When the story broke last June about the arrest of 10 Russian sleeper agents, none of whom seemed to be in a position to do any real damage, many people laughed at the supposed ineptitude of the Russian secret services, and joked about femme fatale Anna Chapman.

I didn’t laugh, being a former student of Soviet Studies, and avid (and naturally suspicious) reader of Jean LeCarré novels in my youth.

Now it makes sense.

The sleeper agents who were rolled up were not the spies.  They were helping to service the real spy, a mole in the National Security Agency, or at least that is what is reported by The Washington Times:

The National Security Agency (NSA) is conducting a counterintelligence probe at its Fort Meade, Md., headquarters in a top-secret hunt for a Russian agent, according to a former intelligence official close to the agency. 

The former official said the probe grew out of the case of 10 Russian “illegals,” or deep-cover spies, who were uncovered last summer and sent back to Moscow after the defection of Col. Alexander Poteyev, a former SVR foreign intelligence officer who reportedly fled to the U.S. shortly before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited here in June.

Col. Poteyev is believed to be the source who disclosed the U.S.-based agent network.
NSA counterintelligence officials suspect that members of the illegals network were used by Russia’s SVR spy agency to communicate with one or more agents inside the agency, which conducts electronic intelligence gathering and code-breaking.

It’s still a dangerous world out there, folks.  There is no Russian term for Kumbaya.

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