Castro: the terrorist next door
| by Paul CrespoIn the rash to pursue terrorists in far-flung places such as Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf region, let's not overlook another terrorist on our doorstep -- Cuba's Fidel Castro, a dictator with a bankrupt economy, a long history of ties to terror groups, hatred for the United States and a biowarfare capability.
In 1959 Castro expressed his passionate belief that he was destined to lead an anti-American crusade. "I am going to launch another much longer and bigger war against them. I realize now that this is going to be my true destiny" he wrote.
Castro's myriad of agents operating in the United States include a military-spy ring known as the "Wasp" network, recently uncovered in Miami. That group had a dramatic addition on Sept. 22 with the arrest in Washington of a senior U.S. intelligence officer -- the Cuba analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. She is the highest-ranking officer ever accused of spying for Castro and had considerable input into recent Defense Department reports minimizing the Cuba threat.
Some argue that the aging Castro now is more interested in the tourism trade than the terror business, but this is a dangerous delusion; he is interested in both. Castro may be less active, but Cuba still is one of seven nations (along with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Sudan) on the State Department's list of terrorist states. This status is well deserved. In 2000, the State Department reported, "Cuba continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists and U.S. fugitives." Afghan nationals detained in the Cayman Islands in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks reportedly transited through Cuba; two others detained in Panama for their possible financial connection to Osama bin Laden's terror network reportedly were en route to Cuba.
Castro never has wavered in his ideological rampage against the United States, even as he has wooed Western investors. Recently he has been organizing a new "anti-Western alliance" of rogue states (including Hugo Chavez's Venezuela). In 2001 Castro visited Libya six times. As recently as May 2001 Castro toured Syria, Libya and Iran to garner support for this effort. On May 10 in Tehran, Castro stated, "Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees."
The intelligence threat posed by Castro is real. He reportedly supplied intelligence on U.S. military activities to Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf War -- information gained through Cuba's Soviet-built, Russian-financed signals-intelligence facility in Lourdes capable of eavesdropping on phone calls in Washington and from spies in the United States. The Russians pay him more than $200 million a year in much-needed hard currency for access to his intelligence. We can only speculate how much bin Laden and Iraq may be paying.
The Chinese also have built an electronic-espionage complex in Bejucal, Cuba, operating under the cover of "Radio China/' The Federal Communications Commission has stated that the Chinese are capable of interfering with U.S. communications and air-traffic control. On May 13, the Chinese reportedly sent a message to New York air-traffic control falsely identifying themselves as a U.S. military transport plane -- a chilling foretaste of things to come. More worrisome is Castro's potential chemical- and biological-weapons development and proliferation. He long has been suspected of hiding a chemical/biological-weapons program within his sophisticated, Soviet-created "biotechnology" industry.
In May 1998, secretary of defense William Cohen testified before Congress that Cuba possessed advanced biotechnology and was capable of mass-producing agents for biological warfare. High-level Cuban defectors, as well as Col. Ken Alibek, former deputy chief of the former Soviet Union's biological-warfare program, support that assessment. Castro also may be exporting this capability to his rogue friends. In 2000, Cuban officials inaugurated a new "biotech-research" plant near Tehran.
Castro's continued anti-American fervor, close intelligence links to rogue states and terrorists, and bio-warfare capability make him a dangerous neighbor.
What should the United States do? First we should clearly tell China and Russia that we no longer will allow Cuba to be used as an intelligence-collection or subversion site against the United States and demand they withdraw their advisers and technicians immediately. At minimum we also should demand that Castro shut down these facilities and allow for independent inspection and verification.
We also should demand to inspect all suspected chemical/biological-research (weapons) sites on the island. Finally, we should redouble and refocus our intelligence efforts to verify and confirm the details of Cuban complicity with terrorist groups, and we should tell Castro in no uncertain terms that we will not tolerate Cuba being used as a haven for international terrorists. Castro is a player in this global terrorist network and should be treated as such.
Paul Crespo, a former Marine Corps combat-arms and intelligence officer, served as a naval attache in the Balkans, Persian Gulf and Latin America. He is a counterterrorism consultant and a member of the Council on Emerging National Security Affairs in Washington.