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8 Jan, 2023 15:34

‘Queen of Cuba’ spy released from US jail

Ana Montes has served more than 20 years for espionage on behalf of Havana
‘Queen of Cuba’ spy released from US jail

Ana Montes, described as “one of the most damaging spies” in US history, has been released from federal prison in Texas. The double agent for Cuba was freed on Friday after more than 20 years in custody, data on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows.

Montes, now 65, made a solid career with the US government, initially working for the US Department of Justice before joining the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) back in 1985. She ultimately became a senior intelligence analyst for Cuba –even scoring a nickname the ‘Queen of Cuba’– and worked in this role until her arrest in 2001, days after the 9/11 attacks.

It turned out that Montes had been spying for Cuba throughout her whole government career, as she had been recruited by that country’s intelligence when she was a student at Johns Hopkins University. Officials at the time said it was believed that the Cuban Intelligence Service (CIS) had pushed her to pursue the DIA career in the first place.

As a double agent, Montes is believed to have funneled highly-sensitive information to the CIS for nearly two decades. According to federal charging documents, Montes was very careful, never taking classified information from her work computer but memorizing it instead, as well as using water-soluble, easy to destroy paper to deliver the data to her Cuban handlers.

According to the Bush-era US Counterintelligence head Michelle Van Cleave, Montes has become “one of the most damaging spies the United States has ever found,” who has compromised “virtually everything” Washington knew about Cuba.

In 2002, Montes pleaded guilty to espionage charges which could have carried the death penalty for her, yet was ultimately sentenced to 25 years in prison under a plea deal. According to her lawyers, Montes was primarily motivated for spying by a belief that “the Cubans were treated unfairly by the US government.”

Commenting on the release of Montes, Republican hardliner Senator Marco Rubio urged Americans to remember the double agent “for who she really is,” suggesting that she should not be forgiven, even after serving her sentence.

“Montes betrayed our nation, but not for money. In fact, she never received payment for any of her actions – astonishingly, she was motivated purely by hatred for America,” Rubio wrote in an op-ed penned for Americano Media.

On her release, Montes is set to remain under supervision for five years, according to her sentence. She will be banned from working for government or  contacting ‘foreign agents’ without special permission, while internet access will be closely monitored by the authorities.

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