The backdrop of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is becoming as dramatic as the most competitive snow cross events. NBC News reported today that “An American diplomat was detained in Moscow on suspicion of trying to recruit a Russian intelligence official to work for the CIA…one U.S. official said Tuesday, ‘It shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. These things happen, it’s kind of the way the game is played and has been played for a long time.’” This recent news will sound familiar to fans of the short-lived ABC drama “Pan Am” which featured an American flight attendant working with the CIA and British intelligence officers to make contacts with intelligence sources in Eastern Europe.
While the assertion that “These things happen, it’s kind of the way the game is played and has been played for a long time” may be true, the timing is not a co-incidence. This dramatic and very public episode took place just a day after the news broke that Associated Press President Gary Pruitt sent a letter of protest to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding reports of exceptional U.S. government access to password protected proprietary data of about 100 AP affiliated journalists. There is no evidence that the U.S. government employees involved checked whether the U.S. based journalists were nationals of foreign countries or engaged by foreign news organizations. AP’s headquarters are in New York, but it operates a network of offices in eighty countries.
Two U.S. Senators from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, have asked the Department of Justice for an explanation. This kind of news greatly reduces concerns by foreign countries expelling Americans suspected of spying that AP or other news outlets might report these actions unfavorably.
This kind of news has not been good news for tour operators hoping to sell tickets and accommodations to see the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. As of today, May 14, every single seat on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 596 from Kiev to Sochi the day before the 2014 Olympics start is available at the modest economy price of $683 roundtrip.
What should you do if you are recruited to spy during your own visit to the 2014 Winter Olympics or test events? There are public interest organizations for almost everything in the United States and there is actually a public interest organization that helps Americans who have been solicited to engage in espionage by foreign countries. It is called “The Council for the National Interest.” In many cases, it can engage the help of staff members of Congressional committees to take steps to maintain the rights of innocent American tourists, athletes or coaches who have been solicited to provide information about their foreign travels or contacts without the necessary warrants and due process.