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Thu Jan 06 2005, 08:42PM Print
Better Smokin' Than Meth!
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Montes, 45, an American citizen of Puerto Rican descent, will serve a 25-year prison term if she cooperates with FBI and other federal investigators during the next six months, telling them what she knows of Cuban intelligence activities in the United States, according to terms of the plea agreement.

She officially pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit espionage, a crime that could have carried the death penalty.

Her attorney, Plato Cacheris, said Montes did not receive any money for her 15 years of work for the Cuban government, but instead was motivated by her personal sense of justice for the impoverished island nation.

"She engaged in these activities because of her belief that U.S. policy does not afford Cubans respect, tolerance and understanding," said Cacheris, who has represented several other high-profile clients accused of espionage. "She was motivated by her desire to help the Cuban people and did not receive any compensation."

Cacheris characterized the plea deal and aiding the U.S. government as "an attempt to help herself."

It was unclear today how much damage was done by Montes' work. The four agents she identified to the Cuban government are "alive and safe," according to U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr. Government officers who attended today's sentencing did not go beyond that, declining to say if they were aware of Cuba passing along the information to hostile countries or organizations.

Montes was born on a military installation in Germany. She was a 1979 graduate of the University of Virginia, and received a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in 1988.

She had joined the DIA, the 7,000-member U.S. agency that produces military intelligence about foreign countries, in 1985. She was assigned to analyze Cuban information in 1992. She lived alone in an apartment in the 3000 block of Macomb Street NW, drove her Toyota Echo to work each day at Bolling Air Force Base and went undetected until the fall of 2000.

Then, acting on an undisclosed break in the case, FBI agents began tracking her movements. They obtained court permission to break into her apartment, copy computer data and slip out undetected.

They found that Montes communicated with Cuba by high-frequency, encrypted transmissions that she picked up on a shortwave radio. Listening with an earpiece, she would copy down a series of numbers, each coming in a set of bursts. She would key those numbers into her Toshiba laptop, where a deciphering code given to her by Cuban intelligence officers would translate the numbers into Spanish language text.

She often sent information back by using pay phones in Northwest Washington and in Bethesda, to transmit similar encoded information to an electronic pager number. She paid for the long-distance calls by using a pre-paid calling card, preventing the numbers she dialed from appearing on an itemized bill.

"This was a classic case of espionage and counter-espionage," said Van A. Harp, director of the FBI's Washington field office.

The whole article's here.
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