Tag Archives: Ana Belen Montes

This Traitor Belongs in Jail, Not Free in Cuba

anabelenmontes

The Wall Street Journal, by Devin Nunez

Montes spied on her own country for Castro, doing much damage, yet Obama may soon liberate her.

The Obama administration is reportedly in secret negotiations with Cuba that would result in the release from federal prison of one of the most damaging American spies in U.S. history. Such an extraordinary gesture would be preposterous for many reasons.

Ana Belén Montes, who is serving a 25-year sentence as part of a 2002 plea deal, was a U.S. Justice Department official with a top-secret security clearance when she was approached by Cuban intelligence agents in 1984. At the time the Cuban regime ran a pervasive spying program against the U.S., as it still does today, though then it often acted in conjunction with the Soviet Union. A devoted sympathizer of radical Latin American regimes, Ms. Montes quickly agreed to spy for Havana, thus beginning a 16-year-long betrayal of the U.S.

As I conveyed in a July 12 letter to President Obama, it is difficult to overstate the damage caused by Ms. Montes’s treachery. In May 2012, Michelle Van Cleave, the former head of U.S. counterintelligence who oversaw completion of the damage assessment on Ms. Montes, told Congress that her activities likely “contributed to the death and injury of American and pro-American forces in Latin America,” and that she compromised other, broader intelligence programs.

Nevertheless, press reports indicate that the Obama administration is considering releasing Ms. Montes to the Castro regime as part of a prisoner swap for American fugitives from justice now sheltered in Cuba.

This exchange would be part of the administration’s campaign to normalize ties with Cuba, which has included restoring diplomatic relations, loosening sanctions and removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Hopes that the Castro regime would reciprocate by granting basic freedoms to the Cuban people and releasing political prisoners have gone unfulfilled.

The abundant incentives that President Obama offered to get Iran last year to sign a nuclear deal have already shown how far this administration will go to curry favor with hostile powers. As we saw in 2014 with the trade of five dangerous Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl—now arraigned on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in Afghanistan—this president has odd ideas about what constitutes a beneficial prisoner swap. Even so, releasing Ms. Montes cannot be tolerated.

In the past, the U.S. has deported or traded captured foreign spies, but it is extremely rare to trade American citizens who have betrayed their country. Doing so would be especially egregious in these circumstances. The American government should not pay the Castro regime a bribe, in the form of a released American spy, in hopes of advancing normalization.

Ms. Montes’ release would send a dangerous message that convicted spies may be able to secure a deal through the foreign government that employed them. Potential traitors to this country should know that betraying America will bring harsh penalties, without exception or the potential for a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in, but some things in life are worth going to prison for,” an unrepentant Ms. Montes wrote to a relative, the Washington Post reported in 2013. If releasing American traitors from prison is the cost of “normalizing” relations with Cuba, then clearly that price is too high.

Mr. Nunes, a Republican from California, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Obama could agree to trade Cuban spy for a convicted cop killer hiding in Cuba

anabelenmontes

NBC News

Cuba and the United States are discussing possible exchanges of prisoners, including the release of a woman considered one of the most damaging spies in recent history, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The discussions, said to be in their early stages, are part of efforts by the two countries toward normalization of diplomatic relations.

Among the names floated by Cuban leaders, officials say, is Ana Montes, convicted in 2002 of spying for the Cuban government for nearly two decades while working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

Her espionage compromised many aspects of America’s efforts to spy on Cuba, “calling into question the reliability of all U.S. intelligence collected against Cuba,” according to Michelle Van Cleave, a former national counterintelligence executive.

While at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Montes became the top Cuban analyst. Investigators said she memorized classified information on the job, typed it on a laptop computer in the evenings at her apartment, stored it in coded form on disks, and passed the information to her Cuban handlers.

Montes was sentenced to 25 years in prison and is due to be released in 2023.

For their part, American officials say the U.S. is interested in getting back Americans who sought refuge in Cuba from U.S. prosecution.

“Cuba has been a haven for U.S. fugitives,” said one federal law enforcement official.

Among those U.S. officials would like back is Joanne Chesimard, who escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 where she was serving a life sentence for killing a state trooper by shooting him with his own gun at a traffic stop.

The State Department declined to discuss specifics. But a spokesman said, “The United States continues to seek the return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. justice. The Department repeatedly raises fugitive cases with the Cuban government and will continue to do so at every appropriate opportunity.”

“I don’t think the idea of a prisoner exchange is surprising,” author David Wise, who has written several books about espionage cases, said. “We’ve swapped with the Russians since the early days of the Cold War. It’s by no means unprecedented.”

Stratfor Global Intelligence: Why the U.S. Should Be Wary of Cuba

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Editor’s Note: The following piece is part of an occasional series in which Fred Burton, our vice president of intelligence, reflects on his storied experience as a counterterrorism agent for the U.S. State Department.
After decades of hostility, the United States and Cuba finally seem to be reconciling. On July 1, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Washington will reopen its embassy in Havana. For the first time since 1961, when the two countries severed ties, U.S. diplomats and staff will fill the embassy and the surrounding city streets, as will a U.S. Marine detachment working security detail.
But even as the embassy in Havana now stands as a monument to improved U.S.-Cuban relations, it will make the United States much more vulnerable to monitoring and infiltration by Cuban intelligence agencies. And today foreign spies pose as real and immediate a threat to U.S. interests as they did during the Cold War.
A History of Espionage
In the 1970s and 1980s, counterterrorism agents like myself witnessed the United States gear its entire national security apparatus toward countering Soviet influence. Looking back, I believe our fixation on the Soviet Union actually caused us to underestimate other countries’ agencies. We believed Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence, trained by Moscow though it may have been, was significantly less effective than Russia’s KGB.
Indeed, our preoccupation with the Soviet Union blinded us to the fact that Cuba quietly operated assets inside the United States. Among the many spies they recruited were Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers. When the Cubans first recruited the Myerses in 1979, Kendall Myers was a part-time instructor at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, where U.S. diplomats and other professionals train before they receive their overseas assignments. He later became a senior analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). From my own time in the intelligence business, I know that INR analysts have access to highly classified information from virtually every government agency — and since Myers was working for Havana, so, too, did Cuban intelligence.
The Myerses were finally discovered and put on trial in 2006. But as we would learn four years after the trial, the Cubans had someone with even more insight into the United States’ national security apparatus: Ana Montes, a double agent who worked as an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Cuban intelligence turned her in 1985, and she passed classified information to Havana for years thereafter.
In the 1980s, when Montes was spying for Cuba, I worked in the burgeoning counterterrorism arm of the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. I was far more concerned with Libya and Iran than with Cuba, since so many of my cases involved Soviet actors and KGB agents. Like the rest of the U.S. intelligence community, I saw the Soviet Union as the primary threat. But all along, despite all our efforts to defend U.S. intelligence and assets, our national security agencies were being repeatedly infiltrated by Cuban intelligence.

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