In some sensational news reporting this week a low ranking US diplomat called Ryan Fogle has allegedly been caught red handed by the FSB (Russia’s modern equivalent of the KGB).
According to the FSB, Fogle’s espionage equipment represented a formidable arsenal of state of the art gadgetry that James Bond would have lived twice for: the FSB seized wigs, sunglasses (even though it was late at night at the time of his apprehension) and other disguises for starters. They also discovered extracts from a CIA instruction manual on how to recruit and turn Russian state officials and how to use Gmail accounts as dead letter drops. Hoards of cash were also taken from Mr Fogle. But even more significantly, ignoring Mr Fogle’s antiquated mobile phone, the FSB apparently got some much more sophisticated gadgets: a map, a torch, a compass and two knives.
As this incident has all the makings of a Broadway farce it is difficult to tell what the truth was. Was it Enid Blyton’s or Kim Philby’s famous five that lay behind all this intrigue? Surely the counter-terrorism agent he was trying to recruit knew how to use a Gmail account? Why didn’t the FSB simply play ball and then use Mr Fogle to find out what the CIA considered that crucial to pay US$1 million for? The FSB could then have used their agent to plant disinformation. Why miss this golden opportunity to create double or even triple agents paid for by the USA? Why was it so urgent that it had to be either that evening or never? The answer is probably that if it all looks illogical then it’s political!
We set about trying to find the truth. First we tried to ensnare commentators in The Times (for subscribers only) by noting our thoughts on the use of the blond wig given that it was not that sensible a disguise as few male Russians have natural blond hair anyway.
We commented “As noted in other reports Mr Fogle was allegedly wearing or in possession of a blond wig. Was this a prop from an Enid Blyton hitherto unpublished spy novel? We at https://twitter.com/burlingtonfiles are also interested in whether or not Big Ears’ audio equipment was used by either the CIA or the FSB and whether or not the CIA intentionally hires people with amnesia so that they do well under interrogation provided they have not been caught with their instruction manual!” Our comments drew no one in from the cold.
We also observed in The Times video that Mr Fogle’s ID starts with “005”. We asked what does it stand for? License to scout maybe – someone must know the answer but it is obviously top secret.
The instructions on how to use the Gmail account seemed peculiar to us – perhaps they were standard CIA or even FSB disinformation. As noted in The Times the instructions read “Once a Gmail account is created, the recruit should write a letter to unbacggdA@gmail.com and wait exactly a week for a reply.” We sent an email and still await a reply – next week of course.
Why use a Gmail account like that anyway? Surely the CIA and FSB know that it’s much more secret to share the password – that way you never have to send any messages and just leave a draft for your contact to see, remember and delete and then leave another draft in place for the other contact to do likewise. By the way, this is not a breach of The Official Secrets Act – we are just quoting what ten year old kids do nowadays to pass secret messages to one another when sitting their exams.
Our final comments on this embarrassing and humiliating saga are along the following lines some of which were published in The Times:
Let us not forget we are relying on the FSB’s account. It may be marginally inaccurate. That may be a euphemism if ever there was one. Will the CIA rectify matters with a press release on http://www.scouting.org/ or maybe subtle leaks of data may pop out on YouTube, Google Plus or even WigBook? Will this incident go down in history as “Wig Gate”or “Fogle’s Folly”?
We believe it was all a cunning CIA plot that backfired because the FSB unexpectedly reported the truth and the CIA had not expected that and were made to look amateur. The trouble is they are not amateur, well surely not that amateur? Maybe it was an FSB set up – who really cares? At least the unfortunate scapegoat Mr Fogle is safe and no one was “turned” and slung in a Russian prison. Like many others before him and no doubt many to follow Mr Fogle was publicly humiliated for political reasons.
With the benefit of hindsight it could just as easily have been the US diplomat expelled from Moscow on 15th January 2013 or looking ahead with a crystal ball others still in Russia unwittingly already on Vladimir Putin’s, Sergei Lavrov’s or Yuri Ushakov’s lists.
The next real issue for those engaged in the real world of surveillance, duplicity and espionage is when will some Russian dolls be expelled from a Washington gift shop for spying on some toy soldiers?
This article was first published on 15th May 2013. We are pleased to report that by 21st May Mr Fogle was safely back in the USA.