Wednesday, June 30, 2010

News from the Cold War Nursing Home

The FBI and KBG are still playing the old games.

The Bureau, which failed to anticipate the Times Square bomber, has been relentlessly tracking Russian agents posing as suburban homeowners for years, and the former spymaster Vladimir Putin is kvetching about it

"Back at your home," he tells another retiree, Bill Clinton, drawing a laugh, "the police went out of control throwing people in jail. But that's the kind of job they have."

The indictment of 11 "deep cover" agents recalls the days when Americans were kept aware of potentially dangerous neighbors by that expert on secret lives, J. Edgar Hoover.

The news has a Rip Van Winkle feel to it, as if the FBI were awakening from a decades-long nap, unaware of this month's visit by the Russian president, who was warmly greeted in the White House, shared cheeseburgers with the President and was given a tour of Silicon Valley as well as the 21st-century imperative of derailing Middle East terrorism rather than Communist subversion.

Thousands of surveillance hours produced not charges of espionage but of acting as "unauthorized foreign agents and conspiracy to commit money laundering"--not quite as alarming as planting bombs in midtown Manhattan, but in the arcane world of spycraft, who can tell?

The indicated conspirators spent years living in American suburbs while, according to prosecutors, penetrating American “policy making circles.”

They did their undercover work well, according to neighbors interviewed by the New York Times: "They raised children, went to work in the city each day, talked the small talk with neighbors about yard work and overpriced contractors. In short, they could have been any family in any suburb in America."

The only mystery about them is what kind of spying they did, but the Justice Department is keeping us in suspense about that until their trials begin.

Until or unless there are nefarious revelations then, the whole thing is reminiscent, on both sides of the international intrigue, of the case of Lt. Haroo Onoda, who was arrested in 1972 after hiding in a remote Philippine island for 29 years not knowing that World War II had ended.

Some people always get the news late.

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