Sunday, July 04, 2010

Catherine Fitzpatrick Takes a Look at Kremlin Spy and "Startupshchitsa" Anna Chapman's Facebook Friends

"[T]he FBI has stumbled upon a lightweight and portable network -- not destroyed by these arrests at all -- of young, connected, tech-savvy, affluent Russians and Americans in Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley (as tech start-ups in Brooklyn are called), enthusiastically involved in Skolkovo, Russia’s new Silicon Valley."---Catherine A. Fitzpatrick (RFE/RL 7-2-10)

[See also "Who is Scrubbing Anna Chapman's Social Graph -- And Why?"]

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick (see also Amazon), a long-time expert on human rights in Eurasia (who blogs about Russia here), has written a very interesting analysis of Russian glamour-girl and Kremlin spy Anna Chapman for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (7-2-10) titled "Is This Espionage 2.0?":

The media following the intriguing story of the FBI’s roll-up of a network of alleged Russian spies have been obsessed with the Facebook pictures of one of the accused, Anna Chapman -- a striking redhead who posted numerous sexy poses of herself taken against the Manhattan skyline.

Yet few have bothered to look past the sensational shots to her list of friends -- perhaps because many of the names were unfamiliar and Russian -- to see the kind of network a would-be spy might create using today’s free and easy social media tools.

To be sure, the number of Chapman’s Facebook friends has been dwindling by the hour. When some people woke up the other day to learn they had friended a suspected spy, they deleted her quickly. As a Russian translator and blogger about new media, I was not surprised to find I was only one degree of Facebook-friend separation from the startupshchitsa, as Chapman has been called by her online friends (her last wall posting was about attending a Moscow event on how to find venture capital for start-ups).

I could see that out of some 175 friends on her list, her concentric connections reached to the highest levels of the Silicon Valley replication effort now going on between the United States and Russia – a project so crucial to the "reset" of bilateral relations.

"The New York Times” downplayed the sensational case, saying there were no secrets involved, and all over the blogosphere, people are calling the Russian network the gang that couldn’t spy straight.


Lightweight, Portable Network

Yet far from uncovering a band of bumbling agents ineptly run by aging Cold Warriors, the FBI has stumbled upon a lightweight and portable network -- not destroyed by these arrests at all -- of young, connected, tech-savvy, affluent Russians and Americans in Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley (as tech start-ups in Brooklyn are called), enthusiastically involved in Skolkovo, Russia’s new Silicon Valley.

Skolkovo is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s pet project, and it attracted a $1 billion investment from Cisco last week and other commitments from American IT giants. Trawling such an open network is a piece of cake for Spy 2.0.

Chapman has been portrayed in the tabloids as a party girl with a Victoria’s Secret body working in real estate. However, by starting her own online business and hanging out at the right events, she acquired influential ties to tech start-ups and venture-capital circles in the United States and Russia. [Read the full text.]

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