Russian 'spy ring' labelled nutty and feckless by former CIA agents
Current and former US intelligence officials have expressed their bemusement at details of an alleged Russian spy ring uncovered by the FBI.
Published: 7:00AM BST 30 Jun 2010
Eleven "secret agents" have been arrested amid claims that the group have been operating undercover in the US for more than ten years.
Russian officials have confirmed that some of the group were Russian citizens, but said that "they have not committed any actions directed against US interests."
As the details of their double lives emerged, US intelligence experts voiced their amazement that the team had been allowed to work for so long and seemingly deliver so little.
Frederick Hitz, former inspector general of the CIA, said that the suspected Russian operation was "nutty".
"It just struck me as a throwback to the Cold War at a time when the Russians and the United States have so many forward-looking kinds of issues," he told the Washington Post.
"It looks as if it got going at the end of the Soviet era and just continued, even though it wasn't clear what the immediate goals of these people were."
Mark Lowenthal, a former senior CIA official, branded the operation "feckless".
"So many of the things they seemed to be after you can find out by listening to the right radio station or reading the right newspaper... It doesn't say a lot about the smarts of the SVR [Russia's foreign intelligence service]."
Even Russian experts were surprised by the methods employed by the team.
"It sounds preposterous to me," Mikhail Lyubimov, a writer and former member of the SVR, told the paper. "We've never used illegals like this," he said, referring to spies posing as ordinary citizens instead of diplomats. "And it's a comedy to have 10 of them connected."