Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From Russia with Love

Classic rock and oldies stations still proliferate, and so, apparently, do cold war spies. Just when a new generation of John Le Carrés was getting set to produce novels about the revaluation of the Renminbi, collateralized debt obligations, and credit default swaps with the lethal capacity to destroy countries like Iceland and Ireland, the FBI discovers a good old fashioned spy ring, replete with everything from suburban couples to a vampish real estate agent who used Facebook as a cover for espionage. “Much of the ring’s activity…took place in and around New York,” the Times reported (“In Ordinary Lives, U.S. Sees the Work of Russian Agents,” NYT, 6/29/10). “The alleged agents were spotted in a bookstore in Lower Manhattan, a bench near the entrance to Central Park and a restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens.” The question naturally arises: under what conditions does an agent go so deeply under cover that he or she is no longer a spy? If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck—surely this is one of the first laws of espionage learned at War College. Apparently, these spies were so much a part of the American fabric that neighbors were shocked to find out that the Murphys of Montclair, N.J. were Russkies, or that 28-year-old Anna Chapman, or Anya as she called herself on Facebook, was a latter-day Colonel Rosa Klebb, the murderous agent played by Lotte Lenya in From Russia with Love whose secret weapon is a venom-tipped blade in the toe of her orthopedic shoe. Furthermore, what were these agents doing that was so different from what ordinary citizens like you or I do? “The alleged agents were directed to gather information on nuclear weapons, American policy toward Iran, C.I.A. leadership, Congressional politics…” explained the Times. Aren’t these the same things most patriotic Americans want to know about?

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