The Amazing Story of Ana Montes, Cuban Spy

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Jim Popkin (The Washington Post) writes in detail about the rise and fall of Cuban spy Ana Montes, at one time called the “Queen of Cuba” [Reina de Cuba]. He writes: “Ana Montes did much harm spying for Cuba. Chances are, you haven’t heard of her.” Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Ana Montes has been locked up for a decade with some of the most frightening women in America. Once a highly decorated U.S. intelligence analyst with a two-bedroom co-op in Cleveland Park, Montes today lives in a two-bunk cell in the highest-security women’s prison in the nation. Her neighbors have included a former homemaker who strangled a pregnant woman to get her baby, a longtime nurse who killed four patients with massive injections of adrenaline, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Charles Manson groupie who tried to assassinate President Ford. [. . .] Years after she was caught spying for Cuba, Montes remains defiant. “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,” Montes writes in a 14-page handwritten letter to a relative. [. . .]

Montes spied for 17 years, patiently, methodically. She passed along so many secrets about her colleagues — and the advanced eavesdropping platforms that American spooks had covertly installed in Cuba — that intelligence experts consider her among the most harmful spies in recent memory. But Montes, now 56, did not deceive just her nation and her colleagues. She also betrayed her brother Tito, an FBI special agent; her former boyfriend Roger Corneretto, an intelligence officer for the Pentagon specializing in Cuba; and her sister, Lucy, a 28-year veteran of the FBI who has won awards for helping to unmask Cuban spies.

In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI’s Miami field office was on high alert. [. . .] So when a supervisor asked Lucy Montes to come to his office, she didn’t blink. Lucy was a veteran FBI language analyst who translated wiretaps and other sensitive communications. But this impromptu meeting had nothing to do with Sept. 11. An FBI squad leader sat Lucy down. Your sister, Ana, has been arrested for espionage, he informed her, and she could face the death penalty. Your sister, Ana, is a Cuban spy.

[. . .] Born on a U.S. Army base in 1957, Ana Montes is the eldest child of Emilia and Alberto Montes. Puerto Rico-born Alberto was a respected Army doctor, and the family moved frequently, from Germany to Kansas to Iowa. They settled in Towson, outside Baltimore, where Alberto developed a successful private psychiatric practice and Emilia became a leader in the local Puerto Rican community. Ana thrived in Maryland. Slender, bookish and witty, she graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Loch Raven High School. [. . . About her father,] Ana would later tell CIA psychologists. “He was the king of the castle and demanded complete and total obedience.” The beatings started at 5, Lucy said. “My father had a violent temper,” she said. “We got it with the belt. When he got angry. Sure.” Ana’s mother feared taking on her mercurial husband, but as the verbal and physical abuse persisted, she divorced him and gained custody of their children. Ana was 15 when her parents separated, but the damage had been done. “Montes’s childhood made her intolerant of power differentials, led her to identify with the less powerful, and solidified her desire to retaliate against authoritarian figures,” the CIA wrote in a psychological profile of Montes labeled “Secret.”

[. . .] Montes excelled at the DOJ’s Office of Privacy and Information Appeals. Less than a year later, after an FBI background check, the Department of Justice granted Montes top-secret security clearance. She could now review some of the DOJ’s most sensitive files.

[. . .] For the next 16 years, Ana Montes excelled — in both Washington and Havana. Hired by the DIA as an entry-level research specialist, she was promoted again and again. Montes quickly became DIA’s principal analyst for El Salvador and Nicaragua, and later was named the DIA’s top political and military analyst for Cuba. In the intelligence community and at DIA headquarters, Montes became known as “the Queen of Cuba.” Not only was she one of the U.S. government’s shrewdest interpreters of Cuban military affairs — hardly surprising, given her inside knowledge — but she also proved adept at shaping (and often softening) U.S. policy toward the island nation. [. . .]

Montes even traveled to Cuba four times for sessions with Cuba’s top intelligence officers. Twice, she used a phony Cuban passport and disguised herself in a wig, hop-scotching first to Europe to cover her tracks. Two other times she got Pentagon approval to visit Cuba on U.S. fact-finding missions. She would meet at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana during the day but slip away to brief her Cuban superiors.

[. . .] Ana Montes lives today at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, in a 20-inmate unit reserved for the nation’s most dangerous female offenders. She could have been charged with treason, a capital offense, but pleaded guilty to espionage in exchange for a 25-year sentence. She still has another decade to go. “Apparently it’s pretty horrific in there for her,” Lucy says. “She says it’s like being in an insane asylum.”

[. . .] Strict prison rules bar Montes from talking to the media and all but a few friends and relatives. But in her private correspondence, she refuses to apologize. Spying was justified, she says, because the United States “has done some things that are terribly cruel and unfair” to the Cuban government. “I owe allegiance to principles and not to any one country or government or person,” Montes writes in one letter to a teenage nephew. “I don’t owe allegiance to the US or to Cuba or to Obama or to the Castro brothers or even to God.”

[Many thanks to Larry La Fountain-Stokes for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full, original article (in English), see http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/04/18/ana-montes-did-much-harm-spying-for-cuba-chances-are-you-havent-heard-of-her/

For full article (in Spanish), see http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2013/04/27/actualidad/1367036716_281983.html

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