Citing anonymous sources including “current and former U.S. officials”, “people familiar with the long-running investigation” and “U.S. counterintelligence officials”, Devlin Barret at the Wall Street Journal published a story on July 26 making the wild claim that members of the Russian espionage team that was burned in the U.S. by Former SVR colonel and director of directorate “S” Alexander Vasilevich Sherbakov and assistant director Alexander Poteev, were grooming their children to be spies.
While some of the un-sourced statements made in the article are perhaps plausible the fact that the only cited source in the material, Peter Krupp a Boston lawyer who defended Andrei Bezrukov “Donald Heathfield”, called the accusations “crap” works to the detriment of the piece.
The attack on the children of the accused spies is a despicable one and the motivations behind it are to be questioned. Is the Wall Street Journal, a respected publication, simply attempting to improve their readership? Or perhaps the U.S. Government is feeding them information for political and other gain? Whatever the reason, the putting forward of such allegations without undeniable proof, accusations which could effectively black-list the kids for life, is unethical.
If one has any knowledge about the world of espionage and even just plain common sense one can come to the conclusion that not only are the allegations “expletive” but they are simply ludicrous for many reasons. The first one we should take apart is the allegation that Tim Foley’s parents told him that they were deep cover illegal Russian agents (illegal is the term for an agent operating under deep cover with a false identity and no diplomatic cover job), now who in their right mind, living decades to support their legend, would tell their teenage kid they were spies? The risk of capture or even death for the entire family would logically make such an “opening of the soul” unadvisable to put it lightly.
Second is the statement that young Mr. Foley then agreed to travel to Russia for intelligence training after the above-mentioned discussion. It is highly unlikely such an order was ever given from Moscow. For one if you are dealing with a second generation illegal and wish to groom him for service you do not, under any circumstances do anything that would blow the covers of all of the principles, agents involved in an operation that has been in place for decades. Nor would you do anything that might raise questions during a background check, one of the top alarm bells being foreign travel.
Using the allegations against young Mr. Foley, who is now not allowed to return to the U.S., the writer then somehow reaches the conclusion that of the other 7 children were also the subjects of some evil scheme to “groom” them to become spies, not all however.
Another claim the article makes is that all of the arrested “ring” members were “trained agents of the SVR”, this is also false as some had been recruited by their agent controller and had never had any official spy training. The author also cites “Moscow Center”, giving away the fact that he reads too many spy books which often use the term to refer to Moscow’s spy headquarters.
Due to these claims we again see the name of Anna Chapman being used by the world’s press, some headlines claiming she was grooming kids to be spies. They just can’t seem to leave her alone. The reason for this may be the fact that she is seen as being the team leader by some in the press, or the fact that she is so beautiful and caught the imagination of millions of people worldwide, or perhaps they just want to sell papers and increase readership and any time you mention Anna Chapman people are interested.
The process of choosing, recruiting, training and finally putting an agent into the field is a long, rigorous and secrecy shrouded one. You don’t just walk into SVR Headquarters and as one Russian “analyst” put it “enlist” so your kids can study English abroad and the state will foot the bill. You don’t just “groom” a kid to be a spy.
Such statements and articles, if they are to be believed would then make every Russian kid studying abroad a suspect for FBI Counter Intelligence surveillance. This is an example of irresponsible journalism and only goes to further Russo-phobia. But unfortunately the public eats it up.
So guilty or not, and I would just like to recall, that all of the “agents” in the Anna Chapman “spy ring”, were given a choice, innocent or not, they could plead guilty and be exchanged or they could plead innocent and stand trial, and of course they would have been found guilty. What choice did they have? As if the fact that innocent people may have been found guilty is not enough for the American public, they now want to vilify and go after the children.
I have one more thing to say to certain journalists, please stop reading spy novels and assuming everything they say is true, and please if you are going to make accusations which may damage people’s lives, make sure you have real-live-sources that can actually be verified, otherwise it all looks like another hack-job. And please keep the poor kids out of it, they have been through enough already or watch out, you never know, you might have a Ramon Mercader shadowing your every move. Give me a break!
Being an illegal is one of the most (if not the most) difficult jobs in the world. You give up your life and your very identity for your country and live for years under the intense pressure of being undercover, never being able to trust anyone, always having to live in fear for your life, giving your all and ready to make the ultimate sacrifice at any moment, it is not something everyone has the psychological fortitude to withstand and it is a life few would likely want for their children, especially someone who has been through it.