On July 8, less than two weeks after their arrests, ten of the eleven suspected moles named in two federal complaints (see here and here) and who had pleaded guilty to being secret agents for Russia, were loaded onto a chartered jet and flown to Vienna, Austria, where they were met by Russian officials and flown back to Russia. An eleventh agent had been arrested on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus but had been released on bail by the Cypriot government, and then mysteriously disappeared.
In its rush to release the foreign agents, the Obama administration gave every indication of placing the desire to maintain "nice" relations with Moscow above national security concerns. In the 11 days that the ten suspects were under arrest, could our counterintelligence specialists possibly have learned all they need to know about the spies' methods, aims, and fellow conspirators? After conducting a "multi-year investigation" of an extensive Russian effort to plant spies and agents of influence throughout America, why the sudden hurry to set the defendants free?
The FBI complaint filed in United States of America v. Anna Chapman, and Mikhail Semenko, informs the court that "the FBI has conducted a multi-year investigation of a network of United States-based agents of the foreign intelligence organ of the Russian Federation (the 'SVR')."
The federal complaint states further:
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" 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 FBI's investigation has revealed that a network of illegals (the "Illegals") is now living and operating in the United States in the service of one primary, long-term goal: to become sufficiently "Americanized" 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 FBI document contains a decrypted SVR order sent by Moscow Center (MC), instructing two of the defendants as follows:
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].
Agents of Influence More Important than Spies
Much of the treatment of the recent arrests by the western media has missed entirely this key distinction between "spies" and "agents of influence." Although the terms are often used interchangeably and can refer to individuals serving both functions, the terms "spy" and "espionage" more commonly imply activities that involve stealing technology or secrets of state. Agents of influence, on the other hand, are more concerned with actually influencing the target country's policies, either directly, by working into positions in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government (including military, intelligence, and law enforcement), or indirectly, via positions in academia, think tanks, business, finance, and the media. Agents of influence such as Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Harry Hopkins, Armand Hammer, and Walter Duranty undoubtedly did much more to harm America's interests and to advance the interests of the global communist conspiracy than did any member of the Rosenberg atomic bomb spy ring.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) conspicuously exhibited this blind spot concerning agents of influence in its recent "Expert Roundup" discussion of "What the Russian Spy Case Reveals."
None of the CFR's chosen experts even mentioned agents of influence or referenced the explicit SVR instructions ("fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US"). To the extent they saw a genuine threat in the Russian effort, it was simply a matter of potential loss of technology and secrets. This is not surprising since the CFR, widely regarded as America's premier foreign policy think tank, has been notorious for decades for downplaying and/or covering up the dangers posed by communist penetration of the U.S. government and other U.S. institutions. Some of the organization's well-known members have been proven to have been high-level Soviet agents in our government — such as Alger Hiss, Laughlin Currie, and Lawrence Duggan — while a great deal of evidence suggests many more past and current CFR members were/are Soviet/Russian agents of influence. (See The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline)
Don't Upset the US-Russia "Reset" Program
As we noted here last year (U.S., Russia "Reset" the Convergence Agenda), President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have fully adopted the CFR worldview vis a vis Moscow, repeatedly emphasizing their intentions over the past year-and-a-half to "reset" the U.S.-Russian relationship from one of conflict and confrontation to one of "convergence" and "cooperation." And they are not about to let a matter like the recent spy scandal derail the reset.
"I do not believe that this will have a great effect on our efforts to reset our relationship with Russia," Obama's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at a White House press conference on June 29.
Other administration officials have made similar remarks. "We would like to get to the point where there is just so much trust and cooperation between the United States and Russia that nobody would think of turning to intelligence means to find out things that they couldn't find out in other channels," Philip H. Gordon, the assistant secretary of state in charge of Russia, told reporters. "We're apparently not there yet," Gordon (a CFR member and former National Security Council staffer in the Clinton administration) said. "I don't think anyone in this room is shocked to have discovered that," he added.
However, many Americans may be bewildered, if not alarmed and shocked, by the Obama administration's handling of this case. "This is crazy," says the anti-communist scholar/investigator known to millions of radio listeners as "Jimmy from Brooklyn." Jimmy told The New American: "This is like a guy who finds out the night before his wedding that his fiancee has in the past week been sleeping with half the men in the neighborhood and he says, 'Gee, I better hurry up and marry her before our relationship unravels.' What insanity!" He adds: "It doesn't seem to matter what Putin, Moscow, and the KGB/FSB/SVR do, the so-called experts in our government and media will find a way to excuse it, explain it away, and make it seem innocuous."
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This courtroom sketch shows accused Russian agents during their arraignment in Manhattan federal court on July 8, 2010 in New York: AP Images