Russia expelled ex-US embassy official who rebuffed spy advances

US embassy in MoscowBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
Russian authorities expelled a former American diplomat living in Moscow earlier in May, less than two months after he allegedly rebuffed an offer to spy on the United States for Russia. The former official, Thomas Firestone, served two tours of duty as a Resident Legal Adviser at the American embassy in Moscow. He later joined the Moscow office of Baker & McKenzie, a US-based law firm with offices worldwide. Firestone had frequent and direct dealings with the Russian government in his capacity as a specialist in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This US law permits the prosecution of bribery cases in American courts. According to The New York Times, Firestone was approached in March of this year by operatives of the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, one of the main successor agencies of the Soviet KGB. Citing “people familiar with the case”, The Times claims that the American lawyer turned down an offer to spy for Moscow on behalf of the FSB. On May 5, however, while returning to Moscow from a trip abroad, Firestone was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport, 18 miles outside of the Russian capital. After a 16-hour detention, the former Justice Department official was told that he had been declared persona non grata (undesirable) and was to be denied entrance into Russia; he was promptly placed on a flight to the US, which departed shortly afterwards. The Times says that it remains unclear at this point whether Firestone’s expulsion was directly connected to his alleged refusal to give in to the FSB’s espionage advances. However, the paper claims that the matter has been raised with the Russian government by the administration of US President Barack Obama. The revelation of Firestone’s expulsion comes just hours after Ryan Fogle, Third Secretary at the Political Department of the US embassy in Moscow, was expelled by Russian authorities, allegedly for trying to recruit an FSB officer to spy for Washington. Fogle, who is said to be an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, was seen boarding a flight to New York on Sunday, at the same Moscow airport where Firestone was detained earlier this month. The Times said it contacted the White House, Department of State, as well as the US embassy in Moscow, all of which declined to comment on Firestone’s expulsion from Russia. A spokesperson with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the paper that the Ministry would comment on the case this week.

2 Responses to Russia expelled ex-US embassy official who rebuffed spy advances

  1. Pete says:

    Another great article Joseph.

    So the mud is flying in the other direction. This time the US spy catching FSB is seen as the guilty party, caught trying to recruit an honest, law abiding, US citizen to spy for Russia. Is this the last round equalizer in this current US-Russia spy stoush or will Russia now up the ante with a new revelation?

  2. He had employment history baggage. The Department of State and the CIA are siamese twins. I’m a little bit familiar with the Russian mentality (friends, in-laws) and their inclination is to dialogue first. If the USA chief of station had listened in 2011, and dialed back a bit, we would not be where we are now, is my impression. But with the Fogle case pointing to a continued aggressive push by the Americans, it likely makes perfect sense from the Russian side to throw out anyone associated with the Department of State that is not presently employed there and/or protected by the ‘rules’ of the game.

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