While the U.S. back-channeled negotiations to restore relations with Cuba, a covert plan that allowed a Cuban prisoner held in California to artificially inseminate his wife in Havana almost derailed talks during a critical period, The New York Times reported Thursday. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) won approval to have the wife of Gerardo Hernández, a Cuban intelligence officer convicted in the late 1990s for infiltrating Cuban-American dissident groups, artificially inseminated by her husband in exchange for medical care for the American government contractor Alan Gross, who was jailed in Havana. Unknown to Leahy, President Obama had ordered two White House aides to bypass State Department diplomats and begin secret talks with Havana. The administration made painstaking efforts to conceal the talks, including asking the Cuban government to hide Hernández’s pregnancy, in fear that it would raise suspicions. The two Obama aides reportedly spent more than a year meeting with Cuban counterparts in Canada, lying to their own families about travel, before negotiations were taken to the Vatican.