Press Release: Center for a Free Cuba Statement on the release of Ana Belen Montes

Press Release

Center for a Free Cuba Statement on the release of Ana Belen Montes

Contacts: John Suarez (612) -367-6845 and Janisset Rivero 786-208-6056

Washington D.C., January 6, 2023           

Center for a Free Cuba Foundation. Ana Belen Montes, the Pentagon’s top analyst for Cuba who was arrested on September 21, 2001 for spying for the Castro regime for 17 years will be released from a U.S. prison in a matter of hours. It is important to recall the damage that she did to U.S. national security, and her successful campaign as an agent of influence to downplay the threat Cuba poses to the United States, and other democracies in the region.

For example the information she passed to Havana, in 1987 got 65 U.S. allied Salvadoran soldiers in Central America killed, and at least one American.

Montes regularly briefed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council, and the State Department downplaying Cuban military capabilities, and providing their feedback to the Castro regime’s Intelligence Directorate (DI). 

Her actions during the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown on February 24, 1996, and the influence operation she conducted to direct blame away from Castro, and onto the victims, drew the attention of investigators.

Another example, she drafted a Pentagon report in 1997 stating Cuba had a “limited capacity” to harm the United States that Fidel Castro described as “an objective report by serious people.”

Montes managed to be selected as a team leader to analyze the effectiveness of U.S. air force bombing in Afghanistan after the September 11th attacks in 2001. Officials, rightly feared, that with Havana’s long history of selling secrets to enemies of the United States that if Montes obtained the Pentagon’s war plans for Afghanistan, that the Castro regime would pass it on to the Taliban, and this sped up her arrest.

The full extent of the damage that she did to the United States remains mostly classified as can be seen in the highly redacted damage assessment prepared by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense published on June 16, 2005.

At a congressional hearing in 2012, the woman charged with the damage assessment testified Montes was “one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history.” “Former National Counterintelligence Executive Michelle Van Cleave told Congress that Montes ‘compromised all Cuban-focused collection programs’ used to eavesdrop on high-ranking Cubans, and it ‘is also likely that the information she passed contributed to the death and injury of American and pro-American forces in Latin America,’” reported Jim Popkin in The Washington Post in 2013.

Retired FBI agent Peter Lapp, who led the covert operation against Montes, found the “most damaging non-human intelligence she provided to the Cubans”  was information about “a U.S. secret satellite program” that was so sensitive “that prosecutors were banned from using it had the case gone to trial.”  Information was not related to Cuba, but investigators believe that Fidel Castro passed it on to other regime’s hostile to the United States.

Montes with her Cuban handlers conducted an influence operation so effective that even after her arrest, the misleading analysis she provided continued to be repeated by policymakers. Her claim that Cuba posed no threat to the United States continued to circulate in government a decade after her arrest, and was used as the basis to request that President Obama remove Cuba from the list of state terror sponsors in 2013. 

“The damage done by Ana Belen Montes to both U.S. National Security and in the formulation of U.S. Foreign policy cannot be underestimated, nor the reality that she was not alone in infiltrating the U.S. government to work for a foreign power. American allies and friends and at least one American soldier were killed by the treachery committed by this foreign agent. Furthermore, the disinformation provided by her DI handlers that she inserted in U.S. government reports continued to have an impact on policy long after she went to prison,” observed Ambassador Otto J. Reich, currently president of the Center for a Free Cuba and former Assistant Secretary of State and member of the National Security Council staff.

“Yes, Ana Belen Montes did great harm and we should be vigilant to the ongoing threat by the Castro regime’s spies.”said John Suarez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.