Skip to comments.U.S. Intelligence Agent Admits to Spying for Cuba
Posted on 03/19/2002 10:25:10 PM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An American intelligence officer admitted on Tuesday to having spied for Cuba for 17 years, bringing to a close a case U.S. prosecutors described as "classic espionage."
Ana Belen Montes, who began work as a senior intelligence analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency in September 1985 and later specialized in Cuba, pleaded guilty to one count of espionage before a Washington court.
Montes, 45, an American citizen of Puerto Rican descent, who appeared in court in a striped black-and-white prisoner's jumpsuit, faces 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Among other secrets, Montes identified to Cuban intelligence four undercover American agents on the island and gave Havana classified information relating to U.S. national defense.
Montes also provided Cuban agents with details of a secret military training exercise in which she took part in 1996.
Van Harp, the assistant director of the FBI Washington field office, told reporters Montes had been under surveillance for a "good lengthy amount of time" before being arrested last September.
The case comes only a year after former FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested for spying for Russia and at a time when concerns over America's national defense were heightened by the Sept. 11 attacks.
"This should send a loud and clear message to anyone committing acts of espionage in this country that we will deal with them swiftly and that the price for compromising our country's security will be high," Roscoe Howard, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, told reporters outside the courthouse.
NO CASH OR DIAMONDS
According to court documents, Montes began spying in 1985, the same year Hanssen started selling U.S. secrets to the Russians. Unlike the former FBI agent, who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and diamonds, Montes worked for free, the FBI said.
Prosecutors told the court that Montes received coded messages from Cuban intelligence over a short-wave radio. Once typed into a laptop computer equipped with a decryption program supplied to her by Cuban agents, the string of numbers was decoded into Spanish text messages.
In a search of her apartment, the FBI discovered messages from her Cuban contacts on a laptop and found floppy disks on which, prosecutors said, Montes would save encrypted classified information that she would later deliver to Cuban intelligence.
Montes also reached her contact by calling a pager number from public telephones across Washington and leaving coded numeric messages saying "Message received," or "Danger," prosecutors said.
"This was a classic espionage case, and to be able to uncover it, it was a classic espionage investigation," Harp said. "It does highlight the fact that there are those out there, including the Cuban intelligence service, who would do this country harm."
Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Intelligence, commended the government for uncovering the case, which he said demonstrated that Cuba was still a threat to the United States.
"The very fact that sensitive national security information belonging to the United States was compromised is an indication of Fidel Castro's continuing desire to undermine the U.S. government and the security of our people," Graham said in a statement.
Montes will be sentenced on Sept. 24.
Accused spy for Cuba may cut plea deal--[Excerpt] WASHINGTON - Nearly six months after the FBI arrested a senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency and charged her with spying for Cuba, her attorneys are in behind-the-scenes talks with federal prosecutors about her cooperation.
Those familiar with similar espionage cases say Ana Belen Montes, 45, may already be sharing information with prosecutors in hopes of reducing a potentially severe sentence.
Montes' high-profile lawyer, Plato Cacheris, has represented some of the most prominent spies of recent years, including FBI mole Robert Hanssen and CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, both of whom agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for avoiding the death penalty. [End Excerpt]
He joins other Cuban-Americans in key positions who, like Reich, have viewed Castro as a menace for years. Shortly after Reich took office, the administration began a policy review of Cuba with a view toward determining Cuba's potential for damaging U.S. interests. One issue under study, according to a senior official, is the role Washington says Cuba plays in international terrorism. Cuba is on the State Department terrorist country list, a designation based on ties Cuba maintains with other countries on the list, including Iraq, and the haven Cuba provides for foreigners linked to alleged terrorist organizations.[End Excerpt]
Yeah, then she's on probation until she's 75.
Standing in the way, however, is the Bush administration, which has indicated in recent weeks that it would use all available means to tighten U.S. restrictions and portray Cuba as a terrorist country. In meetings this month, officials including White House senior adviser Karl Rove; Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs; and others said the administration is fully behind efforts to maintain and even strengthen the embargo. [End Excerpt]
Still, it seems ingracious for us to expect God to do all the work.
Montes was educated at the University of Virginia and has a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University.
''She doesn't fit the profile,'' said the U.S. investigator. ``She wasn't flashy.''
She held a low-level job handling freedom of information requests at the Department of Justice from 1979 until 1985, where she obtained a security clearance.
Her recruitment may have occurred in New York City, the investigator said, where the Cuban mission to the United Nations handles intelligence matters.
She entered the DIA as an intelligence research specialist and rose to become a senior analyst on Cuba in 1992. She refused ''promotion and career advancement opportunities'' at DIA in order to keep her hands on valuable intelligence on Cuba, the indictment said.
She traveled to Cuba at least four times while working at DIA, according to a still-secret court document, and handled information deemed ''secret'' and ``top secret.''
Her recruitment, when she was in her late 20s and still a graduate student, and her climb to senior ranks of the DIA, where she helped draft a 1999 finding that Cuba no longer presents a military threat to the United States, revealed the meticulous tradecraft of Cuban intelligence in directing her, experts said. Still unanswered is how she could have remained undetected so long as a spy in the DIA.
After the arrest last year of FBI Robert Hanssen -- who gave intelligence to the Soviet Union, and Russia, while running U.S. counter-intelligence operations at the bureau -- FBI investigators were chagrined to learn that he had never been given a polygraph test.
The FBI is now seeking about $7 million from Congress to hire more polygraph test experts, and require every FBI employee granted a security clearance to take one.
Sen. Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Montes' ''traitorous act'' shows that Cuba remains a threat to U.S. citizens.
''The very fact that sensitive national security information belonging to the United States was compromised is an indication of Fidel Castro's continuing desire to undermine the U.S. government and the security of our people,'' Graham said. [End Excerpt]
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