Why Roll Up the Russian Spy Network Now?

As a number of you have commented, DOJ announced the arrest of 10 alleged Russian spies yesterday (with one person, based in another country, remaining at large). The alleged spies are basically people living under false identities tasked to network with influential Americans to learn specific information.

One of the most interesting questions about the bust is the timing. It’s clear from one of the complaints that the FBI has been tracking some of these alleged spooks for a decade. That suggests the government had been content, up to now, to simply track what Russia was tracking. But then, last week, they decided to roll up these alleged spies.

The timing and content of the two complaints adds to the interest of the question. The complaint describing the long-term surveillance, named Complaint 2 by DOJ, includes the following details from this year (showing the level of activity of the investigation with these longer-term suspects):

  • A March 7 intercept from the Boston couple’s townhouse
  • A search from the female Boston defendant’s safe deposit box conducted in April (one which implied there had been earlier searches of the box)
  • Discussion of the male New Jersey defendant’s travel to Russia in February to pick up a laptop (reflecting intercepts, physical surveillance, and business records)
  • Details describing the New Jersey defendant handing off the laptop he picked up in Moscow to the Seattle male defendant in early March
  • January intercepts capturing discussions of Russian handlers encouraging the New Jersey female defendant to take a job tied to lobbying

In other words, at least from what appears in this complaint, none of the surveillance on these eight long-term alleged spies was all that recent.

The date on this complaint–named Complaint 2 but reflecting the decade of surveillance these defendants have been under–was Friday, June 25.

Then there’s Complaint 1, which pertains to two additional defendants, Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, and which is dated Sunday, June 27. The earliest dates in that complaint date back only to January 2010 (and June 2010 for Semenko), perhaps suggesting the FBI has had these two defendants under surveillance for a much shorter period of time. In addition, unlike the other complaint, this one does not provide details about the cover of the defendants (though there may be a number of reasons why this would be true).

Complaint 1 describes how FBI agents posed as Russian handlers and set up meetings with the two defendants on June 26–that is, the day after the complaint covering the eight other defendants was signed. In Semenko’s case, the FBI agent asked the defendant to carry out a drop which–the complaint explains–he did.

In Chapman’s case, the FBI agent asked her to hand off some money to another person purported to be another member of the same Russian network. Rather than carry out the task, Chapman bought an international cell phone (trying, unsuccessfully, to cover her tracks), suggesting she called overseas for direction. She did not carry out the designated task. All of this suggests, of course, that by late on June 26 (that is, Saturday) the Russians presumably would have known someone pretending to be a Russian agent was onto Chapman.

The way these two complaints work together suggest DOJ decided on or before last Friday to roll up a spy network it had been tracking for a decade. Then, after having set that process into motion, it attempted to implicate two additional members of the network (Chapman and Semenko) in the following days. Doing so with Chapman probably alerted the Russians to FBI pursuit on Saturday.

After the Chapman call, FBI probably had to roll up the network. But the FBI had already made the decision to arrest the others. So why did DOJ decide to roll up this spy network now? Why not continue tracking what the Russians are tracking?

I can think of three potential reasons:

  • To disrupt US-Russian relations
  • Because the Russians had detected US (or third party) sabotage
  • Because of other changes in DOJ personnel

Disrupting US-Russian relations

The Russians have already suggested that the arrest was timed to chill Russian-American relations following a great meeting between Obama and Medvedev.

“We would like to note only that this type of release of information has happened more than once in the past, when our relations were on the rise,” [a statement on the arrests from the Russian foreign ministry] said. “In any case, it deeply regrettable that all this is taking place on the background of the ‘reset’ in Russian-American relations declared by the United States administration itself.”

The arrests on Monday came after a period of warming in relations between the United States and Russia, with President Dmitri A. Medvedev making a visit to the United States this month, including to Silicon Valley in California, that was hailed here as a success. Mr. Medvedev met with President Obama, and the two seemed to have developed a personal bond.

Some Russian politicians declared that the announcement of the arrests indicated that hostile elements in the United States government were bent on preventing relations from flourishing.

Obama, too is said to be miffed about the timing.

After years of F.B.I. surveillance, investigators decided to make the arrests last weekend, just days after an upbeat visit to President Obama by the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, one administration official said. Mr. Obama was not happy about the timing, but investigators feared some of their targets might flee, the official said.

So if this explains the timing, then somehow the decision was made in spite of Obama’s efforts to establish better relations with the Russians.

Russian detection of US (or third party) sabotage

There’s also the possibility that the Russians had either detected the US surveillance or discovered sabotage of their communication network by the US or a third party.

Of particular interest, between the two complaints, there are references to three different problems with the laptops the Russians used to conduct secure WiFi communication.

Complaint 2 describes the Seattle defendants having trouble with their laptop communications.

ZOTTOLI and MURPHY sat down together at a table where they stayed for approximately one hour and fifty minutes. During that time, law-enforcement agents stationed inside the Coffee Shop overheard MURPHY and ZOTTOLI discussing problems that the Seattle Conspirators were having with the computer equipment that they used for communicating with Center. In response to ZOTTOLI’s description of these communication problems, MURPHY stated (in substance and in part), “this should help.” MURPHY further responded (in substance and in part), “if this doesn’t work we can meet again in six months,” and also said “they don’t understand what we got through over here.”

Complaint 1 describes the FBI agent posing as a Russian handler discussing problems Chapman was having with her laptop.

UC-1 asked, “So, tell me the notebooks? Are you still having a problem with the notebook? With the connection?” CHAPMAN replied, “Yes. I thought you were flying back so it is alright.” UC-1 stated, “Do you want me … well [sic] can give it to consulate if you want them to look at it or you can wait and take it home yourself to Moscow.” CHAPMAN stated, “It would be more convenient if I gave you it.” Later, in the course of the meeting, CHAPMAN provided the laptop computer to UC-1 (hereafter the “Laptop”). Based on my training, experience, and participation in this investigation, I believe that the Laptop is the computer, which was beset by technical difficulties and which was used for laptop-to-laptop cover communications between CHAPMAN and Russian Government Official #1.

(Note, too, that one session when Russian Government Official #1 tried to establish laptop communication with Chapman, he noticed the FBI surveillance of him, and did not make the connection.)

Finally, Complaint 1 describes the FBI agent posing as a Russian handler telling Semenko he thought Semenko had problems with a transmission on June 5.

UC-2 told Semenko that he wanted to discuss SEMENKO’s attempted communication at the Restaurant on June 5, 2010. UC-2 told SEMENKO that UC-2 believed the communication attempt had not been successful, to which SEMENKO respondted, “I got mine.” SEMENKO further explained that equipment he had been using for communication had automatically turned itself off at the end of the communications session, which SEMENKO stated was a sign that the communication was successful. SEMENKO further explained that, when he turned the equipment on again after it had shut down, he “saw the stuff [he] received,” and also said that when the communication went through he was “like … totally happy.”

And in the description of FBI surveillance of this, the complaint states that Semenko “was trying to utilize the private wireless network system,” suggesting maybe the FBI knew that this communication to have failed.

Now, there are a number of possible causes for this plethora of seemingly-problematic laptops. Maybe the Russian system is klugey, meaning the poor alleged spies sitting in their coffee houses have to try to finesse the connection each time. Maybe the US managed to sabotage the system (though they specify that their surveillance of this system used a commercially available program) which was causing problems with the WiFi communication. Maybe someone else has intercepted the system, and the US became aware that they weren’t the only ones watching the alleged Russian spies.

Further note that complaint 1 makes it clear that Murphy purchased one laptop, traveled with it to Russian in February, and returned with a laptop of the same model but different serial number, to give it to Zottoli in March. And Chapman was about to travel with her purportedly problematic laptop to Russia in a few weeks. So whatever the issue with the laptops, the laptops were being dealt with directly in Russia, and they were about to get one of the laptops (Chapman’s) seemingly having problems.

Changes in DOJ personnel

Finally, there’s this curious detail of timing. The decision to roll up this network was obviously made on or before Friday, June 25.

As it happens, the DOJ also made a significant personnel announcement on Friday, naming the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge in Philadelphia to to lead the NY Office.

Janice Fedarcyk has been named assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Division, FBI Director Robert Mueller announced Friday. Fedarcyk is the first woman to head the high-profile New York office.She replaces Joseph Demarest, who in May was named Assistant Director of the International Operations Division at FBI headquarters. Demarest was placed on temporary assignment to FBI headquarters while the Office of Professional Responsibility conducted an investigation into statements he made about a relationship he allegedly had with a subordinate in the New York office.

Since 2007, Fedarcyk has headed the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, which was recently involved with the indictment against American-born alleged extremist “Jihad Jane.”

Mueller said in a statement that Fedarcyk is well-prepared to lead the FBI’s largest office.

“Jan Fedarcyk brings both a strong national security and criminal investigative background from her current assignment as head of the Philadelphia Division and from her work at FBI Headquarters, where she managed terrorist financing investigations, served at the National Counterterrorism Center, and oversaw investigations of online exploitation of children,” Mueller said.

This was a fairly sudden appointment.

Now I have no clue whether there’s a connection between the timing of the arrests and the arrival of Fedarcyk in NY. But I find it notable that this decade-long, politically sensitive investigation got pulled just as the FBI office in charge of the investigation got a new boss.

Update: ApacheTrout offers another possibility:

I’d like to add a 4th reason for consideration: that the quality of the information channeled by the alleged spy ring increased to the point where the FBI felt a significant security breach was about to occur. In other words, the FBI was okay with rinky dink info being sent to Russia all those years, but suddenly big time secrets were about to be stolen and sent to Russia, and that had to be stopped.

Update: One more point about timing. Look at the timing of the Saturday, June 26 meetings:

Unspecified time: UC-2 calls Semenko on phone recorded pursuant to judicial order, arranges 7:30 PM meeting.

11:00 AM: UC-1 calls Chapman on consensually recorded call (not judicial order), tells her he has to meet her that day to give her something

12:30 PM: Chapman calls UC-1, call is recorded per judicial order.  She told him it would be difficult to meet that day and asks whether they can meet the following day.

1:00 PM: Chapman calls UC-1 a third time, says she will come to NY and call UC-1 at 4:00 PM.

4:30 PM: Chapman and UC-1 meet. (UC-1 tells Chapman that it took him three hours to get to meeting place.)

6:00 PM: Chapman purchases international cell phone, ostensibly to alert others about contact.

7:30: UC-2 and Semenko meet.

That is, by the time UC-2 met, FBI already knew that Chapman had purchased her phone, if not made her call. Also note that they apparently did not have a warrant for the first call to Chapman, but they did for the call to Semenko, though given that those took place in different cities, can’t necessarily conclude that the Semenko call preceded the Chapman one.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

55 replies
  1. phred says:

    So who stands to benefit?

    In either the “lets not get too cozy with Russia” scenario or the “deposed boss wants to close out his investigation” scenario, it is not clear to me who benefits from ending the investigation now.

    In the “uh oh they are on to us” scenario, it looks like garden variety law enforcement without intentional (or at least tone-deaf) political overtones.

    Any ideas of who stands to gain here? It certainly sounds like it is unhelpful to Obama’s objectives, so I doubt this got the nod from higher ups like Holder.

  2. pococurante says:

    “Look at us New Boss – we subverted the Russians for a decade and handed you a win on day one!”

  3. wohjr says:

    Its a favor to the Russians– these people were here for years, sucking up cash and not producing anything valuable!

  4. Arbusto says:

    Is this another indication on how broken our government and agencies truly are? Maybe it’s time for an exorcism at the FBI to rid them of Hoovers specter.

    If this really is a reported, and Obama wasn’t in on it for some obscure reason, he needs to get some management scalp or lose what power he has left (in spite of his imperial Presidency).

  5. emptywheel says:


    What do you mean? Are you saying this is lame bc Obama wasn’t in the loop on the decision to pick up? He seems to have been–but persuaded that they needed to roll up the network because it had been compromised. Are you saying that they should have rolled up this network a decade ago? It seems like they figured they were better off monitoring Russian spying than ending it.

    • phred says:

      Ah, I misread your post then. I had interpreted the bit about Obama being miffed about the timing as an after-the-fact sort of thing. But from this comment it appears, that Obama was informed, just unhappy about the necessity after his recent tete-a-tete with Medvedev. Is that right?

      • emptywheel says:

        Here’s the language from one of the NYT articles linked in the post:

        Mr. Obama was not happy about the timing, but investigators feared some of their targets might flee, the official said.

        Seems to suggest he knew about it.

        • phred says:

          Yep, I saw that excerpt in your post. I just misinterpreted it the first time. I would agree that it sounds like he knew in advance. Thanks.

          • scribe says:

            This is the kind of thing the President would know about in advance. Recall the FBI counter-intelligence/computer security guy they made a movie about (I forget his name right now – Chris Cooper played him and Laura Linney the supervising FBI agent). They briefed Clinton on the undercover’s daily reports for quite a while before the arrest.

            That’s for two basic reasons – the President needs to know about this kind of problem so as to make fully-informed decisions and it’s wonderful apple-polishing by the FBI (something they are very good at).

    • Arbusto says:

      Seems to me that the only legitimate reason to roll up the network was if the FBI felt the Russians knew or would soon know their cells were compromised. Otherwise, the network would be a goldmine for determining Russian human intelligence procedures and who was running the teams. Also it’d be a big opportunity for disinformation whether commercial or military. Another question is who was running the net and why no Russian diplomats expelled or implicated, since diplomatic cover is the safest way to operate. If indeed some important information were obtained, why not just arrest the perk instead of the whole network.

      PS My in depth knowledge and analysis was obtained though hard work, but mainly reading John le Carré novels ;—]

  6. ApacheTrout says:

    I’d like to add a 4th reason for consideration: that the quality of the information channeled by the alleged spy ring increased to the point where the FBI felt a significant security breach was about to occur. In other words, the FBI was okay with rinky dink info being sent to Russia all those years, but suddenly big time secrets were about to be stolen and sent to Russia, and that had to be stopped.

  7. Rayne says:

    Yeah, I go with ApacheTrout’s point, but I also wonder if there were other reasons for rolling up this investigation, and perhaps the reasons were not necessarily exclusive but multifold.

    I thought that last night after I noted this graf at CNET:

    According to the FBI, the Russian agents were instructed to report details about U.S. policies in Central America, estimates of Russian foreign policy, and problems with U.S. military policy. One surprise, though, is that “United States policy with regard to the use of the Internet by terrorists” allegedly made the list.

    Um, yeah. Central America…oh I’m sure the Russian’s interest stopped at the southern border of Panama, right? uh-huh.

    And the sudden push this last month for an internet kill switch, after China’s incursions last year into Google’s system would definitely be of interest to folks who’ve been relying on American’s toobz to relay instructions and research for years.

    The weirdness of the charges may also offer hints – again, from CNET:

    The suspected agents have not been accused of actually unearthing any classified or even sensitive material. Instead, they’ve been charged with violating 18 USC 371, which is conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States by not following 18 USC 951, which requires agents of the foreign governments to register with the attorney general. (Nine of the defendants have also been charged with 18 USC 1956, or money laundering.)

    Does this mean they are squeezing somebody for information?

    There’s more going on here than meets the eye; I wouldn’t for a second believe that Obama was surprised by this roll-up. Perhaps he didn’t get what he wanted out of his meeting with Medvedev and put the screws to him the hard way.

    • emptywheel says:

      The charges are not at all weird. That’s just shitty reporting by people who don’t cover this stuff in detail. It’s what the Venezuelan-Americans charged with bringing money to Kirchener were charged with, and what an Israeli spy caught recently was charged with.

      I presume that using that, rather than espionage, allows you to charge the person without revealing all the data that they have shared, but that’s just a guess. And yes, they’re likely trying to get the two Russians referred to in the complaints, who are working under official cover.

      As to the terrorist internet stuff, I really do think someone may have sabotaged these laptops. As I was writing this out, it really seemed like that WOULDN’T be the US. So is it possible the Russian mafia was doing so independently? China, Israel, and Iran would be other possibilities (all would have the technological capacity, and the Russian mafia and Israel might both learn of this spy ring via their own intell).

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          That was the FIRST thing I thought of when this story broke.

          IIRC, I posted some comments about this case not long ago.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Google to Stop Redirecting China Users

        (Adds analysts comments in fifth, sixth paragraphs.) June 29 (Bloomberg) — Google Inc. may lose the right to operate a website in China, forcing the search-engine operator to abandon the worlds largest Web market, after the government objected to its … [Published 25 mins ago by BusinessWeek]

  8. scribe says:

    I am of the opinion that Chapman made the undercover. Reading the narratives provided in Complaint 1 and 2, I took away that the undercover who met Chapman was both condescending to her tradecraft and asked her questions which implied a lack of sophistication on the undercover’s part. In other words, she made out that he was either an amateur or a poseur. Neither would be what the consulate would send out – assuming the consulate would send out an officer to meet with an illegal in the first place.

    That last assumption is a big one – such a meeting is inherently high-risk b/c the FBI knows who the consulate people are. Their coming out to meet an illegal is always high-risk and only undertaken in the most extreme circumstances. Add to that the public knowledge – of which Chapman would surely be aware – that all of Manhattan is deeply covered by surveillance video, and one can only conclude she figured out she could not complete the task, let alone stick the postage stamp, and be unseen.

    Putting a postage stamp on the street map – for a late 20s hottie like Chapman that would be the most unnatural kind of thing to do in public. The point of making a mark of some kind is to (a) make the mark and (b) do it in a way that looks natural for who and what the person doing the marking is. “Leave some masking tape in an unexpected configuration on one of your ‘for sale’ signs, realtor Chapman” would be normal and the kind of subtle mark-making that would evade surveillance. Vandalizing a street map – not so much.

    So, she figured out she had been made and went to her predetermined escape/shutdown procedures. She bought an international-capable phone and threw away the packaging and the charger – she did not expect to need it b/c she would get rid of the phone as soon as she phoned home. She phoned home – actually, probably a cutout number somewhere. Either she got instructions or she proceeded to follow her predetermined escape plan. But the phone call home was the trigger for the FBI to move to roll these other folks up b/c they would be getting (if they hadn’t already) the call from Moscow to destroy all evidence and bolt.

    So, the big question is whether the FBI deliberately sent out an oaf as the undercover, or whether they were so inept in choosing one that the undercover got made. If they deliberately sent out an oaf or gave him instructions to be such, then we have to conclude the FBI wanted to blow this operation and blow it now. If the FBI had wanted to keep the operation going, the thing to do would have been to turn Chapman, but from all appearances the work with her had not progressed to that point yet b/c she could not be trapped in serious espionage, yet. If, OTOH, the FBI ineptly selected an oaf to be the undercover, that reinforces moving the guy from NYC to HQ and kicking him upstairs where he could do less harm while his disciplinary proceedings proceeded. Of course, there are also the third possibility that the undercover was previously reliable and the FBI didn’t want to blow the operation and the undercover just screwed up, deliberately (through divided loyalties) or otherwise (stiffness arose and clouded his thinking) or the fourth possibility that Chapman’s radar was very sensitive and went off.

    Also, people seem to be misapprehending the kind of operation the SVR seems to have been running here. This was not the kind of thing where they were primarily looking for hard, classified intelligence. They would have taken it, of course, if it had shown up. Like the bit about the gold market which they praised Mrs. Murphy for after sending it to the Ministry of Finance (and probably making a killing on it). But the SVR’s real objective here was twofold. First, to get agents in place who’d develop deep networks of acquaintances in all walks of life in the US to feed the kind of information that you can get over the dinner table from friends you trust b/c you’ve known them for years. “My friend X was over at banker Y’s place and says Z was there, too, and X and Z said A, who was also there (and is a close confidant of Obama), said Obama is really pissed at Secretary D and will be firing him as soon as they find a nice place for D to land without embarrassment.” That kind of thing.

    The second, and more insidious thing SVR was looking to develop was to get the agents’ kids into high-level jobs and careers and to get them associated with similar people. You might think this is unspeakably horrible, but the fact is that Soviet intelligence routinely did this, trying to “encourage” the kids of their illegals to go to top US universities and become friends with the kids of top policymakers and executives. The parent would then be the kid’s control agent. The kid would be raised American, be as American as anyone else, and all the while be a Soviet spy. They’ve done (or tried to do) this kind of thing for decades. It doesn’t always work, usually makes for messed up family dynamics and sometimes the kid will go to the cops, but it’s the ideal the intelligence services aim for and keep trying to achieve.

    • emptywheel says:

      I actually think the second FBI guy–with Semenko–was more heavy-handed. Though note the timing: Meeting with Chapman at 4:30. She makes the call after 6:00. Meeting with Semenko at 7:30. Granted, they may have SCHEDULED the Semenko meeting before Chapman made her 6:00 call, but I’d bet UC-2 knew about it when he walked into his meeting with Semenko.

      But all that ignores a point I made above: they HAD ALREADY DECIDED to roll up this network the day before the meetings with Chapman and Semenko. Complaint 2 was already completed. So these meetings were just a last ditch attempt to get them on tape admitting to enough to bring them in too.

      One more note. If you believe there is something fishy about the laptop failure, I find it very interesting that that’s what they focused on w/Semenko–figuring out precisely how he was trained on the laptop network.

      • scribe says:

        Point taken, though I think all that does is point more toward either an FBI supervisor imbued with pique kicking over a major operation on the way out, or a President with a case of indigestion from his burger deciding that Medvedeyev needs to know that while he’s good lunch company he’s not to be underestimated.

        As to the timing of the affidavit in support of the arrests – which seems to be a sticking point in the logic here – I suggest that a prudent FBI, knowing the operation could go south at any moment, would have a set of affidavits updated daily or at most weekly to go to a judge at a moment’s notice, rather than have to hustle around, put together the paperwork at the last second while the guy might be escaping, and worry about what’s in the court documents that might compromise other secret stuff. Doing it on a constant update would facilitate going at a moment’s notice.

        As to the timing of the undercovers and what they knew, I would not let the one undercover know what the other was doing, just for security’s sake. The most I might give each is a heads up that there could be trouble.

  9. cregan says:

    First, you can’t take Obama’s statement of being miffed after the fact for true.

    Second, you can’t take the leaked point that he knew nothing about this during his first years or so as true.

    Both are things you would expect to have issued for a “plausible denial” type position.

    Really, it strains credulity that he knew or Holder knew nothing of this.

    Obviously, this puts Obama in a stronger position vis-a-vis the Russians. When you get caught on something you thought was secret, it puts you in a weaker position. Since Russia has been cleaning our clock lately–getting all they want, establishing stronger relationships with our adversaries, etc., this helps Obama.

    Why now? Maybe the Russian leader dissed the hamburger joint they went to last week and it pissed Obama off.

    • emptywheel says:

      Uh, I’m not claiming that Obama didn’t know about this. And I’m sure as hell not claiming that Holder didn’t (indeed, my suggestion that the FBI changeover is fishy would require some involvement from Holder).

  10. harpie says:


    Juan Cole has this today:

    Turkey Forbids Israeli Military Overflights; 6/29/10; Juan Cole

    [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan appears to have spent a lot of time at the G20 meeting in Toronto showing other leaders, such as Dimitry Medvedev of Russia and Barack Obama, the forensics reports on the Israeli commandos’ killing of humanitarian workers on the Mavi Marmara. He pressed on Obama the need for an Israeli apology, and Erdogan says that Obama agreed with him, and pledged to convey the message to Netanyahu when they meet in Washington on July 7.

    Here are two pieces from the past month:

    Turkey Shelves Israeli Cooperation, Considers breaking off Ties; Israel Lobbies in Congress denounce Ankara; 6/16/10; Juan Cole

    Most of Turkey’s foreign trade is with the European Union, the United States, and Russia, and Turkey does more business with Iran than with Israel, which is not among its top ten trading partners. Some have called Turkey’s newfound interest in the Muslim Middle East “neo-ottomanism.”

    DeGaulle in Ankara; 6/17/10; Scott Horton

    Horton quotes Brookings Institute analyst Omer Taspinar:

    In the past, Americans and Europeans would often ask whether Turkey had any realistic geopolitical alternatives and complacently reassure themselves that it did not. But today such alternatives are starting to look more realistic to many Turks. The rise of Turkish Gaullism need not come fully at the expense of America and Europe. But Turks are already looking for economic and strategic opportunities in Russia, India, China and, of course, the Middle East and Africa. It is high time for American analysts to stop overplaying the Islamic-secular divide in Turkish foreign policy and pay more attention to what unites both camps: Turkish nationalism.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Realignments or rapproachement?

      China, Taiwan sign trade pact linking economies‎ – 2 minutes ago

      By ALEXA OLESEN A historic trade deal between China and Taiwan will ease 60 years of hostility and push their economies closer than ever, the latest sign …
      BusinessWeek – 1189 related articles »

      Taiwan stocks up on China deal; chipmakers gain‎ – Reuters – 21 related articles »
      Taiwan, China to Sign Trade Pact‎ – Wall Street Journal – 498 related articles »

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          Hilmi Toros of IPS News writes from Istanbul.

          “Once the worst of enemies, involved in 12 wars in three centuries, Turkey and Russia have suddenly become the best of friends, forging strong bonds that could be a counterpoint to the European Union if it freezes Turkey out of full membership. The countries call their ties ‘multi-dimensional co-operation,’ somewhat short of a ‘strategic partnership.’ but that too may be in the offing. On an eight-hour visit to Turkish capital Ankara last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed 20 deals with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These are mostly commercial contracts in energy, collectively worth some 40 billion dollars.

          “The two leaders also declared that rival gas pipelines Nabucco and South Stream to bring natural gas to European markets would be ‘complimentary’ rather than ‘conflicting.’ Nabucco, the 7.9 billion euro project backed by the EU and the United States, would bypass Russia in bringing gas from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iraq and potentially also from Iran to Europe via Turkey. It is due to be operational by 2014.The Russian proposed South Stream, to become operational by 2016, would carry gas from Russia to Europe through Turkey’s territorial waters in the Black Sea and onward to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Austria. Its objective is to bypass Ukraine, currently the conduit for 80 percent of Russian gas pumped to Europe.

          “In the end, conflicting or complimentary, if both projects are realized, Russia and Turkey would play a major role in meeting Europe’s growing gas needs. For Europe, either an unfriendly Turkey or Russia would endanger energy security – and it would be much worse if both were ever to gang up on the EU together.” That’s precisely the threat this new partnership is intended to relay. Europe was hoping to moderate Russia’s stranglehold on Europe’s gas supplies by routing a new line through Turkey. This now gives Turkey more leverage to go back to the negotiating table over EU membership with new powers.——-August,2009

  11. Gitcheegumee says:

    South Stream – Wikipedia

    Map of the planned Nabucco and South Stream pipelines. The South Stream project is seen as a rival to the planned Nabucco pipeline. …
    History – Route – Technical description – Project companies
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Stream – Cached – Similar

    Russia rejects calls to merge South Stream, Nabucco gas pipelines …Mar 15, 2010 … Russia is not considering a proposal to combine part of its South Stream gas project with the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline, …
    en.rian.ru/russia/20100315/158200054.html – Cached
    Show more results from en.rian.ru

    • harpie says:

      Thanks for all that interesting information, Gitcheegumee. There’s probably nothing that goes on anywhere that doesn’t have something to do with oil/gas. Here’s the end of the wiki article on the Nabucco pipline [The whole article is informative.]:

      As per Werner Auli, the head of gas division of OMV AG, the final decision whether Nabucco Pipeline is going to be built will be announced by summer of 2010 if the market shows Nabucco will sell enough 20 year transport contracts. The final investment decision is likely to be made by end of 2010.[81]

      Hoo boy…the original signers of the agreement named it after a character in a Verdi Opera they saw in Vienna in 2002:

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Here’s yet another“realignment”:

        Russian oil company opens office in Havana-June 25,2010

        Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft opened an office in Havana, RIA Novosti reported.

        Zarubezhneft General Director Nikolai Brunich said opening the office was “without exaggeration, a significant event, a new stage,” according to the Russian news service. Moscow-based OAO Roszarubezhneft in November signed four 25-year agreements with CubaPetróleo, contracting two nearshore and two onshore blocks, all just east of the Varadero heavy-oil belt.
        According to Brunich, the predecessor of his company started exploratory work on one of these fields as early as 1984. The Russian company would also supply spare parts and special equipment for the oil industry in Cuba.

        In August, Zarubezhneft agreed with PetroVietnam to partner on deepwater drilling in Cuba.Separately, Cuba last year negotiated with a consortium of five Russian oil companies the lease of 15 deepwater blocks in the Gulf of Mexico.

        Russian oil company opens office in Havana « Cuba Standard, your …Jun 25, 2010 … Russian oil company opens office in Havana. Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft opened an office in Havana, …
        http://www.cubastandard.com/…/russian-oil-company-opens-office-in-havana/ – Cached

  12. Stephen says:

    Maybe the “powers that be” want the American public to feel that The Good Old USA has enemies coming from all directions not just Muslim oriented factions. Best to keep our powder dry and our military strong. We are surrounded by golly.

  13. Mary says:

    Just some random stuff from a quick cruise through – so looks like Kathleen Kedian has graduated from Scooter and Bushco outing US spies, to the FBI tracking down Soviet spies, eh?

    I thought it was interesting that they used different deponents for the two complaints and the stuff in the first one, on the covert illegals, re: money laundering is kind of weird I think.

    I’ll toss out a few other possiblities on roll up (although they are off the cuff and there may be good reasons to discount them) First, I have to wonder about the political aspects, since they are what I always think of first when it comes to the Bush/Obama DOJ. What are the chances some story was in the works somewhere with whichever partisan leakers you need, and rolling up is a way to derail leaks coming out about contacts with foreign agents? The New York based financier who is a prominent political fundraiser that Cynnie was getting tight with is listed as eing a personal friend ofa current cabinet official. Current cabinet official, ties to NYC fundraiser who is a personal friend, if only there were someone who fit that bill and who might have some very vicious political enemies …
    Anyway – if the story is the rollup, it cuts the wind out of any other story leaking around about foreign agent contacts.

    WTH was Cynnie’s background, btw? She’s got contacts with profs and former classmates such that she can dig up personal data of students who have apply for or been employed by CIA; her profs and students are the open door for her to get inside scoop info on policy except that one of them gets turned up in an SVR database check as being suspected by a “then-Soviet bloc intelligence service of belonging to a’foreign spy net[work]'” Yowsers – the rightwing will have fun with the academia as commie spies themes.

    Another possiblity on the roll up, they mention that in April of this year,the Russian gov official they were hoping to catch meeting with Chapman seemed to spot the surveillance teams. YOu have to wonder if that didn’t start them wondering about how suspicious the official was and if they might start triggering some reactions.

    What is that technology/tradecraft combo, btw, they talk about, of encrypting data into images that are then put on public websites?

    There’s also the possiblity that Cynnie was about to get a job slot that was going to be too important to let it go. I know the Jan 19/21 emails are detailed as being about lobbying, but that’s why I noticed that they don’t mention time in 2010 or type of job in the other reference, “Thus, f o r example, i n a 2010 message, t h e SVR a dvised t h a t CYNTHIA MURPHY should consider taking a certain job because ‘this position . . . would expose her to perspective contacts and potential sources in US government.’”

    • emptywheel says:

      This point:

      What are the chances some story was in the works somewhere with whichever partisan leakers you need, and rolling up is a way to derail leaks coming out about contacts with foreign agents? The New York based financier who is a prominent political fundraiser that Cynnie was getting tight with is listed as eing a personal friend ofa current cabinet official. Current cabinet official, ties to NYC fundraiser who is a personal friend, if only there were someone who fit that bill and who might have some very vicious political enemies …

      I think is a really good suggestion. Particularly given the way the NY office has been leaky in the past (as with Spitzer).

      I don’t make all that much of the April surveillance. This guy was a barely cloaked official cover spy. I’d imagine there’s a lot of times when he picks up surveillance but that would be expected for anyone coming out of Russian official buildings in this country.

  14. emptywheel says:

    FWIW, Gibbs just said in presser that O did know about the investigation when he and Medvedev went out for burgers to share fries last week.

  15. harpie says:

    Sorry for the O/T, but of interest:

    Government Torture Inquiry; Craig Murray; 6/29/10

    while desperate last minute efforts are being made by the security services and by the US Embassy to tighten the terms of reference. The answer to the question “Did the British government specifically request that anybody be tortured” is quite probably no, and there is a battle going on to ensure that this is the only real question asked.


    I shall be posting tomorrow at 11.30 am new official documents from 2002, never public before, which make completely plain New Labour’s policy of complicity in torture.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Harpie, thank you so much for this link. Amazing!

        Having followed the Chilcoth Inquiry, many of the names are familiar to me.

        Perhaps it’s just my ear,but this particularly stood out for me:

        2. No-one is in any doubt that torture is endemic in Uzbekistan, as van Boven’s report testifies. Your suggestion that intelligence is extracted under torture is disturbing.

        NOTE:What OTHER reason would torture even be performed by governments other than to extract intelligence?

        • harpie says:

          Sorry it took so long to get back to you, but you are very welcome, Gitcheegumee. Scott Horton has a post up, too:
          in which he says:

          Speaking for the Liberal Democrat coalition partners, MEP Sarah Ludford said, “Only a very thorough cleaning of the stables can re-establish Britain’s reputation as a nation of principles rather than a sidekick to appalling human rights abuses. It should also be judge-led, held as far as possible in public, and not rule out the possibility of prosecutions.” The reference to being a “sidekick to appalling human rights abuses” is clear enough. It’s an unpleasant consequence of what used to be called the “special relationship.”

  16. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Well, the Guardian appears to be outdoing itself the moment – the Datablog has a grid of the players, events, etc.

    But of more interest, again along the lines that Rayne and other comments related to financial sabotage lay out, lookee here:

    A profile apparently belonging to Chapman on the social networking website LinkedIn suggests that she may have worked in London before moving to New York. The profile lists a job at the private jet leasing firm NetJets Europe from 2003 to 2004 selling private aviation to Russian businesses. It says she subsequently worked at the investment banking arm of Barclays Bank for a year and at a hedge fund named as “Navigator” between 2005 and 2007.

    In the investment management industry, a number of funds contain the name “navigator” but it was not immediately possible to identify a London-based firm simply called “Navigator hedge fund”. Chapman’s supposed job title, “head of IPO”, is not a usual title within the hedge funds industry.

    Ah, hedge funds, IPO’s, money laundering.
    Then this red-haired cutie moves to NY and sets up herself in — wait for it…! — selling real estate online.

    Also, EW gets a cool shout-out at that Guardian page.

    Question for EWheelies: how soon can we start calling this the latest Russian money-laundering clan? Jeebuz.

    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Wasn’t Barclay’s somehow involved in the BAE/Saudi arms deal,Al Yamamah?

      I know that Sir Nigel Rudd was a top exec at Barclay’s ,and also affiliated as a top capo with BAE.

      He stepped down from Barclay’s in ’08. Shortly thereafter,he was one of two BAE execs stopped by US authorities at a Houston,Texas airport where his laptop was allegedly searched.The search was related to money laundering involving Riggs Bank and the Saudis,if my memory serves me correctly.

      I will provide some links.

      Wasn’t Barclay’s also linked to Lehman’s and GS,as well as AIG?

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Corporate Watch : BAE Systems : Corporate CrimesAs he put it, ‘It is outrageous that Tanzania’s debt relief will go towards bolstering the profits of BAE and Barclays bank, rather than helping the poor …
        http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk › home › ARMAMENTS – Cached – Similar

        Corruption is a Crime:City grandee Sir Nigel Rudd, chairman of airports operator BAA and deputy chairman of Barclays Bank, was one of the two BAE Systems executives detained …
        http://www.corruptionisacrime.com/ – Cached – Similar

  17. Gitcheegumee says:

    BTW, in 2005, Riggs Bank was acquired by PNC Bank.

    Here’s some veryinformative background:

    BlackRock Inc. | Public IntelligenceMay 23, 2010 … Peter G. Peterson, the cofounder of the Blackstone Group, … The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. and Barclays PLC own economic interests …
    publicintelligence.net/blackrock-inc/ – Cached

    Riggs Bank was a Washington, D.C.-based commercial bank with branches located in the …. Subsidaries *Co-owned with Bank of America and Barclays …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riggs_Bank – Cached – Similar

    Southern Affairs: RIGGS BANK CASE: JUDGE CERDA SENDS TEAM TO U.S. …Augusto Pinochet and his family at Barclays Bank PLC and Lehman Brothers. The authorization comes on the heels of new findings in the Riggs Bank case …
    http://www.southernaffairs.org/…/riggs-bank-case-judge-cerda-sends-team_17.html – Cached – Similar

  18. HanTran says:

    10 years is a long time to watch “spies” who apparently were not doing much good for their home team, do you really think they were still working for Russia or were they double? And if double did Kremlin become suspicious and send two more agents a year ago to check it out? Lets see if the ten year agents just sort of disapear.

  19. iremember54 says:

    The Question everyone should be asking is what do we have left, the Russians would want?

    Hey maybe they’ll take some of our Unemployed, our debt, our Catastrophies, or our Government.

    Ask and ye shall recieve. If they ask we have lots we could give them.

    • Rayne says:

      It’s not hard to figure out. We are in the middle of a global energy war, have been for some time. As EW has noted, Russia is not a make-stuff economy; they acquire currency in volume through sales of energy products to other nation-states and shake them down regularly when prices fall too much.

      They do not want us to establish policies which interfere with their energy production and sales, nor do they want us to resolve energy demand to a degree that their biggest product is threatened. They sympathize with us about Muslim extremism, but it’s a mixed blessing since that same extremism promotes energy price volatility. They also don’t want to lose out to the Chinese in terms of development and energy demand, yet are quite willing to let the Chinese do all the heavy lifting when it comes to putting the screws to our economy.

      Pretty straightforward. That’s why these folks were here for a long time; this isn’t a one-of but a multi-generation initiative.

  20. Hmmm says:

    I suppose a different tack on “why now” could be that something was about to happen here that the USG didn’t want Russia to find out about as quickly or easily as they would have done with an intact spy network.

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