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back to article Alleged CIA spook cuffed by Russians: US Gmail 'spycraft' revealed

A US diplomat accused of attempting to recruit a Russian security services staffer as a double agent used a comical "spy arsenal" of equipment, it is claimed. Ryan Fogle - third secretary of the political department of the US Embassy in Moscow - was allegedly caught redhanded by Russia's counterintelligence agency, the FSB, with …

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Trollface

Marx brothers?

Karl or Groucho?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Marx brothers?

Whichever, I think the guy's spycraft must date from that time.

As far as I can tell from this story, there are only a few possibilities:

1 - it's made up, the FSB just needed an excuse and someone in a cell for the talks (Tried and tested political tools never go away)

2 - this guy was getting bored out of his mind in the US embassy and has been reading *way* too many bad spy books

3 - the guy was on a mission to specifically find RDS (Really Dumb Spies) :).

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Has to be 1 right?

2 would mean he used 100k of his own money, thats a reach for a 3rd under secretary to the janitor of the Elbonian embassy.

3 maybe but for why?

I think either 1, or he slept with his bosses daughter and the boss decided to send him on a 'covert' mission equipped with whatever he could purchase from a Rouble shop on his lunch break.

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Re: Marx brothers?

Obviously, Harpo.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Marx brothers?

All things considered, Tchico.

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Anonymous Coward

Doh. He was burned because they wanted to protect Medvedev, who is an asset.

Haven't you watched any of the Bourne films?

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Disguises

When I heard on the news he was caught with "disguises," I immediately pictured one of those old moustache+nose+glasses jobs and it made me smile. Turns out that's not far from the truth, which makes me laugh.

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Hahaha I know, that was exactly what I thought of as well.

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Happy

Re: Disguises

Presumably his "Old salty Swedish sea-dog" outfit was at the cleaners.

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Gold badge

Re: Disguises

Google Glass? No, *that* would have made sense - I can see them being banned near anything sensitive anywhere.

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I couldn't help but...

I couldn't help but think of Carry On Spying ;)

"I am Doctor Crow. You are surprised? "

"Yes, I am! I expected you to be a man... or a woman. "

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MrT
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Double check...

... nope, I see no fine old Viennese etchings in the kit photos, Carstairs.

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Anonymous Coward

I emailed the account.

There is now a lorry outside the house.

It is lifting my bin and emptying it into the back. I think one came last week too.

I have hair growing on the palms of my hands.

Dear Deidre, should I be worried?

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WTF?

"third secretary of the political department"

That sounds like it belongs in the '60s era Russian embassy, not the current US one.

So are their CIA operatives giggling their asses off right now, going "oh my GOD, he ACTUALLY DID IT!"??

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Anonymous Coward

Imagine how much US Intelligence could save if they outsourced this to Indian call centers.

"If you are defecting, please press one."

"If you wish to hand over sensitive information, please press two."

"If you wish to report someone acting suspiciously, please press three."

"If you wish to speak to one of our highly trained intelligence operatives, please press o at any time."

"Hello. This is Steve from Omaha. How may I be being of service to you today?"

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Anonymous Coward

Surely...

"If the geese are flying high this winter, please press 1"

"If Julio has finished his breakfast, please press 2"

etc

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Anonymous Coward

Could be worse. Could be vodafone.

They are still d/d me a quid a month, for itemised billing on a data tariff...

...which ended months ago.

Naturally I intend to raise the issue tomorrow, now that I've noticed.

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Anonymous Coward

The Gmail account should be set up ...

Why Gmail specifically.... ?

Why not Yahoo or Outlook....or other....

It is because US agencies have easy eyes & ears on the Big G....?

Who is the biggest free hoster now anyway....?

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Coat

Re: The Gmail account should be set up ...

"Why Gmail specifically.... ?

It is because US agencies have easy eyes & ears on the Big G....?"

It's because they are G-Men, of course!

The one with the one shot biro and the tie clip camera in the pocket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The Gmail account should be set up ...

Why Gmail specifically.... ?

I can only guess that it is because you can use a secure https web interface, and use two factor authentication.

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If this isn't a setup (which it seems to be) then gmail because it is more secure, not less. Think about it, why would they need to spy on their own email account?? They are more worried about it being traced by a middleman so a more secure account from a free provider would be the choice.

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Facepalm

Re: The Gmail account should be set up ...

Surely Hushmail, if you want strong security...

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Anonymous Coward

'The Americans' (TV Series)

Watching the first series of the show and its griping. But this story is farce. I think its a set-up.... The information is so basic, with specific instructions to use Gmail... That hardly makes sense... Something stinks here...

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Silver badge

Wrong introduction!

Spy1: I've got the YoYo.

Spy2: I've got the string.

It goes on from there. It was the 60's. Or as the saying goes: "If you remember the 60's you weren't there!"

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Coat

Re: Wrong introduction!

I was there. Had a wild time...I think...

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>a meeting without coffee

Always serious business, that.

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Coat

Open letter...

" the document offered a $100,000 down-payment for an interview with the would-be recruit"

Dear Mr Fogle,

I understand you are currently recruiting vacuum cleaner salesmen secret agents, and I was just wondering if you needed anybody in Havana, Cuba?

If so I would be delighted to meet with you for an interview. Please bring the money in small denomination, used dollar bills, rather than Euros.

Best wishes,

James Wormold

It has the Graham Greene novel in a pocket.

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There is more to this story?

So far it sounds like Clouseau's spy kit, and whilst I'm prepared to believe there's a lot of value in old-school tradecraft, this just seems silly.

Did the 'merkins recently exposed/expel any Russian spies? This looks more like public tit-for-tat posturing than anything remotely real. It may as well have a codebook with 'TOP SECRET - CIA ONLY' on the cover, and maybe a newspaper with eyeholes cut in it.

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Coat

Re: There is more to this story?

Or if he used an ACME Sleep Grenade to sneak past any guards...

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The only thing that lends a shred of credibility to this at all is that he had a backpack full of cash. Presumably more than he made in any legitimate enterprise.

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Holmes

"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

This is such a bumblefuck operation it can only mean that Obama has decided to let Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko complete the remaineder of their prison terms in Russia. "Earlier this year (2012), in April, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko was sentenced to 15 years in prison".

By 'setting up' Fogel for this bust -- no doubt he knew the part he played -- Obama gave Putin a get-out-of-American-jail-free to redeem for Bout and Yaroshenko. Letting Russia arrest an American diplomat is the only possible explanation for this event, so reminiscent the The Mossad in Dubai

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Re: "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable...

Doesn't this hypothesis fall down in the fact that Fogel has diplomatic immunity?

There's no need for a trade here, he just gets sent home.

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Headmaster

Re: "Once you eliminate the impossible, etc."

Diplomats caught spying are only ever expelled (Iran notwithstanding). If this fellow had no diplomatic cover, he could have been in deep, deep trouble.

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Holmes

Re: "Once you eliminate the impossible, etc."

I didn't imagine that Fogle would be exchanged for Bout and Yaroshenko in the middle of a bridge over the Spree. Fogle has already been ordered out of Russia.

But now Obama has a reason to be embarrassed, sorry and contrite. And nice to Putin. And Bout and Yaroshenko would be going to a Russian prison, not Sochi. Because an American CIA agent was caught red (hey, a pun) handed, Obama's critics will have less to gripe about.

And, of course, Russia will be more cooperative about Syria,

Turn on Fox News, Watson. Let's see what's really happening.

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"I am William Boot of the US Embassy of Ishmaelia......."

Nice to see the Reg's writers read Evelyn Waugh (Scoop 1938). Could better have used Graham Greene (Our Man in Havana 1958).

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Black Helicopters

Re: "I am William Boot of the US Embassy of Ishmaelia......."

Nice to see the Reg's writers read Evelyn Waugh (Scoop 1938). Could better have used Graham Greene (Our Man in Havana 1958).

...or The Quiet American...

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Black Helicopters

why the aluminium foil?

For making a hat?

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Snopes or the Onion

Has any one checked Snopes on the Onion? I mean this sound like a third rate spy book. The kind you see for 25 cents and the thrift shop. Or 5 pence for the UK readers.

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Re: Snopes or the Onion

More likely, found not in a thrift shop, but at the bottom of the bird cage.

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Stop

"Haha, hoho, he used a wig?" Yeah, a wig.

Sorry to surprise the twits that watched "Die Another Day" (including the article's author, apparently) and think all modern spies have face-warping electronic kit to change their appearance, but a lot of disguises used today are the same old makeup, hats, padding and - yes - wigs. A lot of the evading modern spies do nowadays is not of the Mark 1 Eyeball, which can spot a dodgy wig, but of cameras using automatic face recognition. As a registered diplomat, Fogle's face would have been on the FSB database and his movements tracked by camera across most of Moscow, but such computerised kit can be fooled with very little effort. Wigs change the hairline and can also be used to hide ears, which are as unique in shape as fingerprints. Facial recognition works on a 3D map of key points of the face and head, so if you screw the 3D map enough the identification will fail in situations the Mark 1 Eyeball would not be fooled. So, yes, I do not find it beyond the bounds of possibility that an American "diplomat" was out recruiting with a wig or two in his bag.

After all, if he was stopped with a wig or two in his bag he could make up a story about going to a fancy dress party, but if he was caught with some superduper Q gadget marked "If found please return to Langley, Virginia", do you seriously think he would have been better off?

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Boffin

It's possible "that an American "diplomat" was out recruiting with a wig or two in his bag.'

So you think that Fogle, or his operator in Langley, assembled that smorgasbord of props, which would have been deemed too ridiculous even for Maxwell Smart.

Has it occurred to no one here that the mole was instructed by the FSB, to ask him to bring those props to test Fogle's bona fides. Is it possible that as a further test of Fogle's good intention, the mole not only asked for three different colored wigs, but asked Fogle to wear the blonde one that night, seeing as it was a blind date in a dark park and Olga, his wife is blonde. ("Ach, Olga. I betrayed Russia for you)."

Clearly the FSB sting operation is a more satisfactory way of looking at this.

Because if Third Secretary Fogle assembled these props on his own, whether or not he carried them to the rendezvous in a Buzz Lightyear lunch box, America is doomed.

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Anonymous Coward

@Matt "an American "diplomat" was out recruiting with a wig or two in his bag."

You and the FBS are on the same page about wigs and rouge.

"In the interview shown on the state-owned Channel 1, the FSB officer said that Russian counterintelligence was aware from the moment Fogle arrived in Moscow in the spring of 2011 that he was a career CIA officer, and had consequently kept tabs on him.

Fogle's attempt to recruit a Russian citizen on Monday was not his first espionage mission, and it was not the first time he had used disguise to attempt to evade surveillance, the FSB officer said."

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Boffin

Re: @Matt "an American "diplomat" was out recruiting with a wig or two in his bag."

Yeah, most of the items he was caught with can be understood and also be quickly dumped or excused if stopped, apart from the cash and the written instructions. The foil could be to wrap his phone in to stop it being tracked (if he had a device without a removal battery it would have to be foil-wrapped, and if his phone did have a removable battery it would still be quicker to whip the foil off to use the phone than put the battery back and wait for it to boot). The knife can be excused away as "I was scared of muggers" and not as incriminating as a pistol. And, IIRC, carriage of folding knifes is not illegal in Russia, so it might even have escaped a police stop and search without comment if it was a gravity blade or the like.

But the cash? Surely it would have been simpler just to stick the funds in bank account under a fake ID, then take the potential recruit an ATM card that accessed the account. One ATM card in the wallet amongst many would probably go unnoticed, but carrying wads of cash? Hmmmmmm. And I'm a bit sceptical of the written instructions, I would have thought it much more likely that he would have memorised any such rather than carry around such an incriminating bit of evidence. That and the cash may be the FSB padding out the evidence to make it more spectacular.

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Maybe not CIA, but...

He may not be CIA, but I doubt this was faked. It's a weird gentlemen's agreement, but members of the diplomatic services have diplomatic immunity, diplomatic pouches which are not to be examined by customs (which is not necessarily a pouch but can run up to pallet sized), and so on. It's practically common knowledge that a large percentage of these people do some spying. They aren't from a spy agency necessarily, though, so I'd expect technique to be relatively sloppy.

As for the wig and so on, as Matt Bryant says, they don't get magic face-changing hardware, and this stuff wouldn't actually surprise me. First, the super-high-tech spy-grade face changer box doesn't exist. Second, if it did exist.. if a spy got caught with some gear, which is more likely to be able to be explained away? Some makeup and a wig (could be for a girlfriend, or you just claim to be a little "metrosexual" and want to touch up your face every now and then), or a super-high-tech spy-grade face changer box (good luck explaining it)?

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" I doubt this was faked"

And 'faked' is the only hypothesis that makes sense. It makes no sense that our intellegence would allow an officer of the Embassy with a grab bag full of trinkets and a wad of Euros in large denominations to wander the dark streets of Moscow.

And it makes even less sense that Russian intelligence would piss away the opportunity to have a double agent being run by a secretary at the Embassy of the United States.

Thrown away for what?

Astonishing photographs that the American media either didn't print or buried in the back pages. And then he was declared non grata and expelled.

When the FSB could be analyzing what Fogle was asking their mole for and occasionally spouting disinformation in his direction.

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