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3 Aug, 2018 01:15

Guardian claims Russian mole with access to 'confidential' info was purged from US embassy in Moscow

Guardian claims Russian mole with access to 'confidential' info was purged from US embassy in Moscow

The Secret Service has dismissed the report that a Russian employee at the US Moscow embassy, who was reportedly fired after her contacts with the Russian intelligence came to light, had access to secret data.

The woman was reportedly dismissed from her job last summer over the allegations of her ties to the Russian intelligence, according to the Guardian citing an unnamed US intelligence source. 

The newspaper has not revealed the capacity in which the woman was working at the embassy, nor the responsibilities she had, noting only that the supposed Russian spy was working "at the heart of the American embassy for more than a decade."

The woman did not come on the radar of the US Department of State's Regional Security Office (RSO) until 2016, the year of the US presidential elections that spawned a wide-ranging hunt for "Russian interference" by the media and intelligence circles amid claims Moscow attempted to "sow discord" in the American society and sway the vote in favor of Donald Trump.

The RSO reportedly discovered that a long-term employee was having "regular and unauthorized meetings" with the representatives of the Russian Security Service. The State Department officials took until January 2017 to alert the Secret Service, who seem to have been rather lackluster in their handling of the alleged Russian spy with supposedly unobstructed access to sensitive data like the US president's and vice president's work schedules, internal mail communication and intranet.

Both the CIA and the FBI have launched their separate investigations into the case at the time, according to the Guardian's report.

Responding to the paper, the Secret Service dismissed the fresh Russian menace, stating that "at no time, in any US Secret Service office, have FSNs [Foreign Service Nationals] been provided or placed in a position to obtain national security information." Foreign employees are relegated to "translation, interpretation, cultural guidance, liaison and administrative support" duties, specifically because they "can be subjected to foreign intelligence influence."

Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman, speaking to Russia's TASS news agency, also reiterated that foreign nationals employed by the US Secret Service cannot have any access to the information pertaining to matters of national security.

The State Department refused to provide comment on the "personnel matters" adding that if it finds out that an employee has been in breach of security guidelines, it takes "appropriate action in appropriate time."

It's unclear to what conclusions the investigators came in the woman's case, but it eventually ended in her dismissal that came shortly before Russia demanded Washington reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people by September last year to equal the number of the Russian diplomatic corps in the US. A total of 755 people, including diplomats, technical staff, as well as local employees, were to leave for the US as Moscow retaliated against a new round of anti-Russia sanctions imposed by the Congress.

The new spy story comes as Russian gun rights activist, Maria Butina, is awaiting trial in the US on charges of acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. In a recent interview to RT, Butina's lawyer Robert Driscoll described her case as "a misuse of Foreign Agent statute," slamming the media for exploiting her case for clickbait by portraying her as a "spy," although she has not been accused of espionage in any of the court papers.