Tom Diaz

SPIES LIKE THEM? REALLY “INTELLIGENT” SPIES DOING REALLY DUMB THINGS — PART ONE

In Corruption, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, undercover investigations on November 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Traitors: Walter Kendall Myers ("Agent 202") and Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers ("Agent 123" and "Agent E-634")

“When I heard they were arrested, I felt like they had arrested Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”

Neighbor at marina where the Myers kept their 37-foot yacht.

We have also seen that espionage is not simply a relic of the Cold War. Earlier this year, a retired State Department employee and his wife were charged with engaging in a long running conspiracy with the Cuban intelligence service to furnish highly sensitive classified information through coded communications and clandestine meetings. Most recently, a scientist who had access to classified information relating to satellites and Department of Defense programs, was charged with attempted espionage after he gave some of that information to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign intelligence officer.

Written Testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two days after Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week about — among other things — the Justice Department’s vigilance in hunting down spies, the traitorous husband and wife team he mentioned in the above quote pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Washington.

Former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers copped to a life term in prison on a revised three-count criminal information.  His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, will serve between six and seven and a half years in prison on a single count.

Court documents in the Myers case (and the more recent case of Stewart David Nozette, the DOD scientist Holder mentioned) describe a variety of methods used by the FBI to reel in suspected spies and would-be spies.  One method used in both cases:  send an undercover “source” to make contact with the suspects, turn on the recorders, and let the fish reel themselves in.

This two part series quotes from relevant court documents in the Myers case.  In this Part One, Fairly Civil describes the Myers’s motivation and recruitment by the Cuban intelligence service.  Part Two covers the “trade craft” the Cuban spies used, and how the investigation rolled them up.

THE MYERS’ IDEOLOGICAL MOTIVATION – CONTEMPT FOR “NORTH AMERICA”

The Myers are representative of a particularly reprehensible class – people who grow up in privileged status, become “intellectuals” contemptuous of the “imperialist” United States, betray their country … and yet continue not merely to enjoy, but to indulge themselves to excess in, its riches.   The Washington Post summarized Myer’s pedigree thusly (“A Slow Burn Becomes a Raging Fire: Disdain for U.S. Policies May Have Led to Alleged Spying for Cuba,” June 7, 2009.):

Myers, who goes by Kendall, grew up in Washington, the eldest of five children. His father, Walter, was a renowned heart surgeon; his mother, Carol, was the daughter of Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the longtime former president of the National Geographic Society, and was the granddaughter of inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Myers went to prep school at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania and graduated from Brown University. He went on to get a doctorate in European history from the Johns Hopkins SAIS.

What did Kendall Myers glean from this patrician background and elitist education?

According to an affidavit filed in the case, one thing he said to the FBI undercover agent about the United States was that “the trouble with this country, there’s just too many North Americans.” He also told the agent regarding the possibility of travel restrictions to Cuba being lifted, “You don’t want all those Americans … believe me, those North Americans, you don’t want them.”

Here are more relevant passages of Kendall’s loathing from the affidavit, filed last June (“Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant,” United States v. Walter Kendall Myers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Docket No. 1:09-cr-00150-RBW, filed June 4, 2009):

30 … The investigation has revealed a diary, written by KENDALL MYERS, of his 1978 trip to Cuba.  In his account of his trip, KENDALL MYERS expresses a strong affinity towards Cuba and its revolutionary goals, and a negative sentiment toward “American imperialism.”  Notably, KENDALL MYERS states:

Cuba is so exciting!  I have become so bitter these past few months.
 Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience.  The abuses of our system, the lack of decent medical system, the oil companies and their
 undisguised indifference to public needs, the complacency about the poor, 
the utter inability of those who are oppressed to recognize their own 
condition. . . .  Have the Cubans given up their personal freedom to get
 material security?  Nothing I have seen yet suggests that  . . . . I can see nothing of value that has been lost by the revolution. . .

[T]he revolution has released enormous potential and liberated the Cuban spirit.
. . . .
Everything one hears about Fidel suggests that he is a brilliant and
 charismatic leader.  He exudes the sense of seriousness and
 purposefulness that gives the Cuban socialist system its unique character.
 The revolution is moral without being moralistic.  Fidel has lifted the 
Cuban people out of the degrading and oppressive conditions which
 characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba.  He has helped the Cubans to save
 their own souls.  He is certainly one of the great political leaders of our
 time. . .

Going through the [Museum of the Revolution in Havana] was a sobering 
experience.   Facing step by step the historic interventions of the U.S. in to [sic] Cuban affairs, including the systematic and regular murdering of
 revolutionary leaders left me with a lump in my throat. . . .

They don’t
 need to try very hard to make the point that we have been the exploiters. Batista was only one of the long list of murderous figures that we thrust upon them in the name of stability and freedom . . .

There may have been some abuses under the present regime, life may be more complicated by rationing, etc., but no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we have defeated the revolution.  The idea is obscene.

Cuban Spy and Castro Enthusiast Kendall Myers and His Wife Apparently Forced Themselves To Enjoy Life Aboard This Decadent Yacht -- A Product of the Imperialist Capitalist System They Effected to Deplore

Walter Kendall Myers’s ecstatic declaration that “no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we had defeated the revolution” falls precisely into the category of a certain type of (usually academic) intellectual willing to endure the suffering of other less-enlightened persons – without depriving themselves of the comforts of the parlor life.  Content that “life may be more complicated” under Fidel Castro’s communist regime, Walter Kendall Myers and his wife continued to roll like rich puppies in the American imperialistic good life.  “Communism may suck,” people like Kendall Myers pontificate to the impoverished subjects of the Cuban regime, “But that’s just a sacrifice you’ll have to make.  Wish we were there.”

For all the Myers’s intellectual posturing, among the items that they will forfeit to satisfy the $1,735,054 judgment against them – representing the salary paid to him over years by the State Department – is a 37-foot sailing yacht.  Sale prices for boats of equivalent length are currently listed in Maryland from the mid-thirty thousand dollars for older boats (1970s) to just south of $200,000 for newer models.  Such boats are simply another one of the luxuries that the people of Cuba will just have to do without in the Myers’s precious pseudo-Marxist world.

THE MYERS’ RECRUITMENT

Background on Cuban intelligence activities against the United States. The June affidavit describes in general terms the relevant background of Cuba’s intelligence operations against the United States:

20. … the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) is a general term encompassing numerous Cuban intelligence and counterintelligence entities.  A primary such entity is the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), formerly known as the Directorate of General Intelligence (DGI).  It is charged with gathering worldwide intelligence information of interest to Cuba and its allies.  The United States was, and continues to be, a principal target for Cuba’s intelligence gathering.

21.  … CuIS has a well-established program aimed at spotting and assessing persons within the United States academic community who may be suitable for recruitment to serve a variety of roles on behalf of Cuba’s interests.   The most important of these roles is that of agent – that is, a person who is not an officially recognized employee of CuIS but who is aware that he or she is working for the service and is willing to engage in clandestine operational activity, including intelligence gathering, at the direction, and on behalf, of  CuIS.   An agent-in-place is a recruited agent who occupies a position or job in which he or she has authorized access to intelligence information of value to CuIS, including classified information. One such agent was Ana Belen Montes, who was a senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency prior to her arrest and conviction for espionage on behalf of CuIS in March 2002 before this Court in the case of United States v. Ana Belen Montes.  (See a brief discussion of the Ana Belen Montes case in the Fairly Civil post here.)

Poor Housing Stock is One of the "Wonderful" Conditions Kendall Myers Was Happy for Cubans to Endure

Myers recruited after a 1978 trip to Cuba. Kendall Myers visited Cuba in 1978, during which trip Cuban intelligence apparently spotted him as an easy mark.  (It would be no surprise if one learned that the Cuban agency read Kendall’s diary, quoted above, while he was out touring, watching the socialist proletariat laboring according to its means in idyllic sugar cane fields.)  According to the affidavit:

29. … in December 1978, KENDALL MYERS traveled on “unofficial personal travel for academic purposes” to Cuba for approximately two weeks.  Two other Department of State employees traveled during the same time frame. KENDALL MYERS indicated in Department of State documents that his travel was predicated on an invitation from a Cuban government official (hereinafter, co-conspirator “A”) after co-conspirator “A” had given a presentation at the FSI. … co-conspirator “A” served at the Cuban Mission to the United States … in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  KENDALL MYERS’s guide in Cuba, was an official with Cuba’s Foreign Service Institute (hereinafter, co-conspirator “B”).   Based on all of the evidence collected during this investigation, I conclude that KENDALL MYERS’s trip to Cuba in 1978 provided the CuIS with the opportunity to assess and or develop KENDALL MYERS as a Cuban agent.

31. The FBI’s investigation has revealed that approximately six months after returning from Cuba, KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were visited by co-conspirator“ A” in South Dakota, where KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were living at the time. During that trip, KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were recruited by co-conspirator “A” and they agreed to serve as clandestine agents of the Republic of Cuba. Thereafter, CuIS directed KENDALL MYERS to pursue a job at either the Department of State or the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Myers’s “wonderful” soiree with Comandante Fidel. According to the criminal information (to the charges of which Kendall Myers pleaded guilty), “In or about January 1995 … [the Myers] … traveled to Cuba via Mexico under false names for the purpose of meeting with their … handlers. [W]hile staying in a small house in Cuba …[they] were visited by Fidel Castro.  Fidel Castro spent the evening with them and spoke through an interpreter.”  (“Violation,” United States v. Walter Kendall Myers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Docket No. 1:09-cr-00150-RBW, filed Nov. 20, 2009.)

The June affidavit recounts what the Myers told the FBI undercover about that meeting:

43. … KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best one was meeting Fidel. . . Oh, that was wonderful.”

THE POTENTIAL DAMAGE

Gwendolyn Myers did not work for the government.  She took a job in a bank.  But, consistent with a known pattern of Cuban intelligence operating in the United States, she was an active member of the husband and wife spy team.

On the other hand, Kendall wormed his duplicitous way into high positions in the State Department where he had and used access to potentially extremely damaging information, including so-called “sources and methods” of intelligence gathering.

A U.S. Department of Justice Press Release (November 20, 2009) summarizes Kendall Myers’s career, beginning with the period shortly before he was recruited by the Cuban intelligence service:

Kendall Myers began working at the State Department in 1977 as a contract instructor at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Va. After living briefly with Gwendolyn in South Dakota, he returned to Washington, D.C., and resumed employment as an instructor with FSI. From 1988 to 1999, in addition to his FSI duties, he performed work for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). He later worked full-time at the INR and, from July 2001 until his retirement in October 2007, was a senior intelligence analyst for Europe in INR where he specialized on European matters and had daily access to classified information through computer databases and otherwise. He received a Top Secret security clearance in 1985 and, in 1999, his clearance was upgraded to Top Secret / SCI.

In Part Two of this post, Fairly Civil will provide excerpts from court documents describing how the Myers family spy team operated and how the FBI rolled them up after thirty years of betraying their country.

Mutual Admirer: On Learning of the Myers's Arrest, Fidel Castro Said, "I can't help but admire their disinterested and courageous conduct on behalf of Cuba."

  1. Can’t wait for Part Two! This is good. How very Rosenbergs of them!

  2. [...] is the second of a two part series quoting from relevant court documents in the Myers case.  In Part One, Fairly Civil described the Myers’s motivation and recruitment by the Cuban intelligence [...]

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