U.S., Russia exchange spies

By Bill Gertz and Benjamin Birnbaum, The Washington Times

The United States and Russia carried out a major spy exchange on Thursday, echoing the past era of Cold War espionage as 10 deep-cover Russian agents who were recently arrested by the FBI were exchanged for four people held by Moscow on spy charges.

The spy swap was the largest prisoner transfer of its kind since the 1980s, when U.S. and Soviet bloc spies and agents were traded over Berlin’s Glienicke Bridge separating the American sector of West Berlin from communist East Germany.

The Justice Department announced the trade in a statement, saying the 10 Russian agents – all but one a Russian national – had pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy to work as unregistered foreign agents. They were then ordered by a judge to be expelled from the country.

The deal came 12 days after the FBI rolled up a decade-long investigation by arresting the group of agents, called “illegals” because they posed as Americans and did not work under diplomatic immunity.

Court papers said the agents had been dispatched by Moscow to obtain U.S. secrets and to influence the U.S. government while posing as Americans in Washington, New York and Boston.

The spies were working for Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known by its Russian acronym SVR – the successor to the Soviet KGB political police and intelligence service.

A senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters on the swap would not say when or where the actual transfer would take place but indicated it will be concluded over the next several days.

“We drove the terms of this arrangement,” the senior official said, noting that law enforcement officials were mainly involved in the discussions.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/8/us-russia-exchange-spies/

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