Alleged Russian Spies Arrested in US Living Out Cold War Caper
June 28, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Not since John le Carré’s iconic espionage novel, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” have we had such a deliciously cool spy tale to enjoy, thanks to the surprising arrest of ten Russian spies operating in the U.S. for a decade. Eight of the spies lived as married couples under deep cover, as they pursued the suburban American dream of home ownership and lawn care, when they weren’t transmitting secret info to the Russian Federation using invisible ink, brush passes and the Internet. And you thought the Cold War was over?
It’s not clear from the complaints, exactly what information was being gathered and sent to the K.G.B. organization for the 21st century, the S.V.R, which was also referred to as Center or, just C. But one intercepted message referred to the mission as penetrating American “policymaking circles,” according to the report in The New York Times:
“An F.B.I. investigation that began at least seven years ago culminated with the arrest on Sunday of 10 people in Yonkers, Boston, and northern Virginia. The documents detailed what the authorities called the “Illegals Program,” an ambitious, long-term effort by the S.V.R., the successor to the Soviet K.G.B., to plant Russian spies in the United States to gather information and recruit more agents.”
An additional member of the spy ring is still at large. The spies were charged with conspiracy money laundering and immigration violations, but not espionage.
For years they lived like normal Americans, as part of the illegals program, using fake American-sounding names, raising children and holding down unremarkable civilian jobs. And at one point, there was evidence that some of the couples began to lose sight of their original mission, as they became immersed in the minutiae of their lives.
The trade craft used by the spy ring, in some respects hearkens back to the Cold War. In addition to sophisticated wireless networks, the spy couples also used old school short wave radios to transmit encrypted Morse code and wrote messages in invisible ink:
“Criminal complaints filed in federal court on Monday read like an old-fashioned cold war thriller: Spies swapping identical orange bags as they brushed past one another in a train station stairwell. An identity borrowed from a dead Canadian, forged passports of several countries, letters sent by shortwave burst transmission or in invisible ink. A money cache buried for years in a field in upstate New York.”
It’s quite a compelling story. Talking Points Memo has the federal complaints.