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.

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.

In 1991, Montes underwent a seemingly routine security reinvestigation. She was asked about foreign travel, and lied. Questioned about inaccuracies in her original application for employment, she confessed that she had misrepresented an incident in her past. Feigning innocence, Montes claimed that she “did not understand the seriousness of being truthful and honest at the time.”

Her questionable case was then reviewed at a higher level. The adjudicator reported that “while Montes seemed to have a tendency ‘to twist the truth’ to her own needs and her honesty was still a cause of concern, adverse security action was unlikely.” Again, she had slipped through. Her high level clearances were recertified.

Full article: New revelations about Cuban spy Ana Montes (Miami Herald)

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