How often does the FBI snag a Russian spy ring that includes all the glamor of a bond girl, the secret signals of cold war espionage, and the prosaic reality that spies are just like us? Answer: not often enough. This kind of news is just too fun…especially when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is doing the “hamburger diplomacy” thing with our President.
This week the FBI arrested 11 people in connection with spying for Russia. The actual charges were conspiracy to act as unregistered agents of a foreign government. Some were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ironically, none of them actually ever sent information back to Russia. Described in the New York Times:
The only things missing in more than a decade of operation were actual secrets to send home to Moscow.
The assignments, described in secret instructions intercepted by the F.B.I., were to collect routine political gossip and policy talk that might have been more efficiently gathered by surfing the Web. And none of the 11 people accused in the case face charges of espionage, because in all those years they were never caught sending classified information back to Moscow, American officials said.
“What in the world do they think they were going to get out of this, in this day and age?” said Richard F. Stolz, a former head of C.I.A. spy operations and onetime Moscow station chief. “The effort is out of proportion to the alleged benefits. I just don’t understand what they expected.”
Apparently, the so-called spies were given expense accounts, homes, and jobs to help them integrate into society. When hearing of the capture (“you can’t take down one without taking down all of them,” one law enforcement official said), neighbors and friends were surprised. “They couldn’t have been spies,” one neighbor quipped, awesomely, “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.” That’s right; because spies don’t do gardening…
But they do imitate Hollywood. In a throwback to [insert favorite spy flick here], the New York Post reported on how the suspected spies are alleged to have communicated with their handlers:
The undercover instructed her on how she would recognize her fellow spy and how to report back on the handoff, the feds said.
“Haven’t we met in California last summer?” the spy expecting the fake passport was supposed to say. Chapman was to respond, “No, I think it was the Hamptons,” according to the FBI.
Chapman allegedly was also supposed to hold a magazine under her arm so her counterpart would recognize her, and plant a stamp on a wall map indicate the handoff was a success.
Another time, one of the agents stepped into a cell store to buy a phone so her conversations with her handler could not be traced. She registered the phone to an address at 99 Fake Street. Yep. Really.
And our femme fatale? That’s Anna Chapman, a New York socialite with her own glamor photos online. This can’t be good for her social scene.
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