V. TERRORISM STRIKES HOME
In 1961 a young Puerto Rican by the name of Filiberto Ojeda Rios traveled to Cuba to receive training in sabotage techniques. He bonded with the Cuban revolutionary leadership and expressed his willingness to work with the Cubans to infiltrate United States military bases in Puerto Rico. The Cubans provided a false identity and the alias of Felipe Ortega. Ojeda returned to Puerto Rico and helped create MAPA, the first terrorist nationalist organization actively engaged in confrontation with the United States.
By May of 1964 Puerto Rican law enforcement authorities presented proof that Cuba was sending weapons into Puerto Rico through the airport at Ponce. Ojeda was invited by Havana for what was termed the Tricontinental Revolutionary Conference held in 1966. The Puerto Rican representatives included Narciso Arabell Martinez and Todd Pagan.
On April 10, 1968, several bombs were placed in commercial offices and at the IBM building in the capital. In July of 1968 armed commandos destroyed the Sears store in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. After the inauguration of Luis Ferre as governor, terrorist squads began to place bombs indiscriminately in banks, hotels, police stations, and even the United States Secret Service office in San Juan. Ojeda, among others, now responded indirectly to Manuel Piñeiro, the Cuban head of the Department of the Americas
, the counter intelligence unit and predecessor to the present Directorate of Intelligence, or Cuba’s infamous DI.
In 1968 Fidel Castro directed a series of active measures engaging students and professors in Puerto Rico, the continental United States and Canada. Part of the plan involved the Venceremos Brigades which brought young people to Cuba where they were taught by intelligence officers Julio Torres Rizo and Alina Alayo Amaro, Cuban specialists on America. Brigade activities were coordinated directly through the Department of the Americas. In 1969 the Cuban government welcomed representatives of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the embryo of the Weather Movement. Mark Rudd, Bernadine Dohrn, Peter Clapp, Carlos Aponte
, and Jeff Jones were briefed. Cuban intelligence decided to help finance the Black Panther movement under the leadership of H. Rap Brown. One Black Panther who personally developed the Cuba contact was Tony Bryant. Bryant even skyjacked a commercial airliner, directed it to Cuba and was welcomed by Castro. Within a short time he became disillusioned with Castro’s revolution, spoke out and was incarcerated. Eventually he was released, fled Cuba and joined Cuban freedom fighters Tony Cuesta and Eugenio Llamera, among others, in the struggle against Castro.
Cubans engaged in transmissions through Radio Free Dixie, a program directed at African- Americans. Robert Williams ran the station until he fell from grace as a result of his perception of Cuban government racism and its contradictory policies. In 1970 Venceremos Brigade member Julie Nichamin was quoted in the Cuban military magazine Verde Olivo as stating that the brigades had a mission
, “to destroy the imperialist monster from within as the rest of the peoples of the world are doing from outside.”
In 1969 Fidel Castro also recognized an opportunity to advance his objectives as a result of the discord in America over the Vietnam war. Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Manuel Piñeiro, and the highest echelon of Cuban intelligence
, authorized violent active measures in the United States. In December of 1969 Ojeda placed a bomb in a public library in Manhattan. In March of 1970, in the Bay of San Juan, a terrorist group attacked Marines and later fired at the American base in Buchanan. During the subsequent law enforcement investigation a series of documents were seized indicating that the terrorist conspirators were traveling to Cuba where they were being instructed on sabotage of specific U.S. targets. Cuba directed that the contacts for Arabell, Ojeda, Pagan and others would be Cuban representatives at the United Nations who would in turn convey the necessities of funding, arms and explosives to Havana. Eventually Ojeda was arrested. Documents were seized. A manual edited in Cuba on explosive preparation and placement was presented as evidence before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington. After posting bond Ojeda disappeared and was declared a fugitive. A couple of days later five bombs were detonated in San Juan
, Puerto Rico.
In 1973 the FBI reported that one hundred and thirty five leaders of subversive groups in Puerto Rico traveled to communist Cuba for indoctrination and training. Most of those received extensive training in guerilla warfare, preparation of explosives and sophisticated methods of sabotage to be executed on U.S. soil. In 1974 Ojeda returned to New York and began to work in coordination with the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN).
In 1974 FALN and the Weather Underground, another terrorist organization, established a bond. The leaders met in Havana. According to Czechoslovakian Secret Service (STB) defectors, including Ladislav Bittman, the Weather Underground in the United States maintained contact with communist intelligence for years, particularly Cuban intelligence, and with the East German STASI. Cuban and East Germans funded the Weather Underground. Larry Fratwohl, and ex-Weatherman, has stated that when underground members lost track of each other or needed funding, explosives or contact points, the Cuban embassies in Mexico and Canada were called. Thanks to Havana the FALN and Weather Underground decided to coordinate their separate but common terrorist objectives in America.
In September and October of 1974, the Cubans provided logistical support for the FALN movement to explode bombs in City Hall and the police station in Newark, New Jersey, as well as at five other sites
, including Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York. The most spectacular bombing by FALN would be the explosion of January 24, 1975, at the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York City, during the lunch hour. A briefcase was left in a hallway, was detonated, four Americans died and fifty-five Americans were wounded. Terrorism had now firmly gripped America.
The notoriety of the Fraunces Tavern bombing forced Ojeda to go into hiding. His Cuban handlers directed that he immediately report for protection at the Cuban mission in the United Nations where he was spotted by FBI surveillance later in 1976. Somehow he returned clandestinely to Puerto Rico and named the militant wing of the FALN, now known as the “Macheteros.”
The Department of the Americas, at the direction of Manuel Piñeiro, began to train Puerto Ricans on an ongoing basis at Guanabo
, Cuba. At one point there were six hundred receiving terrorist training to be carried out upon homeland targets. In August of 1978 the Macheteros engaged in the killing of a police officer in Naguabo, Puerto Rico. On October 1, they stole five hundred pounds of ammonium nitrate, dynamite, detonators, and other bomb making equipment in Manati, Puerto Rico. In December of 1979, Cuban backed Macheteros ambushed Marines at Sabana Seca in Puerto Rico. In January of 1981 the terrorists attacked the military airport at Isla Verde where they destroyed nine U.S. fighter planes. The active measure, planned in Havana
, was executed in a total of seven minutes as part of a strike and flight objective. Had a detonator exploded properly on March 15, 1981, the Macheteros would have killed Henry Kissinger. On July 14, 1981, Macheteros demolished three Coast Guard Stations interrupting air traffic between the United States and Latin America. On February 28, 1982, terrorism returned to Manhattan. Four bombs went off in the Wall Street area. In 1983 Macheteros struck the Computer Center of the United States Navy in Washington, D.C.
By 1983 the Department of the Americas had begun to shift the financial burden of terrorist activity. After years of funding, the Castro brothers, Piñeiro, Jose Abrantes and Antonio De La Guardia were beginning to capitalize on their investments. Across the globe the Cubans had become significant players in drug trafficking, kidnappings, and bank and armored car robberies. At a meeting in Havana Machetero leader Carlos Rodriguez was directed to fund terrorist operations with bank robberies. On July 17, 1983, one such event netted the Macheteros two and a half million dollars. On September 12, 1983, Macheteros robbed a Wells Fargo office in Hartford, Connecticut
, removing over seven million dollars. According to a Cuban defector then partly in charge of the operation, Jorge Masetti, two million dollars were quickly delivered to Fidel Castro through an espionage network which included Cuban agents Fernando Gomez, Jose Arbessu and Masetti himself. Later in March of 1984, the FBI identified an additional three million dollars in transit from Cuban Agent Gomez to Castro, the proceeds of the Connecticut heist. The testimony of Machetero conspirators, as well as of Masetti, confirmed that the entire robbery had been planned in Havana and that Havana had issued forged passports and even fifty thousand dollars of financing prior to the successful venture.
On October 30, 1983, Machetero Luis Colon and three others fired an anti-tank rocket LAW-M-72, at the FBI offices on the fifth floor of the federal building in San Juan. The missile markings reflected it was American made and had been left by American forces in Vietnam in 1975, later being removed to Cuba.
As the magnitude of the targets continued to escalate on U.S. soil, massive amounts of assets were directed by the United States government at stopping the Cuban backed Machetero network. As part of the law enforcement efforts a conversation was taped between Ojeda and others where Ojeda discussed the introduction of thirty kilos of plastique explosives into the United States through Mexico
, originating in Havana. While the investigation was in progress, Macheteros fired off two rockets at the Supreme Court in San Juan. The rockets also again came from Cuba. According to William Webster, then Director of the FBI, there was no question of the source. In September of 1985 Ojeda was arrested.
Previously in 1978 in Elmhurst, Queens, a bomb exploded. William Morales blew off his hands when a pipe bomb he was assembling in a safehouse accidentally detonated. He was convicted on February 28, 1979, in the Brooklyn Federal Court. On May 21, 1979, at the age of thirty- one, with his hands bandaged, he managed to escape from Bellevue Hospital unto a waiting car. Morales went underground for several years and eventually crossed the border into Mexico. The Mexican government refused to extradite him and in 1988 Morales fled to Havana to join his handlers. He had been granted safe haven and protection by the Cuban government. He now lives with his Cuban wife and his son
, Rodrigo. He is paid a salary by the Cuban government. Occasionally he meets with some of America’s most wanted. For instance, Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, one of the most wanted of American fugitives and the convicted murderess of a New Jersey state trooper, is another escapee with whom Morales visits.
On September 10, 1999, the Tampa Tribune published an editorial criticizing President Clinton’s offer of clemency to a gang of sixteen terrorist members of the FALN movement. Many of the convicted terrorists that Clinton pardoned had been serving nearly life sentences. The highly criticized clemency case resulted in the Tampa Tribune editorial that indicated that the FALN group leader, “was captured after a bomb he was making exploded prematurely and blew off his hand. The wounded prisoner later escaped U.S. custody, was captured in Mexico after a shootout that killed a Mexican officer, was subsequently released
, and is now living in exile in Cuba, where he can study at the feet of the master, Castro.” On August 27, 1999, the Tampa Tribune reported that federal agencies wanted no leniency for the Puerto Rican nationalists. The FBI, the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Attorneys in Illinois and Connecticut all objected. FBI officials complained of “any leniency [given] to a person convicted of terrorist related acts at a time when the United States was engaged in a world wide battle against terrorism.” America’s position must remain constant.
VI. ANA BELEN MONTES
On September 21, 2001, Ana Belen Montes was arrested in Washington, D.C., only ten days after the national tragedy at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She became the seventeenth Cuban spy arrested since September of 1998 on U.S. soil. She stood accused of an ongoing conspiracy to transmit highly classified documents to the Cuban government relating to the national defense of the United States and the fraudulent evaluation of Cuba’s military and intelligence threat to America. Montes was the highest ranking intelligence officer on Cuba working at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The timing of her arrest was the result of increasing contact after September 11, 2001, between Montes and Cuban intelligence. Because of Washington’s concern that Montes was providing information to the Cubans, which in turn was being passed on to Cuban intelligence allies (all enemies of the United States) the investigation was shut down and her arrest was effectuated.
Ana Belen Montes entered a plea of guilty to the indictment on March 19, 2002. She has been cooperating with the United States and has engaged in debriefings. The concerns surrounding this magnificent coup for Cuban intelligence services of having an agent in place at the highest levels of United States intelligence are significant. Montes had access to satellite imaging, foreign communications intercepted by U.S. intelligence activity and espionage in other countries
, and a wealth of information about Cuba that she could modify and change according to directives from her handlers in Havana.
Preparation of documents at DIA in conjunction with intelligence counsel for the CIA, the National Security Council and the Office of Investigation of the Department of State by Montes, resulted in fraudulent reports to the Southern Command, the Secretary of Defense, and U.S. intelligence agencies, which in turn underevaluated Cuban armed forces and their intelligence capabilities. Her input clearly influenced foreign policy during her tenure at DIA, dating back ten years before her arrest. All of her work was infected by disinformation downplaying the reality of Fidel Castro’s capabilities. As a result the government has charged that she attempted to influence foreign policy at the highest circles of military and U.S. intelligence. As part of the active measures directed by Havana
, Montes even attempted to reduce the significance of conflicting reports prepared by others which stated that Cuba still presented a significant danger. Montes also participated in study groups of Cuba in the Washington area and at Georgetown University where she engaged in discussion with academics, former intelligence analysts, and other professionals, on the Cuban issue. Montes briefed members of Congress and the Southern Command on her assessments on a regular basis. She frequently met with her counterparts at the CIA and exchanged top secret information.
During the year 2000, while the Elian Gonzalez matter was being reviewed at the Department of Justice and the White House, Montes participated in meetings with intelligence agencies to render briefings. The FBI established that Montes had been sending information to Cuba since 1991 about military maneuvers in the United States and military and naval exercises of the Atlantic Command. Several Cubanologists and retired United States military men who have since 1996 made public their position that Cuba does not pose a significant military threat to the United States (which opinions are based on reports authored by Montes and provided to them while they were employees of the government) have been embarrassed and can no longer defend the position.
As other Cuban agents on American soil, and their associates (Puerto Rican nationalist extremists, subversive group members of the Weather Underground and others) Montes used telephone facilities to contact her Cuban handlers at the United Nations in New York. In 1996 Montes provided Cuba information that a military intelligence agent from the United States would appear in covert fashion. According to the FBI
, the Cubans were able to direct counter-intelligence on this American agent. Montes has also acknowledged giving the names of at least four secret agents that operated in Cuba on behalf of the United States. According to high ranking Pentagon officials, the Montes damage could continue to multiple as a result of Cuba’s sharing of information with other hostile governments and terrorist states. Undoubtedly part of the Montes information has filtered to Libya, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
On October 16, 2002, Ana Belen Montes was sentenced to a term of twenty five years of imprisonment. According to Assistant United States Attorney Ronald Walutes, “Ana Belen Montes consciously and deliberately chose to join forces with those who would compromise the national security of this country. She secretly and without remorse systematically compromised classified information relating to the national defense of the entire country.” Walutes acknowledged that Montes had access to “top secret” files, the most sensitive information in the U.S. government and that she passed information along to Cuban intelligence officers from 1992 until her arrest. The government indicated that she worked with short wave radios or pay phones, communicating with her Cuban handlers by pre-paid calling cards, encrypted computer codes and three digit beeper systems. The government can not disclose further damage at this time as the investigation continues. In November of 2002 four Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States. The foursome has been linked to Montes. Because of diplomatic immunity they could not be prosecuted.
On October 17, 2002, I was engaged with a well respected congressman in a discussion on the Cuban issue. The congressman was thinking about going to Cuba. During our exchange I noted what had just happened in Washington on the day before our conversation and asked him if he had heard about the sentencing of Ana Belen Montes. He replied, “who is Ana Belen Montes?” This congressman
, who has a top secret security clearance, and is considering visiting Cuba, had no idea of the penetration by Cuba at the highest level of our government.
The bottom line is simple. Once a terrorist, always a terrorist. The only variable is the disguise. Appeasement has never worked against tyrants, and it’s not about to start working now. While we should always be receptive to new ideas that may bring about change in Cuba, and freedom to the Cuban people, we should never compromise our national security in the effort. We should also be mindful that many Americans, in the quest for the almighty dollar, will not hesitate to bargain with our safety.