Accused Cuban Agent Marta Rita Velázquez Allegedly Sought Polygraph Training from Cuban Intelligence Service

The Princeton Alumni Weekly identifies the woman on the right as Marta Rita Velázquez as a student on 18 March 1977.
The Princeton Alumni Weekly identifies the woman on the right as Marta Rita Velázquez (class of 1979) at an anti-apartheid demonstration in 1977.

On 25 April 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed the existence of a previously sealed indictment (455 kb PDF) against former U.S. Agency for International Development employee Marta Rita Velázquez, who is charged with a single count of conspiracy to commit espionage. The indictment alleges that it was Velázquez who recruited Ana Belen Montes, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s senior Cuba analyst who in 2002 pled guilty to spying for Cuba. The indictment was secretly issued on 5 February 2004, and an arrest warrant was issued the following day. According to Jim Popkin of the Washington Post, Velázquez lives in Sweden, whose extradition treaty with the United States “does not allow extradition for spying.”

The indictment recounts details of an alleged trip to Cuba that Velázquez and Montes made together in 1985 to received training from the Cuban Intelligence Service, including the following item:

(19) In or about early April 1985, while clandestinely in Cuba, defendant VELÁZQUEZ, with Montes, asked the Cuban Intelligence Service to give them “practice” polygraphs so that they would be able to pass polygraphs they might have to take in connection with future United States government employment.

The indictment provides no further details regarding any polygraph instruction received, but a recent Washington Post magazine feature article (also by Jim Popkin) about Ana Belen Montes indicates that such training was indeed provided:

Her tradecraft was classic. In Havana, agents with the Cuban intelligence service taught Montes how to slip packages to agents innocuously, how to communicate safely in code and how to disappear if needed. They even taught Montes how to fake her way through a polygraph test. She later told investigators it involves the strategic tensing of the sphincter muscles. It’s unknown if the ploy worked, but Montes did pass a DIA-administered polygraph in 1994, after a decade of spying.

For discussion of the Montes case, see Source: Cuban Spy Ana Belen Montes Passed DIA Polygraph on the message board.

Cuban Spy Nicolás Sirgado Passed CIA Polygraph Three Times

Cuban Interior Ministry Officer Nicolas Sirgado (1935-2013)
Cuban Interior Ministry Officer Nicolas Sirgado (1935-2013)

On 17 April 2013, Cuban intelligence officer Nicolás Alberto Sirgado Ros1 died at the age of 77 years according to a short notice published on 19 April by Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. Cuban website CubaDebate published a lengthier profile of Sirgado, noting that he worked as a double agent for Cuba against the CIA for ten years beginning in 1966. Miami-based website CafeFuerte also profiles Sirgado, adding that “on three occasions, he was subjected to lie detector testing, without his real mission being discovered.”

Sirgado discussed his experience working against the CIA in an interview transcribed in a document titled “CIA: Cuba Accuses” that was published in English in Cuba in 1978. When asked “Did they ever use a lie detector on you?” Sirgado replied:

Yes, they used a lot of security measures. They used the lie detector three times. Sometimes there were lie detector sessions that were more than two and a half hours long.

Clearly, the CIA’s aim in using this method is not so much to find out whether or not you’re lying as to break you down, humiliate you, impose machine over mind.  Whether or not it’s effective, the method really seeks to humiliate and denigrate.  It’s a reflection of this espionage organization, built upon mistrust and of the lack of moral values to support its activities.

Sirgado is not the only Cuban double agent to fool the polygraph. DIA officer Ana Belen Montes passed the polygraph at least once while spying for Cuba. And former CIA officer Robert David Steele writes, “Two of my classmates got wrapped up in Cuba (and appeared on international television) because the Cuban double-agents all managed to pass the polygraph.”

Make-believe science yields make-believe security.

  1. The Granma article provides “Ross” as his maternal family name, but this appears to be a clerical error. []

“Cuban Spy Passed Polygraph at Least Once”

Miami Herald Washington correspondent Tim Johnson reports. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – Even though confessed Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes already outwitted a lie-detector test, the government plans to rely on polygraph exams to check her honesty as they debrief her about her 16-year spying career while working for U.S. military intelligence.

Montes took a polygraph examination at least once during her career as an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency, her attorney says.

”At the time she was polygraphed, she passed it,” said prominent Washington attorney Plato Cacheris, who added that he did not know when the exam was given.

Critics of polygraph exams, which are designed to snare liars, say they are astounded that U.S. officials would rely on them to determine if Montes is telling the truth.

”Isn’t this incredibly ironic?” asked Drew C. Richardson, a retired FBI agent who wrote a doctorate dissertation on polygraph research. “She beats the polygraph and now we’re going to use a polygraph to assess the damage? It’s utterly, unbelievably stupid.”

Montes, 45, is the most senior spy for Cuba ever caught. FBI agents arrested her Sept. 21 at her workplace. In a plea agreement with the Justice Department, Montes confessed March 19 to spying for Cuba and offered to reveal all details of her betrayal to investigators before her Sept. 24 sentencing. If polygraph exams show that she has been honest and candid, she will get a 25-year jail term, with five years of parole.

Montes isn’t the first turncoat in the U.S. intelligence community to beat the polygraph, or lie-detector, exam, and her case is sure to add to controversy over whether the government can rely on the polygraph to catch spies.

Some critics assert that the polygraph tests lure counterintelligence units into a false sense of security, and should be abandoned for other methods.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, which is the preeminent military intelligence arm of the Pentagon, declines to say whether — or when — Montes was given a polygraph exam after her hiring in September 1985. It also refuses to provide details of results of any exams given to Montes.

”All DIA employees are subject to polygraphs,” said an agency spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Brooks, declining further details.

For discussion of the Montes case, see the discussion thread Source: Cuban Spy Montes Passed DIA Polygraph.

“Top U.S. Analyst Admits to Spying for Cuba”

Knight-Ridder Washington correspondent Tim Johnson reports in an article published in the Miami Herald on the guilty plea of DIA analyst Ana Belen Montes, who was recruited by Cuban intelligence even before she began her DIA career. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – A senior U.S. intelligence analyst, Ana Belen Montes, admitted in federal court on Tuesday that she was a longstanding spy for Cuba, burrowing a long and deep tunnel through the ranks of the U.S. intelligence community and unmasking at least four U.S. covert agents to Havana.

In new revelations, the Justice Department said Montes was already working for Havana when she began as a junior analyst at the DIA in 1985, suggesting that Cuban spy-masters may have directed her career to the most sensitive sanctuaries of U.S. intelligence.

Her recruitment, when she was in her late 20s and still a graduate student, and her climb to senior ranks of the DIA, where she helped draft a 1999 finding that Cuba no longer presents a military threat to the United States, revealed the meticulous tradecraft of Cuban intelligence in directing her, experts said. Still unanswered is how she could have remained undetected so long as a spy in the DIA.

After the arrest last year of FBI Robert Hanssen — who gave intelligence to the Soviet Union, and Russia, while running U.S. counter-intelligence operations at the bureau — FBI investigators were chagrined to learn that he had never been given a polygraph test.

The FBI is now seeking about $7 million from Congress to hire more polygraph test experts, and require every FBI employee granted a security clearance to take one.

“Pentagon’s Top Cuba Expert Pleads Guilty to Espionage”

Tim Golden of The New York Times reports on the case of Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Ana Belen Montes, who according to court documents was already working for the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence when she joined the DIA in September, 1985. If Montes was ever subjected to a counterintelligence-scope polygraph “test,” then it would appear that like CIA spies Aldrich Ames and Larry Wu-tai Chin, Montes beat the polygraph. Reporter Golden notes that Montes “is obliged to submit to extensive debriefings and lie-detector tests by American intelligence and law-enforcement officials who will try to assess the damage she caused to national security.”

For discussion of the Montes case, see the message board thread, DIA Analyst Charged with Spying for Cuba.

See also Neely Tucker’s Washington Post article “Defense Analyst Pleads Guilty to Spying for Cuba.”