Million dollar salaries, cheap wigs, and international espionage—it’s just the latest case of Cold War habits dying hard.
With relations strained over Syria negotiations, another bump was added to the rocky road of U.S.-Russia relations when U.S. diplomat Ryan Fogle was arrested by Russian authorities this week accused of being a CIA spy attempting to turn a Russian intelligence agent.
Shortly after his arrest Fogle was turned over to the U.S. Embassy and expelled from the country. Evidence presented against the State Department employee included a “spy kit” of wigs, a road map, and older model cell phones.
Peter Earnest, executive director of the International Spy Museum and former CIA agent, joined Weekends with Alex Witt to discuss the facts of the case. “Moscow’s a very tough place to operate, we learned how to do it during the Cold War,” he said. Referring to his experience, he added, “Often we resorted to very very basic tradecraft, because a lot of the hi-tech stuff can be hacked into.”
Another element to the Russian case is a letter allegedly carried by Fogle offering an unnamed Russian security officer a one million dollar per year salary to work as a double agent. Earnest says that an offer like this could be legitimate, but that the lack of details surrounding the case makes it difficult to weigh the validity of the evidence.
While the known elements of the case smack of 1960’s pulp fiction, Earnest says the normalization of relationships between the US and Russia has changed the way espionage incidents are managed,
“When something like this happens it can be treated like a bump in the road and not distract them from other things that are going on like trying to negotiate for cooperation in Syria, or it can be made into a major incident.”
One part of that relationship appears to show no sign of slowing down is the spy vs. spy mentality maintained by both states, as Earnest says, “The Cold War ended, the spying goes on.”