MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia warned the United States in 2011 to stop trying to recruit its security agents as spies and expelled a CIA operative in January this year after Washington ignored the warning, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday.
Russia kept the expulsion in January quiet but went public this week when it detained Ryan Fogle, a U.S. diplomat it says was a spy, because it was fed up with the United States ignoring its concerns, FSB spokesman Nikolai Zakharov said.
“The CIA crossed a red line and we were forced to react,” Zakharov said in a written response to questions from Reuters.
In the biggest spy scandal between the former Cold War foes in three years, the FSB said on Tuesday that Fogle had been caught red-handed trying to recruit a Russian security officer as a CIA agent. He was ordered to leave Russia.
The FSB played up the capture, providing television stations with footage of the American being detained in a blond wig and pinned to the ground, as well as pictures of disguises, a wad of cash and a letter offering a target up to 1 million euro a year.
It could hardly have come at a worse time, days after Russia and the United States announced plans to organize an international conference to seek an end to Syria’s civil war and cooperate more on counterterrorism after the Boston bombings.
Senior Russian and U.S. officials have signaled they do not want the scandal to scuttle attempts to improve strained ties, but by publicizing it Moscow has tried to make the point that it is the United States that risks torpedoing those efforts.
In October 2011, the FSB officially warned the CIA station chief in Moscow “that if provocative recruitment efforts aimed at Russian security service employees continued, the FSB would take ‘mirror’ measures,” Zakharov said.
He said the FSB had named Russian officers who had been targeted and the CIA operatives who had approached them, adding that the U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had been “made aware of this issue”.
“The CIA did not take our concern over the situation into account” and continued its recruitment efforts, he said.
He said that last December, an American diplomat - like Fogle, a third secretary at the U.S. embassy in Moscow - had been caught trying to recruit a Russian agent, and had left the country on January 15 after being declared persona non grata.
He identified the American as Benjamin Dillon. Both Fogle and Dillon are listed as third secretaries at the U.S. embassy in the autumn-winter 2012-13 edition of a directory of foreign diplomatic, media and business offices in Moscow.
The U.S. embassy declined to comment on whether an employee was expelled in January. The FSB said it had information indicating Fogle worked for the CIA when he arrived in Russia in April 2011.
“In the hope that the CIA leadership would draw the necessary conclusions, we did not make this case public. But apparently the adherence by the FSB to the principles of professional ethics were not properly appreciated.”
The FSB response to the query from Reuters confirmed and elaborated on statements made by a man shown in silhouette on Russian television and identified as an FSB employee.
Editing by Mark Heinrich