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What It's Like To Be A Russian Spy Undercover In The US In 2010

“You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house – all these serve one goal: fulfil your main mission…to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intels to [Center] .”

That was the exact order given to 11 individuals who had been living in the US as deep cover spies for Russia’s SVR, the modern day successor to the Soviet KGB, according to the Justice Department, who charged them yesterday.

The Times published the full criminal complaint, which outlines the operation in great detail. At times, it’s gripping Cold War-throwback espionage, all surreptitious meetings and transmitting reports over encrypted wireless networks.

At others, it’s all bizarrely banal. The spies met in bookstores and lived cookie cutter suburban lives, summed up tidily in this quote from a neighbour of two of the accused: “They couldn’t have been spies…Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

On one hand, it’s kind of exciting to know there’s still covert spy operations going on around us everyday. On the other, it’s profoundly depressing to think that those spies are swilling Starbucks and perusing Barnes & Noble – maybe to fit in, or maybe just because. [NYTimes 1, NYTimes 2 - Thanks Mike!]

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