Commentary: Straight out of a spy novel

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/MCT)
Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/MCT) MCT

Cuban agent 202 was an American university professor who moved from South Dakota to Washington, D.C. — at the behest of the Castro government — to score a job with top-secret security clearance at the State Department.

Agent 123, also known as E-634, became an information systems director at a bank.

Agents 123 and 202 fell in love with the revolution and became spies for Cuba after visiting Havana in 1978. In the process, they betrayed their country and democracy.

They received instructions from their Cuban handlers through encrypted messages by short-wave radio – just like Carlos Alvarez, the former Florida International University professor, and his wife Elsa, an FIU counselor, who were caught snitching on exile groups in 2006.

The federal indictment filed Friday against Walter Myers, aka 202, and his wife, Gwendolyn, aka 123, has all the intrigue of a spy novel. After 9/11, when the couple feared getting caught in Washington handing over U.S. intelligence to the Cubans, they traveled to Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to tell the Cubans what they knew.

There were the brush-passes (quickie exchanges of information with Cuban handlers in public places); paroles (passwords between the agent and his or her handler to identify one other); Morse Code; false passports; aliases (Jorge and Elizabeth among them); meetings with the comandante Fidel himself (in Cuba in 1995); and water-soluble paper.

There will be those tempted to dismiss this latest spy case as a comedic Cold War relic, like a TV rerun of Get Smart.

But this case is closer to that of Ana Belen Montes, who spent 16 years as the top Cuba analyst at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. U.S. officials, who had been tracking her spy work for years, decided to put an end to her escapades after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Officials rightly feared Montes' security clearance enabled her to pass on war-on-terror information to Cuba to share with the Arab terrorist groups it has long supported. She's now serving a 25-year prison sentence.

We don't know yet what information Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers handed to Cuba's intelligence services over almost 30 years. There was Mariel in 1980, the 1994 rafter crisis, the hotel bombings in Havana, the crackdown on dissidents and independent journalists and librarians in 2003. Did these events have the Myers' fingerprints on them?

The indictment says Kendall Myers, whose work at the State Department involved Europe, viewed more than 200 intelligence reports about Cuba between August 2006 and his retirement in October 2007. Seventy-five of those reports, the majority marked secret or top secret, had absolutely nothing to do with his area of expertise as a senior analyst on European affairs.

President Obama is trying a new tack with Cuba – more engagement, less confrontation. But engaging Cuba will prove tricky.

Every time a U.S. president has attempted to do so, the Castro regime has ramped up some international ruckus – like the Angola war, the Mariel exodus, the rafter crisis.

Obama, who regales former presidents Lincoln and FDR, should learn about what not to do when engaging Cuba by reading up on Jimmy Carter's presidency. Carter did all he could to open up U.S.-Cuba relations – just as Castro was employing agents 202 and 123.

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