FBI releases covert film of Russian spies at work


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One shows a young woman meeting an older man in a branch of Starbucks. After some nervous small talk, she reaches into a handbag and produces a pile of documents along with a set of headphones. They don't bother with coffee.

Another chronicles an encounter between two men on a partially concealed staircase. They are carrying identical paper bags. Watch carefully, and you'll see that they bump into each other, and quickly exchange possessions. A caption describes this as a "brush pass".

The blurry footage is among a tranche of evidence released on the FBI's website yesterday detailing Operation Ghost Stories, the decade-long investigation into a now-notorious ring of Russian sleeper agents.

Looking at times like out-takes from a Cold War-era spy movie, the photographs, videos, and heavily redacted documents, published after a Freedom of Information request, provide a rare insight into the remarkably parochial nature of modern espionage.

"Our agents and analysts watched the deep-cover operatives as they established themselves in the US (some by using stolen identities) and went about leading seemingly normal lives – getting married, buying homes, raising children and assimilating into American society," reads the FBI's description of the operation.

Anna Chapman, whose role in the saga turned her into an international talking point, is shown in one clip wandering through a New York department store while secretly transmitting information to the Russian government over a wireless network.

Mikhail Semenko, who worked as a travel agent by day and a Kremlin spy by night is seen burying a large white package in some leaves underneath a footbridge in a park near Arlington. In FBI parlance, this is described as "filling a dead drop."

All 10 were arrested, pleaded guilty to spying, and were then sent back to Moscow last July.