US Releases 'One of the Most Damaging Spies'

Ana Belen Montes provided classified intelligence to Cuba for years
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 8, 2023 12:35 PM CST
US Frees American Who Gave Secrets to Cuba
US and Cuban flags fly in Havana.   (Getty/elpixart)

After more than 20 years in prison, an American convicted of spying for Cuba, has been freed. The US Bureau of Prisons said Ana Belen Montes, 65, was released Friday in Fort Worth, Texas. Montes was the Defense Intelligence Agency's senior Cuba analyst when she was arrested in 2001 and accused of betraying classified information, including the names of four American spies, Reuters reports. She told the judge at sentencing that US policy toward Cuba was cruel and that she had followed her conscience. "I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it," Montes said.

After speaking against US actions in Nicaragua, Montes was recruited by Cuban intelligence while a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, per CBS News. She was already working for Cuba when she joined the intelligence agency in 1985, after, a US report said, agreeing "to work through the Cubans to 'help' Nicaragua." She memorized pages of secrets that she typed up at night and then passed on to Cuban intelligence agents. In 2002, Montes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and was given a 25-year prison sentence. The judge told her she had put other Americans and the "nation as a whole" at risk.

A former head of US counterintelligence said Montes was "one of the most damaging spies" American agencies had ever found out. "She compromised everything—virtually everything—that we knew about Cuba and how we operated in Cuba and against Cuba," Michelle Van Cleave said in 2012. "She was able to influence estimates about Cuba in her conversations with colleagues, and she also found an opportunity to provide information that she acquired to other powers," Van Cleave added. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a statement Saturday saying: "Her treason against the US accomplished nothing for the Cuban people. On the contrary, by helping the criminal Castro regime, Montes strengthened the Cuban people's worst enemy." (More espionage stories.)

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