Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kremlin's Spies Sought Connections with Think Tanks and Government Officials

"Ten Alleged Secret Agents Arrested in the United States"---Department of Justice (6-28-10)

Complaint #1 (PDF)Complaint #2 (PDF)

"FBI agents arrested 10 people on charges that they spent years in the United States as spies for Russia, taking on fake identities and trying to ferret out intelligence about U.S. policy and secrets by making connections to think tanks and government officials, the Justice Department said Monday."---(The Washington Post 6-29-10)

According to CNN on T.V., these arrests are the "tip of the iceberg," and more arrests may be made. The Kremlin's "spycraft" is colorfully described by the Washington Post's Jeff Stein at SpyTalk (6-28-10). So much for resetting the relationship with the Kremlin.

According the Voice of America (6-29-10):

U.S. media reports say the suspects...held non-governmental jobs, some of them in policy think-tanks and universities.

Most of the accused Russian agents posed as married couples, and media accounts report that some of the agents had children who ranged in ages from a new baby to teenagers. I wonder what will happen to the children.

The New York Times (6-29-10) reports:

[O]n Monday, federal prosecutors accused 11 people of being part of a Russian espionage ring, living under false names and deep cover in a patient scheme to penetrate what one coded message called American “policy making circles.”...

The documents detailed what the authorities called the “Illegals Program,” an ambitious, long-term effort by the S.V.R., one of the successors to the Soviet K.G.B., to plant Russian spies in the United States to gather information and recruit more agents...

But the charges did not include espionage, and it was unclear what secrets the suspected spy ring — which included five couples — actually managed to collect...

Neighbors in Montclair, N.J., of the couple who called themselves Richard and Cynthia Murphy were flabbergasted when a team of F.B.I. agents turned up Sunday night and led the couple away in handcuffs. One person who lives nearby called them “suburbia personified,” saying that they had asked people for advice about the local schools. Others worried about the Murphys’ elementary-age daughters.

Jessie Gugig, 15, said she could not believe the charges, especially against Mrs. Murphy.

“They couldn’t have been spies,” she said jokingly. “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

One of those charged, Vicky Pelaez, who was arrested in Yonkers with another defendant known as Juan Lazaro, is a Peruvian-born columnist for El Diario/La Prensa, one of the country’s best-known Spanish-language newspapers. They were among five defendants who appeared in court on Monday night and were ordered held without bail. Experts on Russian intelligence expressed astonishment at the scale, longevity and dedication of the program. They noted that Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister and former president and spy officer, had worked to restore the prestige and funding of Russian espionage after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dark image of the K.G.B.

“The magnitude, and the fact that so many illegals were involved, was a shock to me,” said Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who was a Soviet spy in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s under “legal” cover as a diplomat and Radio Moscow correspondent. “It’s a return to the old days, but even in the worst years of the cold war, I think there were no more than 10 illegals in the U.S., probably fewer.”

Mr. Kalugin, now an American citizen living outside Washington, said he was impressed with the F.B.I.’s penetration of the spy ring. The criminal complaints are packed with vivid details gathered in years of covert surveillance — including monitoring phones and e-mail, placing secret microphones in the suspected Russian agents’ homes and numerous surreptitious searches.

...The defendants were charged with conspiracy, not to commit espionage, but to fail to register as agents of a foreign government, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison; nine were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. They are not accused of obtaining classified materials.

There were also hints that Russian spy bosses feared that their agents, ordered to go native in prosperous America, might be losing track of their official purpose.

In Montclair, when the Murphys wanted to buy a house under their names, “Moscow Center,” or “C.,” the S.V.R. headquarters, objected.

“We are under an impression that C. views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here,” the New Jersey couple wrote in a coded message. “From our perspective purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solving the housing issue, plus ‘to do as the Romans do’ in a society that values home ownership.”...

The arrests made a splash in neighborhoods around the country, as F.B.I. teams spent all Sunday night hunting through houses and cars, shining flashlights and carting away evidence.

In Cambridge, Mass., the couple known as Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, who appeared to be in their 40s and had two teenage sons, lived in an apartment building on a residential street where some Harvard professors and students live. [See the full text.]

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