Friday, July 09, 2010

Russian spies

The latest Russian spy case certainly doesn't measure up to the standards of fictional spy drama. True is often stranger than fiction. And often more dull.

It sounds like some kind of spy swap is in process or even already done. Which may be why this bust happened when it did, since the alleged Russian spies arrested didn't seem to have been up to anything especially nefarious or dangerous at the moment. Following them for longer in theory could have led American officials to other, more substantial espionage activity. The feds may have just needed some kind of Russian spies to do a swap they wanted to do.

This long blog post, Espionaje ruso en Barrio Sésamo Crónicas desde Europa 04.07.2010 by Daniel Utrilla, El Mundo's correspondent in Moscow discusses how actual cases of Russian espionage compare to so of the famous fictional versions. He uses this photo from the Facebook page of Anna Chapman, who quickly became the most famous of the bunch because her photos make it easy to at least imagine her as some kind of Mati Hari (well, sort of), to illustrate how silly and unprofessional this bunch of alleged spies were acting:

I'm not so sure that taking a photo with a Sesame Street character was necessarily so sloppy. But then, I haven't been reading more vampire lit than spy novels lately, so I'm a little rusty on the latest in spook tradecraft.

Pat Lang in The Russian "secret agents" Sic Semper Tyrannis 07/03/2010 writes:

Governments need information. Governments try to hide information and so "Spying" is necessary. Even countries that are supposedly close "allies" (a much over-worked word). spy on each other. In such instances the operations are merely classified at a higher level. Spying for information as well as "influence" operations are major weapons. That is why they are taken seriously.

Neither the existence of Russian operations against the US nor the comic but necessary "outrage" evinced by Putin are surprising. What the reason was for arresting these people at this time is obscure but probably not very important. Usually, the police prefer to let such activities continue under surveillance, believing that it is better to "supervise" known activities, perhaps even feed them a little "chicken feed" to see where the chickens run as a result.
See also Marcy Wheeler, DOJ Blows Smoke on Timing of Russian Spy Bust 06/29/2010.


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