Children of Spies

Fascinating story of Tim and Alex Foley, the children of Russian spies Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley.

Posted on May 10, 2016 at 6:15 AM • 20 Comments

Comments

Artificial SunMay 10, 2016 9:00 AM

Yeah, you'll see that often in years to come.

Welcome, Cold War II.

jonMay 10, 2016 11:00 AM

The story read like a movie script. Maybe, Salt, without all the action sequences.

But it makes me wonder what, if any, value USSR/Russia managed to obtain for all of this extremely elaborate, time consuming, and expensive effort?

albertMay 10, 2016 11:16 AM

@jon,

"...But it makes me wonder what, if any, value USSR/Russia managed to obtain for all of this extremely elaborate, time consuming, and expensive effort?..."

Lessons they'll have to re-learn all over again?

. .. . .. --- ....

Miguel SanchezMay 10, 2016 4:53 PM

@comments above

Working from public sources...

This would seem to have been the last of the deep cover Russian spies. A managing agent in NY defected, and gave them all up. It seems unlikely that he was not aware of any others.

The most damaging, from public sources, was an European spy who at the least had a major agent working for him in an eastern european government by the black sea. He was also in NATO. [Which has long been swiss cheese, but he did get some very valuable and damaging information.]

That the US did not disclose anything truly damaging that any of them did, does not mean there was nothing truly damaging done. [As there may be ongoing investigations, and other operations.]

But, as at least one of the spy's friends (victims?) had pointed out, 'he would have gotten much more from me, had he just come as a representative of the Russian government'.

Nothing like "the Americans" [the tv show]. Although, during the Cold War, there was some activity like some of what transpires on that show. In the forties and fifties.

Miguel SanchezMay 10, 2016 5:07 PM

Fascinating story, and interesting to see a bit more come out of it. Sources for the background on these matters is sparse.

Besides the major articles, "Deception", a book on the [general] subject, delved into some of the matters well.

One of the more amusing sources I have come across was a
"Who the Bleep did I date" episode which had Anna Chapman and a boyfriend of hers depicted.


If anything, it seems this likely has killed the whole possible scary thing of these often highly trained and highly capable agents... who... end up... really not providing much product... at all.


The article does state 'no one but Russia has such a system', but this is unlikely true. China MSS, for instance, has been on record for noting they have "tens of thousands of undercover officers" overseas. ("Tiger Trap"). A few asian countries have sent spies here, albeit the only cases I have heard of have been when there is an agent who has hidden agendas and beliefs.

North Korea certainly has a sleeper/deep cover program.

This manner of spying is in line with the philosophy of spying as proposed by the art of war.


It certainly is a strong model, contrasted against the 'agent/informant model' sort of model the West tends to rely on. It is strong contrasted to using temporary contractors.

"Salt", had some truth to it, but training spies from childhood just does not provably happen these days.

A two year program hardly suffices for such daunting work, even if one is working with talent to begin with.

Removing an accent requires either second gen, or better, or simply entirely immersive language training BEFORE the late teens. Which is the time when accents set in. [Strong acting voice training, of course, can remove accents, afterwards.]


It was interesting to note the article pointed out their legends could not withstand the scrutiny a government job would provide.


So, pretty much of everything presented in fictional media is entirely fiction. People are simply human beings, not super spies. They are incapable of being master actors, impossible quick studies, expert grifters, and, lol, highly trained in deadly martial arts, lol.

Instead, regular folks with bad accents, who certainly have lived very unusual and interesting lives, but who really don't ever find themselves out of the dark in regards to the secrets of their host country.


And, if anything, the 2010 busts should show, there is not only not a Cold War II, but the age of the deep cover "sleeper" agent never was.

The assassins of old, by far, are the most scary.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassins


And whatever death spies Sun Tzu was talking about...

Secret PrivateMay 11, 2016 5:48 AM

What I find obscene is the treatment of the children.

It's one thing to plant deep cover spies; it's another thing entirely to treat people as objects and happily raised kids for 20 years living a lie. How can they ever trust their parents again?

Of course, this is the nature of Russia and Russian history, to treat people so.

I'm also profoundly disturbed by the behaviour of the Canadian Government, in that it revoked their citizenship. These kids have had nothing to do with what happened, and are wholly innocent - and now they've been expelled to Russia. This is not ethical.

This of course is the nature of Government. It is fundamentally unable to care for it runs by its rules, but the rules it runs by are massively unable to deal with the actual complexity of life and the situations which arise.

Miguel SanchezMay 11, 2016 10:38 AM

@Secret Private

As even the cia source on the article pointed out, this deception of children (and spouses), is common in intelligence. (In some areas of it.)

Parents keep a lot from kids.

Sex is a big one. No santa claus. Ins and outs of their personal lives. Their work, even if it is mundane. What they did in high school and college. Sex. Parents keep the realities of sex from kids until they are puberty.


This sort of deception is a bigger deal. But that just means there is more for a person to wrap their minds around. It is just difficult to understand, initially, intellectually and emotionally.


I do not think, however, his parents were anything but very honorable spies who served their countries best interests.

That is a lot to be proud of.

Very accomplished folks. Even if on the other side of the courts.


Canada... has a long history, of Russia using them to get to the US. So, their reaction is certainly no surprise. It sucks. But, it is difficult to blame them, especially if one considers just how many times foreign intelligence (Russia, China, Iran have all done this to them) have made them look bad and taken their own secrets.


Nobody is in prison, everybody is going ahead with a full life.


I do believe the kid was lying about not knowing, I will state. It is certainly strange for the FBI to get that wrong. And he does have motive: he has admitted he depends on his old friends still for approval, support, and joy.

Would any of them keep him as a friend if they knew he was also deceiving them?

Yet, if he was deceiving them? So what? It is his own personal life.

Asking them to understand that without ever having had to deal with such daunting challenges, would be too much.

Miguel SanchezMay 11, 2016 12:51 PM

From the article:

Way back in 2001, nearly a decade before her arrest, the FBI had searched a safe-deposit box belonging to Tracey Foley. There they found photographs of her in her 20s, one of which bore the Cyrillic imprint of the Soviet company that had printed it. The family home had been bugged, possibly for many years. The FBI knew the couple’s real identities, even if their own children did not, but the Americans preferred to keep an eye on the Russian spy ring, rather than make a move.
Little did he know. Bezrukov and Vavilova had been put under FBI surveillance soon after they moved to the US, probably because of a mole in the Russian agency.

The story came out in 2010. Was the mole really turned that far back? Maybe, maybe not. But, what is important is the scenario:

Individual with no visible corporate nor governmental protection targeted for extensive, continuous, year after year, surveillance.


This is how a lot of people are evaluating their own threat. If you were to ask them, they believe, effectively, that the US Government is as likely to do to them, as they did to these long term, deep cover spies.

Rational? No. But fear is not rational.

NBC*003059925May 11, 2016 6:51 PM

Mr. Sanchez, re "extensive, continuous, year after year, surveillance,"

Rational, no? If FBI thinks they can force you to serve them as an informant or provocateur - or frame you for a government attack on the civilian population, as in the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev -

http://whowhatwhy.org/2016/05/11/tamerlan-tsarnaevs-immigration-records-reveal-fbi-bombshell/

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/About%20Us/Electronic%20Reading%20Room/A-Files%20of%20Interest%20-%20Static%20Files/Tamerlan_Tsarnaev.pdf#page=227

Then of course the FBI's a threat to you. FBI is watching you now.

Or, if you get in the way of the FBI when they're concealing a crime that CIA committed,

http://thehill.com/video/in-the-news/279214-dem-fbi-strong-armed-former-senator-on-9-11-pages

Then of course the FBI's a threat to you. They'll surveil you. They will kill you. Whatever it takes to conceal the crime of state.

Miguel SanchezMay 11, 2016 9:04 PM

@NBC*003059925

Mr. Sanchez, re "extensive, continuous, year after year, surveillance,"Rational, no? If FBI thinks they can force you to serve them as an informant or provocateur - or frame you for a government attack on the civilian population, as in the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Then of course the FBI's a threat to you. FBI is watching you now.
Or, if you get in the way of the FBI when they're concealing a crime that CIA committed

Great "case in point".

So, first of all, for all you know I am CIA or FBI. So scratch off your list me getting scared of being turned into an "agent provocateur".

This, then, leaves you.

Do you seriously believe you are under 24/7 surveillance by the FBI?

I really do not think you do.

Hard question, so I do not expect an answer, but I am curious. What is it like? What is your OPSEC, taking the assumption you are always under surveillance?

I mean, you are clearly studying stuff that you would not feel comfortable studying in a FBI office. So, that alone says you believe you have privacy.

And that you do not really believe you are under any surveillance, at all.

Also, why would you be turned into an informant, or any of your friends? To inform on what? You in a murder for fun club or something?

You do realize that getting anyone to turn informant is trivial, don't you? Because they want informants among criminals. And criminals generally commit crimes. So, they bust them on the crime, turn them, then run them.

Baseline: they are committing crimes. So are the people they know. Therefore, the danger of informants.


For the record, not FBI nor CIA. An informant is not the guy or gal who comes to you and breaks rapport with you telling you what you do not want to hear.

Their job is to build trust with you, all the time, more the better. Which means telling you what you want to hear.

They are not going to be some stranger who disagrees with you online.

They are going to be the one you consider your best friend or even your mentor or disciple.


dfdfMay 12, 2016 4:26 AM

Good thing about informants/agents is that once they turned - its hard for them to actually commit crime.
Good for criminals.

NBC*003059925May 12, 2016 7:53 AM

Mr. Sanchez, in your intriguing but somewhat discursive reply there are certain elements of confusion about how the state actually works.

First, FBI and so-called law enforcement want informants among colorable criminals, of course. Also among dissidents. Also among identifiable associations of almost any sort (vegans, funk parades, crews.) Also among law-abiding immigrants from countries of interest to CIA. Law enforcement is repressive capacity of the state, full stop.

Second, you emphasize rapport, but you greatly underestimate the importance of coercion in FBI and undercover recruitment. Learn more about that poor framed bastard Tam Tsarnaev.

Third, as for 24/7 surveillance, it is documented fact that NSA collects it all and has recently expanded FBI access to their take, and FBI in turn is disseminating warrantless surveillance methods to local gumshoes. Everyone is under 24/7 surveillance in breach of the supreme law of the land. Use of surveillance for your personal destruction is provisionally held in abeyance until you come to the attention of a government asshole.

Tamerlan TsarnaevMay 12, 2016 11:36 AM

@NBC*003059925
Second, you emphasize rapport, but you greatly underestimate the importance of coercion in FBI and undercover recruitment. Learn more about that poor framed bastard Tam Tsarnaev.
So, why they framed me? For what purpose? Explain it all, conspiracy theorist!

Slime Mold with MustardMay 12, 2016 2:13 PM

@ Miguel Sanchez

RE: "extensive, continuous, year after year, surveillance,"

Sir;

The FBI would keep a known or suspected agent under surveillance for nearly a decade because they are seeking; to reveal additional foreign agents whom the suspect contacts, to keep current on Russian tradecraft, and, by analysis of their targeting, Russian priorities. Their espionage strengths and weaknesses are likely to be revealed. To wit: If "Tracey Foley" reports to the SVR that a weapons designer from Northrup Grumman has taken a romantic interest in her, and her superiors tell her to avoid the fellow, the US Intelligence Community must find out why the Russians already seem to know the specifications of the B-21 Bomber. Alternately, if they instruct her discover every detail of Hillary Clinton's coughing fits, the post-modern oligarchs likely have no sources close to the former Secretary/current candidate.

Illegal networks have extensive support apparatus - people who rent safe houses and cars, procure documents, and pass messages. The further this activity is from any diplomat, the less likely to be discovered.

@Tamerlan Tsarnaev
This site attracts its share of loons and trolls. Some probably consider me one, the other, or both.

Tamerlan TsarnaevMay 12, 2016 4:28 PM

Oh yeah, right, now I remember. I totally forgot when that fake FBI guy blew that big hole in me (and also in that cop Donohue, Collins' buddy - go figure!) Now it's all coming back...

http://whowhatwhy.org/category/boston-marathon-bombing/

FBI came and leaned on me with all kind of bullshit charges hanging over my head, then blamed me for whacking Mess. They made me dress up like friggin Rudolph Valentino with eye makeup and hair oil and act like whatever kind of dumbshit jihadi it is that can't shut up about it even for ten seconds straight. When I couldn't find any wannabe terrorists stupid enough to join up with a loudmouthed moron, then FBI just yelled, LOOK, A JIHADI!!! when CIA blew up that little toy cherry bomb and hoked up that hilariously phoney wheelchair American flag photo op with Arredondo and dismembered Bauman looking somewhat bummed and going Ouch.

I saw it all coming. I bitched about it to my buddy Todashev so FBI blew his brains out and deported everybody he knows. Russian intel has me and my asshole dipshit handlers at corny cloak-&-dagger meets in scenic locales, plate numbers, MAC IDs, and all. Should be funny when they let fly with it.

Worst of all, since I didn't do it I don't even get any virgins.

Miguel SanchezMay 12, 2016 9:01 PM

@Slime Mold with Mustard

I can imagine.

@NBC*003059925

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.


Miguel SanchezMay 13, 2016 3:01 PM

@Slime Mold with Mustard

Longer response.

And there are a lot of reasons beyond just those you mentioned to put foreign agents under continuous surveillance. You are obviously getting from that really high quality material. That provides substantial value.

Not sure how it works with CIA or FBI, but in corporate security, you want to have high quality material. You do not want, for instance, foreign intelligence APT to go undetected on your network.

That value justifies the resources.

But, what value is anyone going to get from putting such expensive resources on meaningless targets.

Such wastes of expenditures can get people fired, teams fired, managers reassigned, budgets lost... there are many worst case scenarios: super massive public backlash which destroys the credibility of the entire organization is one.

Like what COINTELPRO did, or Hoover working with Mafia, or blackmailing politicians.

Ironic the slogan back then was "Don't embarrass the FBI", with a strong emphasis on such "important" details as "suit and tie"... when the unspeakable dreadnought of embarrassment for that entire time period Hoover ultimately supplied in spades.

Conclusion: Probably the FBI is a lot better today at striving to provide meaningful surveillance targets.

Major Caveat: Like many, I believe the justice system is pretty screwed up, here, and everywhere else. With some notable European countries ahead of the curve, but even most European countries are not. A very major part of this is well known. Jails are full of drug users who get worse by going there. They need help, not jail.

Meanwhile, the systems are over crowded, and real violent offenders get out, so that mere drug users will have room.

And, for those above the lower classes, their lives can suck bad enough to rely on drugs, too. But, they have legal, albeit dubious options.

So, this caveat does remind us that the modern judicial system is still just a little bit away from caveman times. I am very sure the future generations will condemn this barbaric behavior. It is certainly worse in totalitarian countries, however. Though, per capita jailed up, the US is right up there with China. :/

That is an extremely shameful place to be.


Miguel SanchezMay 13, 2016 3:45 PM

@NBC*003059925

Longer response.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

You are not helping anything here, because you are mixing up well proven facts about vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system with innuendo and wildly speculative conspiracy theories.

None of your 'closer to accurate' or 'closer to substantiated' claims are presented fairly.

And you mix in those half truths with the outrageously improbable theory that the Boston Bombers were really working for the FBI.

The burden of proof is on you, on that.

I do not think these obscure sites you posted are substantial news sites that are likely to cover solid stories.

While the "MSM" does not cover every big story - some are classified, some are incomprehesible to their audience, some have no bearing their audience can use - they certainly have covered major news stories, where those stories have strong substantiation.


But, some points.

- There are certainly a lot of foreign spies likely to be working within the US. A number of these organizations do work, unfortunately, among first generation immigrant communities. The range and number of nations spying against the US is quite large. You have China, France, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and many other countries. "Friend", "ally", "frenemy", and in every manner of category.

The US leads in technological innovation and market production. The US also leads in intelligence and military. And US actions can severely hurt other nations, even if unintentionally. So, there are a lot of reasons for countries to send spies here.

Not investigating those spies would be a dereliction of duty, and a very substantial and embarrassing one, when found out.

They are always, ultimately, found out.

- It is extremely unlikely the US is surveilling Vegan groups 'because they are vegan', but certainly there is likely surveillance of far left wing groups who have heavy vegan supporting members and also have offshoots which are potentially violent.

Such groups are in an extreme minority of the population.

This same statement applies to these other categories.

Anything is possible, but not everything is likely. And surveilling vegan groups because they are vegan as a highly absurd claim to make.

- Domestic surveillance. You mention this briefly, claiming "this means everyone is under house arrest", "under 24/7 continuous surveillance". This is a dishonest response. First of all, the "MSM" well has covered and continues to cover domestic surveillance problems. So you are relying on the "MSM" to provide you that information, you clearly believe them, so you do support and acknowledge they cover the big stories.

This would be like saying because Google has a lot of data on people, that therefore, Google is putting the whole world under 24/7 surveillance.

Where 24/7 surveillance was defined by these Russian spies and the surveillance the FBI put on them.

Which means bugs, video and audio, through the whole house. Front yard, back yard. GPS trackers on cars. Work bugged. Associates investigated. Aerial surveillance. Total communications surveillance. No phone gone without being listened to. Agents infiltrating social networks. And so on.

That costs money. That costs manpower. A really large amount of money and a really lot of manpower.

- You actually might be under that level of surveillance. Why? Because you support, heavily, a terrorist. Even more then that, you support the theory, very strongly, that you believe the federal government is engaging in domestic terrorism. You are an activist who believes that you need to get out this message. You believe change happens by getting out that message.

But, this is your choice.

You have chosen to believe this, because it matches your preferences. And, it reveals that your preferences holds a high level of hatred against the US Government. High enough that you are eagerly willing to believe - despite lack of corroborating evidence - that the US Government set up and implemented the Boston Bombing attack.

Your preferences also show a lot of love for people who do commit terrorism against innocent civilians in the US.

So, you believe what you believe, because of your preferences. Your loves and hates, your likes and dislikes.

This is very different from being critical about the government, or supporting stances some agencies of the government are opposed to -- or anything like that.

If the conspiracy theory you believed had strong, corroborating evidence, then your preferences would not be so boldly revealed for all to see. But, it does not.


That said, I am operating by the default assumption, that this is not what you believe, but an act. With the intention of getting people to click on sites which you control.

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