What It's Like To Be a Russian Spy Undercover In the U.S. In 2010

"You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house—all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission...to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in U.S. and send intels to [Center]."

That was the exact order given to 11 individuals who had been living in the U.S. as deep cover spies for Russia's S.V.R, the modern day successor to the Soviet K.G.B., according to the Justice Department, who charged them yesterday.

The Times published the full criminal complaint, which outlines the operation in great detail. At times, it's gripping Cold War-throwback espionage, all surreptitious meetings and transmitting reports over encrypted wireless networks. The Times reports:

The suspects were directed to gather information on nuclear weapons, American policy toward Iran, C.I.A. leadership, Congressional politics and many other topics, prosecutors say. The Russian spies made contact with a former high-ranking American national security official and a nuclear weapons researcher, among others. But the charges did not include espionage, and it was unclear what secrets the suspected spy ring - which included five couples - actually managed to collect.

At other times, though, their lives seem surprisingly banal. The spies met in bookstores and lived cookie cutter suburban lives, summed up tidily in this quote from a neighbor of two of the accused: "They couldn't have been spies...Look what she did with the hydrangeas."

On one hand, it's kind of exciting to know there's still covert spy operations going on around us everyday. On the other, it's profoundly depressing to think that those spies are swilling Starbucks and perusing Barnes and Noble—maybe to fit in, or maybe just because. [NYTimes 1, NYTimes 2 - Thanks Mike!]

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