“Kimber did write a novel, a piece of historical fiction at best. It is also a love story set partly in Cuba. Kimber falls in love with the Five, blind love, as he finds no fault in their covert activities.”
— From a review of What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five written by former FBI agent Stuart M. Hoyt, Jr. You can read the full review here. And my rebuttal below.
It is tempting to resort to the same sort of innuendo and guilt by association Stuart M. Hoyt, Jr., employs in his review of my book What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five.
I could, for example, point out his review appears on a website published by the serious-sounding, fair-minded “Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research,” but whose ideological viewpoint seems best be summed in accompanying web pages like: “Let’s Keep the Reagan Revolution Alive” and “Margaret Thatcher: Passing the Torch of Truth and Freedom.”
Speaking of Reagan, I could note it was actually Reagan’s National Security Advisor who came up with the idea in 1981 to set up the Cuban American National Foundation, which not only became the most powerful anti-Cuban lobbying organization in the U.S. but also, in 1992, organized its own secret paramilitary wing to launch attacks against Cuba.
Though it would perhaps be uncharitable of me, I might also point out that the FBI — for whom Mr. Hoyt toiled for 24 years, much of it in counter-intelligence — failed to uncover links among the Foundation, its secret paramilitary and terror attacks against Cuba, even after the Cuban government had identified the connections and even after FBI agents had arrested — more by accident than design, it must be said — prominent members of the Foundation for plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro in 1997. (They were, of course, acquitted.)
I could wonder too about whether Mr. Hoyt — who served as a “counter-intelligence consultant” to the FBI after his retirement from active service and who has been an “expert witness” at trials, including of the Five — might have a vested interest in seeing the Cuban Five as a threat to American security.
But I won’t.
Let me instead focus on some of what Mr. Hoyt does say in his 2,800-word (“Space here does not allow a detailed refutation on Kimber’s work”) “review” of my book.
“The basic premise of Kimber’s (and Cuba’s) story,” Hoyt writes, “is that the Wasp Network [of which the Five were members] was established to ferret out, disrupt, and neutralize militant anti-Castro terrorists targeting Cuba and operating from the United States and other countries, principally in Central America. This was necessary because the U.S. took little or no action against the militants and, when they did, their efforts were ineffective. Any additional activity by the Five, such as espionage, was secondary to the anti-terrorist campaign and was warranted in the larger context of defending Cuba.”
That, in truth, is not a bad summary of the book.
Hoyt doesn’t directly refute any of it.
Instead — after noting I claimed I “reviewed all 20,000 pages of the trial transcript and sifted through thousands of pages of decrypted communications between Havana and its agents,” as well as interviewed Cuban officials, the Five and their families — Hoyt sets out to make the case I must therefore be in the pocket of the Castro government.
“Given the voluminous amount of documents and interviews,” Hoyt writes, “one wonders what help Kimber got from the Cubans in writing this book? It is common for the [Cuban Directorate of Intelligence] to provide journalists information in exchange for favorable reporting.”
Well, wonder no more, Mr. Hoyt.
Most of the documents I got came from the United States. The trial transcript, the source of much of the material in the book, came from a lawyer in Miami. I got the boxes of evidence presented at the trial from a Florida journalist. Much of what I wrote about exile plots against Cuba came from the pages of the Miami Herald.
In Cuba, I did what any journalist would do. I asked for interviews and requested documents. Sometimes I got them, sometimes I didn’t.
I asked to speak to a number of Cuban officials, including some former intelligence agents, for example, and learned that Cuban officials don’t necessarily say no when you ask for something or someone they aren’t interested in providing; they just ignore your repeated requests. In the end, I tracked down and talked to some of those agents on my own.
I also asked Cuban State Security officials for copies of documents they had turned over to the FBI during meetings in Havana in June 1998, and which I considered important for my research. They ignored me for more than seven months before suddenly providing them to me without explanation.
If the Cubans ignore reporters’ requests they don’t like, U.S. government agencies, including the one Mr. Hoyt worked for, often lie about the mere existence of the materials.
I spent two-and-a-half years trying to get those same documents from the FBI through Freedom of Information requests. The FBI, over the course of several appeals, claimed no material about those meetings existed. We now know that’s not true. U.S. prosecutors referenced the documents during the immigration fraud trial of Cuban exile terrorist Luis Posada in 2010.
Mr. Hoyt claims I put a great deal of emphasis on those documents in my book — which I did — but he insists “almost all, if not all, of the information provided by the Cubans was virtually worthless for investigative purposes. It was either already known by the FBI, widely acknowledged public information, and/or too general in nature.”
If it was so widely known, why had the FBI not already arrested Luis Posada and members of the Cuban American National Foundation for violating the U.S. Neutrality Act by plotting the bombings at Havana tourist hotels in 1997?
On another point of contention — were the Cubans trying to steal U.S. military secrets? — Hoyt acknowledges “Kimber admits the military was a target [of the Five] but minimizes its importance and writes little about it.”
Hoyt argues the “Five’s primary target was the penetration of the military,” and their purpose was not to protect Cuba from a possible U.S. invasion — as I argue in the book — but to launch an attack against the United States.
To support that rather ludicrous suggestion, Hoyt quotes from a message Cuban State Security sent to one of its agents: “How would you suggest that a maritime incursion could be carried out to the U.S. from our country?”
Sounds pretty ominous, doesn’t it?
Well, as Hoyt himself continues, this message goes on to explain: “it would have to be two or three crew members with false documentation.”
Two or three crew members?! Some incursion.
The U.S. navy must still be quaking in its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
When it comes to the most serious charge against the Five — the allegation that its leader, Gerardo Hernandez , was involved in a “conspiracy to commit murder” in connection with the 1996 shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue civilian aircraft — Hoyt clearly hasn’t bothered to read the trial transcript or examined any of the evidence presented in court. He certainly hasn’t read my book very carefully.
He claims “ Juan Pablo Roque — a Cuban agent that infiltrated the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue pilots organization — … was primarily responsible for the targeting and 1996 shoot-down of two civilian planes resulting in the death of four pilots. Roque fled to Cuba the day before the incident.”
Roque wasn’t involved in the shootdown. No evidence was presented during the trial to suggest he was. Decrypted messages between Havana and its intelligence officers in Miami clearly show Roque — who was unhappy with his life as an agent in Miami — wanted only to return home to Havana as soon as possible, and was obsessively focusing all his energies (and the energies of his intelligence officer controllers) on that objective.
Hoyt doesn’t have anything to offer about the actual case against Hernandez — perhaps because there is no compelling evidence to suggest he was involved with, or had any control over the shoot down. He is in prison serving two life sentences plus 15 years for conspiracy to commit murder, largely because Fidel Castro wasn’t available to charge.
I’d be delighted to debate Mr. Hoyt’s facts with him. Anytime. Any place. Not that the facts seem to matter much to Mr. Hoyt.
One wonders — to borrow a phrase from Mr. Hoyt — what his real purpose is. And whose interest he serves.
What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of the Cuban Five is available in printed edition from Amazon and other online retailers, or by ordering from your favourite independent bookstore. It is also available as an ebook.