Reuters rejects Cuba's spy claim

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 08, 2011 19:00 hrs

The Reuters news agency on Tuesday vehemently denied an accusation made on Cuban state television that one of its journalists helped arrange a meeting between an undercover Cuban agent and a U.S. diplomat who the program described as a CIA operative.

The allegations against former Reuters bureau chief Anthony Boadle were made on a Monday evening program called "Cuba's Reasons," which featured a previously little-known dissident named Raul Capote who said he was in fact "Agent Daniel," working for Cuban intelligence.

There was no way to independently establish the veracity of the accusation. The show, dedicated to uncovering plots against Cuba, is shot in the style of a real-crime drama, with a mix of grainy secret footage, tense music and stylized dramatizations.

"Reuters refutes the allegations of the report, and stands firmly on its 160 years of accurate and unbiased reporting in Cuba and around the world," said Erin Kurtz, a spokesperson for Thomson Reuters, in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

While Cuba's official media often denounce the foreign press as being biased, it is unusual for it to make such a serious accusation, and it gave ambiguous evidence to back it up.

On the program, Capote says that he was invited by Boadle to attend a reception at the German Embassy, without giving a date. The two left the party by foot after two hours and walked through the dark Havana night, he said.

"We walked I don't know how many blocks, until we arrived at a dark place where a car was parked. There was a shadow inside, a man," Capote said. He said it was Mark Sullivan, who worked at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana from 2006-2008.

Capote says he did not know Sullivan at the time, but that he later revealed himself to be a CIA agent.

He said that at some point after the meeting with Sullivan, he began working with the CIA himself, though he was in fact a double agent. U.S. officials he took to be intelligence agents asked him his opinion on Cuban politics and eventually gave him a code name and satellite phone to use to communicate, he said.

Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman at the American diplomatic mission, had no comment.

The program showed a picture of Boadle and accused him of serving as a "liaison" between Capote and the CIA. It gave no evidence other than Capote's account, nor did it mention any other alleged rendezvous involving Boadle during his roughly six years in Cuba.

It also accused Boadle of lacking journalistic balance, saying that during his "stay in Cuba from March 2002 through 2008 he published reports favoring local counterrevolutionaries and the interests of the United States and the European Union."

Phil Peters, a Cuba expert who is vice president of the Arlington, Virginia-based Lexington Institute think tank, said the accusation that Boadle was helping set up intelligence meetings went much farther than Cuba's usual complaints against what it considers biased foreign media coverage.

"It's one thing that they would yank a journalist's chain over their coverage ... but the allegation that a journalist is working for a foreign government is a completely different type of charge," he said.

Cuba has kept up an unusually strong stream of criticism of the foreign press in recent months.

In February, the Communist Party newspaper Granma carried an article denouncing The Wall Street Journal for an editorial that drew parallels between Cuba and Egypt, where a popular uprising forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The editorial was published days after Cuban media lashed out at CNN's Spanish-language channel for reporting that an opposition demonstration was going to take place in Havana. The protest never occurred.

Cuban state cable TV providers in January removed CNN's Spanish service from a package of channels provided mostly to hotels, foreign companies and diplomats on the island, though no reason was given.