CIA ignored tips that U.S. diplomat Manuel Rocha was a spy for Cuba’s Castro dictatorship

From our Bureau of Very, Very Sneaky Spies with some assistance from our Bureau of Inept American Spy Agencies

As it turns out, the CIA received tips about Manuel Rocha being a spy for Cuba 17 years ago, but it dismissed this information (as was the case with reports of Soviet missiles in Cuba back in 1961). Once again, one of the world’s top spy agencies failed to follow up on valuable information and Rocha kept spying for Castro, Inc. How much damage he caused remains to be seen. But all experts seem to agree that Rocha’s case is one of the most serious security breaches in U.S. history. Ay! The story below details how and why his treachery went undetected for forty years.

From Granma Ultra-Lite (Associated Press)

Manuel Rocha was well known in Miami’s elite circles for an aristocratic, almost regal, bearing that seemed fitting for an Ivy League-educated career U.S. diplomat who held top posts in Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba and the White House. “Ambassador Rocha,” as he preferred to be called, demanded and got respect.

So former CIA operative Félix Rodríguez was dubious in 2006 when a defected Cuban Army lieutenant colonel showed up at his Miami home with a startling tip: “Rocha,” he quoted the man as saying, “is spying for Cuba.”

Rodriguez, who participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba and the execution of revolutionary “Che” Guevara, believed at the time that the Rocha tip was an attempt to discredit a fellow anti-communist crusader. He said he nonetheless passed the defector’s message along to the CIA, which was similarly skeptical.

“No one believed him,” Rodriguez said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We all thought it was a smear.”

That long-ago tip came rushing back in devastating clarity in December when the now-73-year-old Rocha was arrested and charged with serving as a secret agent of Cuba stretching back to the 1970s — what prosecutors called one of the most brazen and long-running betrayals in the history of the U.S. State Department.

Rocha was secretly recorded by an undercover FBI agent praising Fidel Castro as “El Comandante” and bragging about his work for Cuba’s communist government, calling it “more than a grand slam” against the U.S. “enemy.” And to hide his true allegiances, prosecutors and friends say, Rocha in recent years adopted the fake persona of an avid Donald Trump supporter who talked tough against the island nation.

“I really admired this son of a bitch,” an angry Rodríguez said. “I want to look him in the eye and ask him why he did it. He had access to everything.”

As Rocha pleaded not guilty from jail this week to 15 federal counts, FBI and State Department investigators have been working to decipher the case’s biggest missing piece: exactly what the longtime diplomat may have given up to Cuba. It’s a confidential damage assessment, complicated by the often-murky intelligence world, that’s expected to take years.

The AP spoke with two dozen former senior U.S. counterintelligence officials, Cuban intelligence defectors, and friends and colleagues of Rocha to piece together what is known so far of his alleged betrayal, and the missed clues and red flags that could have helped him avoid scrutiny for decades.

It wasn’t just Rodríguez’s tipster — whom he refused to identify to the AP but says was recently interviewed by the FBI. Officials told the AP that as early as 1987, the CIA was aware Castro had a “super mole” burrowed deep inside the U.S. government. Some now suspect it could have been Rocha and that since at least 2010 he may have been on a short list given to the FBI of possible Cuban spies high up in foreign policy circles.

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1 thought on “CIA ignored tips that U.S. diplomat Manuel Rocha was a spy for Cuba’s Castro dictatorship”

  1. Rocha apparently played the game very well, but then again, that’s a key part of a spy’s real job in order to avoid detection. It seems that he was better at it than Ana Belén Montes. Miserable scum.

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