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Ana Montes: Civil Servant, Cuban Spy
June 4, 2013 5:45 PM   Subscribe

In the days following 9/11, knowing they would soon have time for little other than anti-terrorism activities, FBI agents arrested Ana Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst later convicted of espionage for spying on behalf of the Cuban government. Over the course of her "meteoric career" she became the agency's lead analyst for Cuban military affairs, despite having been recruited as an agent before even applying for the DIA post.

Unlike well-known modern day spies Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, who offered their services to the USSR in exchange for cash and began spying only after obtaining sensitive positions within the FBI and CIA respectively, Montes was politically motivated, obtaining her position at the DIA after and apparently as a result of being recruited by Cuban intelligence in graduate school.

Her methods were basic: she received her orders from Cuba via shortwave radio "numbers stations" and water-soluble decryption pads, and passed information that she painstakingly memorized at work and typed out at home to handlers via meetings at DC-area Chinese restaurants. But they were effective: despite numerous security clearance screenings, suspicious coworkers, and at least one polygraph test, she received both a certificate of commendation from CIA Director George Tenet and a medal of commendation from the Cuban government.

Although the FBI was attempting to build a case for treason against her prior to 9/11, which could have carried the death penalty (and, if convicted, would have made her only the third woman to be so convicted in US history), she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of espionage in exchange for a 25-year sentence. She is due to be released in 2023.

via Longform.org
posted by Kadin2048 (14 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
On behalf of all Cuban gay, lesbian, queer and trans* citizens who are currently languishing in jails or prohibited from forming organizations and meeting in public places, allow me to thank Ms. Montes for her brave defense of the progressive and forward-thinking Cuban people's democracy.
posted by Avenger at 6:06 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Montes developed a hatred for the Reagan administration’s policies in Latin America and especially for U.S. support of the contras, the rebels fighting the communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

The Sandinistas aren't communists by any actual metric, so I'm guessing the one used is "are they to the left of mainstream American politics?" I thank the author for being overt about his biases so I can judge the rest of the article accordingly.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:09 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


She helped draft a controversial Pentagon report stating that Cuba had a “limited capacity” to harm the United States and could pose a danger to U.S. citizens only “under some circumstances.”

No elaboration on this, insinuating that it's obviously false and evidence of her danger to the United States. Why is this the case, Jim Popkin? You're the reporter. I don't know that you're wrong; perhaps the Cubans really do have some superweapon and a suicidal desire to start shit with a country that could destroy them in an afternoon. How about doing your job and giving us facts instead of assertions tucked into a spy novel?
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


The memo was controversial because "Cuba is a threat" is a core part of the Republican narrative in Florida, not because Cuba is actually a threat.
posted by mhoye at 7:01 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no idea what kind of danger Cuba poses, but in general DIA has a reputation for being more hawkish about risk analysis than the other agencies.
posted by gsteff at 7:04 PM on June 4, 2013


My mother-in-laws second husband is Ana Montes' father. My wife spent a sizable percentage of her childhood growing up with Ana and her siblings. Two of Ana's sibling currently work for the FBI and one of them gave up being a priest to work for them. Soon after Ana's arrest my wife had a 'interesting' conversation with the FBI. My wife was initially quite shocked by Ana's arrest but after a little reflection she wasn't all that surprised by it, it explained a lot of Ana's odd behavior.

There is also a book, True Believer, that was written by the lead investigator that uncovered Ana's spying.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:11 PM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


She helped draft a controversial Pentagon report stating that Cuba had a “limited capacity” to harm the United States and could pose a danger to U.S. citizens only “under some circumstances.”

No elaboration on this, insinuating that it's obviously false and evidence of her danger to the United States.


I think you're looking too deeply for insinuations. The rest of the paragraph:
Inside the DIA, the star analyst remained above suspicion. Montes had succeeded beyond the Cubans’ wildest dreams. She was now briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council and even the president of Nicaragua about Cuban military capabilities. She helped draft a controversial Pentagon report stating that Cuba had a “limited capacity” to harm the United States and could pose a danger to U.S. citizens only “under some circumstances.” And she was about to earn yet another promotion, this time a prestigious fellowship with the National Intelligence Council.
It seems more like that report is being presented as evidence of how good she appeared to be at her job on behalf of the U.S., not of her danger.
posted by Etrigan at 7:12 PM on June 4, 2013


In 1984, the Cuban-intelligence service recruited her as a full-blown agent. Full Blown. Blueprinted and balanced 350 V8. They put on big 515+ cams. They fitted a blower on her. SS Roller Rockers. 600-horsepower. Edelbrock crates. Nitrous. She was a torque monster for CIA.

Colleagues recall that she could be playful and charming, especially with bosses or when trying to talk her way into a classified briefing.

While smoking a Montecristo Especial No.2, which you'd think would be a dead giveaway, what with the green Castro military hat and all.

Spying was justified, she says, because the United States “has done some things that are terribly cruel and unfair” to the Cuban government.

Tough one to argue against. On the other hand - Cuba?
posted by Smedleyman at 7:20 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Avenger: "On behalf of all Cuban gay, lesbian, queer and trans* citizens who are currently languishing in jails or prohibited from forming organizations and meeting in public places, allow me to thank Ms. Montes for her brave defense of the progressive and forward-thinking Cuban people's democracy"

While they've still got a long way to go, Cuba has made great strides, and is by no means the worst in Latin America or the Caribbean in this regard any more (if they ever were). If you want to criticize anyone over these issues, try Jamaica or Belize.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:05 PM on June 4, 2013


Joakim Ziegler: Avenger: While they've still got a long way to go, Cuba has made great strides, and is by no means the worst in Latin America or the Caribbean in this regard any more (if they ever were). If you want to criticize anyone over these issues, try Jamaica or Belize.
You know, I'm actually pretty comfortable with criticizing Cuba for their gay-hatred. I don't have to settle for the worst of the worst; they all suck.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:36 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: "You know, I'm actually pretty comfortable with criticizing Cuba for their gay-hatred. I don't have to settle for the worst of the worst; they all suck."

I just thought it was a strange thing to choose. Criticize Cuba for lack of democracy, that's something they're actually worst in the hemisphere at (though that's also changing, very slowly), but gay rights?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:04 PM on June 4, 2013


This was fascinating to read, thanks for posting!
posted by lunasol at 10:42 PM on June 4, 2013


Imagine this was written from an Eastern Bloc perspective; about someone who betrayed their country and family to spy for the Americans. It would sound exactly the same. The framing, the assumptions, everything.

True, the Cubans run a police state, it's actual communism and people get by despite the system and not because of it. But Cuba has posed no existential threat to the U.S. or the west. It's been a thorn in our side because it won't die, no matter how hard we try to kill it, and it betrays our anti-communist narrative.

I am no apologist for Cuba. I do want to point out that the narrative - the culture, the framing, the subtexts, all our assumptions - is cultural here in the U.S. This really is all a game. We are no different than fans rooting for Miami Heat versus fans rooting for the San Antonio Spurs.

Read the article again. It's not enlightening. It reads like a smear piece. And frankly, it's embarrassing. The vaunted American intelligence community is just another bureaucracy that rewards people who know how to push the right levers. They had a suspect they knew was spying, and they had to come up with ruses and excuses that sound like something from eighth grade.

I suppose my misanthropy is showing. I've been reading a Song of Ice and Fire, and now I think everyone is a bunch of craven, sniveling, foolish, scheming rotten piles of excrement that deserve to die horrible deaths, including especially the so-called good guys. George R.R. Martin, too. I hope eagles claw his eyes out.
posted by Xoebe at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Don't believe in magic? With the two-word incantation "Edelbrock crates" Smedleyman has destroyed my afternoon.)
posted by whuppy at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2013


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