Just last week I was sitting at the bar at Buzzy's 8 Ball Room with Bobo, the Talking Intern, and a couple PWB staffers watching a documentary that featured footage of old Nicky Kruschev berating a young U.S. Vice President named Richard Nixon. I believe the year was 1964.
Now, at this point I'm sure many readers are wondering why we were watching a documentary at Buzzy's... an establishment known more for the quality of its pickled eggs and cold beer than its high brow entertainment. The answer is World Cup. I may be stepping out on a politically incorrect limb here, but I'll watch anything before subjecting myself to televised soccer. I have a theory about soccer that goes like this; it's boring.
So there we were, watching a documentary featuring Kruschev because Lola, the part time barmaid at Buzzy's, retuned the satellite away from the beautiful game when we showed up for our nightly boilermakers. While staring at the screen, Bobo displayed his bottomless ignorance of history by asking "...who's the bald angry dude?"
"That," I patiently explained, "is the former leader of the Soviet Union." It was a press conference and Kruschev was doing his usual schtick about how the Soviets would surpass the US and demonstrating his ability to be both dismissive and belligerent at the same time. The term I believe is "dismigerent". The word is Russian in origin.
I mention this admittedly fascinating exchange from because of the news last month that the FBI has arrested 10 Russian "illegals" acting as spies here in the US. This news followed the recent visit by Russian President Medvedev to the U.S. where he had burgers with President Obama, toured some high tech facilities on the West Coast, chatted about our improving relations and laid down a couple dead drops to service his illegal spies.
Actually, I'm not sure if he personally serviced the dead drops... but I'm pretty sure he slipped out at night from his posh hotel to cache some money and a new shoe phone in the woods, only to be retrieved at a later date by Boris and Natasha.
Here's what I find most entertaining about this latest demonstration of U.S. vs. Russia efforts to steal each others stuff; Medvedev flies over to hang with Obama and yabber about the "reset" button yet some more, all the while knowing he's got a big fat network of illegals buried deep in the fabric of U.S. society trying to hoover up available secrets.
And at the same time, the FBI has briefed Obama on the same network of illegals and likely advising that they'll be wrapping them up sometime soon.
So Medvedev and Obama make nice for the cameras and talk about one day being BFFs and all the while both dudes think the other doesn't know that the other knows what he knows. Or doesn't know. See?
What's my point? As I said to Bobo this morning while chatting about today's PWB topic, nothing ever changes. As sure as soccer is boring, Russians will try to steal our secrets.
The only difference between Kruschev and Putin and Medvedev is the increasing quality of their media savvy and PR departments. You think Putin wouldn't like to bang his shoe on Obama's desk? You think Medvedev wouldn't like to go on TV and talk about how they'll bury the U.S.? Puhleeezzze. Does a big Cold War bear crap in the woods?
That's what smart nations with sufficient resources do...they try to take each others stuff. We do it, the Chinese do it, even Brits and Frenchmen dressed in fine Italian suits do it. There's a song in there somewhere.
Whether its economic intelligence, military secrets or plans and intentions of the administration, other nations stand to gain mightily by taking our information. Who wants to spend all the money and time necessary for research and development of a better mousetrap when you can simply steal the finished blueprints?
And what happens when one country catches another country with their fingers in the cookie jar labeled "Tasty Secrets"? Not much. At least not much from the big picture perspective. Usually there's a round of arrests, some spies masquerading as diplomats get kicked home, a bit of tsk-tsking from home field politicians and then, well, we push the reset button and do it all over again.
This isn't to dismiss the seriousness of this most recent incident. Far from it. We stand to lose a great deal from any successful espionage effort directed against us. We need to be vigilant and protect what's ours.
But let's not respond to the Russians latest shenanigans with surprise or dismay. Instead, let's acknowledge the solid work of the FBI, Justice Department, CIA and others involved in counterintelligence operations, promise the Russians this sort of hanky panky won't damage our new and improved relationship and then, let's switch off the World Cup and get busy taking their stuff.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector and has recently returned to Diligence LLC, a company he cofounded in 2000, as President. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on counterterrorism, intelligence and homeland security. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.
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