The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia
Source: Alleged US "spy" Ryan Fogle in a blonde wig after his arrest. Associated Press.

FSB Publicizes Telephone Transcripts of Detained CIA Agent

Channel One publishes alleged excerpts from Ryan Fogle's phone calls

[The strange case of Ryan Fogle, a US diplomat arrested by the FSB on charges of espionage, continues to preoccupy the Russian media. Below is state-controlled Channel One, relying on FSB sources, quoting from alleged telephone conversations Fogle had with a Russian intelligence officer he was trying to recruit.  --Ed]

The American ambassador visited the Russian Foreign Ministry today; he was summoned there yesterday in connection with the spy scandal. Michael McFaul did not talk to journalists neither before or after his visit to the famous skyscraper on Smolensk Square.

But at the Russian Foreign Ministry, sources said the ambassador was issued a protest in connection with the attempt by a CIA representative who worked under cover of the position of third secretary at the US Embassy to recruit an officer from one of our intelligence agencies. The diplomat, caught red-handed, has already been declared persona non grata.

Meanwhile, Channel One has managed to speak with an FSB operations official who told us some new details about the operation:

“I think it’s worth meeting today. It’s not possible tomorrow, it’s only possible today. Well, it’s worth it, as I said, you can earn a million dollars a year and I have $100,000 with me, but it has to be now.”

This was a snippet from Fogle’s own telephone conversations with a Russian intelligence officer he was trying to recruit, minutes before his meeting at Vorontsov Park in Moscow. It is known that the American telephoned twice. And both conversations were recorded by FSB counter-intelligence.

“Opposite you is the stairway to the park. I see you. I’ll be there.”

The time of the operation was midnight. The place was a residential district adjacent to the park. The video from the final scene of the detention wound up in the media yesterday. But here is a detail that became known today – FSB agents did not decide to detain the CIA recruiter right away, in order to give the secret agent with a diplomatic identity time to meet with the object of his interests. When a team went to detain the third secretary of the political department of the American Embassy, that object himself had pinned the American down on the pavement.

“He was a combat officer who had taken part in counter-terrorists operations many times himself in the North Caucasus, and himself had very serious military training,” an FSB officer told us.

The CIA’s interest in an officer familiar with the North Caucasus became the reason for the theory that the Americans had decided to become more active in this region after the Boston events, in studying the Tsarnaev brothers. But the FSB is not inclined to connect these two events. They have been following Ryan Fogle for a long time – since the spring of 2011, when he arrived in Moscow.

“By that time, Russian counter-intelligence had already possessed information about his affiliation to the CIA staff, and from the moment he arrived in Russia, he was put under the appropriate surveillance. We can now say that this is not the first act of espionage in which the American has taken a personal part,” says the FSB officer.

Why was he taken now, and why did they not continue to keep him under surveillance, in order to expose other interests of their American colleagues?

“Two years ago, we saw persistent attempts by the CIA to recruit officers of Russia’s law-enforcement agencies. For similar actions in recruiting Russian citizens, in January of this year, one of the agents of the Moscow rezidentura [spy station] was expelled from Russia. But today’s events have already exceeded our patience, and we decided, let’s put it this way, to publicize what is going on in Moscow because it goes beyond the bounds even of the ethical relations that exist between the intelligence agencies,” the FSB officer explained.

The American media has certainly commented on the film clips of Fogle’s detention, noting how strange it was, given modern means of communication, for an agent to be armed with a compass and a map.

As the New York Times said:

“In a move that appeared to be as much stagecraft as spycraft, the Russian Federal Security Service, the F.S.B., took the unusual step of releasing a video showing the arrest of Mr. Fogle, including him face down on a street as a Russian agent pinned his hands behind his back…. Reveling in the chance to embarrass the United States in a seemingly amateurish act of espionage, the F.S.B. also released photographs of the wigs and other odd gear that Mr. Fogle had been carrying, as well as a second video showing three American officials, including the embassy’s chief political officer, Michael Klecheski, listening silently to a harangue by a Russian official.”

To be sure, Fogle does look like a clown in a parody film after his detention. But that’s the form of conspiracy that the Embassy’s third secretary, also moonlighting as an agent for the CIA – or rather, the opposite – selected himself. Moreover, the FSB notes: For 30 years, the CIA has not changed its methods of espionage and recruitment. An agent will never take a smart-phone with a GPS in it with him to a meeting.

Fogle was detained with the following items in Vorontsov Park: a very sizable sum of euros, likely, the advance mentioned; wigs – he was wearing one of them, and had another in reserve; dark glasses, a compass, a tape recorder, a map of Moscow, a pen knife and the mobile phone which was likely used for the recruitment – it was old and cheap, to be used and thrown out.

Plus, there was the instruction letter how to maintain contact. Here’s an excerpt from the letter: “In order to get in contact with us again, please open a new Gmail e-mail account from an Internet café or a café with the possibility of Wi-Fi access, to use exclusively for contact with us. Upon registration, don’t provide any personal information which could identify you and the newly-created mail box.”

One of the letters ended with the sentence: “We are expecting to establish dialogue and hope that our offer will seem attractive to you…”

It didn’t.