The State Department's letter to the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington in 2003 complained that it was tired of the "numerous examples of Cuban espionage against the United States" and was expelling seven mission officials.
What it didn't say was that the U.S. intelligence community was irate that Havana's spies had been stealing U.S. secrets on the preparations for the invasion of Iraq and passing them to Saddam Hussein's government.
The note gave the seven Cuban diplomats 10 days to leave the country. Another seven working at the Cuban mission to the United Nations also were ordered out. Together they represented the largest expulsion of Cuban diplomats in memory.
The identities of the seven expelled from the U.N. mission were published at the time, but the names of those in Washington declared "persona non grata" were never made public.
A State Department note dated May 13, 2003 contained those names. It was declassified Tuesday under a Freedom of Information Act request by Chris Simmons, a retired U.S. Department of Defense expert on Cuban spying.
He played a key role in the case of Ana Belen Montes, a Cuban agent in the Pentagon who is now serving a 25-year prison sentence.
"The Department of State reminds the Cuban Interests Section ... that it has informed the Cuban government repeatedly that inappropriate and unacceptable activities against the United States ... will not be tolerated," the note says.
The Cuban Interests Section in Washington and the U.S. Interests section in Havana are not embassies because the two countries do not have full diplomatic relations. The list identified two of the Cubans expelled as Raul Rodriguez Averhoff, who had been expelled from Canada in 1995 for spying, and Fernando Garcia Bielsa, who had contacts with Puerto Rican pro-independence terrorists before his arrival in Washington. Rodriguez Averhoff had served as a second secretary at the Cuban Interests Section and Garcia was a first secretary.
Also on the declassified list were: Deputy Chief of Mission Cosme Torres; First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez Perera; Second Secretary Juan Hernandez Acen, the media spokesman; Third Secretary Florentino Batista, and Third Secretary Jorge Ernesto Autie Gonzalez.
Averhoff is now assigned to the Cuban embassy in Buenos Aires, according to Simmons. Garcia-Bielsa was later assigned to the embassy in Chile.
The note's declassification also pointed to several little-known aspects of Cuban and U.S. intelligence operations, according to U.S. government and intelligence community experts on Cuba who asked for anonymity to speak openly about the issues.
The 14 expulsions were ordered just eight weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom to send a message to Havana that "it would pay a severe price" for giving Saddam and others U.S. secrets that could get American soldiers killed, according to one expert.