Saturday, November 21, 2009

Retired State Department Official Pleads Guilty to Espionage

From the FBI press release (Former State Department Official and Wife Plead Guilty in 30-Year Espionage Conspiracy):

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. [TSB note: that amount is reportedly the salary Myers was paid over the course of his employment by the U.S. government.] 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.

-- snip --

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.

The Washington Post's story on the sentencing (here) reported this courtroom statement by the Myerses attorney:

The couple's attorney, Bradford Berenson, said in a statement after the hearing that the Myerses were not motivated by greed but spied "out of conscience and personal commitment."

"They always understood that they might someday be called to account for that conduct and always have been prepared to accept full responsibility for it," the statement said. "They have done so today."

I'd like to learn more about the "conscience and personal commitment" that compelled this haute bourgeoisie couple to commit espionage for Cuba. What was going on in the United States in 1978, the year the Myerses began their espionage, that so offended their consciences? Did they find the Carter administration to be an unbearable capitalist imperialist warmongering hegemon? Unlikely.

Why would the Myerses be personally committed to serving the communist regime in Cuba? Surely they didn't think that would make the world a better place, since by 1978 there were really no Marxist true believers left in America. The Marxist idea was already undergoing autopsies by radical historians who had been left behind when its intellectual tide receded after the events of 1968 and, particularly, the crushing of the Prague Spring. See this 1976 collection of dispirited essays on radical Visions of History, for example.

Perhaps Kendall Myers was a fan of Eurocommunism, that last great hope of leftist academics during the 70s, although even that somewhat more presentable version of Marxism was already losing its appeal by 1978. See, for example, this article by Jean-François Revel. Eurocommunism was not exclusively a European product, of course, and it could just be that the Myerses thought they had found in Castro the last possible chance to validate their self-concept as the Vanguard of the Proletariat. I don't know. But I wish I had a chance to ask them.

If I were the judge in their case, I wouldn't send the Myerses off to spend their Golden Years at some Club Fed of a penitentiary. No, I'd sentence them to serve as an exhibit at Washington DC's International Spy Museum, so that the public could experience these living political fossils for themselves and wonder about the thought processes that motivated them.

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