Friday, July 09, 2010

Spy Games

So we got 4 in exchange for a bunch of people who weren't spies. No jail time for any, no apparent repercussions for the spies' home country other than embarrassment. Sounds like a Cubs trade.

Up to now we still don't know what triggered the timing of the public arrests or even why in the world they were here, but now we're being told Obama authorized the takedowns:
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel says the arrest of 10 Russian agents who spent years in the U.S. posing as American citizens sends a signal to other countries that the U.S. is on guard.

Emanuel says President Obama was aware of the investigation and made the decision to go forward with the arrests.
Well, of course--he's the president. But that's not what early reports indicated. Here's Gibbs saying he wasn't very hands-on:
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs labored to show that the arrests were a law enforcement matter — one not driven by the president, even though President Barack Obama was informed — and played down any political consequences.
And here's one saying the O team was disappointed with the timing:
The timing of the arrests, coming barely 72 hours after President Dmitri A. Medvedev’s White House visit, frustrated Mr. Obama’s team. But as prosecutors assemble their case, Mr. Obama has resolved not to let the ghosts of the 20th century get in the way of his goals in the 21st.
Several other reports claimed the FBI moved in because the spies were about to get away and the timing was just a coincidence. But OK, we're now to believe Obama frustrated his own team by authorizing the arrests to make a statement two days after Putin's puppet left town? Makes about as much sense as anything else going on in Washington these days.


Just who did we get in this trade?
"The United States has successfully transferred 10 Russian agents to the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation has released four individuals who had been incarcerated in Russia," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. "The exchange . . . has been completed."
"Individuals" aren't necessary American individuals. One was dropped off in Britain, the others? Unknown destinations. Which calls to question just what the hell actually happened. Here's the WaPo again:
"The fact that the Russian and American governments approached this dilemma so creatively and unusually shows that both administrations very much wanted to quickly put an end this discussion before it could undermine the relationship that has started to come together," he said.
There's much we don't know (as it should be) but in light of the above paragraph I can't help but wag about what it means. Obama wants a reset, but at the same time he couldn't risk any potential PR stumbling blocks along the way--such as a secret ten year spy investigation conducted by the FBI that could clumsily go public at any moment.

So after meeting with Putey's Puppet he suddenly decides to send a message by busting the spy ring to 'send a message', yet the domestic message is lost--everyone is looking at Anna Chapman. In what amounts to be fastest bureaucratic action in the course of governmental history, only days later the spies confess in court, we swap all the pesky fake American Russians for 4 Russians apparently working for the west and America, and everything is sweetness and light! No more skeletons hiding in the reset closet that could have been sprung by a disaffected FBI agent had the countries simply decided to do a secret swap without publicity. And Obama gets some much needed brownie points with Britain for getting their guy back. Again, a total wag, could be 180 degrees off. But hey, it's a blog.

MORE 07/09/10

More information, that is. The story seems to be fairly complete now. Politico has a good recap, the jist of which seems to be that the FBI came to the White House in February of this year with the spy story, and expressed concern the Russians might roll it up this summer. So in June they went to Obama and he signed off on the arrests, and the swap plan. Meanwhile Putin's puppet came and ate hellburgers but they claim it wasn't discussed. After he left they sprung the plan, and here we are.

It's interesting to watch how the story has evolved. Initially Gibbs was saying Obama wasn't really a part of it, that it was a law enforcement thing, and the arrests were just bad timing based on the official Russian visit. Then, they admitted Obama knew some things. Today we got a story from Rahm saying Obama was trying to make a point by rolling up the spies. Technically, all those things could be true.

But the question of why still lingers. The FBI claims they suggested the arrests because they thought the ring would bolt soon, and that may well be true, which would mean they wouldn't get anything out of the Russians in return (it surely couldn't be over a concern they would pass along sensitive information since all of them sans one are back in the motherland anyway). But in my wag above (which turns out pretty wrong, mostly) I suggested they needed to get rid of this ring before proceeding further with the reset. Indeed, from Politico:
“This swap should help remove what was a real obstacle to a better relationship between the United States and Russia. We have to keep our eyes open when it comes to the Russians, that hasn’t changed, but this irritant’s off the table."
And maybe this was conveyed to the Russians as such, which is why this whole thing came off so clean. Assuming there aren't better spies remaining out there they don't know about.

DISSENT 07/10/10

After nearly nothing in the media about whether the 10-4 swap was a good deal for America CNN has finally posted a dissenting op-ed from a former CIA spy. A sample:
But Obama has now just told the SVR, "Hey, there is no penalty for spying in America. If we catch you, we'll just let you go so as not to damage 'big picture' relations."
It also sends a message to would-be individuals pondering a clandestine career with SVR that if caught, they will get no jail time in America and be transferred back home with perhaps a generous stipend for life. What a country. Hope the reset is worth it.


Debbie said...

There is something very fishy about this, about the big rush to get them out of the US. We're not getting any American spies in exchange for these 10. Why the rush? Why not interrogate them, find out more about what they were doing and their contacts and recruits???

Right Truth

A.C. McCloud said...

We'll apparently never know Debbie, because like all other curious and/or embarrassing stories, this one will just go away.

LASunsett said...

I wonder why they even busted them at all. We have always had spies, we always will.

Once we know who they are, we can watch them closely. Unless they are about to engage in an act of imminent terrorism, we should let them go ahead with their plans -- find out what they are looking for and confuse them.

Now.... they are going to sneak some more in and we will have to find out who they are... and what they may want.

If that isn't bad enough, we get smoked 10-4. I guess it's that American guilt thing that Obama has going... again.

A.C. McCloud said...

LA, it's amazing how many news sites aren't even questioning the 10-4 score (actually, we let one get away so they got all 11 back). Biden was on Leno the other night and said it was a good swap, except Rush Limbaugh wasn't included. That seals it, then.