ANA BELEN MONTES: THE SAGA OF CUBAN SPIES
Ana Belen Montes’ residence was a cooperative apartment located at 3039 Macomb St, N.W., apartment 20, Washington, D.C. Room C6-146A, 200 MacDill Boulevard, Washington, DC was the office/work space assigned to Ana Belen Montes, at the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center, located on Bolling Air Force Base.
She is a United States citizen, born on February 28, 1957, on a U.S. military installation in Nurnberg, Germany. Montes graduated from the University of Virginia, 1979 and obtained a masters degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, 1988.
She was employed at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as a senior intelligence analyst, since September 1985. Since 1992, she was specialized in Cuba matters. Montes was the senior analyst responsible for matters pertaining Cuba. Montes had direct and authorized access to classified information relating to the national defense.
The Cuban Intelligence Service ( CuIS) communicates with clandestine CuIS agents operating outside Cuba by broadcasting encrypted messages at certain high frequencies. Under this method, the CuIS broadcasts on a particular frequency a series of numbers. The clandestine agent, monitoring the message on a short wave radio, keys in the numbers onto a computer and then uses a diskette containing a decryption program to convert the seemingly random series of numbers into Spanish-language text. Typical messages consists of a series of 150 5-numbers groups, like “30107 24624”.
This was the methodology employed by some of the spies convicted, in the Southern District of Florida, of espionage on behalf of Cuba. Montes was a clandestine CuIS agent who communicated with her handling CuIS officer in the manner described above. Montes had a Toshiba laptop computer, model 405CS to that effect.
Montes also had a Sony shortwave radio stored in a box in her apartment. She had an earpiece that could be utilized with this shortwave radio, allowing the radio to be listened to more privately. Similar earpieces were found in the residences of the Cuban spies in Miami.
CuIS agents also communicate with her or his handling CuIS officer by making calls to a pager number from a pay telephone booth and entering a pre-assigned code to convey a particular message. This methodology was utilized by Ana Belen Montes as well as by the spies convicted in South Florida.
Espionage paraphernalia, including devices designed to conceal and transmit national defense and classified intelligence information and material, and implements used by espionage agents to communicate with their handlers and with a foreign government, to wit: white tape, mailing tape, colored chalk ( all used for signaling purposes), coded pads, secret writing paper, microdots, any letters, notes or other written communications ( including contact instructions) between Montes and any agents of the CuIS or other intelligence service of Cuba; any computers, computer disks, cameras, films, codes, telephone numbers, maps, photographs and other materials relating to communication procedures.
CUBA IS A VERY DANGEROUS AND SERIOUS THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES AND LATIN AMERICA
EXCERPTS FROM A TAPED BRIEFING WITH ANA BELEN MONTES. THE TWO PARTICIPATING REPORTERS I HAVE NAMED XXX, YYY. BRIEFING WITH DEPT. OF INTELLIGENCE
DATE: JUNE 4, 1997
Maybe for the tape we could just review that I am Colonel JJJfrom the Department of Intelligence’s (DI) public Affairs Office. We are here to do a background interview generally speaking on the topic of Cuba. It’s a background briefing and any attribution would be for a senior defense official and maybe we should just go around the room and you could state your name:
My name is:Ana Montes,
Colonel :Ok, so what’s your interest?
YYY:Well, a number of areas--but I was in Cuba this weekend and Bob and I have been working on many issues, but specifically, on Cuba’s capabilities on the area of biological warfare (“BW”) on whether they have any capability in that arena or could rapidly develop such a capability.
Specially in light of what they have been saying about us over the last month which strikes us as very bizarre. They are offering us access to their fields, access to crops____ and also offering access to laboratories and I mean first of all it struck us completely out of left field--when you saw it- I was in Burbank, and I said, wait until you see this....and you know, why now? why this?--maybe that’s a good starting point- I mean--- what has evolved as to why they are now accusing the US of biological weapons?
COLONEL: This is not the first time. The history goes back to 1981. It deals with Dengue Fever accusations-- unfounded. Frankly, we always felt-- (again this is general sense of comparison) ---that their presence in other parts of the world, supporting Angola... and otherwise, really brought that and probably Conjunctivitis back to Cuba and then conveniently claims were made that this was somehow a biological warfare attack by the U.S. which was totally absurd. So this is a continuing thing...
But they haven’t made anything recently?
Col No. There hasn’t been any news about anything since that time period until very recently until the State Dept. aircraft incident. So everything has been sort of quite in that sense. So the accusations are there and we kind of shake our heads whenever they are made---because some of them are so bizarre ---you find with the case with the infestation that is happening in the general region and not just Cuba. But the State Dept. answered their questions.
XXX: But is there any particular reason why now? Is there anything that you guys can look at and say this is the reason or that is the reason? It’s been basically 14 years. I remember when the retired General Wilhelm ? went to that Senator Defense Information trip in 1994 -- and they were screaming about the US and and they cut him off...and said that the Miami Cubans... and suddenly the conversation ended--- and that appeared to me that they were lowering the temperature of the subject. And suddenly you know, this comes out of nowhere.
DI It’s really hard to know...I can tell you from our standpoint..we don’t see any any reason again from the standpoint of their perception of “BW” or whatever, why this should come up at this time. We monitor them, look at their country, and off course, are deeply interested in their capabilities, but there is nothing out of the ordinary which seems to have been the provocatour (if indeed, there is a reason that is the genesis of this or the nexxus of it) but it may not be -- it may just be a coincidence and maybe grabbed on to Castro for no reasons. Whether they are well thought of or not is also possibly an opportunity-- coincidental with an aircraft flying over and having a problem with a crop and 1 + 1 =2. And why not go back and bring this up again. Again nothing that we can say.
YYY: On the other side of the ledger, there have been over the last 20 years a proliferation of scientific institutes (Biotech Center, Institute of Tropical Center, The Finley Institute, The Geographic Institute + 10 others etc..) And I am told that even the institutions have declared for BL/ 3 BL4 facility declarations which give them a capability of .....
DI: Oh, you bet!. You don’t even necessarily need a BL 4 capability to undertake that type of program......but it dosen’t hurt..and it reflects..the fact is, just to get to the heart of it--what you said is essentially totally correct about that their biotechnology industry in many areas is equivalent (and certainly not across the whole spectrum-- but in many areas) equivalent to 1st world levels and they have some projects that certainly reflect significant advanced potential and certainly the Institute for Biotechnology in Havana is a good indicator of their capabilty for research projects They claim for instance, they are working on HIV, they produce vaccines, pharmaceuticals..
YYY: About 100 million dollars worth of exports?
DI: In fact, Castro favors, the biotech industry. He has personal interest in it. So, from a standpoint unlike that of many other countries we look at them from a 1st world capability- Cuba has all of the necessary ingridients to accomplish a BW effort if they would choose to do so. But, if that’s their intention---(which I can not discuss the details relating to that), but if so, the infrastructure affords them that potential.
YYY: Are there any indications of their intentions?
DI I can’t really go into that at all. Probably can’t give any more details about that unfortunately.
YYY: When we talk to other people, in other places in the government, they claim-- well, that the Cuban military does not do biological training. You know, their gas masks are a disaster, they have not replenished them which leads me to either one of two possiblities: a.) There is no program. or b.) There is a program, but outside the traditional military realm-- sort of a “dooms day”.
DI Certainly all that is possible. The one general statement that I would make about biological intentions is that the very fact whether the capability for physicial protection or medical protection exists or does not exist, is not a primary requisite for an offense of capabilty, so, it doesn’t necessarily (not just talking about Cuba but in the general sense) that its not even-- depending on how one would choose to affect a BW operation- you do not necessarily have to have your troops vaccinated or protected because in many senses, BW would be looked-- and is looked at- as less of a tactical capability and more of a strategic capability to be delivered upon someone else’s territory rather than yours.
YYY: Has he--now he apparently said something recently that was somewhat ambigous in this area-- (I have a head cold, I don’t know if I have some personal BW--or clouding of the mind)...He recently made a statement that the Miami Cubans had seized upon as an indicator that he’s got something going----Is there anything that strikes a cord with you in the last month or two?
DI Nothing that we’ve seen. We have seen the articles regarding the accusations about “Germ weapons and missiles” and frankly we do not put much credibility to that type of statement.
YYY: This was said by a formal Colonel?
DI Yes, and at this point it just doesn’t add up- and 2 and 2 doesn’t make 4. And so we just don’t pay too much credibility to this.
YYY: Is there any public statement that he’s ever made that has caused you any concern in this area?
DI Not really a public statement per se, no no. Our area of concern relates to his general “unfriendliness towards the US and his interest in biological (albeit)---and certainly civilan sector capabilities” which would be our concerns and also his potentials. Whenever a leader which such immense control takes a personal interest in an area that can have that potential, then our antena is of course raised and we are watching. Certainly, they are close to our borders and with the advanced capabilities this is something that we watch, but then again, off course, we watch many, many other countries that have this potential.
YYY: Now they are a signatory to the BW _______
When I look at the active reports, the full? reports there is no mention of . What is that an indicator of?
DI: Well, at this point I really wouldn’t like to try to read into the State Department does--and a ____ _ _? So I really do do want to comment on to why is there or not there.
DI: There are a lot of signatories that are mentioned that you probably see that are mentioned that
YYY: Yes, but there are some that are signatories that are mentioned as having programs or in wonderfully lithical diplomatic language Egypt, Taiwan,
Di: Yes, Syria, China.
YYY: But those are less of a pickle?
YYY: Right. I mean, Egypt and Taiwan I thought were particularly ____?
Di Yes, they really are. I really can’t answer that in either in an affirmative or negative why they were or were not included in that section.
YYY: I’ve got a couple of specific things that I’ve been thinking about-- within the last 24 hours people have been telling me-- and obviously, it is disturbing what I’ve been told because of the local of the southern extreme of the United States and the access with which it can reach us and --level of outrage, the point was there is a defector who came here two or three years ago, he is a physician who worked at a biotech center and claims that a toxin, (a para___ toxin) was being developed with the aid of a Japanese company--- you’re nodding?
DI: I am familiar with the information, and really can’t comment on that. We have looked at that closely and we have assessments but it gets into areas that I really would not want to try to provide.
YYY: Let me see if I can--would it be worthwhile for us to talk to this guy?
DI: My sense is that the way we always look at intelligence is that if you look at a single source, as such, it could be very misleading-- that’s why I can’t go on anything because it brings up textual information and if we say that we agree-- that he is valuable or not valuable- it brings up other information that I can’t go into which would corroborate or not corroborate with saying. So, you’re on your own!
YYY: Laughs, Ok., Well, I’ve also heard that there is a Naval Hospital in Havana-- have your interests?
DI: Yes,-continually, we see again coming mostly from the so-called, “free Cubans”-- a lot of information that comes out- I can’t characterize any one bit of that information as plus or minus, but I will say that classically most of the information that comes from that sector is more based on a tidbit of information that then becomes strapulated beyond what would be reasonable. It is very hard to find anything that you can actually corroborate. You have a data point and when you try to follow some of these data points they become simply something that just goes into thin air. There is nothing to base it on.
YYY: Is this because Cuba is such a difficult intelligence target or is it because the information is almost always wrong?
DI: Oh no, no, I would not even characterize it either way, difficult or not difficult or whatever. It’s just that the information that comes from that sector doesn’t help us necessarily-- in terms of accessing if Cuba has a capability or not. We’ve never seen were that’s been tied.
YYY: Do you look for imports or parts of equipment.
DI: We watch everything.
YYY: Great. You have 3 - Flash-4 facility being one--- fermentors?
YYY: Large scale fermentors?
DI: Absolutely .
YYY: Right. Small to large.
DI: Very minor dual use.
YYY: And then everything biological is dual use--as someone pointed out to me, if you look at nuclear, chemical and biological-- I mean, nuclear there is a small part which is dual use and a larger part which is military use- chemicals get a little more confusing- biological is hopeless.
DI: Pretty much although there exists (again not solely related or not related to Cuba with the Australian group) and they have been fairly successful (and we have supported the Australian group quite a bit, the US has) in trying to define that material that could lend itself to BW programing. Interestingly, again this is just background on BW and not Cuba, but pretty much when you look at it if you look at the genesis of the BW programming, it is strictly an offensive program what you are going to find is that -you are going to find an R&D effort dealing with agents and pretty much when you’re looking at agents it becomes very difficult to ascertain whether the program is going to actually split off in a “Y” towards defensive or commercial sector vs. Strictly offensive. But there are notes that exist-and the fact is that in the early phase it is virtually impossible to discriminate between the two. However, with the Australia group, you set certain limits as to the size of fermenters for instance that would be construed as being beyond that necessary for a normal pharmaceutical or commercial sector.
YYY: In kilograms or--
Di: No, liters (volumes)
YYY: What’s that 150?
Di: It keeps going back and forth and right now, 150 is a good number. Which a piot is about 50 to 70 where he sort of grilling it up sort of speak, getting ready to pour it into something to make it larger. And that’s starting off at 150, but when you are in large scale productions, what’s practical is about 1500 liters or so.--and that’s for a full capability.
? But you wouldn’t need large scale capability.
? You don’t need it.
YYY: Right. But they have them.
DI: Yes. And so as a consequence something they might have is smaller size fermentor. Which we would call pilot which could in fact lend itself to the production of enough biological agents (mainly talking about infectious agents right now, not toxins which are bi-products of other organisms) but with infectious agents. You can also---you can believe or not, grow biological agents in flasks and just have many, many, many flasks-- and that can give you the capability of producing enough agents, it doesn’t take a lot of organisms to cause infection
YYY: There are certain parts of organisms too.
DI: That is correct. There are literally--from a military standpoint- a very effective military effort-the way we look at biological is that first of all generally, (and again not bioterrorism or low intensive conflict) but more military-- you try to look at an agent that is not --because you are looking at hitting the individual causing the effect and moving on. You do not want an epidemic. From a military standpoint that becomes a logistical nightmare. That’s why Anthrax, botulin toxin also sit on the top of anyone’s list.
YYY: What about BEE and things like that.
Di: Yeah, BEE again, that’s a little more difficult virus to grow up and it takes more sophistication. But BEE certainly is a prom candidate and any of the ______group viruses and Middle Eastern Bee.
YYY: Any about Rheumatic fever
Di: Rheumatic fever viruses are more difficult---the futility has yet to be demonstrated. You are working with not necessarily highly contagious viruses because--- if they were..
YYY: We would be dead!
Di: ....the good news is that they would kill their host very rapidly and not spread on. And plus they are not spread throughout the aerosol or respiratory---for example you have a renal virus right now, probably an upper respiratory virus...
YYY: I sure do.
Di: And you are more contagious- depending if you are in the incubation period, how long have you had it?
YYY: I’m at the end of it.
DI: You are not in the incubation stage right now--you have Blue Cross and Blue Shield?
But actually what you produce in the early or incubation stages are called filmates and they are particles of sputum. It is a highly contagious virus but of the most biological are not readily contagious. If you wanted to try to get Anthrax you have to literally get down and touch the patient and get right in their face.
YYY: Well that’s where military _______
DI: Well, again, it depends on the goals-- and if you want to start certainly an epidemic, there might be some agents that you can pick up. For the most part when you get into agents that cause epidemics they are very hard to grow, they are hard to manage and to keep confined. So generally, they are not picked because they are just to hard to work with.
YYY: When you look at the various facilities, I’m assuming that the Biotech and Genetic Engineering is on the top of your list of things to look at and to watch. Are there others?
DI: Well we watch---there are more than a dozen or so key facilities and we watch them. Absolutely. We watch the whole Cuba capability very closely.
YYY: Is your work at the biotech center based on its large capacity, its large numbers of people, its large fermenters and it being a flash 4 facility--is it that primarily that gets you nervous or is it the fact that they have genetic engineering capabilities
Di: Well, really, the first level of concern is with the technical infrastructure and that would lend itself. The genetic engineering portion, for the most, if you look at biological warfare in general, it is area, that again, that we are watching, following, but we’ve accessed that any country developing a BW capability first With what is familiar to them Is classical- so genetic engineering is certainly something we have our eye on cause we are always ready for intervention. But for the most, our major concerns______
YYY: Does the Institute of Tropical Medicine interest you?
Di: They all do.
YYY: Ed and I spent a wonderful day when we met with the special troops- the Red Berets in Pinar Del Rio. Does that interest you in this area?
DI: Ah, not any more, I would say that I characterize it as....not any more than the whole capability of looking at the country in total. I can’t really go on focusing on any one specific element just to see if we have interest or not--we look at the country in total and its capabilities.
YYY So with the capabilities you are talking are the whole “Bio” ---.
DI: The whole bio capabilities, yes. What I was going to say in terms of us looking at the capability is when that juncture occurs that I was speaking about, that’s a very interesting point with BW because when a country decides to go towards weaponization- you can see a scale of capabilities it’s not indicative of legitimate commercial. Nothing Cuba is doing at all--.A large scale of production and any relationships, any concerns that they could just be just scaling off-- which would not be consistent with the BWC.
YYY: Have you seen any of that?
DI: I can’t talk about that.
YYY: I am also told that during the first two years of the Clinton administration, you guys prepared two reports on Cuba’s BW. Is that an accurate statement?
DI: We prepared several reports, not on Cuba BW but on Cuba as part of the world-- if you look at it. We were constantly preparing reports accessing the general capabilities of again, many countries so to say specifically, Cuba I can’t speak to that. When we look at lots of countries and its fair to say that whether its positive or negative again, I won’t characterize Cuba as having a BW program, but I’ll say that we follow it and we do prepare reports and access what their capabilities are.
YYY: Has there been any other analysis of the shoot down that would indicate that on that particular day that the order came directly from Fidel or Raul because continuously, they have given us the impression that it was their defense officer who had standing instructions to order the shoot down. But do you know anything more now about what happened?
Montes: That is our understanding as well. That this was a standing order -this was a decision which had been made weeks before.
YYY: A standing order?
Montes: Right, a standing order.
YYY: And nobody called Fidel and said, “Ok their out there....
Montes: Not as far as I know.
YYY: Is the air Marshall still around?
Montes: The air Marshall?
YYY: The person who ordered the shoot down on that particular day.
Montes: We have had no indication of any changes in command whatsoever, to the contrary.
YYY: What’s the contrary?
Montes: That the pilots themselves were highly praised and glorified within the military for what they had done and that the entire chain used congratulatory comments.
YYY: So there was only one--except---
Montes: Well, some instances of mistakes that might have been made. You know, technically/ tactically. But not the final outcome. The final outcome was much desired, much welcome by the higher military.
YYY: We were amazed when we were done there cause we flew in on morning after the shoot down that they did not have, the political types did not have, any sort of coordinated strategy or coordinated response. I mean we had breakfast with Alarcon that Tuesday morning. That Tuesday morning, and it was like--we kept waiting for them to say-- well off course we were able to determine that the planes were headed from Playa Baracoa and you know, Fidel was there or something. You know, some justification and there just wasn’t anything of any--you know..
Montes: I’m just saying that the military knew about this and they knew about it ahead of time-- and they knew this was coming down ahead of time. This was a military operation that they planned and it wasn’t quite examinated by the political elite.
YYY: So what was the tactical mistake?
Montes: Problems with equipment, mistakes primarily made by equipment, they did not function as it was expected to function. Pieces of equipment that did not function as it was expected to function.
YYY: So on the actual report it was technical (subheadings). And they knew because of Roque?
Montes: That’s what we suspect- in part. In part.
YYY: We had a very funny experience with Roque. He took out his little diary or phone book and he was showing us he that had the names of the FBI agent, you know, and the cell phone number to show me that he had made contacts with the FBI agent and then he was showing it to Ed and then he dropped it and when he dropped it we noted that there was not another entry in the entire book so this must have been a very important source because it was the only source. Everything was very well printed in that one page.
Montes: Did he tell you that he had been working for the Cuban Government from the beginning--that when he defected he was already a spy for the Cuban government? What did he say?
YYY: No, No. He said that he had changed his mind.
Montes: Changed his mind.
YYY: We interviewed him and I think we gave it to our Miami affiliates because it was it was after. We interviewed him the next day--we were the second in line which made our bosses not happy. Actually, Cuban T.V. interviewed him first......but he was----he’s a very good actor, obvious. But he did not---there was actually one point where we did catch him on something but I can’t remember what it was. It was something where it was--it was something interesting. He sort of slipped at one point. It was quite obvious I thought that he was who he was-- and the manner in which it was planned to get the photographs and videotapes of him which were already in Cuba-that would be the other thing that struck me---the videotapes that were shot of him buzzing Havana were on Cuban television you know, simultaneously and the photographs of him with Jorge Mas and you know all that other stuff was there already. He left on Thursday night I think--
YYY: But the Cessnas came in once and then they left and then they came back--and Roque had already been in town too as well.
Montes: But since this was an event that the Cuban military knew in advance--several days in advance-and before, they had probably prepped Fidel and Raul, briefed them, they gave the OK and from then on it was in the lower ranking military personnel’s hands at the air base. But at the time within minutes before they actually shot down, did they call Fidel and ask for permission to shoot them down at the moment? No.
YYY: The standing order would have been. And that’s always been your best guess? Has that changed at all since last year?
YYY: It’s been consistent throughout. There’s no other information?
Montes: No, it was a standing order.
YYY: Right. Right. And that there may have been briefings a couple of days before? They knew several days before. He left on Thursday afternoon- is the last time his wife saw him.
Montes: It appears that that would have been probable.
YYY: What’s happened to him-do you know what has happened to Roque?
Montes: We don’t know.
? We have time for one more question
Montes: I just want to ask you a question. Why are the cubans watching this campaign of accusations against the US for biological warfare. I think it falls into the same category as this recent press conference that the Cubans have had. They are very determined to exploit what they see as the opposition of the rest of the world to US policy and I think the more hostile, and the more aggressive they can portray US policy towards Cuba, the more they can generate sympathy for Cuba on the part of other countries and opposition by other countries to US policy.
YYY: Has there been problems with Spain? Made them think more in these terms?
Montes: That they need to work harder with other countries and generating.....??? Very possibly.