Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB, says it has detained an American spy.
FSB officials claim that Ryan Christopher Fogle, third secretary in the political section at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, "was detained by counter-espionage organs of the Russian FSB while attempting to recruit an employee of one of the Russian special services," according to Reuters.
Fogle was caught on the night of May 13 or early May 14 and eventually returned to the U.S. embassy, Reuters reports.
So far, America's Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, has not publicly commented on the case, although he is set to meet with the Russian Foreign Ministry over the matter.
Russian officials say they caught Fogle carrying two wigs, three pairs of glasses, stacks of 500-euro notes, and several forms of ID naming him as Ryan Fogle.
According to the RT translation, the letter starts "Dear friend" and continues: "We are ready to offer you $100,000 to discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation … In addition, we can offer up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation, with extra bonuses if we receive some helpful information."
The letter then instructs the recipient to go to "an internet cafe, or a coffee shop that has Wi-Fi" and open a new Gmail account to communicate with handlers at the email address unbacggdA@gmail.com.
RT also posted pictures of a blond man in a checked shirt that it claimed was Fogle, along with a table full of the alleged evidence.
The incident has already been making the rounds on Russian television. The apparent amateurishness of the operation seemed to amuse Russians.
"I am not interested so much in this Christopher Fogle as much as the person he was trying to recruit, and why did he have to do it in such an old-fashioned way? It sounds like the '70s," Yevgenia M. Albats, an author of a book on the KGB, told The New York Times.
The incident could cause some diplomatic awkwardness as disagreements over intelligence-sharing after the Boston Marathon bombings had already strained relations between the two countries. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Moscow to smooth things over and discuss U.S. and Russian strategy in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite the Cold War ending two decades ago, espionage is not uncommon between the United States and Russia. Though in 2010, U.S. media coverage of the FBI's bust of a 10-person Russian sleeper spy ring focused more on the physical appearance of Anna Chapman (who now has her own TV show in Russia) than on the diplomatic fallout.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Pope Francis' American problem
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
Subscribe to the Week