By Christopher Marquis
New York Times
September 22, 2001

The Pentagon's top intelligence analyst for Cuba, accused of spying for the Havana government, identified American agents to Cuban officials and revealed details about a top secret intelligence gathering system, government officials said today.

The analyst, Ana Belen Montes of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was charged on Friday with providing secret information to Cuba for at least five years.

One indication of the level of trust that Ms. Montes enjoyed in Washington was a trip to Cuba she took in 1998 with two senior aides to Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, a fierce foe of President Fidel Castro of Cuba. Mr. Helms was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at that time.

Ms. Montes is the highest American official accused of spying for Cuba. The case could go far in explaining how efforts by the United States to penetrate Cuba's tightly controlled society were thwarted in the last decade.

Ms. Montes, the chief Cuba analyst since 1992, was in a position to know "90 percent of what we're doing in Cuba on an intelligence front and everything we know about Cuba," said an official who follows Cuba. "It's the crown jewels, if you will."

Among those secrets was an intelligence-gathering operation known as a "special access program" that was so secret that the F.B.I. withheld its details in the criminal complaint. In a message that the F.B.I. partly recovered from her home computer, Ms. Montes said she and one colleague were "the only ones in my office who know about the program," the complaint said.

Ms. Montes also informed the Havana government when undercover American intelligence agents visited Cuba, compromising their contacts on the island, officials said.

Ms. Montes, who is 44 and single, was a fixture in foreign policy circles related to Cuba. Born at an American military base in Nuremberg, Germany, she graduated from the University of Virginia in 1979 and received a master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1988, the complaint said. In 1985, she was hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which provides Pentagon planners with information about foreign countries.

In 1990, Ms. Montes was one of several military intelligence officials who briefed Violeta Chamorro, then the new president of Nicaragua, about the activities and assets of the Cuban-backed Sandinista military, one participant in the briefing said.

Ms. Montes communicated with Cuban intelligence officials through coded computer and telephone contacts, the complaint said. She received instructions in numeric signals by short-wave radio broadcasts, it said.

The F.B.I. began watching her in May and built its case against her largely from materials retrieved from her home computer.

Appearing before a United States magistrate in Washington on Friday, Ms. Montes entered no plea. She is being held without bond.