David Randall
The Independent
July 4, 2010

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t
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Some countries never seem to grow up. Russia and the United States, both of whom should be well past the dressing up and pretending stage by now, still, it turns out, like playing goodies and baddies. They’ve each got a gang, they use passwords, speak in code, write messages to each other in invisible ink and everything. It’ll be false moustaches next.

This seems, at the moment, the only rational explanation for the present spy “scandal”, which appears to involve no secrets whatsoever and precious little actual treachery. It’s true there’s been a certain amount of low-level cloak-and-daggery, and there was even some buried treasure to find. But it’s all more water pistols than Walther PPKs; more Just William than James Bond. No one got hurt, and everyone got home in time to wash their hands before tea.

If we accept, as we may as well do until something better comes along, the evidence as set out in the detailed indictments prepared by the US Justice Department, the game began nearly 20 years ago. A number of individuals and couples started to arrive in the US and build a life and work there. Blameless, even rather bland, professionals to their neighbours, they were swiftly identified by the FBI as “illegal agents” – people who were on US soil to perform services for a foreign state but had not declared themselves to be such. This remains – some moderate money-laundering apart – the only crime of which the Moscow 11 are accused, it not yet being (as we discovered in the run-up to the Iraq invasion) an indictable offence in the US to feed a government bullshit and claim it as “intelligence”.

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