No Bail for Couple Accused of Spying for Cuba

This sketch depicts Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, during their detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington.
This sketch depicts Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, during their detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington. (Sketch By William J. Hennessy Jr.)
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 11, 2009

A magistrate judge denied bail yesterday to a retired State Department analyst and his wife who are accused of spying for Cuba, saying that there is a "very strong" case against them and that the couple would be tempted to flee.

The judge also noted that Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, had marked on their calendar a yacht trip to the Caribbean in November with no return date, indicating a possible escape plan.

"To put it bluntly, the government's case seems at this point insuperable," wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, in an opinion issued after a hearing in U.S. District Court.

Myers and his wife were arrested last week and pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, being agents of a foreign government and wire fraud. They are charged with spying for 30 years in a case filled with Cold War-style intrigue -- with the couple allegedly passing messages to Cuban agents via shortwave radio and by swapping shopping carts with Cuban agents in D.C. supermarkets.

Myers, a tall, bespectacled man with receding white hair, watched impassively as a federal prosecutor argued that he would be a "real and present danger to the United States" if he fled to Cuba. His wife, a petite former bank employee with long, blond-streaked hair, sat at his side. They were both dressed in baggy blue prison tops and pants.

Myers, known as Kendall, is a member of one of Washington's most prominent families and a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell. He holds a PhD in European history from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where he taught for more than 30 years.

The Myerses' attorney, Tom Green, said he was prepared "to acknowledge the strength of the case," although he said the details were "somewhat embellished" by prosecutors. He noted that the Myerses had not been charged with the more serious crime of espionage, and he argued unsuccessfully for the couple to be subject to house arrest, so they could visit with their four children.

The case has stunned Kendall Myers's former colleagues in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Myers worked as a European specialist in the bureau from 1999 until his retirement in 2007 and held a top-secret clearance.

"The bureau people are very angry about it. Really angry. But also bewildered," said Wayne White, who worked on Middle Eastern issues in the bureau for a quarter-century before retiring in 2005. "This seemingly intelligent and urbane person was convinced that Castro's Cuba was this terrific place?"

There has been no allegation that the Myerses received money for their activities. Instead, Kendall Myers apparently became enthralled by Cuba on a trip there in 1978. The couple allegedly had stopped sending information to the communist-ruled island in recent years, out of fear of being discovered.

But when contacted this spring by an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence officer, the Myerses spoke openly about their activities, in three sessions that prosecutors said yesterday were surreptitiously recorded on videotape.

"We really have missed you," Kendall Myers told the agent at one meeting, according to prosecution documents. "And you, speaking collectively, have been a really important part of our lives, and we have felt incomplete. I mean, we really love your country."

Prosecutors said yesterday that, in the last 15 months he was employed at State, Myers had secreted on his computer more than 200 classified intelligence documents related to Cuba.

The State Department and intelligence community are assessing any damage. Although Myers was not thought to have had the names of U.S. agents in Cuba, he did have access to databases with information from the CIA, the National Security Agency, the military and U.S. embassies, former colleagues said.

According to federal sentencing guidelines, the couple could spend 14 to 17 years in prison if convicted.

Facciola, the magistrate judge, noted that the evidence presented by prosecutors included shortwave messages to Cuban agents that mentioned the Myerses' code names, as well as the discovery in their home of a shortwave radio similar to those used by convicted Cuban spies.

Prosecutors said the couple had nautical charts for Cuba and had talked about taking off in their yacht to settle down in the land they called "home." The couple could face more charges as the investigation unfolds, prosecutors said.

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