Monday, February 08, 2010

Cuban Agent Communications

The United States has always been the principal foreign target of the Cuban Intelligence Service. Ana Belen Montes, Calos and Elsa Alvarez and Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn are some of the agents who worked for Cuban Intelligence and were jailed for espionage against the United States in recent years.

Information, released into the public, showed that all these illegal agents received encrypted operational messages via shortwave radio, broadcast by Cuban Numbers Stations. These mysterious stations always had a fascinating reputation. They are used by Intelligence Agencies since many decades and have proven to be a most secure way to covertly sent messages behind enemy lines. However, now these most secure shortwave communications provided evidence against all agents that were involved in the Cuban spy cases.

How was it possible that such a solid encryption system failed several times? As it turns out, it were bad implementation and operational procedures that compromised a veteran system of spy trade craft. Just as with the VENONA project (see previous post), these Cuban spy cases are mistakenly referred to as cases of broken one-time pads. On my website you can find a paper I wrote about these espionage cases, how numbers messages work and why the system failed, all based on FBI documents and court papers. You can download or read Cuban Agent Communications (pdf) directly or visit the Papers section on my website.

More information on Cuban espionage in the Unites states is found on the Latin American Studies website. On the CIA FOIA page there's a 14 page information report on selection and training of Cuban intelligence agents abroad (select "View Document in Full for Printing" and zoom in for a good read).

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