The spy Ana Belén Montes, the ‘Queen of Cuba’, released after 20 years in prison in the US | International

Ana Belén Montes receives a diploma from CIA director George Tenet in 1997.
Ana Belén Montes receives a diploma from CIA director George Tenet in 1997.COURTESY OF THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

Ana Belén Montes, known as the cuban queen, She has been released after 20 years incarcerated in the United States. As a double agent, Montes was one of the most damaging spies for US intelligence before she was discovered, arrested and convicted. “Ana Belén Montes will be free. Cuba, on the other hand, no…”, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who is Cuban-American, wrote this Saturday in a statement. The congressman recalled the importance of the information that the spy stole from the United States. She did it for ideological reasons, not for money, according to the Federal Investigation Agency (FBI).

Montes, who is now 65 years old, is a descendant of Asturian emigrants to Puerto Rico. She is a US citizen and was working at the Justice Department when Cuban agents recruited her to be a spy. She rose in the federal government and became the main Cuba analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). She spied for Cuba for about 17 years.

She was arrested on September 21, 2001, just 10 days after the September 11 attacks, although she had no connection to them. She was accused of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Government of Cuba. Montes pleaded guilty and, in October 2002, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with five years of probation.

Born on a United States Army base in 1957, Ana Montes is the eldest daughter of Puerto Ricans Emilia and Alberto Montes, the latter a military doctor. The family settled in Kansas upon their return to the United States and from there they moved first to Iowa, and then to Towson, just outside Baltimore. Ana Belén Montes studied at the University of Virginia and began working as a typist at the Justice Department in Washington.

In 1984, at the age of 27, Montes held an administrative position in said department. She was very critical of the US government’s policies towards Central America. Cuban agents thought she would be sympathetic to her cause and recruited her. She applied for a position at the DIA which she got in 1985, when she was already working for the Cuban government.

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To avoid detection, Montes never took out any work documents, neither electronically nor on paper. Instead, she kept her details in her head and went home to type them on her laptop, the FBI said after her arrest. Later, she transferred the information to encrypted disks. After receiving instructions from the Cubans in shortwave radio code, she would meet with her superior and hand her the discs.

During his years at the DIA, security officials knew of his views on foreign policy and were concerned about his access to sensitive information, but they had no reason to believe that he was sharing secrets. In 1996, a colleague from the DIA sensed that she might be under the influence of Cuban intelligence and denounced it to a security officer, who interviewed her, but she denied everything and passed a polygraph test. She came to be decorated the following year by the director of the CIA, George Tenet.

The security official filed the interview away until four years later, when he learned that the FBI was working to uncover an unidentified Cuban agent operating in Washington. He contacted the FBI to expose his suspicions. After a careful review of the facts, the FBI opened an investigation. Through physical and electronic surveillance and undercover searches, the FBI found evidence against Montes. The agents also wanted to identify his Cuban handler and expected a face-to-face meeting between the two, which is why they delayed his arrest for some time. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Montes was about to receive a commission related to the United States’ war plans in response to the attacks. The FBI and the DIA preferred to avoid it and decided to arrest her.

Montes acknowledged having revealed the identity of four US secret agents working in Cuba. Senator Marco Rubio goes further: “Montes was not a harmless informant. Her leaks broke the cover of 450 US agents working in Latin America. In 1996, information from her also allowed the Castros to shoot down two US planes carrying the heroes of Brothers to the Rescue. Montes also sabotaged a top-secret satellite program. New reports also reveal that Ella Montes was willing to undermine the US war effort in Afghanistan, even if it meant the death of her compatriots,” she wrote in her statement.

After the release of the last Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States in the thaw phase in relations during the presidency of Barack Obama, Montes was left as the only agent in the service of Cuba who was still in prison. A few years ago, in a letter to a relative of hers, the cuban queen wrote from jail: “There are certain things in life that are worth going to jail for. Or for which it is worth committing suicide after doing them ”.

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