If you’ve been reading or watching the news lately, you undoubtedly know that the United States and Russia are in the midst of a so-called spy swap. On June 27, the FBI arrested 10 people on charges that they were deep-cover spies working for the Russian government but living for years in the United States. Their job, according to the DOJ, was to determine U.S. “secrets by making connections to think tanks and government officials.”
The arrests seemed to be the final chapter of a novel about sleeper-cells living and working within the United States for over a decade, replete with video surveillance, hidden audio microphones, and a sting that unwittingly mimicked a “false drop” shown in the movie “Breach” depicting the take-down of spy Robert Hanssen.
Three of the accused spies lived in D.C., and undercover “spy stuff” between agents for both governments took place within walking distance of the White House. FBI agents filmed a “bag exchange” between two supposedly unknown men as they brushed by one another.
Known as “the Illegals program,” by U.S. Investigators, the objective of the spy ring was to take nongovernmental jobs “where they could glean information from policymakers and Washington-connected insiders without attracting attention.”
Since the initial arrests, two other spies were found, one of which is still at large. U.S. Officials believe that one of the spies may be part of another spying ring. The case reached gossip-like status due to the dramatic way in which events occurred and also due to Anna Chapman, described as “the most glamorous of Russia’s 10 self-confessed spies.” According to the Guardian, Chapman made a panicked call to her father in Russia–scared that her identity was compromised–which launched the FBI raid.
Chapman, a former employee of Barclays Bank and legal British citizen became suspicious when an FBI officer who was acting as a Russian diplomat gave her a fake passport to give to another spy. Smelling danger, she went from the meeting with the fake diplomat to a Verizon store, purchasing a pay-on-the-fly mobile phone.
Her lawyer confirmed that she made a phone call to her father, a Moscow intelligence officer, and her British passport–obtained by marriage–was revoked.
When questioned during an appearance on Tonight with Jay Leno, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joked about Chapman’s good looks; “Let me be clear. It wasn’t my idea to send her back. I thought maybe they’d take Rush Limbaughor something. That would’ve been a good move.”