Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Soviet intelligence files made public in a new book show that American travelers to Cuba helped KGB agents obtain identity documents and that Fidel Castro and his brother worked with the spy agency five years before taking power in the 1959 revolution.

New details of Moscow’s intelligence work in Cuba were disclosed by Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist who defected to Britain in 1992.

According to the book, Russian KGB officer Nikolai Leonov became “firm friends,” with Mr. Castro’s younger brother Raul in Prague in 1953 and then worked together with Fidel from 1956 and after he took power in 1959.

The book, the second volume of what is known as the Mitrokhin archive, also reveals how Moscow sought to indirectly defeat the United States during the Cold War through large-scale “disinformation” and influence operations in the developing world.

“The KGB really believed they could win the Cold War in the Third World,” said Christopher Andrew, a Cambridge history professor and co-author of the new book, “The World Was Going Our Way.” Mr. Mitrokhin died last year.

The information provided by Mr. Mitrokhin was considered an intelligence bonanza and identified hundreds of KGB officers, agents and operations.

Among the thousands of classified KGB files provided by Mr. Mitrokhin were documents related to Americans who traveled to Cuba beginning in 1969 as part of the pro-Castro Venceremos Brigade.

The KGB helped set up Cuba’s DGI intelligence service, which imposed draconian controls on Cuban society and also arranged for the visits of Americans.

The book reveals that Fidel Castro publicly supported the American activists but privately “looked askance at the presence of gay and women’s liberation movements among his American New Left supporters,” the book stated.

According to the authors, the DGI complained to its KGB counterparts that “the New Left brigadistas were homosexuals and drug addicts.”

“Venceremos gays, the DGI bizarrely reported, saw ‘the possibility of using homosexuality to bring about the physical degeneration of American imperialism,’” the authors write, quoting the Cuban memo to Moscow.

“The Brigade however, proved a valuable source of U.S. identity documents for use in [undercover] intelligence operations,” the authors said, noting that the American travelers were “an important propaganda asset.”

A spokesman for the Venceremos Brigade, based in New Jersey, could not be reached for comment.

In Iraq, the KGB also sought unsuccessfully to recruit Saddam Hussein who was fascinated with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and had all of Stalin’s writings translated into Arabic. The KGB also suppled Saddam with military intelligence about U.S. war plans during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Other KGB operations outlined in the book include:

• The recruitment of Palestinian terrorists and providing advice to terrorists involved in kidnappings and assassinations.

• The planting of agents inside the Syrian intelligence service that allowed Syria to become a Soviet ally in the Middle East.

• The backing of Sandinista guerrillas in Nicaragua.

• Covert funding of Indian political parties and newspapers, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government and party.

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