One of the least-discussed aspects of the current scandal enveloping the Trump administration over Russian contact is that Russia almost inarguably at this point engaged in an act of information warfare. And while that scandal unfolds, it appears the Russian government is attempting to expand its ability to strike at the U.S.:
Politico has a report that Russian diplomats have this odd tendency to drop off the map and appear in places where there happens to be telecommunications infrastructure. Just why they’re trying to map it is unclear, but it’s part of a general escalation in Russian activities that many in the U.S. intelligence community are concerned has been left on the agenda for too long:
Most U.S. intelligence officials can relay stories of run-ins with Russian intelligence operatives — often moonlighting as lobbyists, diplomats and businessmen — hanging around popular Washington happy hours. It’s an open assumption that they use Capitol Hill and its public office buildings as a farming ground for potential recruits. And the presumed agents aren’t hard to spot, according to officials: an oft-traded joke is to go to one of Washington’s handful of Russian restaurants and look for the guy in a tracksuit.
Russians wandering around DC, or turning up in America somewhere they’re not supposed to be in the first place, is nothing new. Russia’s notorious, and widely mocked, Illegals Program found Russian intelligence agents attempting to pose as Americans; the spies were found, in part, because they wrote the passwords to their cryptographic software down. Similarly, in late 2016, the Obama administration revealed it knew the identity of 35 spies and booted them from the country, in addition to seizing two Russian-owned compounds that the Trump administration is attempting to return to the country. The Russian government was unable to offer a similar response, which for Putin and his cabinet raises a question of whether the U.S. has no spies, or whether the Russians are just bad at finding them.