CUBA: POSSIBLE THREAT TO THE NATIONAL SECURITY OF
THE UNITED STATES THROUGH NON-CONVENTIONAL MILITARY METHODS
Bio Warfare 1
Cyber Warfare and Telecommunications Espionage 44
This report is an assessment of the Cuban threat to the United States
national security. The assessment addresses the unconventional threats
of biowarfare, cyberwarfare, and electronic espionage. Secretary of
Defense, William Cohen, observed in his 1998 Annual Defense Report:
"Those who oppose the United States will increasingly rely on
unconventional strategies and tactics to offset U.S. superiority". He
then mentioned asymmetric threats such as : information operations,
cyberterrorism, and biowarfare.
Castro's Cuba is a prime example of a nation developing such
unconventional or asymmetric methods of challenging or threatening the
United States. In a letter to Secretary Cohen, dated March 31, 1998,
then Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, wrote: " I
am very concerned about recent reports indicating that Castro's
secretive network of sophisticated biological and genetic research labs
are being used by the military and Interior Ministry to develop
On the March 31, 1998 edition, the Washington Post addressed the topic
of the threat from Cuba, partially stating " Cuba has one of the most
sophisticated biotech and pharmaceutical industries in the hemisphere.
Because lethal biological materials can be produced by countries with
biotech industries, it is difficult to determine when a country moves
from simply having the capability to produce deadly viruses, to the
intent or plans to do so".
Given Castro's proven instability, ongoing anti-Americanism, and
proximity to the U.S., it would be an unacceptable mistake to
underestimate his capabilities or his intentions. A report submitted by
the U.S. Office of Technological Assessment in late 1995 identified
seventeen countries believed to possess biological weapons- Lybia, North
Korea, South Korea, Iraq, Taiwan, Syria, Israel, Iran, China, Egypt,
Vietnam, Laos, Bulgaria, India, South Africa, Russia, and Cuba. In an
appearance before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, January,
1998, Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, stated
" State sponsors of terrorism include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya,
North Korea, and Cuba".
It has long been a concern also in the scientific community that Soviet
scientists led the world in development of Radio Frequency weapon
technologies. The Soviet Union had a large and diverse RF weapons
program and this work continue today within FSU countries. It is well
known the close technical and military relationship in this field
between the Soviet Union and Cuba. The relationship includes the
establishment of the Lourdes' electronic espionage base, operated in
Cuba by the Russians, and most recently, the construction of a similar
base in Bejucal, operated solely by Cuban personnel.
The findings presented in this study clearly show that Cuba represents a
serious threat to the security of the United States in the areas of
bio-warfare, electronic espionage, and cyber-terrorism.
A generation ago, biological weapons were called germ-warfare weapons.
Biological weapons are very different from chemical weapons. A chemical
weapon is a poison that kills upon contact with the skin. Bioweapons are
microorganisms, bacteria or viruses, that invade the body, multiply
inside it, and destroy it. Bioweapons can be used as strategic weapons.
That is, they are incredibly powerful and dangerous.
They can kill huge numbers of people if they are used properly, and
their effects are not limited to one place or a small target. Chemical
weapons, on the other hand, can be used only tactically. It is virtually
impossible to put enough of a chemical in the air in a high enough
concentration to wipe out a large number of people over a large
territory. And chemicals are not alive and can not spread through an
There are two basic types of biological weapons, those that are
contagious and those that are not. Anthrax is not contagious: people
don't spread it among themselves; you cannot catch anthrax from someone
who is dying of it. Smallpox is contagious. It spreads rapidly,
magnifying itself, causing mortality and chaos on a large scale.
The most powerful bioweapons are dry powders formed of tiny particles,
biodusts,that are designed to lodge in the human lung. The particles are
amber or pink. They have a strong tendency to fly apart from one
another, so that if you throw them in the air they disperse like a
crowd, leaving a stadium. As they disperse, they become invisible to the
human eye, normally within five seconds after the release. You can't see
a bioweapon, you can't smell it, you can't taste it, and you don't know
it was there until days later, when you start to cough and bleed, and by
that time you may be spreading it around.
The particles of a bioweapon are exceedingly small, about one to five
microns in diameter. You could imagine the size this way: around fifty
to a hundred bio-particles lined up in a row would span the thickness of
a human air. The particles are light and fluffy, and don't fall to
earth. You can imagine motes of dust dancing in a shaft of sunlight.
Dust motes are mostly bits of hair and fuzz. They are much larger than
weaponized bio-particles. If a dust mote were as thick as a log, then a
weaponized bio-particle would resemble a child's marble.
The tiny size of a weaponized bio-particle allows it to be sucked into
the deepest sacs of the lung, where it sticks to the membrane, and
enters the bloodstream, and begins to replicate. A bioweapon can kill
you with just one particle in the lung. If the weapon is contagious in
human-to-human transmission, you will kill a lot of other people too. So
much death emergent from one particle!
Given the right weather conditions, a bioweapon will drift in the air
for up to a hundred miles. A hundred kilograms of anthrax spores would,
in optimal atmospheric conditions, kill up to three million people in
any of the densely populated metropolitan areas of the United States.
Sunlight kills a bioweapon. Bacteria and viruses are generally
vulnerable to sunlight. That is, a bioweapon biodegrades in sunlight. It
has a "half-life", like nuclear radiation. This is known as the decay
time of the bioweapon. Anthrax has a long decay time-it has a tough
spore. Tularemia has a decay time of only a few minutes in sunlight.
Therefore, tularemia should always be released at night. Ultraviolet
light kills them quickly. Heavy rain or snow, wind currents, and
humidity impede their effectiveness.
While there are any number of organisms that bioterrorists could use as
weapons, and we will analyze several of them in this study, smallpox and
anthrax are the big two that are capable of causing disease and death
sufficient to cripple a city, even a country.
There are some that maintain that discussing the subject will cause
needless alarm. There are some that maintain that denouncing the
potential capability of Cuba in the development of bioweapons is not
prudent. But existing defenses against these weapons are dangerously
inadequate, and when, not if, biological terror strikes, as I am
convinced it will, public ignorance will only heighten the disaster.
In 1972, the United States signed the Convention on the Prohibition of
the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Biological and Toxins
Weapons and on Their Destruction, commonly known as the Biological
Weapons Convention. Soviet diplomats helped to write much of the
language of the treaty, and the Soviet Union became one of the three
depository states for the treaty. The other two were the United States
and Great Britain. It was believed that the resources of the
intelligence community and the vigilance and concern of the scientific
community would serve to sound the alert to any violations of the
But the belief turned out to be only in the years following the treaty.
For there was no way to verify whether or not violations were taking
place, and the truth is that much progress was made in the development
and engineering of bioweapons in various countries around the world.
This was not noticed for a long time. It was an invisible history.
It is therefore critical that the international community continue to
pursue the establishment of adequate verification measures that will
increase the transparency of research programs in Cuba and elsewhere.
Bioweapons: terrorism's next wave
Terrorists and outlaw countries are extending the world's fields of
battle from physical space to bioweapons and cyberspace, the latter to
be analyzed also in this study. They are known as high-tech weapons. The
United States government has proposed $1.5 billion to prepare the nation
against attacks via computers or viruses.
A high-level U.S. government commission concluded on July, 1999, that
the United States is ill prepared to combat the growing threat of
biological weapons proliferation. The Committee was headed by former
director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Deutch. The problem is
made very complex by the growth of technology that can be used both
commercially and in weapons.
Most counter-terrorism experts view biological weapons as posing the
greatest threat. A 1998 CIA publication notes that biological weapons
have an advantage over chemical or nuclear weapons in that there are no
reliable detection devices currently available nor are there any
recognizable signals of the human senses. The report also points out
that such a terrorist attack might be mistakenly attributed to natural
The U.S intelligence suspects 14 nations of having biological weapons
programs-including Cuba-and some countries designated as sponsoring
terrorism are suspected of either having a program or being able to
start one using civilian bio-technology assets.
A bacteriological weapon is grown in a fermenter tank, and it gives off
a yeasty smell, somewhat like beer, or sometimes a meaty smell, like a
meat broth. Virus weapons are not grown in fermenter tanks, because a
virus does not cause fermentation when it grows. A virus converts a
population of living cells into more viruses. What happens is called
amplification of the virus. The machine that amplifies a virus is called
A bioreactor is a rather small tank with a complicated interior. The
tank contains a warm liquid bath that is saturated with living cells.
Nothing ferments inside the tank, and no gases are left off, so there is
no odor. The cells are infected with a virus that is replicating. The
cells leak virus particles, and the bioreactor becomes charged with
A virus particle is a tiny nugget of protein that surrounds a core of
genetic material, which consists of strands of DNA or RNA, ribbon-like
molecules. These molecules carry the master software code that directs
the activities of life. Viruses use their own software code to take over
a cell and direct the cell's own machinery to make more virus particles,
until the cell explodes and releases hundreds or thousands of copies of
The ease of deployment of such weapons is of particular concern. In one
scenario constructed for the Pentagon, 20 pounds of anthrax sprayed from
a truck driven down New York City's Broadway would result in up to 1.8
Under the White House proposal, 120 of the nation's largest cities would
receive training in some of the unique aspects of response to terrorists
events involving biological agents. They would also receive equipment
sets required to continue the training and access to information and
assistance related to biological materials.
A lone terrorist creates a designer microbe deadly enough to annihilate
Miami-Dade county. After it's unleashed into the air, the virus will
jump, silently, from person to person, infecting thousands of unknowing
victims. Air travelers will spread the microbe across the nation-and
other nations- and millions will die within weeks. It hasn't happened
yet, but it could, public-health experts advise. How do we successfully
contain and combat the emerging threat of bioterrorism?
Bioterrorism presents unique challenges. The effects of chemical warfare
are often obvious immediately after an attack, allowing public-health
officials time to mobilize and clean up the area within hours or days.
But a biological attack might not be evident until weeks after the
initial infection. And by then, the silent microbes could have spread to
thousands, killings most in their wake.
Well-trained physicians might not recognize the signs of infection by a
bioweapon in a patient, especially if it is a mixed combination.
Physicians should be warned that the effects of a bioweapon on the human
body may be very different from natural disease caused by the same
To prepare, federal agencies have scrambled to set up new
counter-terrorism strike forces. Behind all this is the very real fear
that the world has entered a new stage in terrorism. Even crude weapons
can easily cause mass disruption. The attack could range from the
poisoning of an individual to sophisticated mass murder.
For example, ricin, is a lethal toxin extracted from the castor bean
plant. This toxin was used by Soviet agents, using an umbrella-gun, to
murder a Bulgarian in London, in 1978. Product tamperers, too, are
increasingly turning to biological agents. There are E. coli, cholera,
salmonella, HIV. The greater challenge without any doubt will come from
those with broader grievances, from terrorists steeped in political
Bioweapons are divided, in general, into strategic and operational
types. Strategic biological agents are mostly lethal, such as small pox,
anthrax, and plague. Operational agents are mostly incapacitating, such
as tularemia, glanders, Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE),
dengue, yellow fever. Both types, however, cause extensive disruption,
huge numbers of casualties.
Release of small pox into the general population would be one of the
most serious threats to mankind, said Dr.D.A.Henderson, director of the
new Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Bio-Defense Studies.
Unfortunately, today that is a very real scenario. Some of the reasons
bioterrorists prefer smallpox are its high fatality rates-it kills some
35 percent of its victims- and its long incubation periods-up to 14
days. While the victims do not experience symptoms during these two
weeks, they can infect others. The smallpox virus is known as Variola
About two weeks after infection, a victim may develop high fever,
malaise, headache and backache. A rash then develops, spreading all over
the body. There is no treatment and it is easily spread from person to
person, Dr. Henderson said. No one in the United States has been
vaccinated during the past 25 years. Even those immunized before that
time are unlikely to still be protected. Smallpox is very contagious.
One case of smallpox can give rise to twenty new cases. Each of those
cases can start twenty more.
Intelligence reports and other evidence have led the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention-CDC- officials to conclude that North Korea, and
"other potential adversaries" may have harvested smallpox for use in
weapons, threatening to revive a plague for which vaccines are no longer
CDC in Atlanta has placed smallpox at the top of their list of potential
biological agents of mass destruction. U. S. intelligence officials cite
Russian intelligence reports that concluded North Korea and other former
Soviet client countries-Cuba- were conducting research into using
smallpox in weapons.
CDC has begun to review its policy on the virus. Currently, agency
officials said, U.S. inoculation stores would be sufficient to protect a
mere 5 million to 7 million people. The idea of producing new stores of
the vaccine is under consideration.
The resurgence of concern about smallpox began with a Russian
intelligence report ordered by former intelligence chief Yevgeny
Primakov, now Russia's Prime Minister. The 1993 report, "A New Challenge
After the Cold war: proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction",
stated that some countries were doing research into smallpox as a
Every country with a large biological industry, which had a history of
relations with the enormous Soviet biological weapon program, has the
potential to produce smallpox virus, and other classical biological
agents, such as anthrax, plague, and yellow fever. Cuba, with a long
history of research on yellow fever and other tropical diseases,
certainly has the capacity to produce such agents.
Unlike small pox, anthrax is not spread from person to person, as
previously mentioned, but it is just as deadly. Given appropriate
weather conditions, 50 kilograms of anthrax released from an aircraft
along a 2 kilometer line could create a lethal cloud of anthrax spores
that would extend beyond 20 kilometers downwind.
The aerosol cloud would be colorless, odorless, and invisible. They
would infect people indoors as those on the street. An analysis by the
Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress estimated that
150,000 to 3 million deaths could occur following the release of 100
kilograms of aerosolized anthrax over Washington D.C.
Again, a long incubation period is a potential problem. Exposure to an
aerosol of anthrax spores could cause symptoms as soon as two days after
exposure. However, illness could also develop as late as eight weeks
later. Further, early symptoms of anthrax resemble a flu. Hence,
persons are therefore often misdiagnosed. Untreated, 90 percent of
people die, most within three days. Antibiotics can significantly reduce
the risk of death, but only if given within the first few days of
Biological warfare experts are convinced that certain countries have
developed, through genetic engineering, forms of anthrax that can
overcome the vaccine now in existence. Any country with a modern
microbiology laboratory-Cuba, for example- could perform the required
manipulations to enhance the lethality of anthrax and create several
strains of it. Anthrax is a biological weapon of choice because the
bacillus forms a sturdy, long-lasting spore.
The No. 1 threat that needs attention is the continued disintegration of
Russia as a civil society. The first defector to emerge from the Soviet
Union was Vladimir Pasechnik, a microbiologist from Biopreparat, who
arrived in Great Britain in 1989. Pasechnik frightened British
intelligence, and later C.I.A., when he told them that his work as
director of the Institute of Ultrapure Biopreparations, in Leningrad,
had involved offensive-biowarfare research into Yersinia pestis.
Yersinia pestis is a pestilential microbe that causes plague, or Black
Death, an airborne contagious bacterial organism, that wiped out a third
of the population of Europe around 1348. The Soviet Union had developed
a genetically engineered strain of plague that was resistant to
Black Death can travel through the air in a cough from person to person,
and a strain of multi-drug-resistant. Black Death might be able to
amplify itself through a human population in ever-widening chains of
infection. Other threats come from China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and
We may not realize until too late that we have become the victims of a
biological attack. A small amount of Marburg, Ebola, smallpox, released
in an airport, subway, crowded shopping or stadium, could produce
hundred of thousands of victims. The time required before symptoms are
observed in a biological attack, according to First Responders Chem-Bio
Handbook: A Practical Manual for First responders, 1998, is dependent
upon the actual agent used.
Casualties can present in minutes, hours, days, and even weeks after an
attack. It is easier to make a biological weapon than to create an
effective system of biological defense. It is easier to develop a
biological weapon than to create a vaccine. At least eighty different
types of bacteria, viruses, fungi can be weaponized.
No one can seem to agree on the best approach to bio-defense. In a
simulated attack staged in New York city in 1998, nearly all of the
members of an emergency unit dispatched to the scene would have died
because they were insufficiently protected. In September 1998, Clinton
and Yeltsin agreed on a program of accelerated negotiations to
strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.
An ad hoc group of countries have met several times since 1998 to
develop guidelines for mandatory inspections in countries suspected of
developing biological weapons. Other measures discussed include
requiring countries to open their biological facilities to regular
visits from international inspectors and setting up a unit to
investigate suspicious outbreaks of disease.
There is no technical solution to the problem of biological weapons. It
needs an ethical, human, and moral solution if it is going to happen at
all. Terrorism is the uncontrolled part of the problem. It is not what
kind of sophisticated delivery system a country might have. The best
delivery system for bioweapons would be a suitcase left in a crowded
urban location. A vial of freeze-dried powder takes up less space than a
pack of cigarettes.
In 1992, the Institute of Oceanographic Studies of Cuba, and the
Academy of Science conducted an intriguing experiment. It consisted in
throwing to the ocean, from different points in Cuba's north coast,
sealed bottles with a small note inside. The note requested from those
who found them to reply to the address indicated. The note claimed it
was a study of ocean contamination.
Obviously, the real objective was to find the best delivery place in the
coast to reach U.S. in an effective way. The results found that the
north central coast of Cuba was the best site. This could be another
form of delivery. Bioweapons are terrorism's next wave.
Bioweapons: most important agents
As mentioned above, at least eighty different types of bacteria,
viruses, fungi, toxins, can be weaponized. We will describe next the
most important lethal agents.
Marburg and Ebola viruses
Marburg and Ebola viruses both cause severe hemorrhagic fevers. Marburg
virus was first recognized in laboratory workers in Marburg, Germany,
and Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1967. These workers had been exposed to
tissues and blood from African green monkeys imported from Uganda.
There were 25 primary cases and six secondary cases in the outbreak.
Ebola virus first emerged in two major disease outbreaks which occurred
almost simultaneously in Zaire and Sudan in 1976. Over 500 cases were
reported, with mortality rate of 80%.
Marburg, and both subtypes of Ebola (Ebola-Zaire and Ebola-Sudan)
viruses are members of a new family of negative-stranded RNA viruses,
the Filoviridae. The filoviruses are similar in morphology, density, and
electrophoresis profile. Originally classified as rhabdoviruses, they
appear to be more closely related to paramyviruses on the basis of
recent genome sequence data.
Filovirus particles are morphologically similar to rhabdovirus particles
but longer. By electron microscopy, virions are plemorphic, appearing as
long filamentous, sometimes branched forms, or "U" shaped, "b" shaped,
or circular forms.
Clinical symptoms are similar with Marburg and Ebola virus infection.
Following incubation periods of 4-16 days, onset is sudden, marked by
fever, chills, headache, anorexia and myalgia. These signs are
followed by nausea, vomiting, sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Pharyngeal and conjunctival infections are usual. Most cases develop
severe hemorrhagic manifestations. Bleeding is often from multiple
sites. Death occurs between days 7 and 16, usually from shock with or
without severe blood loss. The most striking lesions are found in liver,
spleen and kidney. Transmission occurs by contaminated blood samples,
sexual contact, and more important, respiratory spread of infection.
Experimental work on Marburg and Ebola viruses has been greatly impeded
in the past by the high pathogenicity of these agents. New DNA
technology will help to understand better the molecular structure of
these viruses. Marburg virus has been successfully weaponized, and there
is no known vaccine for it.
Ebola virus was more difficult to weaponized. However, by 1991 it was
believed several countries had been able to develop an Ebola weapon.
Cuba is one of these countries. There is not known vaccine against Ebola
Tularemia is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis. It can
enter the human body through the skin, mouth, eyes, or nose. As a
bioweapon, the bacteria would be delivered as a cloud to the target
population, making entry through the airways into the lungs the most
common route, although ingestion and entry through skin wounds is also
The disease may appear as ulcer or lesion at the place of entry and then
progress to the lymph nodes and through the blood to other organs,
including the lungs if the lungs are not already infested. The fatality
rate is about 15% if not treated.
Tularemia can remain alive for weeks in water and soil. It is highly
infectious in that a very small number of bacteria can cause disease.
After 2-10 days, symptoms, such as fever, chills, fatigue, chest
discomfort, dry cough, weight loss would appear. Pneumonia may also be
Once a person is exposed to tularemia, antibiotics can be given
effectively whether or not symptoms have appeared. Streptomycin is the
drug of choice. Vaccine is available. Human to human spread of the
disease is rare. It could be used to overwhelm medical resources in a
large city, leaving hospitals unable to cope with a flood of patients in
need of constant treatment.
Anthrax is, as mentioned before, in conjunction with smallpox, the
biological weapon most likely to be encountered. It is highly lethal;
easy to produce in large quantities; relatively easy to develop as a
weapon; easily spread in the air over a large area; easily stored;
dangerous for a long time. All of these factors contribute to suspect
that Cuba produces and store anthrax.
Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus Anthracis. Anthrax has been
recognized as an illness for centuries. Anthrax still occurs in
countries where animals are not vaccinated, mainly in Africa and Asia.
It does occur infrequently in many other countries, including the United
When anthrax is used as a biological weapon, people become infected by
breathing anthrax spores that are released into the air. Symptoms of
inhalation anthrax can begin as early as 24 hours after breathing the
spores. Initial symptoms include: fever, cough, weakness, and usually
progress to breathing problems, shock, and death.
It is expected that anthrax spores will be disseminated by air, causing
inhalation anthrax. Because atmospheric stability is important to
efficient spread, and because sunlight, as previously mentioned, is
highly toxic to biological agents, they are most likely to be delivered
Particles from 1 to 5 microns in size are most efficient in causing
infection, and can be present in clinically significant quantities more
than 20 km. downwind. The inhaled infectious dose in man is quite high,
estimated to be larger than 3,000 particles. The addition of detergents,
irritants, or immuno-supressives to the aerosol may decrease the
infective dose needed by up to 10-fold.
Inhalation anthrax, also known as Woolsorter's disease, is a biphasic
illness. The first phase occurs when the spores are carried to the
mediastinal lymph nodes by pulmonary macrophages and cause a suppurative
infection with edema and hemorrhage.This phase is characterized by
nonspecific flu-like symptoms; mild fever, malaise, fatigue, myalgia,
nonproductive cough, and at times a sensation of chest oppression or
pressure. Rhonchi may be heard with a stethoscope.
This phase can last for several days, or for as little as 24 hours in
heavy infections, and can be followed by an asymptomatic period. The
disease is treatable in this stage, but blood cultures are probably
The second phase develops suddenly with the development of severe
shortness of breath and cyanosis. Hypotension and shock can occur.
Stridor may be present due to enlargement of the lymph nodes near the
trachea. The second acute phase typically lasts less than 24 hours.
Usually ends in death despite therapy, due to the high number of
toxin-producing organisms present by this stage in the illness.
The standard therapy for inhalation anthrax is intravenous penicillin G
by continuous infusion, 50 mg/kg in the first hour, followed by 200
mg/kg over the following 24 hours. In a biological warfare situation, it
is recommended that vancomycin be a part of the regimen, in a dose of
500 mg every 6 hours.
As soon as in vitro susceptibility data are available, therapy should be
adjusted to include effective drugs. However, since most probably in a
biological warfare situation, communications and support services will
degenerate to a point of complete chaos, in vitro data would not be
Recent tests with anthrax raise fears that U.S. vaccine can be defeated.
The concern stems from recent evidence that Russia may have mixed
together several strains of anthrax, presumably to enhance the lethality
of its germ weapon. There is evidence also that Russian scientists have
produced strains of anthrax genetically engineered to produce new
The vaccine works by disabling a component of anthrax known as
protective antigen, which helps the microbe's two toxins penetrate the
cells they are attacking. Anthrax is one of the most effective and
lethal bioweapons in existence.
Smallpox is caused by a virus. The virus spread when an uninfected
person comes in direct contact with a sick person and breath in the
virus. After two weeks, the incubation period of the smallpox virus, the
infected person develops high fever, muscle aches and pains.
After about three days of fever the person breaks out in a rash all over
the body. At first it looks like red spots, and the spots gradually
become blisters about the size of a pencil eraser. After about five days
of rash, the fluid in the clear blisters turns to pus. The more pus
spots that a person has, the more likely the person will die.
There are two main types of smallpox virus: variola major, which kills
about 25% of the people infected, and variola minor, which kills about
5% of its victims. In 1965, the world Health Organization began a
world-wide effort to eradicate smallpox. Studies by epidemiologists
showed that the disease could be stopped from spreading if the people
who came in contact with infected persons were all vaccinated.
The disease was completely eradicated from the earth by 1977. Today, the
smallpox virus exists only in two freezers, one in Moscow, Russia, and
the other in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.
There is evidence that certain countries may have harvested smallpox for
use in weapons, threatening to revive a plague for which vaccines are no
longer produced. Ironically, the danger smallpox would pose to a
targeted population stems in part from the success medical science has
enjoyed in battling the virus.
Smallpox is unlike anthrax in that it is highly contagious but can be
handled with impunity by those who are immunized against it. Yet with
smallpox no longer recognized as a threat to human health, inoculations
in the United States and most other countries have all but stopped.
Military translation: the world's population is extremely vulnerable.
The Pentagon has a program under way to develop a new vaccine, but its
testing and development is projected to take until 2003. New
intelligence assessment on countries doing research and development on
the smallpox virus-Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba- could end up
accelerating the Pentagon's program.
Actual vaccine requires periodic boosters and wears out after ten years,
though revaccination is required after three years in case of infection.
Outside of the lab, variola virus thrives only in the human body.
A virus's effectiveness as a weapon can be measured by its mortality
rate, which reflects the number of people to contract the disease after
exposure. Smallpox kills between 35 to 55% of unvaccinated persons, but
its morbidity rate ranges from 70 to 90 percent. Those who do not die,
can be permanently blinded. Others will bear scars as long as they live.
Smallpox, unlike anthrax, requires no concentration process. It is, like
anthrax, one of the most effective and lethal bioweapons in existence.
Botulinum Toxin (Bot Tox)
It is the most toxic substance in the world. C. botulinum can be
isolated from its natural habitat, the soil. It grows rapidly on common
bacterial media. The conditions for achieving optimum toxin production
have been well researched in Cuba. Cuba has the capacity to produce
several grams in one day.
Box tox is relatively stable, and can be stored in crystalline form. It
can be absorbed through the mucous membranes, so aerosol dispersal is a
likely way to be used. It can also be added to a municipal water or food
supplies. Box tox is tasteless and odorless. Depending on the dosage,
symptoms appear between 2 to 14 days. The symptoms include double
vision, difficulty in swallowing and speaking, vomiting, and eventually
The protein is a neurotoxin and once the symptoms appear, the damage is
irreversible. The only treatment involves passive antibody shots against
the strains. The known disadvantages are that box tox is unstable in the
air if exposed to sunlight and dry conditions. Box tox can also be
destroyed by brief boiling.
Ricin is a protein toxin extracted from the castor bean plant. Ricin
kills by destroying an important component of the protein synthesizing
machinery of cells, the ribosome. It works as a slow poison, eventually
causing a total body collapse as necessary proteins are not replaced.
Ricin can be used to specifically target an enemy. An agent could be
specific enough to use this procedure to target a single individual for
assassination. There are not effective treatment once the ricin has
produced clinical symptoms.
Genetic engineering is a vital area on the development of bioweapons,
and one area where Cuba has had surprising achievements.
Genetic engineering refers to a set of technologies that artificially
move functional genes across species boundaries to produce novel
organisms. The techniques involve highly sophisticated manipulations of
genetic material and other biological important chemicals. Genes are
special chemicals that work as sets of blueprints to determine an
organism's traits. Moving genes from one organism to another moves those
Through genetic engineering, genes can be moved across natural
boundaries. The resultant organisms can have new combinations of
genes-and therefore combinations of traits-that are not found in nature
and, indeed, not possible through natural mechanisms. Such a technology
is radically different from traditional plant and animal breeding.
Basically, genetic engineering means that the DNA material of any
source, living or dead cell, can be isolated, identified, altered, and
introduced into the chromosome, (DNA), whithin any living cell. Most of
the work involves isolation and identification of genes- the components
within DNA which contain all the information for the synthesis of
everything in every living cell.
The information in a gene is a code. This information is relayed by a
messenger. This intermediate messenger is called messenger RNA (mRNA).
There is an enzyme which reads the DNA and makes this special kind of
RNA from it. This mRNA then travels to the special machinery inside the
cell, called a ribosome, and there the message is translated. The
translation of mRNA leads to the synthesis of a protein.
Genetic engineering allows one to actually change the sequence of the
DNA to allow a human gene, for example, to be expressed by bacterial
enzymes and ribosomes. Thus, if one can get this gene into the
chromosome of a bacteria ( even though the gene encodes information for
a human protein) or, if one alters certain of the gene regions to make
these regions compatible for bacterial enzyme interaction, the result is
Then this human gene will be expressed in a bacterium, and a human
protein can be made in this way. The bacterium usually used for
introduction of foreign genes is a very special laboratory strain of
Escherchia coli, or E coli. Genetic engineering is wonderful and
powerful. But, there is great potential for misuse.
Genetic engineering can be used to modernize existing biological weapons
and to develop genetically altered pathogens, resistant to antibiotics
and vaccines. The main purposes when genetic engineering is used to
alter the genetic makeup of a disease-producing bacteria are: to find
the right mechanism for transporting genes into the DNA of another
microorganism; to achieve the transfer without reducing the bacteria's
Genetic engineering can produce new kind of weapons based on chemical
substances produced naturally by the human body. They could damage the
nervous system, the heart, and produce death. For example, peptides are
strings of amino acids which perform various functions in our bodies.
One important group of peptides is called regulatory peptides, and is
activated during times of stress, anger, love, fear, or to fight
disease. Some regulatory peptides affect the central nervous system, and
produce heart attacks.
Peptides are regulators of the activity of other molecules, like
proteins. Thus, there are peptides with hormonal activity, others with
antibiotic activity. Genetic engineering has found a way to duplicate in
the lab the genes for certain regulatory peptides, with known toxic
One of these, when present in large quantities, is capable of damaging
the myelin sheaths protecting the thousands of nerve fibers that
transmit electric signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of
the body. Genetic engineering synthesizes the genes that code for the
production of myelin toxin, reproduce them artificially in the lab, and
insert them into bacterial cells. A toxin weapon is created.
Certain countries, Cuba, for example, use their genetic engineering
facilities to improve biological weapons. Their production can then be
concealed in the biotechnology or pharmaceutical industry. Genetic
engineering has then, as its main objective, to improve industrial
production scale-up techniques; microbial production rates; yields of
viable microorganisms; virulence; and resistance of microorganisms to
Genetic engineering is also used to maximize viability of an agent
during dissemination and increased survivability of biological aerosols,
and to enhance the ability of microorganisms to degrade the target's
Cuba: the threat
In 1982, Dr. Ernesto Bravo, from the Medical School, Universidad de La
Habana, a biochemist, visited Boston University. Dr. Lynn Margulis, then
at Boston University, introduced Dr.Harlyn O. Halvorson to Dr. Bravo.
Dr. Bravo's real mission was to develop interactions between Cuban and
United States scientists. Soon, in Summer 1983, Dr Margulis and Dr.
Halvorson visited Cuba. Shortly thereafter they created an organization
called North American/Cuban Scientific Exchange, known by NACSEX.
NACSEX organized visits of scientists to Cuba to exchange ideas and
information. About 80 individuals were part of this program which
continued in the 1980's and still is going on. These first visits led to
a series of training programs. Primarily, new molecular biology
technology from the United States was brought to the attention of active
young Cuban scientists. Courses were given in La Habana. Advice was
provided to a growing program. The Cuban medical and engineering
community built a basic infrastructure in a very short period of time.
In 1985, NACSEX conducted the Second International Seminar on
Biotechnology and Interferon in Cuba. Dr. Silva Rodriguez, a well known
Cuban scientist, spent then 3 months at University of Massachusetts,
Amherst, learning new technology related to biotechnology and genetic
engineering from Dr. Robert Zimmerman, a prominent United States
At this time also, during a visit of Castro to the Soviet Union, in
February 1981, Castro visited a laboratory where E.coli bacteria had
been genetically altered to produce interferon. Castro's interest
resulted in obtaining the help of Brezhnev, and immediately a strain of
E.coli was sent to Cuba, along with the equipment and working
General Vladimir Lebedinsky, from the Soviet Union, visited Cuba in
1982, at Castro's personal invitation, with a team of military
scientists. They assisted then the young Cuban scientists who were
engaged in the creation of what can be considered today one of the most
sophisticated genetic engineering labs in the world-capable of the kind
of advanced bioweapons research done in Russia, Iraq, North Korea.
Cuba's biotechnology sector has come a long way since 1981. It is the
world's second-largest producer, by volume, of Alpha interferon. Cuba is
also the only country, besides highly developed nations, producing a
range of human and recombinant interferons on an industrial scale.
Cuba's research centers have also produced monoclonal antibodies, as
well as chemically synthesized gene fragments and breakthroughs in
virological research. One center, the most important one, the Center for
Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, CIGB, handles the research on
proteins, hormones, vaccines DNA probes, modification of enzymes,
biomass, and cell genetics.
The biotechnology program has focused on the following areas:
- ? development of genetic engineering
- ? oigination of vaccines, biological preparations
- ? development of biotechnology for immunochemical applications
- ? production of monoclonal antibodies
- ? research with fetus
- ? medical microbiology and tropical medicine
- ? production of in vitro cultures
- ? manipulation of embryos
Cuba has had long practice in the art of deceiving outsiders, not to
mention its own people. There is an official version for the general
public and the outside world, one official version for the scientific
community, and yet another secret series of activities known only to a
small group of elite scientists and military personnel working on these
Despite the country's achievements in research and development, it has
made limited progress in selling its products worldwide. At a 1993 trade
fair, Foreign Trade Minister Ricardo Cabrisas reported that medical
products had accounted for 10% of the value of exports in 1992. But more
than half of that figure corresponded to sales of a meningitis vaccine
A considerable proportion of the rest was sales of interferon to China.
It is estimated that, since 1991, Castro has spent over $3,500 million
dollars in the development of this sector. In 1998, according to Cuba's
official figures, the government spent $95 million dollars in
modernizing the facilities.
A report submitted by the U.S. Office of Technological Assessment to
hearings at the Senate identified seventeen countries believed to
possess biological weapons- Libya, North Korea, South Korea, Iraq,
Taiwan, Syria, Israel, Iran, China, Egypt, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba,
Bulgaria, India, South Afrika, and Russia.
Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
The most important institution in Cuba's biotechnology industry is the
Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, CIGB. It was
established in La Habana, in 1986. Located west of La Habana. 31 Ave,
between 158 and 190 Streets, Cubanacan.
The CIGB has the most modern and efficient technology for bioscientific
research as well as facilities for manufacturing and continuous work
flow. It has a total area of 60,000 square meters. The Center has
state-of-the-art equipment, second only to the United States in the
At the center work outstanding scientists and engineers dedicated to
genetic research, virology, cloning, with the capacity to develop
bioweapons, such as anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and others.
The main CIGB buildings cover an area of 43,200 square meters and
contain specialized labs for both general purposes and dedicated
research. The CIGB has a biotherium, barrier zones or white rooms, which
allow research with sensitive and lethal agents. The CIGB's modern and
efficient technological equipment includes mass spectrometers, infrared
and ultraviolet, electron and scanning microscopes, gamma counters, DNA
synthesizers. Also, and very important, downstream fermenters, drying
and milling machines, centrifuges, which can, therefore guarantee
research and development of bioweapons, such as bacteria and virus
In the CIGB work more than 700 highly skilled researchers, scientists,
and engineers. Russians scientists cooperated with the CIGB several
times, including, according to certain intelligence sources, assisting
in the development of altered strains of bacteria. Major General Yury
Kalinin, chief of the Main Directorate, and Deputy Minister of Russia,
was invited to Cuba in 1990 to discuss the creation of a new
biotechnology plant ostensibly devoted to single-cell protein.
To facilitate the development of biological agents without suspicion,
the CIGB has efficient, flexible, and dynamic organizations. It is
structured into several large sub-directions made up, in turn, by a
number of divisions with specifically oriented work lines.
The main ones are: research and development in diseases in humans;
development of new vaccines by genetic engineering; recombination of
enzymes; analysis, design and modeling of peptides and proteins.
The process of weaponizing anthrax, for example, can be done easily at
these facilities. A few grains of freeze- dried bacteria are kept in a
stoppered vial. Then, a small amount of a nutrient medium is put into
the vial. A mother culture is created. With tiny pippettes, a scientist
draw the mixture out of the vial and transfer a small amount into
several slightly larger bottles. The bottles are left to incubate in a
thermostatic oven for two days. So far, this process is very similar to
the one to make a vaccine.
A seed stock in a standard vial will swell to billions of microorganisms
after 48 hours, but it will take weeks to of brewing to produce the
quantities required for weaponization. Once the culture emerges from the
oven, it is siphoned off into large flasks. The flasks are taken into a
special room where they are connected to air-bubbling machines, which
turn the liquid into a light froth. The bacteria can grow now more
Each new generation of bacteria is transferred into larger vessels,
until is vacuum pressure into fermenters. These fermenters incubate the
substance for two days. The bacteria continue to multiply until
scientists decide they have reached maximun concentration. At this
point, they process it through a centrifuge to be concentrated as much
as thirty times further.
Fermenters, and centrifuges, are equipment very similar to the ones used
in the dairy industry, in the sugar industry, and liquor industries.
These are industries where Cuba has had experience for years. Therefore,
the equipment is now manufactured in Cuba. Even at this stage, there is
not a weapon. The pathogen has to be mixed with special additives to
stabilize it over a long period. A scientist works with recipes. The
raw ingredients are similar, but quantities and combinations of nutrient
media, heat, and time vary. If something fails, the scientist has to
start all over again.
Smallpox, as mentioned before, requires no concentration. Also, it is a
virus, not a bacteria. Tissue cells are obtained from animals or humans.
The tissue has to be kept alive outside its natural habitat in cell
lines and stored at precise temperatures. Cells can be taken from the
kidneys of green monkeys or from the lungs of human embryos.
The nutrient media needed to cultivate tissue cultures are different
from those used to grow bacteria. A special complex of amino acids,
vitamins, salts, and sera, distilled with de-ionized water, is crucial
to the process that promote tissue cells and ultimately viruses to grow.
The CIGB, in conjunction with other Cuban biological centers and
institutes, like the Finlay Institute, or the Biocen, are quite capable
of weaponizing such agents.
Commercially, the CIGB has developed a number of preparations, such as:
- ? Heberbiovac HB, a hepatitis B recombinant vaccine, the production of
which has now been switched to a new purpose-built plant
- ? Heberkinasa, a recombinant streptokinase. Applied by intravenous or
intra-coronary injection, it rapidly dissolves life-threatening blood
clots. This product is one of 50 types of enzymes obtained in Cuba
- ? Hebermin, a healing and antiseptic cream containing human recombinant
epidermal growth factor.
- ? Hebertrans, which contains human transfer factor obtained from human
leukocytes. It is used to treat herpectic infections
The CIGB also has a computer network created in 1991 to provide computer
communications, database access, information services and data
processing to the Cuban scientific research community.
The National Bio-preparations center, Biocen, located in Bejucal, south
of Habana province, at Carretera de Beltran km 1 1/2 is engaged in
industrial scale production of human vaccines. Also, culture media,
nutritive bases and a wide range of genetic engineering products,
developed at the CIGB and the Finlay Institute. It was created in 1992,
at a cost of $4 million dollars.
Biocen's culture media plant has an annual 40 tons. capacity. It is
equipped to carry out homogenization, hydrolisis, dehydration, milling,
sifting, filtration, and several other processess required not only for
the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, but for bacteria and virus
weaponization. A new department that manufactures recombinant products
went into operation in 1993. The complex also includes a plant producing
immunological reagents and two vivaria labs.
Innovative techniques have been developed at Biocen for obtaining
culture media, substituting the traditional expensive nutritive bases,
like meat, casein. They have developed 14 alternative protein sources.
The development is vital for the creation of bioweapons.
Among Biocen's special products are allergenic extracts, dust mites,
insects, atmospheric fungi. A prominent Cuban scientist, Dr. Mario
Estrada has done extensive research on fish-transgenesis with the
assistance of the CIGB. Most of the more lethal toxins are developed
from fish and marine research.
Biocen follows the organization and functions of the Soviet Union, now
Russia, mos important center, Biopreparat. Biocen can be considered the
brains of the weapons program, and secrecy is vital. It supplies the
scientific and engineering expertise for the projects commissioned by
Staff members do not know what colleagues in other parts of the
organization are doing. Yet, even the most furtive networks are made of
human beings. However, gossip, rivalry, desertion, allows information of
secret activities to be known.
The Finlay Institute
The Carlos J. Finlay Medical Research Institute is commercially best
known for the development of the world's first effective vaccine against
both meningitis B and C. It is located in Ave. 27, No. 19805, La Lisa,
Habana. The Institute occupies an area of 23,000 square meters, divided
into three areas: fermentation, purification, and "clean rooms". Over
950 persons work at the Institute. Of these, 60% are engineers and
The Institute has done extensive work in the research and development of
new vaccines. Among them, vaccines against Leptospirosis, Hepatitis,
Cholera, and Meningitis. The Plant III area is well prepared for the
production of bioweapons.
The main areas of research and production of the Institute are related
to bacteria and viruses. The Institute has been as important as the CIGB
in the research and production of bioweapons. Commercially, it has
worked on research and production of vaccines.
The Institute of Tropical Medicine
The Institute was founded in 1937 by Dr. Flori, a very well known Cuban
scientist. The center's research area is in microbiology. The Institute
has the necessary state-of the-art equipment for research and
development of bioweapons related to tropical bacteria and viruses.
Lately, the Institute has done extensive work on the strains of viruses
and cells related to parainfluenza 3, adenovirus 3, measles, and
influenza type A. Hep2 two cell line was grown in minimum essential
medium, MEM, containing 10% fetal calf serum, 1% glutamine, 100 U/ml
penicillin and 100 mg/ml streptomycin sulfate.
Clinical specimens were processed using nasopharyngeal exudates of
children who had been admitted to the William Soler Pediatric Hospital,
in La Habana. An extensive scientific process was followed to evaluate
the ability of the RNA-PCR method.
The Institute has also conducted extensive research on yellow fever.
Yellow fever is a viral disease that has caused large epidemics in the
world. Infection causes a wide spectrum of disease, from mild symptoms
to severe illness and death. The yellow in the name is explained by the
jaundice that affects some patients. The disease is caused by the yellow
fever virus, which belongs to the flavivirus group.
The virus remains silent in the body during an incubation period of
three to six days. There are two disease phases. Those patients who
enter into the second phase or toxic phase develop jaundice, bleeding,
kidney function deteriorates. Half of the patients in the toxic phase
die within 10 days.
A weaponized yellow fever virus produces a strong strain of what is
known as urban yellow fever. There is no specific treatment for yellow
fever. Prevention is through vaccination. There are other tropical
disease that could be used as bioweapons, such as: malaria,
dracunculiasis, filariasis, leishmaniasis, dengue, dengue hemorrhagic
Dengue is caused by the Dengue viruses. The disease is tropical in
origin. There is no specific treatment available. Intravenous fluids and
oxygen therapy are often used for patients who experience shock during
their illness. Dengue is characterized by the rapid development of
fever, intense headache, joint and muscle pain, and a rash.
The hemorrhagic form of dengue fever is more severe and associated with
loss of appetite, vomiting, high fever. Untreated hemorrhagic dengue
results in death in up to 30 percent of cases.
The Institute is probably the best in the world in research and
development related to tropical diseases. The Institute is funded in
many activities by UNESCO, OMS, and the French government.
The Center for Molecular Immunology is a 15,000 square meter, two floor
facility. Over 250 employees work at the Center, of which, 200 are
scientists and engineers. The ground floor includes development,
pharmacology, and toxicology. The auxiliary technical services, and
secret research and development are on the second floor. Hollow fiber,
fermenters, and "cleaning in place" units are installed on this floor.
Their main research activities are on antibodies-hybridoma, molecular
biology, celular immunology. CIM has laboratories equipped for cell
culture, immunochemistry, and radiochemistry. Their work on the immune
system is related to the development of stronger strains of virus and
bacteria. The Center has all the pertinent equipment to produce
There was a slippery interrelation between Soviet support to scientific
programs to Cuba and Cuba's ability to develop biological weapons. For
many years, the Soviet Union organized courses in genetic engineering
and molecular biology for Cuban scientists. Scientists from the United
States also organized courses, seminars, and other similar activities in
Cuba since 1981. Many prominent European scientists have also cooperated
in the development of Cuba's biotechnological industry in the last 20
There has been a constant exchange of scientific information, visiting
scientists, technology transfer from the Soviet Union and the United
States to Cuba. The Soviet Union sold industrial fermentation equipment
vessels to Cuba. The models were the ones used to develop and
manufacture bacterial biological weapons.
Cuba also acquired equipment from other European countries under the
excuse that the equipment was intended to grow single-cell protein for
cattle feed. However, even exhaust filtration equipment capable of
achieving 99.99 percent air purity was sold to Cuba. This level is used
only in weapons labs.
Cuba has also acquired the technology and the capacity to manufacture
their own equipment. Some of the equipment required are very similar to
equipment related to diary production, sugar cane processing, and liquor
manufacturing, areas where Cuba has had great experience.
There is a definitive and important relation with Iran in the field of
biotechnology. Luis Herrera, one of the founders of the CIGB and the
biotechnology program in Cuba is directing the Iran/Cuba activities.
Part of the agreement calls for Cuba providing equipment and technology
transfer to Iran.
Some analysts maintain that evidence of biological warfare research is
not proof that viable weapons are being produced. However, even the most
primitive biological weapons lab can produce enough of an agent to
cripple a major city. Certainly, Cuba's facilities are recognized as
Viruses and bacteria can be obtained from more than two thousand microbe
banks around the world. The international scientific community depends
on this network for medical research and for exchange of information
vital to the fight against disease. There are very few restrictions on
the cross-border trade in pathogens.
In the past twenty years Cuba has been working in the research and
development of biotechnological products. Research has proven that
viruses and toxins can be genetically altered to heighten their
lethality, paving the way for the development of pathogens capable of
overcoming existing vaccines.
The arsenal of Cuba could include weapons based on tularemia, anthrax,
epidemic typhus, smallpox, dengue fever, Marburg, Ebola. It could also
extend to neurological agents, based on chemical substances produced
naturally in the human body. It is easier to make a biological weapon
than to create an effective system of biological defense.
The United States plan to stockpile and develop vaccines against known
agents is the most comprehensive of its kind in the world. Vaccines work
by inducing the creation of antibodies that fight specific diseases. It
is not medically advisable to combine too many different courses of
vaccination. There are currently no known vaccines for brucellosis,
glanders, and melioidosis, or for many viral diseases, such as Ebola and
Vaccines provide excellent protection against specific diseases, but the
characteristics that makes them so effective is also the source of their
limitations. Smallpox antibodies offer no protection against plague.
Combined vaccines are possible, but most of these go straight to the
metabolism of specific organisms. An all purpose antidote simply does
Countries with the capacity and technology to produce sophisticated
vaccines can certainly produce bioweapons. Cuba's biotechnology efforts
have been very successful in the creation of vaccines.
In 1957, European scientists identified the first cytokine, named
interferon, which form a bridge between specific and nonspecific immune
systems. They are produced in response to viruses and bacteria, or to a
general stimulus in the blood. Interferon took years to isolate, but in
1979 an American produced interferon alpha artificially, called
antiviral penicillin, a sophisticated biotechnological achievement. Cuba
is a large producer of interferon.
Cuba's biotechnological capacity places it in group four of the World
Health Organization's five national categories. To reach group five,
which contains the seven top industrial economies, Cuba must produce at
least 20% of the 260 basic materials. It regularly produces 17% of these
and certainly has the scientific ability to produce the others with
Priority access to research and development funding, 160 distinct
research units and over 10,000 researchers give the Cuban scientific
establishment an edge over their counterparts even, in some Western
Research is ongoing in medicine, genetic engineering, biotechnology,
industrial applications, and bioweapons. Development of hardware and
software for the research effort has been also a priority.
The range of products, and research and development areas,
include:monoclonal antibodies, vaccines against hepatitis B and
bacterial meningitis, a neural growth factor, a range of interferons,
enzymes, streptokinase, culture media with 14 alternative protein
sources, several reagents, transgenetic fish, interferon beta,
proteolytic peptides, lipopolysaccharide peptides, LBP-derived synthetic
peptides, human Papillomavirus 16, MT-4 cells, and many others.
Certainly, a country with such capacity can produce bioweapons. There is
really no technical solution to the problem of bioweapons in Cuba. It
would need an ethical, human, and moral solution, which is obviously
impossible while the government is in the hands of a sociopath. Ordinary
intelligence and surveillance techniques cannot prove the existence of a
biological warfare program.
Even the highest resolution satellite imagery can't distinguish between
a large pharmaceutical plant or center and a weapons complex. The only
conclusive evidence comes from first hand information. A site inspection
of Cuba's facilities, by an objective international team must be
Cyber Warfare and Telecommunications Espionage
Communications networks are systems designed to transmit information.
Computers and communications are the technology of technologies. The
field is experiencing a revolution several times each decade. Important
recent milestones include:
*The Internet: a network of many kinds of networks. The Internet's main
importance is its capability for internetworking, allowing any user to
find, touch, and connect to a large variety of networks and sources of
information, users, and computational resources that each makes
*The computer: microprocessors are changing the shape of everything
related to computing, communications and control. Home and work
computers permit direct data communication from the general public.
*The television: television has become a way of life. Wristwatch
television, wall-size television, high definition television, and fully
interactive cable television are all available
*The personal communication explosion: cellular phones, facsimiles,
two-way pagers, palm pilots.
The most important recent dates in the field are:
1964 The electronic telephone switching system (No.1 ESS) is placed
1965 The first commercial communication satellite is placed into
1968 Cable television systems are developed
1971 The first single chip microprocessor is developed
1972 The cellular phone is demonstrated to FCC
1976 Personal computers are developed
1980 The FT3 fiber optic communication is developed
1980 The compact disc(CD) is developed
1981 The IBM PC is introduced
1985 FAX machines become popular
1989 Pocket cellular phone is introduced
1990- Era of digital signal processing.
In homes, the three main access devices deployed at this time are the
telephone, the television (TV), and the personal computer (PC). Ninety
six percent of U.S. households have a telephone, about 98 percent have a
TV, and 55 percent have a PC. At work, the access devices are telephones
and PCs. On the road, it is again the telephone, cellular, and the
Communications occurs over public and private networks. The access
devices will coexist, albeit with an increasingly powerful and flexible
set of capabilities. The PC-TV combination will be basically a PC with
augmented capabilities for television reception. The television is not
becoming a PC, although the PC will be used as a television and
The PC's will become increasingly important as an access device.
Approximately 120 million PC's were deployed in the U.S. workplace at
the end of 1998, with close to 85% of them connected to a network. About
50 million were deployed in the home. Millions of portable PC's are
used by mobile workers.
About 98% of all U.S. households have a television, of which about 80%
of those have cable service. Terrestrial broadcast television uses wide
bandwidth that potentially will help to enable other services.
Broadening of access is more evident in cable television.
As digital video transmission is deployed, cable service providers will
increase the capacity of their networks. This will lead to additional
services, including interactive services. The existing cable system will
be more hybrid fiber coaxial cable, or HFC, systems.
With 96% of all U.S. households having telephone service, telephone is
the most used device as far as communicating- information is concerned.
The telephone is also the most used device to access the networks.
Cellular and personal communication service (PCS) telephones now provide
increasing communications mobility to a broadening slice of society.
Cellular and PCS telephones are now commodity items for the general
consumer. They are also becoming smarter, linking into computer networks
for data access or for basic telephony over broad regions of the world.
The system and the medium of the access devices available, of specific interest for this study are
the telephone and the computer, the system used and the transmission
medium. Telecommunications espionage, and computer interference and
disruption, depends on the telecommunication systems in place, and the
form of transmitting the information through the access devices.
Telecommunication systems are designed to transmit voice, data, or
visual information over some distance. Historically, telephone systems
were designed only to reproduce voice signals that originated from a
distant location. Today, modern telephone systems are very
sophisticated. They use large digital computers at the central office
(CO) to switch calls and to monitor the performance of the system.
The telephone industry is evolving from an analog network to a digital
network. The trend is to provide a digital CO and a digital network out
to the remote terminal, RT. The "last mile" from the RT to the
subscriber is usually analog. A new approach called the integrated
service digital network, ISDN, converts the "last mile" analog
subscriber line, ASL to a digital subscriber line, DSL. Hence, the
digital data can be delivered directly to the subscriber premises.
There are two categories of ISDN: narrow-band or basic rate ISDN,
denoted N-ISDN; broadband or primary rate ISDN, denoted B-ISDN. Twisted
pair copper lines provide B-ISDN for the last mile to the subscriber
since it is not financially feasible to replace all copper lines already
installed (about a $100 billion dollars investment for U.S. copper line
facilities) with fiber optics. Of course, fiber is installed in all new
Fiber or coaxial lines are required for data rates on the order of 10
Mbits or larger. The standard implementation of N-ISDN uses two -wire
twisted pair telephone line. This allows existing copper pairs to be
used for N-ISDN simply by connecting the ends of the pairs to the
The wide-band channels used to connect the toll offices consist of three
predominant types: fiber optic cable, microwave radio relay systems, and
buried coaxial cable systems. Historically, open-wire pairs, which
consist of individual bare wires supported by glass insulators on the
cross arms of telephone poles ,provided wide-band service via FDM/SSB
Occasionally, some open wire lines can still be seen along railroad
tracks. Fiber optic cable with TDM/OOK signaling is now rapidly
overtaking twisted pair cable, coaxial cable, and microwave relay
because of its tremendous capacity and low cost.
Fiber optic cable has an information carrying capacity that is orders of
magnitude greater than of copper. Although fiber has been deployed
extensively in the backbone sections of telephone networks nationwide,
wireline access networks comprising a mix of fiber and copper elements
are now being deployed in residential areas, as mentioned above.
For such access networks a very important technical approach is now
used-hybrid fiber coaxial cable, HFC. This approach, fiber optic links,
connect the community head end to small neighborhoods. Traditional cable
technology is then used to fan out inside each neighborhood to reach
Another approach is called fiber to the curb, FTTC. It carries fiber to
the curb in the distribution network. Then, either twisted pair copper
or coaxial cables are connected from the curb to the home. FTTC systems
are typical all digital. Beyond FTTC systems are systems that carry
fiber all the way to the home.
However, fiber cable provides service only from one fixed point to
another. Conversely, communication satellites provide wide-band
connections to any point on the globe. Service to isolated locations can
be provided almost instantaneously by the use of portable ground
Satellite communication relay a great portion of transoceanic telephone
traffic. Satellite communications can provide the relaying of data,
telephone, and television signals. Most communication satellites are
placed in geostationary orbit, GEO. This is a circular orbit in Earth's
The orbit is located 22,300 miles above the equator so that the orbital
period is the same as that of the Earth. This enables the Earth station
antennas to be simplified since they are pointed in a fixed direction
and do not have to track a moving object. For communication to the polar
regions of the Earth, satellites in polar orbits are used, which require
Earth stations with tracking antennas.
Each satellite has a number of transponders aboard to amplify the signal
from the uplink and to down-convert the signal for transmission on the
downlink. Newer satellites operate at a very high frequency, usually in
the 14 GHz range on the uplink, and 12 GHZ on the downlink. Satellite
relays provide a channel for data and telephone signaling similar to
conventional terrestrial microwave radio links.
Satellite systems are now used for communication directly to personal
communication systems, PCS, devices, such as hand-held portable
telephones and mobile data terminals. In this case, low-Earth-orbit,
LEO, satellites, which are not geosynchronous, are used. These systems
provide voice, data, and facsimile service.
Since the invention of radio systems, the goal of telephone engineers
has been to provide personal telephone service to individuals by using
radio systems to link phone lines with persons in their cars or in the
streets. With the development of integrated circuit technology this goal
was achieved through the cellular phone. Each user communicates via
radio from a cellular telephone set to the cell-site base station.
This base station is connected via telephone lines to the mobile
telephone switching office, MTSO. The MTSO connects the user to the
called party. If the called party is land base, the connection is via
the central office, CO, to the terrestrial telephone network. If the
called party is mobile, the connection is made to the cell site that
covers in which the cell party is located, using an available radio
channel in the cell associated with the called party.
On November, 1998, the Iridium constellation of low-earth orbiting (LEO)
satellites made it possible to send and receive phone calls from some of
the most remote locations on Earth using radio waves, a satellite, and a
satellite phone. These telephones can transmit calls via the Iridium
constellation and most land-based tele-communications systems.
Business networking includes interconnection of local area networks,
LANs, across wide areas, as well as remote access (connection of remote
sites, small offices, mobile workers, and telecommuters to corporate
networks). Business networking needs network interface cards (NICs) for
computers, wiring, packet switches, routers, and software.
Most networked PCs in corporations today are connected to LANs that are
in turn interconnected across the public telephone system. Presently,
some 90% of PCs are connected to LANs . Most of the PCs sites with a LAN
are connected to the telephone system. Small office, home office, and
mobile workers connect to their main workplace server through remote
Most of such workers do not have enough data traffic demand to justify a
dedicated circuit for connection and therefore will choose to connect
via one of three options: analog modems, ISDN, or frame relay.
There are about 900,000 remote offices in the United States. Among
those, 96% have some form of remote access. The network connection is
achieved using a dial-up modem, or via a router. There are some 180
million total telephone access lines. There are 95 million networked
workplace PCs, as well as home-office and mobile PCs.
The complexity of the system, and the medium, raises concerns about
security, which not only include telecommunications espionage and
computer disruption, the issues of this study. There are considerations
of mechanisms that also provide protection for the privacy of personal
information, intellectual property, integrity of information and
systems, and other vulnerable elements.
The increasing use of general access devices makes security matters
increasingly important. Although the need for security is currently
appreciated more in businesses than in homes, even in businesses there
is limited awareness.
There is a need for the protection of individual, business, and
government privacy, and the integrity of material transmitted.
Deployment issues relate to securing of infrastructure links and
end-to-end applications and therefore affect all levels of the
architecture and all players, including users themselves. Dependence on
networking activities will broaden concerns about security.
Security of the network is an obvious concern in crises where there is
an active adversary seeking to obstruct the response. This is clearly
the case in warfare and in confronting terrorism. The response team must
keep its plans secret from hostile parties, and it must protect its
communications against denial of service. However, security needs are
not limited to active, hostile situations.
Robert Kehlet, of the Defense Nuclear Agency, observed that when you
operate at a federal level, though, you get access to databases and
information that are very sensitive in nature. You don't want to pass
that out to the world in general and make it totally and completely
Security is essential to national-scale applications such as
manufacturing and electronic commerce. It is also important in
situations where sensitive information must be communicated. Many
traditional ideas of network security must be reconsidered for these
applications in light of the greater scale and diversity of the
infrastructure and the increased role of non-experts.
On a short- term basis, new security models are needed to handle the new
degree of mobility of users and possibly organizations. The usability or
user acceptability of security mechanisms will assume new importance,
especially those that inconvenience legitimate use too severely.
In many, perhaps all, of the national-scale applications, users can be
expected to move from a security policy domain or sphere to another and
have a need to continue to function. That is, for example, carrying a
portable computer from the wireless network environment of one's
employer into that of a customer, supplier, or competitor.
Mobile users who want to connect back to their home domain from a
foreign one have several alternatives. It is likely that the local
domain will require some form of authentication and authorization of
users. The remote domain might either accept that authentication and
authorization from the user.
In addition, such remote access may raise problems of exposure of
activities, such as lack of privacy, greater potential for spoofing, or
denial of service, because all communication must now be transported
through environments that may not be trusted.
Unfortunately, the problems of security are very difficult to address
with computational and communications facilities. Policy and steps,
especially when it involves merging several different security domains,
is extremely complex. It must be based on the tasks to be achieved, the
probability of subversion, and the capabilities of the mechanisms
Satellite stations and monitoring centers are capable of telephone
surveillance. A system can monitor and analyze telephone
communications, which is, in fact, the largest and most important form
of secret intelligence. However, it is impossible for analysts to listen
to all but a small fraction of the billions of telephone calls, and
other signals which might contain significant information.
But, a network of monitoring stations is able to tap all calls from an
specific area, and sift out messages which sound interesting. Computers
automatically analyze every message or data signal, and can also
identify calls to a target telephone number.
Surveillance systems are highly computerized. They rely on near total
interception of international commercial and satellite communications in
order to locate the telephone or other messages of target individuals.
Experts have assessed that, computers with network connectivity, can be
entered by an electronic intruder from anywhere in the world. Gaining
access to these computers through a network connection is relatively
simple, costs very little, and typically involves little risks of
detection. This new phase of terrorism is referred to as
cyber-terrorism, and with biological warfare, represents the greatest
threat of next century.
U.S. vulnerability to infowar is the major security challenge of the
next century. Much more important, but not as complex as telephone
espionage. Other names for cyberterrorism are: information war,
technological warfare, hacking, and computer security.
Every year U.S. companies lose millions of dollars to industrial
espionage and sabotage. The attacks come from outside hostile countries
or organizations, business competitors, or individuals. People are not
aware of how easy it is to breach security at major corporations. Even
computer experts hired by companies to make sure their systems are safe
find very difficult to fight intruders.
Even military computer systems are vulnerable to intruders. The computer
and Internet development are considered by many to be comparable to the
development of the atomic bomb in respect to the way it may change our
society and warfare. In the Gulf War, computers and telecommunications
were used to knock out the Iraqi communications and electrical systems.
However, as the U.S. relies more and more in computers, we become more
vulnerable to attacks. Imagine what would happen if Wall Street caught
a virus that would cause their network to crash. The prospect is: if we
are able to do it, others are also able to do it to us.
Cyberterrorists can attack anywhere where the physical and the virtual
worlds combine. The Internet and the computer technology have made
possible universal interface. Cyberterrorists can use the Internet and
the computer networks to destroy, altercate, and infiltrate valuable
information or systems necessary for security.
A terrorist country, such as Cuba, must make its act big enough and well
known enough to achieve its goal. The person actually performing the
attack can do it from his own home or lab in Cuba. He will not be
harmed in the attack, he will probably not be traced, and if he messes
up he learns from his mistakes and become even more dangerous when he
Assume a possible scenario. Wall Street reports a massive loss of data
as computers and backup tapes go up in smoke. ConEd and PG&E power
companies' computers crash, plunging the East and West coasts into
darkness. At major airports, the FAA's ATC computers crash, causing
havoc across the Midwest. 911 emergency systems in major cities go down
from a logic bomb. Internet traffic slows to a tickle as ISPs and
telecom companies struggle with coordinated large-scale
denial-of-service attacks. That's the kind of nightmare we can face.
Some of these attacks have already occurred, in small scale, in various
nations. Attackers, as mentioned before, can wage cyberwarfare from
computers anywhere in the world.
The core problem: United States' dependence on computers makes it more
vulnerable than most countries to cyberattacks. Our national
infrastructure depends not only on our interconnected information
systems and networks, but also the public switched network, the
air-traffic control systems, the power grids and many associated control
systems, which themselves depend heavily on computers and
Our defense against isolated attacks and unanticipated events are
inadequate. Risks include not just penetrations and insider misuse, but
also insidious Trojan horse attacks that can lie dormant until
triggered. Our defenses large- scale coordinated attacks are even more
According to CIA director George Tenet in congressional testimony, June
1998, "we must rely more and more on computer networks for the flow of
essential information. Trillions of dollars in financial and commerce
are moving over a medium with minimal protection. The opportunity to
disrupt military effectiveness and public safety, with the elements of
surprise and anonymity provide plenty of incentives".
The cyberterrorist's traditional weapons of choice include computer
viruses such as, logic bombs that wake up on a certain date, worms, and
Trojan horse; cracking (accessing computer systems illegally); sniffing
(monitoring network traffic for passwords, credit cards, etc); social
engineering (fooling people into revealing passwords and other
information); and dumpster diving (sorting through the email trash).
In a brief summary, there are:
*Viruses: computer viruses come in all shapes and flavors, from
"harmless" prank messages to electronic forms of Ebola that chew up your
data and spit it out as garbage. Some viruses infect your PC's boot
sector and rewrite the sector, crippling your system. Others infect the
files that launch or run most of your software, rendering your programs
unusable. Others erase your computer's CMOS setup tables, making it
impossible for your computer to work.
*Worms: worms are breeder programs, reproducing themselves endlessly to
fill up memory and hard disks. Worms are often designed to send
themselves throughout a network, making their spread active and
*Logic bombs: logic bombs are embedded pieces of destructive code that
detonate on preset dates or when a specified set of instructions is
executed, unleashing destructive actions within a computer or through
out a network
*Bots: bots are pieces of code designed to rove the internet and perform
*SYN: SYN attacks involve sending a torrent of connection requests to
*SYN flood: creates a major traffic jam at the site, cutting it off.
But a new tactic, coordinated large-scale attacks, emerged on March 2,
1998. The tactic consists of intrusion attempts involving multiple
attackers working together from different IP addresses, many in
different locations, and countries. The intent is to make the attacks
more difficult to detect, and to increase the "firepower".
Another advanced cyberterrorist tool is monitoring computers, fax
machines, printers and other devices by picking up their electromagnetic
radiation. They allow cyber spies (at least one of the spies from Cuba
arrested recently by the FBI in Miami was a computer engineer, expert on
computational technology in Cuba) to intercept passwords and sensitive
Such monitors can be as far as 1 mile-or further if they have
fast-Fourier-transform chips and other classified systems design by the
National Security Agency, or its foreign counterparts, such as Cuba's
intelligence services. There is no way to know if a system is monitored.
Information warfare attacks on computers could be classified as attacks
through legitimate gateways of the computers such as the modem and the
keyboard (software attacks), and attacks through other than legitimate
gateways (backdoor attacks). At the current technological level,
backdoor attacks can be carried out mainly by utilizing radio frequency
(RF) technology and are classified as RF attacks.
Any wire or electronic component is, in fact, an unintended antenna,
both transmitting and receiving. Every such unintended antenna is
particularly responsive to its specific resonance frequency, and to some
extent, to several related frequencies. If the objective is to eavesdrop
on the device, then the electromagnetic emanations coming from
functioning components of the device are received by highly sensitive
receiving equipment and processed in order to duplicate information
handled by the device.
If the objective is to affect the device's functioning, then appropriate
RF signals are transmitted to the targeted device. Producing and
transmitting a signal, which would just disrupt the normal functioning
of a target device, is a simple technological task, and Cuba is quite
capable of producing such attacks.
It is not science fiction: weapons can zap your computer into oblivion
from a distance. Radio frequency (RF) weapons are real They consist of a
power supply, transmitter, antenna. One type, referred to as HPM,
generates Gigawatts of short, intense energy pulses focused into a
narrow beam capable of silently burning out electronic equipment. There
have been high ranked military experts testifying in Congress in
relation to this matter since mid-1998.
RF weapons are also packaged as RF munitions, which use explosives to
produce radio-frequency energy. In the hands of skilled Cuban
scientists, these munitions come as hand grenades or mortar grounds.
Potential targets of RF weapons include computer and other electronic
devices used in national telecommunications systems, the national
transportation system, mass media, oil and gas control and refining,
civil emergency services, among several important infrastructure.
Ninety percent of our military communications now passes over public
networks. If an electromagnetic pulse takes out telephone systems, we
are in trouble because our military and non-military nets are virtually
inseparable. The former Soviet Union developed RF weapons because of the
potential to be effective against our sophisticated electronics, said
retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Robert Schweitzer in congressional
testimony in June, 1998.
Russia provided this technology to several countries. China is also well
ahead in this field. Since February 1999, China and Cuba have increased
their military and intelligence joint activities. The presence of
Chinese personnel in Cuba is now very obvious.
A new class of cyberweapon, the Transient Electromagnetic Devices (TEDs)
are easier to construct and use. TEDs generate a spike-like pulse that
is only one or two hundred picoseconds in length at very high power.
TEDs are smaller, cheaper, required less power and are easier to build.
As we will analyze later on the report, Cuban engineers have the proper
technology and experience to build TEDs.
They can be built using spark-gap switches and can be assembled from
automobile ignition, fuel pump and other relative available parts at a
cost of $ 300 dollars. TEDs can burn out a broad range of devices, with
effect on electronics systems that are similar to a lightning strike.
The compact devices could fit in a briefcase, or be placed in a small
van. With a six- foot backyard antenna and more advanced spark-gap
units, terrorists could point them at flying aircrafts.
"The enemies of peace realize they cannot defeat us with traditional
military means", President Bill Clinton, January, 1999.
Cuba: the threat
Cuba is not a challenge or a threat to the United States with
conventional weapons on a conventional battlefield. It never was, not
even at its military peak of the 1970's. However, Cuba is a real threat
to the United States with non-traditional weapons.
Cuba has surprising talent and experience in the areas of electronics,
computers, computer software and data processing. The country benefited
from its association with the former Soviet Union, and some European
countries, which turned out many skilled electrical and computer
engineers, as well as technicians.
Cuba's electronic industry has its origins in the mid-1960s when the
Ministry for Iron and Steel Machinery (SIME) began assembly of radios
from imported parts. In 1974 SIME started producing black-and-white
television sets. Then came a plant to produce batteries (1975),
telephone switchboards (1981), and color television sets (1985). In 1985
SIME also started production of semiconductors.
In 1976 a separate electronics institute was created, the National
Institute of Automated Systems and Computer Skills (INSAC). In 1994
INSAC was incorporated into the newly created Ministry of Steel, Heavy
Machinery and Electronics. The Ministry of Communications is also
responsible for small-scale production of certain electronics-related
The entity Cuba Electronica was created in January 1986 as part of the
Foreign Trade Ministry. It is responsible for importing electronic
equipment and exporting computers, peripherals, semiconductors and
An Irish expert says that the Cuban information-technology industry
matches that of the Republic of Ireland, which has been particularly
successful in persuading a range of information technology companies to
establish their European base in Cuba.
One of the most advanced areas of the electronics industry in Cuba is
production of medical equipment. The Central Institute for Digital
Research(ICID) in collaboration with the Biotechnology Centers, has
developed high technology medical equipment including the Cardiocid-M,
an electrocardiographic system for diagnosing cardiovascular system
diseases; Neorocid, an electromyographic and electro-neurographic system
for diagnosing peripheric nervous system diseases, and various
applications for high- technology genetic engineering research.
The main developments of Cuba's electronic industry occurred between
1975 and 1989. Among others:
? Computer equipment plant, established in 1978, with a 4,300 square
meters production area
? Printed circuit board plant, established 1982, with a 4,900 square
meters production area
? Electronic modules production plant, with 4,000 square meters
? Mechanical production plant, with 7,500 square meters production area
? Monitors and television set plant, established in 1975, with an annual
capacity of 100,000 units
? Alphanumeric keyboards plant, established in 1988, equipped to produce
keyboards compatible with IBM, DEC and other microcomputer systems.
Production capacity of 250,000 units per year
? Printed circuit boards plant, which can produce 35,000 square meters
per year of circuit boards. It uses Betamax material and carries out the
printing by serigraphy.
? Electronic Research and Development Center, established in 1985.
? Electronic Components Complex, (CCE), produces active and passive
components, established in 1985.
? Medical equipment complex, established in 1989. Produces instruments
and equipment for the Biotechnology Centers.
Computing in Cuba dates back to the mid- 1950s when two first generation
U.S. computers were installed. During the 1960s came computers from
France, followed by Soviet and East- European systems. During the 1970s
Cuba embarked on a program to develop its own second minicomputers based
on Digital's PDP-11.
Most of Cuba's early computer specialists were trained in East Germany
and the Soviet Union. In mid 1980s two main centers of computational
research were established one at the CUJAE and the other at Universidad
Central de Las Villas.
Cuba has also developed computer networks. Presently, there are four
networks with international connectivity: CENIAI, Tinored, CIGBnet,
Infomed. CENIAI began networking in 1986, and has had a UUCP link to the
Internet since 1992. They currently offer email, database access, and
programming and consulting services. CIGBnet is the network of the
Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. It began in 1991 and
provides email, database access, a biological sequence server.
Since 1991,there has been a surplus of electrical and computer engineers
in Cuba due to the closing of many industries. Many of these engineers
changed their lines of work to the areas of telecommunications
espionage and computer interference and disruption, in special centers
created by the government.
A large group of them received specialized training in Russia, Vietnam,
North Korea and China As a result, a significant engineering and
technical staff is now dedicated to research, development and
application on these areas.
Prior to the August 1991 coup attempt, the KGB was developing computer
viruses with the intent of using them to disrupt computer systems in
times of war or crisis. In early 1991, a highly restricted project was
undertaken by a group within the Military Intelligence Directorate of
Cuba's Ministry of the Armed Forces.
The group was instructed to obtain information to develop a computer
virus to infect U.S. civilian computers. The group spent about $5,000
dollars to buy open-source data on computer networks, computer viruses,
SATCOM, and related communications technology. These efforts have
continued to be made, now in a much larger scale, and could potentially
cause irreparable harm to U.S. defense system.
The project is under the direction of Major Guillermo Bello, and his
wife, Colonel Sara Maria Jordan, both of the Ministry of the Interior.
Several well- known Cuban engineers were sent to work in this group. The
engineering effort is led by engineers Sergio Suarez, Amado Garcia, and
Jose Luis Presmanes. Several computational centers have been created at
either universities or research centers through Cuba, where highly
secret research and development activities are conducted.
The development of malicious software requires little in the way of
resources- a few computers and an individual or group with the
appropriate expertise-making a malicious software R&D program easy to
support as well as to hide.
According to reports, Dutch teenagers gained access, apparently through
an Internet connection to computer systems at 34 DOD sites, including
the Air Force Weapons Laboratory, the David Taylor Research Center, the
Army Information Systems Command, and the Navy Ocean Systems Center
during operations Desert Shield Storm.
They were snooping in sensitive rather than classified military
information. The intrusions normally involved broad-base keywords
searches including such words as "rockets", "missiles", and "weapons".
They exploited a trap door to permit future access and modified and
copied military information to unauthorized accounts on U.S. university
systems. Although no "customer" was identified, the data collected could
have been sent electronically anywhere in the world. At that time, some
Cuban engineers were receiving specialized training in Holland, Sweden,
Cuba: Low Energy Radio Frequency
It is quite possible, and probable, that Cuba is doing research and
development on low level radio frequency weapons, or LERF. This
technology utilizes relatively low energy, which is spread over a wide
frequency spectrum. It can, however, be no less effective in disrupting
normal functioning of computers as the high energy RF, or HERF due to
the high probability that its wide spectrum contains frequencies
matching resonance frequencies of critical components.
Generally, the LERF approach does not require time compression, nor does
it utilize high tech components. LERF impact on computers and computer
networks could be devastating. One of the dangerous aspects of a LERF
attack on a computer is that an unprotected computer would go into a
"random output mode".
Different kinds of LERF weapons have already been used over the years,
primarily in Eastern Europe. This is one of the reasons it is highly
probable that Cuba is active in the development of such weapons. For
instance, during the Czechoslovakian invasion of 1968, the Soviet
military received advanced notice that Czechoslovakian anti-communist
activities had been wary of relying on the telephone communications.
These telephone communications were controlled by the government. They
prepared to use radio transceivers to communicate between their groups
for coordination of their resistance efforts.
During the invasion Soviet military utilized RF jamming aircraft from
the Soviet air force base in Stryi, Western Ukraine. The aircraft jammed
all the radio spectrum, with the exception of a few narrow
pre-determined "windows" of RF spectrum utilized by the invading Soviet
Another example of a LERF attack was the KGB's manipulation of the
United States Embassy security system in Moscow in the mid-80s. The
security system alarm was repeatedly falsely triggered by the KGB's
induced RF interference several times during the night. This was an
intent to annoy and fatigue the marines and to cause the turning of the
"malfunctioning" system off.
A small group of agents from Cuba, well trained, can put components from
Radio Shack, for example, inside a van or a pick up truck, with an
antenna. And that is really what an RF weapon looks like, a radar or
antenna showing, and drive it around a building, be the White House, the
Pentagon, or the FAA facility and pulse.
They can fire, and re-fire, as long as the generator has power. The
radiation goes through concrete walls. Barriers are not resistant to
them. They will either burn out or upset all the computers or the
electronic gear of the targeted building. They are absolutely safe to
Another aspect of offensive RF technology is its traditional application
in information intercept or eavesdropping. Traditionally, the Soviet
Union and Russia have placed high priority on the development and use of
this technology. Changes of last decade in Russia impacted the KGB,
which has been split into independent parts.
The 8th and 16th Directorates, roughly representing Russian equivalent
of the NSA, became an independent agency, the Federal Agency of
Government Communications and Information (FAPSI). FAPSI is directly
subordinate to the President of Russia.
In a wave of privatization, FAPSI was partially privatized as well. Some
of the leading FAPSI experts left the agency and founded private
security companies. These companies are fully capable of carrying out
any offensive operations and serve as consultants to previous ally
There is also a close cooperation between FAPSI and its private spin-off
companies. The private companies can provide the FAPSI with some of the
products of their intercept, while FAPSI can also share some of its
products, along with personnel and equipment, including its powerful and
sophisticated facilities, such as the Lourdes in Cuba, for a very
productive long-range intercept.
This situation can easily put American private business in a highly
unfavorable competitive position since the end of the Cold War somewhat
shifted goals, objectives, and some targets of the FAPSI toward a
heavier emphasis on intercept of technological, commercial and financial
It can take a few days to build a LERF weapon. It takes a few weeks or a
few months to establish a successful collection of information through
RF intercept. But several countries, including Cuba, have the capacity
to do so.
Cuba: Lourdes base
At Lourdes, a suburb of La Habana, south of Centro Habana, and close to
Jose Marti's airport, there is a Russian sophisticated electronic
espionage base. It encompasses a 28 square mile area and employs some
1,500 Russian engineers, technicians and staff. A satellite view of
Lourdes, 1996, is included.
There are two fields of satellite dishes. One group listens in to
general U.S. communications. The second group is used for targeted
telephones and devices. The areas are designated "Space Associated
Electronics Area North" and "Space Associated Electronics Area South".
There is also an HO/Administration Area, and a Vehicle/Equipment
The Russians have spent over $3 billion dollars on Lourdes. In 1996
they started to upgrade the facilities, in some $250 million dollars.
Presently, they have state- of- the art equipment. The computers at the
base are programmed to listen for specific phone numbers-when they
detect these lines are in use the computers automatically record the
conversations on transmissions.
The upgrading now include voice recognition facilities, that is,
computers recognize certain targeted voice spectrum, and when so, they
automatically record the conversations. Also facsimiles are detected, as
well as computer data.
At present, Lourdes is an even more important asset for Russia in its
efforts to spy on the United States than it was during the Cold war.
Lourdes receives and collects intercepts by spy satellites, ships and
planes in the Atlantic region, making it a full fledge regional command
and control center.
The use of the intelligence garnered by Lourdes is not limited to
penetrating secret U.S. military operations. Its targets also include
the interception of sensitive diplomatic, commercial and economic
traffic, and private U.S. telecommunications.
The strategic significance of the Lourdes facility also has grown
dramatically since the order from Russian Federation President, Boris
Yeltsin, of February 7, 1996 demanding that the Russian intelligence
community step up the theft of American and other Western economic and
The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the Senate
Intelligence Committee in August 1996, "Lourdes is being used to collect
personal information about U.S. citizens in the private and government
sectors". The signal intelligence complexes operated by Russia at
Lourdes also offers the means by which to engage in cyberwarfare against
the United States.
Cuba: Bejucal base
In 1995, Russia started the construction of an espionage base to be
operated by the Cubans. The base is located at Bejucal, south of La
Habana. The agreement, and the supervision of the entire project, was
directed by General Guillermo Rodriguez del Pozo. Equipment for the base
was shipped secretively from Russia through the port of Riga, in Latvia.
This country does not have an embassy in Cuba. However, Cuba maintains a
large embassy, over 50 persons, in Latvia.
The base is now fully operational, similar but smaller than Lourdes, and
with all state-of-the-art equipment. The unit is referred to by some as
The Electronic Warfare Battalion, EWB. The request for the base came
because Cuba does not have access to Lourdes. They only get copies of
the Russian intelligence summaries on issues that could affect the
Cuba Bejucal's Base is very powerful, and it has the capabilities,
besides running signals intelligence operations, that is, eavesdropping,
of conducting cyberwarfare.The Interior Ministry's General Directorate
for Intelligence is in charge of the Base.
It also runs a smaller center, located at Paseo, between 11th and 13th
streets, in Vedado, La Habana. The center is mainly radio listening and
transmitting, and for limited telephone espionage.
The Electronic Warfare Battalion has the necessary equipment to
interfere Radio and TV Marti, and the equipment to interfere TV Marti if
it transmits in UHF. The equipment is not used as yet. However, the base
has offensive jamming capabilities, capable of disrupting communications
deep inside the United states. This is indeed a unique facility because
of its size and location and capability.
Interference of radio and TV Marti is now disseminated through the
Island, in what is called project Titan. In charge now of Chinese
personnel, which since March 1999 has also taken partially over the
operations of the Bejucal base, or EWB.
Early in 1999, the Pentagon's military computer systems were subject to
ongoing, sophisticated and organized cyber attacks. Officials stated
that this latest series of strikes at defense networks was a coordinated
effort coming from abroad. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre, who
oversees all Pentagon security matters confirmed the attacks have been
occurring since 1998.
Secretary Hamre called them a "major concern". Officials believe some of
the most sophisticated attacks are coming from a country routing through
Russian computer addresses to disguise their origin.
The probes and attacks are also against U.S. military research and
technology systems-including the nuclear weapons laboratories run by the
Department of Energy. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., chairman of the House
Armed Services research and Development Subcommittee stated "What we
have been seeing in recent months is more of what could be a
coordinated attack....that could be involved in a very planned effort to
acquire technology and information about our systems in a way that we
have not seen before".
These attacks coincide with the fact that the Bejucal base is fully
operational, and also with the new presence of China military and
intelligence personnel in Cuba.
Rep. Curtis Weldon also stated "it is not a matter of if America has an
electronic Pearl Harbor, it is a matter of when". For two days in
January, 1999, cyber attacks were made into military computers at Kelly
Air Force Base in San Antonio-the center for the most sensitive Air
Force intelligence, the kind of information critical to American troops
Joseph Santos, aka "Mario", one of the persons arrested by the FBI in an
alleged spy ring, on September 1998, is an electrical and computer
engineer, with great expertise in computer networks, and member until
1996 of a research computational center in a University in Cuba.
According to the indictment, Santos' assignment was to infiltrate the
new U.S. Southern Command headquarters in West Dade. He had, as his
fundamental assignment, the penetration of the headquarters of said
command. Maps of several cities, including San Antonio, were found in
It is a fact that both, Lourdes and the EBW bases, are a threat to the
U.S. security, capable of intercepting not only U.S. military secrets
but also commercial and trade intelligence.
Cuba: the new China presence
In February, 1999, a top level Chinese military delegation, led by Chi
Haotian, Defense Minister, visited Cuba. They met several times with
Raul Castro, Cuba's Defense Minister. It was the first time a Chinese
minister of defense visited Cuba.
China's President Jiang Zemin visited Cuba in 1993. Castro went to China
in 1995. Other important visits have occurred recently. Raul Castro,
accompanied by several generals, visited China. Also, general Dong Liang
Ju, head of China's Military Commission, visited Cuba.
An important role here is played again by General Guillermo Rodriguez
del Pozo, whose son is married to Raul Castro's daughter. All these
facts lead to an important conclusion: a very close military relation
between Cuba and China.
It is obvious that China sees a presence in Cuba of an important
strategic value, and is making Cuba a military and intelligence
gathering Center. What Cuba really wants from China? Most probably,
economic assistance. But the real important question is what China wants
China has become very active in Cuba's military telecommunications,
cyberwarfare and biowarfare activities. China is investing to modernize
the satellite- tracking center at Jaruco. China is heavily involved also
in the telecommunications-monitoring base at Paseo, between 11thst and
The government of China has created the 863 and Super-863 Programs, with
the sole mission of importing technologies for military use. The 863
program was given a budget split between military and civilian projects,
focusing on science and technology.
The following are key areas of military concern: biological warfare;
communications and intelligence systems. The People's Liberation Army,
PLA, has placed priority on the development of battlefield
communications; reconnaissance; intelligence signals operations.
In order to achieve these priorities, the government of China has
focused on the use of intelligence services to acquire U.S. military and
industrial technology. That is the main reason why China is using and
improving Cuban capabilities in this area and moving to develop its own
on the island.
After years of hostile relations between China and the Soviet Union,
Russia has again become China's main source of advanced weapons,
including electronic warfare and electronic eavesdropping, (sigint),
China has acquired high performance computers, HPC, from the United
States. HPCs are important for many military applications and essential
for some. It is known that China is modernizing Cuba's computer systems
These computers are in the speed range of 1500-40,000 millions of
theoretical operations per second (MTOPS). HPCs are useful in the
design, development, manufacturing, performance, and testing of
biological weapons, command, control, and communications, information
warfare, collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination of
intelligence an in the encryption of communications.
Another potential application of HPCs in Cuba is cryptology-the design
and breaking of encoded communications. This application, such as in the
Bejucal base, demands fast processing, and the ability to handle large
amounts of data. As a point of reference, the U.S. National Security
Agency uses some of the highest performance computers available.
However, it is true also that significant cryptology capabilities can be
achieved through the use of widely available computer equipment, such as
networked workstations or parallel processors.
Under the revised HPC policy, Cuba falls in Tier 4 with Iraq, Iran,
Libya, North Korea, Sudan , and Syria. Tier 4 means a virtual embargo on
all computer exports. This is another factor of the importance of the
new China/Cuba relations. In light of China's aggressive espionage
campaign against U.S. technology, Cuba fits perfectly with Chinese
electronic warfare priorities and electronic collection needs.
The United States' dependence on computers makes it more vulnerable than
most countries to cyberattack. The president's Commission on Critical
Infrastructure Protection has identified eight critical areas in need of
protection: information and communications, electrical power systems,
gas and oil industries, banking and finance, transportation, water
supply systems, emergency services and government services.
Many traditional and non-traditional adversaries of the United
States-according to Louis J. Freeh, Director, FBI, today are
technological sophisticated and have modified their intelligence
methodologies to use advanced technologies to commit espionage. In
telecommunications, even some smaller (Cuba?) intelligence adversaries
now use equipment the FBI is unable to monitor.
The international terrorist threat can be divided- according again to
Louis J. Freeh- in three general categories. Each poses a serious and
distinct threat, and each has a presence in the United States. The first
and most important category, and the concern of this study, is
state-sponsored terrorism. It violates every convention of international
law. State sponsors of terrorism include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Cuba,
and North Korea. Put simply, these nations view terrorism as a tool of
Public and private sector organizations that rely on information
technologies are diverse. The result is a revolutionary and systematic
improvement in industrial, services, and commercial processes. However,
as commercial information technologies create advantages, their
increasingly indispensable nature transforms them into high-value
With very few exceptions, attacks against the nation's cyber assets can
be aggregated into one of four categories: crime, terrorism, foreign
intelligence, or war. Regardless of the category, any country can
acquire the capability to conduct limited attacks against information
Software is one weapon of information-based attacks. Such software
includes computer viruses, Trojan horses, worms, logic bombs and
eavesdropping sniffers. Advanced electronic hardware can also be useful
in information attacks. Examples of such hardware are high-energy radio
frequency(RF)weapons, electromagnetic pulse weapons, RF jamming
equipment, or RF interception equipment.
Such weapons can be used to destroy property and data; intercept
communications or modify traffic; reduce productivity; degrade the
integrity of data, communications, or navigation systems; and deny
crucial services to users of information and telecommunications systems.
The Cuban government is well aware of this vulnerability. Hence, major
terrorists and intelligence services are quickly becoming aware of
exploiting the power of information tools and weapons. The Cuban
government is well aware of this vulnerability.
The increasing value of trade secrets in the global and domestic
marketplaces, and the corresponding spread of technology, have combined
to significantly increase both the opportunities and methods for
conducting electronic espionage.
The security of trade secrets is essential to maintaining the health and
competitiveness of critical segments of the U.S. economy. The U.S.
counterintelligence community has specifically identified the suspicious
collection and acquisition activities of foreign entities from at least
23 countries, including Cuba.
Cuba has acquired the capacity to conduct cyberterrorism also through
simple technology transfer. There are multiple international conferences
on the subject. Anyone can attend these conferences.
There is a BEAMS conference that has gone on for 20 years, a EUROEM
conference that has gone on for over 20 years also. RF weapons can be
made today for a cost of $800 dollars. Therefore, there is no need for a
lot of power, or a lot of money to affect the infrastructure. This
technology application is quite under the capabilities of Cuba's
Electronic monitoring of communications signals will continue to be the
largest and most important form of secret intelligence. Cuba's two main
facilities-Lourdes and EWB- are quite capable of monitoring
telecommunications in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America.
Computers automatically analyze every call or data signal, and can also
identify calls to a target telephone number in U.S. no matter from which
country they originate. Both, Lourdes and EWB, are highly computerized.
They rely on near total interception of international commercial and
satellite communications in order to locate the telephone or other
messages of target individuals.
Cuba's intelligence activities against the United States have grown in
diversity and complexity in the past few years. Press reports of recent
espionage cases involving Russia, South Korea, China, and Cuba are just
the tip of a large and dangerous intelligence iceberg.
The director of the CIA stated before the Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence, 1998, that there are six countries presently conducting
electronic espionage that poses a threat to the United States, they are:
France, Israel, China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba.
Cuba represents a serious threat to the security of the United States in
the cyberwarfare phase of terrorism.
Joint Economic Committee Hearing, U.S. Congress, February 25, 1998
Joint Economic Committee Hearing, U. S. Congress, May 20, 1998
Preston, Richard; Annals of Warfare, The Bioweaponeers, The New
Yorker, March 9, 1998
Davis, Christopher,; Nuclear Blindness: An Overview of the Biological
Weapons Programs of the Former Soviet Union and Iraq, John Hopkins
University, July, 1999
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, January 28, 1998
Joint Economic Committee Hearing, U. S. Congress, June 17, 1997
Joint Economic Committee, U. S. Congress, February 25, 1998
Webster, Robert; Granoff, Allan; Encyclopedia of Virology Plus, Academic
press Ltd, 1999
Moscow's Bioweapon Threat, Mindszenty Report, Vol. XXXX, April 1998
Critical Foundations, The President's Commission on Critical
Infrastructure protectionMarch, 1999
Technology Report on Cyberterrorism, Joint Security Commission, 1998
Alibek, Ken; Biohazard, Random House, New York, 1999
Couch, Leon; Digital and Analog Communication Systems, Prentice Hall,
Roden, Martin; Analog and Digital Communication Systems, Prentice Hall,
The Unpredictable Certainty, National Research Council, National
Academy Press 1998
Computing and Communications in the Extreme, National Research Council,
National Academy Press, 1996
Davis,D.W.;Barber,D.L., Communication Networks for Computers, John
Wiley and Sons, 1997
Computing the Future, National Research Council, National Academy Press,
Information Technology for Manufacturing, National Research Council,
National Academy Press 1996
Preston, Richard, The Cobra Event, Ballantine Books, New York, 1999
Recent articles, interviews published in leading U.S. newspapers, such
as New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal
Hundreds of personal conversations and electronic communication of the
author with Cuban engineers and scientists who have defected in the past
Personal conversations and electronic communication with American
scientists who worked and/or visited biotechnological facilities in Cuba