An unclassified FBI report released earlier this week states that Cuban intelligence agents are actively attempting to recruit left-leaning academics and university professors in the United States in attempt to “obtain useful information and conduct influence activities.”
In a report that reads like a Cold War-era memo, the FBI states that the Cuban Intelligence Service has found U.S. academia to be fertile ground for recruiting agents within the country and have also perfected the work of placing agents in U.S. universities. According to the report, the hope is that a number of the students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the Cuban government.
“Given the academic environment, it is not surprising why the [Cuban Intelligence Service], as well as other foreign intelligence services, target U.S. academia,” the report states. “The situation provides a favorable environment to operate in and a significant target base to exploit.”
Havana, however, has been strapped for cash and is not able to offer cash payments for any useful intelligence — a tactic employed by spy agencies across the globe. Instead the Cuban Intelligence Service has to rely on an academic’s ideology or offer lucrative business opportunities if the embargo with Cuba is ever lifted.
The report states that Cuban spies generally focus on universities in the northeast of the U.S. – home to the country’s prestigious Ivy League schools and close to Cuba’s diplomatic missions in New York and Washington D.C.
This allows information be to be “collected directly by intelligence officers under diplomatic cover assigned to the United States or through their recruited agents,” the report states.
If this report sounds like something that harkens back to the days when former Cuban leader Fidel Castro was a major thorn in the side of U.S. foreign policy, it is because this type of spying has been going on for decades, experts claim.
“College campuses are seen as fertile grounds for the recruitment of the ‘next generation’ of spies,” Chris Simmons, a retired spycatcher for the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the conservative Free Beacon website. “Cuba heavily targets the schools that train the best candidates for U.S. government jobs, like Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University.”
Both Simmons and the FBI said that besides academics, Cuba also likes to recruit students traveling to the island as part of ‘study abroad’ programs because these students are thought to be inherently sympathetic to the Cuban revolution.
"Not surprisingly, a key venue the [Cuban Intelligence Service] uses to identify individuals of interest is Cuba itself,” the FBI wrote in its report. “Reports are written on visitors that may result in targeting opportunities for the [Cuban Intelligence Service]. It is also worth reiterating that while a targeted individual is in Cuba, he/she is particularly vulnerable to [Cuban Intelligence Service] attempts to obtain compromising information that may create opportunities for coercive [Cuban Intelligence Service] recruitment practices.”