You’ve all seen the news about Walter and Gwendolyn Myers, arrested as spies for Cuba, right?
Well, if this interesting report by Clarice Feldman is accurate, the Myers were recruited by a Cuban agent in 1979. At the time, Walter was apparently unemployed, while his wife was working for the South Dakota public-utilities commission, so the Cuban agent had to make a special trip to the South Dakota state capital of Pierre to sign them up.
As it happens, I’ve actually lived in Pierre, South Dakota, and, I have to say, the chances of your being approached by Cuban communists there is pretty small.
Yes, I know, the Myers seem to have been at a particularly low point right then (which is one of the things that made them vulnerable). They would have higher profiles later: Walter as a professor of European affairs and a State Department official, and Gwen as an officer of Washington’s Riggs Bank.
For that matter, they’d had higher profiles earlier: He came from an east-coast socialite family and had a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, while she had been a legislative aide for John Abourezk, elected a one-term senator from South Dakota in 1972. Abourezk was a strong supporter of Castro’s Cuba, and it seems to have been while Gwen was working for him that the couple first encountered Cuban agents.
Still, the strangest and most interesting question in the whole case is why the Cubans thought South Dakota’s deputy director of fixed utilities and her unemployed husband were worth recruiting as spies. Were the Cubans incompetent at first but subsequently lucky with the couple’s return to Washington? Or did the Cubans know what they were doing—having a way to manipulate others in Washington to bring the Myers back to the national scene?
Regardless, it’s an odd picture: The Cuban agent, driving across to Pierre, South Dakota, to recruit the unlikely spies who would serve him well for almost thirty years.