Saturday, June 6, 2009

Septuagenarian Spy Discovered at State Department

The news that a 72-year old retired State Department analyst and his wife have been arrested for espionage on behalf of Cuba - serious matter though it is - has a nostalgic 1930s flavor, I think. From the facts released so far in the indictment and the State Department and FBI press releases, this is one of the very rare instances of genuine ideological motivation. That's something we haven't seen much of in Washington since the days when Communist Party members read the New Masses and raised volunteers for the Spanish Civil War.

Money, compromise/coercion, or ego normally play a big part in motivating espionage. They certainly did in the case of this seething mass of resentment, paraphilias and greed who was the last State Department official to be fired - but not prosecuted - for espionage. However, none of that appears to have played a role with Walter Kendall Myers, or with Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, who was the Natasia to his Boris. All indications are that the Myerses are a sober and straitlaced happily married couple who lived within their means and never did anything on the wild side, apart from espionage, that is, which they evidently approached as a charitable work.

Even their tradecraft was straight out of the 1930s. Getting messages in Morse code over a shortwave radio, taking notes on water-soluble paper, and making brush passes in grocery stores to transmit their notes to the Cubans, is all stuff that Alger Hiss might have done. Oh, towards the end they were getting into the Internet age by sending e-mail to Havana, but it looks like that switch to modern technology played a part in their downfall. The FBI agent who scammed the Myerses into thinking he was sent by the Cubans presented himself as the espionage computer help desk guy:

Authorities say [Gwendolyn's] comments came during a series of meetings with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban spy in April. The Myerses fell for the ruse, authorities say, sharing with the agent their views of Obama administration officials that had recently taken over responsibility for Latin American policy and accepting a device to encrypt future e-mail.

Maybe they should have stuck with that shortwave radio, after all.

We'll see whether there is any more to the story when the Myerses go to trial, but so far they look just like a replay of Lona and Morris Cohen.

No comments: