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The Cuban Spy Connection

An American female intelligence analyst was convicted in March of spying for Cuba for 16 years
CA Staff
From the Print Edition:
Cuban Spy Scandal, May/Jun 02

(continued from page 1)

Between May and September of 2001, the FBI "maintained periodic physical surveillance" of Montes. Much of what the evidence reveals has to do with phone calls to the above-mentioned beepers. The surveillance intensified after September 11. On September 14, Montes was observed at the National Zoo making "what telephone records confirmed to be two calls to the same pager number she had called in May, June and August …" On September 15, "Montes made a call to the same pager number 11:12 a.m. that lasted one minute." On September 16, Montes "made a brief telephone call from a payphone in the Metro station at approximately 1:50 p.m., again to the same pager number." Five days later, Montes was picked up.

According to The Washington Post, Van A. Harp, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, said, "This has been a very important investigation because it does show that our national defense information is still being targeted by the Cuban intelligence service."

"There has not been what is called an 'assessment of damage' of what she [Montes] might have known and been able to compromise by making it available to the Cubans,'' Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Miami Herald. "The offense that she committed is a capital offense,'' Graham added, explaining that Montes might reveal the extent of her activities in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty which appeared to be her motivation in accepting the plea agreement.

There's also a question of how does a young woman raised in Baltimore get to be a spy for Cuba. Ana Belen Montes was born on February 28, 1957, on a U.S. military base in Nurnberg, Germany. Her father was a psychologist on the base; he died more than a year ago. The official details are sketchy, but the family moved back to the United States during Montes' childhood and settled for a time in Baltimore. She graduated from the University of Virginia and attended Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., where she received a master's degree in 1988.

"We're trying to reconstruct who her friends were, and we can't," Riordan Roett, director of Western Hemisphere studies at SAIS, told the Herald. "I took a look at her transcript and she took two of my classes." Roett only vaguely remembered Montes.

"She was not a particularly engaging person," recalls Rand Corp. analyst Edward Gonzalez, professor emeritus at UCLA. "She was not happy. She never smiled." Gonzalez has written studies on Cuba for the U.S. military and intelligence establishment and would often run into Montes at military and professional conferences.

Montes began her career at the DIA as a junior analyst in 1985. She concentrated mainly on matters dealing with Central America. In a published report in late September, her supervisor at the time, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described Montes as introverted. "She was very private," the supervisor said. "She never attended parties. When we had office parties, she might show up for only a little while."

The Defense Intelligence Agency's mission and its charter is to "provide military intelligence to war fighters, defense policymakers and force planners, in the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, in support of U.S. military planning and operations and weapon systems acquisition." Perhaps the most serious harm Montes caused came from how she used her position at the DIA to influence the way Cuba was perceived. Montes was described by sources in the intelligence community as "the go-to person on Cuba," and she would routinely brief military officers at the U.S. Southern Command in Miami. As a senior intelligence analyst, she visited Cuba at least twice, most recently in 1998.

In the mid-1990s, Montes would have been in a position to pass along "detailed analysis," former White House officials say, of what the United States was considering as a response to the shootdown in 1996 by the Cubans of two small planes belonging to the exile group Brothers to the Rescue. The two aircraft were being used for propaganda activities, dropping leaflets over Cuba.

Montes also participated in creating a 1997 DIA assessment of Cuba's military capacity. The conclusion of the DIA report was that Cuba was too weak since the fall of the Soviet Union to present a significant military threat to the United States. The Pentagon did not completely agree with that assessment as is reflected in a May 1998 letter accompanying the report that then-Defense Secretary William Cohen sent to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Cohen wrote that while "the direct conventional threat by the Cuban military has decreased, I remain concerned about the use of Cuba as a base for intelligence activities directed against the United States … ."


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