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Secret Agent Dude: License to surf

12 March 2011
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Tekkie/surfer dude has a neighbor looking for some help with a small project, that combines two of his interests nicely … computers and boogie boards.   Though, as it quickly becomes clear, as it becomes a project for a friend of the friend, that it isn’t boogie boards at all, but satellite dishes disguised as boogie boards that need attending to.  That, and a small bit of assistance in setting up a couple of  integrated networks operating out of different sites — “in case something happens to one of them” — capable of sending out encrypted data through proxy servers in other countries.

So our hero contacts the national security folks (somehow), and “operation surf” is on, turning an ordinary cyber geek surfer guy into a secret agent, or double agent for the other guys, who manages to infiltrate the nefarious cyber-spy ring and bring down the baddies.  It might make a a decent Hollywood movie… except for the small scripting problem… the surfer dude hero being a Cuban commie, and the bad guys being United States agents.

Dalexi González Madruga, is the sufer dude.  His neighbor, “Marcos”, who’d been working in Spain, asked González for “some help” in January 2007.  The “help” was for Robert Guerra, in acquiring some satellite dishes, disguised boogie boards, and in setting up the encrypted communications network.

Spy dude Dalexi. Photo: Ismael Francisco, Cuba Debate

Dalexi González Madruga  as agent “Raúl” to Cuban Intelligence, and “Alejando” to his foreign handlers  was on the job… er, jobs.    Robert Guerra, depending on your source (I’m getting this from Along the Malecon, Cuba Debate and Communist party paper Granma) either works for Freedom House, which receives U.S. government funding, or the Canadian-base “Privaterra” (described as working  “with nongovernmental organizations to assist them with issues of data privacy, secure communications, information security, internet governance and internet freedom”.  Privaterra’s website is password protected but I found Robert Guerra listed as “Managing Director” of the Canadian organization on a PDF slide presentation on data security given to the 2nd Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders in 2003. If Guerra was giving lectures on data security, and Privaterra is, as it claims, a data security specialist, one wonders why he needed González’ assistance… which is a big plot hole for anyone attempting to Hollywoodize the story.

The whole thing got more cloaky-and-daggery when the guy Cuban intelligence thinks was a CIA agent (he’s described as a good looking blonde foreigner… which sounds like the CIA’s idea of the kind of guy to pass off as a harmless surfer dude) finally met with “Alejandro”.  Naturally the meeting involved hokey secret passwords, in this case, “How’s the surf in the South of France?”.  Apparently, whatever “Alejandro” replied (Hey, I’ve read my share of spy novels… probably something appropriate like  “the ducks fly north early this year”) meant whatever it meant.  N this case, that “Barry” should deliver the boogie-board satellite dishes and other computer equipment for Guerra’s clandestine computer center.

And enough evidence to nail the spies… THE END.

Come to think of it, maybe this wouldn’t be such a hot movie.  The whole thing sounds some amateurish, and — having reached its denouement last year, makes the trial of supposed “internet consultant” (and computer hardware smuggler) Allen Gross make sense.  Gross, like Guerra, worked for U.S. government funded NGO’s involved both in Cuban “regime change” issues and are connected to groups that provide computer assistance to dissident groups.  Gross appears to be more a salesman than a tekkie, and Guerra — supposedly an expert on cyber-security — required local assistance to set up his network.  Granma’s article on “Operacíon Surf” doesn’t end with the downfall of the surfing spies, but goes on to give a brief overview of USAID and “contract agency” activities in Cuba,  and claims that the U.S. is funding the dissident groups.

It probably is (a good number of the dissident groups at any rate… although it’s naive to think there aren’t legitimate dissident in the country, as there are in any country) and — given the U.S. propensity to “outsource” government activities, my guess is that the U.S. government’s real interest is not so much in regime change in Cuba as in buying off the “Cuba Lobby” with some kind of activity, even if it means hiring the less than best and brightest — who weren’t exactly James Bond…

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