Security Weekly: The Cuban Spy Network in the U.S. Government, May 2, 2013
By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis
On April 25, the U.S. government announced that it was unsealing an indictment charging Marta Rita Velazquez with conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Cuban government. Velazquez, a former attorney adviser at the U.S. Department of Transportation and a legal officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development, fled the United States for Sweden in 2002 and was indicted in 2004. Velazquez apparently selected Sweden because the country considers espionage to be a political offense, therefore it is not covered under its extradition treaty with the United States. She and her husband also lived in Sweden from 1998 to 2000, so the country was familiar to them.
Though the Velazquez indictment is several years old, it provides a detailed and fascinating account of Cuban espionage activity inside the United States. It also raises some significant implications about the daunting challenges facing American counterintelligence agencies.
In March of 1985, Velazquez and Montes traveled to Madrid, Spain, where they were met by a Cuban intelligence officer, who provided them with false passports and other documents. They then used these documents to travel to Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia. Once in Prague they were met by another Cuban intelligence officer who provided them with yet another set of false documents, as well as new sets of clothing. The Cuban officer they met in Prague then traveled with the women to Havana.
Once in Havana, the women reportedly received training in espionage tradecraft subjects, such as operational security and secure communications, including receiving and encrypting high frequency radio transmissions. The women were also allegedly subjected to practice polygraph examinations and taught methods to deceive polygraph operators.
Upon completion of their training, the women then returned to Madrid via Prague using their assumed identities. Once in Madrid they took tourist photographs of each other to support the story that they had been in Spain and then returned to Washington.
Upon returning to Washington, Montes applied for a job at the Defense Intelligence Agency using Velazquez as a character reference. She was hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency as an analyst in September 1985. Montes would excel at the agency and eventually became the Defense Intelligence Agency’s most senior Cuba analyst. She served at that agency until the FBI arrested her in September 2001. Montes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage charges in March 2002 and is currently serving a 25-year sentence.
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