- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

A former senior Defense Department intelligence analyst was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison for giving U.S. defense secrets to Cuba, after telling a federal judge she felt "morally obligated" to help defend that communist nation against U.S. policies.
"I believe our government's policy toward Cuba is cruel and unfair, profoundly unneighborly, and I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it," Ana Belen Montes told U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina.
Judge Urbina said Montes put her fellow Americans and her country "in harm's way" and had to suffer the consequences of prison. He also ordered her to serve five years of probation at the completion of her prison sentence and perform 500 hours of community service.
"If you can't love your country, then at the very least you should do it no wrong," Judge Urbina told Montes. He wished her "good luck" after ordering her to prison.
U.S. intelligence officials said it is difficult to assess the damage Montes caused to the nation's intelligence network. As a senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, she worked in direct and close contact with U.S. policy-makers, intelligence and political analysts, briefed legislators on Capitol Hill and had access to key classified information.
In court, Montes admitted she spied for Cuba for 17 years, but she declined to apologize.
She agreed to the prison term in exchange for her cooperation with prosecutors as part of a plea bargain approved by the government and her attorneys. Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty or life in prison.
U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr., whose office prosecuted the case, said that while Montes had cooperated fully with federal authorities, she had done "grave damage" to her country and "owed the country an apology." He said he was "disappointed" she failed to do so.
"What we were all looking for is the recognition of the crime, the gravity of what she has done and the harm she has caused a lot of people," he said. "She seemed not really to appreciate that."
The government said Montes, who is single and lived alone, was not motivated by money, because she was paid nominal amounts by the Cuban government for her expenses.
Montes, 45, said that while Cuba's right to exist free of political and economic coercion "did not justify giving the island classified information," she did so "to counter a grave injustice." She said she hoped to see "amicable relations" between the United States and Cuba.
"I hope my case in some way will encourage our government to abandon its hostility toward Cuba and to work with Havana in a spirit of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding," she said.
Montes, a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent, had worked as an analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency since 1985 when she was arrested by FBI agents at her office at the DIA's headquarters at Bolling Air Force Base in September 2001.
She was accused of conspiring to deliver U.S. national security information to Cuba. The DIA provides the Pentagon with information on the military capabilities of foreign countries, along with troop strengths. It is considered one of the government's key national security operations.
In a 17-page FBI affidavit, she was accused of being in contact by shortwave radio with Cuban intelligence officials. The affidavit said she transmitted substantial amounts of classified information to the Cubans using encrypted messages.
FBI agents who searched Montes' home found several Defense Department documents, including plans for a 1996 war-games exercise conducted by the U.S. Atlantic Command. Montes had attended the war games in Norfolk as part of her DIA duties.
The FBI said the Cubans responded to the war-games information with a message that said: "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."
Agents also partially recovered a message from a hard drive on her laptop computer dealing with "a particular special access program related to the national defense of the United States." The FBI said the document was so sensitive it could not be publicly revealed. The DIA said Montes was briefed on the program in 1997.
The FBI also said the veteran analyst disclosed to Cuban intelligence officials the pending 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."
Cuba's response to that tip-off, the FBI said, was a note from Montes' contacts: "We were waiting here for him with open arms."
The government said she also provided documents to her Cuban handlers that revealed the identity of three other undercover agents. The U.S. government has said little about the four agents Montes betrayed, other than that they are alive and not in a Cuban prison.
Montes is believed to have been recruited by Cuba when she worked in the Justice Department's Freedom of Information Office between 1979 and 1985, when she moved to the DIA. The government has declined to say what led investigators to focus on Montes in May 2001.
Montes' attorney, Plato Cacheris, said his client could be released from prison in 2022, with time off for good behavior and credit for jail time since her September 2001 arrest.
A 1979 graduate of the University of Virginia, Montes later received a master's degree at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she focused on Latin America. Her brother is an FBI agent in Atlanta, and her sister works as an FBI translator in South Florida. Last year, her sister helped prosecute a Cuban spy ring.


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