations, that the Russians were not ready for
war. Surprisingly enough, even at that late date, the Soviets
had made no attempt to mobilize their civil defense nor to prepare
the population for the eventual use of fallout shelters. This
was quite significant, because the Soviets had devoted considerable
effort to instructing their civilian population in civil defense
and had invested considerably in fall out shelters.
114. Ron Rosenbaum, "The Shadow of the Mole." Harper's,
October 1983, 5. (Italics in original).
115. The term comes from medieval philosophy, and denotes
a class of entities existing only in the imagination.
116. The term military-industrial complex was coined by President
Eisenhower in his farewell speech in January 1961.
117. KGB accepting Castro's ideas in Shevchenko, Breaking
with Moscow. 187.
118. A 1983 Rand study estimates the Soviet "burden of
empire" in the Third World to have increased from roughly
$18 billion in 1971 to $41 billion in 1981. See, Charles Wolf
et al., The Costs of the Soviet Empire. Santa Monica, Calif.:
The Rand Corporation, 1983, 9. There is also evidence of Soviet
disenchantment over its involvement in Cuba, Nicaragua, Angola
119. Edward Jay Epstein, Deception: The Invisible War Between
the KGB and the CIA. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989, 286.