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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holy Crap! My Grandparents are Cuban Secret Agents.

Here's an interesting tale for all of us spy enthusiasts.

Two American citizens, a state official and his wife, were arrested by the FBI in a sting operation on
Friday June 5, 2009. They were charged with conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the Cuban government, providing classified information to that government, and wire fraud. As it turns out, they have acted as Cuban secret agents for the past 30 years. If they are found guilty, both of them—aged 72 and 71—may spend the next 20 years in prison. It may come as a surprise to many that the individuals didn’t have a family name that sounded like: Rodriguez, Alvarez, or Gutierrez. In fact, the two suspects are Walter and Gwendolyn Meyers. And from what was researched, they appear to have spent most of their lives living in the United States. This case illustrates that security threats from the inside are just as great, if not more dangerous, as security threats from the outside.
This threat is not only limited to the United States. Its friendliest neighbour—Canada—and Great Britain have also had their brush with home-grown threats. In the summer of 2005, four British nationals of foreign descent were identified as being directly involved in the bombings of the London subway. In Canada in the summer of 2007, the CSIS and the RCMP (Canada’s CIA and FBI respectively) successfully foiled a group of men and youths who plotted to bomb Toronto-area government buildings and also storm Parliament (1). Although the Canadian and British cases differ greatly in terms of violence compared to the case of the Meyers’, a commonality is that the suspects were all influenced by political ideologies which conflicted with those of their own country.
Although unrelated, this case may remind those of us that were around in September and October 1991, when anthrax-laden letters were mailed by US Biodefense Scientist, Bruce Ivins, killing five people. Ivins committed suicide afterwards, ending the first fatal case of a bio-attack in American history (Miller, Scientific American, November 2008, pages 20 and 22). Like Meyers, Ivins was also a senior government official. Similarly to the terrorists from Canada and the UK that were born in their respective countries, Ivins was born and raised in Lebanon—the one in Ohio(2)—and had access to some of the deadliest pathogens while he worked at Fort Detrick, Maryland. There has been speculation about Ivins’ motives his attacks, but nothing concrete. On the other hand he was clearly a disturbed individual, who unfortunately—like Walter Meyers—was a trusted government employee with senior-level clearance to sensitive material.
Having Ivins as an inside operative would be the wet-dream of many terrorist organizations and nations who have hostile intentions towards the west. God forbid that scientists that work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan to unleash a viral or microbial outbreak on any western nation in the near future, if the American Government does not act in accordance with their political beliefs.

Cuba is not an aggressive nation. However, the fact that the Meyers' were able to operate undetected for over thirty years is an embarrassing blow to the US Government. This is a reminder that although goods and services against a foreign country may be sanctioned, ideologies will still remain unaffected.

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