The arrest of accused CIA spy Ryan Fogle by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) this Tuesday hearkens back to the Cold War days. Fogle’s time spent in Russia may have been intended to be a step in overthrowing Vladimir Putin, but it became more of a comedy of errors.
Ryan Fogle had a spy kit with him when he was apprehended. It contained two wigs, one blond and one dark brown, as well as sunglasses and a compass, a Moscow map, stacks of 500 euro notes, a mobile phone and two knives. Even the fictional Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers)of the Pink Panther movies or Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) would scoff at the items in the kit, with the possible exception of the two knives.
Still, Russia’s FSB considered Fogle’s attempt serious enough to charge him with espionage. They labelled him as a “persona non grata,” and have asked him to leave the country. The FSB has claimed that Ryan Fogle’s spying activities for the CIA is just the latest attempt to recruit spies from the Russian law enforcement agencies.
It was just a week ago that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, visited Russia. Then, it looked as if Russia-USA relations were doing fairly well. Now, however, with the arrest of Ryan Fogle, relations between the two countries have decidedly taken a turn for the worse.
The Obama administration has wanted Russia to get on board in a show of opposition to the genocidal policies occurring in Syria, and they would like to see greater coordination with Russian security services about terrorism. That desire has suffered a setback with Fogle’s apprehension.
However inept Ryan Fogle’s spy activities may have been, it’s the claim of Russia’s FSB that he was there to promote a weakening of the Putin government. His intent, presumably, was to enlist someone who he would offer one million US dollars per year and “extra bonuses for information that will help us,” in return for providing information and getting Russian NGOs to defect.
Fogle had a letter prepared to give to anyone who he felt might make a good informant. Besides the offer of money, the letter is addressed “Dear Friend,” and it provides step-by-step instructions on how to create a gmail account. Real contact information, the letter is emphatic about, should not be supplied in creating the account. Following this, the recruit should write a letter to unbacggdA@gmail.com and wait exactly a week for a reply.
The letter that Fogle had with him closes with: “Thank you for reading this. We eagerly await the possibility of working with you in the near future. Your friends.”
Russia’s current position on many international issues has been seen to be an obstacle to the Obama administration, not only in Syria but throughout the Middle East.
Somewhat surprisingly, Russia has dealt with the entire affair calmly, instead of overreacting to it. In the past, during the Cold War, if they’d caught a CIA spy, they might threaten him with being put on trial, imprisonment, possible torture, and even execution. In this case, they simply released Ryan Fogle to the American embassy and then they demanded his deportation.
The US Embassy in Russia refused to comment, but when asked about the arrest of Ryan Fogle, a spokesman for the US State Department said: “We can confirm that an officer at our US Embassy in Moscow was briefly detained and was released.”