One of highest ranking US spy for Cuba released after 20 years behind bars

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Ana Belen Montes, one of the highest-ranking US officials ever proven to have spied for Cuba, has been released from prison early, the US Bureau of Prisons confirmed Friday, after she spent more than two decades behind bars.

Montes, 65, had in 2002 pleaded guilty to con-spiracy to commit espionage after she was accused of using her leading position as a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) official to leak information, including identities of some US spies, to Havana.

Aged 45, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison. A US citizen of Puerto Rican descent, Mon-tes began working for the DIA in 1985 and rapidly climbed its ranks to become the agency’s top Cuba analyst.

Prosecutors said during this time Montes re-ceived coded messages from Havana over a short-wave radio as strings of numbers, which she would type onto a decryption-equipped laptop to translate to text.

She was accused of supplying the identity of four US spies to Cuba, as well as other classified infor-mation.

Montes was arrested on Sept. 21, 2001, shortly before the United States invaded Afghanistan. Her lawyer, a leading espionage specialist, had argued she had cooperated without reservation.

At her sentencing a year later, Montes argued that she had obeyed her conscience and that US policy to Cuba was cruel and unfair. “I felt morally obligated to help the island defend itself from our efforts to impose our values and our political system on it,” she said.

Ricardo Urbina, the sentencing judge, ruled she put fellow US citizens and the “nation as a whole” at risk.—AFP