City Cast

3 Questions With a D.C. Spy Expert

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on January 13   |   Updated on June 19
Where Ana Montes lived in Cleveland Park. (Google Maps)

Where Ana Montes lived in Cleveland Park. (Google Maps)

Jim Popkin just wrote the book “Code Name Blue Wren” about one of the most damaging female spies in U.S. history, and she happened to live in Cleveland Park.

Ana Montes spied for Cuba for 17 years, and was only recently released from serving her 25-year sentence. She officially worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where she would memorize classified documents to pass along to her Cuban handler.

What was it about her work that was so uniquely damaging?
The longevity and the amount of information she passed. Ana turned over the real identities of Americans working undercover in Cuba, and revealed the names of everyday analysts working on the Cuba account. Finally, she revealed the existence of a secret spy satellite that the U.S. had been using to spy on Russia, China, Cuba, and other countries. Ironically, while Ana was spying for Cuba, she had four family members working for the FBI.

What Cleveland Park spots did she frequent?
She lived in a red brick apartment building at 3039 Macomb Street NW, and she frequented all the little Cleveland Park stores around the corner. Ana also used the zoo many times for her spy activity. Once, the FBI was tailing her, so she walked into the zoo and then doubled right back. The FBI interpreted that as classic spy craft to see if someone is following you. Another Ana Montes spot? The payphones a few stops north of Cleveland Park. She used them to call her handler.

Washington is a pretty heavy spy city. What kooky stories did you pick up about spying here?
Robert Hansen was a Russia spy who used to leave classified documents under bridges and parks in Virginia. He would also leave white chalk marks on signs and postal boxes. And in Georgetown, there's an old restaurant called Au Pied de Cochon where a Russian spy once famously went to the bathroom, slipped out the window, and went right to the Russian Embassy to evade authorities.

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