By William Tucker
Chief Correspondent for In Homeland Security
After months of back-channel diplomacy the U.S. and Cuba have pledged to normalize ties.
Rumblings of a prisoner swap between the two nations have circulated over the past few months, but the full picture has remained opaque until this week.
Though there are overt political reasons for restoring diplomatic ties and normalizing relations, an oft over looked aspect of the U.S.-Cuba saga is the ongoing intelligence conflict between Washington and Havana.
Cuba may be a small nation with limited conventional military power and a minuscule economy, but it compensates rather skillfully for these shortcomings by aggressively engaging in espionage against its larger neighbor to the north.
In fact, Cuba ranks in the top five among nations that aggressively target the U.S. Cuba maintains the third largest diplomatic mission to the U.N. in New York with half of those posted employed by the Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI). Beyond the Myers and Montes cases, Cuba has worked with Iran in cyber-espionage related activities, and most recently hosted Russian signals intercept vessels.
Cuba is also known to provide intelligence collected on the U.S. to third parties. The totality of these cases requires the U.S. to dedicate substantial resources to counter these activities–resources that could be employed elsewhere against larger foes.
A normalization of relations will not stop Cuba from collecting intelligence on the U.S., but it will slowly charge target prioritization and veracity of Havana’s collection efforts.