Russian Spies’ Dumbest Mistakes

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This morning, a lot of the papers said the Justice Department’s complaint about the Russian spies read like “a Cold War thriller.” But between their yapping about their work in cafés, their decision to write anti-American editorials in newspapers (because no one will notice if they’re in Spanish!), and the plain fact that, over ten years, none of these ten intelligence agents actually gathered any intelligence (they’re being charged with being unregistered, not with obtaining classified materials), it’s more like a Cold War–era comedy, in the vein of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Let’s take a look at some of the gang’s most awkward moments.

It appears the incompetence came from the top. For instance, someone at the S.V.R. actually sent them this directive:


Thanks for the expository dialogue, super-secret agency!

While several of them quite successfully immersed themselves in American culture, particularly the Murphys, whom neighbors called “suburbia personified” (“They couldn’t have been spies,” one neighbor quipped, awesomely, “Look what she did with the hydrangeas”), others explained away their weirdness with flimsy excuses, like Tracey Foley, of Cambridge. According to a neighbor:


Right, because that worked for the Coneheads.

Then there’s the methods they used to conduct their work, which were so over-the-top dramatic (briefcase-switching, short-wave-radio-using) that they may as well have been wearing signs reading, “We Are SPIES.” The Post picks up on the following, which it calls a “particularly slick spy exchange” between one “Anna Chapman” and a fellow spy.


Wait, how is that slick, exactly? He was standing right outside. If she had just gone and told him in person, then the Feds mightn’t have gotten hold of the e-mail using what according to the complaint was a common “commercially available” wireless-connection interceptor that even Ali Wise owns.

Chapman, we are sorry to say, seems to be one of the least bright bulbs in this box. In addition to the above scenario, she registered a cell phone under the preposterous address of “99 Fake Street,” and in the end, fell hard for a ridiculous scenario posed to her by undercover U.S. agents.


The undercover instructed her on how she would recognize her fellow spy and how to report back on the handoff, the feds said.

Oh, that dialogue. It’s like they are making fun of her to her face. It gets worse:


Then she was supposed to turn around three times with her finger in the air … God. The Times this morning said Obama was “not happy” that this sting occurred so close to his hamburger social with Medvedev, and we can imagine why. He must be so embarrassed for him.

Spy ring’s ‘femme fatale’ [NYP]
In Ordinary Lives, U.S. Sees the Work of Russian Agents [NYT]