Russia has announced it will expel US diplomat Ryan Fogle briefly detained in Moscow for allegedly trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer as a spy.
Ryan Fogle, named as CIA agent, was held overnight after he was apparently arrested wearing blond wig.
He has been declared “persona non grata” for “provocative actions in the spirit of the Cold War”, the Russian foreign ministry said on its website.
The US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, had been summoned, it added.
Ryan Fogle is said to have worked as third political secretary at the US embassy in Moscow.
A state department spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an officer at our US embassy in Moscow was briefly detained and was released. We have seen the Russian foreign ministry announcement and have no further comment at this time.”
The diplomat was reportedly arrested with a large sum of money, technical devices and written instructions for the Russian agent he had tried to recruit.
Photos purporting to show Ryan Fogle’s detention have been widely circulated in the Russian media.
The foreign ministry said it had ordered Ryan Fogle to leave the country, in a statement posted online on Tuesday afternoon.
“Such provocative actions in the spirit of the Cold War will by no means promote the strengthening of mutual trust,” the ministry said.
Russia has announced it will expel US diplomat Ryan Fogle briefly detained in Moscow for allegedly trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer as a spy
The incident creates an uncomfortable atmosphere at a time when the US and Russia are involved in delicate diplomacy over Syria and in taking cautious steps towards defrosting relations.
However, the incident is unlikely to have any long-term political consequences, as both countries know that espionage did not end with the Cold War.
Russia’s Federal Security Service earlier released images allegedly showing Ryan Fogle during and after his arrest.
Wearing a blue checked shirt and a plain baseball cap, he was shown being held on the ground with his hands bound, then being escorted away.
Another photo showed him sitting at desk, his hat removed.
Possessions said to be Ryan Fogle’s are laid out on a table. They include a sum of money in 500-euro banknotes and two wigs, one of which he was apparently wearing at the time of his detention.
Also on the table are a compass, map, knife, dark glasses and small mobile phone.
“FSB counter-intelligence agents detained a CIA staff member who had been working under the cover of third political secretary of the US embassy in Moscow,” the FSB said.
“At the moment of detention, special technical equipment was discovered, written instructions for the Russian citizen being recruited, as well as a large sum of money and means for altering appearance.”
Russian state TV has displayed a piece of paper, which it said was Ryan Fogle’s letter to the Russian officer.
Addressing the recipient as “Dear friend”, the letter offers $100,000 “to discuss your experience, expertise and co-operation”.
It goes on to say: “We can offer up to $1 million a year for long-term co-operation, with extra bonuses if we receive some helpful information.
“This is a down payment from someone who is very impressed with your professionalism and who would greatly appreciate your co-operation in the future.”
The letter is simply signed “Your friends”.
The last major espionage case involving the two countries took place in 2010, when 10 people pleaded guilty to spying on the US for Russia.
The alleged agents were deported from the US in exchange for four people the Russians claimed had been spying for the West, in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.
Last year, a former UK government official admitted that Britain had been caught spying after Russia exposed its use of a fake rock in Moscow to hide electronic equipment.
Shortly after the 2006 incident, Russia introduced tough new legislation on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly accused Britain, the US and other countries of financing NGOs to meddle in Russian politics.
Last July, Vladimir Putin passed a controversial law requiring all NGOs that receive overseas funding to register as “foreign agents”.
Two months ago, Russian security services launched a series of investigations into foreign-funded NGOs, raiding their offices and seizing computers and documents.
The apparent crackdown drew widespread international criticism.
The world’s most dangerous terror group foiled by a killer blonde in Calvin Klein who wars with her superiors? Only in Hollywood’s dreams, surely.
But, astonishingly, it has now emerged that truth may indeed be as strange as fiction. According to Zero Dark Thirty, a forthcoming film about the hunt for Bin Laden – whose makers were given top-level access to those involved – he might never have been found if it hadn’t been for an attractive young female CIA agent every bit as troublesome as Homeland’s Carrie Mathison.
CIA insiders have confirmed claims by the film’s director Kathryn Bigelow that she is entirely justified in focusing on the role played by a junior female CIA analyst, named Maya in the film and played by Jessica Chastain. And just as in Homeland, the real agent has been snubbed by superiors and fallen out with colleagues since the Bin Laden raid in May 2011.
But who is this CIA super sleuth? Although the woman is still undercover and has never been identified, Zero Dark Thirty’s emphasis on Maya’s importance tallies with the account of a U.S. Navy SEAL involved in the raid who later wrote about it in a book.
Matt Bissonnette writes in No Easy Day of flying out to Afghanistan before the raid with a CIA analyst he called “Jen” who was “wicked smart, kind of feisty” and liked to wear expensive high heels.
She had devoted the best part of a decade to finding Bin Laden and had become the SEALs’ go-to expert on intelligence matters about their target, he said.
And while her colleagues were only 60% sure their quarry was in the compound in Abbottabad, she told the SEAL she was 100% certain.
“I can’t give her enough credit, I mean, she, in my opinion, she kind of teed up this whole thing,” Matt Bissonnette said later.
The commando saw a very different side of her days later when they brought Bin Laden’s body back to their Afghan hangar. Having previously told Matt Bissonnette she didn’t want to see the body, “Jen” stayed at the back of the crowd as they unzipped the terrorist’s body bag.
She “looked pale and stressed and started crying.
“A couple of the SEALs put their arms around her and walked her over to the edge of the group to look at the body,” wrote Matt Bissonnette.
“She didn’t say anything . . . with tears rolling down her cheeks, I could tell it was taking a while for Jen to process.
“She’d spent half a decade tracking this man. And now there he was at her feet.”
Jen’s role in the operation passed largely unremarked when Matt Bissonnette’s book came out but now the new film has confirmed his estimation of her importance.
Although she remains active as a CIA analyst, it is believed Mark Boal, Bigelow’s screenwriter, was allowed to interview her at length. It has emerged that she is in her 30s and joined the CIA after leaving college and before the 9/11 attacks turned American security upside down.
According to the Washington Post, she worked in the CIA’s station in Islamabad, Pakistan, as a “targeter”, a role which involves finding people to recruit as spies or to obliterate in drone attacks.
But CIA insiders say she worked almost solely on finding Bin Laden for a decade. She was still in Pakistan when the hunt heated up after Barack Obama became President in 2008 and ordered a renewed effort to find him.
According to colleagues, the female agent was one of the first to advance the theory – apparently against the views of other CIA staff – that the key to finding Bin Laden lay in Al Qaeda’s courier network.
The agency was convinced Osama Bin Laden, who never used the phone, managed to communicate with his disparate organization without revealing his whereabouts by passing hand-delivered messages to trusted couriers.
The agent spent years pursuing the courier angle, and it was a hunch that proved spectacularly correct when the U.S. uncovered a courier known as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti and tracked him back to a compound in the sleepy Pakistan town of Abbottabad. It was a stunning success for the dedicated agent, though she hardly endeared herself to her colleagues in the process.
CIA agent Maya, played by Jessica Chastain in the film Zero Dark Thirty, spent the best part of a decade to finding Bin Laden and became the SEALs’ go-to expert on intelligence matters about their target
As one might expect of a woman working in the largely male world of intelligence, colleagues stress she is no shrinking violet but a prickly workaholic with a reputation for clashing with anyone – even senior intelligence chiefs – who disagreed with her.
“She’s not Miss Congeniality, but that’s not going to find Osama Bin Laden,” a former colleague told the Washington Post.
Another added: “Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks? If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone.”
In the film, Maya is portrayed as a loner who has a “her-against-the-world” attitude and pummels superiors into submission by sheer force of will. CIA colleagues say the film’s depiction of her is spot-on.
If this is the case, then she shows little of the feminine tenderness that serves Carrie Mathison so well in Homeland and which Hollywood usually uses to soften female protagonists like Maya.
Instead, the film shows her happily colluding in the torture by water boarding of an Al Qaeda suspect.
And Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette reported how she had told him she wasn’t in favor of storming the Bin Laden compound but preferred to “just push the easy button and bomb it”. Given that the bombing option would almost certainly have killed the women and children the CIA knew were inside, her comment suggests a cold indifference to “civilian” casualties.
But then the real female agent is hardly your archetypal film heroine. She has reportedly been passed over for promotion since the Bin Laden raid, perhaps adding to her sense of grievance.
Although she was among a handful of CIA staff rewarded over the operation with the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the agency’s highest honor, dozens of other colleagues were given lesser gongs.
Fellow staff say this prompted her anger to boil over: she hit “reply all” to an email announcing the awards and added her own message which – according to one – effectively said: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”
Although colleagues say the intense attention she received from the film-makers has made many of them jealous, they are shocked she was passed over for promotion and merely given a cash bonus for her Bin Laden triumph.
She has also been moved within the CIA, reassigned to a new counter-terrorism role.
Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar as director of the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker, has said it was like being dealt a Royal Flush at poker when she discovered a woman at the heart of the story.
“The juicy thing about Maya was the surprise of it,” she said.
One thing is certain: The emotional cost of her achievement took its toll on her.
Matt Bissonnette recalls seeing her again as he and his comrades got on to a plane back to their main base at Bagram in Afghanistan.
She was sitting on the floor of the plane sobbing, “hugging her legs to her chest in the fetal position”.
Her eyes were “puffy and she seemed to be staring into the distance”. When he tried to reassure her that the mission had been a “100 per cent” success, she simply nodded and started crying again.
He put it down to a mixture of exhaustion and relief for a woman who had, with almost messianic zeal, dedicated her life to hunting down the architect of 9/11.