A new book takes readers on a walking tour of a Washington, D.C., neighborhood that has been home to everyone from covert agents for the Cuban government to Henry Kissinger and Kermit the Frog.
The book, “Spies, Bombs and Beyond: A Walking History of Washington, DC’s Tenleytown,” was written by Mark Fitzpatrick, a career diplomat, author and historian.
A press release about the book states:
“From Indigenous quarries through superpower competition to conspiracy theories like #pizzagate, Washington DC’s Tenleytown and its environs have offered a microcosm of the nation’s history. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Dickens wrote about the town long before its streets and corridors were thick with spies.
“Exploring 70 sites, Spies, Bombs, and Beyond walks readers through the neighborhood, connecting the local to the global and the past to the present. Mark Fitzpatrick examines how diplomacy works and how espionage (sometimes) fails by exploring nearby embassies and the residences of ambassadors and traitors.”
Fitzpatrick has served at U.S. embassies in South Korea, Japan, New Zealand and Austria. He also held senior posts at the State Department in Washington.
His website states:
“As a diplomat for 26 years, Mark wrote hundreds of reporting cables (all in the name of whoever was ambassador, and some of which came to public light through Wikileaks).”
One chapter in his book is dedicated to the stories of several people who spied for Cuba, including Gwen and Kendall Myers. See “Espionage: The Myers case 10 years later.” Fitzpatrick writes:
Kendall seemed to have had a midlife crisis after he hit and killed a teenager at a time when he was divorcing his first wife. He started working for Cuba in 1979 after a two-week visit there at the invitation of a Cuban agent he had met at a Georgetown soiree. At the time, Kendall was working in an unclassified job at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI). (This was the year that I joined the State Department and was myself attending classes at FSI.) Later he applied for an intelligence position at the State Department at the suggestion of the CuIS.
At times, the couple passed information to their Cuban handlers at the Giant Food supermarket at Wisconsin Avenue and Newark Street and other grocery stores by exchanging shopping carts. This required letting the other side know beforehand what groceries they wanted.
Earlier today, Fitzpatrick agreed to answer a few questions about his work.
Cuba Money Project: Is part of the attraction of Washington, D.C., the fact that it’s a city of intrigue, a place where even today we can imagine that spies and double agents could be our next-door neighbors?
Fitzpatrick: For political junkies, Washington is the center of the universe, the epicenter of superpower politics. This confluence of power also means it a center of intrigue, all of which makes Washington, D.C., an alluring city. In researching the history of my corner of the city, I was surprised to learn how many spies lived in and near DC’s Tenleytown and how much espionage was conducted from its streets. A few blocks away from my wife and me, for example, is the house where notorious British double agent Kim Phliby lived from 1949 to 1951. I tell his tale in my book, along with that of his fictional daughter, created by novelist Daniel Silva, who had her living on my street, in a house that sounds much like mine. So yes, it is easy to imagine that spies could be a next-door neighbor.
Cuba Money Project: As a former diplomat, how do you see the cases of such people as Kendall Myers and Ana Belen Montes? Do you have any sympathy for either one? Can we learn anything from their cases?
Fitzpatrick: I never can understand why officials who take an oath of allegiance would break that oath. The reasons commonly cited for betrayal – lucre, ideology, despair and excitement – are wholly outside my own frame of reference. The more I read about turncoats like Kendall Myers and Ana Belen Montes, the more disgust I feel. My own sacrifices as a Foreign Service Officer were minimal, but I know colleagues who lost their families and their health because of service to the United States. Many also lost their lives. For Myers and Montes to use their government positions to assist the enemy betrays those sacrifices. Over the years, I have personally disagreed with many of the policies of my government, but when I was an official, after making my case internally, I saluted and carried out the decisions of my chain of command. The Myers and Montes cases remind us that some people choose a very different response. In my book, I called the Myers couple “liberals gone bad.” This is nothing pejorative about liberals; I count myself as one. On the other end of the political spectrum, FBI turncoat Robert Hannsen was a conservative and a member of Opus Dei. The lesson I draw is that traitors can come in all political persuasions.
Cuba Money Project: Do you have any sense for how Cuban espionage in Washington, D.C., has evolved over the years? Are Cuban spies and their operatives as active as ever?
Fitzpatrick:. I am not able to give a good answer to the question about how Cuban espionage has evolved over the years. When I started the research that became my new book, I expected that most of the spying cases involving Washington would have been hatched in the Kremlin. But I found cases also involving Japan (before WWII), Israel, India and, of course, Cuba. Among the latter, I only studied the three cases explored in my book: Kendall and Gwen Myers, Ana Belen Montes, and Jennifer Miles. I am sure that Cuban agents continue to be active. Much of their activity is directed at the Cuban exile community, centered in Miami, rather than Washington. No doubt that Cuban agents are also engaged in cyber espionage, as is the case with other U.S. adversaries. I would not be totally surprised if another case came to light like that of Myers and Montes.