Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Russian spies in our midst? Really?

It’s hard to know what to make of the Russian spy case, other than it panders to the paranoid fantasies of the early 1960s, the days around the Cuban Missile Crisis. A story on p A7 of The Washington Post today June 30 by Greg Miller and Philip P. Pan goes “Alleged spy ring seen as ‘throwback to the Cold War’; Experts say reported methods don’t speak well for KGB successor”, link here.

Indeed, other accounts of the “spies” suggest that they weren’t trying to pick up “classified information” or were even engaging in criminal activity like identity theft; they seemed to be looking for Starbucks scuttlebutt and debutante parties. Maybe they cared about what was in local community newspapers, maybe even what blogs like this were saying (well they can access those from Russia).

So it’s a mystery what they wanted to achieve, something like world mercantilistic domination like that of the Brits in the 17th Century? They hardly seemed to be trying to rule the world.

Nevertheless, the antics of the suspects are bizarre, sening info by wireless to wardriving trucks nearby, and using steganography, burying hidden content in harmless images, an activity that was increasingly feared after 9/11.
I had an office mate in New York City back in the 1970s with ancestors from the Ukraine, who pounced on Gerald Ford for his misstatement about "pinko" Communism in Eastern Europe then.

I do recall getting a bizarre email in November 2002 with an embedded map of Russia with many locations marked. I wondered if these were locations of nuclear fuel and sent it on to the Minneapolis FBI. Never heard a thing. The most critical problem with Russia today is to police up all the loose nuclear and biological waste in Russia and the former Soviet republics.

Still, the Russian spy caper sounds like something less than Alfred Hitchcocl's "Topaz" or "Torn Curtain".

No comments: