Belmont Club

Promises, Promises

The primary ingredient for betrayal is trust. The most dangerous traitors are the people who are above suspicion. Heinrich Himmler, for example, approached the OSS in 1943 to explore the possibility of staging a coup against Hitler and making a separate peace with the Western allies. John Waller writing at the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence says that further exploratory talks begun in Sweden were vetoed by Wild Bill Donovan, the State Department and finally Franklin Roosevelt himself out of the fear that any such talks would shatter the Grand Alliance.

Stalin would find out, Roosevelt’s advisers argued, if he were to deal with Himmer. And indeed he would have, because the Soviet union had agents working at the highest levels in the Western alliance. (As a thought experiment consider if Stalin would have sold out Roosevelt if Himmler had offered him a similar deal.)

The Hewitt report that reached the president did not go into detail on the damage that such an operation posed for American and British relations with Stalin. The United States had an important stake in keeping Stalin friendly—certainly until the Japanese as well as the Germans were soundly defeated. Hitler’s last-ditch strategy as the Third Reich slid toward defeat would be an effort to break up the Grand Alliance that the West had with the Russians. Hewitt was, of course, oblivious to the several penetrations at top levels of the Western Allies by spies, such as British Secret Intelligence Service officer Kim Philby, who were keeping Stalin informed of efforts by Western intelligence to establish contact with the various factions of the secret German opposition. In fact, the US Department of State, faithful to the spirit of the Grand Alliance with the USSR, and doubtless fearing Stalin’s reaction if the OSS was caught dealing behind his back with Himmler, kept the Russians as well as the British generally informed of Hewitt’s talks with Kersten and Schellenberg.

Robert Hanssen of the FBI and Aldrich Ames of CIA were in trust positions also, and sent many a man working for the United States to their deaths. Ames alone sold out 25 men and women to the KGB, some of whom were sentenced to vyshaya mera (the highest measure of punishment).

The Soviets released video of the arrest by the KGB of Dmitri Polyakov, “Soviet Major General, a high-ranking GRU officer … In the CIA he was known by code names BOURBON and ROAM, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) knew him as TOPHAT (Top Hat).”

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Polyakov got the vyshaya mera, this time courtesy of Robert Hanssen.  But what goes around comes around.  Eventually the Soviet agents in America were identified by the American agents in the Soviet Union.  Treason goes in both directions.

For some the urge to play the game comes a from a deep seated psychological need. The Washingtonian tells the “inside story” of Kendall and Gwen Myers, who were arrested an convicted for spying for Fidel Castro. “Walter Kendall Myers Jr. was, as his wife loved to relate, a great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, as well as a grandson of Gilbert Grosvenor, editor of National Geographic for 55 years.” The article opens with Myers on their boat.

Gazing out across the Chesapeake Bay from their sleek 37-foot yacht, Helene, in the summer of 2007, Kendall and Gwen Myers appeared to be blissfully carefree. They’d been together more than three decades, but they delighted in ensuring that their world was composed principally of each other.

“It is 8 pm here; we are having a drink and are practically melting in our chairs while repeating to one another, ‘We have the most beautiful boat,’ ” Gwen wrote in a message to the yacht’s Swedish makers.

The previous year, they’d traveled to Kungsviken, where ships had been built for Scandinavian royalty for 950 years, to see their teak-decked Malo 37 Classic being built. The Malo 37 was the 2009 Import Boat of the Year at the Annapolis Boat Show, where Helene, with a custom-crafted mahogany interior, was on display. It had cost the couple some $350,000. …

Unbeknownst to their large families and lifelong friends, Kendall was Cuba’s Agent 202 and Gwen Agent 123 or E-634—spies dedicated not just to each other but also to what they saw as Fidel Castro’s socialist nirvana in the Caribbean.

And despite their enjoying every benefit that US citizenship and residence can bestow, the government alleges that they nursed a deep-seated rage against the United States.

They had everything and hated everything. Then there was Ana Montes, another spy who worked for Fidel Castro that was recently the subject of a Washington Post feature article.

Like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen before her, Ana Montes blindsided the intelligence community with brazen acts of treason. By day, she was a buttoned-down GS-14 in a Defense Intelligence Agency cubicle. By night, she was on the clock for Fidel Castro, listening to coded messages over shortwave radio, passing encrypted files to handlers in crowded restaurants and slipping undetected into Cuba wearing a wig and clutching a phony passport.

Montes spied for 17 years, patiently, methodically. She passed along so many secrets about her colleagues — and the advanced eavesdropping platforms that American spooks had covertly installed in Cuba — that intelligence experts consider her among the most harmful spies in recent memory. But Montes, now 56, did not deceive just her nation and her colleagues. She also betrayed her brother Tito, an FBI special agent; her former boyfriend Roger Corneretto, an intelligence officer for the Pentagon specializing in Cuba; and her sister, Lucy, a 28-year veteran of the FBI who has won awards for helping to unmask Cuban spies.

Montes reportedly offered her services to the Cubans because she was a ‘true believer’, very unlike Himmler’s motive for betrayal.  His reasons were simple:  to save his skin. Since Stalingrad he had been aware that Germany was going to lose and therefore determined to deal with the Western allies. At the same time he was terrified Hitler would find him out, which would result in an end not much better than he could expect from Stalin.  But somehow this rat-like man kept one step ahead of the fates until the fall of the Third Reich left him with nowhere to run.

Hanssen, Ames and John Walker are said to have done it simply for the money. For a car they saw in the window, a Rolex watch they coveted at the store. But Myers and Montes did it for love. Myers told the judge: “”We acted as we did because of our ideals and beliefs. We did not act out of anger … or out of any anti-Americanism,” Myers said.
“Our overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution. We share the ideals of the Cuban revolution.” Myers never took a dime. Ames might betray you for money. Myers did it for nothing. Castro himself wrote an encomium for the Myers’ shortly after their arrest:

“I can’t help but admire their disinterested and courageous conduct on behalf of Cuba.

“Those who in one form or another have helped to protect the Cuban people from the terrorist plans and assassination plots organised by various US administrations have done so at the initiative of their own conscience and are deserving, in my judgment, of all the honours in the world.”

But Castro was mistaken. They already possessed all the honors in the world. It was some other hunger they needed fulfilled; perhaps it was the need to control, from some secret inner chamber, an unsuspecting world.  The sad fact is that enemy states often have access to more secrets than do the citizens of a country itself.  Often the division isn’t between enemy and friend, but between “player” and “chump”. In the Montes family, who were the players and who the chumps?  One of the genuine dangers of working in a clandestine hierarchy is that it requires you to literally entrust your life to someone who is “above suspicion”.  But the catch is, there ain’t no such thing.


Note: Juliette Akinyi Ochieng, who some may know as Baldilocks, is in a cash crunch. Those of you who are her fans may wish to drop by her site and help her out.

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