Intelligence Director John Negroponte
John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence for the United States,
announced on Friday, August 18, 2006, the creation of a new special CIA mission
to oversee intelligence activities in Venezuela and Cuba. Negroponte, who coordinates
the entire intelligence community in the United States and reports directly
to President George W. Bush, named CIA veteran J. Patrick Maher as Acting Mission
Manager of this new important division.
According to a Press Release from the Directorate of National Intelligence,
“Maher will be responsible for integrating collection and analysis on
Cuba and Venezuela across the Intelligence Community, identifying and filling
gaps in intelligence, and ensuring the implementation of strategies, among other
duties.” According to Negroponte, “such efforts are critical today,
as policymakers have increasingly focused on the challenges that Cuba and Venezuela
pose to American foreign policy.”
Since early 2005, the CIA has named Venezuela as one of the “Top 5 Unstable
Countries” in Latin America and has increased its intelligence personnel
within the country by fifty percent.
The new CIA Mission Manager for Cuba and Venezuela will “be responsible
for ensuring that policymakers have a full range of timely and accurate intelligence
on which to base their decisions.” This implies a further increase in
actual ground agents and field officers in both nations.
During the past two years, the Venezuelan Government has discovered
and expelled four U.S. officials engaged in espionage activities. Two
of these individuals were military attachés, Capitan John Correa and
Lieutenant Humberto Rodriguez, and had been actively recruiting members of the
Venezuelan armed forces to provide strategic and secret information about internal
Venezuelan affairs to the U.S. government.
The other two accused spies are not publicly known, though President Hugo Chávez
recently made reference to a “beautiful woman caught taking photographs
in the city of Valencia”, indicating she was a CIA operative who had been
detained and turned over to the U.S. Embassy.
J. Patrick Maher has been the National Intelligence Officer for the Western
Hemisphere since August 2005. He will remain in that capacity as well as assume
the role of Acting Mission Manager until a more permanent replacement is named.
Maher was the Deputy Director of the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence’s
Office of Policy Support from 2003 to August 2005, and previously oversaw different
CIA divisions in Latin America, including the Colombia Working Group, the Mexico
Working Group and he served as Chief of the Latin America Branch’s Middle-Caribbean
Division. He joined the CIA in 1974 after a two-year stint as a volunteer in
the Peace Corp, where he was stationed in Colombia. The Peace Corp has often
been viewed as a first step trial period for young perspective CIA officers.
The Mission Manager for Cuba and Venezuela is a position recommended by the
Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission of the Directorate of National Intelligence
and has been endorsed by President George W. Bush. The Cuba and Venezuela Mission
becomes the sixth of its kind, though the only other nations with such specific
missions are Iran and North Korea. The other missions include one for counterterrorism,
one for counter-proliferation and one for counterintelligence. The Missions
are aimed at leading the intelligence community on a strategic and analytical
This latest development in the growing hostilities between Venezuela and the
United States Government indicates the importance the Bush Administration is
now placing on monitoring activities within Venezuela and developing new strategies
of intervention. Despite excellent commercial relations between the two nations,
the verbal rhetoric and behind the scenes preparations for a direct conflict
are increasing. Top Secret CIA documents obtained under the Freedom of Information
Act in 2004 revealed the in-depth role the Agency played in the coup d’état
against President Hugo Chávez in April 2002. Subsequently, direct U.S.
intervention in Venezuela has grown through multi-million dollar funding to
opposition groups via the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID).
It was long known that the CIA and other intelligence bodies were active
in Venezuela, yet this latest confirmation from the Director of National Intelligence,
John Negroponte, affirms that Venezuela has taken a top priority role in the
Bush administration’s intelligence and strategic defense planning.
Venezuela has presidential elections coming up on December 3, 2006,
and is concerned that this new special CIA Mission will attempt to interfere
with the electoral process
US steps up anti-Castro TV
By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The
Christian Science Monitor
Every evening from Monday to Saturday, a small twin-engine prop plane taxis
down the runway past combat-ready jet-fighters at Naval Air Station, Key West.
The commuter aircraft takes off and banks to the south over the deep-blue Florida
Straits as pilot and crew prepare for their nightly invasion of Cuba.
Their mission: to spread democracy there by serving as an airborne broadcast
platform for a US Spanish-language television network known as TV Martí.
Welcome to the newest front in Washington's propaganda war against Fidel Castro
and his brother, Raúl. With Cuba's leader said to be frail but recovering
from surgery and his brother provisionally designated as his successor, US officials
are stepping up efforts to encourage the Cuban people to end Mr. Castro's 47-year
revolution with a revolution of their own.
Officials with the Miami-based Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), an arm of
the US government, are quick to point out that their twin-prop Grumman G-1 at
no time leaves international air space. Nonetheless, the Cuban government views
the operation as the equivalent of a full-on invasion of Cuban sovereignty.
How effective this information 'invasion' may be is a matter of considerable
debate. The Cubans have worked to jam TV Martí for years. The new plane
and its high-powered transmitter were pressed into action Aug. 5 and are still
in the testing phase. But officials say initial indications are positive.
"It is getting through. We have reports from Havana [and] Matanzas ...
that it is being seen," says Alberto Mascaro, OCB's chief of staff. "Every
day, it is getting better as they fine-tune the equipment."
Critics scoff at such claims. They see information warfare directed at Cuba
as an expensive boondoggle related more to the political power of anti-Castro
Cuban-Americans than to any demonstrable impact on bringing free elections to
The US government has spent nearly $500 million to fund Radio Martí
since 1985 and TV Martí since 1990. The Cuban government responded with
an array of frequency jammers in and around Havana, and opponents of the propaganda
effort say it has achieved little more than bringing very expensive "snow"
to Cuban television screens.
"The bottom line is that TV Martí since the day it went on the
air, regardless of the technology used, has virtually no audience. Every new
technology that they have announced has not worked; it is very easy to jam,"
says John Nichols, a communications professor at Penn State University and coauthor
of the book "Clandestine Radio Broadcasting."
Last month, a presidential commission recommended measures aimed at hastening
the transition to democracy in post-Castro Cuba. One recommendation was to break
Castro's information blockade. "The regime fears the day that the Cuban
people have full access to independent information," it said.
Radio Martí programming has been somewhat more successful than TV Martí
in evading jamming, but analysts say it nonetheless has failed to attract a
large and loyal audience after more than 20 years in operation. One government
estimate in 2005 said only 1.7 percent of Cubans were regular listeners.
But that hasn't slowed US efforts to find new and better ways to get information
into Cuba. When TV Martí first started, it was broadcast from a blimp
attached to a cable 10,000 feet above Cudjoe Key in the Florida Keys.
After the signals were easily blocked in Havana, the US responded with transmissions
from a C-130 transport plane. Those broadcasts were also blocked. Now, TV Martí
officials hope the new plane - with state-of-the-art equipment - will generate
a signal strong enough to punch through the jammers.
That's not the only front in this information warfare. In 2003, TV Martí
began beaming its signal throughout the island via satellite. The Cuban government
tightly controls access to satellite broadcasts. But estimates are that there
are perhaps 10,000 black- market satellite dishes island-wide.
"Now is the time to gear up and take action," says Stephen Johnson,
a Cuba policy expert at the Heritage Foundation. He says the key to success
at Radio and TV Martí is building credibility by offering reliable and
"What they need is information to help them realize that there are different
ways of living out in the rest of the world, and that there are things they
are missing out on," he says. "It is not to be anti-Castro, but to
help plant seeds of change."
Professor Nichols says it won't work because no one in Cuba is listening. "The
audience is the sender, not the receiver. The [attempted broadcasts] are making
Cuba mad and the Cuban exile community happy," he says. "That is the
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