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FBI releases new video of Russian spy Anna Chapman

October 31, 2011 | 11:46 am


Anna Chapman, now a television star and sometime lingerie model in her native Russia, was the face of the biggest spy swap since the Cold War when she and nine others were arrested in June 2010. On Monday, the FBI released a trove of videos and documents about Chapman and others.

In one, a woman in her late 20s with reddish hair and sporting big sunglasses walks into a New York City coffee shop, takes  a seat and pulls out a laptop computer.  She leans forward to talk to her companion and briefly flashes the smile that turned her into an international sensation.

The agency said it released the videos and documents in response to a Freedom of Information request.

“The arrests of 10 Russian spies last year provided a chilling reminder that espionage on U.S. soil did not disappear when the Cold War ended,” the agency said in an accompanying statement. “The highly publicized case also offered a rare glimpse into the sensitive world of counterintelligence and the FBI’s efforts to safeguard the nation from those who would steal our vital secrets.”

The agency said its investigation into Chapman and others working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) went on for more than decade. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Ghost Stories.”

The tapes show Chapman shopping in Macy’s at Herald Square. Additional photos and video show other conspirators burying money in a weed patch, handing off documents or meeting at Columbus Circle. The group was a collection of what is known as illegals because they took civilian jobs rather than working from the Russian Embassy. In general, they seemed to live quiet middle-class lives while burrowing into U.S. society to cultivate contacts.

“Although the SVR ‘illegals,’ as they were called, never got their hands on any classified documents, their intent from the start was serious, well-funded by the SVR, and far-ranging," the FBI said.

“The deep-cover Russian spies may not have achieved their objective, but they were not idle. They collected information and transmitted it back to Russia, and they were actively engaged in what is known in the spy business as ‘spotting and assessing.’ They identified colleagues, friends, and others who might be vulnerable targets, and it is possible they were seeking to co-opt people they encountered in the academic environment who might one day hold positions of power and influence,” according to the FBI.

The suspects were arrested  June 27, 2010. Within days, they pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to serve as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the U.S. and were deported. The agents were swapped for four Russians imprisoned for spying for the West.

Chapman drew so much interest that Jay Leno, interviewing Vice President Joe Biden, asked: "Do we have any spies that hot?" Replied Biden: "It was not my idea to send her back."

After her deportation to Russia, Chapman launched her career as recovering spy celebrity.


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Photo: Anna Chapman,  who was deported from the United States on charges of espionage, helps display a creation by Russian designers Shiyan & Rudkovskaya during a fashion week in Moscow. Credit: Dimitry Korobeynikov / Associated Press