Russia says alleged spying case was 2nd this year

AP News
Posted: May 15, 2013 4:15 PM
Russia says alleged spying case was 2nd this year

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian security services operative — his features bathed in shadows — went on state television Wednesday to claim that the U.S. diplomat who was ordered out of the country was the second American expelled this year over spying allegations.

The anonymous operative said the CIA had failed to halt this "disturbing activity" despite Moscow asking it to do so.

The TV report came one day after Russia ordered Ryan Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. Embassy, to leave the country after the Federal Security Service claimed to have caught him red-handed trying to recruit a Russian agent in Moscow. The agency, known by the initials FSB, alleged that Fogle worked for the CIA.

State TV channels showed a man identified as an FSB agent saying that another American was told to leave in January in "another case of recruitment." The anonymous speaker, whose identity as an FSB operative could not be confirmed by The Associated Press, did not give the name of the expelled American.

Various Russian TV networks gave different names for the American, and the FSB refused to clarify the name to The Associated Press. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell declined to comment.

The purported FSB agent said that in the January case his agency had decided not to publicize the expulsion, unlike the Fogle case, which has been top news in the Russian media for two days. He said the FSB asked its U.S. counterparts after the January case to halt this "disturbing activity."

The attention given to the Fogle case contrasts with recent moves by Washington and Moscow to develop closer cooperation on counterterrorism in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15.

The bombing suspects — Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his elder brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a manhunt — have roots in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Tamerlan spent six months last year in Dagestan, now the center of an Islamic insurgency; U.S. investigators have been working with the Russians to try to determine whether he had established any contacts with militants in Dagestan.

Russian officials have played the contrast with both annoyance and magnanimity.

"To put it mildly, it is surprising that this extremely crude, clumsy attempt at recruitment took place in a situation where both President Obama and President Putin have clearly stated the importance of more active cooperation and contacts between the speial services of the two countries," Putin's foreign affairs aide Yuri Ushakov was quoted as saying Wednesday by Russian news agencies.

But Ushakov said counterterrorism cooperation would be among the issues addressed by Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev on a visit to Washington next week, in which he is to present a letter with Putin's response to an Obama message conveyed last month. The letter also is to address missile-defense, a long-standing point of tension between Russia and the United States.

Ushakov said it was unclear if the letter borne by Patrushev would take up the Fogle case.

U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul was summoned Wednesday to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which said it handed him a formal protest over the incident. McFaul spent about a half-hour at the ministry and left without speaking to journalists.

Ventrell, speaking in Washington, declined to provide any further information on Fogle, beyond confirming that he was named persona non grata by the Russians. He said McFaul met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valentin Ryabkov, but wouldn't say what they spoke about.

McFaul has had a difficult time in Moscow since he took up his post in January 2012. He provoked the ire of Russian officials when one of his first acts was to invite a group of opposition activists and rights advocates to the U.S. Embassy.

Fogle, 29, appeared to be the first American diplomat in Moscow publicly accused of spying in about a decade. State TV showed him being detained briefly, displaying items it said he was carrying, including two wigs, technical gear, a large sum of money and a letter offering millions of dollars for cooperation.

Little is known publicly about Fogle's duties and activities in Russia. The State Department confirmed that Fogle worked as an embassy employee but would give no details about his job. The CIA declined comment.

Fogle is from Clayton, Missouri, near St. Louis. His father is an attorney for the Thompson Coburn firm, one of the largest in St. Louis.

Fogle's family declined interview requests made through a spokeswoman for the law firm.

Phil Harris, 27, of St. Louis, said he has known Fogle for about five years. He described him as a "friend of a friend," but said they had hung out together perhaps five times, most recently when they played poker and went shooting together in December.

"My first reaction was shock," Harris said of learning of Fogle's alleged involvement in spying. "He just seemed like a very normal person to me. It never seemed like he was some kind of secret agent guy."

The Russian Foreign Ministry has ordered Fogle to leave Russia immediately but his exact whereabouts were not known Wednesday. Ventrell wouldn't say if Fogle has left, citing only the "potential for reciprocity."

Despite the end of the Cold War, Russia and the United States still maintain active espionage operations against each other. Last year, several Russians were convicted in separate cases of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.


Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Bradley Klapper in Washington and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.