According to a defector, Cuba has a secret, underground laboratory southeast of Havana called ”Labor Uno,” where biological agents — ”viruses and bacteria and dangerous sicknesses” — are being developed for military use.
The administration calls Cuba a ”state sponsor of terrorism,” so if the defector’s story is true, Cuba would represent what President Bush terms one of the worst national security threats of the 21st century: the world’s most dangerous weapons in the hands of the world’s most dangerous people.
How scared should we be?
Not scared at all, if we judge by the administration’s policies and public statements, none of which betray concern, much less certainty, about any threat emanating from Cuba.
The defector, Roberto Ortega, was Cuba’s top military doctor. He visited Labor Uno in 1992 while he was escorting a visiting Russian delegation.
Ortega may be entirely truthful, but the Iraq experience teaches that fragments of interesting information do not amount to ”slam-dunk” intelligence.
Indeed, the Iraq intelligence failure led U.S. agencies to reassess their views on weapons programs worldwide. The result came in August 2005 when, with Ortega’s account in hand, these agencies downgraded their Cuba assessment, concluding unanimously that it was “unclear whether Cuba has an active offensive biological-warfare effort now, or even had one in the past.”
But the administration gives us more reasons to sleep easy.
* Cuba missed the “axis of evil.” With the exception of now-departed John Bolton, senior officials responsible for security matters have been silent about Cuba. In October 2005, Bolton’s successor as the State Department’s top security official, Robert Joseph, did not mention Cuba in a global survey of weapons of mass destruction issues. Cabinet-level officials routinely chide Cuba’s human rights abuses but mention no security concerns.
* Ana Montes unchallenged. After Cuban spy Ana Montes was discovered to be working as the administration’s top Cuba defense-intelligence analyst in 2001, Bolton and other officials charged that she had skewed U.S. intelligence, including a famous 1998 report that called Cuba’s military capabilities ”residual” and ”defensive” and its threat ”negligible.” But in six years, the administration has issued no report offering a less benign assessment, even though it would serve its political interests to do so. Montes’ betrayal, we can deduce, involved leaking the identities of agents and other U.S. secrets to Cuba rather than distorting U.S. intelligence.
* Migration exception. If the administration had the slightest concern about terrorism coming from Cuba, it would not have a unique, open-door policy toward undocumented Cuban migrants, where we welcome those who reach our shores or Mexican border crossings and release them into the community within hours. This may make humanitarian sense, but it is truly a pre-9/11 policy in a post-9/11 world. It tells Cuba, if indeed it is a terrorist state, to infiltrate operatives not through cloak-and-dagger ruses but mixed in with everyday migrants.
* No negotiations. In return for a promise to cap its nuclear program, North Korea will receive fuel oil and direct talks with Washington that could lead to normalized relations. Similarly, Iran has been offered rewards for ending its nuclear ambitions. In the Cuban case, the administration seeks no talks and does not pursue Ortega’s recommendation that international inspectors go to Cuba. Apparently, the administration sees nothing to talk about.
What we are left with is that the only visible U.S. action in response to a Cuba-related security issue is a maritime exercise to prepare for a possible migration crisis in the Florida Straits.
Floridians can therefore go back to worrying about hurricanes, tornadoes and inadequate insurance coverage — until, that is, Raul Castro figures out that a new weapons program might be the ticket to achieve normal relations with the United States.
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