It took until 2014 for Cuba and the United States to be able to turn their animosity toward one another from antagonism to diplomacy. According to Piccone's 2015 article United States- Cuba Normalizations: Strategic Implications for U.S. National Security, this happened as a result of Presidents Barrack Obama of the United States and Fidel Castro of Cuba agreeing to engage in amicable negotiations for the mutual benefit of both nations.
The goal of this essay is to determine whether or not Cuba still represents a serious danger to the security of the United States of America. The approach taken is to compare and contrast the different intelligence disciplines and agencies involved in Cuba and the U.S., and what is most prevalent among these intelligence disciplines in order to understand how each country manages their political and military aspects.

Cuba and the United States

Background on Cuba’s Active Forces

The Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), being one of the largest and strongest militaries among the Third World countries, considerably weakened during the 1989 collapse of the Soviet alliance. This collapse resulted in Cuba’s strict budget, military size and training reduction by approximately 50%. Currently, the FAR has been analogous with Central and South American countries like Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador in terms of military budget. Only a small portion of FAR’s military equipment has been stored for sustenance in response to sudden shortages. 1

1 Cuba Editors. The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security, 2016. Retrieved from


Despite the impact of the Soviet alliance’s disintegration, the FAR was able to acquire and preserve some points of military support specifically for the purpose of defending Cuba. This is because the Cuban military is well-trained and highly-disciplined, and the radar systems remain undamaged. Furthermore, there is a shared advantage in terms of Cuba’s intelligence operations with other countries, including those who are not in total diplomacy with the U.S.2

Cuba consists of five action forces, namely, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Forces and Unconventional Forces.

In terms of the Army’s condition, the level of preparedness is quite low due to lesser trainings, inaccessibility to heavy equipment and low-quality operations.3

The Navy’s primary concentration is coastal defense yet, it has lost its capacity to maintain operations beyond its marine territory due to weakening of its warfare. It has only a few functional vessels such as submarines, combat ships and fast attack boats carrying anti-ship missiles. However, this status of the country’s Navy may be deemed as a threat to civilian vessels.4

The Air Force, on the other hand, currently lacks the capacity to defend the Cuban airspace from foreign aircraft. This is due to certain factors such as insufficient pilot training, as well as, inadequate and low-quality operational fighter aircraft. Thus, Cuba depends on air defense weaponry and its surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to subdue any aerial attacks.5

The Special Operations Forces of Cuba, despite its small size, continues to train for special military missions. The Unconventional Forces, in turn, consist of the Territorial Militia Troops and the Youth Labor Army. They perform agricultural and naval missions but have experienced low quality in terms of its training and morale for a long time.6

3 Ibid

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

6 Ibid

Generally, the Cuban Armed Forces, along with the Ministry of Interior, holds a responsibility in terms of national defense and economic protection until the end of the Castro brothers’ political regime.7

The Five Intelligence Disciplines

Intelligence is described as a group of processes, capacities and programs solely responsible for the collection, distribution and evaluation of valuable information. There are five major intelligence disciplines identified in the work Intelligence Guide for First Responders (2013) by the Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team (JCAT).8

Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) is defined as the development and evaluation of images, imagery intelligence (IMINT) and geospatial information in order to analyze and visually illustrate the geographical activities and characteristics of the Earth.

Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is a form of intelligence coming from valuable information gathered from human sources. Such valuable information consists of data obtained from individuals involved in political and consular posts as well as inaccessible information obtained from foreign national debriefings, U.S. citizens traveling to other countries, contact with government officers and underground sources.

On the other hand, Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) involves technical information coming from other sources aside from images and signals intelligence (SIGINT). It is a form of intelligence that is responsible in tracking, determining, analyzing and defining discrete features of targets. It includes areas such as acoustics, materials sciences, optical sciences, nuclear sciences, seismic sciences and radio frequency. One example of this intelligence discipline is the discrete radar signatures of certain aircraft.

7 Piccone, Ted. United States-Cuba Normalizations: Strategic Implications for U.S. National Security (Latin American and Caribbean Center, Florida International University 2015), p. 4

8 Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team (JCAT) Editors. Intelligence Guide for First Responders, 2013, pp.20-21

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is described as the handling of distinct intelligence requirements through the utilization of publicly accessible information distributed to a particular audience. There are four sources of information for OSINT, namely, mass media, public data gray literature, observation and reporting.

Mass media includes information from the Internet, magazines, newspapers, radio and television. Public data includes reports coming from government meetings, hearings, lawmaking debates, press conferences, speeches, safety warnings as well as authorized data from budgets, the population, organizational charts and financial reports. Gray literature refers to publicly available information obtained for a certain audience. It consists but is not restricted to technical reports, research papers, discussion papers, unauthorized government papers, proceedings, dissertations, theses, newsletters and market surveys. Observation and reporting entail essential information not readily accessible since they are obtained from radio monitors and satellite observers characterized by state-of-the art satellite photography and resolution.

The fifth intelligence discipline is Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), which consists of raw and evaluated data. It involves information obtained from data transmissions such as the COMINT, FISINT and ELINT. Communication Intelligence (COMINT) entails the access of data in order to determine communication patterns and rules as well as to build connections between intercommunicating groups as well as evaluate the definition of communication. Foreign Instrumentations Signals Intelligence (FISINT) includes information from electromagnetic emissions of foreign sources along with the experimentation and exploitation of non-U.S. aerospace, surface and subsurface systems. Finally, Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) includes information coming from electronic signals not characterized by any form of text, as in the case of radar signals.

9 FAS Editors. Section 3- Adversary Foreign Intelligence Operations: Federation of American Scientists (FAS), 2016. Retrieved from

10 Ibid

Comparison of Cuban and American Intelligence

The main intelligence units of Cuba are the Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI) of the Ministry of Interior and the Military Counterintelligence Department of the Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces. Such units have been found to be in close association with the Soviet Union or Russia.9

The DGI plays a crucial role in the gathering of essential foreign intelligence. It is classified into two divisions, namely, the Operational Divisions and the Support Divisions. The operational divisions consist of the External Counterintelligence Division (ECD), Military Intelligence Division (MID) and the Political/Economic Intelligence Division (PEID divided into four sections: Africa-Asia-Latin America, Eastern Europe, North Europe and Western Europe). The ECD functions in going through foreign intelligence services and the examination of exiles. The MID is responsible in the gathering of relevant information regarding the U.S. Armed Forces and organization of SIGINT operations with Russians. The support divisions, on the other hand, consist of the Information and Preparation Division (IPD and the Technical Support Division (TSD). The IPD functions in intelligence evaluation while the TSD plays a role in establishing communication systems that sustain undercover operations and the release of false documents. The Military Counterintelligence Division, in turn, functions in the execution of counterintelligence, SIGINT operations and electronic warfare programs against the U.S.10

As for the U.S., the Intelligence Community (IC) consists of 17 organizations under the U.S. Executive Branch universally working together to collect essential intelligence in order to carry out foreign relations and promote national defense. Its main goal is to gather and disseminate important data needed by the U.S. President, the legislative branch, and the military communities in order to implement their respective roles in the government. Among the 17 organizations of the IC are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), which have important primary functions to protect the country’s national security. Other members of the IC such as the Departments of State and Defense are primarily responsible for intelligence-related operations such as the gathering of essential information and the management of activities necessary to protect the country from any terrorist attacks and other aspects that may disrupt the government and the citizens. Other organizations concentrate on specific intelligence disciplines but their main goal is to defend the U.S. and its interests.11

11 Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team (JCAT) Editors. Intelligence Guide for First Responders, 2013, p. 26

12Ibid, p. 27

The table below shows a complete list of the 17 organizations under the IC 12:

Name of Organization


Central Intelligence Agency


Defense Intelligence Agency


Department of Energy, Office of Intelligence


Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis


Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research


Department of the Treasury, Treasury Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence


Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Security Intelligence


Federal Bureau of Investigation


National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

11 JCAT Editors. Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team (JCAT) Intelligence Guide for First Responders, 2013, p.26

12 Ibid, p.27


National Reconnaissance Office


National Security Agency


Office of the Director of National Intelligence


U.S. Air Force, Air Force Intelligence


U.S. Army, Army Intelligence


U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Intelligence


U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Intelligence


U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Intelligence


Based from the above-mentioned details regarding the intelligence units of Cuba and the United States, what appears to be prevalent in Cuba are the HUMINT and SIGINT disciplines since Cubans mostly rely on human intelligence and signals intelligence for the organization and analysis of valuable information primarily against their respective targets such as the U.S. On the other hand, the U.S. seems to have the upper hand on all of the five disciplines since the country has a systematic form of delegation and execution of responsibilities with the primary goal of protecting and defending the country against its potential enemies.

Cuba as Potential Threat to the U.S.

The U.S. has clearly identified seven countries that are deemed as advocates of terrorism. The countries are: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. The U.S. itself is taking the necessary action to remove each of these countries in their “terrorism list” through strict intelligence and military measures.13

13 Counter-Terrorism Editors. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, 2003, p.18

14 Clapper, James R. Statement for the Record-Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community: Senate Armed Services Committee, 2016, p. 10

As of 2016, the U.S. has continued to face challenges in terms of threats to national security. Russia and China were the two notable countries identified due to their technological advancements which may be comparable to that of the U.S. However, Cuba has been found to be targeting the U.S. through its current tactical operations in its own intelligence units 14.


The DGI of Cuba has been found to pose a threat specifically to the national security of the United States. The DGI is responsible in the hiring of officers within the Cuban community and has utilized refugee operations in order to delegate officers in the U.S. The DGI also plays a role in the gathering of pertinent economic, military and political data within the U.S and has acquired accessibility to technological processes for the enhancement of the Cuban economy. Consequently, Cuba has been deemed as the origin of international terrorism due to its close working relations with Puerto Rican leftists and Latin American terrorist groups.15

Despite Cuba’s lack of motivation in military and intelligence participation, the country is still considered a liability to U.S. welfare, thereby posing a threat to American civilians under certain situations.


15 FAS Editors. Section 3- Adversary Foreign Intelligence Operations: Federation of American Scientists (FAS), 2016. Retrieved from

Selected Bibliography

Clapper, James R. Statement for the Record-Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community: Senate Armed Services Committee, 2016

Counter-Terrorism Editors. National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, 2003

Cuba Editors. The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security, 2016. Retrieved from

FAS Editors. Section 3- Adversary Foreign Intelligence Operations: Federation of American Scientists (FAS), 2016. Retrieved from

Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team (JCAT) Editors. Intelligence Guide for First Responders, 2013

Piccone, Ted. United States-Cuba Normalizations: Strategic Implications for U.S. National Security: Latin American and Caribbean Center, Florida International University, 2015

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