June 29th, 2010

The extent of the Russian spy ring…

…revealed by the arrest of eleven alleged Russian spies yesterday has shocked our Russian experts, leading me to wonder how “expert” they could have possibly been. Because no one should have been shocked that Russia under Putin is still in the spy biz:

One message from bosses in Moscow, in awkward English, gave the most revealing account of the agents’ assignment. “You were sent to USA for long-term service trip,” it said. “Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles and send intels [intelligence reports] to C[enter].”

It couldn’t have been very difficult to do whatever it was they were supposed to do. The spies blended in quite nicely in such havens as New York and Cambridge, where:

Illegals will sometimes pursue degrees at target-country universities, obtain employment, and join relevant professional associations” to deepen false identities.

And buy homes, one of the perks of spying in the US, which doesn’t appear to have been all that arduous:

In Montclair, when the Murphys wanted to buy a house under their names, “Moscow Center,” or “C.,” the S.V.R. headquarters, objected.

“We are under an impression that C. views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here,” the New Jersey couple wrote in a coded message. “From our perspective purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solving the housing issue, plus ‘to do as the Romans do’ in a society that values home ownership.”

You cannot make this stuff up—although perhaps someone will use it in a movie.

43 Responses to “The extent of the Russian spy ring…”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    Sounds like the communists are still in business. It will be interesting to see if Obama backs off giving up our nuclear arsenal and missile defense. Are there any Democrats left who care about our survival?

  2. Tatyana Says:

    Oh, I think it can be made up.

    Sounds to stupid to be true. Like a not particularly sophisticated story from a spy book written in 50′s.

  3. PA Cat Says:

    Fannie and Freddie must be so proud.

  4. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Help me out here. I heard that during the cold war East Block spies would come here, see the good life and defect. Anybody know whether this was the case?
    Also I wonder what the ideology of these spies is? From what little I read they may have been looking for investment advice and didn’t trust their local stock brokers.

  5. Jamie Irons Says:

    When I read the language of the “control” you quoted, I am of course reminded of the immortal Natasha:

    Boris, we have to kill moose and squirrel!

    Jamie Irons

  6. Tatyana Says:

    Bob: this whole thing is very, very weird.
    Read this http://www.justice.gov/opa/documents/062810complaint2.pdf
    And this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/us_and_canada/10446390.stm

    Check other enclosed district court complaints here;

  7. Tatyana Says:

    About that “language of control”…why, again, they “Center” (LOL) was talking to them in English? So it’d be better understood by FBR hacks?

  8. Tatyana Says:

    I meant FBI

  9. Artfldgr Says:

    Do a search on Anna Chapman, and Ron Perlman… is it the same one, i don’t know… (the el diaro author is a different event, and there are also some Chinese)

    and to those not in the know, the fall of the soviet union marked a large increase in operations like this as the borders were more open, and that it was easier to act. also the american people became so self hating that many were willing to work for nothing.

    there is also an ex spy trying to change our view

    Ex-spy: May be 50 undercover Russian couples in US

    yeah… 50 a year put in… they have whole schools that crank out over 2k people a year (not couples of course).

    ne of the Cold War’s most famous defectors says Russia probably has about 50 deep-cover couples – and maybe even up to 60 of them – spying inside the United States.

    Oleg Gordievsky, a former deputy head of the KGB in London who defected in 1985, said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would know the number of illegal operatives in each target country.

    The 71-year-old ex-double agent told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday that, based on his experience in Russian intelligence, “there’s usually 40 to 50 couples, all illegal.”

    but the key thing is this.

    ever notice that in NONE of our assesments (except mine and a very few others), such games and things are completely not part of the dialogue.

    if we had referenced the female author at el diario, or people like krugman, we never ever suppose they are being paid by another country.

    even when we KNOW that some event was influenced and changed by these actions, we will go back to ignoring it the minute the facts no longer apply pressure

    note the outcome to my points as to feminism and its history… they refuse to beleive what it is… what it stands for, and how it never was anything they thought it was… and that every good cop to the others bad cop is the idea that the whole is not bad. (which is the point of good cop bad cop, no?)

    and stuff like below is just more smoke and mirrors…

    Professor Igor Panarin: When America fell to pieces the shouting was outrageous


    In September 1998 an international conference called the Informational War was held in Austria. I presented my analytical research there. 150 out of 400 participants were from the USA. There was outrageous shouting in the audience when I was talking about the division of America in my presentation. However my reasons were well-grounded. Back then it was obvious that finance and economy would be the main destructive power for the USA. The dollar was not secured by anything. The external debt of the country was growing like an avalanche in spite of the fact that it was non-existent at the beginning of the 1980s. In 1998, when I was making my forecast, it had reached 2 trillion dollars. Today it’s more than 11 trillion. This is a pyramid which is bound to collapse.

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    by the way, the newspapers either are showing their ignorance or feigning it.

    the SVR was the first chief directorate of the KGB.
    KGB – Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti or Committee for State Security
    there is also the GRU…

    SVR is the official foreign-operations successor to many prior Soviet-era foreign intelligence agencies, ranging from the original ‘foreign department’ of the Cheka under Lenin, to the OGPU and NKVD of the Stalinist era, followed by the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.

    take some time to look at their official emblems and compare them to other organizations emblems and things.

    Mikhail Fradkov is the current SVR Director.

    According to Yuri Shvets, a former KGB agent “In the days of the Soviet Union, the number of spies was limited because they had to be based at the foreign ministry, the trade mission or the news agencies like Tass. Right now, virtually every successful private company in Russia is being used as a cover for Russian intelligence operations.”

    When businessman Nikolai Glushkov was appointed as a top manager of Aeroflot in 1996, he found that the airline company worked as a “cash cow to support international spying operations”

    3,000 people out of the total workforce of 14,000 in Aeroflot were FSB, SVR, or GRU officers. All proceeds from ticket sales were distributed to 352 foreign bank accounts that could not be controlled by the Aeroflot administration. Glushkov closed all these accounts and channeled the money to an accounting center called Andava in Switzerland

    3000 people at one company, and we are to believe there are only 60 illegal couples in the US…

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    They talk in English to maintain fluency and not have them break the illusion they don’t know Russian.

    also, they are more concerned with who would hear, and to hear someone who isn’t supposed to know Russian arguing in fluent Russian would certainly cause more problems.

    logically it doesn’t matter which language to the FBI, or other places… but it DOES matter to being discovered by average people which are bothered by incongruities.

    the point is that the last thing you care about is the FBI, the majority thing you care about is the accidental thing that craps it all… which is the actions of average people around you who are a constant danger.

    this is old old old stuff… and it meets the logic that works, not the logic that feels better.

    why does the tiniest guy in the platoon carry the heaviest machine gun? to most it would make sense to have the stronger guy take it.

    but in truth they give it to tiny, not the big Schwarzenegger… once you know why, you sure feel not to bright.

    the smallest guy will be able to keep the machine gun target profile the tiniest. once he shoots, he becomes the main target. the big guys, are better at protecting the little guy. espeically in hand to hand combat.

    so IRL the small guy get the gun…
    the big guys protect the small guy, and maximize fire

    in the left dreamworld… the big guy carries the gun and doesnt bothe even taking position… he stands and shoots.. (which gets you killed real fast)… and there is no hand to hand combat… so they never see their machine gun not nest overrun because its not defended.

    just cause you think that something is for X reason, doesnt mean that its for X reason. this factor is multiplied by lack of knowledge.

  12. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    why, again, they “Center” (LOL) was talking to them in English? So it’d be better understood by FBI hacks?

    A message in Russian might arouse suspicion should it fall into the wrong hands. Better that it be in odd English. Of course, they
    could have just sent pictures in email, and employed a steganography program to encode/extract the actual message.

  13. Teresa Says:

    I have to wonder which “experts” the NYT talked to if they were surprised. Maybe the Russian experts on their own staff who’ve been trying to tell us how wonderful it is in a Communist country for so long? Only media types would be shocked that countries spy on each other. You will notice that no names or agencies were given out in that statement – just that “they” are shocked! Shocked I tell you!

    Interesting how much technology went into watching these people. If this is all good and sticks, the FBI has done some excellent work here.

    I’m pretty sure the media tear down of the FBI will commence in the next day or so… as soon as they figure out exactly how to make it look like these were poor misunderstood people that we must be nicer to. Heh.

  14. Nolanimrod Says:

    The house thing does sound like something from Ninotchka.

  15. Tatyana Says:

    IRA: but they did use steganography program in encoded picture messages! Read the pdf court complaint files @ the bbc links.
    Btw, the court files never mention the language used for messages. I guess it’s a speculation from NYTimes’ “experts”.

    Teresa: some of FBI’ statements look pretty idiotic in the face of it, actually – unless they substantiate it with something else that’s not disclosed for public consumption. Like assertion that one of the spies who stated in his documents as born in Uruguay was lying because he was taped saying to his wife “after 6 years …we moved to Siberia”. Why, what other proof of being a Russian spy you need?
    Unless there is some relevant context there , this sentence might have 1000 plausible explanations…like reading from a book, f.i.!

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    Illegals will sometimes pursue degrees at target-country universities, obtain employment, and join relevant professional associations” to deepen false identities.

    Any mention of editing law reviews? How about becoming an adjunct “professor?”

  17. Occam's Beard Says:

    Imagine the consternation that must have reigned at the NYT when the first fragmentary reports came in that undercover Russian agents were about to be arrested. And the relief when they found out who they were.

    Anyone phone in sick that morning?

  18. Occam's Beard Says:

    Dear DoJ,

    Move them to the head of the class. Drop everything else, if necessary. Try them in camera, and if they are convicted, hang them forthwith. Do all of this by New Year’s. Should be plenty of time, if you don’t screw around.

    By making provision for a problem you guarantee its existence. No such provision – no corresponding problem. Ask Singapore about its drug problem.

  19. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Ion Pacepa

  20. Thomas Says:

    Ummm, normally I hate the moral equivalence thing but I’m pretty sure everyone spies on everyone. Maybe with some friendly countries it can just be aboveboard (the diplomats send back reports)… But spying is not in itself that bad. Depends on what they were looking for (weapons… bad, an idea which way the policy winds blow… not so bad).

  21. Sergey Says:

    SVR is gathering general information about target countries, mostly for needs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is political in nature. Military secrets are specialization of GRU. Nobody of these “sleepers” was supposed to seek actually classified information, because this is much more dangerous, and they were not prepared for this task. “Intel” they seek were rumors, inside information about politicians and personal information which can be used for recruiting “moles” among VIPs. They also were not supposed to recruite US citizens themselves, but only providing tips for GRU and FSB operatives. SVR is a huge body, more like research and analytical center than spy agency. As for their ideology, if such is actually needed, it is the same as for every other government official in Russia: strengthen the state, pursue its national self-interst at every turn.

  22. Pablo Says:

    The fact that Russians are still spying on us does not surprise me. So are the Chinese, the Israelis, the French, the Brits and the Japanese just to name a few. That’s what a country with national security interests do. The goal is not to get caught. Russians got schooled.

    Actually I see this as a nice tough play on the part of the Obama Administration. Following on the heels of last week’s visit of Russian President Medvedev to Washington this is a deft kick in the balls to remind the Russians we have not fallen asleep. Well played FBI.

  23. Sergey Says:

    “They were accused of collecting information ranging from research programs on small-yield, high-penetration nuclear warheads to the global gold market, and seeking background on people who applied for jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to criminal complaints filed in a U.S. court.”
    Notably, nobody was accused of espionage. That means, even information about warheads they were gathered was not classified, and the only criminal deed was using false identities.

  24. Tatyana Says:

    Pablo: someone in Russia commented that Obama is simply helping his buddy to fulfill his promise to cut the bureaucracy by 20%!

  25. Pablo Says:

    “…the only criminal deed was using false identities.”

    Each of the ten was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1290475/Anna-Chapman-11-Russian-spies-accused-Cold-War-style-plot-US.html#ixzz0sL54d78s

  26. Tatyana Says:

    Ideology of SVR “is the same as for every other government official in Russia” – getting a piece of the money pie. They had to show something for grabbing the cabbage – so they had these nincompoops (who, I suspect, are themselves children of nomenklatura, not some carefully selected and trained talent) installed in place. Распил бабла – national russian sport.

  27. Sergey Says:

    “to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general”
    That means, they were doing exactly the job the whole CPUSA was doing in 1950th. After this organization collapsed, the only alternative left for Russian government became using such agents of influence. But to call them “spies” is a bit overtop.

  28. Sergey Says:

    “Распил бабла – national russian sport.”
    I suspect this is a fairly universal sport. What else all these US Congressmen do? Carring some pork to their electorate, and also lining their own pockets.
    A Korean joke I recently heard: Some Korean official invited his African colleague to his nice house. The guest asked: “How you managed to build such house, when your salary is rather modest”? And the host invited the African to the window: “See this bridge? – Yes. – 10%!
    Next year, this African recieved his former host in his magnificent palace, and astonished Korean asked: How? The African invited him to a window. “See a bridge?” – “But there is no bridge!” – Yes. 100%!
    In Russia, this is, probably, somewhere between Africa and Korea. More than 10%, but never close to 100%. My guess, it is fifty-fifty.

  29. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Rebecca West’s “The New Meaning of Treason” covers espionage against the west from Lord Haw-Haw to, approx, Profumo and lesser cases.
    Except for names and dates…not much has changed.
    A commenter on another post mentioned how funny it is that their neighbors in Cambridge didn’t see anything strange. As if they would. Snobby, anti-Americans??? What’s the problem? Fit right in.

  30. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Senator Joseph McCarthy was crucified because of his supposedly power–crazed “witch hunt” for Communist spies and “agents of influence” within the U.S. government and in key positions in our society. But, in the years since—if you had cared to note it–various aging Communist spies have come forward to gloat and admit what they had done, others were finally discovered or publicly named, there have been revelations about various spy rings and their academic recruiting centers at Oxford, Columbia and elsewhere, and about “agents of influence” in the media, the VENONA papers—our WWII through early Cold War era decryptions of some (we were not able to decrypt all of the messages) of the Communist wire traffic between the Soviet Embassy here in the U.S. and Moscow–have been published, and there are also the recent revelations coming out of the KGB archives—all confirming McCarthy’s basic charges and, indeed, demonstrating that there were far more Soviet agents in place than even he imagined.

    James Jesus Angleton was the CIA officer in charge of finding “moles” within the Agency, and he was eventually booted out because of his so called obsessive “paranoia” regarding the presence of such moles and his persistence in trying to catch them. Years later we discovered that there were, indeed, such highly destructive moles in the Agency and elsewhere, but they were caught long after they should have been, and only after they had done enormous damage, and agents were killed because of the information they gave our enemies.

    There is ample evidence that foreign intelligence services—the Russians, the Chinese and the Cubans in particular—have many “agents of influence,” spies, and networks of spies in place and actively working here in the U.S. The most recent threat comes from Islam, for our government has actively recruited Muslims to join our military and intelligence agencies, and one highly placed civilian Muslim “adviser” at DOD has succeeded in getting the one DOD expert on Islamic Law and the Jihad dismissed from his post at the JCS, where he had been much too outspoken and too effective when he lectured senior military commanders about the true nature of Islam and the Jihad, and there are now two Muslim members of Congress, with that number sure to grow.

    All is not rainbows, puppies and lollipops, and us all joining hands to sing “Kumbaya” around the campfire and roast marshmallows, and if we do not want someone to steal our lunch, indeed, to steal the store that prepared that lunch, and the wheat fields, orchards and pastures from which the raw materials for that lunch came from as well, we had better remain vigilant, and react decisively and ferociously when someone deliberately gives us “wrong directions” to our destination, tries to confuse and weaken us, or even to very stealthily slip a knife in our back, and to take it all.

  31. Curtis Says:


    1. Debase the populace as much as possible:


    Good example: No 23: “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    As an aside , I believe all the popular crime programs are purposefully showing many traumatic scenes of dead, burned, and dismembered bodies not for our entertainment, but merely to lower our sensitivities.

    2. Attack by blitzkrieg.

  32. Occam's Beard Says:

    Ummm, normally I hate the moral equivalence thing but I’m pretty sure everyone spies on everyone.

    Granted. So? This is a street fight, not Madison Garden. Morality has no more place in this than Marquis of Queensbury rules do in a dark alley. Kicks to the balls are definitely on the menu, in fact, right at the top of it. Our spies caught in most countries don’t get sent to a spa for some R&R. And even if they did, I see no reason to reciprocate.

    @Wolla Dalbo June 30th, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Excellent post. I too came to realize that McCarthy, with all of his flaws, had a point. It’s possible for a society to be too open and too trusting.

  33. Thomass Says:

    Occam’s Beard Says:

    “Granted. So? This is a street fight, not Madison Garden. Morality has no more place in this than Marquis of Queensbury rules do in a dark alley. Kicks to the balls are definitely on the menu, in fact, right at the top of it.”

    I’m no so sure. If we have spies they’ve captured I’d rather go Queensbury rules and trade theirs for ours…. provided they don’t know anything big they have not already reported…

  34. Sergey Says:

    Illegal operatives were exchanged all the way long even during the most hostile years of Cold War. There is no reason not to do this now.

  35. Artfldgr Says:

    The most recent threat comes from Islam

    Thats funny if you really think about it.

    out of all the totalitarian nationalist kinds of ideological bs, they are the OLDEST…

    so our most recent threat is historically the oldest
    and its only recent because the US had not been born yet.

    Islam and the war it STARTED with the west has been ongoing for over a thousand years.

    From the Al-Rashidun in Abbasids to the Fatimids (and the Fatima conspiracies), to the Berbers and beyond to the crusades…

    specifically Vienna in the late 1500s

    where the last time (before the modern era) they tried to assail the west was Sept 11

    Obama’s code name is “Renegade”…
    do you know its ETYMOLOGY?
    or the etymology of RENEG?

    i told you they LOVE word games.

    renagade is from renegado and has its origins in 1580s.. [that same period of Islams attempt]

    1580s, “apostate,” probably (with change of suffix) from Sp. renegado, originally “Christian turned Muslim,” from M.L. renegatus, prop. pp. of renegare “deny”

    The Berber: or, The mountaineer of the Atlas. A tale of Morocco By William Starbuck Mayo

    uses the terms in this way as he talks about Morocco..

    [and the fact that one daughter is named after Pushkin, and the other after a historian from Berkley, and on and on]

  36. Artfldgr Says:

    Illegal operatives were exchanged all the way long even during the most hostile years of Cold War. There is no reason not to do this now.

    actually there is…

    You cant exchange unless you have something to exchange.

    may i ask which American spies caught in Russia (and being held) they will trade for?

    oh oh… problem…

  37. Sergey Says:

    Every intelligence agency have some “suspects” they are watching without making any noises about it, until the time is ripe to announce that they are “caught”. This group also was closely watched by FBI for years, and only days ago “caught”. The same is probably true about US agents. It would not surprize me if they will be announced “caught” in near future.

  38. Occam's Beard Says:

    If we have spies they’ve captured I’d rather go Queensbury rules and trade theirs for ours….

    I believe Oleg Penkovsky would beg to differ. He was reportedly bound to a board with piano wire and fed into a furnace, alive, feet first.

    Not the strictest interpretation of the Marquis of Queensbury rules, no?

  39. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Yeah, and too bad, too. He was a particularly good source on Sov warfighting doctrine.

  40. Occam's Beard Says:

    Meanwhile, our idea of getting hard-nosed with traitors and spies is denying them premium cable.

    We need a middle ground.

  41. Artfldgr Says:

    Paul William Hampel 2006

    Foreign governments have infiltrated Canadian politics, CSIS head tells CBC

    CSIS bombshell may distract Canadians from summit security tab: expert

  42. Weekev Says:

    Why is it always Cambridge that is involved when it comes to spying? Are they too disinterested at Oxford or too smart to get caught? Maybe the big story waiting out there is “The Oxford Spy Ring; how they got away with it.”

  43. Artfldgr Says:


    i think you mean Columbia..

    Cambridge is in the UK as is Oxford.

    the reason is simple.
    cherry picking

    why would a older man want a 12 year old girl.
    cherry picking.

    why would they want someone older who is more experienced, and harder to use. the enthusiasm of youth is that they can be used easier. (their superior smartness makes it even easier).

    and schools they compromised most who have elite send their kids with no regard, gives them a apple grove to choose from.

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