WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If Hollywood needs help turning the 2010 U.S.-Russian spy scandal into a movie, the FBI on Monday released surveillance videos that could guide the script: femme fatale Anna Chapman and other agents meeting, doing a brush pass and leaving items at a drop site.
Ten Russian spies spent years in the United States trying to blend into American society in an apparent bid to get close to power brokers and learn secrets. But the FBI said no classified information was stolen.
The FBI released 10 videos, including some of Chapman wandering through a New York department store where she was apparently secretly transmitting information to a nearby Russian government official over a wireless network.
Other videos showed the spies meeting around New York City, doing a brush pass in a train station and picking up and leaving items at drop sites in Virginia and New York.
The bureau released one video of an FBI agent posing as a Russian consulate employee meeting with Chapman at a downtown New York coffee shop in late June 2010, a meeting that may have spooked her into thinking authorities had penetrated the ring.
An hour later she bought a new cell phone under a fake name and the next day she failed to show up at another meeting with the undercover agent. That led U.S. authorities to move in and arrest all the Russian spies.
“The Russian government spent significant funds and many years training and deploying these operatives,” an unidentified FBI counterintelligence agent from the case said in a statement. “No government does that without expecting a return on its investment.”
In a Cold War-style swap, U.S. authorities in July 2010 exchanged the Russian spies for four Russians who were imprisoned on charges of spying for the West.
The scandal came at a tough time for U.S.-Russian relations as President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were trying to improve ties.
One video the FBI released harked back to one of the biggest spy scandals in U.S. history, when FBI agent Robert Hanssen used drop sites in the woods to pass secrets to the Russians, a huge embarrassment because so much secret information was given to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The FBI on Monday released a video of one of the Russian spies, Mikhail Semenko, trying to hide material at a drop site underneath a footbridge in a park outside Washington.
Other footage showed one of the Russian spy ringleaders, Christopher Metsos, doing a brush pass at a train station in Queens, New York, to receive a shopping bag filled with money from an official from the Russian mission in May 2004.
He later buried some of the money in rural New York, according to the criminal complaint that was filed against them. The bureau also released video of another member of the spy ring digging up the money two years later.
Hundreds of heavily redacted documents from the investigation were also released by the FBI. Some of that information, now deemed too sensitive to be made public, will be declassified no sooner than 2032, the agency said.
The videos and documents can be found here: here
Editing by Xavier Briand