Alleged Russian spy worked at US' Moscow mission for a decade: Reports

A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow, on March 27, 2018.
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow, on March 27, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • A suspected Russian spy worked at the US Embassy in Moscow for a decade before being quietly dismissed last year, according to reports.

The woman, a Russian national, was hired by the US Secret Service and came under suspicion following a routine security sweep carried out by the State Department, according to sources quoted by the Guardian, which broke the story on Thursday, and CNN.

The probe found she was having regular unauthorised meetings with the main Russian intelligence agency, the FSB.

"We figure that all of them are talking to the FSB, but she was giving them way more information than she should have," an official told CNN.

The woman had access to the Secret Service's Intranet and e-mail systems, the reports said, giving her a window into potentially sensitive data, including the schedules of the US President and Vice-President.

But "she did not have access to highly classified information", the source told CNN.

"We knew it was happening and it was just a process of playing it out and giving her specific information that we saw her give back to the FSB," a senior US administration official said.

The Guardian, meanwhile, reported the Secret Service attempted to contain the embarrassment by letting her go when Russia ordered the removal of 750 personnel from the American embassy during a diplomatic spat that followed allegations of Moscow's interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

"The Secret Service is trying to hide the breach by firing (her)," a source told the British newspaper.

"The damage was already done, but the senior management of the Secret Service did not conduct any internal investigation to assess the damage and to see if (she) recruited any other employees to provide her with more information."

The US State Department told Agence France-Presse it was looking into the report, but does not comment on intelligence matters.

The Guardian said the potential breach was not reported to any of the congressional intelligence or oversight committees.

According to a source: "A government committee needs to investigate the Secret Service for hiding this breach."

Ties between the United States and Russia have been particularly fraught since the election of Mr Donald Trump, despite the President's personal warmth with his counterpart Vladimir Putin.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2018, with the headline 'Alleged Russian spy worked at US' Moscow mission for a decade: Reports'. Print Edition | Subscribe