Sleeper or Flatliner?

Sleeper or Flatliner?

Anna Chapman

In the resoundingly popular Soviet TV miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring, Standartenführer Max Otto von Stierlitz was a high ranking Nazi officer who was in reality a fictional Soviet secret agent named Maxim Maximovich Isaye.

Standartenführer Max Otto von Stierlitz - Seventeen Moments of Spring

Infiltrating Hitler's high command, the character of Maxim Maximovich was regarded as a hero by the Soviets and, according to Vladimir Putin, instructed a whole generation of Russian youths in their patriotic duty of sacrifice for the nation. Much more realistic than James Bond, he constantly risked his life in hazardous intrigues to thwart the plans of the top level Nazi decision makers, and gather information for the motherland. He rarely used gadgets or resorted to violence.

American village - Soviet Union era

A special training facility complete with duplicates of buildings, streets and businesses used to train Soviet agents in Western culture before sending them to the United States.

Even more realistic than either Bond or Maxim Maximovich was real life sleeper agent Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko, also known as Anna Chapman. She probably spent years being trained to speak, think and live as an American in some secret Russian “American Village” facility, learning about intelligence gathering and tradecraft, the use of every weapon imaginable including seduction, all manner of communication equipment and cryptography as well as every aspect of Americana and Western culture (Russia is, of course, straddling the East / West cultural divide). She also almost certainly learned not to attract attention by drinking tea in a glass with a sugar cube between her teeth.

But as well trained as we can presume her to be, Moscow chose to send her in as a Russian national emigrating to the West. Hiding in plain sight, as one might say. She married a British man to acquire the surname Chapman. One can only attempt to guess how well THAT went down.

But in the US, Anna Vasil’yevna was no baboushka-wearing stay-at-home Hausfrau. With her Master’s degree in economy and a little help from her Moscow friends, she lived the life of a successful real estate broker in an office just a few steps away from Wall Street.

She and her Illegals Program acolytes used encoded burst shortwave transmission; private Wi-Fi networks (such as is found in coffee shops) for drive-by transmission; encryption programs hidden in computers that encoded image steganography; even old-school tradecraft like exchanging identical bags in public and (gasp!) messages written in invisible ink.

Nikolai Zlobin, an expert at the Center for Defense Information, says that the network of illegals received support from people intent on “returning to the old system that they were familiar with.”

Olga Oliker, an analyst at Rand, likewise said : “It strikes me as a very well-organized, very well-thought-out and very out-of date approach,” … “I would lay money on bureaucratic inertia. It’s a terribly ineffective approach, but it’s something that might have made sense in a previous period. ”

Those experts seem to agree that this kind of infiltration game is a throwback to the Cold War and has no useful place in the modern world. Just don't tell that to the Russians.

In a secret meeting, an undercover FBI agent handed Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko forged identity papers. This is where she violated the 11th commandment. For some reason, she accepted them, then had misgivings, then phoned home to her ex-KGB officer dad who told her to immediately turn over the papers at the nearest police station. This did no good.

After her arrest and a mock trial (both governments had already come to a sub rosa arrangement), she was exchanged along with nine other members of her spy ring for a few American spies. Only one of her associates got away. He was arrested on the island of Cyprus and was almost immediately released without bail, to then disappear forever. It is to be noted that Cyprus and Russia are somewhat in bed together; the island is a sort of Black Sea resort on the Mediterranean for the modern Russian milionnaires and apparatchiki.

Back home, Anna Vasilyevna Kushchenko was a hero. She at one point served on the public council of the Molodaya Gvardiya, a patriotic youth organization. She  also has her own line of clothing, perfume, vodka, you name it. She even has a very glamourous website, where the letters are sometimes written backwards and a communist Red Star features right above her name. Actually, the communist Red Star seems to be the only logo to be seen on her website. Strange. The powers that be in Russia, however, balked at their version of Paris Hilton's proposed redesign of the Russian astronaut's uniforms. Enough is enough!

Russia must be really hard up for heroes... maybe someone should ask her what she thinks of the Bush doctrine, just for giggles.

Although Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko probably grew up adulating von Stirlitz, the realistic James Bond, her stint as a Russian sleeper agent was not fiction. It was reality. She had established herself in New York, living her legend, waiting to be activated by Moskow.

In fact, waiting to be activated sounds like it was kind of boring. And that’s exactly what being a sleeper agent is : boring.

Anna Vasil’yevna Kushchyenko was never activated.

She slept.

The Cheka

The Cheka

Spy Networks in trouble : China

Spy Networks in trouble : China