November 21, 2009 in Nation/World

Couple going to prison for roles as Cuba spies

Both enter guilty pleas, cite conduct ‘of conscience’
Lesley Clark McClatchy
 

WASHINGTON – A retired State Department employee will spend life in prison without parole after he and his wife pleaded guilty Friday to serving as covert agents for Cuba for three decades.

Walter Kendall Myers, 72 – known to his Cuban handlers as “Agent 202” – agreed to a life sentence without parole and to cooperate with the federal government.

His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71 – known as “Agent 123” and “Agent E-634” – agreed to a sentence of between six years and 7 1/2 years in prison and also will continue to cooperate with the government.

Prosecutors said the tough sentences – which will be imposed in April after the couple brief government investigators – should send a warning to others looking to divulge state secrets.

“Today’s guilty plea and impending sentence close the book on this couple’s contemptuous betrayal of our nation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips. “Thanks to a well-planned and executed coun-terintelligence investigation that included unprecedented cooperation among multiple U.S. agencies, the Myerses’ serious transgressions of compromising our nation’s classified secrets will now be appropriately addressed with significant prison sentences.”

The pair also agreed to pay the government $1.7 million – the salary Walter Kendall Myers made while working at the State Department. They’ll forfeit their Washington apartment, a 37-foot sailboat and various bank and investment accounts.

Through their lawyer, Bradford Berenson, the Myerses said they pleaded guilty to conduct they undertook “not out of selfish motive or hope of personal gain, but out of conscience and personal commitment.”

The case presented by prosecutors was something out of spy novel, complete with code names, messages delivered via shortwave radio and shopping carts in the local supermarket.

Prosecutors say the Myerses first agreed to serve as clandestine agents for Cuba in 1979, with Walter Kendall Myers securing a job at the State Department to pass along information he obtained on the job.

In a search of the Myerses’ home, investigators say they found a shortwave radio, sailing charts for Cuban waters, a travel guide to Cuba and a book titled “On Becoming Cuban.”

Prosecutors also say that in 2006 and 2007, Walter Kendall Myers used his State Department computer to view more than 200 intelligence documents relating to Cuba, though Myers’ area of expertise at the department was Western Europe.


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