Botched CIA mission in Siberia revealed

Ulan Ude

Ulan Ude

Five American “tourists” temporarily detained in 2001 by Russian border agents were in fact CIA agents on a covert mission to Siberia, court documents have revealed. The five were among thirteen agents traveling to Siberia on a chartered CIA flight. They were detained in the far-eastern Russian city of Petropavlovsk by Russian authorities, because Langley had failed to secure visas for them in time for their departure. The Americans’ CIA cover was revealed last week during a court case involving alleged fraud by a US government contractor involved in the operation. The CIA group was apparently traveling to Ulan Ude, Siberia in order to purchase two Russian helicopters for use in CIA missions in Afghanistan. Langley preferred to use Russian helicopters so as not to attract unwanted attention, since Russian-made airplanes and helicopters are commonplace in Afghanistan. The five CIA personnel detained in Petropavlovsk were eventually released once their entry visas were FedExed to them from Washington. But this was one among several glitches in the CIA operation, which is discussed in length by journalist Sharon Weinberger here.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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