Free Markets, Free People

Russian spy swap – what’s the hurry?

Marc Ambinder attempts to spin the pending spy swap with Russia as proof that the “reset” has worked:

Sure, U.S. and Russian spy services are agitating for a spy swap, but the fact that the two countries managed to so quickly figure out a mutually beneficial solution after the arrests of Russian spies last week suggests that Moscow and Washington work together well and that both countries believe it is in their best interest to move on from the wilderness of mirrors. In other words, it’s a sign of a healthy relationship.

It is?  They’re spies Mr. Ambinder, and if you knew a stinking thing about intel you’d know that they haven’t even begun to be debriefed.  It is another example of this administration kow-towing to a foreign government and acceding to their demands instead of doing what is best for our country.

This is no more a sign that “reset” is working than was unilaterally pulling trashing our plan to deploy a missile defense in eastern Europe.  There’s a reason the Russians are interested in quickly doing a spy swap.  That reason has to do with the intelligence that could and would be gathered the longer the spies are held.

We give up 10 spies who, with prolonged interrogation, give us invaluable information about Moscow center (yes, that’s right, Moscow center is still in business), its mission, networks, purpose, directorates, etc.  Instead, we ship them back post haste and get:

Russia apparently began pushing for the swap, offering up Igor Sutyagin, a nuclear weapons expert who was convicted of espionage in 2004 and is now in jail, according to Sutyagin’s attorney and family. Sutyagin was sentenced by a Russian court to 15 years on charges of passing classified military information to a British firm that prosecutors said was as a front for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

Sutyagin’s brother Dmitry told ABC News Wednesday that American agents met with Sutyagin Tuesday in a Moscow prison.

Oh – now there’s an intelligence gold mine.

Amateur hour in the White House continues unabated.



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24 Responses to Russian spy swap – what’s the hurry?

  • “but the fact that the two countries managed to so quickly figure out a mutually beneficial solution after the arrests of Russian spies last week suggests that Moscow and Washington work together well”
    Saaaaaay what?   Work together well…’s that – we caught them spying!     Reset button – yeah….SPYING.
    Maybe someone needs to spell it for him, – S P Y I N G and then open the dictionary to the right page and guide his pudgy little finger down the left hand side till they find the definition of the word.  If he’s unable to comprehend the definition, someone (other than big ears ) can explain it to him perhaps?  While they’re at it maybe they can see if the reset button will work on the TU-95’s nuclear capable bombers lumbering around near US/Canadian air space.
    What a collection of arrogant tools.

  • Is Armbinder the tame conservative they have at the Atlantic? I guess his idiocy is a feature not a bug for the magazine.

  • Why so quick? Maybe because both sides felt it was in their best interest. No doubt we have been trying to work a swap for their captives for a long time. It’s what intelligence agencies do, their version of no man left behind. It’s good for morale. Now whether or not this shows good judgement on the part of the CIA is a different story. And we’ll probably have to wait 10 0r 15 years to find out.
    I got called by Rasmussen last night. They asked something like five questions about the spies and nothing about the Gulf Oil Spill. I think that just goes to show how something relatively insignificant (in the big scheme) like the spies becomes a popular topic of discussion. Maybe because there’s no news from the Gulf other than the well is still not capped. I really wish all the news shows would lead with XX days since the well blow out. It would make me nostalgic for the Iran hostage crisis, when I was much younger.

    • This espionage case and the way it was abruptly halted by the Obama administration is of greater significance than the Gulf oil spill.

      It is being peddled as small potatoes. It isn’t. The Russians did not want these spies out of U.S. custody nearly as much as the White House did. The Great Deliberator who pondered his own Afghanistan strategy for months before making any commitment, jumped at this Johnny-on-the-Spot deal with the urgency of a ten-year-old boy who had a few quarts of Kool-Aid.

      • The heat from Zeleya’s plane’s tires touching the tarmac in Costa Rica had hardly dissipated before we condemned Honduras for a coup.  This is more of the same foreign policy bungling with an added espionage flavor thrown in.

        • It’s bungling only if it’s unintentional. I don’t think it is. Obama and Holder wanted those spies out of U.S. custody, and fast.

          • I wonder if either of them are even bright enough to know that.  Seriously.  I think mid level wonks recommended it for their own reasons and Rubberstampman and Bagman were easily convinced it was a good idea.  It’s a sort of “Leaderless” decision in my opinion where someone else with an agenda wanted it, and these two were so empty of purpose they nodded like the good wooden dummies they are.
            I think there are a whole lot of ‘non decision’ decisions being made and the reason things are in such disarray is there are so many different elements pushing their own agenda with Rubberstampman sitting in the Oval Office.

          • Seriously, sometimes I think the words “what do I think” can be frequently heard coming out of his mouth in private meetings.  I get the sense of Jimmy Carter without a mission other than the next game of golf.  I don’t feel like we’re dealing with a wily President like Nixon or Johnson.  I think this guy is a for real version of what the history rewriting Democrats claimed Alzheimer’s Ronald Reagan WAS  at the end of his last term with Nancy and her astrologers at the helm.

          • I don’t discount your theory, but the power in the Obama White House, as I understand it, is very closely held in a very tight inner circle. (For instance, Anita Dunn was in that circle; so is that slob Gibbs.)

            The incompetence and stupidity is inherent to the ideology. The individuals, like Obama and Holder, have very high opinions of themselves. I think that they had to have a reason to toss those spies back to the Russians. On the easy side, they thought it would get them something from Moscow. On the hard side, those spies made them nervous. On the latter, perhaps there is someone close to them who was very seriously compromised, and the whole situation had to go away, fast, or they risked a brutal scandal.

          • Okay – here’s a flip side of my gut feeling.  Like I’ve never been wrong before…heh.
            You’re right, their arrogance doesn’t limit them in recognizing what a PR nightmare it is for the spies to be tried publicly here in the US.  It gives the lie to the ‘reset button’ theory of good relations with Russia every day a trail (10 defendants no less) goes on.
            2nd – your theory that (and those spies were here to…oh, that’s right infiltrate our political structure) one of their close associates can be implicated or might be implicated during intel collection from the spies may be an issue of immense concern to them.  They may already even KNOW (“honest Barack, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but it might LOOK bad if it were to come out…honest, I’m clean!”).  So the sooner they’re gone AND FORGOTTEN, the better.
            3rd – yeah, given they’ve been such foreign policy whiz’s up until now, why would I not believe the Russians have offered them magic beans for their cow.

  • Why is it any surprise Øbama would suck up to his mentor State?

    Øbama is not moving towards Socialism (we’re there), Øbama isn’t yearning to make us a Marxist State (you’d have to slow the train, if you want to stop at that station). No, Øbama is isn’t even some pale shade of pink; Barry “The Red” Soerto won’t be satiated with anything less than Total Control. And for that, BHO has to worship at the alter, down on his knees, in that now very familiar position of capitulation and subservience.  How does it taste Barry?
    We can’t lose this Jacka$$ fast enough.

  • There are so many questions left unanswered here.

    And the most immediate question is what’s the level of fury for the folks on the FBI counterintelligence team?

    Maximum, I’d bet.

  • The AP is reporting that DCI Panetta approached the Russians on the swap, not the other way around.

    The excuse is that the spy bust risked casting a pall over U.S.-Russian relations. Well, wouldn’t that effect result the Russians having placed a deep cover spy ring here in the first place? Were we supposed to apologize for picking them up?

    So, ten years, at least, of FBI counterintelligence work gets flushed, by Panetta at CIA. But here’s the prima facie lie that’s being circulated:

    The official added that the CIA and FBI already “basically knew everything about the Russian network when we rolled it up.” He said that while the United States could have followed through with all the charges and locked the spies up for years, it was clear the 10 Russian agents were more valuable as trade bait.

    That can’t be true. They could have continued to follow the agents; the spies were not going to stop trading on their deep cover investment. But they busted them, for a reason, and they could have spent months if not years questioning them.

    But Panetta was sent out directly to get them outta here.

  • CNN was reporting that the talks for a “swap” started a week or two before the 10 “sleeper” agents were arrested.

    • Yeah, the CNN story really pushes the “small potatoes” narrative even as it reports the matter as being a front burner national security item.

      And, oh, four of the spies were in poor health.

      It also says that the spies never passed any classified information, so they weren’t charged with espionage. So, if it’s all small potatoes, what’s the big secret? Let’s see the entire dossier. I mean, it’s nothing, really. A decade of nothing.

      The PR operation around this is pretty serious. You need that when you’ve just hustled the fruit of a long counterintelligence operation out the door as fast as possible.

      • In fact, the US tipped off their counterparts in Russia about the spies — and worked out the details of the swap before ever getting any of the suspects in custody.

        I can see it now, the Russians saying …
        Russians: “you want four spies, for what in return ?”

        CIA: “We’ve got spies. Well actually we can get them any time we want
        That “RESET” button must get pushed more often than the Staples’ “Easy” button.

        • What this is saying to me, again, is that the White House wanted these spies gone. The first excuse is that arresting the spys would damage U.S.-Russian relations (which is debatable). The second excuse is that the WH wanted to do an exchange (which would smooth things over with some in the intel community). The third excuse is that, really, there was nothing more to be gained from questioning the spys (that’s a bald-faced lie).

          My question is, had these spies been pressed in interrogations and threatened with life in a federal pen, what would they have given up?

          That strikes me as the only possible reason they needed to be hustled out of U.S. custody so fast, to the point where the WH was tipping the Russians off in advance of the arrests that one of their operations would be taken down. The WH undercut all leverage that the FBI might have had with these people. They, the spies, had nothing to worry about. Meanwhile we have the press giving off all this gibberish about “a relic of the Cold War, blah, blah.”
          The last graph of the WaPo piece: “The U.S. government has declared itself pleased with the outcome, saying it got everything it wanted out of the case.” That’s cold, ironic, and a tad bitter, from a newspaper that is sometimes considered the house organ of the intelligence community.

  • CNN was reporting that the talks for a “swap” started a week or two before the 10 “sleeper” agents were arrested.

  • Here’s another AP story.
    “This case has been done with electrifying speed,” said John L. Martin, who oversaw Cold War espionage prosecutions and trades during a 27-year career at the Justice Department. “I’ve never seen so much pressure to do it quickly.”

    Robert Krakow, attorney for Mikhail Anatonoljevich Vasenkov, said he was surprised to learn Russian officials had met his client without his knowledge. “I was not happy about it,” he said. “But the last thing I want to do is have my needs as a lawyer intrude upon events that are unfolding.”

    Krakow said when he met the Russian representatives, one of them told him his “mission was to get this done.”
    “We didn’t like him,” Krakow said. “He was very heavy-handed. It was sort of like the imperative: `This is what we will do.’ His manner was: `This is what’s going to happen.'”

  • Could it be that the spies were just another diversion? Or did they know something about Dear Leader’s past that might have come out in interrogation and become part of the public records?

    Far-fetched but, we live in interesting times.