True Deceiver: How a Castro Spy Wrote the Pentagon's Playbook on Cuba
About This Event

While covertly working for Fidel Castro from 1992 until her arrest in 2001, Ana Belen Montes was instrumental in shaping every memorandum, briefing paper, and intelligence estimate on Cuba for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Many of these materials still continue to influence U.S. policy today. Montes was admired for Listen to Audio


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her productivity and talent and rose through the ranks of the bureaucracy even though she openly aired within the intelligence community her opposition to U.S. policy on Cuba. How did a Castro mole infiltrate the U.S. intelligence community while spinning tales about the Castro regime? To what extent do the lies promulgated by Montes still influence the Pentagon’s thinking today? How will these lies affect the future of U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba and its imminent transition? Are there other Castro agents embedded in the foreign policy and intelligence communities?

These and other questions will be discussed by Scott Carmichael, the Defense Intelligence Agency investigator who helped apprehend Montes and author of the just-published True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba’s Master Spy. Joining him will be Cuba scholars Norman Bailey and Paul Crespo. AEI’s Roger F. Noriega will moderate.

Agenda
9:45 a.m.
Registration
10:00
Presenter:
Scott Carmichael, Defense Intelligence Agency
Discussants:
Norman Bailey, Institute of World Politics
Paul Crespo, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Moderator:
Roger F. Noriega, AEI
11:30
Adjournment
Event Summary

May 2007

True Deceiver: How a Castro Spy Wrote the Pentagon's Playbook on Cuba

While covertly working for Fidel Castro from 1992 until her arrest in 2001, Ana Belen Montes was instrumental in shaping every memorandum, briefing paper, and intelligence estimate on Cuba for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Many of these materials still continue to influence U.S. policy today. Montes was admired for her productivity and talent and rose through the ranks of the bureaucracy even though she openly aired within the intelligence community her opposition to U.S. policy on Cuba. How did a Castro mole infiltrate the U.S. intelligence community while spinning tales about the Castro regime? To what extent do the lies promulgated by Montes still influence the Pentagon’s thinking today? How will these lies affect the future of U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba and its imminent transition? Are there other Castro agents embedded in the foreign policy and intelligence communities?

These and other questions were discussed by Scott Carmichael, the Defense Intelligence Agency investigator who helped apprehend Montes and author of the just-published True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba’s Master Spy. Joining him were Cuba scholars Norman Bailey and Paul Crespo. AEI’s Roger F. Noriega moderated.

Scott Carmichael
Defense Intelligence Agency

Given that Montes’s arrest closely coincided with 9/11, her case received little media attention despite the fact that she was perhaps the greatest Cuban spy in our history. Montes was recruited by the Cubans in late 1984, and they encouraged her to gain employment where she might serve some purpose to the country, so she looked to the DIA. She entered fully intending to spy for Cuba, and did so for sixteen years. Furthermore, she was a model employee who rose quickly through the ranks. She became a Cuba specialist in 1992 after studying the effect the declining agricultural economy had had on the Cuban military, and quickly became known as the DIA’s lead Cuba specialist.

This book is important not necessarily because it tells Montes’s story, but because it describes the threat that the Cuban intelligence operation continues to pose for the United States. Cuba shares her information with other countries, like Iran, China, and Russia. Furthermore, she is not the only spy. The Cuban intelligence service is quite effective, and Cuba’s very survival hinges on these agents’ penetrating our government. These agents rely upon the recruitment of U.S. agents to help them, and there is no reason to suspect that they have not been successful with individuals besides Montes.

Montes was one of the most devastating spies in U.S. history, and she was successful for several reasons. She was a diligent worker with access to information that few others had. She was methodical in her work, lying low, never removing documents, and recording her daily work at home so that she could report to Cuban officials.

Paul Crespo
Foundation for Defense of Democracies

The United States has caught Castro’s spies consistently over the last few years, both in high-level government positions and in academia. Perhaps even more pervasive are Cuba sympathizers and apologists that have great influence on the opinions of government officials, media, and the general public. As a result, it is even more difficult to catch spies because these groups have been so influential in downplaying the threat that Castro poses. These sympathizers and apologists are perhaps even more dangerous, as they soften up government officials and general opinion. Finally, strong anti-Cuban-American sentiment has further undermined efforts to find and capture Cuban spies by discrediting any Cuban-American position, regardless of its validity.

Norman Bailey
Institute for World Politics

The Cuban intelligence service is by far the best in the Western Hemisphere on those subjects of interest to Cuba, even surpassing those of the United States. The country’s counterintelligence is also strong: Cuban officials know what the United States is trying to do, almost as much as they are aware of what their own country is doing. Cuban informants have infiltrated every important Cuban-American organization in south Florida. Furthermore, the FBI is convinced that there are Cuban agents in high-level government positions, both in the intelligence and policy communities.

The United States has almost no human-intelligence capabilities in Cuba, thanks largely to the work of Montes. Furthermore, our intercept capability is also highly degraded because of what she knew and relayed to the Cuban government. As a result, we are much less able to listen in on the Cuban government’s communications.

AEI research assistant Megan Davy prepared this summary.

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