U.S. rules out swap of jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
The Obama administration "has no intention" of releasing or swapping
jailed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes, according to a letter sent by the
U.S. Department of State to the House Permanent Select Committee on
The Aug. 19 letter, obtained by el Nuevo Herald, followed a number of
news reports pointing to the possibility of freeing Montes — a top
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst on Cuban affairs who is
serving a 25-year prison sentence — in exchange for Cuba handing over
American fugitive Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard.
The letter, addressed to committee chairman U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes,
R-Calif., says the State Department "want(s) to assure you that the
United States government has no intention of releasing or exchanging
Nunes had written to Obama on July 12 urging the president not to
release or swap Montes, calling her "one of the most brazen traitors in
U.S. history." The State Department wrote that it was "responding on the
Montes, one of the top foreign spies captured in recent years, authored
some of the key U.S. intelligence assessments on Cuba. She was arrested
in 2001 and was sentenced in 2002 after she pleaded guilty to spying for
Cuba throughout her 16 years at the DIA.
"Montes was — and remains — unrepentant. She betrayed the public trust,
the security of the United States and her oath to support and defend the
constitution while remaining loyal to the Castro brothers in Havana,"
Nunes wrote. "Ana Belen Montes richly deserved her 25-year prison
sentence, and must serve every day of it."
Montes, who is of Puerto Rican descent, declared in a 2015 interview
with the blog Cayo Hueso, which supports the Cuban government, that she
has not changed. "I will not be silenced. My commitment to the island
cannot be ignored," she was quoted as saying.
Nunes' letter noted that because of her senior post at DIA, Montes has
compromised every single U.S. intelligence collection program that
targeted Cuba, revealed the identity of four covert U.S. intelligence
agents who traveled to Cuba and provided Havana with information that
could have wound up in the hands of other U.S. enemies.
"In short, Montes was one of the most damaging spies in the annals of
American intelligence," the committee chairman wrote.
The State Department replied that it "shared" Nunes' concerns "regarding
national security and the importance of safeguarding classified
information. The department is dedicated to taking all possible steps to
protect against and to prevent the unauthorized release of classified
Nunes' letter to Obama followed a round of news reports about a possible
swap of Montes for Shakur, a member of the former Black Panther Party
and Black Liberation Army who is wanted in the shooting death of a New
Jersey state trooper. She lives in Cuba as a political refugee.
During a meeting in June with U.S. officials, their Cuban counterparts
mentioned their desire to see Montes released as part of a prisoner
swap, according to the published reports. Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez
also urged Montes be released during an April concert in Spain.
Committee member U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, said
she does not trust Obama's intentions or the State Department promise.
The Obama administration also promised Congress it would not swap five
other convicted Cuban spies from the so-called Wasp Network, promises
"that we now know to have been false," she said. The last three spies
still in U.S. prisons were freed on Dec. 17, 2014, the day Obama
announced a thaw in U.S. relations with Havana.
Ros-Lehtinen also noted that Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress
in 2013 that the Obama administration would not swap spies for Alan
Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Havana. He was freed on
Dec. 17, 2014.
"When it comes to U.S. foreign policy with Cuba, the Obama
administration cannot be trusted."
Source: U.S. rules out swap of Ana Belen Montes for Joanne Chesimard |
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