Russian spy scandal “traitor” gets FBI protection

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America’s FBI is reportedly protecting Russian Foreign Intelligence Services’ (SVR) Colonel Shcherbakov – who is believed to be the man who exposed the Russian agent ring in the US in June.

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The biggest spy row between Moscow and Washington since the Cold War broke out last summer when ten Russian sleeper agents were detained in America. All were later exchanged for four people convicted of spying in Russia, for the US.

The spy thriller got a new twist when Russian media claimed last week that the SVR's Col Shcherbakov was behind the treachery which led to the agents’ cover being blown. Several days before the spy scandal broke, he fled to the US.

Reports also claimed that Russia had sent a “hit squad” to eliminate the alleged double agent – now believed to be under FBI protection.

"As soon as the agent ran across to the US, of course, he was concerned about his safety, but U.S. intelligence services are very good when you need to give people their new ‘I’ [ID]," intelligence expert David Wise told NBC, reports RIA Novosti. He noted that Shcherbakov was quite a prize for the Americans: "Actually, this is a big blow to Russia".

As with any story involving secret services, the reports of Col Scherbakov’s suspected treachery leave many questions unanswered. However, former Federal Security Service (FSB) Col Gennady Gudkov is confident that no rash decisions should be made.

"Inside of the service all the prerequisites should be identified that made the very treachery of a high-ranking member of the service possible, the scale of the damage caused by him must be defined, instead of debating whether the SRV should be returned to the FSB, whether the leadership of the service should be changed or whether legislation must be amended," Gudkov- now the deputy head of the State Duma Security Committee – told Interfax.

He expressed confidence that such analysis has been underway since the spy row in June.

"The strict confidentiality of such an analysis does not mean there should be no parliamentary control over the process at all," he added.

According to Gudkov, it is very much likely that the Americans “won” Scherbakov several years ago. “Therefore he could thoroughly prepare for his escape taking along not only the files of our sleeper agents but also other information which he could have collected with the help of his colleagues from other SRV divisions."

Gudkov suggested that in order to avoid similar situations in the future, SVR officers should take regular lie detector tests. Even though no machine can guarantee 100 per cent, “such regular checks based on properly worded questions can tell much about a specific officer".

The main reason behind any treachery is corruption, the official stated. If those in charge of fighting corruption are corrupt themselves, and as long as there is no truly efficient control, there is no way to avoid similar situations of betrayal in the future, he concluded.