Anna Chapman, Russian Spies and the Media

The Face of a Spy?

Image by John McNab via Flickr

Okay, a bit of an aside for me, but considering the domain of this blog, I thought I had to say something.

The recent spy case involving the beautiful real-estate agent Anna Chapman, oh yes and the nine other alleged Russian spies rounded up by the FBI certainly got its fair share of news coverage.  Whether or not these individuals really were spies is beyond my knowledge — thought he FBI certainly has put forward a convincing case, but what has interested me the most is how the media has been covering it.

Reportedly, none of these people had direct access to high level information, therefore they’ve been identified by television news and their varying talking heads as ‘low level’ spies, and seen with almost a comic value. Coverage like this makes me wonder what the news agencies think a high level spy is? 

Surely, someone at FOX, NPR or any brand of news agency in between realizes that intelligence agencies gather more than just military secrets?  There is economic intelligence, there are small details of everyday life, there is verification data… there are more types of information that feed into the great beast we call intelligence than I could easily list here. 

 What is more, haven’t these people ever read a spy novel?  I mean, ever hear of sleeper agents, couriers or assassins?  Actually, truth be told, early reports seem that these individuals worked (or were intended to work) more as go-betweens, recruiting and/or travelling between “high level” spies and their handlers to carry information.  Think about it, if a mole hidden deep inside the Pentagon meets with a Cultural Attaché from the Russian Embassy, people might get suspicious.  Meet with a Real Estate Agent or a Computer Programmer for a game of squash… or just sit next to them in the bar a few times, and who would notice?

Then we come to Anna Chapman.  If you ask me, she’s an ideal spy.  Very attractive self-employed real estate agent who frequents the high life and fits in with the glitteratzzi.  Who better to recruit and meet with wealthy and powerful men and women?  Senators (or their children), business people, high level government contractors… the kind of people who buy upscale Manhattan apartments.  Who wouldn’t be flattered if a beautiful and successful woman takes an interest in you during one of your property purchasing trips? Gets to know you, maybe has a few drinks… or an affair? 

And hey!  Talk about having access to places where you could have private… even secret… conversation? 

So at the end of the day, my point is, this spy ring (assuming the FBI are correct and that is what it is) is not ‘low level’ or unimportant.  Slowly developed sleeper cells are perhaps the most dangerous and hardest to find.  Good on the men and women of the FBI for having snuck it out!  Bad on the press for making the hard work that went into this seem trivial…

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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2 Responses to Anna Chapman, Russian Spies and the Media

  1. readysetpitch says:

    How many books/movies do you think will be hitting the market in the wake of these spies? Nothing was sexier than cold-war spy thrillers!

    • Thomas Evans says:

      I would guess about a thousand will be pitched… of which maybe two nonfiction books and ten fiction books will be published. Movie wise, I suspect we’ll see between three and five thrillers based on it… and six or more TV movies made (including the “real life” dramatizAtion s, based on a true stories, and inspired by real life events).

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