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FBI videos document activities of Russian spies

WASHINGTON — Documents released Monday, including photos, videos and papers, offered new details about the FBI's decadelong investigation into a ring of Russian sleeper agents who, U.S. officials say, were trying to burrow their way into American society to learn secrets from people in power.

The investigation was code-named Operation Ghost Stories, because six of the 10 agents had assumed the identities of dead people.

The agents, whom the United States sent to Russia in July 2010 in the largest spy swap since the Cold War, are not alleged to have stolen any U.S. secrets. But they were more dangerous than commonly believed, Frank Figliuzzi, FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, said in an interview.

They were "the cream of the crop" of trained Russian intelligence agents, he said, and they were sent here to blend in and befriend American policymakers. They were succeeding, he said.

"Several were getting close to high-ranking officials," he said. One had gone to work for a confidant of a U.S. Cabinet member, he added, declining to offer details.

In one videotape, Anna Chapman, the former New York real estate agent whose youth and good looks made her the face of the spy saga when it became public knowledge, is shown shopping in a New York department store. She was also transmitting coded messages though a laptop to her Russian handler, Figliuzzi said.

Chapman, who has since become an international celebrity, was not as well trained as most of the others, Figliuzzi said. She was sent to the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because she could operate using her real name at a time of greater scrutiny, he said.

Figliuzzi noted that one of the spies, Donald Heathfield of Cambridge, Mass., attended Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, which trains many senior government officials.

FBI videos document activities of Russian spies 10/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 11:16pm]
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