One of the most famous Cold War spies has been released in the US after more than 20 years in captivity. Ana Montes, 65, spied for Cuba for nearly two decades while working in the United States for the Defense Intelligence Agency as an analyst. She has been described as one of the “most harmful spies” captured by the US.

    The top spy was arrested in 2001 and is said to have almost completely exposed the activities of the US intelligence services in Cuba. Michelle Van Cleave, head of counterintelligence under President George W. Bush, opined in 2012 that Montes “endangered everything, virtually everything, that we knew about Cuba and how we operated in Cuba.”

    “So the Cubans were well aware of everything we knew about them and could use it to their advantage.” In addition, she was able to influence estimates about Cuba in her conversations with colleagues, and she also found an opportunity to provide information she had obtained to other powers.”

    The whole nation in danger

    After her arrest, Montes was sentenced to 25 years in prison for being accused of endangering “the whole nation”. She met Cuban accomplices every few weeks in Washington D.C. restaurants and sent them coded messages containing top secret information through pagers. In this way she would have been able to uncover the identities of four American spies. She received her orders from the Cuban intelligence services via short wave radio transmissions.

    Not for the money

    Ana Montes is one of the few well-known spies who did not spy for personal gain. She did it because she disagreed with the Reagan administration’s activities in Latin America. She would have been angry about the US support for the Contras in Nicaragua, a right-wing rebel group suspected of war crimes, among other things.

    She expressed her views on the Raegan government in 1984 and was approached by a fellow Johns Hopkins University student, who later introduced her to Cuban intelligence. She would have started working with them without hesitation, according to an inspector general’s report.

    Done spying

    After her release, Montes will be under surveillance for another five years. Her internet use will also be monitored. Furthermore, she is no longer allowed to work for the government or contact foreign agents without permission.

    But Pete Lapp, an FBI agent who was present at Montes’ arrest, told CBS News he thought it unlikely she would try to contact Cuban agents again. “That part of her life is over,” he said. “I can’t imagine her risking her freedom.”