Is Ana Montes ‘the most important spy you’ve never heard of’?

Ana Belen MontesBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An extensive article published today in The Washington Post Magazine revisits the largely forgotten case of Ana Belen Montes, a senior United States military intelligence analyst who was convicted in 2002 of spying for Cuba. Montes, who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, DC, on September 20, 2001, underwent trial and sentencing in the shadow of 9/11, which might help explain the relative obscurity of her case. Still, as The Post article by Jim Popkin states, many intelligence observers view her as one of the most damaging double spies in recent American history. She entered government work as a clerk typist at the Department of Justice, and quickly received top-security clearance. It was from there that she moved to the Defense Intelligence Agency, America’s premier military intelligence organization, in September 1985. She rose meteorically through the ranks of the DIA, eventually becoming the Agency’s top Cuba analyst. Montes’ former colleagues report that she was known as “the Queen of Cuba”, a witty label that rested on her indisputable reputation as one of America’s most capable intelligence analysts on Cuba. She also came from a family with strong conservative credentials and strong connections with the US counterintelligence community. Her brother and sister were both FBI agents, and her former long-term boyfriend was a Cuban intelligence specialist for the Department of Defense. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #702

James BamfordBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA chief denies domestic spying allegations. In a rare break from the NSA’s tradition of listening but not speaking, National Security Agency chief General Keith Alexander was grilled last week on the topic of eavesdropping on Americans in front of a House subcommittee. The questioning from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) was prompted by Wired magazine’s cover story earlier this month on the NSA’s growing reach and capabilities. But author James Bamford (photo) and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake insist that the NSA is quietly building America’s the largest spy center in Utah, as part of a secret domestic surveillance program codenamed STELLAR WIND.
►►NY police says it monitored Iran operatives taking photos. Speaking before the US House Homeland Security Committee, Michael Silber, director of New York Police Department Intelligence Analysis, said New York City Police have observed Iranian operatives photographing key transportation sites at least six times since September 11, 2001. He gave an example of six men on an East River sightseeing cruise in 2005, who paired off with maps and cell phones while taking photographs and videos of the bridges over the river. The NYPD determined each was on the payroll of Iranian government, one employed at Iran’s mission to the United Nations.
►►Major Canadian Cold War era mole hunt operation revealed. Newly released archival records show that even the cream of Canada’s foreign service was not immune from scrutiny in a top secret RCMP investigation known as Operation FEATHER BED. The probe, which stretched from the late 1950s into the 1970s, saw RCMP security branch investigators pore over the backgrounds of possible Communist sympathizers in the public service and political sphere —including a future Mountie spy chief. There is no evidence the highly confidential investigation ever identified a Soviet agent.

News you may have missed #375 (analysis edition)

  • Analysis: Israel worried by new Turkey spy chief’s defense of Iran. Israel’s defense establishment, which maintains ties with Turkey’s national intelligence organization (MİT), is concerned over the recent appointment of Hakan Fidan as head of that organization, and the implications of that appointment vis-a-vis Turkish relations with Israel and Iran.
  • Analysis: How the CIA bolstered radical Islam during Cold War. The CIA’s battle with communism during the Cold War allowed radical Islamists to gain a foothold in Europe, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ian Johnson, entitled A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West.

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News you may have missed #353

  • Name of British Mossad agent handed to Interpol. Dubai police have identified another suspect in the January murder of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. He is reportedly a 62-year-old British citizen, who is believed to be currently hiding in western Africa.
  • Russia jails man for spying for the US. Gennady Sipachyov, a Russian whose age and profession have been kept secret by Moscow, has been sentenced to a four-year sentence for allegedly emailing secret military maps identifying classified Russian military infrastructure to the US Pentagon in 2008. Earlier this month, a Russian court rejected an appeal by another alleged US spy, Igor Sutyagin.
  • Bulgarian government wants to copy CIA. Bulgaria’s Defense Minister, Anyu Angelov, has proposed the merging of intelligence services to create a mega-structure of the CIA type. Meanwhile, a panel investigating Bulgaria’s communist-era police files has exposed two of the country’s former counterintelligence heads as former communist state security agents.

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News you may have missed #315

  • Nuclear bunker spy comes out of hiding. A British retiree named Mike Lesser has revealed he was one of the so-called “spies for peace”, a group of peace activists who in the 1960s helped uncover Britain’s secret network of underground bunkers built to protect the government in case of nuclear war.
  • Aussie spy agency spied on little girls. Secret files kept by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation reveal spooks tailed the teenage children of suspected socialists and communist sympathizers during the late 1960s, and anyone with whom they associated, including school friends and boyfriends.
  • Analysis: Under Panetta, a more aggressive CIA. Expectations among CIA hardliners were low when Leon Panetta arrived at the Agency’s headquarters in February 2009. But almost from the first week, Panetta positioned himself as a strong advocate for the CIA, to the extent that critics worry that Panetta has become a captive of the agency he leads.

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News you may have missed #0253

  • Iran undecided on nukes, says US military spy chief. The US Pentagon’s top intelligence official, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, has said what intelNews has been pointing out again and again, namely that the key finding of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran has not yet committed itself to nuclear weapons production, is still valid.
  • Nobel winner demands Germany uncover Romanian ex-spies. Herta Mueller, the Romanian-born German winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature, has called on Germany to find and prosecute former agents of Romania’s Securitate secret police, large numbers of whom have resettled in Germany after communism ended in Romania 20 years ago.

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Comment: Is There a ‘DNA Problem’ in US Spying?

Sam Tanenhaus

Sam Tanenhaus

By IAN ALLEN* | intelNews.org |
The controversy of the apparent ineffectiveness of US intelligence agencies to uncover the so-called Christmas Day bomb plot has reignited the discussion about the operational shortcomings of the US intelligence community. Sam Tanenhaus, editor of of The New York Times Book Review, has authored an interesting commentary, in which he delves into some of what he sees as the design deficiencies in American intelligence.

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