US officials say the network of Russian sleeper agents uncovered in 2010 planned to groom their children as spies. Details of information about how the spies tried to recruit their children come from surveillance by the FBI.
According to US counterintelligence officials, surveillance records show that the grooming of their children was part of a long-term goal to plant Russian spies in the US who can pass detailed background checks.
The Wall Street Journal's Devlin Barrett, explains that children born and raised in the US would potentially be more effective spies than their parents because they are more likely to pass government background checks. Barret says the children would have found it easier to overcome some of the difficulties their parents had. One of the spies Richard Murphy, for instance, spoke with an accent and did not socialize well at work. The children could also have served as go-betweens for other operatives who would come under closer US counterintelligence surveillance. An official said: "There was much more to this than just trying to make friends with important people. This was a very long-term operation."
According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Tim Foley was one of the children the spy parents groomed to "follow in their footsteps." He was not American-born, but his parents had lived in the US for more than a decade under the names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. Tim Foley was 20 when his parents were arrested. He had just completed his sophomore year at George Washington University.
Foley's parents, who later pleaded guilty to acting as secret agents for the Russian government, had revealed their spy identities to him long before they were arrested. US counterintelligence officials claim Foley agreed to spy for Russia and, according to surveillance records, he saluted "Mother Russia." He also agreed to travel to Russia for formal training.
According to Barret, at the time they were arrested, the spies had seven children ranging in age from 1 to 20, most of them being US born. One of the agents had a son from a relationship before she joined the network. However, Anna Chapman, who got the most media attention because of her "glamorous looks," did not have any children. She was born Anna Kushchyenko, but adopted the surname Chapman after she married a British man Alex Chapman.
Peter Krupp, the Boston lawyer who represented Foley's father, has dismissed the story by US officials, saying it is "crap." According Krupp, it would have been too risky for Foley's parents to talk to their son about their work.
US officials say, however, that it appears not all the children were included in the plan. One of the children, a teenager, was allowed to remain in the US after his parents were arrested because officials did not view him as a security risk. The teenager's father Juan Lazaro, had wanted his son to become a concert pianist.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that new details emerging about the activities of the Russian spy ring in the US suggests their work was more successful and "sophisticated" than previously suspected. One of the spies infiltrated an influential consulting firm with offices in Manhattan and Washington D.C. where he worked as the company's in-house computer technician. Richard Murphy, whose real name was Vladimir Guryev, worked for several years at the US consultancy called the G7 Group. One of the firm's experts was Alan Blinder, a former Federal Reserve chairman. Murphy, according to The WSJ, came to the G7 group through a temporary-help agency in the early 2000s and worked there for three years.
Digital Journal reported the ring of Russian spies was uncovered by Colonel Alexander Poteyev, a highly ranking official in the Russian foreign intelligence, who spied for the U.S. and also supervised the group. The decision to arrest the spies was made in 2010 after a decade of surveillance because one of the spies was planning to leave the U.S. The arrests occurred at a time the US was working to ease strained relations with Russia resulting from the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. The US government was anxious to bring the case to an end as quickly as possible without any complications and therefore offered the Russians an exchange deal which they accepted. In the swap which followed in July 2010, the U.S. exchanged the 10 Russian spies for four Russians imprisoned in their country on charges that they were spying for the West. The exchange took place in a Vienna airport on July 9, 2010. The Russian government treated the spies to heroes' welcome. President Dmitry Medvedev awarded them Russia's highest honors in an elaborate Kremlin ceremony.
The spies were trained by the SVR, a successor agency to the KGB. According to US officials, they worked under the supervision of the SVR headquarters known in the West as "Moscow Center."