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Spying for Fidel: The Inside Story of Kendall and Gwen Myers
This spring, a couple from Washington’s social elite—a trusted diplomat and a former Hill aide—were arrested after allegedly spying for Cuba for 30 years. This is the story of their unusual marriage and what brought them to Fidel. By Toby Harnden
Comments () | Published October 5, 2009

Gazing out across the Chesapeake Bay from their sleek 37-foot yacht, Helene, in the summer of 2007, Kendall and Gwen Myers appeared to be blissfully carefree. They’d been together more than three decades, but they delighted in ensuring that their world was composed principally of each other.

“It is 8 pm here; we are having a drink and are practically melting in our chairs while repeating to one another, ‘We have the most beautiful boat,’ ” Gwen wrote in a message to the yacht’s Swedish makers.

The previous year, they’d traveled to Kungsviken, where ships had been built for Scandinavian royalty for 950 years, to see their teak-decked Malo 37 Classic being built. The Malo 37 was the 2009 Import Boat of the Year at the Annapolis Boat Show, where Helene, with a custom-crafted mahogany interior, was on display. It had cost the couple some $350,000.

“Today the temperature was around 60 degrees and the wind from 4 to 8 knots,” Gwen continued. “We sailed the good ship Helene on the Bay for 4 hours. Kendall sailed then napped for an hour on a pad behind the helm’s seat. I used a finger to occasionally touch the wheel while the boat sailed herself. Clouds were mesmerizing. No other boats around, so thoroughly relaxed.”

Kendall was six-foot-six and slightly stooped, with receding white hair, a mustache, and a blueblood WASP lineage—giving him the ruffled, patrician air of an Oxbridge don. About to retire from the State Department, he also was an adjunct professor of international relations at DC’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), part of Johns Hopkins University and where he had been awarded his PhD.

Gwen, a diminutive former Democratic aide on Capitol Hill with sun-streaked hair and seldom any makeup, had worked for Riggs Bank and part-time at an independent bookstore in Cleveland Park. Now the couple was relishing the prospect of spending long days together, many of them on the water. The boat was for them alone—even their closest friends never received an invitation to join them on Helene, which they kept moored at Hartge Yacht Yard in Galesville, Maryland.

Walter Kendall Myers Jr. was, as his wife loved to relate, a great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, as well as a grandson of Gilbert Grosvenor, editor of National Geographic for 55 years. Kendall had been taught to sail by his mother, Carol, onboard the 55-foot yawl Elsie on the Bras d’Or Lakes in Nova Scotia, where his family had an estate. Launched in 1917 and in service to this day, Elsie had been a gift from Bell to Grosvenor, his son-in-law.

Sailing was part of the privileged upbringing of Myers, a native Washingtonian. For Gwen, who had been brought up in Iowa and South Dakota, yachts were an exciting element of her new life with Kendall, in which they sailed to Bermuda and New England.

Kendall’s Washington world had become Gwen’s after they met through mutual friends in the late 1970s, when she was a twice-married single mother of four and he a recent divorcé with two children.

Their sanctuary in DC was the Westchester, a 1930s co-op building on Cathedral Avenue, Northwest. With its 18th-century-style English gates, elliptical sunken garden, and mix of Art Deco, Georgian, Tudor, and Moorish influences, it’s now something of a faded grande dame evoking the gentility of a bygone Washington.

The couple had inherited apartment 610-A, a spacious one-bedroom with a solarium, when Kendall’s mother moved into a Georgetown retirement home in 1997, eight years before she died at age 93. Furnished traditionally with old silver, Kendall’s collection of ships in bottles, and elegant antiques—including a sofa owned by great-grandfather Bell—it has views of the Washington Monument and across the Potomac River.

Although Kendall and Gwen were gregarious, across their threshold was a zone of privacy that few entered. Outside of work, they were seldom seen apart. They would go to the Westchester gym together and attend navigation classes to prepare for sailing trips. When Gwen registered an Internet domain name in 2005, she chose an amalgam of her name and her husband’s—Gwendall.com.

It was, however, more than just sailing, the Westchester, and a love of old Washington that united Kendall and Gwen Myers. And despite the outward serenity of their lives in 2007, they worried that the secret they had treasured together for almost 30 years was about to be revealed.

Unbeknownst to their large families and lifelong friends, Kendall was Cuba’s Agent 202 and Gwen Agent 123 or E-634—spies dedicated not just to each other but also to what they saw as Fidel Castro’s socialist nirvana in the Caribbean.

And despite their enjoying every benefit that US citizenship and residence can bestow, the government alleges that they nursed a deep-seated rage against the United States.

“The trouble with this country, there’s just too many North Americans,” Kendall told an undercover FBI agent—identified here by the pseudonym Hector—who was posing as a Cuban intelligence officer in April 2009. The downside of lifting the Cuban travel embargo, Kendall quipped, was that “believe me, those North Americans, you don’t want them.”

He later told Hector that “we really love your country” and “Fidel is wonderful, just wonderful.” Gwen ventured that Castro was the most “incredible statesman,” while Kendall said that “our idea is to sail home” to Cuba.

Whether out of a romanticism that made them blind to the human-rights abuses of Castro’s regime or a hard-nosed belief that extraordinary measures were needed to preserve the revolution, the Myerses’ commitment to Cuba appears never to have wavered. Throughout their spying, however, they treated themselves to a lifestyle that an ordinary Cuban could only dream of.

At a lecture in Shanghai in June 2006, Kendall Myers described how he had “combined two careers—as an academic and a US State Department official” and in both had “sought to blend analysis of current events with a strong sense of history.” People would ask how he could do this. His reply: “I answer that I am an amphibian: I swim in academic water and walk on the hard land of policy.”

But Myers had a third career that made him another creature altogether. As a senior analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), Kendall had held a Top Secret clearance since 1985 and a Sensitive Compartmented Information caveat since 1999. This gave him access to the “product” of all 18 US intelligence agencies—a position of immense trust. His specialty was Western Europe, and within that the UK, but he was able to read intelligence reports ranging across the globe.

It wasn’t until 1988 that he began working at INR. Before then, he was a contract instructor at the Foreign Service Institute, the State Department’s training center in Arlington. Tasked with teaching government employees—including CIA operatives—in preparation for overseas assignments, he was in an ideal position to act as a “spotter” for potential traitors and to identify intelligence officers and their postings. 

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 10/05/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles