The FBI has arrested 10 alleged Russian spies in the U.S. An additional
suspect was seized in Cyprus but release on bail. The suspects, who have lived
under false identities for more than a decade in cities across the East
Coast, are said to be agents of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service
sent to gather information on U.S. politics and policy-making. The
members of the espionage ring had come to befriend New York financiers,
former U.S. national security officials, and even a nuclear scientist. But
the Department of Justice, which has brought charges for "conspiracy to
act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S.
attorney general," but not for espionage, says the suspects neither sought
nor received classified information. How much of a threat to the U.S.
does this represent?
- They Were 'Suburbia Personified' The
New York Times' Scott Shane and Charlie
Savage profile, "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.'"
Missions Were Pretty Boring BBC's Kim Ghattas writes, "Most of
what the alleged spies were after seems almost anodyne. ... Before
President Barack Obama's trip to Moscow last year, for example, they
were tasked with finding out more about US foreign policy on Afghanistan
and information about Iran's nuclear programme. This is the kind of
above-board information that political officers at most embassies would
be gleaning through conversations with policy-makers and government
officials, writing up in a report and sending back to headquarters. ...
It is worth keeping in mind that some of [the] Russians involved in this
apparent spy ring were sent here in the 1990s, when the Cold War had
just ended and the level of mistrust was still very high."
Complicate Obama's 'Reset' CBS News' Dan Farber says of President Obama's recent "burger
summit" with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, "Mr. Obama declared that
the two had succeeded in resetting the relationship between the
countries after years of distrust. The resetting may have become a bit
unsettled as 10 alleged Russian spies were arrested by the FBI in the
U.S. after a lengthy investigation. ... Will the Russian spy arrests
cause the two relatively new Twitter users
to unfollow each other or go back to the red phone?" The New York Times adds, "Obama was not happy about the timing, but
investigators feared some of
their targets might flee, the official said."
- Why Russia and
U.S. Still Spy on One Another The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains
that both states still spy on one another, but it's changed. "What type
of information is valuable to Russia these days? It's no longer nuclear
weapons information, really, or war plans: it's proprietary information,
trade secrets, technical specifications of satellite and ballistic
missile technology...also political intelligence and economic
intelligence. The FBI still has squads of counterintelligence (CI)
agents that follow Russian embassy officials in Washington, but it does
much less CI work than it did before the age of terrorism. The US has
much better signals intelligence capabilities than the Russians, but
Russia also quietly outsources some of its spying to other countries,
including countries that are ostensibly friendly to the U.S. "
Used Old-School, Cold War Tricks The Washington Post's Jeff Stein calls the uncovered
spy tactics "such a cliché of espionage that it sounds like something
out of 'Burn After Reading,' the Coen brothers' 2008 spy spoof. ...
although the 37-page document shows that Moscow Center may have added
some Internet technology to its bag of tricks, its main revelation is
that Russian intelligence evidently still relies on espionage methods -
'tradecraft,' in spy lingo - as old as the Rome hills."
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