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Entries in Russian Spies (5)

Tuesday
Jan152013

Trial Underway for Alleged Russian 'Sleeper' Spies in Germany

Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images(STUTTGART, Germany) -- A married pair of alleged 'sleeper' spies went on trial in Germany Tuesday, accused of spying for Russia for more than two decades -- while living a quiet middle-class life and raising a daughter who had no idea of her parents' true identities.

The middle-aged couple, still known only by their aliases, Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, denied the charges in court Tuesday in Stuttgart. Their daughter Maria, now in her 20s, has not been charged.

In a page out of a Cold War novel, the Russian couple moved to West Germany in the late 1980s posing as Austrian nationals of Latin American descent. They are accused of transferring information on NATO, European and German security policies to the Soviet and then Russian intelligence service. As part of their alleged cover, Andreas, who claimed to be in his early 50s, worked as an engineer and Heidrun, in her late 40s, played tennis with local women. For their services, they allegedly collected 100,000 Euros a year in salary from the Russian government.

Their last alleged caper was the recruitment of a Dutch Foreign Ministry official, who reportedly sold them secret documents on NATO operations for $96,500, according to the German newspaper Die Welt.

The couple was arrested in October 2011. When the German security agents burst into their home in Marburg, Mrs. Anschlag was reportedly seated at her desk in front of a wireless radio transmitter that was receiving encoded messages. Andreas Anschlag was arrested at the couple's second home in Balingen.

The arrest reportedly came on a tip from the same mole who tipped off U.S. security services to the Russian spy sleeper cell that included Anna Chapman and nine others in 2010, according to Die Welt.

Anna Chapman, a young attractive Russian national residing in New York, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government and was deported from the United States in July 2010 in a spy exchange.

Prosecutors believe the Anschlags were preparing to leave Germany and head back to Russia, perhaps because the Russian government was concerned that the discovery of the Chapman ring would lead to their exposure as well. Andreas Anschlag had left his job and talked of moving to Eastern Europe. More than 30,000 Swiss francs and 35,000 Euros were found in their residence at the time of their arrest.

The Anschlags are being represented by Munich attorney Horst-Dieter Potschke who defended accused KGB and Stasi agents in the 1970s and 1980s, according to German media. If found guilty, the couple face up to 10 years in prison.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov012011

How the FBI Busted Anna Chapman and the Russian Spy Ring

Federal Bureau of Investigation/ABC(WASHINGTON) -- Anna Chapman is a television star and lingerie model back in Moscow now, but before she and other Russian spies were caught by the FBI last year, they came dangerously close to accomplishing a portion of their undercover mission in the United States.

“This group was well on their way to penetrating foreign policy circles.  They had befriended a friend of a sitting Cabinet official,” FBI Counter Intelligence Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi said. “They wanted to get their hands on the most sensitive data they could get their hands on, but we took this thing down before classified information changed hands.”

In a wide-ranging interview with ABC News, Figliuzzi said the red-headed Chapman was much more than a seductive “femme fatale.”

“This is a highly-trained intelligence officer — Chapman is a new breed of illegal operative,” Figliuzzi said, describing her as “tech savvy” and capable of spying in plain sight. Chapman and her comrades were “the cream of the crop, handpicked out of the Russian intelligence academy, because of their fluency in languages, and their ability to acclimate into another society,” he said.

FBI hidden camera surveillance videos of the spies’ operations give a fascinating look into Russian spy tradecraft as employed by Chapman and the other Russian agents.   The videos show, among other things, the Russian infiltrators hiding messages under bridges, secretly trading information, money and contact information via “brush passes,” and digging for buried payoff money in the woods.

The videos were released by the FBI Monday in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by ABC and other news organizations.  While Chapman and her fellow spies seemed to live routine, middle-class lives, the videos reveal both traditional and hi-tech spy techniques, including Chapman sending encrypted messages to her handler with a specially equipped laptop.  In one of the FBI surveillance tapes, Chapman is in a department store, transmitting messages to her contact standing outside the store.

“We were able to capture wirelessly the communications between her and her handler,” Figliuzzi said.  “There were six locations throughout New York” that Chapman used, he said.  “She transmits and receives messages from the official who is in close proximity but not anywhere near visibly close to her...she is transmitting encrypted code that the FBI was able to break.”

Because they broke the code, the FBI was able to place an informant into the spy ring.  At one point, Chapman even hands her laptop over to the informant so he can fix some technical problems she was having.  She didn’t know, of course, she was having trouble with her laptop because of measures taken by the FBI.  The FBI dubbed the operation that caught Chapman and her colleagues “Ghost Stories,” because many of the Russian spies assumed the stolen identities of dead Americans.

“We were dealing with the most sophisticated cadre the Russians could put here,” Figliuzzi said.

All of its members spoke fluent English, many had attended U.S. colleges or graduate schools, and some married each other, had children, and assumed American middle-class lives, all the while searching out top-level contacts in U.S. policy-making.

“What we have learned here is the absolute resolve of a foreign intelligence service to penetrate U.S. foreign policy circles,” Figliuzzi said, adding that the Russians were in it for “the long haul — they were patient enough to wait decades to achieve their objective.”

The Cold War, he added, did not mean the end to the “Spy vs. Spy” mentality between the United States and Russia.

“The public needs to know this threat continues,” Figliuzzi said.  “Spying has been with us since the Old Testament; spying is with us now.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct312011

FBI Russian Spy Videos Released

FBI/ABC(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI video shows Russian spies digging up payoff money in New Jersey, handing off a bag in a New York train station and passing information in furtive meetings and “brush bys.” It’s all part of the surveillance video released Monday of a decade-long FBI undercover operation that brought down flame-haired Anna Chapman and the rest of the Russian spy ring operating in the United States.

The videos were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by ABC News and other news outlets. In conjunction with the release of the videos, the FBI has also released more than 1,000 pages of highly redacted documents from the case that was dubbed Operation Ghost Stories because it was reminiscent of the Cold War’s cloak-and-dagger spy games.

The FBI tracked the spy ring known as the “Illegals” program across the United States with FBI agents and the Justice Department arresting the 10 spies June 27, 2010. The case captured international attention with Russian bombshell Chapman providing an undercurrent of James Bond-ian sex appeal and international intrigue in one of the biggest spy cases since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  

Chapman covertly communicated with Russian government officials from the Russian Mission to the United Nations by using private wireless networks sent from her laptop computer.

One of the videos shows Chapman days before she was arrested interacting with an undercover FBI agent who approached her when she was having computer problems. The FBI agent was posing as a Russian consulate employee.

Captured from multiple angles in another video, Chapman appears in the FBI surveillance videos being monitored in an unnamed department store in New York City.

Also released is a video of Russian spy Mikhail Semenko dropping off $5,000 in cash at a park in Arlington, Va. According to court papers in the case prior to the June 26, 2010 video, an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian agent had handed Semenko the cash during a meeting in downtown Washington, D.C.

Besides Chapman and Semenko, the case involved four couples living in the United States under assumed false identities while secretly working as covert Russian spies on long-term, “deep-cover” assignments to try to infiltrate U.S .policy-making circles.

The Russian spies used the fake name of Richard and Cynthia Murphy and lived in Montclair, N.J., Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley lived in Boston, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills lived together in Arlington, Va., and Seattle, and Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez lived in Yonkers, N.Y.

The couples even had children together to add to their cover stories.

Also, Christopher Metsos -- the Russian handler and alleged paymaster at the center of the spy ring who facilitated meetings and cash for the 10 Russian spies -- posed as a Canadian citizen and regularly traveled to U.S. locations to meet with the spies, including numerous meetings in New York City in places such as coffee shops and book stores.

The videos show a brush pass between Metsos and an unidentified Russian government official at the Forest Hills, Queens, train station on the Long Island Rail Road May 16, 2004. Metsos received an orange bag stuffed with cash from the man who the FBI alleged worked at the United Nations Russia Mission.

Metsos drove to Wurtsboro, N.Y., the next day and buried the cash wrapped in duct tape in the ground. The FBI dug up the cash weeks later, photographed the evidence and reburied the package.  Another of the videos shows the same location more than two years later and Russian spies Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills digging up the money left by Metsos.

Metsos remains a fugitive and is believed to be in Russia. After the spies were arrested in the United States, Metsos was detained in Cyprus but mysteriously disappeared and failed to show up at a bail hearing a day later.

The agents operated at the direction of the Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR, the successor agency to Soviet Union’s KGB.  

In a 2009 encrypted message deciphered by the FBI, the SVR provided two of the spies, Richard and Cynthia Murphy, with a communication that noted, “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 [center].”

After the agents were arrested, the spy saga lasted almost two weeks in late June and July 2010 with the United States and Russia exchanging spies on the tarmac of an airport in Vienna, Austria on July 9. The spy swap occurred after the 10 spies admitted in New York federal court that they were Russian agents.  

They were sentenced to 11 days of time served and expelled from the United States under the terms of the spy swap, which released four people who had been convicted of spying for the West.

Another suspected agent, Alexey Karetnikov, was deported from the United States in July 2010. He was arrested June 28, 2010, when the story broke, but was only charged with immigration violations after the FBI could not find solid evidence that he was connected to the spy ring. Karetnikov had been working at Microsoft in Seattle before he was arrested.

Since the spy saga, Chapman has become a celebrity in Russia, posing in Maxim magazine and Russia’s Playboy. She has also taken a role in Vladimir Putin’s United Russia political party.

Earlier this year Alexander Poteyev, a former senior Russian intelligence officer, was tried in absentia in Moscow for allegedly exposing the spy ring. Poteyev left Moscow as the arrests were unfolding and is believed to be living in the West.

Although it operated with Cold War stealth and tactics, the spy network never obtained any classified information, FBI officials say.

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov112010

Russian Double Agent Helped US Break Up Russian Spy Ring

Anna Chapman, one of the Russian spies who was caught. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MOSCOW) -- A colonel in Russia's foreign intelligence service helped the U.S. track down the Russian spy ring that was broken up in June.  A report by the newspaper Kommersant identifies Col. Shcherbakov as a double agent that worked with the U.S. in identifying the sleeper agents.

Shcherbakov was head of the American section in charge of placing moles in the U.S.

Shcherbakov fled to the U.S. in June, just days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was set to visit President Obama.  Questions are being asked about how this wasn't uncovered sooner, considering that Shcherbakov's daughter lived in the U.S. and his son fled there just before the story broke.

A senior Kremlin official told the newspaper that they know where Shcherbakov is and that an agent has been dispatched to take care of him.  "The fate of such a person is unenviable," the official said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in July that he knew who traitors were and that they always end up in the gutter, taking to drink or drugs.´╗┐

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct182010

Anna Chapman, Other Russian Spies Honored By Russian President

Photo Courtesy - ABC News / Handout Photo(MOSCOW) -- Anna Chapman, the sultry undercover agent who pleaded guilty to spying for Mother Russia this summer, has now been honored by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for her espionage.

In a Kremlin ceremony, Medvedev bestowed high honors on Chapman and the nine other members of a Russian sleeper ring who were arrested in June for spying on America. Many of the spies had lived in the United States under false identities for years.

A Kremlin spokeswoman told reporters Monday that "top state awards were presented" to a number of officers in the SVR – Russia's foreign intelligence service – including the "intelligence agents who worked in the United States and returned to Russia in July."

Red-headed bombshell Chapman, 28, appears to have no intention of slipping into the shadows as the other nine spies have done since their arrival in Moscow.

Since returning to Russia, Chapman has appeared in a sexy photo spread in the Russian men's magazine Heat, gone clubbing, attended a rocket launch in Kazakhstan in an attention-grabbing red pea-coat, and become an advisor to a Moscow-based bank.

Chapman, born Anya Kushchenko, and her fellow spies all pleaded guilty to espionage in a Manhattan courthouse in July. They were immediately flown to Vienna to be exchanged for prisoners being held by the Soviets for allegedly spying for the U.S. and Britain in the largest U.S.-Russia spy swap since the Cold War.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio´╗┐







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