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May 17, 2013

US-Russia spy game continues

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WASHINGTON — The embarrassing arrest of a suspected CIA officer in Moscow is the latest reminder that even after the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia are in an espionage battle with secret tactics, spying devices and training that sometimes can't prevent capture.

The most recent skirmish involves Russian security services ambushing a 29-year-old diplomat who they say was trying to court a spy.

The Russians said Ryan Fogle was caught red-handed with a recruitment letter, a compass, two wigs and a wad of cash. The Russians published photographs of his arrest and displayed all his supposed spy gear for the world.

It was intended as proof to the public that the young diplomat was in fact working for the CIA.

None of these tactics is new.

Humiliating and outwitting the other side is a tradition that extends back decades.

In 1977, the KGB arrested a pretty blonde named Martha Peterson in Moscow for trying to leave a message for an important spy, code-named Trigon. Just as in the case of Fogle, the Russians were waiting with cameras when they nabbed Peterson.

Eight years later, the KGB filmed the arrest of A.G. Tolkachev, a top CIA spy, and later made it available to Russian television.

In a case that made headlines across the world, the FBI in 2010 wrapped up a ring of sleeper agents it had been following for years in the United States. The Russians were not amused. Eventually the sleeper agents, including Anna Chapman, who later posed for a magazine cover in lingerie, were returned in a swap.

These are the perils of working overseas. "I was angry," Peterson recalled in interview. "I was caught with things in my possession, too. That is a bad feeling."

The idea is not to get caught. But that's easier said than done.

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