Friday, April 26, 2013

Indictment details spy accusations

The U.S. government's case against Marta Rita Velázquez is a tale of intrigue and clandestine travel, false passports and secret meetings.
Prosecutors say Velázquez introduced Ana Belén Montes to Cuban agents in 1984 and later helped Montes land a job with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
Montes went on to become one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history, authorities say. She was arrested in 2001, convicted in 2002 and sent to prison.
In 2003, a grand jury charged Velázquez with one count of conspiracy to commit espionage. The indictment was filed on Feb. 5, 2004, but remained under court seal until Thursday. It's unclear why U.S. authorities unsealed it now, more than nine years after the indictment.
Velázquez is thought to be living in Stockholm, Sweden. I called what I believe to be her mobile phone number. I heard a message in a language I do not understand, and left a message.
A Swedish reporter also called Velázquez's number and said that a woman answered, irritated, and said, "What? Who is it? Oh, OK," and then hung up.
The Swedish TT news agency reported that Velázquez is now a Swedish citizen.
The Washington Post reported that U.S. authorities in December 2011 told Velázquez "she was under suspicion."
The U.S. extradition treaty with Sweden does not include espionage in crimes requiring extradition. See treaty. (H/T Phil Peters).
Sweden's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden, reported Friday that Velázquez's husband was an official in Sweden's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The paper did not name the husband, but said:
The acts of espionage were carried out while the two were married.
Sweden's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Charlotta Ozaki Macías confirmed that the ministry had been aware of the case for years.
"The Foreign Ministry official with a connection to the case is not guilty of criminal activity," she told the TT news agency.
The Swedish man remains in service at the ministry.
Sweden has not received any requests to extradite the woman to the US, according to Per Claréus, press secretary to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask.
He told TT that if the US was to send an extradition request, it would be refused.
The indictment (H/T Capitol Hill Cubans) alleges that Velázquez carried out the following overt acts:
  • September 1983: Traveled secretly to Mexico City, intending to meet Cuban agents, but they evidently did not show up.
  • Spring of 1984: Took Montes to dinner and told her she "had friends who could help Montes in Montes' expressed wish to assist the people of Nicaragua."
  • July 31, 1984: Wrote Montes a letter stating, "It has been a great satisfaction for me to have had you as a friend and comrade (compañera) during this time we've spent as students. I hope our relationship continues outside the academic sphere."
  • Fall of 1984: Invited Montes to travel with her from Washington, D.C., to New York "ostensibly to meet a friend who could provide Montes with an opportunity to assist the Nicaraguan people."
  • Dec. 16, 1984: Went with Montes by train to New York and met with a Cuban intelligence official who worked at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and was identified in the indictment only as "M." Velázquez later told Montes that "M" told Velázquez that Montes "would be one of the best."
  • Early 1985: Gave Montes and typewriter and instructed her to write a detailed biography, including a description of the Justice Department job she had at the time. The two again traveled to New York to meet with "M."
  • March 1985: Traveled with Montes to Spain on a purported vacation. Met with a Cuban man who supplied false passports. Traveled clandestinely from Madrid to Prague using the false passports. Met with two Cuban men, including an agent referred to only as "F." Picked up clothes at an apartment, then traveled with Montes and "F" to Cuba.
  • U.S.: Velázquez wanted to practice taking a lie detector test.
  • April 1985: Met with a Cuban agent referred to only as "A." The agent explained that no one met her in Mexico City in 1983 because Mexican authorities on Sept. 1, 1983, had arrested, detained and interrogated two Cuban officials who had been trying to meet with Cuban exiles from Miami. Velázquez and Montes "received Cuban Intelligence Service training, including instruction in receiving encrypted High Frequency radio broadcast messages of the Cuban Intelligence Service." Velázquez asked Cuban agents to give them "practice" polygraph exams "so that they would be able to pass polygraphs they might have to take in connection with future United States government employment." Cuban agents gave Velázquez a code name: Barbara. Velázquez and Montes traveled back to Spain, via Prague, posing for a photo in Madrid so they'd have evidence of their "vacation."
  • 1988: "Provoked a dispute with Montes and publicly broke off their relationship."
  • June 15, 1992: "Traveled to Panama to clandestinely meet with Cuban Intelligence Service officers and/or agents."
  • Mid-1996: "Received encryption/decryption software from the Cuban Intelligence Service, and used it for her clandestine communications with the Cuban Intelligence Service."
  • June 2002: Quit from her U.S. government job after Montes pled guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement. Since then, Velázquez has lived continuously outside the U.S.
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
FBI agents arrested Montes on Sept. 21, 2001.  (See FBI affidavit explaining case against her). She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and is now serving a prison term at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, a Texas facility that provides specialized medical and mental health services to female inmates. Her scheduled release date is July 1, 2023.
Velázquez, like Montes, is from Puerto Rico. She was born in the town of Ponce and grew up in the United States. Her degrees include:

  • A bachelor's degree in political science and Latin American studies from Princeton University.
  • A law degree from Georgetown University.
  • A master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, or SAIS.
The Daily Princetonian reported that Velázquez helped organize the Third World Center Cultural Festival at the school. The Dec. 13, 1976, issue of the Princetonian quoted her as saying:
We are all part of oppressed nationalities throughout the world. Here at the university, which is very conservative and white-male-oriented, if we can put together a performance as successful as this one was, it's almost unbelievable.
Velázquez: "We are all...oppressed..."
While at SAIS from 1982 to 1983, Velázquez was a legal intern at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The indictment says she:
  • Worked for the Department of Transportation from 1984 to March 1989, and had a SECRET security clearance. Unauthorized release of SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause "serious" damage.
  • Became an attorney adviser for USAID in March 1989, and had a TOP SECRET security clearance. Unauthorized release of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause "grave" damage. Her responsibilities at USAID included Central America.
  • Was posted at the U.S. Embassy in Managua from June 1990 to September 1994.
  • Worked for USAID in Washington from September 1994 to May 1998.
  • Was on leave without pay from May 1998 to June 2000 and lived with her husband in Sweden.
  • Returned to USAID in June 2000 and worked at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. She was director of the agency's Regional Office of Trade and Economic Analysis.
  • Left USAID in June 2002, but continued to live in Guatemala.
The indictment says Velázquez began spying for Cuba as early as 1983. It states:
From at least in or about 1983 and continuing until the present, within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, the defendant, Marta Rita Velázquez, also known as Marta Rita Kviele, also known as "Barbara", unlawfully combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to communicate, deliver and transmit, directly and indirectly, to the government of the Republic of Cuba and to representatives, officers, agents and employees thereof, documents, writings, and information relating to the national defense, with the intent and reason to believe that they would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of the Republic of Cuba, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 794(a).
Montes, right, at a party in Madrid. Photo: Washington Post
The indictment also gives background information about the Cuban Intelligence Service and explains the accusations against Montes. It states:
The Cuban Intelligence Service has long had an aggressive 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 role is that of agent - that is, a person who is not an employee of a hostile intelligence service (such as the Cuban Intelligence Service) but who is aware that he or she is working for that service and who is willing to engage in clandestine operational activity, including intelligence gathering, for that service.

An agent-in-place is a recruited agent who occupies a position in which he or she has authorize access to current intelligence information, and who acts under the direction of a hostile intelligence service so as to obtain such information for that intelligence service. In order to protect recruited agents, and maintain operational security, intelligence services often limit discernible contact between agents; this practice is called compartmentalization.

The Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York City, and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., are the principal establishments to which Cuban government officials having diplomatic immunity - including Cuban Intelligence Service officers - are assigned in the United States.

FBI: Belén used this "cheat sheet" to help her encrypt and decrypt messages.
The Cuban Intelligence Service often communicates clandestinely with its officers and agents operating outside Cuba by broadcasting encrypted radio messages at certain high frequencies; such clandestine communications were used by Ana Belén Montes and by some of the defendants convicted in June 2001 in the Southern District of Florida, in the case of United States v. Gerardo Hernandez, et al., 98-721-CR-Lenard, of committing espionage on behalf of Cuba and acting as unregistered agents of Cuba.
Ana Belén Montes is a United States citizen who was employed by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency (DAI) in Washington, D.C., as an intelligence analyst from September 1985 until September 2001; beginning in 1992, she specialized in Cuban matters. Between 1982 and 1984, Montes had been a part-time graduate student at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., together with defendant Velázquez. On September 21, 2001, Montes was arrested in the District of Columbia on charges of committing espionage against the United States on behalf of Cuba, in United States v. Ana Belén Montes, Criminal No. 02-131 (RMU). In a public proceeding on March 19, 2002, she pled guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and she stated that she agreed to cooperate with the United States government in its continuing investigation into Cuban espionage activities against the United States.
Ana Belén Montes receives an award. Photo: DIA
On April 18, the Washington Post published a fascinating story about Montes. Jim Popkin, a former NBC News reporter and senior investigative producer, wrote the piece. It was entitled, "Ana Montes did much harm spying for Cuba. Chances are, you haven’t heard of her." The story said:
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.