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Government Crime United States Politics

Alleged Russian Spy Ring Exposed In US 279

Posted by kdawson
from the bad-enough dept.
Several readers sent in the story of an alleged Russian spy ring busted yesterday by the FBI after a decade-long investigation. The FBI says that Moscow trained and planted long-term "moles" in the US in order to infiltrate the upper echelons of US government and business circles and pass back intelligence to the Russians. Twelve people have been charged; ten were arrested in the US (one is at large) and one in Cyprus. Wired and the New York Post have colorful coverage. Wired's leans on the tradecraft and discusses steganography, while the Post favors the femme fatale angle (alleged spy Anna Chapman). The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the US actions were unfounded and pursued "unseemly" goals. One of many choice quotes from copious coverage: "They couldn't have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas." From the WSJ report: "Officials said no secrets were compromised or revealed in the alleged plot, and the spy operation seems to have yielded little of value given some of the elaborate methods deployed. None of the 11 charged by US prosecutors was accused of accessing any classified or sensitive US government information."
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Alleged Russian Spy Ring Exposed In US

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  • Re:Did they? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kevinNCSU (1531307) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:04PM (#32736726)
    It's illegal to act as the agent of a foreign government on US soil without declaring yourself as such. I believe most of them are being charged for conspiracy to do just that, while some are being charged with money laundering, which humorously enough carries a much longer maximum sentence.
  • by theverylastperson (1208224) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:18PM (#32736952) Homepage

    Moose and Squirrel?

  • Re:Typical (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:22PM (#32737036)

    Russia is no longer a communist state.

  • Re:Did they? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dreampod (1093343) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:28PM (#32737148)

    They aren't being charged under the typical set of espionage laws (Title 18, 792-798) which cover gathering or disclosing information on defense installations or plans and disclosing classified information. Rather they are being charged with 'Conspiracy to Act as Unregistered Agents of a Foreign Government' (Title 18, 951) which is much broader and covers many otherwise non-criminal activities if performed at the behest of a foreign power.

    In addition there are charges unrelated to actual performance of espionage including falsifying passports and other identity documentation, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the US.

    Over all the complaint has a wealth of specific details that make it very clear that there was intent to commit espionage and commision of crimes in furtherance of that. We still file criminal charges against individuals who have been stopped in the attempt to commit a crime even if they did not succeed to do so, though the charges may be slightly reduced (ie no murder charges if bombing is prevented, but still charged for the bombing).

  • Re:Typical (Score:5, Informative)

    by schwaang (667808) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:39PM (#32737306)

    Yeah, the Ruskis are laughable at penetrating US institutions!

    Signed, Your BFFs,
    Aldrich Ames [wikipedia.org] and
    Robert Hanssen [wikipedia.org].

  • Re:Did they? (Score:4, Informative)

    by goodmanj (234846) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @07:59PM (#32738778)

    Why the FBI chose to arrest them now is the mystery because the FBI knew for over a decade.

    It's no mystery, it's all right there in the criminal complaint [nytimes.com], if you read it with attention to dates. It's got nothing to do with global politics and everything to do with the details of the case.

    The FBI had been monitoring one of the spy couples since January 2000 (Lazaro and Pelaez). Over the years, this gradually expanded to include five couples plus Metsos, their money man. It's not clear that all these individuals are linked, but many are. Their every daily move was watched, their houses were bugged 24/7, for years.

    Three days ago (June 26), the FBI decided to go beyond passive monitoring, and engineer a meet-up between an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian operative, and one of the spy couples (Chapman and Semenko). The undercover FBI agent knew the right code phrases, but asked Chapman what I'd consider too many nosy questions. They set up a meeting for the next day, but Chapman was apparently suspicious. An hour later, Chapman bought a disposable cell phone to use as a "burner", and apparently made a call to check on the agent. She apparently figured out her cover was blown, since she didn't make the meeting the next day.

    At this point, the FBI must have realized the jig was up, and they'd better close the net on the whole spy ring now before they could react.

  • Re:Typical (Score:3, Informative)

    by plover (150551) * on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:30AM (#32743414) Homepage Journal

    I still don't think those in power understand American motivations. America is driven by a complex mix of money, corporations, special interests, corruption, etc., but at the core is the optimistic attitude of individual freedom, and a genuine belief that the government we see is in control.

    Russia never seems to act like they believe that. It's like they are always trying to figure out which politicians are the corrupt ones making the significant decisions; kind of like an international shell game of "Where's Rasputin?" Any student of history knows that every government ever has been abusive and corrupt, and the Russians are famous for studying history. So they never accepted the answer that the U.S. was any different -- they always thought they just hadn't dug deep enough yet to uncover the real truth. And they are also puzzled that if we have these corrupt people, why aren't we using them to get stuff done?

    I sometimes think they know more about the dirty undersides of our politics even more than our own FBI.

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