Cuba behind the wheel: Fulton Armstrong & Co.

Fulton Armstrong, ardent defender of Ana Belen Montes a convicted spy for Cuba, was a staffer to Senator John Kerry at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

By Tania C. Mastrapa | January 22, 2013

Cuba Behind the Wheel
Senator John KerryFulton ArmstrongFidel Castro

The infiltration and manipulation of United States intelligence and policy circles by Communist dictatorships has a long, tangled and often embarrassing history. Americans that apologize, collaborate, promote and even spy for Communist state security apparatus vary in their motives. While ideology and money have led some to treasonous acts, it seems that ethnic (specifically national origin) spite has taken hold of others. The latter motive may point to the intransigent attitudes of some of those who fight tooth and nail for warm relations with the Cuban regime despite the island’s increased levels of repression. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Anti-Communist Cuban exiles in the United States defy all U.S. stereotypes of Hispanics. Cubans who fled the Castro revolution, in their majority ethnic Europeans and to a lesser degree Semites, did not migrate to the United States seeking economic opportunities but a temporary stay until Communism crumbled. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco exiles realized their pit stop was to be extended, indefinitely. Soon thereafter, academic, economic and political success followed. Throughout, regardless of political affiliation, Cuban-American politicians supported the U.S. embargo and blocked efforts to flood the regime coffers with dollars. This remains the case with the notable exception of recently elected leftist Joe Garcia (his opponent was far ahead in the polls but became embroiled in legal troubles). For business interests and others who are desperate for normalization without a single concession from the dictatorship, pro-democracy Cuban-Americans are a major thorn in their side.

Keeping track of all the characters in the anti-embargo-anti-Cuban-American network is not an easy task. The most infamous opponent of the embargo is now-jailed Ana Belen Montes, the former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s top Cuba analyst and a spy for the Cuban regime. Fulton Armstrong, her ardent defender and currently a Senior Fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, was a staffer to Senator John Kerry (nominated by President Obama to replace Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State and aggressively anti-embargo) at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It only gets more tangled from here.

In 2005, then-President George Bush nominated John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. Then-Senators Christopher Dodd (a Castro apologist) and Chuck Hagel (anti-embargo proponent of normalization without concessions) notably opposed the confirmation of Bolton. Democrats accused Bolton of attempting to shuffle intelligence analysts who opposed his views. At the hearings Bolton referred to one of the questionable analysts by his undercover alias “Mr. Smith” but Senator Kerry used his real name – Fulton Armstrong. Accused of outing an undercover agent Kerry laid the blame on then-Senator Richard Lugar (anti-embargo) for having earlier named Armstrong. Two years earlier Fulton had already been identified, but at the time he was not in an undercover capacity. His name came up then because he had had run-ins with officials about Cuba intelligence.

Bolton had previously asked for intelligence about suspicions that Cuba was developing dual-use biological weapons. Unsurprisingly, Ana Belen Montes had blocked the information. Her reports on Cuba claimed that the country posed no threat to the United States and that the embargo should be lifted. Curiously, after her arrest and conviction the intelligence analyses generated by Montes remain in official circulation and referred to by U.S. intelligence and military. Norman A. Bailey, who currently teaches economic statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, was the Issue Manager for Cuba and Venezuela in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until 2007. In March of that year, General Mike McConnell, the new Director, unceremoniously fired Bailey. Notably, Professor Bailey frequently pressed on Cuba matters such as the fact that the tainted Montes reports had never been pulled. Bailey has stated in the past that Fulton Armstrong may be behind the continued circulation of those Cuba analyses by the convicted spy.

On various occasions, Armstrong has promoted unilaterally lifting the U.S. embargo at law firms and universities around the country (often in conjunction) with speakers such as Carl Meacham (former Senator Lugar’s senior advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean), Bill Delahunt (Castro apologist) and Carlos Saladrigas (leftist Cuban immigrant). Armstrong has reportedly described Cuba democracy programs as stupid. Given this background, an observer may conclude that appeasing the Castro regime is a lifetime goal of Armstrong. And then more details are revealed.

R.M. Schneiderman, an editor at The Daily Beast, recently wrote an article for Foreign Affairs titled “Our Man in Havana” where he reported that in October 2010 John Kerry met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez at the residence of the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations. The purported goal of the meeting was to reach an agreement on the release of Alan Gross (imprisoned for helping Cuban Jews connect to the internet) in exchange for the promise that Cuba democracy programs in the U.S. would be toned down or tuned out altogether to a point agreeable to the Communist regime. Schneiderman reported that Fulton Armstrong had met with Cuban officials “at State’s behest” so that he could relay to the Cubans that “We’re cleaning [Cuba democracy programs] up. Just give us time, because politically we can’t kill them.” Since their intended overhaul of Cuba democracy programs did not get past Cuban-American Senator Bob Menendez, Schneiderman seemed to unhappily conclude that “The Cuban-American lobby had won.”

Whether the motives of apologists, collaborators, promoters and spies are ideology, money or an axe to grind. the end result is the same – their efforts undermine the United States. Why would the Cuban regime take earnest steps toward democratization when they have Americans who are eager to do their bidding? The Communists can confidently continue to beat, harass and jail dissidents while Armstrong & Co. lobby to normalize relations. The United States should not bend to an island dictatorship that has confiscated American-owned property, possesses an extensive list of disappeared and executed citizens and foreigners (including Americans), launders money through U.S. banks and provides safe havens for American fugitives from justice. The failure to behave like a world power will have repercussions as other non-democratic regimes will take note of our weakness.

Tania C. Mastrapa, Ph.D. is a Research Professor in Cuban and Latin American Studies at the Institute of World Politics. Dr. Mastrapa is also a contributor to

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