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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 2)

The conclusion of the Pentagon's revised report, entitled "The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security" (go to www.defenselink.mil for the entire letter and report), reinforces the notion that Cuba represents little conventional military threat to the United States. But the last line states: "Nonetheless, Cuba has a limited capability to engage in some military and intelligence activities which would be detrimental to U.S. interests and which could pose a danger to U.S. citizens under some circumstances."

Cuba, in the wake of September 11, was quick to dispel any suggestions that it was involved in any hostile actions against the United States. Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, told reporters that day, "We deeply regret the loss of human life, and our position is of total rejection of this sort of terrorist attack." Perez also said that "any idea of Cuban involvement, I don't think that's even worth referring to. No one could be thinking such a barbarous thing."

President Fidel Castro, in a speech on September 22, said "Cuba … is opposed to terrorism and opposed to war. … Cuba reiterates its willingness to cooperate with every country in the total eradication of terrorism." He went on later in the speech to say, "Whatever happens, the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the American people and we will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people. Today we are expressing our solidarity while urging peace and calmness."

The fact remains, however, that the U.S. Department of State lists Cuba among countries that support terrorism, largely based on accusations that both Basque and Colombian terrorists are allowed to live in the country. And, in a statement released in early March 2002, the Bush administration said that it was investigating Cuba's links to international terrorist groups, as well as exploring the possibility that Cuba had the means to disrupt U.S. military communications. Some intelligence sources have speculated about the possibility that Cuba could have passed sensitive information on to other countries that are considered hostile to the United States, such as Iran and Iraq. And they cite the Montes case as part of an underlying concern that she could have had access to information about U.S. military deployments as the country prepared to attack Afghanistan. In a published report in late September, The Washington Post cited FBI sources that explicitly said that concern was the reason for Montes' arrest. But no official U.S. government source is pointing the finger at Cuba for involvement in any terrorist activities directed at America.

The question still remains: why did Ana Belen Montes become a spy for Cuba? "Most of these people recruit themselves," explains Dr. Jeffrey Richelson, an intelligence expert and senior fellow at the nonprofit National Security Archive and author of numerous books on foreign intelligence gathering, including A Century of Spies: Intelligence in the Twentieth Century. "I think in her case it's likely that there was an ideological affinity for the Cuban regime. From what I know, she always came down on the softer side of U.S. policy towards Cuba."

That might be explained by what some investigators see in Montes' family history. An account shared by Marcelo Fernandez-Zayas, a Cuban exile and writer of the Web-based "Intelligence Report From Washington," indicates that when Montes was a child, her mother appeared on a radio talk show and expressed sympathetic views of the Castro regime. The response from a handful of Cuban exiles was critical, to say the least. This had to have an effect on the young Ana Belen, Fernandez-Zayas and others speculate. That and her mother's family history of participation in Puerto Rico's socialist party, they add.

Everyone agrees that Montes' motives were not financial. The evidence so far shows no large deposits into her bank account, nor any extravagant spending. Friends say she was very focused on saving for retirement as a "single woman." Other friends say there might have been some romantic connection that led Montes into the arms of the Cubans. One friend recalls that Montes would go out dancing at clubs in the Washington area where Cubans from the Interests Section would go. That, however, seems to go against what most who knew Montes professionally believe. They describe her as "dour" and "not particularly friendly." They argue that the reason Montes became a spy has to be more about ideology and politics.

The other question to which an answer might never come is how U.S. counterintelligence became suspicious enough to start looking at Montes. "There could have been some evidence that the Cubans acted on some information Montes gave them and the U.S. noticed and began looking for a leak," Richelson hypothesizes. "Alternatively, there could have been a penetration of the Cuban [intelligence] services by the U.S. that revealed her existence."

Finally, apart from showing the world once again that U.S. intelligence agencies are highly penetrable, of what real use was Montes to the Cubans?

"It was probably of greater propaganda value to the Cubans in the intelligence area in terms of their status within the rest of the Cuban government," says Richelson, who believes that the damage Montes might have caused doesn't even approach what Robert Hanssen did. Throughout the entire Montes case, the Cuban government, and its representatives in Washington, declined to comment.


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