The spy in the blond wig, Ryan Fogle, was not the first CIA agent to be caught by Russian security services this year, according to an interview with an anonymous Russian agent aired on state television.
Russia also captured and expelled a “CIA operative” in January, according to the FSB agent. It detained alleged agent Ryan Fogle publicly this week because the Americans did not heed a warning given after the last expulsion to stop their attempts to recruit Russian officers, he claimed.
The US Embassy had no comment on the new allegation, and while the State Department has confirmed that one of its diplomats was detained this week, it has also not commented on the Russian allegations that Mr Fogle, working under cover of Third Secretary of the Political Section at the US Embassy in Moscow, was in fact a CIA agent actively attempting to recruit Russian counterintelligence officers.
Footage of Mr Fogle being berated by plain-clothes FSB interrogators was released to Russian television channels on Tuesday, along with photographs and video footage of a bizarrely old-school array of spying tools, including two wigs, a compass, a map of Moscow and a stack of 500 Euro notes. A photograph of an alleged recruitment letter was also released, typed on a sheet of A4 paper and offering $1m per year for information, and signed off from “your friends”. The FSB claim that Mr Fogle was trying to recruit a counter-terrorism agent working on the volatile North Caucasus.
Russia's state-controlled Channel One broadcast the interview with an FSB agent it said had worked on the case, who had his face blacked out and his voice disguised. The operative said that in the past two years, the CIA had made numerous attempts to recruit Russian agents. He said that Mr Fogle arrived in Russia in spring 2011, and that the Russian security services knew then that he worked for the CIA and kept him under close surveillance. “This was not the first act of espionage in which he was involved,” said the agent.
Russian television also broadcast what it said was Mr Fogle's phone call to his target, in which a heavily accented voice speaking in Russian is demanding a meeting. “It absolutely must be today. Today,” says the voice. “You can earn one million dollars.”
The US Ambassador to Russia spent half an hour at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Michael McFaul arrived at the ministry building in Moscow this morning and had talks with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov. After leaving, he waved at waiting reporters but refused to comment.
President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment on the spy scandal, but one of his key advisers said that the CIA had ignored the positive agreements between Mr Putin and Barack Obama in the wake of the Boston bombings. “The signal sent by the US leadership about constructive cooperation between the security services of Russia and America has gone unheeded by the American agencies,” said Yuri Ushakov. He added that he did not expect the incident to hamper US-Russia relations and said that a meeting between the Director of the CIA and his Russian counterparts could be forthcoming.
Some sketchy information about Mr Fogle began to surface, with reports that he attended Colgate University in New York State. What appears to be his Facebook page is largely closed to public view, but contains a number of photographs apparently from Mr Fogle's international travels, including an Egyptian pyramid, a mosque in Istanbul and St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
Senior Western diplomatic sources last night pointed out that Mr Fogle's position as third secretary in the political section at the US embassy was an entry level post, and expressed surprise that someone relatively inexperienced would be tasked with suborning and recruiting security personnel of another country. One described the items of 'spycraft' found on him including a recruitment letter as “odd, amateurish” and “not something one would have as normal issue”.
However, the diplomats pointed out that the Russians have significantly increased their espionage activity in the West and it was to be expected that the US would be doing the same in Russia. They also acknowledged that the Americans are trying to get their own intelligence on Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“It's an open question for me whether or not he really was a CIA spy, but the paraphernalia is pretty ridiculous,” said Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University specialising in the Russian security services: “The absolute defining thing for me is the letter, which goes against all the training of the tradecraft. To have something that is so strongly incriminating - you just don't do that. Maybe this is one of the dumbest spies around, but Moscow is a high-profile and relatively hard posting so it's usually somewhere you would send promising agents.” Mr Galeotti suggested that if Mr Fogle really was a spy, the story had been “garnished” to make it more juicy for internal Russian consumption.