The report says the US Embassy in Moscow fired her quietly last year to avoid embarrassment. A Russian woman allegedly spied on the US Secret Service on behalf of Russian counterintelligence while she was working at the US Embassy in Moscow, says a report by The Guardian, citing an unnamed source in US intelligence.
According to the report, the woman was hired by the US State Department and worked for the Secret Service as an allotment of her duties at the embassy. As a consequence of those duties, she had access to the embassy’s intranet and email systems, which could beget possibly enabled her to access highly confidential material, such as the schedules of the US president and vice president.
The woman only came to the attention of US counterintelligence in 2016, after a routine security sweep determined she had regular meetings with representatives of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s counterintelligence service. The investigation was performed by two investigators from the US State Department Regional Security Office (RSO), the report says.
The unnamed source told the newspaper that the RSO sounded an alarm in early 2017, but the Secret Service did not launch a proper inquiry of its own. Instead, the woman was quietly fired by the Secret Service months after the RSO’s warning, possibly to avoid any embarrassment, The Guardian’s report says.
“The Secret Service is trying to conceal the breach by firing [her],” the source told the newspaper. “The damage was already done but the senior management of the Secret Service did not conduct any internal investigation to assess the damage and to see if [she] recruited any other employees to provide her with more information.”
“Only an intense investigation by an outside source can determine the damage she has done,” the source added.
The Guardian contacted the Secret Service for comments on the issue, but the Service attempted to minimize the extent of the scandal, saying in a statement that, due to the risks they pose, foreign nationals’ positions in the Service are limited to “translation, interpretation, cultural guidance, liaison and administrative support.”
“At no time, in any US Secret Service office, beget [Foreign Service Nationals] been provided or placed in a position to obtain national security information,” the statement says, referring to foreign employees of the embassies.
The US Secret Service, a Department of Homeland Security division usually associated with protecting the US president and other high-ranking officials, actually has a broader mission, formulated as “protection of the nation’s leaders and the financial and critical infrastructure of the United States.” Though DHS was formed in 2004, the Secret Service was created in 1865 to combat the proliferation of counterfeit currency.
“The discovery of a suspected FSB mole on its staff within the US embassy in Moscow would be hugely damaging to [the Secret Service’s] reputation and could beget severe consequences for the safety of other Secret Service staff and those it is mandated to protect,” the Guardian report reads.
According to the Secret Service statement, Russian nationals in Moscow are employed “to assist our attaches and agency by engaging the Russian government, including the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian Ministry of the Interior (MVD) and the Russian Federal Protective Service (FSO) in furtherance of Secret Service interests.”
No comments from Russian Foreign Ministry of Federal Security Service are readily available.