Intelligence: Russia Rounds Up The Usual Suspects

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January 7, 2009: The Russian FSB (Federal Security Service) reported that they arrested 149 foreign spies in 2008. Of those, 48 were officials of foreign intelligence agencies. Strictly speaking, these are not spies, but the people who seek out locals suitable for recruiting as spies. Of these spies, 76 were non-Russians living in Russia, and 25 were Russians. Six of those arrested for spying were working for Georgia, and one was Russian citizen from Syria, who was working with Islamic radicals in the Caucasus. China has a major espionage effort going in Russia, and a few Chinese operatives were caught last year.

Some of the spies were simply people the Russian government wanted to shut up and take out of circulation. Charging them with espionage is an old trick from the Soviet period (and ever earlier, as the Czarist secret police used the same technique.) In practice, Russia is doing much more spying on others, and many more than 149 Russian spies were caught overseas in 2008. But Russia, using a proven Cold War era technique, attempts to deflect criticism of its own espionage activities, by emphasizing the real or imagined spying activity in Russia.

 

 


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