Cuba: Friends in High Places

Cuba: Friends in High Places
June 10, 2009 | 1808 GMT
Global Security and Intelligence Report
By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

On June 4, 2009, Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn
Steingraber Myers, were arrested by the FBI and charged with spying for
the government of Cuba. According to court documents filed in the case,
the Myers allegedly were recruited by the Cuban intelligence service in
1979 and worked for them as agents until 2007. On June 10, 2009, a U.S.
Magistrate Judge ruled that the couple posed a flight risk and ordered
them held without bond.

The criminal complaint filed by the FBI in the U.S. District Court for
the District of Columbia on June 4 and the grand jury indictment
returned in the case have been released to the public, and these two
documents provide a fascinating and detailed historical account of the
activities of Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers. Perhaps more importantly,
however, these documents provide an excellent opportunity to understand
how the Cuban intelligence service works and serve as a primer on Cuba’s
espionage efforts inside the United States.
Case Details

According to the criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Kendall Myers
served from 1959 to 1962 in the U.S. Army Security Agency (ASA), which
was the Army’s signal intelligence branch at that time. Myers reportedly
worked for the ASA as a linguist who was assigned to work translating
intercepted messages from Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.

In 1972, Myers earned a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School
of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), in Washington, D.C. Myers then
worked as an assistant professor of European Studies at SAIS and became
a part-time contract instructor in August 1977 at the State Department’s
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) teaching European studies.

While employed as a contractor at the FSI, Myers attended a lecture at
the FSI on Cuba that was presented by a Cuban intelligence officer
assigned to the Cuban permanent mission to the United Nations. The
intelligence officer (identified in the complaint only as co-conspirator
“A”) then reportedly invited Myers and two of his colleagues to travel
to Cuba on an academic visit. According to the FBI, Myers traveled to
Cuba for a two-week trip in December 1978. The complaint contained
several entries from a journal that Myers allegedly kept during the
trip, and was obtained during a search of Myers’ residence. In the
journal entries, Myers fawned over the Cuban revolution and Cuban leader
Fidel Castro, whom Myers said was “certainly one of the great political
leaders of our time.”

According the complaint, approximately six months after Myers returned
from his trip to Cuba, he and Gwendolyn were visited at their home in
South Dakota by “A” who, according to the FBI, pitched and recruited the
Myers to work for the Cuban intelligence service. While they were
recruited in 1979, the couple stated that they did not begin actively
working for the Cuban intelligence service until 1981. This timeline
seems to match Myers’ job search efforts.

After being recruited, Kendall Myers was allegedly instructed by his
handler to move back to Washington and seek government employment in
order to gain access to information deemed valuable to the Cubans. In
1981, he applied for a job at the Central Intelligence Agency and in
1982, he returned to working as a part-time contract instructor at the
FSI, and became the chairman for Western European studies. In 1985, he
applied for a full-time job at the FSI teaching Western European
studies, and in 1999, Myers took a position at the State Department’s
Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), as the senior European
analyst. Myers stayed in that position until his retirement in 2007.
After his retirement from the State Department in 2007, Myers returned
to SAIS and worked there until his arrest.

On the afternoon of April 15, 2009, Myers was approached by an FBI
undercover source while leaving SAIS. The undercover source told Myers
that he had been sent to contact Myers by a Cuban intelligence officer
(identified in the complaint as co-conspirator “D”). The undercover
source told Myers that the reason for the contact was because of the
changes taking place in Cuba and the new U.S. administration. The source
also wished Myers a happy birthday and gave him a Cuban cigar. Myers,
convinced the undercover source was authentic, agreed to bring his wife
to a meeting with the source at a Washington hotel later that evening.
Spilling the Beans

According to the complaint, the FBI undercover source met with the Myers
on three occasions, April 15, April 16 and April 30, at different
Washington-area hotels. During these meetings, they divulged a great
deal of information pertaining to their work as Cuban agents. They
provided information regarding what they passed to the Cuban government,
how Kendall obtained the information and how they passed the information
to their handlers. They also detailed their meetings with handlers and
the methods they used to communicate with them.

According to the complaint, Kendall Myers proudly told the source that
he provided information at the Secret and Top Secret levels to the
Cubans. When asked by the source if he had furnished information from
the CIA, Kendall Myers responded “all the time.” He said that he
preferred to take notes on classified documents rather than smuggle them
out directly, but at times, he smuggled classified material out of the
State Department in his briefcase, only to return the documents the next
day after he had duplicated them. This information was then passed to
handlers during meetings or by brush passes. Many of the meetings took
place in New York, and the Myers felt those meetings were very
dangerous. Gwendolyn admitted to having passed documents by exchanging
shopping carts in a grocery store. The Myers also told the source about
a shortwave radio set that they used to receive coded messages from
their handler.

After the September 2001 arrest of Ana Montes, the Defense Intelligence
Agency’s (DIA) senior Cuba analyst (who admitted to spying for Cuba for
ideological motives), the Myers became much more careful about contacts
with their handler, and most face-to-face contact after that time was
accomplished outside of the United States. They told the source that
between January 2002 and December 2005, they traveled to Trinidad and
Tobago, Jamaica, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico in order to meet
with Cuban handlers. The FBI was able to verify all these trips through
official records.

After a confrontation with a supervisor at INR after returning from a
2006 trip to China, the Myers became very concerned that they had been
identified and placed on a watch list by the INR supervisor. At that
time, they told the source, they destroyed all their clandestine
communications equipment, except for their shortwave radio and their
false travel documents. They refused to travel to Mexico after this
point because they believed it was too dangerous.

The Myers continued to receive periodic messages from their handler, who
had begun to communicate via e-mail, following the Montes case. They
also passed encrypted messages to their handler via e-mail. Gwendolyn
noted that they would never use their own computer for such
communication but used computers at Internet cafes instead.

The complaint provided the details of two e-mail messages the Myers
received in December 2008 and March 2009 from a Cuban intelligence
officer in Mexico, who asked for a meeting with them in Mexico. The
intelligence officer was operating under the guise of an art dealer
named Peter Herrera. The e-mails asked the Myers to come and see what he
had for them. They responded to the e-mails saying they were delighted
to hear from Peter and to learn that his art gallery was still open to
them, but that they had not yet made travel plans for the coming year.
The Myers told the source that they thought traveling to Mexico for a
meeting with Peter was too risky. They also confirmed that Peter was a
pseudonym used by a Cuban intelligence officer.

When the source asked the Myers during the third meeting if their trip
to Mexico in 2005 had been “the end” (meaning the end of their work for
the Cuban intelligence service), Kendall Myers replied that their work
would continue, but that he wanted to work in more of a reserve status,
where he would talk to contacts, rather than resume work as a full-time
U.S. government employee. When the source told the Myers he was going to
send a report to Cuba with information pertaining to them, Gwendolyn
reportedly said, “be sure and tell them we love them.”

They arranged to meet with the source on June 4, at yet another
Washington-area hotel, and were arrested by the FBI when they appeared
for that meeting. If the recordings of the three meetings have been
accurately represented in the complaint, they are going to be very
damaging to the Myers. Additionally, several of the physical items
recovered during a search conducted on the Myers residence will also be
strong evidence, such as the shortwave radio set and a travel guide
printed in Cuba in the mid- to late-1990s, which would seem to
substantiate their illicit 1995 visit.
‘I’ — The Cuban Staple

When discussing espionage cases, we often refer to an old Cold War
acronym — MICE — to explain the motivations of spies. MICE stands for
money, ideology, compromise and ego. Traditionally, money has proved to
be the No. 1 motivation, but as seen in Kendall Myers’ journal entries
and in the meetings with the source, the Myers were motivated solely by
ideology and not by money. In fact, the complaint provides no indication
that the Myers had ever sought or accepted money from the Cuban
intelligence service for their espionage activities.

According to the complaint, the Myers were scathing in their criticism
of the United States during their meetings with the source. In addition
to their criticism of U.S. government policy, they were also very
critical of American people, whom they referred to as “North Americans.”
Myers said the problem with the United States is that it is full of too
many North Americans.

The Myers also expressed their love for Cuba and for the ideals of the
Cuban revolution. In the first meeting with the source, Kendall asked
the source, “How is everybody at home?” referring to Cuba. Gwendolyn
expressed her desire to use the couple’s boat to “sail home,” meaning
travel to Cuba.

The couple also provided the source with details of a January 1995 trip
they took to Cuba. According to the Myers, in addition to receiving
“lots of medals” from the Cuban government (something commonly awarded
to ideological spies by the Soviet KGB), the best thing they received
was the opportunity to meet Fidel Castro. The couple stated they had the
opportunity to spend about four hours one evening with the Cuban leader.
According to the FBI complaint, Kendall told the source that Castro was
“wonderful, just wonderful” and Gwendolyn added, “He’s the most
incredible statesman for a hundred years for goodness sake.”

During the third meeting, the couple also allegedly talked to the source
about Ana Montes. Kendall told the source that Montes is a “hero … but
she took too many chances … in my opinion … she wasn’t paranoid enough.”
Gwendolyn added “but she loved it, she did what she loved to do.”
Kendall added, “We have a great admiration for Ana Montes.” Gwendolyn
also noted that, “I envy her being able to love what she was doing and
say what she was doing and why she was doing it ’cause I can’t do that.”
This is significant because during her trial, Montes was unrepentant and
railed against the United States when she read a statement during her
sentencing hearing. Gwendolyn appeared to be responding to Montes’
public statement.

In view of the Myers’ case, the Montes case and other cases, like that
involving Carlos and Elsa Alvarez, the Cubans clearly prefer to use
agents who are ideologically motivated.

In addition to the Cuban preference for ideologically motivated agents,
perhaps one of the greatest lessons that can be taken from the Myers’
case is simply a reminder that espionage did not end with the conclusion
of the Cold War. According to the FBI complaint, a Cuban intelligence
officer attempted to contact the Myers as recently as March 2009.

This case also shows that the Cuban intelligence service is very patient
and is willing to wait for the agents it recruits to move into sensitive
positions within the U.S. government. It took several years for Myers to
get situated in a job with access to highly classified information. The
Myers investigation also shows that the Cuban agents are not always
obviously people working on Cuban issues — Myers was a European affairs
specialist. There is also a possibility that the Cubans sold or traded
intelligence they gained from Myers pertaining to Europe to their Soviet
(and later Russian) friends.

While at INR, it is significant that Myers not only had access to
information collected by State Department employees in the field, but
also was privy to all-source intelligence reporting from the rest of the
intelligence community (CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, etc.) According to the
complaint, an analysis of Myers’ work computer revealed that from August
2006 to October 2007, Myers looked at more than 200 intelligence reports
pertaining to Cuba; 75 of those reports made no mention of countries
within Myers’ area of interest (Europe), and most of the documents were
classified either Secret or Top Secret.

The government will have to conduct a damage assessment that will
attempt to trace everything Myers had access to during his entire
career, which will no doubt encompass thousands of documents. As the
State Department’s representative to the intelligence community, INR is
also involved in crafting policy papers and national intelligence
estimates. Myers began working at the State Department before there was
electronic access to records, so it will be very difficult to identify
every document he had access to. But in addition to the actual documents
he viewed, Myers also had the opportunity to chat with many colleagues
about what they were working on and to ask their opinions of policies
and events, so the damage goes much further than just documents, which
complicates the damage assessment. He was also in charge of training new
INR analysts, which could have allowed him an opportunity to assess
which analysts were the best possible targets for Cuban recruitment efforts.

The information Myers could have provided while at the FSI is more
subtle, but no less valuable from an intelligence operational
perspective. Myers could have acted as a spotter, letting his handlers
know which officers were moving through the institute, where they were
going to be assigned, and perhaps even indicating which ones he thought
were the best candidates for recruitment based on observed
vulnerabilities. He could have served a similar function while at SAIS,
pointing out promising students for the Cubans to focus on — especially
students who agreed with his view of American policy, and who might be
targeted for recruitment using an ideological approach. While Montes did
graduate with a master’s degree from SAIS in 1988, she was already
working at the DIA (and for the Cubans) by the time she began her
graduate work there, so it is unlikely that Myers was involved in her
recruitment. In the end, it will likely take months, if not years, for
the government to do a full damage assessment on this case.

One of the other interesting factors regarding this case is that in
spite of Myers’ strong anti-American political beliefs — which were
reportedly expressed in his classes — none of the background
investigations conducted on him by the State Department provided any
indication of concern. Furthermore, he was cleared for access to Top
Secret material in 1985 and Sensitive Compartmentalized Information
(SCI) in 1999 — 20 years after he was recruited by the Cubans.
Apparently the agents and investigators who conducted his background
investigations did not dig deeply enough uncover the warning signs of
his radical beliefs, or the people they interviewed knowingly withheld
such information.

With Montes arrested at DIA, and now Myers from INR, it certainly makes
one wonder where the next ideologically driven Cuban agent will be found
inside the U.S. intelligence community.

Cuba: Friends in High Places | STRATFOR (10 June 2009)

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