TSA Tells Congress It Used Cuban Info to Vet Communist Officials Granted Airport Security Access

New 3-D Explosives Scanner Installed At TSA Checkpoint At Miami Airport
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) explained to Congress on Tuesday its decision to allow members of Cuba’s communist Castro regime — a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism — to visit U.S. airport facilities in May.

The TSA hosted a five-hour tour of Miami’s International Airport for Castro regime officials on May 20, reportedly allowing them access to high-security areas of the airport that house some of the TSA’s most sensitive security computer systems.

Officials from the airport and the Miami-Dade County administration condemned the tour, stating that they were allegedly unaware of the TSA-hosted visit of the Cuban personnel. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced in May that she had met with TSA officials and said they had issued an apology for the incident.

The date of the visit also drew the immediate condemnation of the Cuban diaspora living in the United States, as May 20 marks Cuba’s true Independence Day. The Castro regime, which has ruled Cuba for more than six decades, violently blocks attempts by Cubans on the island to freely celebrate their national holiday, attempting to replace the date with July 26 — the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Moncada military garrison by late communist dictator Fidel Castro in 1953.

The U.S. Congress’s Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the TSA’s international operations and its interactions with adversarial foreign governments — most notably, those with Cuba.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), recalled the importance that May 20 holds for Cuban citizens and described the Castro regime officials’ May 20 visit as a “slap in the face to Cuban-Americans all across the country and demonstrates the Biden Administration’s soft stance on Cuba.” Gimenez stressed that “serious precautions must be taken while dealing with the Communist Cuban regime”:

Cuba is among the chief counterintelligence and national security threats to the United States. Just 90 miles from the Florida Keys, part of the district I represent, the regime actively works to deepen ties with our adversaries by allowing the Chinese to operate spy bases and by conducting joint military exercises with Russian warships.

He continued:

Additionally, Cuba’s intelligence service actively recruits spies from U.S. federal agencies, and some of their agents, such as Victor Manuel Rocha, Kendall Myers, and Ana Belen Montes, have spent decades passing classified information to Cuba. Their information shared to Cuba has caused countless deaths of Cuban citizens attempting to work against the Castro regime and American service members operating around the world.

Furthermore, our diplomats in Havana have been victims of anomalous health incidents that are potentially the result of a foreign intelligence service using microwave technology to target our foreign service officers—causing brain damage and long-term disabilities.

Gimenez criticized the vetting process employed for the Cuban officials after TSA Executive Assistant Administrator for Security Operations Melanie Harvey explained that the vetting process uses information provided by the Castro regime.

“We use the passport information sent by the foreign government to conduct the background check, no matter what country they are from,” Harvey explained.

The TSA official recognized that the agency could have coordinated more efficiently with personnel from Miami’s International Airport and Miami-Dade County local officials during the visit.

“I would like to acknowledge the TSA could have done a better job coordinating with the Miami Airport and local officials for the most recent engagement with the Cuban aviation authorities,” Harvey said. “While Cuba has visited U.S. airports six times since 2011, we did not fully socialize this trip. I’m committed to making sure that does not happen again.”

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI), another of the committee’s high-ranking members, defended the visit of Castro regime officials by stating that “over the past year, approximately 2.4 million passengers traveled between Cuba and the United States, providing opportunities for tourism and family connections, which serve as critical lifelines for many people during Cuba’s current economic and humanitarian challenges.”

“Denying Cuban officials the opportunity to visit U.S. airports would jeopardize the safety of air passengers and ultimately harm the Cuban and American people far more than the Cuban government,” Thanedar said, claiming that visits from Castro regime officials took place during the administration of former President Donald Trump and that “there were no protests by Republicans” at that time.

In addition to the visit that the TSA hosted for Castro regime officials in May, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reportedly hosted a visit for a second Cuban delegation in May, allowing it to visit the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center. According to U.S. officials on the condition of anonymity, the FAA-hosted visit was to “discuss the continued safe and efficient movement of aircraft” between Miami and Houston’s air terminals and Cuba.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.