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How an American couple came to be spies for Cuba

Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers were recruited from academia by Fidel Castro's intelligence service - one of the best in the world.

By Staff writer / June 6, 2009

Kendall Myers, a retired intelligence analyst at State Department headquarters (pictured here) and his wife Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, were arrested on charges of spying for Cuba. They used shortwave radio, Morse code, and grocery carts to pass US secrets to Cuban agents in a security breach one official described as "incredibly serious."

Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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A retired State Department official -- aided by a top security clearance, a shortwave radio, and his wife -- passed on secret information to the Cuban Intelligence Service for nearly three decades.

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That’s the gist of a grand jury indictment unsealed by federal prosecutors on Friday. The State Department is still working on a damage assessment, but federal prosecutor David Kris describes the alleged spy activity as “incredibly serious.”

The arrest of Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, is the latest in a series of high-profile Cuban spying cases. This latest federal indictment, the result of a three-year joint investigation by the FBI and State Department, came just days after Cuba accepted a US offer to renew talks on immigration.

"These talks are part of our effort to forge a new way forward on Cuba, that advances the interests of the United States, the Cuban people and the entire hemisphere," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press conference in San Salvador on June 1.

Spy case could stymie US-Cuba talks

But the Myers’s arrest is at the very least a stumbling block to any rapprochement.

On Friday, the State Department reported that Secretary Clinton has ordered a "comprehensive review" of security procedures and practices to protect sensitive and classified information and a "comprehensive damage assessment in coordination with the intelligence community.”

Citing Friday’s arrests, Rep. Mel Martinez (R) of Florida called on the Obama administration to postpone the talks with Cuba.

“Today’s arrest of two Americans alleged to have spied for Cuba is reason enough for the administration to halt any further diplomatic outreach to the regime including postponing the migration talks until the U.S. Congress has a full accounting of the damage these individuals have caused to our national security,” he said in a statement.

Myers recruited 30 years ago

Kendall Myers first traveled to Cuba in December 1978. He was 41 years old, a contract instructor at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute and, by his own account, a disillusioned man – driven to spy, not by a desire for money or other personal gain but by a changing attitude about the United States and its communist neighbor.

“I have become so bitter these past few months. Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience,” he wrote in a diary entry from the trip released in court documents Friday. “The abuses of our system, the lack of decent medical system, the oil companies and their undisguised indifference to public needs, the complacency about the poor, the utter inability of those who are oppressed to recognize their own condition.”

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