Russia has revived an ancient practice, using merchant ships to gather naval intelligence. US intelligence agencies have detected a large amount of evidence that reveals how Russian cargo ships operating throughout the world routinely radio back to Moscow information on the name and location of foreign warships. In particular, the Russians like to spot U.S. nuclear submarines as they depart the major sub base n Washington state, particularly when the surfaced subs transit the busy Juan de Fuca straits. This is not illegal. It never was. But it shows that the Russians are covering a lot of bases in their intelligence operations.