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Government Crime United States Politics

Alleged Russian Spy Ring Exposed In US 279

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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  • Did they? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:01PM (#32736670)

    If they didn't 'see/steal/copy' anything, was anything actually spied upon?

    The mens rea was the attempt, but if there is no actus rea did they really break the law?

  • And now the bad news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:05PM (#32736732)
    The masterminds of the ring, Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale, and Fearless Leader, are still at large.
  • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:13PM (#32736864)

    Who cares? Let them spy. What are they going to learn?

  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:18PM (#32736956) Homepage

    Normally western counterespionage groups are very reluctant to charge anyone because the trials will leak their methods to their adversaries.

    So the FBI would only bring charges this fluffy for some other reason. What are we being distracted from?

  • by srussia ( 884021 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:22PM (#32737048)
    "Officials said no secrets were compromised or revealed in the alleged plot."
  • Re:Typical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:23PM (#32737050)

    This is correct, the Russians always have bad luck with Russian agents placed in the West, but did really good with politically sympathetic people in power or greedy ones looking for the money.

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

    by internewt ( 640704 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:34PM (#32737230) Journal

    I think I heard them say on Channel 4's news this evening that one or more was going to leave the country, so the FBI acted.

    They also mentioned that even though "spying" is being bandied about, none of them have been charged with espionage.

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

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @05:36PM (#32737244)

    Just read as:

    "Nice set of undeclared spies you have there.
    It would be a shame if something bad happened to it."

  • Re:finish this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @06:11PM (#32737740)

    Ok, here's the things about "enemy combatants" in several forms, from Taliban militants to German soldiers. When you capture someone on the field of war, you hold them until the war is over. You don't try them for "conspiracy to kill Americans," "conspiracy to commit terrorism," or any of that other bullshit. Why? Because killing opponents on the battle field isn't a crime. Conducting military operations isn't a crime. It's not even any more morally wrong than war is in general, because that's what war is. Thus, I am not for trying taliban militants, al qaeda operatives, or anyone else we capture in Afghanistan or Iraq. Hold them until the war is over. The only problem is, the "war on terrorism" will never be over. However, when we are done fighting in Iraq, everyone captured in Iraq should be released, and when we're done fighting in Afghanistan, then everyone captured in Afghanistan should be released.

    Anecdote: in the mid 1960s, my mom's parents decided to have some work done to their house, including re-doing the chimney and fireplace. The man hired to do the job was a German immigrant. He and my grandfather got to talking and discovered they had been in the same battle, on the same day, during WWII, but on opposing sides. They ended up going through a couple of bottles of scotch and crying together for a few hours. I know it's a cliche that young soldiers who come face to face with the enemy always think how 'in another life, they could have been friends,' but in this case an American and a German who had been trying to kill each other a few years earlier in part of the Ardens offensive really did come together. I have a number of friends from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries in the area. They're all perfectly fine people, and it really bothers me when people who can't even pronounce "terrorist" accuse all middle-easterners and/or Muslims of being one.

    Back on topic, the Russians aren't even being charged with espionage, but with acting as agents of a foreign government without proper registration. This is a normal, criminal matter that NGO-types can often run afoul of if they don't fill out the proper documents. I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up getting worked out by the State department. But these 10 people are hardly Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

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

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @06:17PM (#32737786)

    Then, that sounds like Eric Holder needs to have words with Obama, rather than letting Mueller have his agents go and arrest people. If Mueller isn't going to play by the rules of the new administration, or if Holder is going to use his position as Attny General to try and affect foreign policy, then we have bigger issues than some half-assed russian "spy" network. It's not as if there isn't pretty short chain of command from the FBI to the President.

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

    by dreampod ( 1093343 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @06:58PM (#32738210)

    As much as it seems foolish there is legitimate reasoning behind it.

    (1) Penalty proportional to the harm done. If you fail to commit a crime the harm done to the victim and/or society is greatly reduced, thus since the US 'justice' system is largely built on retribution (rather than rehabilitation) there is less to take out on the criminal.

    (2) It encourages going through with a crime when faced with discovery. If you are faced with an identical penalty whether you succeed or not, there is no motivation to back down if confronted by police (ie kill your target vs surrender) because there will be no lessened punishment. It is similar to the argument used for why making forcible child-rape a capital crime is counter productive (the penalty for killing the kid after is the same so why risk them being able to identify you if caught).

    (3) Easier to prove. Despite the fact that the law does not allow for it, it remains much easier to get convictions for offences with lesser penalties. If the penalties were normalized than the standard of evidence required for something like attempted murder would correspondingly rise. *Note: This is probably a good thing, but would fundamentally alter the judicial system.*

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

    by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <> on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @07:04PM (#32738264) Homepage

    If you believe the FBI, one of the targets under investigation realized that she was compromised. The FBI had become aggressive and had an undercover agent contact her because they pretty much knew how the Russians operated with this woman. I would expect that the FBI was trying to set up a sting operation so they can finally bag these spies for espionage. Unfortunately, they gave away the game. The woman bought a Verizon cell phone under a fake name, threw away the charger, and started to make calls. The FBI realized that she was trying to make an anonymous call (which doesn't work if you're already under constant surveillance) then decided to arrest everyone before they fled. One guy ran away but ten were caught.

  • Re:Tradecraft 101 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @07:17PM (#32738394)

    The thing is, there's usually something happening every few months between the US and any nation it has trouble with. Publicise a problem with North Korea one month, everyone guesses it relates to missle testing. Wait a month, and it must have something to do with them holding some hikers who supposedly strayed across the border. Wait one more and it has something to do with them arguing with Japan, or South Korea, or China. Either the government never goes public at all, or it goes public when something is happening and some people craft a theory that the two factors are related.

  • Re:finish this (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gandhi_2 ( 1108023 ) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @09:04PM (#32739224) Homepage

    Ok, so when an entire Nazi battalion got taken prisoner, we should have shipped every last soldier to the US for a trial?

    I have a little rule: I don't ask soldiers how to setup my SQL database, and I don't ask douche-bag geeks how to fight a war.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @09:13AM (#32743236)

    It IS systemic: your system encourages this. It encourages "what money and power can I get from my job" and ignores the "what should I do for my fellow man". therefore the epic failures of the bribed CIA leaks IS a systemic problem: your capitalist system encourages such behaviour and it IS your system.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham