Skip to comments.Accused spy for Cuba may cut plea deal
Posted on 03/14/2002 11:40:42 PM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON - Nearly six months after the FBI arrested a senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency and charged her with spying for Cuba, her attorneys are in behind-the-scenes talks with federal prosecutors about her cooperation.
Those familiar with similar espionage cases say Ana Belen Montes, 45, may already be sharing information with prosecutors in hopes of reducing a potentially severe sentence.
Montes' high-profile lawyer, Plato Cacheris, has represented some of the most prominent spies of recent years, including FBI mole Robert Hanssen and CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, both of whom agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for avoiding the death penalty.
Montes, who was marched out of her office in handcuffs on Sept. 21, has not had a detention hearing before a federal judge or been indicted. In court motions filed by her attorneys, she continually waives her right to a speedy trial.
Five times since early October, prosecutors and Cacheris' firm have requested that the federal court in Washington postpone a hearing.
''The government and the defense counsel continue to actively discuss this case,'' the two sides stated in the latest motion to postpone, filed last week. A hearing was reset for April 8.
''That's the signal that they are involved in plea negotiations and possible cooperation,'' said Jon A. Sale, a defense attorney who is a former chief assistant U.S. attorney in Miami.
In granting the new delay, federal Judge John M. Facciola noted ''both unusual and complex'' underlying facts in the case. He did not elaborate.
At the time of her arrest, Montes, a Puerto Rican who was born in Germany, was the senior analyst on issues related to Cuba at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's intelligence-gathering arm. She is the highest-level spy ever accused of espionage for Cuba, and her arrest sent shock waves through the U.S. intelligence community.
By some accounts, Montes allegedly engaged in espionage for ideological reasons, rather than for cash. She lived alone in a modest, walk-up apartment in northwest Washington, driving a red Toyota to work at Bolling Air Force Base near the Potomac River.
She had both detractors and admirers of her insight into Cuban affairs.
''On the Cuban military, she was good, boy, she was good,'' said one State Department official, who asked to remain anonymous.
Nearly a month after her arrest, authorities put her on a medical alert, apparently afraid she would commit suicide, court records show.
Cooperation agreements with accused spies can take time to iron out, experts say, in part because of overlapping and conflicting agendas of different government agencies.
The CIA and the DIA want a full accounting of what occurred, the contacts Montes may have had, information about Cuba spy tradecraft and operational activities, and complete details about what she may have revealed to Havana.
But the intelligence community worries that if Montes goes to trial, her attorneys would want classified information made public, perhaps damaging activeintelligence operations.
Already, the Montes court file shows that Cacheris and two other attorneys in his firm have been cleared to receive top-secret evidence against Montes. They are blocked from making the evidence public.
As in many spy cases, no one seems particularly interested in pursuing the death penalty because it means the accused spy never gives details of how badly he or she may have damaged national security.
Cacheris, a former Marine and one-time assistant U.S. prosecutor, did not return calls made to his Washington office.
''Someone like Plato would be realistic in what is doable or not doable in this case,'' said John L. Martin, the former head of internal security at the Justice Department. ``He would be advising her -- on prospects of prevailing at trial.''
If Montes cooperates, she would be debriefed by the FBI, the CIA, the DIA and any other agency or department that feels victimized by her actions, experts say.
''You take her back,'' said one expert, who asked not to be identified. ``You go to the beginning and do it in reverse chronological order.''
Then debriefers would focus on people Montes may have dealt with, then perhaps focus on subject matter. If they felt she was lying, they would subject her to a polygraph.
NO FAMILY TIES
In other prominent spy cases, prosecutors held leverage over accused turncoats. Hanssen and Ames were married and their families could be threatened with loss of a government pension, or -- in the case of Ames, whose wife was compromised as a possible accomplice -- jail time.
Montes is single. Without family to worry about, she could exchange cooperation for a reduction in sentence and such issues as where she would serve jail time and what kind of treatment she might receive for medical or other concerns, experts said.
[Full Text] WASHINGTON -- A few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Ana Belen Montes, a top Defense Department intelligence analyst, sent an e-mail note to an old friend saying she was all right and had not known anyone who died at the Pentagon.
"I could see the Pentagon burning from my office," she wrote. "Nonetheless, it pales next to the World Trade Center. Dark days ahead. So much hate and self-righteousness."
The days darkened especially quickly for Montes. A week after she signed off, sending love to her friend's family, federal agents surprised her at work and charged her with spying for Cuba. She is the highest-ranking official ever accused of espionage at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which, as a sister agency to the CIA, handles analysis for the Pentagon.
The arrest, on Sept. 21, left her friends and colleagues at a loss to explain what might have motivated her to risk everything, should the charges prove true. Friends described Montes, who is 44 and single, as a loyal companion, doting aunt, and an avid traveler. She had no evident money problems, and was apparently content dating a man who either was in the military or did business at the Pentagon, they said.
She was warm and funny, friends said, and seemed apolitical, even back in college. Her remark about "self-righteousness" was as ideologically pointed as she had ever been, said Lisa Huber, who had attended the University of Virginia with Montes and received the e-mail message.
"I can't picture her being involved in something like this," said Huber, a Louisville, Ky., resident who has seen Montes at least twice a year since their college days. "It goes against everything I know about her. She has a lot of integrity."
Montes, who had been the DIA's top intelligence analyst for Cuba since 1992, left a different impression among colleagues. She came off as rather severe, they said; at meetings, she sat rigidly in her chair and rarely spoke. Some associates viewed her as struggling to advance in a culture dominated by men.
"She was a very strange person, very standoffish, extraordinarily shy," said a U.S. diplomat.
But professionally, Montes seemed above reproach. She spoke fluent Spanish because of her Puerto Rican heritage, and in 1990 she was tapped to brief Nicaragua's new president, Violeta Chamorro, about the Cuban-backed Sandinista military.
In 1992 or 1993, she pulled off what seemed to be an intelligence coup. She traveled to Cuba and interviewed Cuban generals about economic reforms on the island. In 1998, she played an important role in drafting a widely cited analysis that found that Cuba's much diminished military posed no strategic threat to the United States. As recently as the week before last, she briefed top Pentagon policy-makers on Cuba.
According to the FBI affidavit, Montes, who had a high-level security clearance, spied for Cuba for at least five years, and possibly longer. She identified at least one U.S. undercover agent to the Cubans, disclosed a top-secret intelligence-gathering program and reported on U.S. training in the Caribbean, the FBI said.
Current and former U.S. officials say she was in a position to tell have told Havana virtually everything the intelligence community knew about Cuba's military and might even have disclosed U.S. contingency plans for taking the island by force.
"I would think, if damage was done, it would be about what she learned about the U.S., how it was militarily prepared vis-a-vis Cuba," said Richard Nuccio, who was President Bill Clinton's special adviser on Cuba. [End]
[Full Text] WASHINGTON (AP)--A Pentagon intelligence analyst who attended war games conducted by the U.S. Atlantic Command in 1996 was charged Friday with spying for Cuba.
Ana Belen Montes, an employee of the Defense Intelligence Agency, transmitted a substantial amount of classified information to the Cuban intelligence service, an FBI affidavit alleged.
Montes appeared before a U.S. magistrate in Washington and was charged with conspiracy to deliver U.S. national defense information to Cuba. She entered no plea and was ordered held without bond.
Montes has worked for the DIA, the intelligence arm of the Defense Department, since 1985, authorities said.
In a 17-page affidavit, the FBI alleged that the Cuban intelligence service passed messages to Montes via shortwave radio and that the DIA analyst began spying for Cuba nearly five years ago.
The FBI secretly entered Montes' residence under a court order May 25 and uncovered information about several Defense Department issues, including a 1996 war games exercise conducted by the U.S. Atlantic Command, authorities said.
According to the affidavit, the DIA said that Montes attended the war games exercise in Norfolk, Va., as part of her official duties at DIA. The FBI said it found information on the hard drive of her laptop computer.
One partially recovered message deals with ``a particular special access program related to the national defense of the United States,'' which is so sensitive that it could not be publicly revealed in the court documents, the document said.
According to the FBI's affidavit, some of the messages suggested that Montes disclosed the upcoming arrival of a U.S. military intelligence officer in Cuba.
``As a result,'' the FBI said, ``the Cuban government was able to direct its counterintelligence resources against the U.S. officer.''
The FBI said Montes got a message back from her Cuban handlers stating, ``We were waiting here for him with open arms.''
One message from her found on the hard drive was from her Cuban intelligence service handler said that she had provided ``tremendously useful ... information.''
Another message from her Cuban contact said in regard to the 1996 war games exercise: ``Practically everything that takes place there will be of intelligence value. Let's see if it deals with contingency plans and specific targets in Cuba.''
The DIA confirmed that Montes and a colleague were briefed on the highly sensitive program on May 15, 1997.
The FBI said they had Montes under surveillance since May.
It was unclear whether the Montes case was directly related to a ring in Florida convicted of spying for Cuba. However, the FBI affidavit notes repeatedly that methods of passing classified information that Montes allegedly used were the same as those used by the Miami defendants.
Five Florida defendants were convicted in June, and two pleaded guilty in Miami Friday, bringing to seven the number of defendants in a spy ring that prosecutors have labeled ``The Wasp Network.''
During their surveillance of Montes, the FBI trailed her around suburban Washington as she used a series of pay phones to make calls. The FBI said it believes that ``the pay phone calls were in furtherance of Montes' espionage.''
The FBI said the Cuban intelligence service often communicates with clandestine agents outside Cuba by broadcasting encrypted messages at high frequencies which transmits a series of numbers. The clandestine agents monitoring the message on a shortwave radio keys in the numbers onto a computer, then uses a disk containing a decryption program to convert the numbers into text.
The FBI said that is the method that Montes used to communicate. The affidavit said Montes also communicated with the Cuban intelligence service by making calls to a pager number during her pay telephone calls.
The FBI agent said that ``based on the evidence ... I believe probable cause exists'' that Montes has been conspiring to pass secrets to Cuba since Oct. 5, 1996, the day she purchased her laptop computer.
A DIA spokesman declined to comment beyond saying when Montes had gone to work for the agency.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla, said Cuba shares intelligence information with terrorist states. ``It was critically important that the spy be stopped now as the United States embarks upon a worldwide war against terrorism,'' he said.
The DIA, based at Bolling Air Force Base in southeast Washington, D.C., provides analyses of foreign countries' military capabilities and troop strengths for Pentagon planners. It also has offices within the Pentagon. Along with the CIA, National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, the DIA is one of the main agencies of the U.S. intelligence community.
The FBI affidavit said Montes worked at Bolling Air Force Base.
In June, Mariano Faget, a U.S. immigration official convicted of disclosing classified information to aid Cuba, was sentenced to five years in prison.
Faget, once the second-ranking immigration official in Miami, was convicted after an investigation that also lead to the expulsion of a Cuban spy. [End]
I.N.S. Official Is Convicted on Charges of Espionage (Mariano Faget)
The last three paragraphs of Miller's article:
Then there's the bizarre case of Mohammed Raza Hassani, Nez Nezar Nezary, and Ali Sha Yusufi-three Afghan men recently detained in the Cayman Islands. They carried fake Pakistani passports and claimed to have gotten off a boat bound for Canada from Turkey. The police commissioner, however, determined that they actually had arrived by plane from Cuba. They were still in the Caymans on August 29 when a local radio station received an anonymous note saying that they share an association with Osama bin Laden. "The three agents are here organizing a major terrorist act against the U.S. via an airline or airlines," said the letter. The station gave it to the authorities. Soon after September 11, they tracked down its author, Byron Barnett, a local building contractor, who says his note was "pure speculation" and based on "a premonition." This incident has received scant attention from the media.
It's a startling story, perhaps even revelatory; then again, maybe there's nothing to it apart from amazing coincidence. But what is beyond doubt is that even though the Wasp Network has been busted and Ana Belen Montes is under arrest, those Cuban numbers stations continue to broadcast their coded messages several times each day.
Who is listening to them? [End Excerpt]
Couple charged as spies-Washington Times--[Excerpt] FBI Agent Hector M. Pesquera, who heads the bureau's Miami field office, announced the arrests. In July, in the wake of the convictions of the five Cuban spies, Mr. Pesquera pledged that additional arrests would be made in what he described as a continuing inquiry. He told reporters at the time that his office had "not finished the investigation."
Federal authorities said that the espionage by the Garis occurred between 1991 and 1998, and that Mrs. Gari used her U.S. Postal Service job to gain access to mail sent by and intended for Cuban Americans.
The couple also are suspected of conducting surveillance on the Cuban American National Foundation, an influential exile group, and of unsuccessfully trying to infiltrate the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Mr. Gari, who worked for Lockheed Martin in Orlando, had been ordered by his Cuban handlers to apply for work at the Southern Command, according to authorities, although they did not elaborate.[End Excerpt]
INS Supervisor Accused of Taking Bribe to Admit Aliens (AP) Fredy Barragan, an Immigration and Naturalization Service supervisor at Miami International Airport since 1997, was held on $200,000 bond on charges that carry a possible 15-year prison sentence. His wife Katherine and his sister-in-law Monica Andrioli were charged with him in an alleged alien-smuggling conspiracy. The indictment, unsealed Friday, outlines dates but has few details.
One unusual incident that led U.S. counterspies to Montes was her uninvited appearance at an interagency intelligence meeting. "Her presence there seemed unusual," the senior official said. A DIA analyst talked to FBI counterspies about the incident and the FBI eventually was able to zero in on Montes as the suspected source for information going to Cuba. Montes also had contacts with White House national security officials involved on issues regarding Cuba, an area where she would be able to influence U.S. policy toward the communist island, the senior official said.
The damage assessment of the case is also looking at some of the hundreds of reports produced by Montes during her 15 years at DIA to determine whether she supplied "disinformation." DIA analysis of Cuban issues for years has been described by agency officials as biased toward portraying Havana as nonthreatening to the United States.***
This lawyer has worked for a lot of spies... while blocked from making evidence public, are we so sure they are blocked from passing evidence to foreign intelligence services?
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