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Vocapedia > War, Terrorism > Intelligence




Pat Bagley

Editorial cartoon

Salt Lake Tribune


20 July 2010




























































































































































secret agent        UK










Special Operations Executive        UK










secret agent        USA










spy        USA










UK > spy        UK / USA


































































spy        USA


























































homegrown spy        USA










spycatcher        USA










U.S. Spy Chief        USA










spy balloon        USA

















spy agencies        USA


























National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency    NGA        USA

















spying        USA






double-cross / triple-cross        USA






National Counterintelligence and Security Center        USA






WW2 > intelligence agency

Office of Strategic Services    O.S.S.        USA






clandestine operative        USA






pose as N        USA






pass sensitive information to N        USA






pass on information





National Security Agency / N.S.A. spying            USA        2013














cloak-and-dagger activities        USA









spymaster        USA












espionage        UK










espionage        USA































economic espionage        USA

















spy / espionage ring        USA













Cold war > UK, Russia > Cambridge spy ring / the Cambridge Five        UK



















double agent        UK












double agent        USA










double agent

UK > Harold Adrian Russell Philby / Kim Philby    1912-1988        UK / USA









100000004309693/kim-philby-seen-in-stasi-footage.html - April 5, 2016




















private spy ring        USA






espionage ring        USA






espionage tool        USA






corporate espionage        USA        2012






corporate spying        USA        2011






spy on N / spy        USA












spy satellite





agent        USA








 sleeper agent        USA






men of the underground        UK






cutting-edge gadgetry        USA






invisible ink        USA








coded Web images        USA











treachery        UK









Federal Bureau of Investigation        USA        F.B.I.

















sting operation        USA










Top Secret







classified data        USA































surveillance        USA









National Security Agency    NSA        USA










UK > Government Communications Headquarters    GCHQ        UK / USA


centre for Her Majesty's Government's

Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) activities


British intelligence listening station



the government eavesdropping centre


















1949 > UK > George Orwell's Big Brother        UK / USA












UK > third man        UK / USA


1949 > film > 'The Third Man',

directed by Carol Reed,

written by Graham Greeene


























intelligence        UK










intelligence        USA























Intelligence services





intelligence officer / spy        USA






 intelligence-gathering methods        USA
















Central Intelligence Agency    C.I.A.        UK / USA






















counterintelligence        USA

















MI5        UK












MI6        UK














Joint Intelligence Committee    JIC














military intelligence








military intelligence agent








mole        UK










mole        USA










undercover agent
















USA > Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg    1915-1953

and Julius Rosenberg    1918-1953
















cyberespionage        USA










cyberintrusions    USA





















political cartoon

The Denver Post


18 June 2009















Corpus of news articles


War, Terrorism >


Intelligence, spying, spies




Leak Offers

Look at Efforts by U.S.

to Spy on Israel


September 5, 2011

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — When Shamai K. Leibowitz, an F.B.I. translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information to a blogger, prosecutors revealed little about the case. They identified the blogger in court papers only as “Recipient A.” After Mr. Leibowitz pleaded guilty, even the judge said he did not know exactly what Mr. Leibowitz had disclosed.

“All I know is that it’s a serious case,” Judge Alexander Williams Jr., of United States District Court in Maryland, said at the sentencing in May 2010. “I don’t know what was divulged other than some documents, and how it compromised things, I have no idea.”

Now the reason for the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s first prosecution for leaking information to the news media seems clear: Mr. Leibowitz, a contract Hebrew translator, passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress, according to the blogger, Richard Silverstein.

In his first interview about the case, Mr. Silverstein offered a rare glimpse of American spying on a close ally.

He said he had burned the secret documents in his Seattle backyard after Mr. Leibowitz came under investigation in mid-2009, but he recalled that there were about 200 pages of verbatim records of telephone calls and what seemed to be embassy conversations. He said that in one transcript, Israeli officials discussed their worry that their exchanges might be monitored.

Mr. Leibowitz, who declined to comment for this article, released the documents because of concerns about Israel’s aggressive efforts to influence Congress and public opinion, and fears that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move he saw as potentially disastrous, according to Mr. Silverstein.

While the American government routinely eavesdrops on some embassies inside the United States, intelligence collection against allies is always politically delicate, especially one as close as Israel.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation listens in on foreign embassies and officials in the United States chiefly to track foreign spies, though any intelligence it obtains on other matters is passed on to the C.I.A. and other agencies. The intercepts are carried out by the F.B.I.’s Operational Technology Division, based in Quantico, Va., according to Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence writer who describes the bureau’s monitoring in a book, “Intel Wars,” scheduled for publication in January. Translators like Mr. Leibowitz work at an F.B.I. office in Calverton, Md.

Former counterintelligence officials describe Israeli intelligence operations in the United States as quite extensive, ranking just below those of China and Russia, and F.B.I. counterintelligence agents have long kept an eye on Israeli spying.

For most eavesdropping on embassies in Washington, federal law requires the F.B.I. to obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret at the Justice Department. If an American visiting or calling an embassy turns up on a recording, the F.B.I. is required by law to remove the American’s name from intelligence reports, substituting the words “U.S. person.” But raw transcripts would not necessarily have undergone such editing, called “minimization.”

Mr. Silverstein’s account could not be fully corroborated, but it fits the publicly known facts about the case. Spokesmen for the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Israeli Embassy declined to comment on either eavesdropping on the embassy or Mr. Leibowitz’s crime. He admitted disclosing “classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States,” standard language for the interception of phone calls, e-mails and other messages by the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency, which generally focuses on international communications.

Mr. Leibowitz, now in a Federal Bureau of Prisons halfway house in Maryland, is prohibited by his plea agreement from discussing anything he learned at the F.B.I. Two lawyers who represented Mr. Leibowitz, Cary M. Feldman and Robert C. Bonsib, also would not comment.

Mr. Silverstein, 59, writes a blog called Tikun Olam, named after a Hebrew phrase that he said means “repairing the world.” The blog gives a liberal perspective on Israel and Israeli-American relations. He said he had decided to speak out to make clear that Mr. Leibowitz, though charged under the Espionage Act, was acting out of noble motives. The Espionage Act has been used by the Justice Department in nearly all prosecutions of government employees for disclosing classified information to the news media, including the record-setting five such cases under President Obama.

Mr. Silverstein said he got to know Mr. Leibowitz, a lawyer with a history of political activism, after noticing that he, too, had a liberal-minded blog, called Pursuing Justice. The men shared a concern about repercussions from a possible Israeli airstrike on nuclear facilities in Iran. From his F.B.I. work from January to August of 2009, Mr. Leibowitz also believed that Israeli diplomats’ efforts to influence Congress and shape American public opinion were excessive and improper, Mr. Silverstein said.

“I see him as an American patriot and a whistle-blower, and I’d like his actions to be seen in that context,” Mr. Silverstein said. “What really concerned Shamai at the time was the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, which he thought would be damaging to both Israel and the United States.”

Mr. Silverstein took the blog posts he had written based on Mr. Leibowitz’s material off his site after the criminal investigation two years ago. But he was able to retrieve three posts from April 2009 from his computer and provided them to The New York Times.

The blog posts make no reference to eavesdropping, but describe information from “a confidential source,” wording Mr. Silverstein said was his attempt to disguise the material’s origin.

One post reports that the Israeli Embassy provided “regular written briefings” on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza to President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration. Another describes calls involving Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington to discuss the views of members of Congress on Israel. A third describes a call between an unnamed Jewish activist in Minnesota and the Israeli Embassy about an embassy official’s meeting with Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who was planning an official trip to Gaza.

Mr. Silverstein said he remembered that embassy officials talked about drafting opinion articles to be published under the names of American supporters. He said the transcripts also included a three-way conversation between a congressman from Texas, an American supporter of the congressman and an embassy official; Mr. Silverstein said he could not recall any of the names.

At his sentencing, Mr. Leibowitz described what he had done as “a one-time mistake that happened to me when I worked at the F.B.I. and saw things which I considered were violation of the law, and I should not have told a reporter about it.”

That was a reference to Israeli diplomats’ attempts to influence Congress, Mr. Silverstein said, though nothing Mr. Leibowitz described to him appeared to be beyond the bounds of ordinary lobbying.

Mr. Leibowitz, 40, the father of 6-year-old twins at the time of sentencing, seems an unlikely choice for an F.B.I. translation job. He was born in Israel to a family prominent in academic circles. He practiced law in Israel for several years, representing several controversial clients, including Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader convicted of directing terrorist attacks on Israelis, who Mr. Leibowitz once said reminded him of Moses.

In 2004, Mr. Leibowitz moved to Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington, where he was a leader in his synagogue. Mr. Silverstein said Mr. Leibowitz holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.

In court, Mr. Leibowitz expressed anguish about the impact of the case on his marriage and family, which he said was “destitute.” He expressed particular sorrow about leaving his children. “At the formative time of their life, when they’re 6 years old and they’re just finishing first grade, I’ll be absent from their life, and that is the most terrible thing about this case,” he said.

While treated as highly classified by the F.B.I., the fact that the United States spies on Israel is taken for granted by experts on intelligence. “We started spying on Israel even before the state of Israel was formally founded in 1948, and Israel has always spied on us,” said Mr. Aid, the author. “Israeli intercepts have always been one of the most sensitive categories,” designated with the code word Gamma to indicate their protected status, he said.

Douglas M. Bloomfield, an American columnist for several Jewish publications, said that when he worked in the 1980s for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, he assumed that communications with the embassy were not private.

“I am not surprised at all to learn that the F.B.I. was listening to the Israelis,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a wise use of resources because I don’t see Israel as a threat to American security.”

Leak Offers Look at Efforts by U.S. to Spy on Israel,






Clair George,

Spy and Iran-Contra Figure,

Dies at 81


August 20, 2011

The New York Times



Clair E. George, a consummate spymaster who moved the chess pieces in the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine games of intrigue before being convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-contra affair, died Aug. 11 in Bethesda, Md. He was 81.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said his sister, Gail Marshall. Before Mr. George was sentenced, the first President George Bush granted a full and unconditional pardon to him and five other Iran-contra defendants.

As the C.I.A.’s deputy director of operations for three years of the Reagan administration, the third-highest post in the spy agency, Mr. George was responsible for cloak-and-dagger activities worldwide. He reached this pinnacle after three decades of working as a spy around the world, specializing in recruiting foreign agents to spy on their own countries for the United States.

The Washington Post Magazine in 1992 quoted a colleague as calling Mr. George “a top-notch street man” who operated in what spies call the “night soil circuit” — the less desirable posts of the world. He worked in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He was the C.I.A.’s station chief in Beirut when civil war erupted there in 1975. He then volunteered to replace the Athens station chief, who had just been assassinated by terrorists.

Bob Woodward, in his 1987 book, “Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987,” said veteran spies regarded Mr. George as “an old warhorse symbol of the C.I.A. at its best and proudest.”

In The Post, Richard Viets, a Foreign Service officer who was in India at the same time as Mr. George and who went on to become an ambassador, said Mr. George had the perfect personality for the agency. “He exudes trust and friendliness,” he said, “but in fact is duplicitous as hell.”

Mr. George’s loyalty to the C.I.A., however, was unshakable — and ultimately wrecked his career. He was convicted in 1992 of lying to Congressional committees and a grand jury to keep from disclosing what he knew about the agency’s participation in the Reagan administration’s illegal scheme to sell arms to Iran and divert profits from the sales to help the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Mr. George was the highest-ranking C.I.A. officer prosecuted by the independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh in what came to be known as the Iran-contra affair. After a mistrial caused by a hung jury, Mr. George was convicted of two charges of false statements and perjury before Congress. He faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count.

Mr. George said that his conscience was clear and that he felt like “a pawn in a continuous drama of political exploitation.” Earlier, he had explained that he had been “almost megalomaniacal” in striving to use his testimony to Congress to “protect the agency.”

Mr. Walsh wrote that the verdict refuted the view that the illegal operation had been confined to the White House and showed that it in fact extended to various agencies, like the Defense and State Departments, as well as the C.I.A. He said that if Mr. George had told the truth to Congress, the wrongdoing could have been stopped years sooner. Suspicions had been raised in October 1986, when an American cargo plane ferrying arms to Nicaraguan rebels was shot down.

“George chose to evade, mislead and lie,” Mr. Walsh said.

Mr. George had been indicted in September 1991, partly on the strength of the testimony of an aide who told prosecutors that Mr. George had told him to withhold information from Congress.

However, his devotion to the C.I.A. was appreciated by agency employees and retirees, who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his defense and came to his trial to show support. Some volunteered to pore through mountains of classified material assembled for the trial in search of useful evidence. Some suggested that President Ronald Reagan should have been the one on trial, saying that in professing ignorance of Iran-contra, the president was either lying or admitting that he had been asleep at the switch. But investigations by Mr. Walsh, Congress and an independent commission could not pin responsibility on the president.

Clair Elroy George was born in Pittsburgh on Aug. 3, 1930. His family moved several times, ending up in Beaver Falls, Pa., when he was 9. His father was a dairy chemist who worked for the federal Department of Agriculture. As a youth, Mr. George was a drummer in local dance bands and president of the high school student council and worked in a steel mill.

He majored in political science and debated at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1952. He enrolled in Columbia Law School, but joined the Army instead. He learned Chinese and worked in counterintelligence in the Army in Japan. He joined the C.I.A. after being impressed by agency officers he met in the Far East.

After numerous assignments, in Washington and abroad, he returned to Washington for good in 1979. He placed first out of 100 candidates in a promotions ranking and was put in charge of the agency’s African division. William J. Casey, whom Reagan had named director of central intelligence, appointed Mr. George to successively higher positions. He served as deputy director from 1984 until his retirement in 1987. He then worked as a consultant.

Mr. George’s wife, the former Mary Atkinson, died in 2008. In addition to his sister, he is survived by his daughters, Leslie George and Ann Davies, and three grandchildren.

During Mr. George’s trial, the defense repeatedly tried to inform the jury of his espionage achievements, which prosecutors tried to quash because they might impress jurors. Finally, Judge Royce C. Lamberth told prosecutors they could admit “something equivalent to war-hero status” and leave it at that.

Clair George, Spy and Iran-Contra Figure, Dies at 81,






U.S. intelligence

and the wisdom of crowds


Apr 1, 2011

10:11 EDT


Bernd Debusmann


After a string of world-shaking events America’s spies failed to predict, most recently the turmoil sweeping the Arab world, a vast project is taking shape to improve forecasting. It involves thousands of volunteers and the wisdom of crowds.

It’s officially known as the Forecasting World Events Project and is sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Activity (IARPA), a little-known agency run by a woman, Lisa Porter, who is occasionally described as America’s answer to the fictional Agent Q who designs cutting edge gadgets for James Bond. Much of IARPA’s work is classified, as is its budget. But the forecasting project is not classified. Invitations to participate are now on the Internet.

The idea is to raise five large competing teams of people of diverse backgrounds who will be asked to make predictions on fields that range from politics and global security to business and economics, public health, social and cultural change and science and technology. The project is expected to run for four years and stems from the recognition that expert forecasts are very often wrong.

One of the teams is being put together by University of Pennsylvania professor Philip Tetlock, whose ground-breaking 2005 book (Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It? How Can We Know?) analysed 27,450 predictions from a variety of experts and found they were no more accurate than random guesses or, as he put it, “a dart-throwing chimpanzee”.

“To test various hypotheses,” Tetlock said in an interview, “we want a large number on my team, 2,500 or so, which would make it almost ten times bigger than the number I analysed in my book.” There are no firm numbers yet on how big the other four teams will be. But Dan Gardner, the author of a just-published book that also highlights the shortcomings of expert predictions, believes the IARPA-sponsored project will be the biggest of its kind. It is expected to start in mid-2011.

The title of Gardner’s book, “Future Babble. Why expert predictions are next to worthless and you can do better,” leaves no doubts over his conclusion. The book is an entertaining, well researched guide to decades of totally wrong predictions from eminent figures. There was the British writer H.N. Norman, for example, who, in the peaceful early days of 1914, predicted there would be no more wars between the big powers of the time. World War I started a few months later.

There was the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, whose best-selling 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in famines in the 1970s. There was an entire library of books in the 1980s that predicted Japan would overtake the United States as the world’s leading economic power.

Not to forget the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s September 1978 prediction that the Shah of Iran “is expected to remain actively involved in power over the next ten years.” The Shah fled into exile three months later, forced out by increasingly violent demonstrations against his autocratic rule.



In a similar vein, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on January 25 that “our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

Seventeeen days later, the leader of that stable government, Hosni Mubarak, stepped down in the face of mass protests.

“We are not clairvoyant,” America’s intelligence czar, James Clapper, told a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee where criticism of the sprawling U.S. intelligence community was aired. “Specific triggers for how and when instability would lead to the collapse of various regimes cannot always be known or predicted.”

True enough. Who could have predicted that the assassination of an archduke in Sarajevo in 1914 would lead to the deaths of 16 million people in World War I? Who could have predicted Japan’s recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor disaster? On the other hand, there were accurate predictions that U.S. troops invading Iraq in 2003 would not be showered with flowers, as Washington officials had so confidently predicted.

IARPA’s Forecasting Project is not the first American attempt at peering into the future with novel methods. The agency’s richer, bigger and older military sibling, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), caused outrage in 2003 with a plan to set up an online market where investors would have traded futures in Middle East developments including coups, assassinations and terrorist attacks.

The man who ran DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm, at the time, John Poindexter, resigned and the project was killed so we’ll never know whether that market might have been a better indicator of the future than the usual, often over-confident analysts.

And the IARPA teams? The aim of the program, as explained in an online invitation to participate, is to “dramatically enhance the accuracy, precision and timeliness” of forecasts. Gardner, the forecast sceptic, thinks they will remind us that there are things that simply can’t be predicted.

    U.S. intelligence and the wisdom of crowds, R, 1.4.2011,






Couple Accused

of Passing Nuclear Arms Secrets


September 17, 2010
The New York Times


A physicist and his wife, who both once worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, were arrested Friday and charged with a criminal conspiracy to help Venezuela build an atom bomb.

The arrests of P. Leonardo Mascheroni and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni and a 22-count indictment came after a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2008 to 2009. A raid on the couple’s home in Los Alamos last October hauled away cameras, computers and hundreds of files.

“If I were a real spy,” Dr. Mascheroni told a reporter at the time, declaring his innocence, “I would have left the country a long time ago.”

After their arrests on Friday, the couple appeared in federal court in Albuquerque. They were charged with handing over secret weapons information to an F.B.I. agent posing as a Venezuelan spy. The government did not accuse the Venezuelan government, or anyone working for it, of seeking weapons secrets.

Venezuela has begun exploring for uranium, but its president, Hugo Chávez, has denied interest in developing nuclear arms.

The defendants, if convicted of all the charges, face potential life sentences in prison. Dr. Mascheroni worked for Los Alamos, the nuclear laboratory, from 1979 to 1988, and his wife from 1981 until the raid on their home last year.

Dr. Mascheroni has long criticized the government’s nuclear policies as misguided and has repeatedly accused federal agents of harassing him for his views.

“Leo is a gullible nut,” said Hugh E. DeWitt, a California physicist, in a telephone interview on Friday. He knows Dr. Mascheroni and had testified before a grand jury. “He is a nut, but he has dug his own grave,” Dr. DeWitt said.

The indictment says that Dr. Mascheroni, 75, a naturalized citizen from Argentina, and Ms. Mascheroni, 67, an American citizen, handed over weapons secrets in exchange for $20,000 in cash and the promise of nearly $800,000 in all.

“The conduct alleged in this indictment is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation’s nuclear secrets for profit,” David Kris, the assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.

According to the indictment, Dr. Mascheroni told an undercover agent in March 2008, that he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb within 10 years and that under his program, the country would use a secret, underground nuclear reactor to make plutonium, a type of bomb fuel.

In July of that year, the F.B.I. agent provided Dr. Mascheroni with 12 questions supposedly from Venezuelan military and scientific personnel.

According to the charges, the physicist delivered to a post office box that November a computer disk holding a 132-page document, written in code, that contained “restricted data” related to nuclear weapons.

Written by Dr. Mascheroni and edited by his wife, the document was titled “A Deterrence Program for Venezuela,” and officials say it laid out the physicist’s weapons plan for Venezuela.

Dr. Mascheroni stated that the information he was providing was worth millions of dollars, but that his fee for producing the document was a mere $793,000, according to the indictment.

Earlier in the sting operation, the authorities say, Dr. Mascheroni asked the F.B.I. agent about obtaining Venezuelan citizenship. In June 2009, Dr. Mascheroni received from the box another list of questions, supposedly from Venezuelan officials, and $20,000 in cash as a first payment.

On his way to pick up these materials, according to the indictment, he told his wife he was doing the transaction for the money and was no longer an American.

Couple Accused of Passing Nuclear Arms Secrets,






Couples Accused as Spies

Were the Suburbs Personified


June 29, 2010
The New York Times


They raised children, went to work in the city each day, talked the small talk with neighbors about yard work and overpriced contractors. In short, they could have been any family in any suburb in America.

In Montclair, N.J., a woman who lived next to the Murphy family described them as “suburbia personified.” They asked their neighbors for advice about the best middle schools to send their two young daughters. Richard Murphy mowed the lawn; Cynthia Murphy would come home from her job as a financial-services executive, daffodils and French bread in her hands.

“We would talk about gardening and dogs and kids,” said one neighbor, Corine Jones, 53.

Miles away in Yonkers, there lived another ordinary couple, Vicky Peláez and her husband, Juan Jose Lázaro Sr. They doted on their two pet schnauzers and their teenage son, Juan Jose Lázaro Jr., a classical pianist.

The elder Mr. Lázaro had been known among his students at Baruch College for his outspoken left-leaning politics, and his comments in class offended some but earned respect from others, just as Ms. Peláez’s columns for El Diario La Prensa, one of the country’s most popular Spanish-language newspapers, had earned her a following of both fans and critics.

And in Cambridge, Mass., there was Donald Heathfield and his wife, Tracey Lee Ann Foley. He received his master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2000; she worked for a real estate company, passing a background check before she was hired.

Movies, books and television shows have taken to depicting suburbia as a place where not all is as it seems, where people with decent jobs and decent homes mask their secret double lives, and that seemed to be the case here: The three couples were among 11 people arrested as part of a ring that prosecutors said spied for the Russians under deep cover inside the United States.

Relatives, friends, classmates, neighbors and co-workers of the three couples expressed shock at the arrests, and they searched their memories for signs that something was amiss, but mostly came up blank.

“I didn’t know they were spies, but I know what they weren’t,” said Stanley Skolnik, 67, a neighbor of the Murphys. “They weren’t unusual.”

Some of those who knew the couples said there might have been clues, too subtle to cause concern. A neighbor asked Ms. Murphy, who received her M.B.A. from Columbia Business School last month, if she was from Russia, after hearing her accent. Ms. Murphy said that no, she was from Belgium.

Classmates of Mr. Heathfield at Harvard thought highly of him, but “his work was a little bit mysterious,” said Craig Sandler, a classmate who is the president of State House News Service, a news organization in Boston.

But there were also those who were skeptical that federal investigators had arrested the right individuals, saying that they did not believe the accusations and, in the case of Ms. Peláez and Mr. Lázaro, that their pro-Communist political views made them targets of the investigation.

On Tuesday afternoon, as Waldo Mariscal, Ms. Peláez’s son from a previous marriage, walked out of the family’s house in Yonkers, he was asked if Ms. Peláez and Mr. Lázaro had any connection to Russia.

“Yes,” Mr. Mariscal said. “Russian music. Tchaikovsky.”

Unlike other Americans accused of spying over the decades, the three couples did not shy from leading private lives that were in many ways quite public. Ms. Murphy kept a page on the networking Web site LinkedIn. Another of the 11 arrested, Anna Chapman, ran a real estate Web site and said she wanted to start a venture fund to broker partnerships between American and Russian businessmen.

In her native country, Peru, Ms. Peláez had earned acclaim as a television reporter for Frecuencia Latina, and was briefly kidnapped in 1984 by a group of leftist insurgents.

At El Diario, where she had worked for more than 20 years, Ms. Peláez’s columns had a following, broaching topics that were openly sympathetic to Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela and that were critical of the Bush and Obama administrations. Her work was reprinted on leftist Web sites, including some sponsored by the Cuban government.

“It’s not like I’m defending Vicky just for the sake of defending her, but I know her as a dedicated mother and a compassionate woman who would take food out of her mouth to give to someone who needs it,” Mónica Chang, a friend of Ms. Peláez’s who worked with her at Frecuencia Latina, said in a telephone interview from Peru.

The authorities said that of the three couples, all but Ms. Peláez had assumed false identities. And while neighbors and relatives detailed all the ways that they were typical families, the criminal complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan detailed their alleged work as secret agents.

Ms. Chapman had met regularly with a Russian government official since January, the complaint said. On Saturday, after a meeting with an F.B.I. undercover agent posing as a Russian consulate employee, she bought a cellphone and provided a false name and address: 99 Fake Street.

Ms. Peláez and Mr. Lázaro were accused of receiving packages of money from representatives of the Russian government. Surveillance of their Yonkers home in 2003 revealed “the irregular electronic clicking sounds associated with the receipt of coded radio transmissions,” according to federal court papers.

In the summer of 2009, the Murphys argued with the S.V.R., one of the successors to the Soviet K.G.B., in a series of encrypted messages, according to the complaint. The argument centered on their new home in Montclair. The Murphys contended that they should be permitted to own the house, but S.V.R. headquarters determined that headquarters, known as Moscow Center, would own it and permit the Murphys to live in it, the complaint read. In one message, the Murphys wrote, according to the complaint: “From our perspective, purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solve the housing issue, plus to ‘do as the Romans do’ in a society that values home ownership.”

The Murphys lived in a beige two-story house in the Fieldstone neighborhood in Montclair, moving there more than a year ago from an apartment in Hoboken. F. Thomas Senior and his wife, Nancy Senior, sold their house in Montclair to the couple in 2008 for $481,000, records show. The Murphys wrote in their message to Moscow Center in 2009 that they did not forget “that the house was bought under fictitious names,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Senior said the Murphys seemed “anxious to get in the house so the girls could start school in September – that was our impression.”

In Yonkers, Ms. Peláez and Mr. Lázaro lived with their son Juan Jose Lázaro Jr. in a stately neighborhood with twisting, hilly streets.

In fall 2008, the elder Mr. Lázaro taught a class on Latin American politics at Baruch College. Students said he denounced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and praised the health and educational systems in Cuba; among the required reading was “The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth About Global Corruption.”

Thomas Halper, chairman of the political science department at Baruch College, said that Mr. Lázaro taught for only a single semester. “We had someone observe his class and that person didn’t think he did a very good job,” said Dr. Halper, pointing out that all new adjuncts are monitored. “It wasn’t terrible. He just didn’t do a good job and I didn’t reappoint him. My recollection, to the extent that I knew him, is that he was quite pleasant. He was charming and very proud of his son, who was a pianist.”

At El Diario, Mr. Lázaro’s wife was known for calling her co-workers over, to have them look at the slideshows of Peruvian mountain scenes on her computer screen. She had been a columnist at the paper since 2000. Ms. Peláez’s sister Elvira Peláez Ocampo, 51, said by telephone from Peru that the family believed that the allegations against her were fabricated by the United States government.

“It was the way they found to shut her up,” said Ms. Ocampo, a lawyer. “Vicky has always been very transparent about what she believes in, very strong about her convictions, and she wasn’t afraid to reveal them in her writings.”

Reporting was contributed by Lisa W. Foderaro,

David Gonzalez, Abby Goodnough, Nate Schweber,

Scott Shane and Benjamin Weiser.

Couples Accused as Spies Were the Suburbs Personified,






In Ordinary Lives,

U.S. Sees the Work of Russian Agents


June 28, 2010
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — They had lived for more than a decade in American cities and suburbs from Seattle to New York, where they seemed to be ordinary couples working ordinary jobs, chatting to the neighbors about schools and apologizing for noisy teenagers.

But on Monday, federal prosecutors accused 11 people of being part of a Russian espionage ring, living under false names and deep cover in a patient scheme to penetrate what one coded message called American “policy making circles.”

An F.B.I. investigation that began at least seven years ago culminated with the arrest on Sunday of 10 people in Yonkers, Boston and northern Virginia. The documents detailed what the authorities called the “Illegals Program,” an ambitious, long-term effort by the S.V.R., the successor to the Soviet K.G.B., to plant Russian spies in the United States to gather information and recruit more agents.

The alleged agents were directed to gather information on nuclear weapons, American policy toward Iran, C.I.A. leadership, Congressional politics and many other topics, prosecutors say. The Russian spies made contact with a former high-ranking American national security official and a nuclear weapons researcher, among others. But the charges did not include espionage, and it was unclear what secrets the suspected spy ring — which included five couples — actually managed to collect.

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

Criminal complaints filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday read like an old-fashioned cold war thriller: Spies swapping identical orange bags as they brushed past one another in a train station stairway. An identity borrowed from a dead Canadian, forged passports, messages sent by shortwave burst transmission or in invisible ink. A money cache buried for years in a field in upstate New York.

But the network of so-called illegals — spies operating under false names outside of diplomatic cover — also used cyber-age technology, according to the charges. They embedded coded texts in ordinary-looking images posted on the Internet, and they communicated by having two agents with laptops containing special software pass casually as messages flashed between them.

Neighbors in Montclair, N.J., of the couple who called themselves Richard and Cynthia Murphy were flabbergasted when a team of F.B.I. agents turned up Sunday night and led the couple away in handcuffs. One person who lives nearby called them “suburbia personified,” saying that they had asked people for advice about the local schools. Others worried about the Murphys’ elementary-age daughters.

Jessie Gugig, 15, said she could not believe the charges, especially against Mrs. Murphy. “They couldn’t have been spies,” she said jokingly. “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

Experts on Russian intelligence expressed astonishment at the scale, longevity and dedication of the program. They noted that Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister and former president and spy chief, had worked to restore the prestige and funding of Russian espionage after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dark image of the K.G.B.

“The magnitude, and the fact that so many illegals were involved, was a shock to me,” said Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who was a Soviet spy in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s under “legal” cover as a diplomat and Radio Moscow correspondent. “It’s a return to the old days, but even in the worst years of the cold war, I think there were no more than 10 illegals in the U.S., probably fewer.”

Mr. Kalugin, now an American citizen living outside Washington, said he was impressed with the F.B.I.’s penetration of the spy ring. The criminal complaints are packed with vivid details gathered in years of covert surveillance — including monitoring phones and e-mail, placing secret microphones in the alleged Russian agents’ homes, and numerous surreptitious searches.

The authorities also tracked one set of agents based in Yonkers on trips to an unidentified South American country, where they were videotaped receiving bags of cash and passing messages written in invisible ink to Russian handlers in a public park, according to the charges.

Prosecutors said the “Illegals Program” extended to other countries around the world. Using fraudulent documents, the charges said, the spies would “assume identities as citizens or legal residents of the countries to which they are deployed, including the United States.

Illegals will sometimes pursue degrees at target-country universities, obtain employment, and join relevant professional associations” to deepen false identities.

One message from bosses in Moscow, in awkward English, gave the most revealing account of the agents’ assignment. “You were sent to USA for long-term service trip,” it said. “Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles and send intels [intelligence reports] to C[enter].”

It was not clear what the intelligence reports were about, though one agent was described as meeting an American government employee working in a nuclear program. The defendants were charged with conspiracy, not to commit espionage, but to fail to register as agents of a foreign government, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison; 9 were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. They are not accused of obtaining classified materials.

There were also hints that Russian spy bosses feared their agents, ordered to go native in prosperous America, might be losing track of their official purpose. Agents in Boston submitted an expense report with such vague items as “trip to meeting” for $1,125 and “education,” $3,600.

In Montclair, when the Murphys wanted to buy a house under their names, “Moscow Center,” or “C.,” the S.V.R. headquarters, objected.

“We are under an impression that C. views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here,” the New Jersey couple wrote in a coded message. “From our perspective purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solving the housing issue, plus ‘to do as the Romans do’ in a society that values home ownership.”

Much of the ring’s activity — and the F.B.I. investigators’ surveillance — took place in and around New York. The alleged agents were spotted in a bookstore in Lower Manhattan, a bench near the entrance to Central Park and a restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens.

Secret exchanges were made at busy locations like the Long Island Rail Road’s station in Forest Hills, where F.B.I. watchers in 2004 spotted one defendant who is not in custody, Christopher R. Metsos, the charging papers say.

The arrests made a splash in neighborhoods around the country, as F.B.I. teams spent all Sunday night hunting through houses and cars, shining flashlights and carting away evidence.

In Cambridge, Mass., the couple known as Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, who appeared to be in their 40s and had two teenage sons, lived in an apartment building on a residential street where some Harvard professors and students live.

“She was very courteous; she was very nice,” Montse Monne-Corbero, who lives next door, said of Ms. Foley. The sons shoveled snow for her in the winter, Ms. Monne-Corbero said, but they also had “very loud” parties.

Lila Hexner, who lives in the building next door, said Ms. Foley told her she was in the real estate business. “She said they were from Canada,” Ms. Hexner said.

Another of those charged, Mikhail Semenko, was a stylish man in his late 20s who drove a Mercedes S-500, said Tatyana Day, who lives across the street from him in Arlington, Va. He had a brunette girlfriend and the young couple spoke to one another in Russian and “kept to themselves,” Ms. Day said.

Reporting was contributed by Benjamin Weiser,

Nate Schweber, Kenneth Chang,

Andy Newman and Colin Moynihan from New York;

Mark Mazzetti

and Yeganeh June Torbati from Washington;

and Abby Goodnough from Boston.

In Ordinary Lives, U.S. Sees the Work of Russian Agents,










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