America

Ex-State Dept. Official Gets Life In Prison As Cuban Spy

State Department

The State Department, where former U.S. official Walter Kendall Myers spied for Cuba, for which he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His wife Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers got a term of nearly seven years. J. Scott Applewhite/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A former State Department official, a great grandson of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, will likely die in federal prison after being given a life sentence without the chance for parole as convicted spies for Cuba.

Walter Kendall Myers, 73, got the death-by-prison sentence Friday while his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 72, received a sentence of nearly seven years.

The couple was convicted for spying for Cuba for almost three decades after they pleaded guilty.

The case shocked many of the people who knew them since the ex-State Department official, a member of a prestigious family, had never demonstrated much of an interest in Latin America to his colleagues, friends and acquaintances. In that vein, they apparently didn't discuss Cuba with friends.

But in the late 1970s, Myers became disenchanted with the U.S. and the couple at around the same time became enamored with Cuba after traveling there on an academic trip.

It was at that point that they began spying for the Cubans, with Walter Myers having access to sensitive national security documents due to his top-secret clearance.

In 2006, U.S. counter-espionage officials suspected the presence of a Cuban spy at the State Department. Those suspicions grew after Myers retired in 2007.

All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block discussed the case last year with Washington Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan who explained that the couple was caught after Walter Myers struck up a conversation in Washington with a man he thought was a Cuban but was really an undercover FBI agent. Remarkable, the couple, who had been careful to try and hide their activities when they were actively spying, readily told the undercover agent of their past exploits.

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