Rubio: “This is one more piece of the sad, dangerous legacy of President Obama’s appeasement-based foreign policy”
On October 14, 2016, Obama issued a “presidential policy directive” in which he laid out a multi-pronged approach “to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible.” In this directive, Obama directs the Director of National Security to share intelligence with Cuba and to cooperate with Cuban intelligence.
Members of Congress are concerned that U. S. intelligence will be shared by Cuba with Iran, particularly in light of Iran’s recent assertion that it will “open a new chapter in relations with Cuba.”
Obama administration efforts to bolster the sharing of critical intelligence data with Cuba is likely to benefit Iran, which has been quietly bolstering its foothold in the country with the communist government’s approval, according to conversations with members of Congress and other sources familiar with the matter.
A little noticed Obama administration directive on Cuba, released Oct. 14, instructed the U.S. director of national intelligence to assist and cooperate with Cuba’s intelligence services.
The directive has raised red flags on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are concerned that Cuba will pass along critical U.S. intelligence to the Iranians, who have made moves in recent years to extend their influence in the communist country and other Latin American countries hostile to the United States.
Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) cites a February 2016 statement before Congress by James Clapper that Cuba remains “an espionage threat.”
The Washington Free Beacon continues:
Iran’s interest in Cuba was on fully display earlier this year when Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, went on a goodwill tour throughout Latin America that included stops in Cuba and Venezuela, among others.
The goal of this visit, sources told the Washington Free Beacon, was to solidify Iran’s growing terrorist network in the region and ensure the Islamic Republic maintains its presence along America’s doorstep.
“The Castro regime has shown no inclination to end its anti-American activities, including espionage,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon. “The Castro regime in August and September 2016 deepened ties with Iran through high level visits, and there are reports that Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah has established a base in Cuba.”
“The director of national intelligence, General James R. Clapper, testified in February 2016 that the Castro dictatorship remained an espionage threat at the level of Iran, behind only China and Russia,” Diaz-Balart added. “Under these circumstances, President Obama’s directive to encourage intelligence sharing with the Castro regime is reckless, dangerous, and contrary to U.S. national security interests.”
Not only does Iran now have the resources–thanks to the Obama administration–to pursue its Latin American agenda, but members of Congress note that Iran is likely celebrating Obama’s Cuba move.
The Washington Free Beacon continues:
Iran has been interested in Latin America for years, but now has the resources to pursue a footprint in the region as a result of the cash windfall provided by last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement.
. . . . The Obama administration’s move to share intelligence with Cuba is likely to be celebrated by Iran, according to congressional sources tracking the matter.
“President Obama’s instruction to DNI Clapper last week to look for ways to cooperate with Cuba on intelligence issues poses an unconscionable threat to the security of the American people,” Victoria Coates, national security adviser for Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), told the Free Beacon.
“The administration tried to bury it under enthusiasm for easing restrictions on the rum and cigars American tourists can buy from Fidel and Raul Castro, but the reality is the Castros are aggressively pursuing a closer relationship with Iran, the mullahs just refinanced Cuba’s debt with the assets they got from the president’s nuclear deal, and Cuba’s close ally, Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, visited Iran this week,” Coates said. “Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is re-establishing Russian intelligence assets in Cuba 90 miles from the United States.”
Lawmakers also have concerns that this “warming” of Cuba-American relations and goal of sharing intel with Cuba will result in the freeing of more Cuban spies from American prisons and that Cuban diplomats could also be Cuban intelligence agents.
The Obama administration says the one-sentence objective, which calls on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest” with Cuban counterparts, is intended to combat “mutual threats.”
But in South Florida the directive has angered a community that remembers the roles Cuban spies and agents played in the downing of two planes of the Brothers to the Rescue exile group and the theft of U.S. military secrets by an agent planted in the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“Forget about the cigars, this is a huge deal,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican. “This is a huge threat to our national security.”
. . . . [T]he idea of sharing sensitive “intelligence” with the country that created an elaborate system to spy on the United States seems incomprehensible to many. In the 1990s, Cuban intelligence created the Wasp Network, which spied on U.S. military facilities in South Florida and infiltrated the Brothers to the Rescue. Information the network passed to Havana helped Cuba down two of the group’s planes, killing their four occupants.
Gerardo Hernández, who was condemned to two life sentences in federal prison for leading the Wasp Network, was freed along with two other Cuban spies in a 2014 prisoner swap that heralded the warming of relations and included Alan Gross, a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. In one of the stranger aspects of the newfound diplomacy, before Hernández’s release, the U.S. government sent his sperm to his wife so she could get pregnant.
Some worry that Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes could be next to be released. Sometimes referred to as the most important spy you’ve never heard of, Montes spent nearly two decades spying for the Cuban government while working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The Obama administration has said it has no intention of releasing or swapping her.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., was among a group of Cuban-American lawmakers who raised concerns last year that the Castro government might use its diplomats at the reopened Cuban embassy in Washington as intelligence agents.
“It is unconscionable that D.C. is seeking engagement on the intelligence front with an avowed enemy of the U.S. when we know of Russia’s military presence in Cuba, Castro’s espionage apparatus and air traffic security at risk, which all undermine our own national security,” she said.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement on Obama’s intelligence-sharing directive.
Over the past 24 hours, we’ve learned the Obama Administration has entered into an intelligence-sharing agreement with the Castro regime. This makes absolutely no sense, considering Cuba’s intelligence agencies actively work to endanger American lives by stealing our military and national security secrets and selling them to Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.
At a time when Russia is actively trying to influence elections in the U.S. the Obama Administration is saying it’s going to make nice with the very same Cuban intelligence agencies whose number one mission is to steal classified information from our government and recruit spies in the U.S. This is one more piece of the sad, dangerous legacy of President Obama’s appeasement-based foreign policy, which is likely to ensure the longstanding survival of one-party communist rule in Cuba.
. . . . When the Obama Administration announced these new regulations last week, the media and the American public were led to believe this was all about Cuban cigars and rum. Yes, this is about the trafficking of products derived from properties stolen from Americans, but it’s much more than that. The Obama Administration did not include some of the most significant changes in its public or private descriptions of the announcement, suggesting a deliberate attempt to hide them from the American people.
These Obama concessions to the Cuban regime jeopardize America’s national security and are demoralizing to the Cuban people on the island who fight daily for freedom and a better future. They are demoralizing to people of Cuban descent residing in the U.S. who have been victims of the Cuban regime and are now learning the Obama Administration is legitimizing and essentially pardoning their tormentors.
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