Fourteen years ago today, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) published an unclassified assessment titled “The Cuban Threat to U.S. National Security.” In it, Ana Belen Montes, the primary author of the assessment, minimized Havana’s strategic abilities. Less than three and a half years later, Montes was arrested for espionage – the highest ranking Cuban spy ever imprisoned by the US government.
The unclassified DIA document concluded “Cuba has a limited ability to engage in some military and intelligence activities which could pose a danger…” In reality, Montes added the passing reference to Castro’s intelligence service only at the insistence of this author, with whom she coordinated her assessment. Her original draft omitted Cuba’s intelligence services. Montes’ very soft-line position attracted a lot of negative attention within DIA and at the Pentagon. In fact, before forwarding the assessment to Congress, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen took the extraordinary step of adding a transmittal letter highlighting his concerns regarding Cuban intelligence, Havana’s dismal human rights record, and nuclear and biological issues.
Amazingly, almost a decade after the conviction of this spy, the Pentagon press release regarding her infamous claim remains on-line (http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid= 1667). Thankfully, someone in the Public Affairs office took down two documents attached to the press release. So why didn’t the Pentagon finish the job and remove the press announcement as well? Researchers can find all three documents elsewhere on the Internet, as well as at the National Archives. The fact that this material remains on line at the Pentagon – without context – is offensive and embarrassing.