The Trump administration imposed major new restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, banning many education and recreational trips, the AP reports.
“Intelligence agencies investigating mysterious ‘attacks’ that led to brain injuries in U.S. personnel in Cuba and China consider Russia to be the main suspect,” NBC News reports.
“The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies. The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence.”
New York Times: “During the Cold War, Washington feared that Moscow was seeking to turnmicrowave radiation into covert weapons of mind control.”
“More recently, the American military itself sought to develop microwave arms that could invisibly beam painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads. The aims were to disable attackers and wage psychological warfare.”
“Now, doctors and scientists say such unconventional weapons may have caused the baffling symptoms and ailments that, starting in late 2016, hit more than three dozen American diplomats and family members in Cuba and China. The Cuban incidents resulted in a diplomatic rupture between Havana and Washington.”
The Associated Press has obtained “a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.”
“It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are hear multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.”
“The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.”
Associated Press: “It wasn’t until U.S. spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.”
“To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as U.S. embassy personnel or ‘members of the diplomatic community.’ That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting U.S.-Cuban relations.”
“Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counterespionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the U.S. embassy.”
Two sources tell CBS News the U.S. is preparing to announce a major withdrawal of staff and family from the U.S. embassy in Cuba in response to attacks targeting diplomats.
“Diplomats have complained about symptoms ranging from hearing loss and nausea to headaches and balance issues after the State Department said ‘incidents’ began affecting them in late 2016. In total, the State Department says there are 21 medically confirmed cases. The attacks were directed at their homes, which the Cuban government provides. The last reported incident was in August.”
Miami Herald: “It may be hard to fathom outside of Miami, but the faraway island of Cuba and Cuban-American politics could have played a role in Thursday’s historic hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.”
“Did the influential Republican senator from Miami on the committee, Marco Rubio, trade the integrity of this country for the pledge of a U.S. policy shift on Cuba from President Donald Trump? The optics — and the timing of a yet unscheduled visit by Trump to Miami to announce a rollback advocated by Rubio of President Barack Obama’s engagement policy — certainly make it seem that way.”
New York Times: “Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday.”
“In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.”
The Miami Herald obituary is worth reading.
“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.”
— President Obama, quoted by The Hill, during his visit to Cuba.
“An inert U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for training purposes was wrongly shipped from there to Cuba in 2014, said people familiar with the matter, a loss of sensitive military technology that ranks among the worst-known incidents of its kind,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The unintended delivery of the missile to Cuba has confounded investigators and experts who work in a regulatory system designed to prevent precisely such equipment from falling into the wrong hands, said those familiar with the matter.”
Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) has been floated as a leading candidate to be ambassador to Cuba, Foreign Policy reports.
“Dodd was an early proponent of relaxing sanctions on Cuba.”
The United States and Cuba “have agreed to open embassies in each other’s capitals, the biggest tangible step in the countries’ historic bid to restore ties after more than a half-century of hostilities,” the AP reports.
“Cuba’s designation by U.S. officials as a state sponsor of terror was officially lifted, the State Department said, clearing a hurdle to re-establishing diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“President Obama recommended to Congress last month that Cuba be removed from the U.S. list, triggering a 45-day congressional notification period in which lawmakers could have challenged the decision. Though Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy has opponents on both sides of the aisle, lawmakers didn’t take steps to do so. The two governments continue to negotiate over the re-establishment of embassies.”
“We’re not a step closer to freedom in Cuba because of the steps the president is taking.”
— Jeb Bush, quoted by the Washington Post, commenting on President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the terror sponsor list.
“The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama intends to remove Cuba from the American government’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, eliminating a major obstacle to the restoration of diplomatic relations after decades of hostilities,” the New York Times reports.
“The decision to remove Cuba from the list represents a crucial step in Mr. Obama’s effort to turn the page on a Cold War-era dispute.”
President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro “symbolically ended more than five decades of hostility between their nations, with a meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of a summit of countries from across the Americas,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“It was the first substantive meeting between U.S. and Cuban presidents since 1956.”
New York Times: “If Mr. Obama was ready to forget past grudges, Mr. Castro was not. He gave a lengthy speech on Saturday that included a recitation of Cuban grievances against the United States — including its support for Fulgencio Batista, the Bay of Pigs invasion and its opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay — sometimes pounding the table for emphasis. But Mr. Castro also made clear that he did not blame Mr. Obama for the legacy of bad blood between their two countries.”
“President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba shook hands here on Friday night, and American officials said they would hold discussions on Saturday during a gathering of regional leaders, in the first full-fledged meeting between presidents of the United States and Cuba in more than a half-century,” the New York Times reports.
“The expected encounter was not on Mr. Obama’s official schedule, but it held deep significance for the regional meeting, as the president’s move to ease tensions with Cuba has overshadowed the official agenda.”
President Obama “is nearing a decision on removing Cuba’s three-decade-old designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, citing progress in his push to normalize relations with the island nation as he arrived here on Thursday night for a summit meeting of Latin American leaders,” the New York Times reports.
“On the eve of the gathering, where he will come face to face with the Cuban president, Raul Castro, for the first time since he announced in December that he would seek to normalize relations with the country, Mr. Obama said the State Department had completed a review that he had ordered of Cuba’s status on the list of states that sponsor terrorism.”
NBC News: “The U.S. for decades had blocked Cuba from attending the meeting, and Friday’s start to the two-day summit marks the first time a Cuban leader will be present.”