Alleged spy couple planned to sail 'home' to Cuba

Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, arrested two weeks ago, made a court appearance Wednesday.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Walter Kendall Myers (l.) and his wife, Gwendolyn Myers, are shown in this February 2009 handout image in Washington. They were arrested two weeks ago for spying for the Cuban government.
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Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, looked oddly out of place in their blue prison jumpsuits standing before a federal judge here on Wednesday.

White-haired and wearing glasses, they might blend more easily with fellow senior citizens in retirement.

Instead, both are facing trial on charges that they spied for Cuba for 30-years.

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In a case rife with unanswered questions about motives, payments, and the extent of damage done to US national security, one issue is crystal clear. This is not how the couple envisioned spending their golden years.

The plan, according to US counter-intelligence agents, was to sail their 37-foot yacht "home" to a heroes' welcome in Cuba. US agents discovered charts of Cuban waters and a notation in Mr. Myers' personal calendar that he planned to sail to the Caribbean this fall. There is no return date.

Instead, the couple, both in their early 70s, are now confronting the prospect of a long, complex trial on espionage conspiracy charges. If convicted, the sentencing guidelines suggest 14 to 17 years in prison.

Mr. and Mrs. Myers were arrested two weeks ago after meeting at the Capital Hilton with an undercover FBI operative posing as a Cuban intelligence officer.

The FBI undercover operation and surveillance of the couple apparently began more than a year ago, according to court documents. The unnamed undercover operative gained the couple's trust and prompted them to reveal much of their past service for Cuba's Directorate of Intelligence, according to an FBI affidavit. The undercover sessions were recorded and will likely form the backbone of the government's case at trial.

Myers retired in 2007 from his job as an intelligence analyst at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. During his last 14 months in that job, he viewed more than 200 intelligence reports dealing with Cuba, most of which were classified as secret or top secret.

After his retirement, Myers continued to work as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington.

The undercover FBI source made his first contact with Myers on the sidewalk in front of the school. Later, during a private meeting, the undercover source asked Myers if any of his students at SAIS might be useful recruits for Cuban intelligence. Myers said it was "unlikely," according to the FBI affidavit. "I don't trust any of them," he said.

The couple's court appearance Wednesday came as part of routine trial preparation. They have entered not guilty pleas and have agreed to mount a joint defense rather than hiring separate defense lawyers.

In his first significant motion, defense lawyer Thomas Green is asking US District Judge Reggie Walton to release his clients on a bond. The judge said he'd consider the request.

Last week a magistrate judge ordered the couple held without bond pending their trial.

Mr. Green said Mr. and Mrs. Myers could be subject to electronic monitoring and be ordered to stay 20 miles away from their yacht and at least 20 miles away from the Cuban Interests Section, Cuba's diplomatic representation in Washington housed in the Swiss embassy.

In ordering their continued detention, the magistrate judge said the government's case "seems at this point insuperable."

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