spy for Cuba defends her actions
- The following story appeared on page A7 of the thursday 17 October 2002
edition of The Arizona Republic and is credited to Ted Bridis of the
SPY BLAMES ESPIONAGE ON U.S. POLICIES ON CUBA
Washington--A senior U.S. intelligence analyst, who confessed to spying
for Cuba over 16 years, defiantly rebuked American politices toward
Fidel Castro as "cruel and unfair" as she was sentenced Wednesday to
25 years in prison for espionage charges.
Ana Belen Montes, 45, refused to formally apologize for her actions,
leaving prosecutors disappointed. Montes worked at the Defense Intelligence
Agency as one of the Pentagon's most senior experts on Cuba's military.
"I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our
efforts to impose our values and our political system on it," Montes
told the judge, explaining the motivation behind her actions.
"We have displayed intolerance and contempt toward Cuba for most of the
last four decades. We have never respected Cuba's right to make its
own journey toward its own ideals of equality and justice," she said,
reading from a statement.
Prosecutors, who accepted the sentence under a plea agreement, accused
Montes of disclosing to Cuba secrets so sensitive they cannot be described
publicly. Court records said she provided documents that revealed the
identity of four undercover agents, details about U.S. surveilance of
Cuban weapons, and information about a December 1996 war games exercise
in the Atlantic.
"What we were all looking for is the recognition of the crime, the
gravity of what she has done and the harm she has caused a lot of
people," U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. said. "She seemed not
really to appreciate that."
Montes acknowledged that her actions "may have been morally wrong,"
but maintained her actions were justified in light of U.S. foreign
policies toward Cuba.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina described Montes' actions as a
"betrayal." But he complied with a plea agreement between Montes
and prosecutors and sentenced her to 25 years in prison, in exchange
for her explaining to investigators how Cuban spies operate.
"If you can't love your country, then at the very least you should
do it no wront," Urbina told Montes. He wished her "good luck"
after sending her to prison.
Montes could be released after 20 years with time off for good behavior,
according to her lawyer, Plato Cacheris.
Montes pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit espionage,
admitting that she revealed to Cuba the identities of four agents.
The four are said to be alive and not in prison, but little more is
publicly known about them.
Montes was believed to have been recruited by Cuban intelligence
when she worked in the Freedom of Information Office at the Justice
Department between 1979 and 1985. She later moved to the Defense
Intelligence Agency, where by 1992 she was among the DIA's top
analysts on Cuba's military.
The government has not said what led them to suspect Montes. Court
records indicate the investigation began around May 2001, shortly after
the government broke a ring of Cuban agents in Miami known as the
"Wasp Network." Like the Miami agents, Montes used shortwave radio
and similar encryption techniques to communicate with Havana,
according to an FBI affidavit.
Last year, Montes left some messages from Cuban handlers on her
laptop computer. The FBI found the files during a secret search
of her apartment in May 2001. She was arrested September 21, 2001.