How many Cuban spies are lurking inside Washington? (Part I)
The sensational new spy case rocking the Beltway raises uncomfortable counterintelligence questions that demand answers
This week’s arrest and indictment of retired Ambassador Victor Manuel Rocha on federal charges relating to his alleged espionage for Communist Cuba over four decades has caused commotion in our nation’s capital. Which it should, since this looks like the most consequential spy scandal to hit Washington, DC, in many years.
I’ve covered the basics of the Rocha case, at least what we know so far based on the Department of Justice press release and indictment, in my piece in yesterday’s Washington Examiner, which I recommend a look at before we deep-dive into counterintelligence analysis. Let’s summarize the essentials up front:
· The 73-year-old Rocha, a native of Colombia and naturalized U.S. citizen, was a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State from 1981 to 2002.
· Rocha held several senior DoS positions relating to Latin America, including serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission to Argentina and U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia.
· Rocha possessed expertise in Cuban issues, including secondment to the National Security Council and a posting at the U.S. Interests Section (later Embassy) in Havana.
· Rocha conducted a witting clandestine relationship with Cuban intelligence since 1981, and he had some contact with Cuban officials as far back as 1973.
· Cuban intelligence directed Rocha to obtain employment with the U.S. Government and his long State Department career was, in effect, a side gig to his real work for Havana.
· Rocha’s motivation for betrayal appears to be ideological, encompassing affection for Communist Cuba and its revolution, while despising the United States as “the enemy.”
· Rocha’s post-State work included serving as a special adviser to U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which gave him access to Pentagon secrets that he surely passed to Havana.
· Given Rocha’s high-level positions at the State Department and the White House, the classified information he passed to Cuban intelligence should be assumed to be vast.
· Rocha will likely be convicted on serious espionage-related charges since during three meetings in 2022-2023 with an undercover FBI agent, he admitted his guilt in detail.
So far, the mainstream media has shied away from the implications of the Rocha case, which appear to be highly damaging to American diplomacy and security over four decades. In the first place, most journalists and commentators have a difficult time taking impoverished little Cuba seriously as a threat to U.S. national security. Professionals in the counterspy game don’t make that mistake.