by Marcelo Fernandez-Zayas



Washington, D.C.
September 30, 2001


The case of alleged Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes will be a subject of analysis and commentary for many years to come, and a long-lasting embarrassment to her (American) employers. We expect that few, if any, voices will be raised in her defense, given the severity of her crime. However, we will not be surprised if news of her investigation and prosecution slides away from the front pages of the media. There is too much breaking news on terrorism that overflows the paper space and broadcast minutes available.

But we have to look at another aspect of this case: It wasn't only the Pentagon but well-known members of the national press who were fooled by the lady with the line that "Cuba is not a military threat to the USA." The Pentagon can claim to have security interests in a quiet investigation of Ana B., but don't count on the press to keep the story anywhere near the front pages. In a word, the press was duped by the lady, and followed the line that Castro was just an aberration, not to be considered in the big leagues. Hands up, for those who think that any media person will admit that Ana B. fooled the intrepid reporters.

The mood in the Pentagon has for years been that the State Department was a bit too casual in its concerns about security. Now the focus is on the Pentagon itself, and with much more than bureaucratic muttering in government corridors.

All Federal Agencies are jealous about their bits of turf and do not welcome prying looks into their fenced-in territories and areas of expertise. The Pentagon and the CIA surely don't want to see the FBI roaming their corridors. However, it is past time to review present practices. What is at stake is not the pride of bureaucrats but the security of the country. The investigation has to be deep and persistent, perhaps verging on ruthless.

Naturally, the FBI wants to get to the bottom of the current spy issue, perhaps even at the price of cutting a deal with the attorneys for Ana Belen Montes. Expect to hear voices talking of her ethnic background and her sex, painting her as a victim. But the reality is different. Ana B. is the daughter of a family well placed in the American Establishment economically and socially.

She attended the best schools, and did not suffer any discrimination before she was hired or as she worked at her jobs. After all, she was working in the most intimate and exclusive club of the country, noted for patriotic and prudent employees. She was not a low-level secretary. To the contrary, she was one of the selected American princesses on a career path toward the highest positions in the country. We don't know yet what prompted her to go over to the other side. Maybe we never will know, but her acts look like treason of the highest order.

This spy episode is very embarrassing for Washington, the city, and the Department of Defense as an agency: the U.S. Government was penetrated and duped by a single agent of a small foreign government. But since the events of September 11, asymmetrical warfare has taken on a meaning in fact. The military world has been put on notice that size is irrelevant in some kind of encounters.

One of the classical practices of investigation is to find out the possible reach of the traitor. And this is the scary part. If we assume that she worked only six years for Fidel Castro, we still have to take into account her prior work for 16 years in sensitive areas of the Pentagon. She had access to information on secret weapons as well as plans for defense and offence, to include the names and ranks of military leaders and locations, number and strength of key military units. Above all, she knew first-hand the military culture of this country. She delivered to Castro on a golden platter many of America's most sensitive secrets. And there is no doubt that, at minimum, many of those secrets are now in the hands of Iran and Iraq.

This case of Ana B. is thorny and painful. It was driven into the light by the circumstances of the moment: the fear of more intelligence reaching Saddam Hussein via Castro. The defense establishment now realizes that the Pentagon was penetrated at a high level. The White House is now painfully aware that Castro could stab this country in its back in the expectation that he could get away with espionage. The eyes of the world are on Afghanistan for now, but for how long? Soon or later - maybe in days or a few weeks - the USA will have to deal with Iraq. Can we deal safely with Saddam Hussein while his proxy and ally Fidel Castro remains active and plotting in Havana? This is just one of the dilemmas facing the USA right now.

Marcelo Fernández-Zayas

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