National Security

How many Cuban spies are in Florida? Here's one estimate

Cuba's communist government has rebuilt its network of spies in Florida to the levels that existed before the FBI rounded up more than a dozen members of the Cuban spy Wasp Network, according to a U.S. Army expert on Cuban intelligence.

Lt. Col. Chris Simmons, an Army counterintelligence officer, told The Miami Herald that within nine to 18 months of the network's 1998 dismantling, the number of Cuban agents and intelligence officers in the state was back up to pre-Wasp Network levels — or about 210.

''The loss of any one network doesn't compromise anything outside its own structure,'' said Simmons, noting that Cuba's spies appear to operate within compartmentalized cells not directly connected to each other.

Simmons' statement marks the first time a U.S. official has detailed the number of Cuban spies in Florida in recent years. He also outlined the spies' likely targets, including Cuban exile groups and U.S. military installations.

The Cuban government's diplomatic mission in Washington did not take a question on the issue because the press officer's voice mail was full. He did not reply to an e-mail message either.

Judy Orihuela, an FBI Miami spokeswoman, declined to comment on the matter.

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