Exclusive: Russian is understood to have had full access to secret data during decade at embassy
US counter-intelligence investigators discovered a suspected Russian spy had been working undetected in the heart of the American embassy in Moscow for more than a decade, the Guardian has learned.
The Russian national had been hired by the US Secret Service and is understood to have had access to the agency’s intranet and email systems, which gave her a potential window into highly confidential material including the schedules of the president and vice-president.
The woman had been working for the Secret Service for years before she came under suspicion in 2016 during a routine security sweep conducted by two investigators from the US Department of State’s Regional Security Office (RSO).
They established she was having regular and unauthorised meetings with members of the FSB, Russia’s principal security agency.
The Guardian has been told the RSO sounded the alarm in January 2017, but the Secret Service did not launch a full-scale inquiry of its own. Instead it decided to let her go quietly months later, possibly to contain any potential embarrassment.
An intelligence source told the Guardian the woman was dismissed last summer after the state department revoked her security clearance. The dismissal came shortly before a round of expulsions of US personnel demanded by the Kremlin after Washington imposed more sanctions on the country.
The order to remove more than 750 US personnel from its 1,200-strong diplomatic mission is understood to have provided cover for her removal.
“The Secret Service is trying to hide the breach by firing [her],” the source said. “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.”
Asked detailed questions about the investigation into the woman, and her dismissal, the Secret Service attempted to downplay the significance of her role. But it did not deny that she had been identified as a potential mole.
The Guardian has been told that the potential breach was not reported to any of the congressional intelligence or oversight committees.
A source said: “A government committee needs to investigate the Secret Service for hiding this breach.”
Another option would be to include it in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into suspected Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.
“The US Congress is focusing on Russian hackers when it is possible that all of the information they needed to get into the system came from the internal breach in the Secret Service,” the source said.
“Her activities of stealing and sharing information could shed more light on how the Russians were able to hack the 2016 presidential election office of the DNC [Democratic National Committee].”
They added: “I think that the special counsel would be the perfect outside entity to investigate the level of damage that [she] caused. They have access to all types of counterintelligence information and they wouldn’t lie … to avoid reporting this serious operational and security breach.”
Full article: Suspected Russian spy found working at US embassy in Moscow (The Guardian)