Convicted of spying for Cuba, Gwendolyn Myers soon adapted to life behind bars, telling a friend, “Did you know you can floss your teeth with the elastic in underpants?”
Her husband, Kendall Myers, also wound up in prison. He once held a TOP SECRET security clearance at the State Department and earned $131,996 per year. In 2009, two years after his retirement, he admitted to an undercover FBI source that he had spied for Cuba for 30 years.
Ten years later, Myers is serving a life term at a federal prison in Florence, Colorado.
Relatives asked the court for mercy before the couple’s sentencing in 2010. Kendall Myers’ daughter, Amanda Myers Klein, described her father as “a very gentle and thoughtful man.” She wrote:
He taught me never to yell, nor accept being yelled at. He taught me to think for myself, challenge conventional wisdom and always remain open minded and hearted. My father and Gwen have never displayed hatred or greed. They are motivated and guided by love and compassion for humankind.
Klein said her father, now 82, had been teaching English as a second language to fellow inmates. She wrote:
I am not in the least bit surprised by his energy and passion for helping others to learn. It is in his nature to teach and he does it so well.
U.S. prosecutors considered Kendall Myers, also known as Agent 202, to be a national security threat. They wrote:
Unlike many defendants who appear for sentencing before this Court, Kendall Myers was born into this world with every conceivable advantage. The great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell and grandson of Gilbert Grosvenor, his was a life of wealth and privilege. He attended the finest schools, including a private boarding secondary school in Pennsylvania and Brown University for college. He also earned a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University. Kendall Myers could have been anything he wanted to be. He chose to be a Cuban spy.
He chose to use his substantial intellect and education to prey on the most sensitive secrets of the United States. He took a federal oath of office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic” that he never had any intention of honoring. He then sought and obtained jobs within the Department of State solely because they would give him the widest possible access to classified information that he could steal for CuIS. He also developed friendships with other unwitting intelligence analysts just so he could exploit them for the benefit of Fidel Castro.
Brett Kramarsic, a former electrical engineer, is the FBI special agent who investigated Myers. In 2009, he was assigned to a squad responsible for investigating counterespionage and unauthorized disclosure of classified information. According to Kramarsic’s sworn statement:
Kendall Myers was born in Washington, D.C., in 1937. In June 1972, Myers earned a doctor’s degree from the School of Advanced International Studies, or SAIS, at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C., and later taught at the school.
In December 1978, Myers traveled to Cuba for “unofficial personal travel for academic purposes.”
In a journal about his trip, he later wrote:
Cuba is so exciting! I have become so bitter these past few months. Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience. The abuses of our system, the lack of decent medical system, the oil companies and their undisguised indifference to public needs, the complacency about the poor, the utter inability of those who are oppressed to recognize their own condition…Have the Cubans given up their personal freedom to get material security? Nothing I have seen yet suggests that…I can see nothing of value that has been lost by the revolution…
Everything one hears about Fidel suggests that he is a brilliant and charismatic leader. He exudes the sense of seriousness and purposefulness that gives the Cuban socialist system its unique character. The revolution is moral without being moralistic. Fidel has lifted the Cuban people out of the degrading and oppressive conditions which characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba. He has helped the Cubans to save their own souls. He is certainly one of the great political leaders of our time.
Myers wrote that a visit to Havana’s Museum of the Revolution impressed him:
Facing step by step the historic interventions of the U.S. in to Cuban affairs, including the systematic and regular murdering of revolutionary leaders left me with a lump in my throat… They don’t need to try very hard to make the point that we have been the exploiters. Batista was only one of the long list of murderous figures that we thrust upon them in the name of stability and freedom.
There may have been some abuses under the present regime, life may be more complicated by rationing, etc., but no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we have defeated the revolution. The idea is obscene.
Prosecutors say Myers agreed to serve as a clandestine agent for Cuba in 1979, but didn’t start work until 1981.
On April 15, 1985, the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, offered Myers a job as training instructor, a position that required a TOP SECRET security clearance.
Later, in October 1999, Myers began working full time at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His security clearance was bumped from TOP SECRET to TOP SECRET/SCI. SCI stands for sensitive compartmented information. Release of TOP SECRET information can result in “exceptionally grave” damage to national security.
Gwen Myers was born in 1938 and married her husband on May 8, 1982. She did not work for U.S. government and had no security clearance, but she supported her husband’s activities, prosecutors say. A court document states:
It was Kendall Myers who was initially contacted by the Cuban intelligence service to be a covert agent, and it was Kendall Myers who, in turn, recruited Gwendolyn.
Gwendolyn Myers, on the other hand, while she was fully supportive of, and engaged in, their espionage, never had access to classified information. Her role was primarily related to communicating with their Cuban handlers and assisting in the transmission of the information Kendall Myers had gathered.
Kendall Myers retired from the State Department in October 2007.
The FBI began investigating the couple on April 15, 2009. The agency sent an undercover source to talk to them and claimed that one of their Cuban handlers – a Cuban intelligence agent – “sent me to contact you.”
The undercover source said the handler wanted “to get some information from Kendall Myers” about changes in Cuba and the new administration of Barack Obama.
The source – evidently a Cuban government official – met with the couple at a hotel lounge and reported that Myers stated, “We have been very cautious, careful with our moves and, uh, trying to be alert to any surveillance if there was any.”
Gwen Myers admitted that the couple still had a short-wave radio they had once used to communicate with Cuban intelligence. She was quoted as saying, “You gave us the money to buy” the radio “a hundred years ago and it still works beautifully…although I haven’t listened to it in a while.”
The couple agreed to meet with the undercover source again on April 30. At this meeting, they were trained how to use a device to encrypt future emails with the undercover source.
Kendall Myers asked the undercover source to deliver a message to his Cuban handler. The message said he and his wife were “delighted to have contact again. We really have missed you. 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…and the people and the team are just important in our lives. So we don’t want to fall out of contact again.”
He acknowledged working with Cuban intelligence for 30 years, but said he and his wife did not want to continue that work. He said, “We’re a little burned out…We lived with the fear and the anxiety for a long time…and still do.”
Kendall Myers said he and his wife “would like to be a reserve army…ready when we’re needed.”
Kendall Myers admitted to the undercover source that Cuban intelligence had asked him decades earlier to seek employment either the State Department or the CIA.
He applied for a CIA job on Sept. 1, 1981, but wound up at the State Department. A CIA job probably would not have worked out, his wife said, because he is “not a very good liar” and would have likely failed agency polygraph tests.
While at the State Department, investigators found, Kendall Myers viewed more than 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports related to Cuba from Aug. 22, 2006, until his retirement on Oct. 31, 2007. Most of the reports were marked SECRET or TOP SECRET.
Gwen Myers told the undercover source that her preferred method for passing information to the Cubans was to switch shopping carts with them in a grocery store. That was “easy to do,” she said, although she “wouldn’t do it now. Now they have cameras, but they didn’t then.”
Kendall Myers confessed a “great admiration” for Ana Belén Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst now serving a 25-year term for spying for Cuba. But he said the FBI caught her because “she was not paranoid enough.”
He and his wife said they were honored to meet with Fidel Castro around New Year’s Day in 1995.
“Oh, that was wonderful,” he said. “Fidel is wonderful, just wonderful.”
Gwen Myers called Castro “the most incredible statesman in a hundred years for goodness sakes.”
Prosecutors filed charges against the Myers in June 2009. They pled guilty and agreed to a “comprehensive debriefing by the intelligence community concerning their espionage activities.”
Prosecutors weren’t entirely satisfied with the debriefings.
…In certain areas the defendants provided information of significant value to the Government. In others, they did not. Further, the FBI memorandum identifies material areas in which the debriefings were marred by both of the defendants’ lack of recollection or inconsistencies and contradictions. There were times when the FBI assessed that Kendall Myers, in particular, gave inconsistent or uncooperative responses or was intentionally withholding information.
Before sentencing in 2010, friends and relatives flooded the court with letters asking for leniency.
One letter came from Kendall Myers’ brother, Martin, a doctor in Texas. He said Gwen Myers and her husband “care deeply about people born into poverty and hopelessness. They have spoken often about their concerns that society has left so many behind and their deep feelings about their plight. They have been frustrated by society’s apparent indifference to these people.”
Gwen’s daughter, Jill Liebler, said her mother was “tirelessly kind, caring and generous.” She wrote:
“She taught us by example that everyone, regardless of wealth, background, age, education, or employment position is to be treated with equal respect, consideration and kindness.”
Beverly A. Pierce in Baltimore, Maryland, wrote that Gwen Myers had the “unassuming, unpretentious honesty that’s completely typical of the upper Midwest. (Garrison Keillor is not making that up).”
She and Myers were friends.
For years, Gwen and I got together regularly over beer or a glass of wine and talked about work and men. She was always supportive and always had sound advice, which she wrapped up with irreverent humor.
One thing that comes across clearly with Gwen is how deeply and thoroughly she loves Kendall. She can tell hysterically funny stories about him, and she admires and is utterly devoted to him. The depth and liveliness of their relationship is inspiring. We don’t see nearly enough of that in this world.
Pierce said her friend had dealt with her imprisonment “with a quantity of courage, discipline, humor and resourcefulness,” telling her at one point, “Did you know you can floss your teeth with the elastic in underpants?”
Pierce said Myers cared about fellow inmates and complained about the shackling of women prisoners who were pregnant.
She said she hoped Myers could be forgiven for any misdeeds, writing:
What she did, she did out of widespread love. I understand that Kendall will be in prison for life, sadly but justifiably. But perhaps Gwen can be released soon, for the benefit of her children and grandchildren who have suffered so with this. She brought it on herself, I do understand, but she is harmless at this point and does not threaten national security.
Prosecutors were not swayed, writing:
For nearly 30 years, Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers committed one of the worst crimes a citizen can perpetrate against his or her own country – espionage on behalf of a long-standing foreign adversary. They spied on behalf of the Republic of Cuba, an authoritarian Communist regime that undoubtedly used the secrets they provided, and the power those secrets conveyed, to prop itself up and act against the interests of the United States.
And the defendants are actually proud of that legacy. They feel no remorse for what they did, nor for the harm that their espionage caused the United States. They betrayed the United States by choice. They became spies not because they were pressured by blackmail or the need for money, but allegedly because of a shared Communist ideology and an adoration of the Cuban revolution.
Any attempt now by them to assert that they acted out of conscience and ideology when they betrayed the United States of America should be rejected by this Court as self-serving and woefully insufficient to mitigate their espionage. Make no mistake, the defendants intended to and did harm the United States.
Kendall Myers’ ending salary at the State Department was $131,996 per year. He pled guilty and agreed to forfeit past earnings of $1,735,054. Prosecutors said he didn’t deserve the money because he had been spying for Cuba.
Gwen Myers, also known as Agent 123 and Agent E-634, could have gotten a 10-year prison sentence. Prosecutors agreed to less time – 81 months – because they wanted to be debriefed and hoped to avoid a contested trial that they feared “risked further significant harm to the national security.”
She was released on April 22, 2015, records show.
Gwen Myers, who had heart trouble even before going to prison, later died. Court records don’t give a date.
Her case was closed on Jan. 4, 2016.