- In their June 28 article headlined, "In Ordinary
Lives, US Sees the Work of Russian Agents," Scott Shane and Charlie
Savage said they "lived for more than a decade in American cities
and suburbs from Seattle to New York, where they seemed to be ordinary
couples working ordinary jobs, chatting to their neighbors about schools
and apologizing for noisy teenagers."
- The next day, Times writers Shane and Benjamin Weiser
headlined, "Spying Suspects Seemed Short on Secrets," saying:
- "The only things (absent in this case) were actual
secrets to send home to Moscow." In fact, none of the 11 were charged
with espionage because they weren't "caught sending classified information
back to Moscow, American officials said."
- According to Richard F. Stolz, former CIA head of spy
operations and onetime Moscow station chief:
- "What in the world do they think they were going
to get out of this, in this day and age? The effort is out of proportion
to the alleged benefits. I just don't understand what they expected?
- It prompted Newsweek to headline - "Part John le
Carre, Part Austin Powers," saying why would Russia "set up such
elaborate long-term undercover plants when (they) could arguably buy as
much influence (with) the right consultants, lawyers, and lobbyists"
- the way everyone does business in Washington, the right information/results
for the right price.
- Wall Street Journal writer Susan Davis called it a "curious
case," asking "Was it worth it?"
- Foreign Policy writer Daniel Drezner said it was the
"lamest espionage conspiracy....ever," sort of a "combination
of illegal immigration and impersonating Jack Abramoff," the former
lobbyist, businessman, and convicted con man now in a halfway house after
serving three and a half years of a six year sentence.
- Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating asked "Why Weren't
the Russian 'Spies' Charged with Espionage? Because they didn't find out
anything secret." Perhaps they weren't looking and did nothing illegal.
- Columbia University Russia specialist, Robert Legvold,
said anyone could have gotten what they did through a Google search. Throughout
all their years in America, they never got close to obtaining classified
information, and likely never looked for any.
- On June 30, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrei
Nesterenko, called the charges groundless and malicious, regretting they
came after the Obama administration seemed ready for warmer relations.
The Ministry's press office said the situation was being analyzed, adding
that facts released so far are contradictory.
- Mikhail Lyubimov, former KGB officer said the whole story
looks like fiction, having nothing to do with real undercover work, saying:
- "How can you imagine that eleven professionals didn't
notice that secret services had been watching them (for) years? If not
them, their wives could have noticed. And so far it's not clear at all
exactly what information they've been looking for and what (they supposedly)
sent to Moscow directly to the Kremlin, Medvedev or Putin. It's nonsense.
And I don't even talk about invisible ink. I remember the Bolsheviks loved
- "It's a PR campaign by the US secret services to
get more money for next year's budget....It happens quite often that the
administration and the secret services are conflicting. This could be the
- Nikolai Kovalyov, former head of Russia's Federal Security
Service, the KGB's main successor agency, said US charges resembled a "bad
spy novel," believing Washington "hawkish circles" want
to show a tougher line toward Moscow for their own purposes, the alleged
spies used as patsies for their scheme.
- US hard-liners may resent warmer ties with a proud, reassertive
Russia, not about to roll over for America like Yeltsin did - perhaps to
reinvent the evil empire, a new Cold War, this time for greater stakes,
a new Great Game embracing all Eurasia, with much larger threats to world
- Justice Department Charges
- A June 28 DOJ press release headlined, "Ten Alleged
Secret Agents in the United States Multi-Year FBI Investigation Uncovers
Network....Tasked with Recruiting and Collecting Information for Russia,"
- The 11 "are charged....with conspiring to act as
unlawful agents of (Russia) within the United States....Nine (are also)
charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering." The 11th paymaster
suspect was arrested in Cyprus, now vanished after being released on bail.
- "The case is the result of a multi-year investigation
(since the late 1990s) conducted by the FBI; US Attorney's Office for the
Southern District of New York; and the Counterespionage Section and the
Office of Intelligence within the Justice Department's National Security
- Vickey Pelaez, columnist for over 20 years for the New
York-based Spanish language newspaper, El Dario, is one of those charged.
Yet her job entails covering a wide range of sensitive topics, including
politics, international affairs, America's prison industry, human rights,
civil liberties, immigration, and Washington - Latin American relations,
expressing justifiable criticism of US policies.
- However, researching, conducting interviews, asking questions,
requesting information, and publishing them isn't spying. It's journalism,
what she's paid to do, her colleagues saying she freely expressed her views,
including support for leftist movements and denouncing neoliberalism as
an imperial tool like many others do and aren't charged.
- Yet she and her husband, Juan Lazaro (a former Baruch
College political science professor), were accused of taking three or more
Latin American trips, each time receiving large sums of cash from Russian
agents, for what isn't known.
- Their son, Waldo Mariscal, called the accusations "preposterous."
So do others believing she and Lazaro were targeted for their views, openly
critical of Washington, endangering other dissenters like them during America's
war on terror and its greater one on humanity.
- On July 1, New York Times writers Benjamin Weiser and
Michael Wilson headlined "Suspect Placed Love for Russia Before His
- Juan Lazaro allegedly "told officials that although
he 'loved his son,' he would not violate his loyalty to the 'Service' (Russia's
SVR foreign intelligence) even for his son, prosecutors said."
- Appearing at a same day bail hearing, Vickey Pelaez was
released under house arrest. Lazaro's hearing was postponed. According
to The Times, he taught a politics in Latin America and the Caribbean course,
his students calling him:
- "like none other" for his "passionate
denunciation of American foreign policy. He maintained that the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan were a money-making ploy for corporate America. He
praised President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and disparaged President Alvaro
Uribe of Colombia as a pawn of paramilitary groups that have broad control
over drug trafficking."
- His outspokenness got him fired, perhaps also targeted
with his wife for being illegal foreign agents and conspiring to commit
money laundering, bizarre charges more Austin Powers-like than John le
Carre, yet symptomatic of emerging US fascism, arresting people for their
beliefs, spuriously accusing them, trying them in kangaroo proceedings,
intimidating juries to convict, the major media concurring with fear-mongering
- US Law on Espionage
- US law (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 37, No. 794) defines
- transmitting or attempting to transmit "any document,
writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative,
blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information
relating to the national defense" to a foreign government with the
intent to harm America or advantage other nations.
- Those convicted "shall be punished by death or by
imprisonment for any term of years or for life...."
- Yet defendants had no official credentials, and weren't
charged with espionage. So-called spy-thriller allegations about invisible
ink and buried money caches (true or false) bear no relationship to what
they may have done or learned, if anything.
- Further, timing of the case matters. Why now? Why at
all, and why headlined if national security issues aren't involved? Whoever
ordered the arrests and wanted them publicized likely had an ulterior motive
- If convicted of violating the Foreign Agents Registration
Act (FARA), requiring Justice Department registration, the offense is minor,
warranting little or no media attention, unless a prominent figure is involved
like President Carter's brother Billie who had to register as a foreign
agent to avoid charges of receiving $220,000 from Libya's Muammar Qaddafi
in the late 1970s, what the press called "Billygate."
- Russia's RiaNovosti called the arrests "unprecedented
in the history of US-Russia relations....going back to the Cold War....Until
now, neither (country) ever made such a public unmasking of suspected spies."
The 11 were only charged with "conspiracy to act as unlawful agents
of a foreign government," nine of them with money-laundering, what
bankers do all the time and get away with it.
- So what might be going on? Openly, relations between
both countries were warming, including a new START treaty and perhaps more,
President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama having just had a successful Hamburger
Summit in Washington.
- Then suddenly a spy scandal erupts, a bizarre one straight
out of a spy novel, at an inopportune time, overshadowing warming relations,
leading some to suspect other motives, perhaps so for geopolitical advantage
or politics as usual in Washington.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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