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Standards Have Fallen

CNN reports on the great Russian “spy” arrests:

The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that 10 people were arrested on charges of being Russian agents involved in a long-term mission in the United States.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that the suspects are Russian citizens. In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said the suspects did not commit any actions directed toward American interests and asked for a guarantee that they will be given access to Russian consular officials and lawyers.

The Justice Department said the suspects were supposed to recruit intelligence agents, but were not directly involved in obtaining U.S. secrets themselves. They were charged with acting as agents of a foreign government, and nine also were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The charges include conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, the Justice Department said. Conspiracy to commit money laundering has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

This is embarrassing, What if people think that the Soviets did stuff like this? How much credibility can “Cold Warriors” get when this is the opposition. Some of them had accents! What kind of spycraft is that – deep agents with accents?! The Russian Foreign Ministry admitting they’re Russians?!

The “trade” has really gone downhill [….. hey, you commies, get off my lawn!!]


1 Steve Bates { 06.29.10 at 6:58 pm }

Couldn’t they tell by the color of their hats? 😈

2 Bryan { 06.29.10 at 7:35 pm }

First the comic opera that Mossad has become and now the “new” KGB acting like an Ian Fleming novel directed by Mel Brooks.

We don’t need the CIA, we need those guys from Mystery Science Theater or Rocky and Bullwinkle.

3 Jack K., the Grumpy Forester { 06.29.10 at 11:33 pm }

…I’ve been thinking as I’ve watched this story unfold that John le Carré may have just decided to pack it in and take a fling at writing pulp romance fiction instead…

4 Kryten42 { 06.29.10 at 11:48 pm }

Saw this on the news. MAde me PMSL! 😆

Ah well… Russia has finally achieved equality with the USA and Israel! LMAO

5 Kryten42 { 06.29.10 at 11:51 pm }

Oh!! And I shouldn’t forget that *other* bastion of spy’s… the UK! I don’t bother mentioning our ASIO in that list. They have always been a bunch of clowns in ‘MiB’ drag! You can easily tell an ASIO agent… they are the ones who look like TV spies! They couldn’t tail a 6YO without getting spotted by the kid.

6 Bryan { 06.30.10 at 12:54 am }

Yes, Jack, it’s a terrible thing when spies go from George Smiley to Boris LOL.

It must be the transition from the professionals to the ideologues, the eager young things who are going to try it for the excitement, Kryten. It’s like they learned their lessons but paid no attention to context. They used everything, not just the minimum that worked.

I’m beginning to think that global climate change reduces IQ.

7 Kryten42 { 06.30.10 at 1:15 am }

Yes… Sad how things have changed so much in such little time. 20 years ago, if you had a room with 10 people and you knew for certain one was a foreign spy, it was probably the *guy* who looked and sounded most like he belonged there! 😀 (Proving it was almost impossible however).

I have suspected for some time now that the only *tradecraft* they are taught these days, is watching reruns of ‘Get Smart’! Though… that is probably giving them too much credit.


8 Bryan { 06.30.10 at 4:42 pm }

The basic rule was if you stood out in any way, you weren’t suitable for the field, although in Germany they might be Bulgarian, who were allowed free for comic relief if they weren’t “thugs”.

That’s it, we have become the Bulgarian State Security! Now it makes sense.

9 Badtux { 06.30.10 at 5:45 pm }

My suspicion is that these guys were actually working for the Russian Mafiya. Of course, in Russia organized crime and government tend to merge, with most politicians using Mafiya enforcers to squash their opposition and protecting the Mafiya in return, but they’re not actual government employees. The money charge for me is money laundering… stealing and selling industrial secrets has long been a Mafiya specialty, and laundering the resulting cash has always been an issue.

So I think the Russian embassy is being a bit disingenuous here (heh!)… but I also think the FBI is probably about as correct about these guys as they were about the Haitian Ninja Terrorist Threat :).

-Badtux the Snarky Penguin

10 Bryan { 06.30.10 at 7:25 pm }

The Russian Mafiya has standards and only took the best of the KGB for their operations after the demise of the Soviet Union. 😉

Actually the KGB used professional criminals all the time as they were a problem for the Militsia, the criminal police, not the KGB. Real criminals got all the best jobs in the GULag which was controlled by the KGB. So the two groups had a long working relationship that continued after the fall. The ex-KGB brought their files on people who are now in power with them when they left their government employment, so government officials don’t work very hard to do anything about organized crime.

This is too much of an amateur production to be the Mafiya.

11 Badtux { 06.30.10 at 8:40 pm }

Well, given that you probably encounter the Russian Mafiya all the time in your neck of the woods (they pretty much control the Florida moving industry, if you see a moving truck that is not a long-haul truck for one of the national franchises it’s likely Mafiya-controlled), I shall defer to your superior expertise :).

Oh yeah, why the moving industry? Unregulated, easy ability to extort money from people since you’re holding their life’s possessions hostage, easy access to identity documents and firearms (which people mysteriously insist upon packing into boxes marked “personal papers” and identifiable gun cases), easy to launder cash since they’re paid in cash and can pay this cash to fictitious “labor contractors”. It’s not a major part of their holdings, but a profitable one, especially for the ease of money laundering.

12 Bryan { 06.30.10 at 9:20 pm }

Russian is heard all the time down here these days. Most of the time people are brought in by the fundies who are going to save the souls of the Communist atheists. Alas, the sheep leave the fold after the papers are in order and they are in the US.

I’ve done some neighborly translation at the local DMV section at the county tax office when renewing tags.

They live primarily in Pensacola and Destin in this area, but there are a large communities in Miami and Mobile. I don’t know about New Orleans.

They certainly act “hinky” as we used to say in the cop shop, not quite “reasonable suspicion to believe” but anybody with beat experience would want to have a chat and ID them. They seem to be common in Subway shops around here.

13 Kryten42 { 06.30.10 at 10:24 pm }

That’s true about the Mafiya. Many are ex KGB and some GRU (and previous to the KGB many were generally thugs or loner crim’s). We have a large contingent of Russian Mafiya here in Aus, they even control several *legit* businesses (fr many reasons, not simply money laundering, which they also do of course). I know for a fact that a certain large ISP here is run by them (though I still enjoy breathing, so no names!) 😉

During my time in the biz, we had many re-training sessions and briefings on new and updated methods used by the various organizations such as KGB, CIA, etc. The KGB changed tactics when they learned that we had done some intense training in looking out for human *set* patterns, etc. We studied a lot of psychology and physiology in those days. 🙂 Every human alive has some uniquely identifiable *set* (behavioral pattern). We had discovered that the best way to spot a KGB agent was to watch how they reacted under certain situations. They had been trained to react (or not react) to give themselves away. Most normal people don’t have that control, so they could be spotted because they didn’t react as a *normal* person might have in a situation. 🙂 It wasn’t conclusive of course, but it narrowed the field, there were several other methods employed to narrow the field further. The KGB started retraining their field agents to react as the person they were pretending to be might be expected to react. Then, we were re-trained… etc, etc! All good fun! 😆 Many ex-spooks become psychologists, or sales trainers etc! 😀

I am sure there are still deep sleepers there and here from the old Soviet KGB. They could be your Uncle, and you’d never know it! 😉

14 Badtux { 07.01.10 at 12:03 am }

I wonder what it is that attracts Russians to Florida. Is it the heat? The lack of a state income tax? The incompetent government that does little regulation of industries that they like to go into? Or maybe the widespread government corruption that gives them that good ole’ back-home feeling? Curious penguins are… curious :).

15 Bryan { 07.01.10 at 5:12 pm }

Everyone has sleepers around the world, and a lot of them will die of old age without doing anything because no one remembers they exist. You have to feel sort of bad for them thinking that one day they will be called upon for some heroic act, and then they end up in a nursing home eating Jello.

As an interrogator I can say that lack of reaction is easier to spot than a reaction. Reactions can be caused by a lot of things that may or may not be related to the questions, but a lack of reaction is pure, intentional control.

It’s the sun, which they overdue. You can see them glowing from the sunburn at dusk. The newbie Russians look like lepers for the first year, with all of the peeling and blistering.

Miami is easy for them to disappear into, and they probably find a lot of “friends” in the Cuban population, who don’t want people to know they are “friends”. 😉

There is a long history of organized crime in South Florida.

16 Kryten42 { 07.01.10 at 8:09 pm }

Oh right! I forgotten you’d been trained as an interrogator also. 🙂 Memory is suffering somewhat lately. *shrug* 🙂

Yeah, the Ruskies like Sydney here for the same reasons Bryan. 😆 They have a thing for Bondi beach (and Manly). I think they watch far too much TV! 😀 Though, they really burn here! We have a higher UV index in summer. When Lady Min was here, she had brought a UV test strip thingy (sensible of her!) And it went to max even though it was overcast. 😆 She was quite surprised.. I just laughed. 😉 Yeah… mean, me! 😛

17 Bryan { 07.01.10 at 9:49 pm }

The training probably sucks today, as they seem to believe torture works, while in the old days you were taught it was a waste of time and effort. There isn’t a lot of difference between “military interrogation” and “police interviewing”, no matter what my police instructors liked to think – same basic principles in both with more paperwork in the police version because it has to go to court. Neither works with children or psychos, but, with patience, people will tell you everything. Of course, you only find out what people believe to be true, is can be different than the real truth.

Down here the white sand and water act like mirrors, which means you can burn the underside of your chin and other areas you wouldn’t think are exposed [hint: baggy swimming trunks or skirts on the beach are not a good idea.]

18 Badtux { 07.02.10 at 1:01 pm }

Latest news is that several of these folks have admitted that they do work for the Russian government, but sort of shrug… “so what? It’s not illegal to work for a foreign government, there’s no war between the U.S. and Russia.” Well, other than the fact that they’re supposed to register as agents of a foreign government if they’re receiving money from said foreign government, and are supposed to declare that money as income. So it appears that these guys are going down for income tax evasion, money laundering, and failure to register as an agent of a foreign government, but not for spying, because apparently they didn’t do any spying.

So calling them a “spy ring” is ridiculous, but I guess calling them an “income tax evasion ring” just doesn’t fall off the tongue the same way. The question is, why in the world did the FBI roll them up *now*? It’s not as if they were threatening America in some way, and if they’d been left in place, the FBI could have kept them under observation and given them the ole’ mushroom treatment if they did try to do some spying. All I can guess is that either the FBI was so inept in their observation that they got “made”, or that politics came into it. Hmm, what’s been in the news recently that the Obama administration would love to have pushed off the front page? 😈

– Badtux the Twisted Penguin

19 Bryan { 07.02.10 at 5:01 pm }

The excuse was that one of the group was getting ready to leave, which makes even less sense, because they could wait and ID the replacement, as well as anyone that made contact with them.

It sounds like a “Budget Bust”, an arrest designed to impress Congress with how wonderful and necessary the FBI counter-espionage effort is, and why it needs more money. It is a sibling of election time vice raids to show how dedicated the pols in office are to “protecting the children”.

20 Kryten42 { 07.03.10 at 2:30 am }

Funny that you mention “Budget Bust”, I was thinking along those lines as well. I wasn’t certain because there were no dead bodies involved. Whenever ASIO has a “BB”, there is usually at least one innocent body afterward to clean up (or, had, I should say. It seems that the powers-that-be ran out of lunatics to be the fall-guy when an ASIO “BB” op went wrong, as they always did, and decided it’s far simpler just to throw more money at ASIO every year). I cite the Sydney Hilton Hotel “Terrorist” Bomb plot that killed two garbage men on their way back to the depot and the NCA bombing as two examples (If there is ever a bomb involved, it’s almost certain to be ASIO). You know Brian, you can find some solace in the fact that ASIO makes the CIA look like gold star geniuses! At least when the CIA screws up, they generally do it in someone else’s country! *sigh*

Mind you, when Bushmoron visited for the APEC summit, ASIO still screwed up, but there weren’t any dead bodies for a change! At least… none that I know about! There may have been a few ASIO staff *adjustments* after they made Howard a laughing stock Worldwide! 😉 😀 I think that was the only time I have ever cheered for ASIO! 😆 😆

21 Bryan { 07.03.10 at 10:11 pm }

Democrat in the White House, so no bodies. Bodies are for Repub budgets.

You would have thought that someone would have recognized people from a TV show, although it is possible that they did and thought it would be funny. Guard duty does that do you.