Alleged CIA officer arrested in Moscow in Russian sting operation

Ryan Christopher FogleBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russia has accused an American diplomat of secretly working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) following his arrest during a sting operation in Moscow. The diplomat, who was expelled from Russia on Tuesday, is Ryan Christopher Fogle; he held the post of Third Secretary of the Political Department of the United States embassy in the Russian capital. He was detained on Monday evening by counterintelligence officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Fogle’s arrest marked the first time in nearly a decade that espionage charges were leveled against an American government employee in Russia. Fogle, a 29-year-old native of St. Lous, Missouri, who graduated from Colgate University in New York in 2006, was arrested by the FSB in Moscow’s Akademika Pilyugina Street, allegedly right in front of an apartment complex reserved for foreign diplomatic personnel. He is accused by the FSB of conspiring to recruit a member of the Russian intelligence services, who is allegedly an antiterrorist expert working in Russia’s North Caucasus region. The FSB told Russian media that Fogle had communicated with his would-be recruit on the phone at least twice in the days prior to the sting operation. The FSB even took the extremely unusual step of airing footage of Fogle’s arrest on Russian state-run television. The American diplomat was shown pinned on the ground, wearing a blonde wig and baseball cap, while FSB officers handcuffed him. A second video released by the FSB, shows Fogle sitting quietly in a government office, in the presence of three other American government officials, including Michael Klecheski, Chief Political Officer at the US embassy in Moscow. All four of them are shown staring in silence, while an FSB official is expressing his strong displeasure over Fogle’s alleged espionage activities. According to the FSB, when Fogle was arrested, he was found to be carrying a backpack containing —among other things— his diplomatic identification card, two wigs, three pairs of sunglasses, recording devices, an RFID shield, a compass and a knife. He was also carrying three Ziploc bags filled with $100,000 in €500 notes, as well as a letter, written in Russian, addressed to his would-be recruit. The letter, which has been translated into English by RT, offers the would-be recruit $100,000 upfront for his help and promises him a yearly income of up to $1 million, should he choose to collaborate with Washington. The addressee is also instructed to contact the US embassy after opening a new anonymous Gmail account by visiting “an Internet café or a café with a WiFi connection”. He is also asked to purchase a new computer or mobile device for this purpose, and is assured that the US government will reimburse him for his purchase. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that Fogle’s “provocative actions [were] in the spirit of the Cold War” and “in no way help to strengthen mutual trust” between America and Russia. The ministry also said it had summoned US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael A. McFaul, to a meeting to discuss Fogle’s arrest. The US diplomat has been declared persona non grata and has already left the country. It was unclear last night whether the US would respond to Moscow’s move by expelling a Russian diplomat from Washington.

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14 Responses to Alleged CIA officer arrested in Moscow in Russian sting operation

  1. Pete says:

    Assuming the FSB has depicted events accurately…

    Following the Boston bombings the White House, DNI and NSC etc would have demanded rapid action to improve US intelligence on threats emanating from Chechnya and the North Caucasus generally, including current links between Chechen insurgents and persons in the US.

    Looks like the seeming inadequacy of the information channel between FSB and the FBI prompted the CIA to attempt to establish its own contacts rapidly and riskily.

    Perhaps a case not only of the CIA trespassing on Russian turf but also trespassing on what the FBI considered its existing relations with FSB http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-08/world/39109882_1_russian-caucasus-fsb-dagestan .

  2. Paul says:

    It’s the articles on the table behind where Mr Fogle is sitting that interest me greatly:

    Two wigs, A cellphone with earpiece/microphone attachment, Pepper Shield self defence spray and belt carrier, Maglite style torch, Lock knife, Two AA Cells, SD Memory Card, Disposable Gas Lighter;
    Three pairs of spectacles, Baseball cap just out of view, A Moscow Atlas; Three envelopes containing paper money in Euro large value notes, A penknife, fob light and keyring baton and a Field Compass and notebook. [I'll bet that made good reading too].

    Best of all is the RFID shield — what on earth would he keep in that?

    There is also a wrapper for a replacement SIM card and the receipt for its purchase in Moscow.

    Mr Fogle also carried a letter written in Russian that puts the stamp of ‘approval’ for Mr Fogle’s arrest.

    Very bad tradecraft walking around a hostile host country with that lot on you when your under diplomatic cover in my opinion. Asking for trouble if you ask me!

  3. M says:

    This smells like a setup from a mile away:

    1) Why would the Agency (if they did at all) send out a 3rd Political Secretary to meet a potential source in Russian intelligence? It seems to me that they were concerned that it might be a “dangle,” so they sent someone with official cover to meet the source and verify his information. The fact that Fogle had State Dept cover is compelling: Fogle was not a NOC “illegal” picking up a dead-drop — he was a State Dept employee sent out to meet a potential source.

    2) The cheesy tradecraft items he was allegedly carrying were irrelevant to a “stop-and-chat” contact mission, which makes there presence in this case dubious and suspicious. Why in the world would the Agency make him carry all that stuff when they knew it would have been incriminating if he was caught? Couldn’t the FSB have easily planted these items on Fogle to make him “look” guilty?

    3) The fact that RT (Russia Today) had cameras there for the bust is super-compelling: Any real counter-intelligence op would be kept secret from the press.

    4) Putin is “going out of his mind” over the Magnitsky Act, according to Bill Browder. (http://bit.ly/10ohbvX)

    5) This case perpetuates the myth of the “American Bogey-man” and “justifies” the existence of Russian security services (and their expenses).

    This was a setup — no doubt in my mind whatsoever.

    The thing is, its the Russians who should be being made-fun-of for bad tradecraft, not the Americans.

    Regards,

    M.

  4. Paul says:

    M, What on earth does NOC stand for?

    1) The use of diplomatic posts for intel operatives to work under is a normal thing; if you research lifts of ‘spies’ you’ll find that a good percentage have diplomatic cover. The diplomatic immunity saves embarrassment if they get caught [as Mr Fogle did].

    2) It’s feasible they were planted to make the case viable – then again just a few extra items to ‘grease’ the charges …… or maybe the bloke is really not the sharpest tool in the box.

    3) I doubted the images; one looks definately dodgy, the others so dark it could be Putin himself in the frame.

    4) There’s no apparent relevance to the Magnitsky Act. Putin ‘out of his mind..?’ I don’t think so.

    5) The Americans perpetuate the Bogey Man label themselves from what I’ve seen over the years. Since you doubt the TV coverage, think back to a certain secret operation by the SEALs in Somalia, and Fox News Camera crews were there – with floodlights – to film it as it happened.
    Bufoonery at its best!

    Having read the reports on this matter I believe Ryan C Fogle was up to no good and was there to finalise the deal with a straight Russian who had spoken to his superiors when the US tried to bend him at a previous and much earlier contact.
    If the images are indeed real, then its possible there was more than one meeting and Fogle’s time had come.

    I certainly wouldn’t laugh at the Russian’s efforts at tradecraft; they still run the world’s largest humint operations, some set in place for years and yet to be used. The few they’ve lost is to be expected – just as Fogle’s downfall.

    I think that Pete’s analysis really has some credence.

  5. mdavidalbritton says:

    Paul,

    1) You are correct in saying that intel people use diplomatic cover and pose as legit-diplomats — the “legal” spooks, so to speak. To answer your question,a NOC (a term we Yanks use) is “non-official cover” — an “illegal” so to speak. Fogle, apparently, was not a NOC, but a legal case-officer working under diplomatic cover. So, its a moot point.

    2) If this “bloke” was just incompetent — does that mean that the Agency officers helping him are incompetent too? I cannot imagine that the COS would allow a rogue employee to go out and recruit his own agents without permission. The mere thought of that stretches the imagination to its limits: If he was acting on his own initiative, my guess is that he would have been (officially) disavowed. However, perpetuating the idea that the Agency is incompetent would indeed serve the interests of the FSB and the Kremlin.

    4) I would agree that there is no “apparent” connection to the Magnitsky Act, but I always take intelligence matters in context of the “wider-picture.”

    5) I am not sure what Somalia “buffoonery” you are referring to — however, it would not surprise me at all. I am sure every gov’t does it to a certain extent, but that doesn’t mean that the Russians aren’t doing it — and it does not make it legit.

    I don’t laugh at Russia’s worldwide espionage efforts. I take the Russians as seriously as they take themselves. I just think this particular case is out-of-sync with the Russian security services MO: [Use the "defector" to feed false information (chicken-shit sprinkled with just enough gold-dust) to the Americans, then hopefully turn the handler eventually and get him to feed real information (crown-jewels) back to the Russians.]

    As for Pete’s analysis, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Anyway, I appreciate the conversation.

    Regards,

    M.

  6. motopamba says:

    M and Pete, you all have valid points and i view that as all intelligence theories vital for Integration and Analysis of the intel itself. As it stands as we all rightly agreed Mr Fogle’s official cover (3rd Sec Political) itself is a preserve for intel officers for the Agency in most of the foreign missions they are represented. Which is not to say that there arent genuine State Dept officials who at times might on rare occasions hold the same post.
    The FSB’s CI is the cutting edge of the art of intel. This seems to ahve been a long time time op for Moscow and Washington where the two services were testing the capabilities of response to the matter at hand, Chechnya. The Agency was dangling a carrot indeed and they indeed got the the response they had preconcieved in their build up to the operational plan. Either side used disinfor, well known tradecraft of either side. But coming back to Mr Fogle, a good officer he can be but still growing and gaining experience in the field though marred early than what he hoped to achieve

  7. M. says:

    The more I think about it, the more I think Pete is on to something: That being said, why would the Agency need to turn a Russian CI officer to get intelligence on Chechnyan terrorists? Wouldn’t setting up their own network in Dagestan be more useful (i.e. less stovepiped) than going through the Russians? It seems like there may be more to this than trying to get information on Chechyan terrorists according to a DNI directive.

  8. TFH says:

    “a letter, written in Russian, addressed to his would-be recruit. The letter, which has been translated into English by RT, offers the would-be recruit $100,000 upfront for his help and promises him a yearly income of up to $1 million, should he choose to collaborate with Washington”

    A letter! Not even in invisible ink. How very strange in this day and age.

  9. Pete says:

    @ M.

    On why the CIA didn’t attempt “setting up their own network in Dagestan”. That might take years and be particularly dangerous because the terrorist-insurgents and FSB would expect that civilian informants for the US (without the protection of diplomatic cover) would attempt it.

    So again due to the existing FSB-FBI relationship being inadequate the CIA would have been ordered from the White House down to attempt to rapidly establish more productive relations with FSB.

    The money Fogle was carry may have been the first instalment to grease the wheels of a corrupt FSB and only partly to “buy” a particular FSB officer. Still the FSB would have resented the American assumption that FSB could be bought and therefore FSB set a trap for Fogle, cameras and all.

    The use of a very junior “diplomat”-CIA officer (Fogle) would make it easier for the US to deny he was acting under orders if this risky CIA operation went wrong. The State Department would not need to say Fogle was acting alone – his junior inexperienced status alone would imply that.

    Finally the FSB may have actually supported the ambiguous, partly deniable image that Fogle was acting alone by planting all or some of the extremely odd, comic, incriminating evidence found on him. Hence FSB, to an extent has helped the US to save some face.

  10. M. says:

    Pete,

    I agree that setting up a network in Dagestan would be damn-dangerous work — What intelligence work isn’t? However, I do not agree that it would necessarily take years to set-up to get information flowing in to analyze.

    Command Sergeant-Major (retired) Eric L. Haney’s account* of the lead-up to “Desert-One” is particularly instructive here: When the American Embassy in Tehran was taken over, and President Carter ordered the Pentagon to start planning a rescue mission, SFOD-Delta found that “the CIA had no usable assets in place and was proving incapable of providing [them] with the type of information [they] needed.”

    So Delta hired Dick Meadows (a legend in SF & Rangers) to lead a small undercover team into Tehran to gather intelligence. According to Haney, “once Dick was on the ground inside Iran, a flow of usable information started to trickle in and [Delta was] able to start planning in earnest.”

    Haney goes on to say that the CIA had made it clear that they would not have taken the risks entailed to get the information Delta needed — which in fact turned out to be a long-term problem for Delta Force.

    The guys going into Tehran to rescue American hostages did not have years — they had weeks. And the fact that Dick Meadows was able to do what CIA wouldn’t do is proof that there are guys that the CIA could hire to get the job done — the risks be damned. Billy Waugh is another excellent example of someone who did what exactly what you say is too dangerous.**

    My point is that it would not (and should not) take years for the Agency to set up intelligence networks in Dagestan, and the fact that it is dangerous work is definitely not an excuse to rely on the Russians.*** That’s simply the job that the CIA gets paid to do.

    That being said, I totally appreciate the risks as well as the time it takes to set up HUMINT networks in hostile places — and I highly respect the guys and girls at the Agency, as well as the spec-ops guys who put themselves in the line of fire to get the job done.

    But the job has to get done — What good is it if terrorists kill Americans while we are tip-toeing around the Russians, fighting for scraps that fall off Putin’s shiny, conference room table?

    Best regards,

    M.

    *[http://amzn.to/10AuRjz]
    **[http://amzn.to/10Aw7TD]
    ***This would set the US up for manipulation by the Russians, and in my opinion, failure.

  11. @M Going to the “mole” hypothesis, I will restrict myself to a point of psychology; I doubt the USA has ever been as vulnerable as now. American officers are recruited out of college according to several criteria, IQ being right up there but also there is a pitch to idealism. Going to this point, I would note a close friend had traveled the old Orient Express from Moscow to Vladivostok in the early 1990s and discovered tremendous goodwill towards the USA and Americans. We certainly don’t have that now and the loss of goodwill is not merely a Russian phenomena.

    Inside the USA there is presently tremendous social tensions related to the preceding. The progressives looked forward to Obama moving away from aggressive ‘empire’, refocusing on dialogue in foreign policy, domestic infrastructure and a whole host of things consigned to land fill by Bush. It was the progressives helped push Obama over the top by a wide margin in 2008, not only a historic Black vote, and subsequent progressive view they’d been stabbed in the back is more than perception. Obama’s actions have betrayed his words on an unprecedented scale, in a sense of expectations. The majority of Americans wanted away from Bush but none so much as the educated and intelligent.

    Now, outside of the ‘political’ class (the professional players), among the educated there is more than a deep uneasiness with Obama’s policies, his choices of major players and the direction America is taking. It is (as noted by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd) as if Obama’s tenure points to Cheney and Rumsfeld had grabbed a third term.

    Pete had recently observed intelligence operatives are amoral servants of the state, and however in the best of times for the several intelligence agencies this may be true, these are not the best of times for the USA. When Dick Cheney can arrange to out Valerie Plame as a retribution for Joe Wilson doing the right thing, that is one thing. You expect nothing less from the Bush people. When Obama keeps on Robert Gates, hands CIA to Patraeus and then Brennan, that is a another thing altogether. As much as the people in the intelligence world are expected to be apolitical, there comes a point when highly intelligent people look at the larger picture and must wonder what their real responsibility is to serve what some must in their innermost thoughts believe has morphed into a geopolitical threatening entity.

    My view is the USA intelligence community has never been in greater peril on the inside, and rightly so-

  12. ^ This should have posted at the next article, result of reading, formulating thoughts and coming back to the wrong page…

  13. Pete says:

    @M

    The deficiency of collecting intel on the run in Iran was born out by the ludicrous plan US intelligence and Delta came up with. Basically Delta planned to “shoot their way out of Tehran” once they freed the US hostages. Fortunately Delta didn’t get that far – hence the hostages are alive today.

    In any case Delta-Iran is not comparable with the Northern Caucasus – Russian territory and jealously guarded by the incumbent security service FSB. As American agents (without the protection of diplomatic cover) were predictably infiltrated into that region they would be picked up by FSB or AQ-Chechan terrorists who would be waiting for these US agents. Without diplomatic protection these US agents might suffer numerous final health effects.

    Regards

    Pete

  14. Van says:

    Tanya,I wrote him a short email telling him that there are no such reoiticrtsns in Y-S, but he still would not put Y-S on the LOI. I told him to put Khabarovsk on instead, it not making a blind bit of difference to anything.Amanda,Thanks for the offer, but I managed to get an LOI which should do the job. Once we’d agreed on the named city it was emailed to me within the hour and ought to be waiting for me at the Russian embassy in KL. Let’s see

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