Tags: Barack Obama | Castro-Cuba | us | spy | cuba | exchange | prisoner

NYT Names US Spy at Center of Cuba Prisoner Swap

By    |   Thursday, 18 December 2014 06:43 PM

The man President Barack Obama praised as one of the best spies for America in Cuba was released Wednesday in a prisoner swap in a deal that would normalize relations with the Communist island after more than 50 years.

Obama did not name the individual, but The New York Times identified him as Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, who was flown out of Havana in the swap.

Sarraff, now 51, was jailed in 1996 after being convicted of espionage and other charges by the Cuban government.

"Several current American officials identified him and a former official discussed some of the information he gave to the CIA while burrowed deep inside Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence," the Times said in its report.

In the deal Obama announced on Wednesday, Sarraff was exchanged for three Cubans who were convicted spies and were being held in U.S. prisons.

Much of Sarraff's work for the CIA remains classified, according to the Times, and it was not clear when he joined the agency.

Chris Simmons, who headed a Cuban counterintelligence unit for the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1996 to 2004, told the Times that Sarraff had worked in the cryptology section of the DIA in Havana.

His expertise was in deciphering the codes used by Cuban spies in the United States to communicate with Havana, the Times reports.

Sarraff's family told the news organization that he studied journalism at the University of Havana and was a first lieutenant at the DIA.

He passed along encryption information to the CIA that led to the arrest of a number of Cuban agents operating in the United States, according to Simmons.

They included Ana Belen Montes, a senior Defense Intelligence Agency official who was one of the highest-ranking U.S. officials ever proven to have spied for Cuba, according to information from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence's office.

Montes was a senior intelligence analyst at the agency when she was arrested by the FBI in September 2001. The following March, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of Cuba and is serving a 25-year sentence.

While at the DIA, Montes disclosed the identities of U.S. intelligence officers and gave other classified information to the Cuban Intelligence Service, according to American officials.

Other convictions include Walter Kendall Myers, a former official of the U.S. State Department, and his wife, Gwendolyn Myers; and members of the Red Avispa network, or Wasp Network, in Florida.

"There were a number of people in the Cuban government who were valuable to the U.S., just as there were a number of people in the U.S. government who were helpful to the Cubans," Jerry Komisar, the head of clandestine operations for the CIA in Cuba during the 1990s, told the Times.

The Myers couple had spied for Cuba for nearly three decades before being arrested by the FBI in 2009. Walter Myers has a life sentence without parole, while Gwendolyn Myers is serving a seven-year term.

The Wasp Network consisted of five Cuban spies who sought to infiltrate anti-Castro groups in the United States, as well as the U.S. military's Southern Command. They were arrested in 1998.

Cuba's spy service regularly communicated with its agents in America using encrypted messages sent via shortwave radio, Simmons told the Times.

Because of Sarraff's work, the FBI could arrest Cuban spies years after he was caught and imprisoned in Havana, he said.

"When Roly was providing information, he was giving us insights about where there were weaknesses in the Cuban encryption system," Simmons told the Times.

Sarraff was arrested by Cuban authorities in November 1995, the Times reports. He was tried and convicted the following year, sentenced to 25 years in prison.

"He has always maintained his innocence," his sister, Vilma Sarraff, told the Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The man President Obama praised as one of the best spies for America in Cuba was released Wednesday through a prisoner swap in a deal that would normalize relations with the Communist island after more than 50 years.
us, spy, cuba, exchange, prisoner, swap, Rolando Sarraff Trujillo
Thursday, 18 December 2014 06:43 PM
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