Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The eagle flies at midnight

I'm quite enjoying this Russian spy scandal. One of the set-pieces whenever these stories come around is the confected outrage expressed by the 'victims', in this case the US. It implies that such behaviour is beyond the moral pale, whereas every country does it, all the time. The US has spies in Russia, as does the UK, and Russia spies on both countries. They're all at it because they see each other as political and commercial rivals.

In the last decade, we have had two major expulsions of our spies in Moscow, who were caught on film red-handed trying to do exactly what the FBI caught the Murphys at. In one case, the British resident spymaster used a mentally unstable junior Russian diplomat, Platon Obukhov, to spy on his father, a former Soviet deputy foreign minister and one of the main negotiators of the intermediate nuclear forces treaty removing medium-range missiles from Europe.

The real hypocrisy is the self-righteousness expressed when they catch others at it.

Two aspects interest me. Firstly, these 'spies' seemed to do little more than gather gossip and publicly available information. So why are they being treated more harshly than the Israeli spies (and here, and here) in the US (and let's not forget Israel's repeated forgery of allied countries' passports, the kidnapping of Mordechai Vanunu from Italy and the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior). Rosen and Weismann were let off because the 'secrets' they disclosed (on US-Iran attitudes) weren't hugely secret - I assume these Russians will get off on the same grounds, and be expelled for immigration/passport offences.

The other thing that caught my eye was this delightful statement by a neighbour of one of these super-spies:
They couldn't have been spies," said Jessie Gugig. "Look what she did with the hydrangeas."

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