Ten Russian sleeper spies arrested in the USA - like a bad cold war movie in 2010

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Ten Russian sleeper spies arrested in the USA - like a bad cold war movie in 2010

Like a spy novel from the cold war, ten people have been arrested in the US for spying for the Russian government. They were part of an operation where agents posed as ordinary citizens, some living together as couples for years. They are charged with conspiracy to act as unlawful agents of a foreign government, a crime which carries up to five years in prison.

An 11th suspect remains at large, according to the US justice department.

Nine of them are also charged with conspiracy to launder money, which carries a 20-year prison sentence. Alleged intercepted messages in court documents suggest they were asked to find information on topics including nuclear weapons, US arms control positions, Iran, White House rumours, CIA leadership turnover, and political parties.

The US Department of Justice says eight of the suspects allegedly carried out "long-term, 'deep-cover' assignments" on US soil, working in civilian jobs so as not to arouse suspicion.

They were allegedly trained by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to infiltrate policy-making circles and collect information, according to court papers filed in the US court for the southern district of New York. They were told to befriend US officials and send information using various methods to Russian government handlers.

US officials said the spy-ring was discovered in a "multi-year investigation" by FBI agents who posed as Russian handlers and gleaned information from two of the suspects.

Investigators say some of the agents had been using false identities since the early 1990s, using codes and engaging in advanced computer operations, including posting apparently innocent pictures on the internet which contained hidden text.

The FBI also reported observing older techniques, such as money being buried next to a beer-bottle marker and "brush pasts" in parks, where agents swap identical bags as they pass each other.

The targets of the FBI's investigation include covert SVR agents who assume false identities, and who are living in the United States on long-term, "deep-cover u assignments. These Russian secret agents work to hide all connections between themselves and Russia, even as they act at the direction and under the control of the SVR; these secret agents are typically called "illegals. The illegals receive extensive training by the SVR before being assigned to a foreign country under a false identity to operate on behalf of Russia.

The SVR also operates a subset of illegals - who perform the same work as illegals, but operate in foreign countries under their true names. This subset of illegals is generally trained in roughly the same trade-craft as the other illegals (including agent-to-agent communications, invisible writing, and the use of a cover profession), but their training is typically shorter. In addition, these illegals are not generally paired with another illegal.

The FBI's investigation has revealed that a network of illegals (the "Illegals U ) is now living and operating in the United States in the service of one primary, long-term goal: to become sufficiently "Americanized u such that they can gather information about the United States for Russia, and can successfully recruit sources who are in, or are able to . infiltrate, United States policy-making circles.

The SVR spelled out the purpose of the Illegals' presence in America in a 2009 message to two co-conspirators who are named as defendants in the attached Complaint. That message, which was sent by Moscow Center, has been decrypted by the FBI and reads, in part, as follows:
... Quote:
You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. 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 in US and send intels [intelligence reports] to C[enter].

The group allegedly got close to a scientist involved in designing bunker-busting bombs and a top former intelligence official.

Five of the suspects briefly appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Monday, where a judge ordered them to remain in prison until a preliminary hearing set for 27 July.

These included a couple known as "Richard Murphy" and "Cynthia Murphy", who were arrested in Montclair, New Jersey; Vicky Pelaez and a man known as "Juan Lazaro," who were arrested in Yonkers, New York state; and Anna Chapman, who was arrested in Manhattan, New York City.
Map of USA

Another three - Mikhail Semenko and a couple known as "Michael Zottoli" and "Patricia Mills" - will appear in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after being arrested in Arlington, Virginia.

The final two people - a couple known as "Donald Howard Heathfield" and "Tracey Lee Ann Foley" - were arrested in Boston, Massachusetts, and will appear in a federal court in the city. A suspect known as "Christopher R Metsos" remains at large. All the suspects except Ms Chapman and Mr Semenko have also been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.


Read the original court documents.
By netchicken: posted on 29-6-2010

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