GASP! Russia spying on the United States
There’s gambling in Vegas (sharp intake of breath)… Tea grows in China (eyes widen)… Russia spies on the United States (hand over heart stagger backward).
SHOCKING, SHOCKING, SHOCKING! (Get out the hanky and smelling salts).
Well, hold on a minute… it’s not exactly Robert Hanssen is it? The former FBI agent was charged with selling U.S. secrets to the former Soviet Union and then Russia and is now serving a life prison sentence in what was seen as a huge intelligence disaster – Russia penetrated the FBI.
In this spy story, a multi-year U.S. investigation into the “illegals” program nabbed 10 “alleged secret agents” in the United States and charged them with conspiring to act as unlawful agents of Russia. A charge that carries a 5-year prison sentence.
Covert Russian agents assumed false identities living in the United States on long-term, deep-cover assignments, to gather information on the United States and recruit sources to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles. There was a drop site under a bridge, a newspaper hiding $5000, and code words like “Excuse me, but haven’t we met in California last summer?”
The information the FBI says the Russians were seeking – U.S. policy on Internet use by terrorists, U.S. policies on Central Asia, U.S. position on Iran’s nuclear program. Doesn’t sound like heavy lifting. The suspects were also accused of gathering information on high-penetration nuclear warhead research programs and background on CIA job applicants.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, said U.S. police were “out of control.”
One interesting question posed by someone who used to be in the U.S. government is would the Russians spend that kind of effort and money on just collecting think tank type information – what were they really after?
It should come as a surprise to no one that Russia spies on the United States and vice versa. Regardless of friendly diplomatic ties, that’s what the intelligence business is about and it is a given that the closest of friends spy on each other.
Captain Renault: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Croupier: “Your winnings sir.” Captain Renault: “Oh, thank you very much.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Jane Rosenburg (Courtroom sketch of Russian spy suspects), Reuters/Thomas Peter (hammer and sickle emblem on tope of FSB, the Russian state security service, headquarters)