Patterico's Pontifications

7/8/2010

U.S.-Russia Spy Swap (Updated)

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 12:05 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The U.S. and Russian governments may be preparing for a multi-person spy swap:

“The largest Russia-U.S. spy swap since the Cold War appeared to be in motion Thursday, with up to 10 guilty pleas expected in New York by defendants accused of spying for Russia in exchange for the release of convicted Russian spies. A Russian convicted of spying for the United States was reportedly plucked from a Moscow prison and flown to Vienna.”

This makes no sense. The U.S. won’t have time to fully interrogate and check the stories of the Russian spies, while the Russians have completely vetted their captives — some of whom may not even be U.S. sympathizers. It’s a win for Russia and it saves the Obama DOJ a lot of work, but that doesn’t make it a win for the U.S.

Maybe President Obama thinks the Russians will owe him one.

— DRJ

UPDATE — Fox News reports it will be a 10-for-4 swap: 10 Russians for 4 people who may or may not be Americans.

27 Responses to “U.S.-Russia Spy Swap (Updated)”

  1. I heard that Bill Clinton tried to that female spy released into his custody, but for some reason Hillary nixed it.

    Aaron Worthing (A.W.) (e7d72e)

  2. A very plausible explanation for such a hurried swap would be that one or more of the detainees has information that would be damaging to persons with influence over the decision to make the swap. One Democratic fundraiser (and former Hilary Clinton campaign finance chairman), Alan Patricof, has confirmed that he was targeted by accused spy Cynthia Murphy (presumably, given Mr. Patricof’s forthrightness in discussing the situation with the press, Ms. Murphy failed to gain any useful information from her contact with him). One wonders what other political operatives may also have been targeted (and what they may have given away). The rush to get these spies out of the country before any serious interrogation could possibly be completed raises the question of whether they are holding secrets that someone very high in the administration does not want seeing the light of day.

    lostingotham (980102)

  3. Neither side wants information given about procedures.

    I expect the Russian spies will get a bullet in the back of the head in the basement of Lubyanka.

    I expect ours will get promotions and reassaingments.

    nk (db4a41)

  4. I updated the post. I don’t have a link but I’ll add it when one is available.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  5. Link added.

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  6. lostingotham,

    I assume that’s the same person reported by the New York Daily News:

    “Cynthia Murphy,” whose real Russian identity wasn’t exposed in the court filings, worked at a New York firm and landed the account of a city financier, who was “prominent in politics” as an apparently active Democratic Party fundraiser, and also was a “personal friend of (a current Obama cabinet official, name omitted),” the complaint says.

    “Of course he is very interesting ‘target,'” Moscow Center told “Murphy” in an encrypted message. “Try to build up little by little relations with him moving beyond just (work) framework.”

    Did Alan Patricof also reveal the Cabinet official’s name? And how long as this swap been scheduled?

    DRJ (d43dcd)

  7. If the story is as has been reported to this point, the only thing missing from this little episode is moose and squirrel.

    GeneralMalaise (9cf017)

  8. Politico reports that Patricof is, indeed, a friend of HRC’s: http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0610/Clinton_friend_may_have_been_spys_target.html

    The Justice Department is an enormous bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are generally incapable of quick action, even on matters of extreme urgency (for an example, just look at the response of the various federal bureaucracies to the BP spill). The one exception I’m aware of is when someone at the very tippy tip top of a bureaucracy makes it clear that he wants heaven and earth moved to make something happen.

    The arrests of the Russian illegals occurred just 10 days ago. That’s an extremely short time for such a decision to have been made, vetted through channels, scrutinized, negotiated with the Russians, re-scrutinized, polled, powerpointed and finally announced to the press. There just ain’t no way it could have happened unless someone at or near cabinet level (or even Obama himself) pulled out all the stops to make it so. That fact begs the question: why would someone spend his precious political juice to spring 10 Russian illegals? The only answer I can come up with is that someone–or someone very important to him–stands to be mightily embarrassed if those Russians stick around.

    If we had an independent press with a collective IQ above 40 they’d be asking these questions.

    lostingotham (980102)

  9. I just hope, REALLY hope, that the exchange happens over a bridge with tanks and stuff of either side of the bridge. PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!

    This whole episode is making me have Cold War flash backs.

    Vivian Louise (643333)

  10. Makes a LOT of sense to me. Especially, if you are a Dem and aren’t particularly interested in having even your own DoJ and/or DHS look into this. Just sayin!

    Hrothgar (4a5954)

  11. Can we swap Obama for some Vodka and a few Spys?

    Dennis D (e0b996)

  12. Note that the judge who blessed this deal is none other than Clinton Supreme Court nominee Kimba Wood. Can you say “forum shopping?”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/08/AR2010070803476_pf.html

    Negotiations with the Russians on the swap must have begun literally within hours of the arrests. How in the world is that possible? There is absolutely no way the FBI could have made an assessment as to whether further interrogation would yield useful information during so short a time. The only plausible explanation is that whoever ordered them released knew what sort of information they had and didn’t want it coming out.

    lostingotham (2ccb2c)

  13. Could we send Michael Moore too ?

    Jeff S. (b15751)

  14. These guys have been under investigation for years. Would it possible or plausible that they didn’t really have much new or interesting to say?

    Perhaps their arrest was in anticipation of the swap. We roll up a network we’ve been monitoring and feeding for years, make enough news to make the Russian look like hacks, all just to get our people back when the time is right.

    I don’t know that those who we’re making a switch for aren’t Americans is relevant. Assuming that they’re really our agents, we should do everything possible and prudent to get them back.

    Fritz (9c4a4d)

  15. I don’t know about now, but when we did this seriously “agent” meant non-Cia employee local coopted.

    nk (db4a41)

  16. Well agent in the parlance is like asset, operative are the people who run said agents, like that 3rd secretary at the UN mission

    ian cormac (93d17d)

  17. Fritz,

    It’s possible that they may not have anything interesting to say, but how in the world can one possibly know until they’ve been thoroughly interrogated?

    Clearly they were trained in Russia–if nothing else they can shed light on Russian methods and procedures. Indeed, they may have knowledge of seemingly insignificant details that–in the hands of a sharp analyst–might provide untold advantages to future US counter-intelligence operations. That’s why it makes sense to spend some time squeezing them (and using all the leverage–like the fact that their kids are in awkward positions–that we have over them to aid in the squeezing). You can bet that the Russians have squeezed the people we’re swapping them for in the YEARS that they’ve been holding them.

    There is simply no way that our counter-intelligence people could have conducted a thorough enough interrogation in the hours or at most days between the time they were arrested and the time someone made the call to swap them to determine whether they had useful info (Note, however, that the Russians know exactly what sort of info the illegals have–and, after years of interrogation, they almost certainly extracted everything their prisoners knew.) There’s an enormous asymmetry of information in this deal, and it isn’t in our favor. In such a situation, you can bet we’re being had.

    lostingotham (2ccb2c)

  18. 10 Russians for 4 people who may or may not be Americans.

    Given that the Obama administration is no friend of Israel, it seems rather odd that they’d emulate Israel’s approach to prisoner exchanges with the Palestinians.

    Blacque Jacques Shellacque (cf2f34)

  19. Here in Boston they are calling it the “Cambridge Spy Swap”. Can we up the ante and trade ALL of Cambridge? We will come out ahead no matter what they give us in return. Cambridge is probably too much of a people’s republic for Russia to accept now.

    WLR (30e043)

  20. These russian agents were allowed to operate for years to expose thier contacts and methods.They did not produce anything except embarassment for thier service.Taking the russians supposedly working for us only validated thier political show trials.One of them is reported to be 90 years old.

    dunce (3ef93a)

  21. Just imagine if a group of spies tasked with penetrating “senior policy circles” had been caught on a Republican’s watch, and then hustled out of the country with “unprecedented” haste!

    By now the media would be speculating about whether there was a three-way between Anna Chapman, GWB, and Condi Rice!

    sherlock (75417a)

  22. I’m chaining myself to the airport gate. I don’t think Anna Chapman should be allowed to leave the country. We can never have too many pretty women, spies or not. 😉

    nk (db4a41)

  23. Where did you say your wife was, nk?
    Did she take a laptop with her?
    You could be in big trouble, pahdner!

    AD - RtR/OS! (2e91a1)

  24. After twenty years, she knows I’m a family man and my bark is worse than my bite.

    nk (db4a41)

  25. I have nephews who are single but, like my mom used to say, all women are women (not exactly in those same words).

    nk (db4a41)

  26. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQdu4UOCUZc&feature=related

    I’m only gay for that solid top the second guitarist is playing.

    nk (db4a41)

  27. Anybody want to do guitar blogging?

    All I have left is a violin-backed 000 sized Guild from the seventies and a lute-backed Greek bouzouki (D length tenor guitar strung in pairs).

    nk (db4a41)


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