Post by Randall Ryder
Seemingly over before it started, the US has agreed to send all 10 Russian spies in custody back to Russia in exchange for 4 Russian prisoners. Each defendant pled guilty in federal court and were sentenced to time served (meaning there is no additional time). It is expected that all of them will quickly leave the country, perhaps as early as today.
United States District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood inquired if each defendant had sufficient time to discuss their charges and understood the ramifications of pleading guilty. Judge Wood then also referenced an independent agreement between the US and Russia, involving the release of 4 other prisoners.
Interestingly, one of the defendants admitted she had received promises from Russia in exchange for her guilty plea. Specifically, the defendant’s lawyer claimed his client was offered free housing in the Russian federation, a monthly stipend of $2,000, and visas for her two children, among other things.
When the situation first came to light a few weeks ago, the public was shocked. Ten Russian spies living in plain sight? What was even more confusing was that they appeared to be approaching the typically clandestine world of information gathering by taking an approach based on networking. Frankly, the majority of the information released about the defendants seemed to indicate the information they had gathered was nothing special—or at least, nothing that was locked away in a secret CIA vault in Area 51.
This somewhat quick end to the situation makes it even more confusing. What were the defendants really doing? Just as more facts began to trickle out, the case was resolved. Shortly after the sentencing, the prosecution released a statement that the US and Russia have agreed on other steps that will facilitate better relations between the two countries and "enhance the national security of the United States."
In so many ways, the outcome seems the complete opposite of what people expect from spy games. Instead of catching clandestine operatives and then revealing what they were doing, these operatives were not even hiding. Before the public could hear about their actions, all of them pled guilty and will be quickly whisked back to Russia. Does this mean the countries wanted to deal with this before the real facts came out? Or was it really as simple as it seemed—using people good at networking to obtain readily available information?
Russian Spy Suspects Plead Guilty as Part of a Swap | The New York Times