- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

A U.S. intelligence analyst who revealed the identities of four undercover agents to Cuban officials pleaded guilty yesterday to espionage. She could spend 25 years in federal prison.
Ana Belen Montes, 45, was spying for Cuba from the time she started work at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1985 until her arrest Sept. 21 of last year, prosecutors say.
By that time, she was a senior intelligence analyst and had used short-wave radio and coded pager messages to give Cuba U.S. secrets so sensitive they could not be fully described in court documents.
"Yes, those statements are true and accurate," Montes told U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina after the charges were read.
When Judge Urbina asked whether one reason she had agreed to plead guilty was "the fact that you committed the crime," Montes replied, "Yes."
Roscoe Howard Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said law enforcement officials did not know whether any of the information Montes transmitted to Cuba was shared with other countries. However, the September 11 terrorist attacks heightened the need to "get her off the streets" and influenced the timing of her arrest, he said.
Mr. Howard added that, to the government's knowledge, Montes received only nominal payments for expenses. He would not speculate on her motivation.
A U.S. official familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Montes was believed to have been recruited by Cuban intelligence when she worked in the Freedom of Information office at the Justice Department, between 1979 and 1985, and was asked to seek work at an agency that would provide more useful information to Cuba.
The four undercover agents whose identities she revealed, Mr. Howard said, are safe.
Under the plea agreement, Montes would accept a sentence of 25 years in prison with no possibility of parole, followed by five years of supervised release. In exchange, Mr. Howard said, the government would get her full cooperation in disclosing all information she may have about criminal activity regarding herself or others with whom she worked. Judge Urbina set a sentencing date for Sept. 24.
According to court papers, Montes communicated with the Cuban Intelligence Agency through encrypted messages and received her instructions over short-wave radio. The instructions were issued in numerical code, which she translated into Spanish text with a computer program provided by Cuba.
From public pay phones, she then used a prepaid calling card to send coded numeric messages to a pager owned by Cuban intelligence. Those messages, prosecutors said, typically were codes for "I received message" or "Danger."
The FBI secretly searched Montes' residence under a court order May 25 and uncovered information about several Defense Department issues, including 1996 war games conducted by the U.S. Atlantic Command, authorities said.
One of the messages the agents found suggested that Montes disclosed the upcoming arrival of a U.S. military intelligence officer in the communist country.
"We were waiting here for him with open arms," Cuban intelligence replied.

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