Cuban Spy Raises Finger to US
 

                   October 17, 2002 
 

                   Unrepentant Spy Gets 25 Years
                      'I obeyed my conscience,' a former intelligence agency analyst says of working for Cuba.
 

                   By Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writer
 

                   WASHINGTON -- Saying she put her conscience before her country, a
                   former U.S. intelligence analyst was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in
                   prison for conspiring to spy for Cuba, becoming one of the few women in
                   American history convicted of espionage.
 

                   An unrepentant Ana Belen Montes the highest-ranking operative known
                   to have been placed in the U.S. government by Cuba told the court, "I
                   obeyed my conscience rather than the law. I believe our government's
                   policy toward Cuba is cruel and unfair, profoundly unneighborly, and I felt
                   morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose
                   our values and our political system on it."
 

                    That Montes spied for political reasons no money is alleged to have changed hands
                    except for nominal expenses makes her unusual among recent spies. Aldrich
                    H. Ames was a top CIA operative convicted in 1994 of spying for the Soviet
                    Union. He had disclosed the identity of at least a dozen agents who were
                   subsequently executed, and received enough money to buy a Jaguar and a
                   $540,000 home, with cash, in suburban Virginia. Robert Philip Hanssen,
                   the FBI agent who pleaded guilty in February last year to spying for the Soviets, received $1.4 million
                   in cash and diamonds.
 

                   But the other distinctive feature of the Montes case is that, as the Defense Intelligence Agency's top
                   Cuba expert, she was responsible for writing U.S. policy on Cuba, including a famous 1998 shift
                   softening the Pentagon's assessment of the threat posed by Cuban President Fidel Castro at a time
                   when the State Department was citing Cuba on a list of terrorist nations.
 

                   "Few spies are that highly placed," said David Major, a former FBI counterintelligence officer who is
                   now vice president of the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies. "From the Cuban
                   perspective, to have the person who writes American policy in your court, we're talking about a very
                   influential person. In the espionage world, this is real gold."
 

                   Prosecutors say some of the material Montes turned over to the Cubans is so sensitive that it cannot be
                   disclosed in open court. But it is known from court filings that she revealed the identity of four Cubans
                   working undercover for the United States, disclosed information on war games conducted by the U.S.
                   Atlantic Command, and gave Cuban intelligence classified files, photos and documents.
 

                   Court documents say Montes used encrypted messages to communicate with Cuban intelligence
                   services and received her instructions from Havana via shortwave radio. She used coded numeric
                   pager messages at public pay phones throughout suburban Maryland and the District of Columbia,
                   including codes for "I received message" and "danger."
 

                   The documents did not disclose why federal counterintelligence officials grew suspicious of her like
                   Ames, she passed a polygraph exam but some in the Cuban American community speculate that
                   Montes, who went to work for the DIA in 1985, was tripped up by the FBI's unraveling in 1998 of a
                   Cuban spy ring called the Wasp Network (La Red Avispa in Spanish).
 

                   "They noticed a pattern of phone traffic and beeper traffic that was similar to the Wasp Network," said
                   Joe Garcia, executive director of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation. "They snuck
                   into her apartment, looked in her computer, and discovered the classified documents."
 

                   Investigators began homing in on Montes in May 2001. Aware that Cuba was likely funneling
                   information from her to other capitals such as Moscow and Baghdad FBI agents shadowed her
                   in hopes of identifying her Cuban contacts. But 10 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on
                   the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, perhaps out of heightened concern about foreign enemies,
                   they arrested her.
 

                   Quoting an Italian proverb that "all the world is one country," Montes defended her actions Wednesday
                   as a necessary antidote to the 40-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, imposed by President
                   Kennedy after the revolutionary Castro seized billions of dollars' worth of U.S. assets. "I did what I
                   thought was right to counter a grave injustice," she said. "I hope my case in some way will encourage
                   our government to abandon its hostility toward Cuba."
 

                   U.S. District Judge Richard M. Urbina was not sympathetic, although he did approve the plea bargain
                   that, in return for her cooperation, will likely keep Montes behind bars for at least 20 years. "If you
                   cannot love your country, at least you should do it no wrong," he said. "You decided to put the U.S. in
                   harm's way. You must pay the penalty."
 

                   Montes, 45, took an all-American path to arrive at her moment of ignominy. The oldest of four
                   children, she was born on a U.S. military base in Nuremberg, Germany, where her father was in the
                   Army. He was a psychoanalyst who had emigrated from his native Puerto Rico to the United States in
                   1928 and attended medical school in upstate New York.
 

                   After moving to the Baltimore suburbs, Montes' father thrived in private practice, and Montes became
                   one of the first Latinos to graduate from Loch Raven High School. In her yearbook, according to the
                   Miami Herald, she wrote that her favorite things were "summer, beaches, soccer, Stevie W., P.R.
                   [Puerto Rico], chocolate chip cookies, having a good time with fun people."
 

                   Montes' siblings have been fierce in their defense of her patriotism. One of her brothers works for the
                   FBI, as does her sister, a translator who helped the FBI bring down the Wasp Network. Prosecutors
                   went out of their way, in a sentencing memo filed recently, to say that Ana Belen Montes "brings shame
                   to a family of hard-working, loyal American citizens."
 

                   The 25-year sentence negotiated by Washington lawyer Plato Cacheris, who represented not only
                   Ames and Hanssen but also former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky is about on par for
                   female spies. Ethel Rosenberg was the exception, executed for her role in leaking nuclear secrets to the
                   Soviet Union.
 

                   The handful of U.S. women convicted of espionage generally have served prison time. Former
                   Pentagon lawyer Theresa Maria Squillacote, convicted in 1998 of spying for East Germany, was
                   sentenced to 21 years. Rosario Ames, wife of the CIA's infamous double agent, was sentenced in
                   1994 to more than five years. And in the first spy case of the Cold War, former Justice Department
                   employee Judy Coplon was sentenced to 10 years in 1949 after her love affair and alleged espionage
                   with a Russian engineer.
 

                   Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), noting that some of Castro's political prisoners have served "30
                   years for no crime except speaking out for democracy," welcomed Montes' sentence. "I hope she
                   serves every one of those years," Ros-Lehtinen said. 

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