In cloak-and-dagger spy novels, a classic gambit is for a spy to turn his enemy counterpart into a double agent. A less-used plot twist is for the tables to be turned. An even lesser-used development is for his capture to be announced to the world. But that is what happened on Tuesday, with Russia’s secret services claiming to have detained a CIA agent who was allegedly attempting to recruit a Russian secret service agent to work for the United States.
The Russian Federal Security (FSB), the successor to the FSB, detained Ryan Fogle, a third secretary for the American Embassy in Moscow. They claim that he was in possession of espionage equipment, including disguises, specialized technical equipment, a large sum of cash, and written instructions. The arrest and the announcement of it in such a public way is a reminder of the continuing intelligence dance between Russia and the United States despite the end of the Cold War.
RIA Novosti, a state-owned news agency, quoted a letter released by the FSB that they claim was in Fogle’s possession when he was detained. The letter says: “We are ready to offer you $100,000 and discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation. Payment can be significantly higher if you are prepared to answer specific questions. Furthermore, we are offering up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation with additional bonuses for information that can help us.”
Russia Today released the letter in full:
Via Russia Today
The FSB also released several pictures that they claim are of Fogle and the equipment he had on him at the time of his detention.
Via RIA Novosti
The American Embassy in Moscow would not comment on Fogle’s detention. The news broke when Michael McFaul, the American ambassador to Russia, was in the middle of a Twitter question-and answer-session, leading to this exchange,
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it has summoned Ambassador McFaul to speak with them on Wednesday concerning Fogle. The White House referred all questions to the State Department.
Even with the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia have continued to maintain active espionage networks against each other. In 2010 the Federal Bureau of Investigation broke up a deep cover Russian spy network consisting of 10 spies. But the public airing of such a detention is relatively unusual. Interviewing for the Associated Press, Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University said,
"More often, the etiquette is that these things get dealt with quite quietly — unless they want to get a message out. If you identify an embassy staffer who is a spy for the other side, your natural impulse is to leave them be, because once you identify you can keep tabs on them, see who they talk to, and everything else. There's no reason to make a song and dance, detain them, eject them."
It is quite possible that this detention is serving as way to boost Russian President Vladimir Putin's popularity at home. Putin has engaged in other actions such as engaging in searches of Russian nongovernmental organizations that receive American funding in a crackdown, accusing them of being fronts for the U.S. government to interfere in Russian politics.
It is unlikely that this incident will affect the cooperation between Russian and American intelligence agencies regarding the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. The detention will simply be another chapter in the long-running spy game between Russia and the United States.