|(C) Paul Hair|
CNN published, “The most dangerous U.S. spy you’ve never heard of,” on July 6. The article looked at how Ana Montes worked for the DIA from 1985-2001. She spied for Cuba the entire time. The following sentences particularly caught my attention.
By 1984, Montes had finished at UVA and was working a clerical job at the Justice Department in Washington and studying for a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University.
She often found herself railing against President Ronald Reagan’s support for rebels fighting pro-communist regimes in Central America. …
Someone at Johns Hopkins noticed Montes’ passionate views about Cuba and soon she was introduced to recruiters and agreeing to help the Cuban cause.
At about the same time, Montes applied for a job at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where workers handle U.S. military secrets on a daily basis. When she started there in 1985, the FBI says she was already a fully recruited Cuban spy.
First, I found it interesting that the article mentioned that Cuban intelligence officers were operating out of Johns Hopkins. Their presence there didn’t surprise me, but that such information had been released publicly did. (Much, if not all, of the CNN article is based off a declassified Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General report.)
So I tracked down the original report [“Review of the Actions Taken to Deter, Detect and Investigate the Espionage Activities of Ana Belen Montes (Redacted)”] at the DOD IG FOIA Reading Room. And I found that the CNN article appears to be accurate. Furthermore, here are some other interesting passages on Montes. (The first paragraph comes from Adobe page 21 of the DOD IG report and the following two paragraphs are from Adobe page 23.)
The activities of a Cuban access agent at Johns Hopkins provided the impetus that launched Montes’ career in espionage. The access agent, a fellow student, apparently aware of Montes’ criticism of U.S. policy in Latin America, made a “soft pitch” to her in the summer of 1984. The agent asked whether Montes would be willing to meet some friends who were looking for someone to translate Spanish language news articles about Nicaragua into English. The friends turned out to be a Cuban intelligence official at the Cuban Mission to the United States in New York City. At dinner in New York City in December 1984, Montes unhesitatingly agreed to work through the Cubans to “help” Nicaragua. She agreed to provide the Cubans with a short autobiography and to visit Cuba as soon as practical. In March 1985, Montes traveled to Cuba via Madrid, Spain, and Prague, Czechoslovakia, for her first clandestine trip as an espionage agent. …
… Montes began her employment with the DIA in September 1985. Prior to her departure from the DoJ, one official suggested that Montes was disloyal to the United States because of her opposition to U.S. policy on the war in Nicaragua. When questioned by the Defense Investigative Service 8 months after her arrival at the DIA, she claimed that as a citizen she had the right to disagree with the policies of her government. Throughout her tenure at the DlA, she claimed that she never advocated the overthrow of the U.S. Government. DIA security records indicate that in 1996, only one DIA employee expressed concern about Montes, and that a DIA security review found insufficient reason for further review or investigation.
At DIA, Montes was considered a stellar employee who was well regarded professionally by supervisors and many of her peers in the Intelligence Community. Although she indicated that she believed she may have been hired by the DIA because of her academic background, her ability as a Spanish linguist, and her gender, she stated that when she began her career at the DIA, “I did not know the difference between a corporal and a colonel, and I’m not kidding. I didn’t even know which Service was wearing the green uniform and which Service was wearing the blue ....” She was a quick learner, however. She took advantage of training courses offered by the DIA and other agencies and visited U.S. military bases to hone her skills as a military analyst. Over time, she drew rave reviews from DIA management, many of whom stated that whenever a tough job surfaced, Montes was chosen to resolve the issue.
So multiple government employees suspected something was wrong with Montes but each time the government cleared her. That seems somewhat odd but it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone missed anything. After all, how many other times have employees raised suspicions about fellow employees only later to have been (correctly) proven wrong?
But notice that the last excerpted paragraph says Montes suspected that the DIA hired her “because of her academic background, her ability as a Spanish linguist, and her gender.” And then notice what it says about her having no idea about anything related to military matters at the time of the DIA hiring her.
In short, Montes apparently realized the DIA hired her in part—in large part—because of politically correct reasons. Now go back to the government finding the warnings about her from the DoJ and DIA employees to be without merit. How much did political correctness play into those decisions? A lot? Some? Not at all? We don’t know. But there certainly is a reason to suspect it did.
The DOD IG report reveals other noteworthy information for those interested in intelligence and espionage. For instance, the first extracted paragraph mentions that Montes met with “a Cuban intelligence official at the Cuban Mission to the United States in New York City. …”
How did U.S. counterintelligence officials miss that? I’m not suggesting the Cuban intelligence official announced what he was. Instead, I’m saying that it is standard operating procedure for intelligence organizations across the globe to place their intelligence officers undercover as diplomatic officers. So U.S. counterintelligence should have known that a Cuban working at the Cuban mission in New York was in fact an intelligence officer. So why didn’t the U.S. catch the dinner Montes had with him at the time it occurred?
There are legitimate reasons for why U.S. counterintelligence might not have caught that dinner. However, other nations very well might have. In other words, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russians or Chinese catch any U.S. intelligence officer who might try the same thing the Cuban intelligence officer did with Montes.
Political correctness played a part in Ana Montes gaining employment with the DIA. It also likely played a part in her continuing her employment there even after the federal government had two warnings that something was suspicious about her. And that employment allowed her to spy for the Cubans for nearly two decades, severely damaging U.S. national security the entire time.