Russia, US, in largest spy swap since World War II

Igor Sutyagin

Igor Sutyagin

The Russian and American governments have agreed to conduct one of history’s largest spy exchanges, as ten Russian agents captured in the US last month have been swapped for four Russian citizens imprisoned by Moscow for spying for the US and Britain. The ten Russians arrested by the FBI in June were non-official-cover (NOC) operatives, otherwise known as ‘illegals’, a term used to identify deep-cover intelligence operatives not associated with a country’s diplomatic representation. According to reports, they were all instructed by the SVR, Russia’s equivalent of MI6, which is responsible for all foreign intelligence operations abroad, to plead guilty to “acting as unregistered foreign agents” a charge not equivalent to espionage in either seriousness or repercussions. They were then legally forbidden from ever returning to the United States and summarily expelled. They were taken from the courtroom directly to the airport, where they boarded a plane to Vienna, Austria. In return, Russian government sources have confirmed that four Russian citizens, arrested in recent years for spying on behalf of the US or Britain, will be released from prison and delivered to US authorities. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0248

  • Cuba insists jailed US contractor is secret service agent. Cuban officials say that a US citizen working for Maryland-based international aid group Development Alternatives Inc., who was arrested in Havana last month, was actually recruiting local Cubans to spy on the government.
  • Analysis: Spying in Eastern Europe heats up again. The Cold War may be 20 years dead and buried, but it seems that the old East-West spying game is not only alive and kicking, but gaining vigor in places like Warsaw, Prague and Tallinn.
  • Obama designates new list of secrecy gatekeepers. The US president has designated over two dozen officials as “original classification authorities” (OCAs), who have the power to classify government information as Top Secret or Secret, and (in most cases) to delegate such authority to their subordinates. Importantly, the directive says that OCAs will lose their job if they fail to “receive training in proper classification […] at least once a calendar year”.

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US government agent detained in Cuba for ‘aiding opposition groups’

Development Alternatives Inc. logo

DAI logo

American authorities have revealed the arrest in Cuba of a US government worker, who was allegedly supplying telecommunications equipment to opposition groups. The unidentified man, who was reportedly detained in Havana on December 5, is said to work for a Maryland-based international aid group called Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI). This little-known organization works closely with the government-owned United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and last year was awarded a major government contract in “support [of] the rule of law and human rights, political competition and consensus building” in Cuba. There are reports, however, that the contract involved the clandestine supply of laptop computers and cell phones to Cuban groups antagonistic to the government in Havana. Read more of this post

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