Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Russian Spies Met At Starbucks

Does she look like a Russian spy to you? Despite the Cold War having ended two decades ago, a ring of ten Russian 'illegal' spies, some of whom had lived in the United States for up to 20 years, was rolled up over the weekend by the FBI. They were all Russians but lived under fake identities with Irish and Latino surnames like 'Cynthia Murphy.' In espionage jargon an "illegal" is a spy who operates in a foreign country under deep cover, using an assumed identity and fake background. The woman pictured at left was living as "Anna Chapman," a 28-year old divorcee. This photo is from her Facebook page.

These spies led outwardly unremarkable, suburban lives in places like Montclair, New Jersey; Arlington, Virginia; and Yonkers, New York. They were instructed by their Russian masters to marry upon arrival in the United States and to blend into the fabric of American life. Apparently several of them have children who were totally unaware that they were actually Russian agents. Surprisingly, the group would meet periodically at a particular Starbucks in New York City to send coded messages back to Moscow over the internet.

I've watched several news stories about these arrests. I thought this 3 minute piece by Brian Ross which aired on ABC's
Good Morning America this morning was the best. It names several of the spies and makes some mention of the tradecraft they used and how the FBI surveilled the ring for years. It also includes video of "Anna Chapman." But if you don't have 3 minutes, Brian Ross also did an excellent, initial report that's half as long last night on ABC World News Tonight that you can watch HERE.

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