Media Use Suspected Spies as Expert Sources

August 5th, 2008 6:23 PM

As if the media's coverage of Cuba isn't fawning enough, now they are using “expert” analysis from three professors that the US government has identified as spies.

Babalu Blog reported that, according to Army counterintelligence officer Chris Simmons, the US government believes at least three of the media's academic authorities on Cuba are actually spies working for the Cuban government. The suspected spies include a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, a Miami Herald board member and columnist and the director of Georgetown University's “Cuba Project.”

If these allegations are true, the danger isn't their potential to gather secrets. Instead, it's their ability to quietly shape opinion and influence public policy on Cuba through powerful academic groups, frequent media statements and slanted analyses as they maneuver within elite academic-think tank circles--and even brief government agencies and the military.

During a July 31 interview (links below the fold) on Miami's local Spanish-language TV show "A Mano Limpia," Lt. Col. Simmons, who works for the Defense Intelligence Agency, said three professors, Marifeli Perez-Stable, Alberto Coll and Gillian Gunn, are Cuban spies.

A quick online peek shows these aren't run-of-the-mill educators.

*Marifeli Perez-Stable is a Florida International University sociology professor, a Council on Foreign Relations member and a media darling who sees Cuba in a “different light.” She contributes to the Miami Herald and has written for the Washington Post as well as several foreign papers. She is a vice president for democratic governance at the Inter-American Dialogue and chaired the Ford Foundation-funded Task Force on Memory, Truth and Justice, which issued the 2003 report “Cuban National Reconciliation.”

*Alberto Coll is a DePaul University College of Law professor and author (bio) and Council on Foreign Relations member who, as Assistant Secretary of Defense (1990-1993) oversaw the Defense Department's policy, strategy and resources for special operations forces and “low intensity” conflict. He was chairman of the Strategic Research Department at the US Naval War College and dean of the Center for Naval Warfare.  Author and editor of several books on international relations and law, Coll served as president of DePaul's International Human Rights Law Institute and has been a consultant to the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs and “numerous defense and intelligence organizations.”
*Gillian Gunn directs Georgetown University's “Cuba Project.” She was also a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She presented briefings on Cuba to the DIA, the US Congress and is a frequent lecturer to organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Smithsonian Institute, and the World Peace Council. She has made frequent TV and radio appearances.

Those are impressive credentials. The strategic value would be in their access and ability to influence government and national opinion without public accountability or scrutiny--all while maintaining a mantle of scholarly objectivity.

While blogging at Babalu, noted Cuba-watcher Humberto Fontova, who frequently writes about Fidel Castro and Cuba, added that Simmons's statement supports previous accusations about Coll and Perez-Stable. (Read here about Coll's bizarre swing from hard-line Castro critic to squishy Castro apologist whose late daughter even planned to attend Havana University.) Interestingly, Gunn was quoted in a WaPo article discussing convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes (archive), who worked as a DIA senior analyst in Cuban affairs.

In an email, Simmons told Fontova that he didn't divulge classified information or compromise “ongoing or anticipated investigations.” The DIA officer then observed, “Not every spy's career ends with an arrest; sometimes public awareness is enough." Well, not always.

Many of Simmons's accusations aren't new, and Cuban spies have been discovered in academia before. Yet, the media still use the three as expert sources without acknowledging that their impartiality and motives are in question. Although there are no charges, the media should weigh these accusations when seeking their next left-wing assessment of the Castros or Cuba.

**YouTube video of Simmons's "A Mano Limpia" interview here—pt 1, pt 2, pt 3, pt 4, pt 5.


Lynn can be reached with tips or complaints at tvisgoodforyou "at" yahoo "dot" com