|Defense Intelligence Analyst Ana Belen Montes delivered defense information to Cuba|
Nothing stood out about her.
She lived in a modest two-bedroom cooperative apartment on a quiet tree-lined street in D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood. She drove a red 2000 Toyota Echo. She banked at Riggs Bank in the District’s Friendship Heights section. She was bright, engaging, trusted and well-adjusted at work.
But she was also something else.
Ana Belen Montes, 44, was a spy — engaged in one of the most devastating espionage operations in the history of the United States.
She was arrested on Sept. 21, 2001, and charged with conspiracy to deliver U.S. national defense information to Cuba.
Her arrest dealt a blow to the U.S. government, because she was a senior-level analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Her cover worked perfectly until, according to FBI documents, “an astute DIA colleague — acting on a gut feeling — reported to a security official that he felt Montes might be under the influence of Cuban intelligence.”
Scott Carmichael, now a former senior security and counterintelligence investigator for the Defense Intelligence Agency, was that “astute colleague.”
Another colleague who had suspicions was Chris Simmons, former chief of the Americas team with DIA’s counterintelligence research unit.
“There were gatherings in D.C. at various academic forums where Cuban intelligence officers would show up to do presentations, and she and other DIA employees went there. But they were warned by security to stop attending because ‘you’re at risk,’” Simmons said.
All the others stopped attending, he said, “but she refused.”
It wasn’t until she received an ultimatum, according to Simmons — “stop attending or get fired” — that she ceased going to the events.
Montes was so skilled at spying that during her years at DIA, even though security officials learned about her foreign policy views and were concerned about her access to sensitive information, they had no concrete reason to believe she was sharing secrets. Besides, she had passed a polygraph.
In her 15-year career at DIA, she had acquired a top-level security clearance and become DIA’s top Cuban analyst. And she was known throughout the U.S. intelligence community for her expertise.
Montes was in possession of extremely sensitive information — which it turned out she was giving to her Cuban handlers when they’d meet at various restaurants near D.C. Metro stops.
After a long investigation, authorities determined she was a spy and figured out how she’d been turned.
“A classic tale of recruitment” is how official court documents in 2001 describe what happened.
In 1984, Montes worked in a clerical job at the Department of Justice in D.C. “She often,” according to one document, “spoke openly against the U.S. government’s policies towards Central America. Soon, her opinions caught the attention of Cuban ‘officials’ who thought she’d be sympathetic to their cause.”According to spycatcher Chris Simmons, who played a role in the capture of Ana Belen Montes she was responsible for at least the deaths of 65 soldiers, including a U.S. green beret Gregory A. Fronius in 1987.
According to the FBI, she met with them and “soon after, Montes agreed to help Cuba.”
In order to do that, she sought out a job in the U.S. intelligence community and applied at DIA, an important producer of intelligence for the Pentagon. According to the court documents, by the time she started work there in 1985, “she was a fully recruited spy.”
“To escape detection, Montes never removed any documents from work, electronically or in hard copy,” said the documents.
“Instead,” Simmons said, “she memorized the details and went home and typed them out on her laptop.”
The court documents also indicate that she transferred the information onto encrypted disks. After receiving instructions from the Cubans in code via short-wave radio, she’d meet with her handler and turn over the disks.
Montes, serving a 25 year sentence, is scheduled to be released in 2023.
Her case was just one of many international spy stories that have unfolded in the D.C. area, and each is unique.
|Victim of Montes's spying Gregory A. Fronius|
Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn spent thirty years spying against the United States for Fidel Castro. Kendall Myers was a high-ranking analyst for the U.S. State Department with top-secret clearance who had been recruited in 1978 by Cuban intelligence. His wife would pass her husband's acquired information on to their Cuban contacts. Kendall Myers was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison and his wife got a shorter sentence in 2010.
|Walter Kendall Myers and his wife Gwendolyn|
|Philip Agee spied for Castro at the CIA|
The Cuban dictatorship beginning in 1959 invited the most effective intelligence agency of the Warsaw Pact, the East German Stasi to train and structure its intelligence service. The Stasi also effectively infiltrated the West German government and assassinated defectors in West Germany.
Underestimating the Castro brothers can have catastrophic consequences for the United States. Lets not forget that at least one American soldier has been identified who was killed thanks to the intelligence provided by Ana Belen Montes to the Castro regime.