Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Russian Spies Came to Suburbia

From The Guardian (UK):
The hip and friendly young man with the brunette girlfriend in the front seat as he whipped around Washington in a top-end Mercedes-Benz attracted more envy than suspicion.

A few hundred miles away, in a tree-lined, middle-class New Jersey suburb that is home to one of America's most famous comedians, residents equally saw little to worry about in the unremarkable couple with two young daughters, although they did register the cars cruising by taking pictures.

And the fiery Latin American newspaper columnist drew more amusement than scrutiny for her repeated praise of Fidel Castro.

So it was from Virginia to Boston, and from New York to Seattle: married couples with families, young get-ahead professionals, even noisy anti-government agitators – all seemingly unremarkable in the American mix. Even the accents did not raise eyebrows in a country of immigrants.

But the carefully-crafted American normality, sometimes built over a decade or more, has been shattered with the arrest of 11 people – including eight who claimed to be married couples – on charges of being part of a long-term, deep cover espionage ring run by the Russian intelligence service.

Some of the accused assumed false names and backgrounds – in one case stealing the identity of a dead Canadian. Others lived openly under their real names, but allegedly maintained a double life controlled by Moscow.

The FBI has so far failed to reveal just what kind of intelligence these alleged deep cover agents were passing on, and while the indictments carry a hint that they may not have been very successful spies, their neighbours were invariably astonished to hear the accusations...