FBI Releases Russian Spy Footage

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Anna Chapman mug shot

Anna Chapman, Arrested in 2010 for Espionage

It seems fitting that on Halloween the FBI released videos, photographs and reports from its undercover mission “Operation Ghost Stories”. The 11-year operation ended with 10 Russian spies living in the United States and working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) being arrested last year. Today, footage and documents were made public under the Freedom of Information Act upon the request of various news agencies, including the Associated Press.

Each member of the spy ring, referred to as the “Illegals,” were instructed to form close relationships with academics, entrepreneurs and bureaucrats that would have knowledge of high profile, secretive U.S. policy and that could potentially be blackmailed. Each SVR agent blended into a middle class lifestyle through buying houses, having children, working and attending school functions. For example, Mikhail Semenko settled in Arlington, Virginia and worked at a travel agency called Travel All Russia; Richard and Cynthia Murphy raised two children in Montclair, New Jersey and she worked at an accounting firm in Manhattan.

Although Operation Ghost Stories lasted for over a decade, the spies did not succeed in carrying out major breaches in information security. The FBI succeeded in arresting the SVR emissaries through posing as undercover Russian agents, surveillance and counterintelligence measures.

You can view the print and visual information released today on the FBI’s website.  One 2006 video shows Michael Zottoli digging for a package at a dead drop hidden within bushes. Another shows Anna Chapman inside a New York City department store while a Russian official is standing by outside.

Since the arrests, Chapman has become a world renowned sex symbol making her role in the espionage circle seem like it came straight from Hollywood. She has posed for Maxim and Russia’s Play Boy, become the poster child for Moscow Bank and entered politics. The ten arrested were simply charged with failing to register their foreign agent status. They were deported back to Russia in exchange for the release of four Western-affiliated spies. An eleventh suspect is still at large: Christopher Mestos, the suspected handler of the Russian ring, continues to be wanted by the FBI.

An FBI Job Description is varied and warrants specialized skills as made clear by this successful operation. Roles range from working as a special agent in the field to gathering crucial information as part of the Counterintelligence Department. If you are interested in working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Agent Requirements include a Bachelors degree in a specialized field (such as Information Security, Law, Languages, Law Enforcement  or a Homeland Security Degree), American citizenship and meeting certain age and physical requirements. Once granted employment with the bureau, you must complete FBI Special Agent Training.