NEW YORK (AP) — Three men accused in the latest Russian spy case in the United States didn’t hide behind fake identities and weren’t stealing military secrets. They even appeared annoyed that their assignment wasn’t more like a James Bond film.
Their alleged plot to dig up “economic intelligence” on possible banking penalties and alternative energy sources may not be the stuff of Hollywood movies, but US authorities insist the case is proof that Russian spying is thriving in America more than two decades after the end of the Cold War.
It also shows the resources the US still throws at those suspected of being spies for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government: listening bugs, hidden cameras and intercepted phone calls.
“Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst,” US Attorney Preet Bharara warned after the arrests last week.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich countered by accusing US authorities of manufacturing a spy scandal as part of its “anti-Russian campaign.”
Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham Law professor and former federal prosecutor, said the latest case shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“We have to be concerned about the economic warfare end of this. That’s what worries me,” she said, noting the crippling cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
She said the arrests might show that the spy game has changed as countries seek information to possibly attack businesses and the economy.
The case against Evgeny Buryakov, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy comes less than five years after the arrest of 10 covert agents — a sleeper cell referred to as “The Illegals” by the SVR, the foreign intelligence agency headquartered in Moscow — who led ordinary lives in the United States using aliases.
All 10 pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy charges and were ordered out of the country as part of a spy swap for four people convicted of betraying Moscow to the West.