Recently released documents by the FBI show new details about the decade long investigation that was undertaken to expose Russian sleeper agents, who were attempting to learn secrets from powerful people in the USA. Photos and videos show the spies using classic espionage techniques such as dead drops, brush passes and sending secret electronic messages back to their handlers. Six of the ten spies took up the identities of dead people, leading the FBI to call the investigation Operation Ghost Stories. None of the spies were accused of stealing any state secrets.
In what was the biggest exchange of spies between the USA and Russia since the cold war, all ten of the agents were sent back to Russia in July 2010 by the US. The spies were sent over by the Russians to infiltrate the friendship circles of American policy makers and befriend them in order to learn secrets and send them back to the Kremlin. According to FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, C. Frank Figluzzi they were succeeding in their mission. Mr Figluzzi said “several were getting close to high-ranking officials” including one who was working for a confidant of a US Cabinet member. It is thought the cabinet member may be Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as one of the spies worked for Alan Patricof who was her finance chairman during her 2008 presidential run.
The agents were what is referred to as “illegals” in the spy world, as they were not operating out of Russian embassies or military missions. Instead they tried to blend in and appear to live normal lives in the US. The FBI watched the network of sleepers for a decade before deciding to move in and end the operation. As Mr Fligluzzi put it, “We had seen enough of the reporting going back to Moscow Center to trouble us”.