Ryan Fogle's alleged taped phone conversation aired on RT -- but it sounds like him reading a text in stilted Russian.
OK, we've all seen how weird this story is about the arrested American spy in Moscow.
There's the way his target for recruitment in fact judo-flipped him and pinned him down on the pavement and called for back-ups to get him arrested. There's the fact that he just happened to follow the North Caucasus, you know, the place where the Tsarnaev brothers are from, but no, the FSB "is not inclined to connect these two events," says The New Times, quoting an intelligence source, because they were on to him all along. Not only did they have his phone tapped, they brought along a camera crew to film the arrest (I wonder -- was it NTV-Surkovskaya Propaganda who then handed it to others? Or RT straight up?)
Then there's his odd collection of props and gadgets -- the wigs, the compass and a Russian-made map of Moscow -- not one of those good German maps, odd, because everyone knows the KGB deliberately distorted all the maps of Moscow to foil spies (oh, maybe that's what happened...don't they teach people these things any more?!)
Who knows whether the hapless Mr. Fogle is indeed a spy or not; it’s by no means impossible. But the various props with which he was allegedly caught are much less credible. A wig? Maybe; sometimes you may need to change your appearance to throw off surveillance. An atlas of Moscow? Perhaps; it’s a big city and using your cellphone’s map and GPS apps invites electronic location-finding. A letter offering a million bucks? That’s what really looks suspicious to me; if he genuinely was carrying something like this around, then he must be one of the dumber spies around, and on the whole it’s the sharp, up-and-comers who get posted to Moscow.
I mean, the whole thing really seems to be -- as the Russian proverb has it about such cases -- sewn with white thread. You know, obvious spy catch is obvious. The officials with their masked faces recite set pieces on the RT videos as if they are columnists for Izvestiya (did Markin help them prepare their texts?)
Looking at that young suspected spy -- and maybe he is a spy if he has a title like "third secretary" -- he just seems like your neighbour on the way to the gym. He's so young! Has he ever read Smiley's People? How about Solzhenitsyn? How well are these people trained these days? Does he know Russian better than he sounds on the tape?
But here's an even more weird thing -- just like our ambassador and the State Department and the White House didn't protest (much, or at all) about the USAID expulsion or the searching of thousands of NGOs accused of being "foreign spies" if they got anything related to a US grant -- the State Department today just wasn't upset and soldiered on.
Here's what Patrick Ventrell had to say - just amazing wimpiness all the way around, and not even any archness in response to the Russian officials' characterization of this incident as "crude" -- when the crudeness has got to be in the way the Russians set this up and publicized it, you know?
12:50 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Do you have any more information on the – this case of the U.S. spy in Russia? Is he still in the country? Has he left? Have you gotten more information from your bilateral meetings and your discussions with the Russians?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Brad, just to reiterate what I said yesterday, that we can confirm that an American Embassy official in Moscow was briefly detained and was released and that we’ve seen the Russian Foreign Ministry announcements. We can also confirm that Ambassador McFaul met with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov today. We’re not going to comment on the private, diplomatic conversation, but that meeting did occur.
QUESTION: Okay. But you now acknowledge the public announcement that he was declared persona non grata, correct?
MR. VENTRELL: Right.
QUESTION: Has he left this country, this unnamed U.S. official?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any information for you on that one way or another, but we do comply with our Vienna Convention obligations and requirements when countries ask us to send someone home.
QUESTION: And then what about this other case now that the Russians are talking about and showing footage of regarding a January case? Are you aware of this? Did you comply with any requests at the time?
MR. VENTRELL: We’ve seen those media reports, but I have nothing for you on a January case at all.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you are planning to make any similar kind of tit-for-tat move?
MR. VENTRELL: We talked a little bit about the potential for reciprocity. I don’t have anything for you on that today.
QUESTION: At what level will that be decided? Would it be in this building or would it be over at the White House?
MR. VENTRELL: Normally issues of reciprocity are decided here at the State Department, but that’s just generally speaking. On this specific case, I don’t have anything for you.
QUESTION: In this case, would reciprocity go to a third secretary or would you have to find someone who you also accuse of similar acts of espionage? Or is --
MR. VENTRELL: Again, each instance of issues like this are taken on a case-by-case status.
QUESTION: I know this building doesn’t like to talk about it, but the Russians are not holding back. And presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that it’s extremely surprising that this happened at a time – he called it crude, clumsy attempts at recruitment taking place at a time that both the presidents have been talking about improving relations. Do you share that concern, that this comes up right at a moment that the two presidents and the Secretary and Lavrov have been talking about improved relations?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Jill, as I said yesterday, I wouldn’t read too much into one incident one way or another. In terms of our bilateral relationship with Russia, our active diplomacy continues. And you know that the Secretary finished his bilat last night. He again was with his Russian counterpart in Sweden earlier today and you saw the press remarks that they made there, that this case didn’t come up in those meetings. They were specifically discussing Syria, and our intensive diplomacy on that – in that regard continues.
QUESTION: So what are we to read into the fact that they didn’t discuss it? What does that mean? Why didn’t they?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I wouldn’t – as I said, I wouldn’t read into one case too much one way or another. We continue our broad diplomacy with Russia.
QUESTION: So it wasn’t that important?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I think I’ve characterized it how we want to characterize it.
QUESTION: Russian National Security Chief Nikolai Patrushev is apparently going to visit the U.S. next week. Do you know who he might meet with and what could be discussed, what’s on the agenda for the talks?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything in – any information in terms of meetings in this building. I’d have to look into it and get back to you, Jo.
QUESTION: So the U.S. Ambassador to Russia was summoned on Wednesday. Any details about that?
MR. VENTRELL: I talked about that a little bit earlier, that I confirmed that he was – did have a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov but that I wasn’t going to get into the details of their diplomatic conversation.
QUESTION: They spoke about Syria only, I guess?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into the details of this, but we know from the public comments what the meeting was about.
Say, I wonder if they will do one of those reciprical spy expulsions, which has always been the norm with Russian even after the Cold War.
Funny that you can learn more about this from the Russian press than the State Department -- I guess the posture of the Obama Administration is to pretend that Russia is being "helpful" on Syria now (!) -- which isn't really true at all -- and therefore nothing, nothing -- not even this bizarrely crude staged propaganda fest by the Kremlin -- is going to get in its way.
It is so bizarre that one Twitter conspiracy-watcher wondered if the Americans set it up deliberately to advertise across the globe that they will pay $1 million for any information about the Boston bombing...or something.
Then there's Julia Ioffe's coverage. As I said, everybody finds it weird, but in an article where it first looks like she finds it strange, too, Julia methodically -- dutifully! -- goes about proving that every single total odd-ball thing is true because...some ex-spook says its so:
o Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA case officer in Europe and the Middle East, agrees, regarding the wigs and compass, "“Yeah, the Agency has a tendency to do that." Regarding the gmail -- that should have been discredited with the Petraeus affair, "“That’s not surprising," he contributes.
o Peter Earnest, former CIA operations officer and executive director of the Spy Museum in Washington, says, ""I know everyone gets a kick out of the wigs and thinks that went out with the Cold War, but it didn't!" He also said re: the compass ""fancy" hi-tech stuff is great, but is easily hacked into." That's why Osama bin Ladn used a medieval-style courier!
o Former Moscow CIA station chief Burt Gerber could tell us about the "pop-up kit" that pops up a fake passenger in a car after a spy slips out of it unnoticed (supposedly).
o Oh, and that spy rock that sounded so funny? The Brits confirmed it was real. AND an American specialist had this to say: "“The rock was a real improvement over what we had before,” says Robert Jervis, an expert in the field and a professor at Columbia.
And so on. In other words, it's not weird, it's all true because ex-spies and specialists are telling us.
AND, guess what! It's all the fault of the siloviki, who are now getting the upperhand (after those mean men got rid of that innovative Surkov):
Most likely, Fogle was caught red-handed—or blonde-wigged—and the increasingly powerful, increasingly visible hardline faction of the Russian government was just flexing its muscles, and showing that, though it’s cooperating with the Americans, it’s still stronger and wilier than the Yanks. One Russia analyst jokingly speculated that Fogle was a double agent working for the FSB, sent in to make the CIA look bad. “I’m only half-joking,” he added.