A Spy Catcher Speaks
Carmichael also suggests that she could have passed on crucial information to Cuba ahead of the 1989 invasion of Panama, as well as U.S. operations in Haiti, Colombia, and Cuba. "Ana Montes was a true believer," he writes. "She spied out of a conviction that Fidel Castro was both the savior of the Cuban people and a champion of oppressed people throughout the world."
Still, while Carmichael was engaged in the long investigation, Montes's meteoric rise continued. She had received a fellowship at the prestigious National Intelligence Council, the intelligence community's top advisory body. Due to start in January 2001, she would have been granted even broader access to the nation's top secrets, with a particular focus on Latin America.
Some of the most fascinating detail in the book comes with Carmichael's description of the length to which officials went to keep the investigation secret from Montes and her colleagues. They schemed to derail her appointment to the sensitive NIC post without alerting her supervisors. This became so difficult that Carmichael finally enlisted the help of the director of the DIA, Adm. Thomas Wilson. In a staff meeting, Wilson threw a calculated tantrum over how many DIA analysts were on loan to other agencies and promptly suspended all external assignments for DIA officers. This ploy, which held up a variety of assignments across the agency, is a dramatic illustration of just how far officials are willing to go in an effort to catch spies red-handed.
Carmichael's book was cleared by the DIA and is therefore sometimes frustratingly short on details. (Carmichael, for example, omits any description of the key tip-off that led FBI investigators to agree that Montes was most likely a spy.) But the writing is engaging and frank, providing an unprecedented glimpse into the mind-set of spy huntersand the difficulty of building a case. One surprising fact: In the pre-9/11 world, it took more than four months after Montes was declared a suspect for the FBI to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on her communications.
Carmichael is donating any proceeds from the book to the Fronius family. But writing it has still come at some personal cost. "There are some among my peers in this business who take exception to my having published a book about my experience on the job," he writes. "Some may even avoid working with me in the future, for fear their action and words will end up in a book somewhere . . . . I understand. So be it."