From Russia, With Wig: American Spy Suspect Is Ejected

MOSCOW — He arrived at the meeting with two wigs — the blond one on his head held in place by a baseball cap, a brown one in his knapsack, which also held a compass, a Moscow street atlas and $130,000 in cash. He was an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, Russian officials say, and his goal was to recruit a Russian security officer as a spy.

He even carried a letter offering “up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation” and signed affectionately, “Your friends.”

On Tuesday, the American, identified as Ryan C. Fogle, who had been officially posted in Russia as the third secretary of the political department of the United States Embassy, was ordered to leave the country by the Russian government, which officially declared him “persona non grata.”

In a move that appeared to be as much stagecraft as spycraft, the Russian Federal Security Service, the F.S.B., took the unusual step of releasing a video showing the arrest of Mr. Fogle, including him face down on a street as a Russian agent pinned his hands behind his back.

President Vladimir V. Putin has long expressed suspicions that Washington is working covertly to undermine him, and it was unclear if Tuesday’s incident would further damage an already fragile bilateral relationship. The Russian Foreign Ministry publicly summoned the American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, to a meeting on Wednesday to address the accusations.

Reveling in the chance to embarrass the United States in a seemingly amateurish act of espionage, the F.S.B. also released photographs of the wigs and other odd gear that Mr. Fogle had been carrying, as well as a second video showing three American officials, including the embassy’s chief political officer, Michael Klecheski, listening silently to a harangue by a Russian official.

The official said Mr. Fogle had tried to recruit a counterterrorism agent with expertise in the Caucasus, an area that has recently become of intense interest to the United States because the men accused of the bombings at the Boston Marathon had lived there.

The circumstances of Mr. Fogle’s unmasking seemed bizarre, even given the long, colorful history of spying by the Soviet Union, Russia and their rivals.

Over the years, American diplomats have found bugs and other devices in a wide variety of locations — including the undersides of typewriter keys and the beak of a wooden eagle presented to the ambassador as a gift. The United States once tore down and rebuilt an entire new embassy building in Moscow after discovering the walls were filled with listening devices.

Last year, British officials quietly confirmed a Russian accusation from 2006 that its spy service had used a fake rock to hide communication equipment used to download and transmit classified information.

Much discussion on Tuesday centered on the paradox of why the United States, a country that can kill terrorists with remote-controlled drones, would feel the need to send a man with a map and a compass to navigate the traffic-choked Russian capital.

“It seems to me quite odd,” said Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist who has written several books about the Russian intelligence services, and founded a Web site called Agentura.ru, which monitors the activities of intelligence agencies worldwide.

Mr. Soldatov said he suspected that the entire episode was a sting operation run by the Russians.

Yevgenia M. Albats, the author of a 1994 book on the K.G.B., the Soviet-era spy agency, had a similar reaction. “I’m just surprised that the guy was such an idiot,” she said. “Why did he have to do it in such an old-fashioned way? It sounds like the ’70s.”

Had the Russians viewed Mr. Fogle as a serious threat, Mr. Soldatov and other intelligence experts said, they most likely would have stepped back and let his apparent recruitment effort continue, and perhaps even led him to believe that he had successfully enlisted a double agent, pocketing the money while trying to learn more about the Americans’ interests.

Instead, the Russians released the videos and photographs of Mr. Fogle’s assortment of props, which also included two pairs of sunglasses, a pocketknife and a protective sleeve made to shield information held on the electronic chips now routinely imprinted on passports, transit passes and identification cards.

He also carried a decidedly un-smart phone that from a distance looked like an old-model Nokia. Unlike its counterpart in the “Get Smart” television series, it was not built into the bottom of a shoe.

The most recent comparable spy folly came at the Russians’ expense. In 2010, the American authorities arrested 10 “sleeper” agents who had been living in the United States for a decade, posing as Americans. Some were couples with children; some had well-developed careers in real estate and finance.

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