New revelations about Cuban spy Ana Montes
Details about Cuban spy Ana Montes from the Department of Defense Inspector General’s 2005 report — only now declassified — shed new light on the case.
For 16 years, Ana Belen Montes spied for Cuba from increasingly responsible positions at the Defense Intelligence Agency. If Havana has ever run a higher level or more valuable mole inside the American defense establishment, that has never been revealed.
When she was arrested in late September 2001, Montes was about the equivalent in rank of a colonel. She had access to sensitive compartmented intelligence. Strangely, for one so openly enamored of Fidel Castro, her superiors considered her one of the best Cuba analysts anywhere in government.
Despite the importance of her case, some of the most tantalizing questions about her spying have never been publicly answered. Could the calamity of her treason have been avoided? What was learned about Cuban intelligence tradecraft? How was she discovered? And, of enduring concern, did she work with other American spies thus far undetected or not prosecuted?
Thanks to researcher Jeffrey Richelson and the National Security Archive, new light has finally been shed on the Montes case. Because of their efforts, a 180 page study completed by the Department of Defense Inspector General in 2005 has recently been declassified. It is heavily redacted; many pages, including the CIA’s extensive comments, blacked out. Yet, a quantity of surprising new details are now on the public record.
Montes’s decision to spy for Cuba was “coolly deliberate.” Enticed by a Cuban access agent in Washington, they traveled together to New York in December 1984. Montes met with intelligence officers posted under cover at the Cuban mission to the United Nations.
She “unhesitatingly agreed” to work with them and travel clandestinely to Cuba as soon as possible. The following March, she went there via Spain and Czechoslovakia. The Pentagon report does not state the obvious: while there, she must have received specialized training in intelligence tradecraft.
Then, with Cuban encouragement, she applied for a job at DIA. A standard background investigation was conducted, but we now know that serious concerns about her suitability were raised. Without elaboration, the Pentagon report indicates that they included “falsification of her Master of Arts degree from Johns Hopkins (University) and her trustworthiness.”
DIA did not require applicants to submit to a pre-employment polygraph exam. So, Montes, a trained Cuban espionage agent with a problematic past was cleared and hired. She began her double duties in September 1985.
After her arrest, Montes insisted that she had the “moral right” to provide information to Cuba. In her view, she did not work for Cuba, but with Cuban officials. They felt “mutual respect and understanding” she thought, as “comrades in the struggle.”
The Cubans were skilled in manipulating and controlling her. She told interrogators after her apprehension that she considered herself the equal of her “Cuban comrades, not a menial espionage tool.” They let her believe she “maintained significant control,” although she consistently left “security matters, including meeting site security, countersurveillance, and transmission security” to her handlers.
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