Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of State’

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."

JACK BE NIMBLE — TERRORIST AND DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS DEFY STEREOTYPES

In Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, Mexico, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, Transnational crime on April 6, 2009 at 10:17 am

Instead of being run by a handful of massive, price-fixing ‘cartels’, the Colombian drug trade, then and now, was characterized by a fluid social system where flexible exchange networks expanded and retracted according to market opportunities and regulatory constraints.

Abstract, “The Architecture of Drug Trafficking: Network Forms of Organisation in the Colombian Cocaine Trade,” in journal Global Crime, by Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Kenney,  author of From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation.

American officials attributed the delays to cumbersome U.S. government contracting requirements, negotiations over exactly what equipment is needed, and the challenges of creating an infrastructure to deliver an aid package that spans four dozen programs and several U.S. agencies.

“U.S. Aid Delays in Drug War Criticized; Mexicans Seek ‘True Solidarity’,” Washington Post, April 5, 2009.

Look at almost any law enforcement organization — from local police to the U.S. Department of Justice — and you will see a classic bureaucratic structure not overly different from that of the Social Security Administration, the Postal Service, or the Boy Scouts.  Responsibility, authority, and funds flow downward through a series of boxes.  The bureaucracy’s being branches from the head of the agency or department at the top of a vertical pyramid down to the unit or squad at the bottom.

Add in the invisible external forces of the executive (president, governor, mayor) and legislative (council, legislature, Congress) decision-making process and you have a cumbersome beast.  That beast then has to coordinate what it does with the other beasts thrashing around in the law enforcement underbrush, all of whom have historically been reluctant to share their turf.

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice

A case in point is the implementation of the Merida Initiative, under which the United States is supposed to be helping Mexico fight its drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) to the two countries’ mutual benefit.

Last June, Congress appropriated $400 million.  According to the Washington Post (April 5, 2009), the State Department announced in December 2008 that $197 million of that funding had been “released.” But the paper’s close examination “shows that just two small projects under Merida — the delivery of high-speed computer servers in December and an arms-trafficking workshop attended by senior U.S. officials at a Mexican resort last week — have been completed.”

Here’s one bureaucrat’s explanation quoted by the Post:

“We are moving as fast as we can, but we also have to do this right,” said Roberta S. Jacobson, who, as deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, helped negotiate the Merida Initiative. “We are creating a $1 billion program essentially from scratch, and if we try and move faster than our own procedures — and those of Mexico — can manage, we risk the careful oversight and monitoring that we and Congress expect.”

Agility and speed are not strong points of such bureaucracies.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Drug Traffickers Cash and GunsSeized by DEA and Mexican Police in 2007

Drug Traffickers Cash and Guns Seized by DEA and Mexican Police in 2007

Contrast the speed and agility with which the DTOs operate.  These guys move this kind of money — and more — around in suitcases.  The $400 million Congress appropriated is chump change to drug barons.  A former senior official of a federal law enforcement agency told me last week about a case in which the agency seized a suitcase with $250 million in cash.  Monitoring of drug bosses’ conversation later revealed that they didn’t blink an eye–they took it as just a cost of doing a much bigger business.

Part of the difference between transnational criminals and bureaucracies is ruthlessness.  Any DTO underling who took this long to deliver the proceeds would get a terminal headache — from a couple of bullets in the back of the head.

But the more important difference in the view of many experts is the way drug trafficking organizations — and many other transnational criminal organizations — are…well, organized.

West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)

West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)

Here, for example, is a description of drug trafficking organizations in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez plaza, “a principal smuggling corridor and staging area for drug transportation to markets throughout the United States,” according to the April 2007 West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis, published by the National Drug Intelligence Center:

Over the past few years, the structure of Mexican DTOs operating in the El Paso/Juárez plaza has changed from traditional hierarchical organizations to much more efficient organizations composed of decentralized networks of interdependent, task-oriented cells. For example, one cell may be responsible for transporting drug shipments across the U.S.-Mexico border, another for transporting drugs to U.S. markets, and another for laundering drug funds. The variety of relationships that these individual cells can have with one another as well as their insular nature, particularly for organizational heads, renders these DTOs more difficult for law enforcement to dismantle than DTOs with a traditional hierarchical structure. In addition, if the head of the DTO or cell leaders are identified and arrested, the decentralized, interdependent nature of these DTOs ensures that they can continue to operate unimpeded.

Bureaucratic Model Slower Than Bullet-to-the-Head Model (Model from Ariel Zellman's Wordpess blog)

Bureaucratic Model Slower Than Bullet-to-the-Head Model (Model from Ariel Zellman's WordPress blog)

This segmented but integrated network is “flat,” compared to the Christmas tree bureaucratic structure.  Yet, it still lends itself to the severely authoritarian rule of the narco bosses.  “The leaders of these organizations…give the orders and expect them to be followed.” (Gregory D. Lee, Global Drug Enforcement: Practical Investigative Techniques, p. 288.)   It’s like a giant, global LEGO factory set — the pieces can be custom designed, moved around, plugged in, and shifted to different shapes to meet different needs and respond to law enforcement pressures, all the while preserving operational security.

Here is how Michael A. Braun — former assistant administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — described it in his March 12, 2009 statement before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

The Mexican cartels’ ‘corporate’ headquarters are set up South of our border, and thanks to  corruption, cartel leaders often times carry out their work in palatial surroundings. The cartel leaders manage and direct the daily activities of ‘command and control cells’ that are typically located just across the border in our Country. Those command and control cells manage and direct the daily activities of ‘distribution, transportation and money laundering cells’ all across our Nation.

The cartels operate just like terrorist organizations, with extremely complex organizational structures, consisting of highly compartmentalized cells: distribution cells, transportation cells, money laundering cells, and in some cases assassination cells or ‘hit squads.’ Many experts believe Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations are far more sophisticated, operationally and structurally, then Middle Eastern terrorist organizations. In fact, some experts   believe that Middle Eastern terrorist organizations actually copied the drug trafficking cartels’ sophisticated organizational model for their advantage. This sophisticated organizational model continues to thwart law enforcement and security services around the globe. Cell members are so compartmentalized that they possess little, if any knowledge of the greater organizational model that encircles and supports their nodes; therefore, they can share little of value when apprehended.

The DEA has long noted the intersection of terrorist organizations and drug trafficking:

For many years the…DEA special agents have recognized that terrorist organizations rely on drug traffickers as a straightforward, easy source of income to finance their political agendas.  Drug traffickers, in turn, rely on terrorists to provide protection for their laboratory and drug distribution endeavors.  Through protection rackets, extortion, or “taxation” of drug traffickers, terrorists receive the funds necessary to carry out their violent acts.  (Lee, p. 287)

Nimble, quick, deadly — and aimed at you.

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