By William Tucker
Chief Correspondent for In Homeland Security
The FBI filed a federal complaint in New York court Jan. 26 alleging that Evgeny Buryakov, a banker in a New York City office of Vnesheconombank, is actually an asset of the Russian SVR.
The FBI charges that Buryakov was operating under “deep cover” and was using his position to gather intelligence for Moscow. Two other men – named as Victor Podobnyy and Igor Sporyshev – were also listed in the federal complaint as co-conspirators.
Early reports suggest that Podobnyy was a Russian official at the Russian mission to the U.N. in New York. Business Insider quotes Assistant Attorney General John Carlin as saying, “The attempt by foreign nations to illegally gather economic and other intelligence information in the United States through covert agents is a direct threat to the national security of the United States, and it exemplifies why counterespionage is a top priority of the National Security Division.”
Counterespionage, or more broadly counterintelligence, has become a national priority for the intelligence community in the last decade, but implementing the processes to disrupt foreign intelligence operation on U.S. soil has been slow going. However, in many cases, the FBI has done an exemplary job in disrupting these types of foreign operations.
The problems transcend disruption and arrest, and need additional focus on the private sector and offensive operations as a result of uncovering a foreign operation. As for the private sector, economic espionage has targeted everything from commercial paint manufacturing, building insulation and naturally, the U.S. defense industrial base. The U.S. economy is so large and dominate that it is simply far less expensive for a foreign nation to use its intelligence apparatus to steal sensitive information. It’s important to remember that espionage isn’t always about targeting classified government information.
Offensive operations are difficult, yet vital, aspects of an effective counterintelligence effort. Basically, counterintelligence operations are special operations in which a foreign intelligence operative or operation is exploited and turned on the originating foreign intelligence agency. Efforts such as disinformation, turning captured spies and recruiting defectors are all some of the more common tools in the counterintelligence toolbox, but these tools must be used more aggressively. As someone who has worked counterintelligence for a number of years, I can tell you that situations like the Russian case this week are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Counterintelligence needs to be more than a buzzword in Washington; it must be a discipline that is practiced diligently.
For more information, I was interviewed by Covert Contact (http://covertcontact.com/) and I discuss these issues in depth. The interview should be available in the near future.