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'Ghost Stories': FBI Releases Documents, Videos Of Russian Spy Operation

<p>Christopher Metsos in Queens, N.Y.</p>

Christopher Metsos in Queens, N.Y.

You may remember the story from last year: After a multi-year investigation, the FBI arrests ten people it said were working as secret agents for Russia. It was said many times that the intrigue was so deep, it sounded like a novel about the most intense years of the Cold War and it culminated just as dramatically with the biggest spy swap between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.

Today, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, the FBI has released documents and videos of what it dubbed "Operation Ghost Stories."

The videos are of course the fascinating part, because the FBI says they show spy tactics at work.

Take this one for example. The FBI says it shows one deep cover spy, Christopher Metsos, using a "brush pass" to exchange information or materials with an official from the Russian mission in New York:

This one shows Mestsos using the technique again:

This one is perhaps the most interesting one. In the newly unsealed complaint against Anna Chapman, one of the spies who became a celebrity after the case went public, the FBI alleges she was transmitting information wirelessly to a Russian official while at a department store in New York:

In this one, the FBI says one of the spies is digging up a package from a "dead drop:"

CNN's security blog read through some of the highly-redacted documents and reports the FBI believed the spies were "spotting and assessing" or providing "an operative's summation of whether friends or acquaintances may serve as espionage targets, as well as identifying and reporting other people whom they felt may hold positions of power or influence in the future."

In its story, the AP talked to unnamed intelligence sources, who said while the spies were not able to steal any secrets, "they were making progress." The AP reports:

They "were getting very close to penetrating U.S. policymaking circles" through a friend of an unnamed member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet, FBI assistant director for counterintelligence C. Frank Figliuzzi told The Associated Press.

He did not give details, but Russian spy Cynthia Murphy of Montclair, New Jersey, provided financial planning for a venture capitalist with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

FBI officials told the AP, the name of the operation and their release date (on Halloween) were merely coincidental.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.