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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.

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At a meeting later that day, Kendall told the undercover agent that he opted to leave the State Department a year early because he had felt “more or less threatened” his last months at the State Department.

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“We have been very cautious, careful with our moves -- trying to be alert to any surveillance,” he said. The plan, he said, was to sail to Cuba on their sailboat. In an April 30 meeting, Kendall said that he and Gwendolyn are “a little burned out.”

“We lived with the fear and the anxiety for a long time, and still do,” he said.

“[We] would like to be a reserve army -- ready when we’re needed. But I think, honestly, we don’t want to go back into the regular stuff,” he said, according to court documents.

Cautious spies

Describing their activities, the Myerses said that the most secure way to transmit information to illegal agents was “hand to hand.” Kendall said that the best way to take information out from his job was “in your head.” He said that he kept notes locked in his office safe.

“I was always pretty careful. I didn’t usually take documents out,” he said.

Gwendolyn added her favorite way to pass information was by changing shopping carts in a grocery store, because it was “easy enough to do.” But she added that she wouldn’t do it now, because “now they have cameras.”

They told the undercover agent that their last personal contact with a Cuban agent was in Guadalajara in December 2005. Since then, they said they had received “lots of e-mails.”

In a court appearance on Friday, the couple pleaded not guilty to charges of serving as illegal agents of the Cuban government and wirefraud. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.

Extent of spying damage unknown

Federal prosecutors have not detailed the full scope of the intelligence that they say was passed on to Cuba. In the indictment, the Justice Department alleges that an analysis of Kendall Myers’s classified State Department work computer hard drive shows that from Aug. 22, 2006 until his retirement in 2007, he viewed more than 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports concerning Cuba.

But intelligence analysts say this could be just a small portion of the secret information he could have passed on to Cuba.

“We as a nation grossly underestimated how good Cuban intelligence services were and still are,” says Chris Simmons, a former US counter-intelligence official and founder of the Cuban Intelligence Research Center in Leesburg, Va.

“Cuba is an intelligence trafficker. Cuba knows that US secrets are a valuable commodity around the world. Their view is that intelligence is a commodity and it can and should be sold or bartered to anyone who has an appropriate offer, as long as Cuba can not be tied as a source of information,” he says.

Until this case moves forward, the full scope of the damage to national security won’t be known, he adds. “Once we start seeing the documents, we’ll be able to see how bad it was and where their areas of focus were.”

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