The Central Intelligence Agency has been keeping under wraps an embarrassing Cuban spy who defected to the United States last June.
The reason is simple. The spy, Maj. Florentino Aspillaga Lombard, has told the CIA during intensive debriefings that nearly every spy the CIA has recruited in Cuba since the early 1960s has been a double agent, loyal to dictator Fidel Castro.
Aspillaga headed the Cuban General Directorate of Intelligence (DGI) staff in their Czechoslovakian embassy. He left his office in an embassy car on June 6, drove across the border to Austria and turned himself over to U.S. diplomats in Vienna.
The U.S. government often trots defectors around like prizes, but it was weeks before word of Aspillaga's defection leaked out. And when he was finally produced in public, it was not to a battery of journalists, but to the tame questioning of an official arm of the U.S. government: Radio Marti, the station that Voice of America beams to Cuba.
What he had to say in those programs was fascinating, but fluff. The best part was unspoken.
He charged that the Castro regime is corrupt. He claimed Castro has a $4.2 million Swiss bank account, that his four children live in luxury in Moscow, and that Castro has lavish homes in Cuba's 14 provinces, yachts, and so on.
In a time of housing shortages, Aspillaga said "hundreds of houses" were confiscated for use by Castro's security guards and aides in Havana.
The most important scoop from Aspillaga was not for public consumption. In top-secret debriefings, he has described in embarrassing detail the Cuban penetration of the CIA's anti-Castro operations.
Aspillaga has spilled enough names and dates that CIA sources know he is telling the truth when he says that most of their agents were loyal to Castro from the beginning or were later turned by the DGI. He maintains this has been the case since the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961.
Fabricated information from those double agents was eaten up by the CIA and passed on to Presidents Reagan, Carter and Ford, according to our CIA sources. The CIA now must reevaluate its view of Castro to separate truth from fiction.
By contrast, another Cuban spy who defected nine days before Aspillaga had the red carpet rolled out.
Gen. Rafael del Pino was allowed to speak at length in public about Cuba's involvement in Angola, revealing that 10,000 Cubans had either died or disappeared in that country.
Del Pino said Cuba had sent 40,000 troops to Angola to reduce unemployment, to punish insubordinate and inferior officers, and to pay back debts to the Soviets.
Aspillaga's spicy stories about corruption and high living in the Castro regime are golden propaganda, too, but if the CIA makes a big deal out of his revelations, that will give credibility to Aspillaga's more important news that the CIA was lead around by the nose by Castro for at least two decades.