FBI informant aroused concerns of alleged Russian spyhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/
An anxious June 26 phone call from Russian spy Anna Chapman to her father, a KGB veteran working in Moscow's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Obama administration to hasten the arrests the next day of Chapman and nine other "illegals" in the United States, according to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence sources.
In the call to Moscow, apparently monitored by the United States, the 28-year-old Chapman voiced suspicions that she might have been discovered.
Planning had begun earlier in mid-June to arrest the four couples whom had been under close FBI surveillance for years, plus Chapman and a second new Russian "illegal," Mikhail Semenov, who had only been in the U.S. for months. Part of the plan involved getting Chapman and Semenov to undertake acts, at the suggestion of FBI informants, that would enable them to be indicted for more than just carrying on secret communications with Russian officials.
Chapman's call to Moscow, after her troubling meeting with the FBI informant, came on the eve of a scheduled trip by one of the other Russian illegals, Richard Murphy. He was to leave for Moscow the next day to have consultations with his superiors at Moscow Center, headquarters of the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence agency.
The FBI knew Murphy's travel plans would take him first to France and then to Russia, and the agency had followed him on a similar trip to Moscow last March. Buthis FBI monitors feared that the SVR, alerted by Chapman's call, might not allow him to return. They also worried the SVR could alert the other illegals in the U.S. to flee the country or seek shelter in Russian diplomatic missions.
On Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder described the situation this way on CBS's Face The Nation: "The husband of one of the couples was in the process of going to France and then on his way to Russia, and the concern was that, if we let him go, we would not be able to get him back." He did not mention that Chapman phone call. Instead he said: "There were operational concerns that if we did not act at that point, the possibility existed that we would not be able to break up the ring in the totality in the way that we have now."
At at White House briefing Friday, a senior administration official was asked specifically about the Chapman phone call and responded that he would not comment on "operational activities."
In Chapman's case, the FBI informant aroused her concerns for several reasons. His initial phone call came on Saturday, June 26, when he asked her to come to New York City from Connecticut, where she was spending the weekend. Her meetings up to then were on Wednesdays and were not face-to-face. They were solely to pass information via encrypted private computer networks.
The FBI informant identified himself in the phone call as a Russian she knew as a superior, but when she met him he turned out not to be that person, according to a person familiar with her case. Her concerns deepened when "Roman," the name the informant used, asked her to take on a task that went beyond what she expected from her bosses at Moscow Center -- a face-to-face transfer of a fake passport to another Russian "illegal."
After the meeting, Chapman bought a new cellphone and two calling cards for international calls. She made two calls, one to her father in Moscow and another to a friend in New York. Both told her not to go through with the proposed transfer.
Her father, Vasily Kushchenko, served in Kenya and currently has a senior position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according the newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda. He also had KGB experience, according to U.S. intelligence sources. He told her to take the fake passport to the New York City police.
About 1 p.m. on the afternoon of June 27, Chapman went to the 1st Precinct in Lower Manhattan, turned in the passport and told the police what had occurred. The police called the FBI; when the FBI arrived a few hours later, they asked a few questions and then put her under arrest.
Mikhail Semenov, the other recently arrived "illegal," first appearsunder surveillance on June 5 when he sat in a restaurant and used a computer to send encrypted messages whilea car with Russian diplomatic license plates was parked in the restaurant's parking lot, according to court papers. The car, which remained in the lot for about 20 minutes, was said to have been driven by Russian official who in 2004 was involved in a money transfer for other "illegals."
On June 26, Semenov agreed to an evening meeting with another FBI informant who posed as a Russian government official. The FBI informant successfully convinced him to take $5,000 and hide it the next morning at an Arlington Va. park . The FBI had installed video cameras covering the drop site and at approximately 11:06 a.m. the camera recorded Semenko delivering the money, hidden in an envelope in the newspaper. He was arrested shortly thereafter.