President Barack Obama once promised, as a U.S. Senator, to honor veterans of the Cold War, who have never received official recognition and are therefore prevented from full participation in many Veterans Day celebrations. But he never fulfilled that promise–neither in the Senate nor the White House–leaving Cold War veterans in the cold.
This weekend, the Wall Street Journal documented the promise, made in 2006 to Frank Almquist, an Illinois constituent who had served in the Army in the 1980s. A medal for Cold War veterans seemed “appropriate,” Obama wrote, and wrote that he hoped “this impasse can be broken soon.” He never took up the task.
The U.S. has thus far failed to honor those who served in the long struggle against communism, which began almost as soon as the Second World War had ended. Though communist regimes–especially Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, and satellites such as Pol Pot’s Cambodia–committed more murders than the Nazis, few Americans are aware of the absolute moral evil that communism represents, or the sacrifices made to stop it.
The fact that the U.S. government has never formally recognized Cold War veterans has meant they have been excluded from veterans’ groups such as the American Legion, which only includes veterans from periods of “hot” wars, regardless of where or how the veterans served. The U-2 pilots who provided essential intelligence; the soldiers who kept watch in Berlin; the sailors who were silent sentinels aboard submarines, tracking Soviet movements, ready to strike–all have gone unheralded, and largely uncelebrated, even on Veterans Day.
It is possible that the reluctance to honor Cold War veterans springs from a political motive. Many on the left opposed the tough line taken against communism by Presidents from Truman to Reagan; many still think of communism as a legitimate alternative economic model that was never given a real chance at success due to western opposition and political failures in implementation. An entire generation of American youth has been educated in the years since the Cold War ended without much idea of how it was fought, by whom, or why.
Editor’s note: Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking Soviet-bloc official ever to defect to the West. In December 1989, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu was executed at the end of a trial whose accusations came almost word-for-word out of Pacepa’s book, “Red Horizons,” subsequently republished in 27 countries.
After President Carter approved his request for political asylum, Pacepa became an American citizen and worked with U.S. intelligence agencies against the former Eastern Bloc. The CIA has praised Pacepa’s cooperation for providing “an important and unique contribution to the United States.”
A few weeks ago I read “America’s Marxist Picnic,” a touching story by WND’s David Kupelian, which illustrates how much the U.S. government hated Marxism a generation ago.
David’s father was one of America’s top rocket scientists, and he became deputy undersecretary of defense for strategic and theater nuclear forces under Ronald Reagan. During the 1970s, however, the U.S. government considered withdrawing his top secret security clearance because some informer had reported that, during his teen years, his mother had attended an Armenian church picnic where a pro-Soviet speaker gave a talk.
That story moved me. My father also worked for America – not as a top rocket scientist, but as service manager of the General Motors affiliate in Romania. Working for America became a crime when the communists took over Romania at the end of WWII and my father was soon killed by the Red Army.
Today the Communist Party is abolished in Romania, which re-became a trustworthy ally of the U.S.. Meanwhile, the formerly cursed Communist Party USA is throwing its full support to the current president of the United States.
I wrote to David. That’s how this interview was born.
A ring of 10 Russian moles right out of a Cold War spy novel was smashed yesterday — and among those busted was a flame-haired, 007-worthy beauty who flitted from high-profile parties to top-secret meetings around Manhattan.
Russian national Anna Chapman — a 28-year-old divorcee with a masters in economics, an online real-estate business, a fancy Financial District apartment and a Victoria’s Secret body — had been passing information to a Russian government official every Wednesday since January, authorities charged.
In one particularly slick spy exchange on St. Patrick’s Day, Chapman pulled a laptop out of a tote bag in a bookstore at Warren and Greenwich streets in the West Village while her handler lurked outside, receiving her message on his own computer, the feds said. A similar exchange occurred at a Midtown coffee shop at 47th Street and 8th Ave.
The FBI claimed the two were corresponding via a secret online network.
Last week, an undercover agent pretending to be a Russian official arranged a meeting to talk about the weekly laptop exchanges, pretending to be ready to send the sexy spy on a mission to deliver a fake passport to another female agent, according to the federal complaint.
“Are you ready for this step?” he asked. “S¤-¤-¤-, yes,” Chapman allegedly gushed.
The undercover instructed her on how she would recognize her fellow spy and how to report back on the handoff, the feds said.
“Haven’t we met in California last summer?” the spy expecting the fake passport was supposed to say. Chapman was to respond, “No, I think it was the Hamptons,” according to the FBI.
Chapman allegedly was also supposed to hold a magazine under her arm so her counterpart would recognize her, and plant a stamp on a wall map indicate the handoff was a success.
It never took place.
Another spy-movie-like maneuver took place in Brooklyn shortly after the meeting with the undercover agent when Chapman darted into a Verizon phone store to buy a cell using the name Irine Kutsov, and an address of “99 Fake Street,” the feds said. She only planned to use the phone to “avoid detection of her conversations,” the FBI alleged.
At her arraignment last night, she was held without bail as federal prosecutor Michael Farbiarz called her a “highly trained agent” and a “practiced deceiver.”
The other suspects, including four middle-aged couples living seemingly ordinary professional lives, were supplied with bogus names and documents and told by Moscow to become “Americanized,” infiltrate “policymaking circles” in the United States and send secrets back to the Kremlin, the feds said.
All allegedly were on deep-cover assignments and schooled in spying tradecraft — from using high-tech methods like digital gadgets to traditional methods like invisible ink, sending encoded radio bursts of data and using innocent-looking “brush-by” encounters to pass documents.
Among the extraordinary allegations detailed in documents filed in Manhattan federal court yesterday:
* A senior Russian spy who used the name Christopher Metsos served as a go-between for agents across the country. He buried cash under five inches of dirt in upstate Wurtsboro that was dug up two years later by a Yonkers couple who were members of the ring.
* Metsos turned over an orange bag of cash to a Russian government official in May 2004 when they passed one another on a stairway at the Forest Hills, Queens, LIRR stop.
Other handovers and meetings between spies occurred in a Fort Greene, Brooklyn, coffee shop, a Sunnyside, Queens, restaurant and a subway entrance at Columbus Circle, the feds said.
* In May 2006, spies based in Boston gave their handlers information about changes at the CIA and about the 2008 presidential election. The information came from a well-connected “former legislative counsel for the US Congress,” they told Moscow.
* The Boston spies also boasted in 2004 that one of their agents had talks with a US nuclear expert about research on bunker-buster warheads.
* A spy in Montclair, NJ, who used the name Cynthia Murphy, told Moscow in February 2009 that she had “several work-related personal meetings” with a prominent New York financier, who was a big campaign fund-raiser and friend of a former Cabinet member.
“Of course, he is a very interesting target,” Moscow replied.
* Her husband, who used the name Richard Murphy, was told last January how he would be able to identify another spy when he traveled to Rome to get a bogus Irish passport.
“Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999?” he was told to ask.
If the contact was legitimate, he would reply, “Yes, indeed I was in La Valetta, but in 2000.”
But if his contact was carrying a copy of Time magazine in his left hand, it was a signal that the meeting was in danger, according to the instructions from Moscow.
“You were sent to USA for long-term service trip,” one message said. “Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and [send] intels.”
The court documents also reveal day-to-day travails of the spy business.
Last March, two of the suspects were watched as they met at a payphone at DeKalb and Vanderbilt avenues in Brooklyn. They went from there to a coffee house for a long chat. One alleged agent complained about the computer Moscow had given him.
“They don’t understand what we go through over here,” he kvetched.
Before they left, one spy gave the other a package believed to contain cash, the feds said.
Moscow Center, the infamous headquarters of Russian intelligence going back decades, closely monitored how much it was spending. In one message, it listed all the expenses for two Boston spies, including $8,500 for rent, $160 for telephone and $180 for a car lease.
The Yonkers spies, meanwhile, struggled financially, and after one of them flew to an unidentified South American country to collect eight bags each packed with $10,000, he used some of it to pay off nearly $8,000 in back taxes to the country and city, the FBI said.
Neighbors of the suspects were stunned.
The two Montclair “Murphys” moved to the neighborhood about a year ago and were described by one neighbor as very normal. “They were suburbia personified,” he said. Near the crowded, book-filled Yonkers home of suspect Vicky Pelaez — an op-ed columnist for El Diario — and another defendant, Juan Lazaro, neighbors were stunned.
One, Ellen Shaffren, said that the couple had lived there 12 to 15 years and that one of their two sons is a piano prodigy.
Shaffren said Lazaro was an economics professor.
Two other defendants, Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills, were arrested at their residence in Arlington, Va.
Mikhail Semenko, was busted Sunday at his home in Arlington.
Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley, were arrested at their Boston residence Sunday.
Outside their home near Harvard Square, local residents said the couple never quite fit in the offbeat neighborhood.
“There was no interaction,” said neighbor Lila Hexner. “Everything was very nondescript.”
Metsos, who apparently was able to enter the United States repeatedly over several year, is not in custody.
Each of the 10 arrested was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison on conviction.
Nine were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors alleged 11 people were spies living secret lives in American communities, from Seattle to Washington D.C., sent years ago to infiltrate U.S. society and glean its secrets.
In an extensive and bizarre affidavit whose details echoed Cold War spy thrillers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed the alleged spies were sent here by the Russian overseas intelligence service known as the SVR — the successor to the Soviet KGB — as early as the mid-1990s, and were provided with training in language as well as the use of codes and ciphers.
Their mission, according to the FBI, was contained in an encrypted 2009 message from Russian handlers in Moscow to one of the defendants that read in part: “You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. — all these serve as one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policy-making circles in U.S. and send Intels [intelligence reports] to” Moscow.
Many details of the alleged plot remained murky late Monday including the main impetus behind the intelligence program.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the U.S. actions are unfounded and pursued “unseemly” goals. It voiced regret that the arrests came even though President Barack Obama has moved to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia.
The U.S. and Russia have sent spies to each other’s countries for decades, even in the 20 years since the Cold War ended. Still, the latest allegations come at a time when relations between the U.S. and Russia have been warming; last week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited Mr. Obama in Washington.
U.S. officials view the arrests as one of the biggest disruptions of a foreign intelligence operation in years. But in an age when data on the U.S. are readily available on search engines such as Google, the spy operation seems to have yielded little of value given some of the elaborate methods deployed.
Several of the alleged agents were paired as couples. They had children and lived the typical lives of American suburbanites in such low-key locations such as Rosslyn and Arlington, Va., and Yonkers, N.Y., according to the FBI affidavits. Some reported making contacts with government officials and with an unnamed financier who funded both major political parties.
They used coffee shops, bookstores and street corners to contact handlers, according to the FBI. In January, FBI agents watched as one of the defendants sat with her laptop in a coffee shop in Manhattan waiting for a Russian agent to drive by in a minivan. The agents were monitoring when the Russian agents in the shop and those in the minivan linked their paired computers to communicate.
The FBI alleged that the group communicated with Russian handlers using sophisticated techniques. Some operating in New York used encrypted computers linked via private computer networks to communicate only with specific computers with which they were paired, the FBI said. Others living in New Jersey and Boston used a technique called steganography, in which SVR handlers embedded messages into images on publicly available websites, the FBI said.
Others allegedly posted in Seattle and Boston used radiograms, or coded bursts of data sent by radio transmitters, to communicate, according to the FBI.