Back in 2015, the FBI announced the arrest of two Russian SVR agents and a Russian illegal. Illegals being agents who operate in a target country without the benefit of diplomatic cover so if they are arrested they are looking a prison time instead of being declared persona non grata and booted.
Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John S. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and Randall C. Coleman, the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) for the Counterintelligence Division, announced charges today against EVGENY BURYAKOV, a/k/a “Zhenya,” IGOR SPORYSHEV, and VICTOR PODOBNYY in connection with BURYAKOV’s service as a covert intelligence agent on behalf of the Russian Federation (“Russia”) in New York City, without notifying the United States Attorney General of BURYAKOV’s status as an agent of Russia, as required by federal law. BURYAKOV was placed under arrest earlier today in Bronx, New York, and is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in Manhattan federal court later today. SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY no longer reside in the United States and have not been arrested. By virtue of their prior positions in the United States on behalf of Russia, both of them were protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution while in the United States.
For example, SPORYSHEV and PODOBNYY discussed PODOBNYY’s efforts to recruit a male working as a consultant in New York City as an intelligence source.
The New York Times reported in April, that the target of a recruitment effort by this spy ring was none other than Carter Page.
Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman.
The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R. The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.
The court documents say that Mr. Page, who founded an investment company in New York called Global Energy Capital, provided documents about the energy business to one of the Russians, Victor Podobnyy, thinking he was a businessman who could help with brokering deals in Russia.
Court documents do not identify Mr. Page, but the details in a statement he emailed to reporters on Tuesday match the individual described as “Male-1” in the court case. Mr. Page’s contact with the Russian spy was first reported on Monday by BuzzFeed News.
If one goes to the affidavit filed by the lead FBI agent on the investigation, this is what we learn about Male-1.
34. On or about June 13, 2013, Agent-2 and I interviewed Male-1. Male-1 stated that he first met VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City. During this initial meeting, PODOBNYY gave Male-1 PODOBNYY’s business card and two email addresses. Over the following months, Male-1 and PODOBNYY exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing PODOBNYY with Male-l’s outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to PODOBNYY about the energy business.
Now let’s look at another Justice Department document on the affair. This is a press release titled Evgeny Buryakov Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court In Connection With Conspiracy To Work For Russian Intelligence. This press release doesn’t mention Page or Male-1, but it does introduce us to a new character.
The FBI obtained the recordings after Sporyshev attempted to recruit an FBI undercover employee (“UCE-1”), who was posing as an analyst from a New York-based energy company. In response to requests from Sporyshev, UCE-1 provided Sporyshev with binders containing purported industry analysis written by UCE-1 and supporting documentation relating to UCE-1’s reports, as well as covertly placed recording devices. Sporyshev then took the binders to, among other places, the Residentura.
There is another confidential source mentioned in the affidavit but that source was trying to swing a deal to open a casino in Moscow from his base in Atlantic City. The only energy consultant in the documents is Page.
Unless there is a significant piece missing to what has been made public, Male-1 is UCE-1 is Carter Page.
And using Page as an asset by the FBI is not all that strange. When the FBI interviewed Page, or when they ran a background check on him, they would undoubtedly have found out he was a former intelligence officer. I can’t find a technical definition of “undercover FBI employee” but it seems to be more than someone who was acting as a volunteer or out of fear of prosecution themselves.
This begs all manner of questions. If Page, as has been alleged without a shred of evidence, has been under surveillance by the FBI under the provisions of FISA since the time of this investigation, how is it that he was found to be clueless about the Russian espionage in the affidavit? And how did he then morph into an FBI asset that was key to making this ballyhooed conviction? And how did be become so suspicious that he met the criteria of acting as a Russian agent in order to be worthy of surveillance?
None of this adds up. Either the affidavit is false and the press release is false or Page was put under surveillance initially based on false pretenses or Page had not been under surveillance at all until 2016 and the rest is hokum designed to make him look like a security risk when, in fact, he was pretty far from it.