Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

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The Justice Division unsealed expenses Monday in opposition to a retired ambassador, accusing him of being a “clandestine agent” for many years — allegedly betraying his nation by appearing covertly on behalf of Cuba’s spy company.

The arrest of 73-year-old Manuel Rocha capped an undercover sting operation that lasted greater than a 12 months, through which an FBI agent pretending to be a Cuban intelligence operative secretly recorded Rocha making incriminating statements about his lifetime of diplomatic deception.

Lawyer Common Merrick Garland referred to as the Rocha case “one of many highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the USA authorities by a international agent,” including that in these secretly-recorded conversations, Rocha repeatedly referred to the U.S. as “the enemy.”

Courtroom papers filed in Miami describe a sequence of conferences through which Rocha mentioned his secret work for Cuba, together with one the place he stated that the “Direccion” — a reference to that nation’s Common Directorate of Intelligence — “requested me … to steer a standard life.”

Rocha allegedly stated he adopted that instruction by making a public popularity as “a proper wing particular person,” when he the truth is was dedicated to the reason for communist Cuba.

At one secretly recorded assembly between Rocha and the spy, the suspect allegedly described how he grew to become a State Division worker: “I went little by little. … It was a really meticulous course of. … I knew precisely tips on how to do it and clearly the Direccion accompanied me. … They knew that I knew tips on how to do it.”

Rocha was born in Colombia and have become a U.S. citizen in 1978. He joined the State Division in 1981. The legal criticism in opposition to him says that not less than as early as that 12 months, he “secretly supported the Republic of Cuba and its clandestine intelligence-gathering mission in opposition to the USA by serving as a covert agent of Cuba’s intelligence providers.”

Final 12 months, Cubans took to the streets. Now they’re fleeing the island.

Rocha pushed false and deceptive info inside the U.S. authorities, authorities say, and met with Cuban intelligence operatives. Within the secretly recorded conversations with the undercover FBI agent, Rocha allegedly insisted he was nonetheless dedicated to the revolutionary explanation for communist Cuba, based on the court docket papers unsealed Monday. Rocha’s arrest late final week was first reported by the Related Press.

Over time, Rocha rose by the ranks of the State Division to serve in positions on the U.S. embassies within the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, and Argentina earlier than ascending to extra delicate authorities posts.

From mid-1994 to mid-1995, Rocha served on the U.S. Nationwide Safety Council, with a portfolio that included Cuba.

From 1999 till 2002, Rocha served because the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia.

That job and others gave him entry to U.S. authorities secrets and techniques, together with categorized info. Authorities say Rocha repeatedly lied when answering safety questions that decided whether or not he may preserve these jobs.

From 2006 to 2012, Rocha served as an adviser to army officers at U.S. Southern Command — part of the army whose space of accountability contains Cuba.

The charging paperwork don’t describe how the FBI got here to suspect Rocha was a undercover agent — solely that the company acquired a tip about him “previous to November 2022.”

Rocha is charged with conspiring to behave as an agent of a international authorities with out notifying the Justice Division, appearing as an agent of a international authorities with out such notification; and mendacity to acquire a passport. He faces as much as 10 years in jail if convicted of probably the most severe cost, and he’s anticipated to make a quick court docket look Monday.

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