- Associated Press - Friday, July 16, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — The 73-year-old great grandson of Alexander Graham Bell was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for quietly spying for Cuba for nearly a third of a century from inside the State Department. His wife was sentenced to 5½ years.

Retired intelligence analyst Kendall Myers said he meant his country no harm and stole secrets only to help Cuba’s people who “have good reason to feel threatened” by U.S. intentions of ousting the communist Castro government.

But U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Myers and his 72-year-old wife, Gwendolyn, had betrayed America and should receive heavy punishment.

“You never know what the effect will be” from stealing classified information, said the judge. Someone “could be killed.”

Justice Department prosecutor Michael Harvey said the couple received medals from Cuban intelligence and were flown to the island nation for a visit with Fidel Castro in 1995. They pleaded guilty last November.

The couple’s overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution, Myers told Walton. He said that he and his wife tried to accurately report what U.S. policy was toward Cuba, to warn Cuba and to try to assess the nature of any threat.

“At the expense of the United States,” Walton interjected.

In a sentencing memo to the judge, prosecutors said Myers, a descendant of Bell, the inventor of the first practical telephone, was a child of wealth and privilege, attended a private boarding school in Pennsylvania and Brown University and obtained a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.

Kendall Myers could have been anything he wanted to be,” they wrote. “He chose to be a Cuban spy.”

According to prosecutors, Myers, who began teaching at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute in 1978, was contacted by the Cuban intelligence service to be a covert agent, and he recruited Gwendolyn in 1979. The couple married three years later. The Cubans referred to him as Agent 202, his wife as Agent E-634.

Myers rose to director of European studies at the Institute, and then in the eight years before he retired in 2007 he was a senior intelligence analyst at State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Prosecutor Harvey said Kendall Myers had daily access to classified information and pursued government colleagues for more.

Court documents described the couple’s spycraft changing with the times, beginning with code messages over a short-wave radio and shopping carts exchanged in a grocery. By the time they retired from the work in 2007, they were said to be sending encrypted e-mails from Internet cafes.

At the same time, they were enjoying the fruits of living in the United States, spending inherited wealth on a yacht, said Harvey.

One of the couple’s lawyers, Tom Green, said the two lived a very modest lifestyle.

Divergent views of loyalty and country dominated the hourlong sentencing hearing.

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