Russian Spies Like Us

Ten Russian agents posing as Americans and living in the suburbs of DC, New York, and Boston for a decade to glean valuable intelligence have been arrested by the FBI.

Ten Russian agents posing as Americans and living  in the suburbs of DC, New York, and Boston for a decade to glean valuable intelligence have been arrested by the FBI.

My initial take, detailed in my New Atlanticist post “Russian Spy Ring Arrested in USA,” is that this was a Keystone Kops operation.

My initial thought upon reading that is that the Russians could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and simply attended these meetings or checked the various think tank websites for transcripts of these events, most of which are open to the public.


While there’s doubtless some minor intelligence value to developing relationships with these people, this information is, again, so readily available as to make using surreptitious methods to uncover it farcical.  Read the blogs and op-ed pages!


In terms of what it says about the intelligence capabilities of the two countries, I’m not sure offhand who should be more embarrassed: the Russians for engaging in such an elaborate scheme to access information easily available in open sources or the United States for taking so long to put an end to the farce.

More at the link. 

AP Photo.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. steve says:

    I thought SOP was to monitor for a while and catch as many as possible, arresting only when needed? Anyway, the timing sucks. Sounds pretty well documented, so I hope this is just Russian kabuki for the folks at home. I would note, that I am seriously disappointed at the apparent lack of sex in the spy scandal. Without that personal touch, how did they expect to succeed?


  2. sam says:

    Well, you know, it just might be that the SVR spy masters were fighting the last (cold) war, or, more likely, had read too much John Le Carre. I have to say that when I read the story in the NY Times this morning, I was amused rather than ticked off. As ineffectual as it was, the op did show some panache. But I gather the handlers were always afraid the spies would say, “Hey, this lifestyle ain’t too bad, maybe we should head downtown and talk to….”:

    There were also hints that Russian spy bosses feared their agents, ordered to go native in prosperous America, might be losing track of their official purpose. Agents in Boston submitted an expense report with such vague items as “trip to meeting” for $1,125 and “education,” $3,600.

    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.”


  3. sam says:
  4. sam says:

    Damn, try this one.

    Will we be getting our editing function back?

  5. SteveCan says:

    Shades of the days of Herb and Eva Philbrick. Yikes