Former State Department Official and Wife Plead Guilty in 30-Year Espionage Conspiracy
Former Official Agrees to Serve Life Prison Sentence
|U.S. Department of Justice November 20, 2009|
WASHINGTON—A former State Department official and his wife have pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from their roles in a 30-year conspiracy to provide classified U.S. national defense information to the Republic of Cuba.
The guilty pleas, which occurred today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, were announced by David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Channing D. Phillips, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director for the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Ambassador Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.
At a hearing before Judge Reggie B. Walton, defendant Walter Kendall Myers, 72, aka “Agent 202,” pleaded guilty to a three-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit espionage and two counts of wire fraud. His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, aka “Agent 123,” and “Agent E-634,” pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging her with conspiracy to gather and transmit national defense information.
As part of his plea agreement, Kendall Myers has agreed to serve a life prison sentence and to cooperate fully with the United States regarding any criminal activity and intelligence activity by him or others. As part of her plea agreement, Gwendolyn Myers has agreed to serve a sentence of between six and seven and a half years in prison and to cooperate fully with the United States.
Both defendants have agreed to the entry of a monetary judgment against them in the amount of $1,735,054. The assets that will be forfeited to the government towards satisfaction of that judgment include: an apartment in Washington, D.C., a 37-foot sailing yacht, a vehicle, and various bank and investment accounts.
“For the past 30 years, this couple betrayed America’s trust by covertly providing classified national defense information to the Cuban government. Today, they are being held accountable for their actions. These guilty pleas should serve notice that we remain vigilant in protecting our nation's secrets and in bringing to justice those who compromise them,” said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
“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 counterintelligence investigation that included unprecedented cooperation among multiple U.S. agencies, the Myers’s serious transgressions of compromising our nation’s classified secrets will now be appropriately addressed with significant prison sentences. Others who would think to compromise and jeopardize our nation’s security should be forewarned.”
“I want to thank the dedicated career investigators from the FBI and other members of the intelligence community who worked tirelessly to identify these spies. Espionage injures the country and these pleas today show the FBI will not rest in its effort to protect America,” said Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director for the FBI's Washington Field Office.
Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric J. Boswell stated, “Today’s guilty pleas are the culmination of an inter-agency effort to detect and aggressively pursue a serious breach in national security. The U.S. Department of State is committed to protecting our nation's secrets and bringing to justice those who betray America’s trust. The Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security will continue to work closely with its law enforcement colleagues in the FBI and other agencies to uncover and prosecute those involved in espionage activities.”
Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, residents of Washington, D.C., were arrested on criminal complaints on June 4, 2009. The following day, they were indicted in the District of Columbia for conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the Cuban government and to communicate classified information to the Cuban government. They were also charged with acting as illegal agents of the Cuban government and with wire fraud.
According to the plea agreements, factual proffers and other documents filed in court today by the United States:
Kendall Myers began working at the State Department in 1977 as a contract instructor at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Va. After living briefly with Gwendolyn in South Dakota, he returned to Washington, D.C., and resumed employment as an instructor with FSI. From 1988 to 1999, in addition to his FSI duties, he performed work for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). He later worked full-time at the INR and, from July 2001 until his retirement in October 2007, was a senior intelligence analyst for Europe in INR where he specialized on European matters and had daily access to classified information through computer databases and otherwise. He received a Top Secret security clearance in 1985 and, in 1999, his clearance was upgraded to Top Secret/SCI.
Gwendolyn Myers moved to Washington, D.C., in 1980 and married Kendall Myers in May 1982. She later obtained employment with a local bank as an administrative analyst and later as a special assistant. Gwendolyn Myers was never granted a security clearance by the U.S. government.
In December 1978, while an employee of the State Department’s FSI, Kendall Myers traveled to Cuba after being invited by a Cuban government official who had made a presentation at FSI. That Cuban official was an intelligence officer for the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS). This trip provided CuIS with the opportunity to assess or develop Myers as a Cuban agent. Myers kept a diary of his two-week trip to Cuba in which he explicitly declared his affinity for Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. The diary was recovered by the FBI in the investigation.
In 1979, Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers were visited in South Dakota by the same Cuban intelligence officer who had invited Kendall Myers to Cuba. During the visit, the Cuban intelligence officer recruited both of them to be clandestine agents for Cuba, a role in which they served for the next 30 years. Their recruitment by CuIS as “paired” agents is consistent with CuIS’s past practice in the United States. Afterwards, CuIS directed Kendall Myers to pursue a job at the State Department or the CIA to gain access to classified information. Kendall Myers, accompanied by his wife, returned to Washington, D.C., where he pursued a position at the State Department.
During the time frame in which Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers were serving as clandestine agents for Cuba, the CuIS often communicated with its clandestine agents in the United States by broadcasting encrypted radio messages from Cuba on shortwave radio frequencies. Clandestine agents in the United States monitoring the frequency on shortwave radio could decode the messages using a decryption program provided by CuIS. Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers communicated with CuIS by this method. The shortwave radio they used to receive clandestine communications was purchased with money provided by CuIS. The shortwave radio was later recovered by the FBI.
According to the court documents, in April 2009, the FBI launched an undercover operation against the pair. Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers met four times with an undercover FBI source, on April 15th, 16th, and 30th, and on June 4, 2009. The meetings were all video- and audio-taped.
During the meetings, Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers made a series of statements about their past activities on behalf of CuIS, including how they used code names and how they had transmitted information to their CuIS handlers through personal meetings, “dead drops,” “hand-to-hand” passes, and in at least one case, the exchange of shopping carts in a grocery store. The couple also stated that they had traveled to meet Cuban agents in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and other locations.
When asked by the undercover FBI agent if he had ever transmitted information to CuIS that was classified higher than Secret, Kendall Myers replied, “oh yeah…oh yeah.” He said he typically removed information from the State Department by memory or by taking notes, although he did take some classified documents home. Gwendolyn Myers admitted she would process the classified documents at home for delivery to their CuIS handlers. In the final meeting with the FBI source, Kendall Myers disclosed Top Secret national defense information related to sources and methods of gathering intelligence. He also admitted that he had previously disclosed the information to CuIS.
The admissions by Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers were corroborated by other evidence collected in the investigation. The FBI seized a shortwave radio in their apartment and confirmed overseas trips by the couple that corresponded to statements they made. The FBI also identified encrypted shortwave radio messages between CuIS and a handler for the couple that were broadcast in 1996 and 1997.
Furthermore, an analysis of Kendall Myers’ State Department computer revealed that, from August 22, 2006, until his retirement on Oct. 31, 2007, he viewed more than 200 intelligence reports concerning the subject of Cuba. Of these reports concerning Cuba, the majority was classified and marked Secret or Top Secret. The FBI also located handwritten notes by Kendall Myers reflecting the gathering and retention of Top Secret information which he intended to provide the CuIS, but never did.
Finally, since at least 1983 and until 2007, Kendall Myers made repeated false statements to government investigators responsible for conducting background investigations which determined his continued suitability for a Top Secret security clearance. By not disclosing his and his wife’s clandestine activity on behalf of CuIS and by making false statements to the State Department about their status as clandestine Cuban agents, he defrauded the United States whenever he received his government salary. Based on these false representations and promises, Kendall Myers obtained at least $1,735,054 in salary from the U.S. government for the benefit of him and his wife.
This investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Harvey, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Senior Trial Attorney Clifford I. Rones, from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.