Ron Radosh

Where Does Cuba Find its American Spies? Guess?

We have read a lot in the past few weeks about the arrest of Kendall and Gwendolyn Meyers, the American couple who began spying for Cuba in 1978—and were only caught after an FBI sting operation a short time ago. Kendall Meyers used his position as a State Department analyst in State’s intelligence division, it seems, to steal top secret classified material and give it to Cuban intelligence, something he had, in cooperation with his wife, been doing for three decades.

The report in The New York Times summarizes it well: “The strongest argument in support of the government’s case may have been made by the Myerses themselves. In the 40-page complaint they are quoted telling an undercover F.B.I. agent how much they admired Fidel Castro, how they sent secret dispatches to Havana over short-wave radio, dropped packages to handlers in shopping carts at local grocery stores, traveled across Latin America to meet with Cuban agents and used false documents to travel to Havana for an evening with Mr. Castro.”

Like the old time Communists from the espionage cases of the 40’s and 50’s, the Meyerses were ideologically motivated spies, carrying out their work without remuneration, engaging in espionage all for the love of Cuban communism and Fidel Castro. They were, from all accounts, just like other late generation New Leftists, who carried out their enthusiasm one step further than many other activists were willing to do. One colleague of Gwendolyn Meyers put it well: “She was not remarkably different than dozens and dozens of other people that you ran across in the 1970s who were McGovernites that got into politics for reasons other than to make a lot of money.”

Well, at least they got subsidized trips abroad, including one to Cuba itself, to make some of their reports and drops. And few ideological zealots- aside from Sean Penn of course- get to have a personal audience with the el jefe himself.

We do not as yet know what the Meyers actually passed to Cuba, but from all accounts, his work at the State Department gave him access to top secret data from our different intelligence agencies, some of which the Cubans might well have passed on to other of our enemies.  Nevertheless,  they probably did less harm that Ana Belen Montes, who was senior analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and at the same time Castro’s top spy in our country.

Montes too acted for ideological reasons, and viewed herself as an opponent of America’s “imperialist” foreign policy in the United States, who was in a good position to help Cuba stand in the way of American hegemony in the Western Hemisphere.

Few commentators have noted a great irony, that only was reported on by the Miami Herald. It refers to the question of how the Castro brothers and their cronies in Cuban intelligence recruit their spies in the United States. One former Pentagon expert believes that Cuba has over 250 agents currently at work here, despite the end of the Cold War and a very new international situation. That number, Chris Simmons thinks, includes six to nine within our government, and over a dozen in academia.

Kendall Meyers himself was an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins’ prestigious SAIS, the same school that Montes got her degree from in 1988, and from which she was spotted by Cuban intelligence and recruited.  The point emphasized by the Herald is this: “Cuban intelligence focuses its trolling for potential American spies on the four Washington-area universities whose international studies programs regularly  send their graduates to key positions throughout the U.S. government- Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, American and the University of Virginia.” As one American counter-intelligence officer put it, “The Cubans fish in a small pond.”

Think of the advantage for Cuban intelligence. Their future spies get their expertise and knowledge from American universities, where they specialize on Latin America and other areas of the world. We give them the training, and they then put them to work. Meyers went to the State Department in the first place at Cuban intelligence’s suggestion, after he failed the entrance exam for the CIA, his and their first choice for his placement.

And why should it be surprising to find that Cuban intelligence seeks its agents at our universities? Look through the papers and positions taken by so many members of the academic Latin American scholars’ organization, and you will find the usual politically correct left-wing leaning panels. How many of them belong to an organization that started in the 60s and still exists- The North American Congress on Latin America- and that devotes itself to the romance of Cuba and revolution throughout the region? Read their regular publication and you will not be surprised that Cuban intelligence sees scholars with this point of view as good picking for their agents.  After all, they are merely repeating the pattern used by the KGB through the years as documented in Spies, the new revelatory book by Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev. In those years, Soviet intelligence used the American Communist Party and its offshoots as a recruiting ground, since its members already were committed to Communist ideology and to the Soviet motherland. The people Cuban intelligence look at are the modern counterparts—people who show in their own writing where their true allegiance lies.

Sometimes- fortunately not all the time- the education in leftist mythology leads to action, and even to espionage for a foreign power. After all, the Marxists argue that ideology is nothing if not tied to praxis. And as we now know, sometimes that means one is ready to betray one’s own country on behalf of the myth of Communist revolution.