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Fertile Ground: Cuban Intel Recruiting Academics to Spy on U.S. Government

Prolific bank robber Willie Sutton, when asked why he held up banks, supposedly said, "Because that's where the money is."

Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, who reports on an FBI internal document stating that Cuban intelligence is targeting American academia and university professors to recruit spies, brings to mind Sutton's declaration.

Why should Cuban intel target colleges? Because that's where the communists are.

Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting leftist American academics and university professors as spies and influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.

Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents, that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia.”

“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report concludes.

One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because of his/her personal beliefs,” the FBI report, dated Sept. 2, said.

Others are offered lucrative business deals in Cuba in a future post-U.S. embargo environment, and are treated to extravagant, all-expense paid visits to the island.

Coercive tactics used by the Cubans include exploiting personal weaknesses and sexual entrapment, usually during visits to Cuba.

The Cubans “will actively exploit visitors to the island” and U.S. academics are targeted by a special department of the spy agency.

“This department is supported by all of the counterintelligence resources the government of Cuba can marshal on the island,” the report said. “Intelligence officers will come into contact with the academic travelers. They will stay in the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify targets.”

In addition to collecting information and secrets, Cuban spies employ “influence operations,” the FBI said.

“The objective of these activities can range from portraying a specific image, usually positive, to attempting to sway policymakers into particular courses of action,” the report said.

While the left generally romanticizes the Castros and Cuban communism, the hard-core Marxists on college campuses see the regime as on the frontlines of the revolutionary struggle against capitalism. They are dead serious about the regime's survival and would no doubt betray their own country to facilitate that goal.

The fact that being a Marxist professor is not a detriment to one's career means that Cuban intelligence operatives on a recruiting mission don't have to try very hard to find likely targets. More difficult, one would think, would be to recruit the fellow travelers who might be in a better position to supply usable intelligence. Those academics who move easily between the ivory tower and Washington, D.C., would be prime candidates for recruitment. They would also be likely targets of honey traps and other methods to compromise potential recruits.