US Secret Service & the Guardian face off over 'Russian spy' in embassy 'scoop'

US Secret Service has scolded the Guardian for "irresponsible and inaccurate" reporting on an alleged Russian spy at the US embassy in Moscow. Unfazed, the newspaper continued to spin the story calling it the 'tip of the iceberg.'

The British newspaper, never one to pass up a good Russia scare story, published a fresh one on Friday, citing multiple intelligence analysts to reinforce the idea that its own anonymously-sourced revelations of a suspected spy with high-level security clearance having been embedded for a decade in the US embassy in Moscow,"could be just the tip of the iceberg."

The Secret Service, meanwhile, has been issuing repeated rebuttals to the Guardian's reporting. The security officials were quite emphatic in bashing the article as "wrought with irresponsible and inaccurate reporting based on the claims of "anonymous sources'."

In its press release on Thursday, the Secret Service specifically points out that before the publication came out, it had provided the Guardian with background to the story "clearly refuting unfounded information" in its statement to the editor.

The Guardian did mention the agency's response, bundling it in the middle of its article, while citing its unnamed "intelligence source" profusely, claiming that the Russian woman, the suspected mole, "had access to the most damaging database, which is the US Secret Service official mail system." This allegedly included "schedules of the president – current and past, vice-president and their spouses, including Hillary Clinton."

According to the Secret Service, the allegations that a mysterious foreign 'femme fatale' could have access to such sensitive information, are unfounded.

"FSNs [Foreign Service Nationals] working under the direction of the U.S. Secret Service have never been provided or placed in a position to obtain, secret or classified information as erroneously reported." 

The agency also dismissed as far-fetched the newspaper's speculation that the woman's eventual dismissal was timed to the expulsion of 755 diplomatic and technical staff in August 2017 ordered by Moscow in retaliation to the new spate of sanctions rolled out by Congress.

 "Reports of the timing of the individual's termination in question and the closing of the Secret Service Resident Office in Moscow correlate in any way are false," the statement reads, stressing that claims that it wanted to cover-up its failure to act on the case are "categorically false."

In a follow-up statement on Friday, the Secret Service stated that an internal review it conducted in wake of the woman's ouster did not show any breach of security by the long-term employee, who was, apparently, just going about her normal duties.

"No unusual activity occurred and there were no issues from a data exfiltration perspective," the Secret Service said, adding that "the review revealed there was no evidence of unauthorized access to any U.S. Secret Service system… outside the employee's normal roles and responsibilities."

'Giant nothingburger'

The Guardian is trying to create a bombshell out of thin air by stirring things up with the help of "anonymous sources" that cannot be held accountable for their words, no matter how outrageous, John Wight, political commentator and journalist, told RT.

"This is very shoddy reporting and this is the epitome of fake news because without naming sources they can make anything up," he said.

Even if the Guardian's report was true, a Russian employee at the US embassy being recruited by the Russian intelligence is no big deal, Wight said.

"In an age of reason, if this individual, the Russian national, was spying as an employee within the US embassy in Moscow and had been for a number of years, this would be nothing peculiar as that is what intelligence agencies exist to do," the journalist said, summing up the report as "a giant nothingburger."

He went on to recall the long record of US intelligence spying not only on their "competitors," but even on their closest allies as well.

"American foreign intelligence agencies spy on foreign countries, in fact, the NSA had been tapping into the phone of [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel for a number of years, in an operation that was said to have been personally sanctioned by then US President Barack Obama," he pointed out.

However, the extent of the anti-Russia scaremongering makes it look like Russia, as the universal scapegoat, is the only country to engage in all kinds of malicious activity, Wight said, adding that he would not be surprised if climate change will soon be "placed at the door of Moscow."

Moscow, meanwhile, said it is unaware of the situation, with Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova asking the Guardian to provide any concrete data. The Guardian has so far not revealed the position or the name of the alleged spy.