The basic story we've been given...is that eleven long-term "sleeper" spies were active in the US....had adapted US names, bought US property, made US careers, had Facebook accounts, drank US beer, and probably brought overpriced houses just like us too.
What secrets did they get? That really hasn't been put out there. In fact....they "hint"....ever so carefully.....that the Russians were doing open-source collection. They simply went up to folks, engaged in conversation, and folks just said things. Kinda like the interviews on MSNBC or FOX News....if you think about it.
How many "sleeper" agents are in America? From China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Israel? Well....we don't really know. My humble guess? Ten thousand is a good starting point....although we might be skipping those foreign exchange students in universities.....who quietly sit and collect information on a hour-by-hour basis.
I am reminded of an Indian pharmacy degree student....who came into the US in the 1980s....and he reached this moment of brilliance when he discovered all the various formulas that made up the top 250 drugs in America. Our Indian friend took home this terrific notebook....not a computer disk....but an actual notebook. Within three years, he had devised a great method of duplicating US drugs....and selling them in India. The court system eventually tried to remedy the matter....but by that point....he had made millions selling necessary drugs to Indians at 1/100th of the original cost.
A spy? No. He was never accused of being a spy. Thats the funny thing about this story.
So thousands upon thousands of "sleeper" agents work in the US? Yeah. Some work on collecting business data. Some work on collecting farming technology. Some work on getting sources in the Wall Street market area. Some work on Google, Microsoft, and Dell technology. Some work on getting to the heart of Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae, and various corrupted banks. Some work on political figures and figure out just how stupid they are and how easily corrupted they can be.
Somewhere out there....there's probably a Russian "sleeper" who chats with Katie Couric at the beauty parlor once a month and suggest little things to Katie to report.
Somewhere out there.....there's probably a Chinese "sleeper" who studies World of Warcraft and its impact on the public. He's probably figuring out the business model so the Chinese can manufacture their own version in five years and cut in on WoW.
Naturally, it's a great thing that the FBI got these eleven. The curious thing is that the Russians have asked for immediate access now. Unlike Gitmo guys....these prisoners actually have rights.....remember, they got the Miranda deal in the first minute of the arrest. I suspect the US legal system of 2010....doesn't compare to the US legal system of 1975. These guys will likely be released within a week or two....and deportation? Well....I'm thinking it'll be a problem. You have to prove classified was gathered.....and I'm thinking open source information won't count.
Just my own observation. But I think this will be a minor story in four weeks.