The Miami Herald
Oct. 16, 2002

Spy for Cuba says U.S. policy toward Cuba `cruel and unfair'


  WASHINGTON - The most senior spy for Cuba ever captured within the U.S. intelligence community declared at her sentencing Wednesday that U.S. policy
  toward Cuba is ''cruel and unfair'' and that she felt ``morally obligated to help the island defend itself.''

  Ana Belen Montes, a former senior analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency, received a 25-year jail term followed by five years of parole.

  Prosecutors said the unrepentant Montes began her spy career for Cuba in 1985 just as she began working at the top-secret intelligence agency. She was
  arrested 13 months ago, just days after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

  ''She did grave damage to this country,'' said Roscoe Howard, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. ``We thought she owed the country an
  apology. We're disappointed she didn't provide it.''

  In a statement to U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina that laid out her only public explanation to date of why she betrayed her government, Montes declared:
  ``I obeyed my conscience rather than the law.''

  ''We have displayed intolerance and contempt towards Cuba for most of the last four decades,'' said Montes, dressed in her prison-issue gray-and-white
  uniform. ``We have never respected Cuba's right to make its own journey towards its own ideals of equality and justice.''

  Montes, looking thin and appearing alert, voiced only the slightest of remorse.

  ''My way of responding to our Cuba policy may have been morally wrong,'' she said. ``Perhaps Cuba's right to exist, free of political and economic coercion,
  did not justify giving the island classified information to help it defend itself. I can only say that I did what I thought right to counter a grave injustice.''

  Judge Urbina appeared perturbed by her statement.

  ''I'm not going to say much,'' he began. ``Today is a very sad day. It's a very sad day for you, Miss Montes, for your family, for your loved ones, for every
  American who loves this country.''

  Urbina said Montes ``decided to put your fellow Americans in harm's way. For this, you must pay a penalty.''

  The arrest of Montes last year stunned many members of the U.S. intelligence community, some of whom called the 45-year-old Puerto Rican analyst a
  model employee. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Montes went on to obtain a master's degree at Johns Hopkins University before beginning at DIA
  in 1985.

  Howard, the U.S. prosecutor, declined to say what tipped off counter-intelligence agents to focus on Montes.

  ''We caught her at a good time,'' Howard said. ``We didn't have a loss of life. But there's no telling where this would have gone.''

  In court papers, prosecutors said that Montes revealed the identities of at least four U.S. undercover agents to Cuba. None of the agents were harmed.

  Howard said Montes had cooperated with federal counter-intelligence officials during regular debriefings over the past seven months, but he declined to
  elaborate on what Montes had revealed about her spying career.