[Pnews] The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 23 12:45:08 EDT 2017


  The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes

by Susan Babbitt <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/susan-babbitt/>


Ana Belén Montes gave classified information to Cuba for 17 years before 
her arrest in 2001 for espionage. Pleading guilty, she avoided 
conviction for treason, which carries the death sentence. She is called 
“the most dangerous spy you’ve never heard of.”[i] She deserves to be 
known now.

Her story shows the personal cost of some truths. I don’t mean the 
suffering endured in prison, a predictable result of breaking US law. I 
mean the cost of believing, as US citizen and government employee, 
truths about US state terror, supported by evidence. The truths are 
well-known, or at least readily available. But they’re not easily 
believed, even when known to be true.

By the time Montes began spying for the Cubans, the US had been carrying 
out a ruthless “war against subversion” across Latin America for 
decades. The targets were anyone who resisted, or might resist, US 
hegemony in the region. Operation Condor, formed in the early seventies, 
enabled multinational death squads to carry out state-sponsored 
cross-border political repression.

Unionists, peasant leaders, party activists, students, teachers, 
priests, nuns – indeed, whole social sectors – were targets. The CIA 
provided new forms of torture. In Uruguay, for example, a “parallel 
apparatus” used homeless beggars for torture training. In a soundproof 
room, instructors demonstrated the effects on the body of electric 
voltage and chemical substances. The test subjects died.[ii]

In 2005, a special conference was organized in Havana on terrorism. 
Speakers from Latin America, the US and Europe presented research, often 
drawing upon declassified US documents, about CIA-inspired terror 
tactics of Operation Condor. The recurring theme, in presentation after 
presentation, was impunity: The data piles up. It is widely diffused. 
Yet somehow, in the public mind, it doesn’t matter.

The occasion for the conference was the entrance into the US of Louis 
Posada Carriles, jailed in Venezuela (he escaped) for master-minding the 
shooting down of a Cuban plane, killing all aboard (1976).  Posada 
confessed his responsibility to Ann Louise Bardach (/New York Times/). 
He walks free in the US despite the evidence. He celebrates his 
birthdays on camera, before the media.

In John Pilger’s documentary, /War on Democracy/, Pilger interviews 
Sister Diana Ortiz, a US citizen raped and beaten by US servicemen 
protecting the dictatorship in El Salvador. Ortiz says, “When I hear 
people express surprise about Abhu Graib [site of US torture in Iraq], I 
ask myself ‘What planet are they living on? Don’t they know the history 
of our country?’”

It’s not that they don’t know the history. It is that they possess the 
facts, know they are true, and don’t assimilate them. They /want/ to 
think the US is “leader of the free world”. It is not hard to see – 
thanks to books, documentaries, declassified documents, journal 
articles, and conferences – that US foreign policy has nothing to do 
with freedom and democracy. However, we have /to care /to know.

Ana Belén Montes says she doesn’t want to be treated as a hero. True, 
she shouldn’t have to be a hero. What she did was believe the obvious. 
She told the sentencing judge, “I engaged in the activity that brought 
me before you because I obeyed my conscience”.

In 1960, apolitical Beat poet, Leroi Jones, went to Cuba “determined not 
to be ‘taken’”. Returning to the US, in his famous “Cuba Libre”, he 
denounced the “thin crust of lie that we cannot even detect in our own 

Jones detected that “crust of lie” because of what he felt, in Cuba. He 
expected Cubans to be indoctrinated, even evil. Instead, he experienced 
them as happy, interesting and smart. He describes a feeling, a human 
connection. It contradicted his beliefs. He gave up the beliefs.

Jones could have dismissed his feelings as crazy, and maintained his web 
of beliefs. That would have been more comfortable, even praiseworthy. 
Instead, Jones returned to the US radicalized. The “thin crust of lie” 
was just that: a thin crust. There was more. Jones didn’t want to be 
living the entire hidden iceberg of lies.

The “thin crust of lie”, undetectable, explains a slogan of the anti-war 
movement: “There are no innocents”. It means that a comfortable white 
life was collusion in the slaughter in Vietnam. Lifestyles generate and 
nurture values and beliefs. They support myths making it easy to explain 
away truths, even obvious ones. We offer our daily consent, quietly, 

Ana Belén Montes could have dismissed what she knew to be true about the 
US war on democracy. She /is/, in the end, a hero just because of what 
she believed, because she has believed it, and because she continues to 
do so.

Fidel Castro said about Che Guevara after his death that Guevara 
insisted on the power of example. There’s a philosophical point here: We 
are interdependent creatures, always giving to and receiving from the 
beings, human and non-human, with whom we interact. It was Marx’s 
naturalistic vision of who we are as human beings: part of nature, 
dependent upon others even for thinking.

Such naturalism is expressed also by smart, sensitive thinkers across 
the ages. The Buddha was one, as was José Martí, leader of Cuba’s last 
independence war against Spain. It is simply a scientific fact that how 
we think depends, in ways we often do not know, on the people and 
stories we surround ourselves with. They speak to us silently, 
continually, at myriad levels. We don’t think alone, contrary to the 
liberal/libertarian myth that we live “from within”, hearing an “inner 

That “inner voice” is always the voice of others, indeed whole histories 
of others.

It’s why certain examples matter so much and why they’re worth working 
for. They may be all we have to see through the lies, well-known lies 
that they are. The hidden histories matter to what can be imagined, 
morally. It’s no surprise we haven’t heard about Ana Belén Montes. Such 
a significant example is hidden deliberately. The press, without 
evidence, suggests she was mentally ill.

Ana Belén Montes must no longer be hidden.

Speaking truth to power is relatively easy. Believing it is more 
challenging. Murdered Honduran activist Berta Cáceres said North 
Americans are too attached to our comfort. It affects moral imagination. 
For those of us who benefit from the US Empire, it is not possible to 
believe what is clearly true about that Empire without personal cost. 
It’s just the nature of reason and its dependence on surroundings.

The “thin crust of lie” gets ever thicker. We need the example of Ana 
Belén Montes more than ever. [iii]


[i] Jim Popkin /The Washington Post 
/ http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/04/18/ana-montes-did-much-harm-spying-for-cuba-chances-are-you-havent-heard-of-her/?utm_term=.d3e99f7d9503

[ii] J. Patrice McSherry, “Death squads as parallel forces: Uruguay, 
Operation Condor, and the United States”

/Journal of Third World Studies/. 24.1 (Spring 2007): 23

[iii] Useful sites:





/*Susan Babbitt* is author of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014)./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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