The Miami Herald
Thu, Dec. 04, 2008

Miamian, embargo foe, sues author for 'spy' claims


A veteran spy catcher, who publicly named people he claims are Cuban government agents, was sued Thursday in Miami federal court, where he was accused of malicious defamation.

Lt. Col. Chris Simmons is an Army Reserve counterintelligence officer and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst with a career in catching Cuban spies. Now he's writing a book, starting a new business, and going on Spanish language TV shows to ``name names.''

On Oct. 8, Simmons appeared on América TeVe Channel 41 show A Mano Limpia and identified anti-embargo activist Silvia Wilhelm as a Cuban government collaborator.

Wilhelm, executive director of Puentes Cubanos and the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights, filed a defamation suit against Simmons seeking more than $75,000.

Simmons had said former FIU professor Carlos Alvarez, convicted of spying for Cuba, identified Wilhelm in his confession to the FBI. She since ''retired'' from her duties after the FBI approached her, Simmons said.

''My suit speaks for itself,'' Wilhelm said Thursday. She referred questions to her attorney, Bruce Rogow, who could not be reached for comment.

Simmons, who lives in Virginia, also could not be reached.

Simmons caused a buzz in Spanish-languauge media when he first appeared on the show hosted by Oscar Haza naming several academics as spies for the government. He offered no proof. He has been on the show twice and identified seven people.

''I'm glad Silvia is doing this,'' said FIU Professor Lisandro Pérez, who said he is considering also filing suit against Simmons for calling him a spy. ``Suing for defamation is an onerous process and would take a great deal of money and time. You have to prove you are not a spy.

``It's time someone put a halt to this outrageous guy who goes on the air, says we are spies and seemingly gets away with it.''

Simmons also accused frequent Miami Herald op-ed contributor Marifeli Pérez-Stable, who declined to comment.

Others accused of spying -- FBI informant Gilberto Abascal, former deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Alberto Coll, Cuba expert Julia Sweig and retired academic Gillian Gunn Clissold -- also could not be reached for comment. All have denied Simmons' accusations.

Simmons has said he relied on declassified records, interviews with Cuban intelligence defectors and witnesses he didn't name.Collaborating with Simmons is Ana Margarita Martínez, who unwittingly married a Cuban spy who fled to Havana on the eve of the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes.