Tom Balmforth at Russia Profile also tries to get past the tabloid surface of sexy photos and banal suburban barbecues and asks Alexander Rahr to comment -- who is a respected authority on Russian intelligence in Germany. But Rahr, too, says he is puzzled why this is about political intelligence and not military or industrial intelligence. That's because he's not looking at the list of Anna's FB friends, but is only reading superficial American press coverage and the FBI's complaints, that focus on the gathering of political intel.
Rahr comes close to the point in this statement:
Rahr said what was most peculiar about the story was that it involved political espionage, rather than industrial or military. “It’s a strange story – for me it’s hard to believe that Russia is seriously engaged in political spying,” he said. “I can imagine that this is not state-sponsored espionage but maybe even some attempt to blackmail or form a pro-Russian business society or business lobby in the United States,” said Rahr, adding that there could be more damage to relations done if the trail does end up leading back to Russian officials after the court hearings, which began today.
And to bolster this case I would say that the Kremlin doesn't have to artificially seek to create a pro-Russian business society or business lobby; one already exists that seems to have been entirely organically grown without Kremlin assistance -- AMBAR. AMBAR president Anna Dvornikova, who took the "$60 billion dollar" big IT del to Russia in May, which also included U.S. National Security advisor Michael McFaul, was friends with Chapman. Was she among her angel investors?
Mahalo, which is the human-powered search run by the notorious Jason Calacanis, fetches up this question: Will the FBI Question Anna Chapman's Facebook Friends" and helpfully contains a screenshot of one of Anna's most recent discussions in May on the Village Voice server. Here's a translation (it's part in Russian and part in English):
Anna Chapman In Houston
May 20 at 6:53 pm
Kate Kushenko Oho? How come? Are you flying in space?
Grzegorz Kwolek Houston, we've got a problem
May 21 at 1:30 pm
Anna Chapman Why?
May 21 at 4:10 pm
Max Skibinsky @Greg +1! seesh, dumb blondes: http://bit.ly/cdl3tY
May 21 at 4:19 pm
Jenna Borisevich hahahhahah
May 22 at 3:50 pm
Max's link goes to a UK website explaining the tag line "Houston, we've got a problem" -- which Anna, as good as her English was, hadn't heard -- and it's the sort of American idiom that a Russian who had been living in England, and only recently come to the U.S., wouldn't be expected to know.
This little interchange is useful for understanding a) which people in Anna's friendship list at least felt close enough to talk to her on Facebook; but b) also felt like making a joke at her expense, essentially calling Anna "a dumb blonde" (although she's a redhead).
It occurred to me that Russian intelligence may have used Chapman -- and the other spies in the network -- as much to spy on their fellow Russian expats and emigres and travelling business abroad as they did to spy on Americans. In fact, for the Russian KGB successor, keeping tabs on their own economically-independent and nomadic coder class, particularly those wealthy enough from the start-up industries to have political independence, too, may have been a national security priority. The Russian security apparatus has always been directed first and foremost at its own people.
And if nothing else, through those Russian programmer contacts, heavily integrated with Silicon Valley (which isn't all literally in California), the Russian spymasters could gather intel on U.S. tech industries. The U.S. media has focused exclusively on the angle contained in the FBI's complaint about the spies' purported job of monitoring and reporting on American policy as it relates to economic issues or nuclear weapons, but of course there are other areas of interest to the Kremlin, especially related to Medvedev's pet project Skolkovo, the Russians' reverse-engineering of Silicon Valley.
Anna arguably had more Russian friends than American friends, even though she had spent some years in London, married to a British businessman. I didn't see hardly any British names in the Facebook list as it was viewable at 164 members, down from 181 when she was first arrested. This could be explained by her relative newness to Facebook -- she was on Odnoklassniki, which is the Russian classmates' social network, and on LinkedIn, but perhaps she didn't use Facebook that much.
One news story with a screenshot of a dialogue in Russian unwittingly shows some of her friends who were at least close enough to talk to her about her travels;
Some of those friends who bailed and cut her instantly including the 60-year-old man she was dating, a girlfriend whose Facebook profile seems to have a picture of someone who looks like Anna in it and a few others.
I caught up with some of the people I know on LinkedIn who were showing as related to Chapman. They say Anna must have linked to them, and not visa versa; it's the sort of thing that happens all the time with these services, where the platform itself, using those friend algorithms, constantly serve up people to you to recommend as friends, and where the objective is a game, in a sense, to show who has the most connections. More connections means more useful information, job leads, etc. so people collect friends like seashells. One person speculated that perhaps she had been looking for tech start-up case studies -- I could note that she'd been criticized in AMBAR in the comments to her video taken by Alyona Popova of the online start-up school for not having cases.
One friend who has now hidden her profile, Inga Mikhasiuta, who specializes in the sexy photos that Anna also liked, is fingered by social media maestro Artur Velf in his voluminous commentary on Anna Chapman as a possible honey pot for the FBI -- she awkwardly tried to friend him "translitom" which means writing Russian with the Latin alphabet and not Cyrrillic letters (as people who don't have the Cyrrillic keyboard often do). He has a theory that this is a set-up organized by the FBI agent writing the complaint on Chapman, whose last name is Patel, with another person named Patel also showing their pictures in their circle -- and of course even his Russian friends have to explain that "Patel" is like "Jones" in terms of being a common name.
Another Facebook friend is Alexander Sasha Galitsky. He is with Almaz Capital PartnersJanuary 2008 - Present, describing himself as a Managing Partner in Moscow, and describing the fund, which is from the word "diamond" in Russian, as a high-tech focused Venture Capital fund.
Fox News, always so maligned by the left and always described with such hysteria, is at least following up diligently on Chapman's facebook list like real reporters -- although they may not be bothering with the ones showing in Cyrrillic or whose names mean nothing to them. They've gone after prominent locals or those that look like big hitters, so out of all the media covering this, other than the Soho News, who interviewed Artur Velf, they are the only ones who have interviewed someone in the list, and gotten this reaction:
Another Facebook acquaintance, Alexander Sasha Galitsky, a managing partner for a Moscow-based Almaz Capital Partners, told FoxNews.com that he did not know Chapman personally.
"She tried to raise capital for her online real estate business," he said in an e-mail Tuesday. "After this she tried to speak about some other initiative like online poker, but this is out of our policy."
Another one interviewed is a Brooklyn blogger who doesn't seem to have ever written about Russia although his name could be of Ukrainian or Russian heritage -- like many people in Brooklyn, of course:
Alex Roshuk, an immigration lawyer and Facebook friend of Chapman's, described the woman as a "virtual" acquaintance with similar interests but said he never met her.
"I never met her," Roshuk told FoxNews.com, saying the young woman "friended" him on Facebook just last week.
At least one tech blogger Eliot's Blog, is looking at the deals around the domains instead of the tits, which is more relevant to this story:
When I saw this domain name mentioned, my eyes grew bigger because I recognized the name. According to a Whois history search, the domain name was transferred to Moniker Privacy Service sometime around June 22, 2010. I don’t want to mention who the previous owner was because it’s very likely he had nothing to do with the buyer.
Interestingly, the domain name was just listed in Ron Jackson’s recent domain sales report, which was published a couple of weeks ago. The domain name sold through Moniker for a reported $25,350, good enough to place #11 on the weekly sales list, and probably good enough to rank as one of the highest yearly domain sales.
I looked up the Whois and found that is has no person's name, only PropertyFinder, the name of Chapman's company.Eliot's curious reticence and protection of "one of his own" here speaks volumes about what is always wrong with tech coverage of the news -- a decided tilt to the tribe.
Speaking of tribes, here's some of the gushing praise for Anna on LinkedIn (now hidden):
“Anna’s entrepreneurial flair does not cease to amaze me, she sees opportunities in places were most would not think to look, and she makes them work.” November 24, 2009
Said Abdullaev, Vice President, KIT Fortis Investments, Moscow
worked directly with Anna at PropertyFinder Ltd
“Anna is extremely professional and resourceful with great industry insight and vision. She has been a pleasure to work with and will offer great value to anybody doing business with her.” November 23, 2009
Jesse Hemson-Struthers, Director, OS.invest Ltd
was with another company when working with Anna at PropertyFinder
“Anna is an ambitious, forward-thinking professional, who has totally embraced the open, collaborative way of working that has evolved in web industries. Working between New York, London and Moscow must be extremely challenging, but she takes it in her stride and makes things happen wherever she is.” November 19, 2009
Dan Johnson, Owner, TheMoveChannel.com
was with another company when working with Anna at PropertyFinder
KIT Fortis Investments
“"Keep on moving", must be one of Anna's favorites mottos. When i met her in Moscow she was eager to learn, full of self control and ready to develop her client's network. One thing we learned together is that Kremlin museum is closed on thurdsdays.” December 10, 2009
Benoit Quisquater, Board Member / Head of sales Luxembourg and Ireland, Fortis Investment Management Luxembourg
was with another company when working with Anna at KitFortis Investments
Another Facebook friend was Estonian entreprenuer Andres Susi, MGIMO graduate, a partner at MTVP since July 2005, which he describes as a "Venture capital firm focused on technology, media and telecommunication companies in CEE, Russia/CIS."
Susi didn't cut Anna from his FB friends but maybe he doesn't bother to go on FB. He has more than 600 friends, including some of the prominent VCs on Chapman's list and influential Silicon Valley gurus like Shel Israel.
Anton S Soloviev whose profile says he is a producer at TribalDB.ru in Moscow -- TirbaldB is a new media ad agency. The profile also shows him in the past as a business owner and at COMSTAR, the leading Russian ISP provider, has among his 99 friends Dmitry Medvedev. This is the actual Facebook page of Dmitry Medvedev, not his fan page as a public figure. Of course, Anton is joining 4,800 other friends of the Russian president who "only shares some of his information".
Medvedev is a new-thinking kind of guy. He writes that his employers are "The citizens of the Russian Federation" and his job title as "President".