October 22, 2020

FBI says Russians were a ‘new breed’ of spy

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Anna Chapman wasn’t just a member of one of the largest rings of Russian sleeper agents ever rolled up by the FBI, officials say. The 29-year-old former real estate agent, who became a lingerie model and corporate spokeswoman back in Moscow, represented a new breed of Russian spies adapted to the post-Cold War world.

Chapman and fellow ring member Mikhail Semenko, another young deep-cover agent who worked in a D.C.-area travel agency, were technically skilled and able to work comfortably in a Western culture and did so using their own names, said C. Frank Figliuzzi, FBI assistant director for counterintelligence.

They “were very tech-savvy, very intellectual,” Figliuzzi said, adding that Semenko is fluent in five languages, including Chinese.

Both of the new-breed operatives used state-of-the-art wireless computer communications, including burst transmitters that sent encrypted messages by radio in a fraction of a second.

Meanwhile, the older spies in the 11-member ring fell back on techniques that have been used for centuries: invisible ink, handoffs of money called “brush passes,” and forged documents. Like Soviet sleeper agents before them, they worked under false identities, called legends, some of them stolen from dead people.

All the veteran operatives had undergone years of intensive training in Russia to pass as ordinary Americans.

 

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