June 5, 2009 -- A former State Department official and his wife worked as spies for the Cuban government for 30 years, according to a federal indictment announced today.
FBI agents arrested Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, in Washington, D.C. Thursday. The pair, known as "Agent 202" and "Agent 123" or "Agent E-634," respectively, face charges including fraud, conspiracy and acting as agents of a foreign government.
The couple allegedly had a secret meeting with Fidel Castro himself in January 1995, and traveled to Cuba or met with Cuban agents in other countries.
According to court documents filed in the case, Kendall Myers, who obtained a top secret clearance during his career, reviewed classified documents at the State Department, then copied details in notes or remembered their contents to relay to his handlers during meetings.
The court documents don't specify which materials Myers allegedly used, but a criminal complaint filed with the case alleges that he admitted to taking sensitive information while employed as a senior analyst by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or INR.
Court documents say that analysis of "Myers' classified Department of State work computer hard drives reveals that from Aug. 22, 2006, until his retirement on Oct. 31, 2007, Kendall Myers, while employed at INR, viewed in excess of 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports concerning the subject of Cuba. ... Of these reports concerning Cuba, the majority were classified and marked secret or top secret."
The Myerses and their attorneys could not be reached for comment.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ordered a "comprehensive review of this case" and asked for "a thorough assessment of past and current Department of State security procedures and practices" and recommendations for future practices, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement.
"In addition, the secretary directed the department to conduct a comprehensive damage assessment in coordination with the intelligence community in accordance with established damages protocols and regulations," Crowley said.
The FBI and State Department worked together on the investigation, officials said.
'Paired' Agents Allegedly Spied for Cuba
Gwendolyn Myers worked at a local bank, not the government, but the indictment notes that the Cuban Intelligence Service "sometimes employs husband and wife 'paired' agents to achieve its intelligence goals in the United States."
The affidavit says Cuban Intelligence Service frequently communicated with clandestine operatives in the United States by broadcasting encrypted shortwave radio messages, and that the Myerses possessed the necessary type of radio and admitted to receiving the messages to an FBI source.
Although court documents say Cuban agents recruited Kendall Myers in 1979, he did not begin his alleged spying until 1981. Investigators said his Cuban handler instructed him to obtain employment at either the State Department or CIA.
Although he applied for a CIA job in 1981, the couple agreed Kendall Myers should work at the State Department instead because he "is not a good liar," according to the criminal complaint.
Kendall Myers, a native Washingtonian, is great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, and the grandson of Gilbert Grosvenor, widely considered to be the father of modern photojournalism and the longtime chairman and editor in chief of National Geographic.
He was educated at Brown University and earned his masters and Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins University, where he later worked as an adjunct professor of European studies for several years while also working at the State Department.
Myers married the former Maureen Walsh in 1964. He later married Gwendolyn Steingraber in 1982. It is not currently known if they have children.
Couple Under Scrutiny for Several Years
Investigators had kept tabs on the Myerses for several years, but ramped up their case in April of this year, when an undercover FBI counterintelligence agent posing as a Cuban representative approached Kendall Myers.
The undercover source met with the pair in various hotel lounges and rooms in Washington, D.C., and during the meetings, the couple allegedly made incriminating statements detailing their knowledge of spy operations and acknowledging past spy activity.
According to the affidavit, Kendall Myers stated that he and his wife "don't think we are able to do the work again ... [because] we're a little burned out," and that they "lived with the fear and the anxiety for a long time ... and still do."
They allegedly said that they were enjoying spending more time together during retirement, and expressed a desire to be part of a "reserve army."
But if convicted on the charges against them, they could instead face up to 35 years in prison.