April 21, 2007
An intelligence mole hunter who wrote a book about Cuban spies will speak tonight in Coral Gables.
By Glenn Garvin
Cuban spy Ana Montes, who passed U.S. military and intelligence secrets back to Havana for 16 years from her senior post in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was ''our worst nightmare,'' says the man who caught her. But she wasn't alone.
''Fidel Castro has the American government thoroughly penetrated'' with spies, says Scott W. Carmichael, the DIA mole hunter who first identified Montes as a Cuban agent and nagged the FBI into launching the investigation that finally brought her down in 2001.
''It was so easy for the Cubans to recruit Ana Montes and place her where they wanted to, in the heart of U.S. intelligence,'' Carmichael says. ``I have to believe that if they're that good, they've been able to do it more than once.''
Carmichael is in Miami to read from his new account of the Montes case, True Believer
, at Books & Books tonight. He spent 2 ½ years wrangling with the DIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies to get the book into print, he says, because he's trying to sound an alarm about Castro's spies -- an alarm the government isn't taking very seriously.
''Frustration, that's why I wrote the book,'' Carmichael said during an interview with The Miami Herald.
He has convened several meetings of U.S. military counterintelligence experts since Montes' capture to call for a broad, coordinated hunt for Cuban spies, he says, but his efforts have been greeted mostly with yawns.
''They continue to see it as an isolated case,'' Carmichael says, even though authorities also broke up one Cuban spy ring in South Florida in 1998 and another in 2006. ``I believe strongly that they are wrong. My belief is that there are many, many Ana Monteses, both down here in Miami and up in Washington.''
Carmichael's claim that the U.S. government is riddled with Castro's spies has been greeted skeptically by some intelligence officials and Cuba policy analysts. ''How would he
know?'' says Philip Peters, a former U.S. diplomat who follows Cuban affairs for the conservative Lexington Institute think-tank. ``His book is very thin on evidence.''
Others are more impressed. Roger Noriega, who held foreign policy positions during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes, says it troubled him that Montes held such a senior post on Cuba despite her vocal opposition to U.S. policy there.
''There is an indifference to the threat that Cuba poses in our national security apparatus,'' Noriega says. ``It extends to the intelligence community. I don't think they're very rigorous or vigorous on the Cuba account. It is disturbing, the picture he paints.''
The Defense Intelligence Agency collects, analyzes and manages all the military intelligence flowing into the U.S. armed forces. Montes was the DIA's senior military and political analyst on Cuba from 1992 until her arrest in 2001 -- five years after Carmichael first questioned her. She admitted spying for Cuba and is serving a 25-year term at a federal prison in Texas.
Part of the plea deal under which Montes avoided a life sentence was for her to make a full confession so intelligence officials could assess the damage she did. Carmichael says the details were grim -- not only what Montes passed back to Havana, but how blatantly she did it.
''She was meeting Cuban intelligence officers every two weeks in restaurants around Washington, D.C., and giving them her reports over lunch,'' says Carmichael. (Montes never removed classified documents from her office; she memorized the information and typed it onto computer disks that she gave to her Cuban spy masters.) ``The frequency of those face-to-face meetings is astounding.''
So, apparently, were the contents of the disks. 'Most of it is still classified, but it's pretty common knowledge now that the damage assessment used the phrase `exceptionally grave,' '' says Carmichael. ``That's a very
uncommon term to use in these things -- you only hear it when they're talking about [the Soviet Union's prized mole in the FBI] Robert Hanssen or someone at that level.
``She gave away all our sources and methods, all our judgments. She participated in every significant policy decision on Cuba for nine years and she told the Cubans all about every single one of them.''
Worse yet, Carmichael says, is that if Fidel Castro knew all these secrets, so did other regimes with which the United States is at odds.
''The danger is not that Cuba is going to land troops on Miami Beach,'' Carmichael says. ``The danger is that he's going to use the information as currency to spend where it will help him the most. With Colombian insurgents, for instance -- if it suits his purposes, he'll give them the information, and if an American soldier gets killed, oh, too bad.
'In 2001, just a few months before Ana Montes was arrested, Castro visited Syria, Libya and Iran. In Iran, he gave a speech and said, `Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.' Fidel Castro's greatest strength in that relationship is his knowledge of us. That's his end of the deal.''