D.C. Couple's Disdain for U.S. Policies May Have Led to Alleged Spying for Cuba

Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, allegedly told an undercover FBI agent that their hope was to take their yacht to Cuba, "to sail home."
Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, allegedly told an undercover FBI agent that their hope was to take their yacht to Cuba, "to sail home." (By Daniel De Vise -- The Washington Post)
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By Mary Beth Sheridan and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 7, 2009

He was a courtly State Department intelligence analyst from a prominent family who loved to sail and peruse the London Review of Books. Occasionally, he would voice frustration with U.S. policies, but to his liberal neighbors in Northwest D.C. it was nothing out of the ordinary. "We were all appalled by the Bush years," one said.

What Walter Kendall Myers kept hidden, according to documents unsealed in court Friday, was a deep and long-standing anger toward his country, an anger that allegedly made him willing to spy for Cuba for three decades.

"I have become so bitter these past few months. Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience," he wrote in his diary in 1978, referring to what he described as greedy U.S. oil companies, inadequate health care and "the utter complacency of the oppressed" in America. On a trip to Cuba, federal law enforcement officials said in legal filings, Myers found a new inspiration: the communist revolution.

Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of conspiracy, being agents of a foreign government and wire fraud. Their arrest left friends and former colleagues slack-jawed, unable to square the man depicted in the indictment with the witty intellectual with a prep-school background they knew. The Myerses never talked about Cuba or gave any hint of subversive activities, acquaintances said.

"Anyone who knows him finds it baffling and finds this completely out of character," said David P. Calleo, director of European studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, a friend of Myers for nearly 40 years. "He has this amazing intellectual curiosity. He is open to all kinds of ideas."

Larry MacDonald, who lives at the marina in Anne Arundel County where the Myerses docked their 38-foot sloop, said the couple were admired for their intelligence and graciousness: "When I heard they were arrested, I felt like they had arrested Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny."

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in an article published yesterday on the CubaDebate Web site that, if news reports about the Myerses were true, "I can't help but admire their disinterested and courageous conduct on behalf of Cuba."

The State Department and intelligence community are investigating how much damage the alleged spying may have done. Myers had worked as a European political expert for more than 20 years at the State Department, and had been associated with its Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1988 until his retirement in 2007.

James Cason, who headed the U.S. interests section in Cuba from 2002 to 2005, said the case is serious because Myers had one of the highest clearances. "If you can get someone into the intelligence bureau, you can have access to everyone's intelligence, not only ours but of allies. The question is, what did they [Cuba] do with it?" he said. "Did it stay with them, or was it given to other countries, as well?"

But an official who previously worked in the bureau said the case is probably not as damaging as that of Aldrich Ames, the CIA counterintelligence chief who passed along extensive information about U.S. intelligence operations to Russia. Myers would not have had access to the names of U.S. spies in Cuba, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Falling in Love With Cuba

Myers, who goes by Kendall, grew up in Washington, the eldest of five children. His father, Walter, was a renowned heart surgeon; his mother, Carol, was the daughter of Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the longtime former president of the National Geographic Society, and was the granddaughter of inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Myers went to prep school at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania and graduated from Brown University. He went on to get a doctorate in European history from the Johns Hopkins SAIS.

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