Cuba Cooperated with US in Search for Missing Americans

Miguel Fernandez Díaz (Cafe Fuerte)

Analyst Chip Beck, a former CIA agent.
Analyst Chip Beck, a former CIA agent.

HAVANA TIMES — Starting 1998, the Cuban government provided the United States with intelligence to help it track down US citizens who had disappeared in the field during the Cold War, a former CIA agent revealed.

Chip Beck, a retired CIA agent and former Department of State official, revealed that, between 1998 and 2001, he traveled to Cuba officially on five separate occasions to look for information on US citizens who had disappeared during missions in Indochina, Africa and Central America during the years of confrontation between the West and the communist bloc headed by the Soviet Union.

During a Q & A session held through the social network Wikistrat, a well-known geopolitics and intelligence strategy consulting site, Dr. Beck described how, in his trips to the island, he met with representatives of Cuba’s Intelligence Department (DI) and had access to extensive documentations related to his investigative interests.

Proper Conduct

According to Beck, Cuba’s DI knew he had been a navy commander and CIA agent, but felt he had treated Cuban soldiers and agents properly during his missions in Indochina and in African and Central American countries.

Beck made it clear he had absolutely no intentions of spying or deserting and that he was merely interested in accessing classified information, in order to shed light into the situation of American citizens who had disappeared abroad as a result of Cold War operations, without undermining Cuba’s intelligence interests.

The DI asked Beck what Cuba stood to gain from its cooperation and Beck replied that only the fact he would mention they had aided in his investigation in the journalistic pieces.

Beck acknowledges he received more help than he expected, as he was able to read original documents and even interview DI agents and operates who agreed to be taped and filmed.

Beck also conversed with Cuban government officials, during which time Cuba-US relations were inevitably addressed.

An Unnecessary Relic

The US-Cuba conflict came to the fore during the Wikistrat session, where Beck expressed support for the normalization of relations between the two countries: “The status quo is not working for either side; it is an unnecessary relic of the Cold War that should (…) be scrapped.”

Beck’s central argument is that the current conflict with Havana is senseless, since Washington maintains diplomatic relations with Moscow, Peking and Hanoi.

“Washington insiders would swoon if Pyongyang would only offer them the same openings that Havana suggested during my trips a little over a decade ago,” remarked Beck, who believes it is misguided to wait for Fidel and Raul Castro to die to impel a new stage in bilateral relations.

“That is like telling someone you can’t be their friend until their mother and father dies. The time to mend fences is now, not some ill-defined “later”,” affirmed the analyst, who retired from the CIA in 1993.

At Havana’s Seaside Drive

Beck supported his arguments with two anecdotes.

While gazing at the Havana bay, a Cuban navy officer said to him: “What are you guys waiting for? Let’s be friends and come back.” A university graduate then said to him: “If you tell a Cuban what to do, he will do the opposite just to spite you. If you [Americans] stop telling us what to do, things will work out exactly like you want.”

In 2010, after working as the coordinator for the Africa Counterintelligence Operations Task Assistance (ACOTA) at the US State Department for five years, Beck retired from government service.

He is considered a top-level expert on counterinsurgency, international terrorism, drug trafficking, counterintelligence and national security. In addition, Beck is a well-known editor, writer and photographer. He speaks Spanish, French and Portuguese fluently and masters Swahili, Arabic, Laotian, Thai, Russian and Japanese.

17 thoughts on “Cuba Cooperated with US in Search for Missing Americans

  • Respect for national sovereignty is blind support for everything done by a government?

    The US normally respects the authority of a government based on its stability, control of its territory and reasonable international behavior.

    We would have to break relations with and impose sanctions over a large part of the world’s population if we universalized our treatment of Cuba.

  • While gazing at the Havana bay, a Cuban navy officer said to him: “What are you guys waiting for? Let’s be friends and come back.”

    Ok then. A Cuban military officer assigned to a visiting retired CIA agent says let’s all pretend to be friends. Right. I’m convinced!

  • As John McAuliff said in an interview, “”U.S. officials should respect the authority of Cuba’s socialist government rather than trying to undermine it.”

    Let’s be upfront about his blind support for the Castro dictatorship.

  • Let’s agree to disagree. I am reminded of the words of the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who founded the abolitionist periodical “The Liberator” in 1839. He said “With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”

  • Moses, the US hasn’t achieved success with a ‘hard-sell’, nor will they ever do so in my opinion, so perhaps it’s time for a new approach. But I agree with you…the US shouldn’t give the Cuban government anything for free. Where we differ is that I see incremental change through individually negotiated agreements as being far more realistic and do-able than insisting on an immediate and total about-face of the Cuban government, as is currently legislated by way of your Helms-Burton act. It just ain’t gonna happen that way, and the sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner we can collectively make real progress together in helping to bring democracy and freedom to Cuba…one agreement and one mutually beneficial compromise at a time.

  • You summarized it nicely, Terry. Sadly there are those who believe
    they know better. Better than, Yoanis, Hillary, recent polls and this Security Analyst.
    They fail to acknowledge that; for any Cuban whit an ounce of Nationalism and rudimentary understanding of Cuba’s history; the pervasive interference of Washington in national matters is unacceptable. Because sets a bad precedent, or worst, shows that their stand toward Cuba hasn’t change since the 19th century.
    To put it simple: The legitimacy of the Castro’s government is for Cubans to decide; and Washington better learn to; if not to respected it; at least to accepted it; and move on. Cubans had manage to topple others in the past; Machado, Batista, without and sometimes against American assistance.

  • Moses, what I am proposing is that everything the US provides to Cuba, above and beyond what your country is already contributing, should be negotiated with firm and publicized agreements in place based on mutual compromise before moving forward. Unfotunately, if the US wants the Cuban government to respond in kind, all aspirations for immediate political change must be put aside and replaced with more reasonable baby-steps that, over time, will begin to accumulate and slowly help to spur a positive evolution towards democracy and freedom for the Cuban people. Given this approach, at some point in the future, a tipping-point will be reached where by a much more abrupt change of political system in Cuba can be realized. Think of it as connecting the dots over time to effect real and meaningful change on the island to draw a better picture. With enough foresight, and respectful bargaining prowess, I’m confident that your government will achieve success…but their program must not be looked upon as capitulation…it must be viewed as a means to an end.

  • “Taking it in the shorts” is given to mean that if the US were to capitulate to the Castros demands without some give on the part of the Castros toward a more democratic Cuba, it would not only be an insult to the ideals so dear to the US but to free peoples all over the world. Given your predisposition that the Castros will not budge, it seems more than disingenuous to say that Raul is will to negotiate. Negotiate what? It seems we agree that the Castros do not plan to change. The difference is that you have undervalued the power of persuasion that a failed economy, lower agricultural output, uncertain Venezuelan subsidies, and increasing outbound immigration trends can have on the octogenarian leadership or their successors. Like the economic and social reforms of late, the Castros may not have a choice but to concede certain political reforms as long as the pressure on the regime is maintained. The embargo, however tepid, is better than no pressure at all. As I have said to you in another response, I believe that we want the same things for Cuba. I simply don’t believe they will get these things if the US engages in a “soft sell”.

  • You and I seem to want the same thing. I simply don’t believe that the Castros want to change anything. Raul says he is willing to negotiate but he has also said there will be no political reform. You seem to want the US to make all the concessions and then HOPEFULLY, the Castros will respond. Historically, despots, tyrants and dictators don’t negotiate away their power. The Castros, in particular, have shown that they will only respond to pressure. Pumping USD into the Castro economy will not cause them to legalize an independent media or allow freedom of speech. On the contrary, they will use increased revenues to increase the repression of dissident voices. You hope that over time, the Castros will ‘come around’ is simply naïve.

  • I don’t want either side to “take it in the shorts”, as you put it. But really, I’m curious…how can little Cuba even possibly begin to do that to the mighty and all powerful US of A? Is it that you have an overwhelming fear that normalizing relations with the current Cuban government somehow spells insult to the US? Is that what you equate to “taking it in the shorts”? Democracy and freedom in Cuba will not happen FIRST…that’s a given. There’s no sense in continuing to demand this. It’s pointless. The Cuban government will never do what the US demands. However they will respond to repectfull and fair negotiation, and to compromise when it is respectfully requested. The US needs to “soft-sell” their democracy aspirations for Cuba, instead of continuing to pound their fist. The US has no chance of moving Cuba in that direction unless the US and Cuba are first linked economically through normalized relations to extoll more influence on the Cuban government going forward. Even then, it may take a number of years of further negotiation and political evolution within Cuba to realize your vision (and mine) for a democratic and free Cuba.

  • The US stands to lose absolutely nothing from improved relations with Cuba…that’s the real point. But when should the difference between right and wrong be determined by how much one can gain? Cuba will benefit…no doubt. But so will the US through the domino effect of improved relations with many other central and south American governments as well, if doing the right thing must boil down to dollars and cents for your country. Never the less, I believe Raul has always been ready to negotiate and reach a compromise. However I have little faith that your government would be able to sit down and negotiate with Havana without telling Cuba what to do.

  • ….except you want the US to bend over and take it in the shorts. You see no compromise to be made by the Castros. Why does more democracy and freedom in Cuba FIRST frighten you so much?

  • The Head of Station for MI6 in Vienna during the forties and fifties told me on one occasion that every time one more person is told a secret, the chances of it being disclosed rise by a factor of four. In 1952, I accompanied him to visit an American for dinner at the American’s home in Vienna, en route he told me that H…… H….. was the Head of the CIA in Austria. When I queried him about disclosing such information, he responded by saying: “Everybody knows.” Counter-intelligence was better at retaining secrets prior to the introduction of electronic systems. The CIA leaks like a sieve. As one who is bound by the UK Official Secrets Act, although now of a different nationality, I find the disclosures made by Mr.Beck typical of the lax standards of the CIA. Not much wonder that Wikileaks has had such success with information from US sources.

  • “The status quo is not working for either side; it is an unnecessary relic of the Cold War that should (…) be scrapped.”

    Beck’s central argument is that the current conflict with Havana is senseless, since Washington maintains diplomatic relations with Moscow, Peking and Hanoi.

    “If you tell a Cuban what to do, he will do the opposite just to spite you. If you [Americans] stop telling us what to do, things will work out exactly like you want.”

    Exactly what I’ve been promoting all along. Good article.

  • Sage advice. However, it takes two to tango. The US stands to gain very little from improved relations with Cuba. On the other hand, Cuba benefits greatly. It stands to reason then that Cuba should be even more motivated to initiate negotiations and reach a compromise.

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