Defense Analyst Pleads Guilty to Spying for Cuba
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
The Defense Intelligence Agency's senior analyst for Cuban issues pleaded
guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington to being a spy for
government, admitting that for 16 years she used her highly classified position to steal top-secret information and pass it along to a nation the State Department lists as
supporting international terrorism.
Working with shortwave radios, encrypted transmissions and a pay phone
outside the National Zoo, Ana Belen Montes gave the Cuban government the
four U.S. "covert intelligence officers" working in Cuba. She also told Cuban officials about a "special access program related to the national defense of the United
States" and disclosed that the U.S. government had tracked down the location of various Cuban military installations, federal prosecutors said yesterday.
Montes, 45, apparently was motivated not by money -- her defense attorney
and federal prosecutors said yesterday she worked for no more than "nominal"
reimbursements -- but by her moral outrage at U.S. policy toward the impoverished island nation.
"She engaged in these activities because of her belief that U.S. policy
does not afford Cubans respect, tolerance and understanding," said Plato
attorney. "She was motivated by her desire to help the Cuban people and did not receive any compensation."
Montes pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy to commit
espionage, a crime that could carry the death penalty. But federal prosecutors
agreed to a
25-year term if she tells the FBI and other investigators all the details she knows about Cuban intelligence activities, according to the plea agreement.
Judge Ricardo M. Urbina set a September sentencing date, meaning Montes has six months to be debriefed by investigators.
That debriefing may prove to be a cache of counterintelligence information,
as the indictment revealed yesterday said that Montes spied for the Cuban
least from the time she joined the DIA in 1985 until her arrest Sept. 21 last year.
"Montes used her position as an intelligence officer and, subsequently,
a senior intelligence analyst . . . to gather writings, documents, materials
classified for reasons of national security, for unlawful communication, delivery and transmission to the government of Cuba," said Ronald Walutes, the assistant U.S.
attorney prosecuting the case, reading from the indictment.
"Those statements are true and accurate," Montes said when Urbina asked her whether the charges were correct.
Luis M. Fernandez, spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington, declined to comment.
Montes, a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent, was a well-known if
quiet figure in Washington's Cuba-watching community. She was a fixture
University's Caribbean Project, an unofficial study group composed of academics, policy analysts and activists with an interest in Cuba.
"I don't think I ever heard her voice an opinion" about U.S. policy,
said Wayne Smith, a study group member who is a former chief of the U.S.
interests section in
Havana. "During coffee breaks, when everyone else would stand up and talk, she usually stayed at her desk."
It was unclear yesterday how much damage was done by Montes' spying.
The four agents she identified to the Cuban government are "alive and
safe," according to U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. Government officers
yesterday's hearing declined to say if they knew whether Cuba passed along the information to hostile countries or organizations.
Montes has a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University School
of Advanced International Studies. She moved from the Justice Department
to the DIA, the
7,000-member U.S. agency that produces military intelligence about foreign countries, in 1985. She lived alone in an apartment in the 3000 block of Macomb Street
NW, worked at Bolling Air Force Base and went undetected until the fall of 2000.
Acting on classified information, FBI agents began tracking her movements. They obtained court permission to enter her apartment and copy computer data.
Agents found that Montes communicated with Cuba by high-frequency, encrypted
transmissions that she picked up on a shortwave radio. She sent information
by using pay phones in Northwest Washington and Bethesda to transmit similar encoded information to an electronic pager number.
"This was a classic case of espionage and counterespionage," said Van A. Harp, head of the FBI's Washington field office.