EX- DOD(DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE) OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF SPYING FOR CUBA

GREETINGS,
“FBI investigated ex-defense official for espionage
A former Department of Defense official accused of lying about a trip to Cuba was also investigated for espionage — but never charged — by the FBI.
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A Cuban American who lost a senior job at the Navy War College after he was convicted of lying about a trip to Havana was also investigated for espionage, according to an FBI document.

Alberto Coll was never charged with espionage, and has long denied any wrongdoing beyond the 2004 trip, which he declared was to see a sick aunt. His lawyer acknowledged he had visited a “girlfriend.”

Five years after the trip, the Department of Justice refuses to release details of the investigation of the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, saying the files are classified as “secret.”

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Walter Kendall Myers spent more than two decades deep in the bureaucracy of the U.S. State Department until this week, when federal authorities accused him of a life of intrigue and espionage as a clandestine agent for one of the United States’ longtime antagonists: the communist government of Cuba.

The 72-year-old retired State Department employee — who had enjoyed top-secret security clearance — and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, appeared in federal court Friday, charged with serving as illegal agents for Cuba for nearly 30 years and conspiring to deliver classified information to its government. They pleaded not guilty.

According to documents unsealed Friday in Washington, Myers, a former analyst on Europe for the State Department, and his bank employee wife agreed in 1979 to deliver U.S. secrets to Cuba.

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The filings in the case of the Washington couple accused of spying for Cuba for almost three decades paint a Cold War-esque picture of their lives.

Investigators found a copy of the spy-lore book in the apartment of Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn. The 1957 anthology was compiled by Our Man In Havana author Graham Greene — a former British intelligence officer — and brother Hugh.

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The apartment where two accused Cuban spies live is just 2.6 miles from the Cuban government’s equivalent of an embassy — too close for authorities to stop them if they tried to flee there, a U.S. magistrate said Wednesday. He ordered the couple jailed until trial.

”Once they enter that building,” U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola wrote in his detention order, “they will have effectively fled from the United States.”

Former State Department employee, Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, have been held without bond since pleading not guilty last week to charges of wire fraud, serving as illegal agents for Cuba and conspiring to deliver classified information.
By JUAN O. TAMAYO
jtamayo@MiamiHerald.com
Alberto Coll, a Cuban American who lost a senior job at the Navy War College after he was convicted of lying about a trip to Havana, was also investigated for espionage, according to an FBI document.

Coll was never charged with espionage, and has long denied any wrongdoing beyond the 2004 trip, which he declared was to see a sick aunt. His lawyer acknowledged he had visited a “girlfriend.”

Five years after the trip, the Department of Justice refuses to release details of the investigation of the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, saying the files are classified as “Secret.”

In a response to a Miami Herald request for all FBI records on his case, a bureau official wrote an Aug. 25 declaration explaining why the documents were classified.

“Specifically, the FBI’s investigation focused on espionage and censorship in violation 18 USC 793, fraud and false statements in violation of 18 USC 1001 and foreign registration act” wrote David M. Hardy, head of the Record/Information Dissemination section at FBI headquarters’ Records Management Division.

The “foreign registration act” requires agents of foreign governments to register with the State Department, and is sometimes used to accuse spies.

Coll told The Miami Herald in a telephone interview Wednesday that he was aware of how the investigations into his actions began, but insisted he did nothing wrong other than lying about the visit.

“We have known that’s the kind of investigation the government started,” Coll said. “In the case of Cuba, the [U.S.] government is going to investigate everything, including the possibility of espionage. . . Obviously, at the end of the day, there was no evidence.”

Coll, who was born in Cuba in 1955 and came to the United States in 1969, served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflicts under President George H. Bush, and later as head of the strategic studies department at the Navy War College in Rhode Island. He held a secret clearance in both jobs.

PLEADING GUILTY

On June 7, 2005, he pleaded guilty to the charge of lying about his trip to Cuba. He was sentenced to one year’s probation and received a $5,000 fine, left the War College and now teaches at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. The majority of people accused of illegal travel to Cuba face fines, not criminal charges.

Although he was perceived as a conservative when he worked at the Pentagon, while at the War College he often advocated for improved U.S. relations with Cuba. After his conviction, he continued to argue for easing or lifting U.S. sanctions on the island.

A month after his conviction, The Miami Herald filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all documents related to his case held by the Justice Department. The department answered that no documents could be released because of Coll’s right to privacy.

The Herald filed suit in U.S. court in Miami arguing that the documents were part of a criminal investigation that should be made public; that Coll has a much diminished right to privacy because his government jobs and advocacy on Cuba issues makes him a public figure; and that the investigation relates to his position as a public figure.

PAPERS UNDER SEAL

The Justice Department turned over several documents to Judge Adalberto Jordan last year, but asked they be kept under seal for his review on what documents or parts of documents could be made public. And on Aug. 25 the department filed a memorandum arguing a broad range of reasons for why no part of the documents should be made public.

Among those reasons were the need to protect: the privacy of Coll and others; “the interest of national security or foreign policy;” “internal personnel rules and practices of a [government] agency;” confidential sources and information; techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations and prosecutions; personnel and medical files.

“In the absence of bad faith, or some other compelling showing that there has been an abuse of discretion, Court should not second guess the agency’s judgement,” the memo added.

In a 2006 book, Washington Times defense writer Bill Gertz described Coll as “an apparent spy” and said officials had told him they believed Coll had been “recruited” by Cuba. The book, Enemies: How America’s Foes are Stealing Our Vital Secrets and How We Let it Happen, offers no evidence and doesn’t say Coll leaked any secrets.

“The FBI has a job to do. . . investigate wild, scandalous allegations,” said Coll’s Rhode Island defense attorney, Francis Flanagan. “Simply put, if you investigate someone for murder and they are not found culpable, they call that an innocent man.” “

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