Accuracy in Media

The case of the eleven individuals who are said by the FBI to have been “illegals” – i.e.spies who are not working under the direction of a particular embassy – is being played out in the media at two levels. At one level, there is the rather salacious interest in the glamor of suspects such as Anna Chapman. At the other level there is an interest in the actual intent behind the Russians’ plan to place such deep-cover operatives in the United States for so long – in the case of Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley they have been living in the United States since 1999.

The individuals have allegedly started to confess their true identities. Juan Lazaro – who lived in Yonkers, New York – waived his Miranda rights and confessed that his allegiance was to Moscow. He had a 17-year old son with his wife Vicky Pelaez, who is also suspected of spying, but claimed his Russian allegiance came even before his son. He admitted that his claim of coming from Uruguay was false, but he did not reveal his true identity or place of origin.

Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills had apparently borrowed their names from Americans who had died. According to court prosecutors, they admitted that their real names were Mikhail Kutzik and Natalia Pereverzeva. Zottoli and Ms Mills had lived in Arlington, Virginia, and had two young children.

Despite the obvious glamor of Anna Chapman, this figure has also attracted the interest of intelligence agents beyond the United States. Inside the United States, where she lived in Manhattan, she was said to have been a vital link in the chain between those on the ground and their Russian handlers.

Anna Chapman’s real name was Anna Kushchenko. She married a British man, Alex Chapman, in 2002, only to divorce him four years later and then travel to the United States in 2007. Her ex-husband gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, in which he revealed the contents of certain emails that she had sent him. She claimed that she had to choose between settling down and having a child with him, or to make a career for herself. She had said: “It’s never too late to be happy and succeed.”

Chapman told the Telegraph that she had become “obsessed” by several “secretive” meetings with Russians whom she referred to as “friends.” He said: “Looking back, I think she was being conditioned [by them]. She didn’t seem happy.”

Anna Chapman was the daughter of Vasily Kushchenko, a KGB agent in “old Russia.” This man was working as a Russian diplomat in Zimbabwe in 2002.  Alex Chapman described meeting his former father-in-law in Zimbabwe on their honeymoon:

“He was scary. He would never introduce me to other Russian people who came to the house and he always seemed to have a lot more security than the other diplomats. He had a Land Rover with blacked out windows and there was always one car in front of it and one car behind.”

Anna Kuschenko’s younger sister Katya was l5 when she was living in Zimbabwe and began dating the son of the deputy chief of the United States Embassy. This was about a decade ago, around the time the FBI began investigating the “illegals” living in the USA. Ms Joseff informed the FBI that Katya was seeing her son, and they apparently carried out background checks, though it is unknown if these checks alerted them to the presence of the alleged spies in the USA.

The tip-off that there were illegals operating on American soil may have come from Sergei Tretyakov, who was based at the Russian mission to the United Nations between 1995 and 2000, before he defected.

Tretyakov said: “Cold War never ended. It’s like a virus, you apply the medicine and virus develops a resistance and it continues.” He claimed that the Russians had planned to flood America with “deep-cover” spies.

The British homeland intelligence service, MI5, showed an interest in Mr. Alex Chapman’s account of his wife’s dealings, and interviewed him. They were apparently interested in the activities of Anna’s father Vasily Kushchenko.

This weekend’s Sunday Times carried a headline that stated: “MI5 hunts 20 Russian ‘sleepers’.” This article maintained that inside Russia’s Embassy in London, MI5 believes that there are as many as 35 intelligence officers, half of the embassy’s diplomatic staff.

The Sunday Times article claimed that MI5 think that Anna Chapman was the link between the suspected sleepers, and that before she left Britain in 2007, she would have helped to recruit new people to work as spies. She herself is thought to have been officially recruited in London. The newspaper mentioned a report that Chapman had been having an affair with an un-named member of the House of Lords (Britain’s Upper House of Parliament) who is also a QC (Queen’s Counsel – a leading barrister) and also belongs to a family of jewelers.

There is a company that Chapman and her husband Alex set up called Southern Union. It is suspected that funds for espionage were channeled through this company. One man, Stephen Sugden, who is listed on the company documents as “sole director” was not even aware that such a company existed. He claims he has never met the Chapmans, and has launched an official complaint with Companies House, the body that regulates businesses in the UK. Sugden was also listed in company documentation as living at an address that was an apartment owned by Anna and Alex Chapman.

It seems that there is a habit of deception that motivated Anna Chapman, but her husband does not come across as a particularly noble figure – he has allowed semi-naked photos that he took of his former wife to appear in newspapers, and he has gone into graphic detail about their experimentation with sex toys. Understandably, Anna Chapman’s friends have described him as a “rag.”

It is easy to see the media getting carried away with the glamor and the deception of Anna Chapman, and the behavior of her husband (was he paid money to give pictures of his half-naked wife to the press?) has pandered to the sleazier aspects of the tabloid press.

Chapman appears to have been an important figure – with her good looks and sophisticated manner, she was able to get access to leading figures in business. Alex Chapman said she had associated with billionaire UK businessman Philip Green.

Media stereotypes of Chapman as a latter-day Mata Hari appear wide of the mark. She is beautiful, she was gregarious and able to pass herself of in “high society” in both Britain and America, but there is nothing to suggest that she gave her body away as a means to “gain information.” There is still no clear understanding of what motivated her.

There is much that shall eventually be revealed about how the SVR (successor to the KGB) has been operating in the United States, Britain and other countries. In Family Security Matters today, we have an article by John W. Miller, a former intelligence officer who specialized in Russian activities. He affirms, as did defector Sergei Tretyakov, that the Cold War never ended. This is the message that should be heeded.

Russia is no longer officially Communist, but it is still a nation governed in the main by former KGB personnel. As a nation, Russia appears to be embittered by the loss of its Soviet Empire. Ukraine was a country that was brought under Russian control in the 19th century, and since it split from the Russia/Soviet political sphere, it has constantly been threatened with having its gas supplies turned on and off.

The latest news is that Vladimir Putin is declaring that the two countries must restore economic ties. Putin said that over the past few months, the two countries’ “joint projects” include “those branches where cooperation will bring sizable competitive advantages, in particular, this is aircraft construction, shipbuilding, atomic energy and transport.”

The worst aspect of Russia’s bullying of those who do not comply with its demands is that it uses poison on its enemies, just as its predecessors in the KGB did. In September 2004, Ukrainian president Victor Yuschenko suddenly fell ill during an election campaign Medical results showed that in his bloodstream, there was 1,000 times the amount of a the deadly toxin dioxin. The skin of the president’s face was ravaged by the poison, which was a pure form of the dioxin TCDD. Though no-one was ever charged, Yushchenko’s pro-Western allies in Ukraine blame the Russians.

In 1978 in London, when Bulgaria was still part of the Soviet empire, Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was stabbed with an umbrella that shot a pellet of ricin into his leg, eventually killing him. Markov used to broadcast frequently at the BBC’s World Service (similar to Voice of America’s international broadcasts). Markov had been constantly in fear of being murdered, but his fears appear not to have been taken seriously enough.

In London in June 2007, a Russian millionaire who was resident in London was the target of an assassin, whose plan was foiled by MI5. Boris Berezovsky (aka Platon Elenin) had been found guilty by a Moscow court of embezzlement of funds, and he had made huge amounts of money by buying stock at knock-down prices. In London, out of reach of the Russian authorities, they apparently sent a hit man to dispose of him.

Last week, I mentioned the case of former KGB agent Alexander Litvenenko who was murdered in London in 2006. The poison used to kill him was the radioactive isotope Polonium-210. Alexander Lugovoy, another former KGB agent, is almost certainly the man who killed Litvenenko.

Three weeks before Litvenenko was given a dose of Polonium in a cup of tea, an investigative and campaigning journalist who had been active in Chechnya was murdered in Moscow. Anna Politkovskaya had been a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin and had written about pro-Kremlin military groups who operated a reign of terror in Chechnya, with the full approval of Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s puppet in Chechnya. Kadyrov supports Islamic honor killings and is known to have tortured and murdered his opponents.

Before her death, Politkovskaya had written:

When President Vladimir Putin’s plan of Chechenization succeeded (setting “good” Chechens loyal to the Kremlin to kill “bad” Chechens who opposed it), the same subterfuge extended to talking to “good” Chechen officials, many of whom, before they were “good” officials, had sheltered me in their homes in the most trying months of the war. Now we can meet only in secret because I am an incorrigible enemy, not amenable to re-education.

I’m not joking. Some time ago, Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s deputy chief of staff, explained that there were people who were enemies but whom you could talk sense into, and there were incorrigible enemies who simply needed to be “cleansed” from the political arena.

So they are trying to cleanse it of me and others like me.”

Politkovskaya was found with bullets in her head and chest on October 7, 2006. To complicate matters further, the Putin-controlled Russian establishment maintains that the murders of Politkovskaya and Litvenenko were carried out on orders given by Boris Berezovsky.

These tactics are the same tactics employed when the Soviets were at the height of their power, and when they controlled their vassal states with threats and intimidation. Now that it has been revealed that a group of Russian “illegals” had been operating for a decade in the United States, we have no reason to be surprised.

Where there was a common ground in the fight against Islamist extremism, some in the media and politics pretended that the Russian Federation was a new and refreshing pro-democratic replacement for the old Soviet Empire. It is not.

The signs were all there – the suppression of dissidents, the murdering of journalists – but everyone chose to look elsewhere for signs of trouble. Yes, Islamism is a threat. But if the Russians are assassinating their own dissidents, on foreign soil, and also employing spies who pose as civilians, then nothing has changed.

The sooner our politicians become aware of this, and stop pretending that Russia has no ulterior motives in its plans for reducing the West’s arsenal of nuclear weaponry, the better for everyone.

Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media or its staff.

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.