Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- New videos released by the Department of Justice Wednesday show a former American nuclear physicist covertly meeting with a man who he believed to be a Venezuelan intelligence officer in order to sell his expertise, as well as classified information, to the South American nation.
“This is very dangerous and I am doing it for money…I am, I told you, I’m not an American anymore,” Pedro Mascheroni says in one of the videos, which was actually recorded as part of a government sting.
Mascheroni, who once worked in the X-Division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1980s, was arrested in 2010 and accused of conspiracy to transmit restricted and classified data and attempting to “participate in the development of an atomic weapon.”
In 2013, he pleaded guilty to several of the counts involving transmitting restricted information and making false statements to federal agents. Mascheroni attempted to withdraw his guilty plea last summer, but the court denied the motion.
“[The] defendant’s aims were never noble, or part of some selfless journey that he had undertaken for the greater good of his fellow citizens,” the U.S. government wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Rather, his actions were criminal to their core.”
The Department of Justice on Wednesday released several video clips of Mascheroni’s meetings with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan intelligence officer. In one from 2008, Mascheroni says Venezuela could test a nuclear bomb in the Pacific.
“Everybody sees it. You don’t kill anybody. Now you tell the United States, ‘Not only do we have this, but we have [these] other designs…You have to come up and say to the other nations, ‘We are going to be, we’re going to have an umbrella for everybody. If any nation outside Latin America attacks any nation inside Latin America, we are going to retaliate with a nuclear bomb,” he says, according to court documents.
Mascherino is a naturalized American citizen from Argentina, according to court documents.
In response to the government’s stinging sentencing memorandum, Mascheroni’s defense argued that he was something of a mad scientist “entrapped” by the government.
“Anyone who has spent time with Dr. Mascheroni knows that he is completely and hopelessly obsessed with correcting the errors he perceives in the National Laboratories’ pursuit of nuclear fusion energy. This obsession has controlled his life since he lost his security clearance in 1988. Providing Dr. Mascheroni with a willing, receptive, well-funded, and non-critical audience for his scientific theories was the functional equivalent of providing crack to a cocaine addict,” the defense said in a motion last week.
Mascheroni’s wife, who also worked at LANL, pleaded guilty in 2013 to conspiracy and false statements.
Neither the Venezuelan government, nor any Venezuelan officials, were accused of any wrongdoing in the case.
Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A notorious ISIS fighter featured in the shocking video this month of a boy appearing to execute two prisoners with a handgun has been killed in battle, a counter-terrorism official said on Wednesday.
Abu Saad al-Dagestani was the nom de guerre of an ISIS terrorist shown in the gruesome Jan. 13 tape overseeing what ISIS claimed was the execution of two alleged "Russian spies" by a boy under 11. Al-Dagestani was first reported killed in jihadi tweets on Jan. 15, which claimed he was "martyred" near the embattled Kurdish town of Kobani on Syria's border with Turkey.
"We do think he was killed," a counter-terrorism official familiar with military operations around Kobani by the U.S.-led coalition told ABC News Wednesday.
The video, apparently produced by an ISIS media outlet and shared on Twitter, was seven minutes long and featured “confessions” by the two men. In a heavily-edited section, the boy, called a “lion’s cub,” was shown firing a pistol at the heads of the men, who each fall, apparently lifeless.
The boy appeared to have long hair and was dressed in black next to the adult overseeing him, al-Dagestani -- whose true identity is not known but was believed to be among many foreign fighters from Dagestan or Chechnya -- who wore a long beard, winter cap and carried both a pistol and a shoulder-slung rifle.
Officials declined to comment on the video's authenticity, but military sources and others said they suspected the executions were staged, noting the absence of bullet impacts and blood splatter. Another former counter-terrorism official, however, previously told ABC News the murders look fairly real to him.
ISIS is well known for its sophisticated disinformation program, which is part of a highly-sophisticated media messaging committee that specializes in shocking western audiences with cinematic scenes of mass-decapitations and executions.
ISIS releases through its local affiliates in Syria and Iraq often multiple videos a day they produce depicting executions for a variety of alleged violations of religious Shariah law or their own rules. Most involve beheadings or amputating limbs in graphic bloodlettings.
Tweets announcing the death of al-Dagestani appeared on both ISIS-linked accounts as well as anti-ISIS Peshmerga accounts.
Oleg Zabielin/iStock/Thinkstock(AMMAN, Jordan) -- Jordan has said it would go through with a prisoner swap with the terror group ISIS in order to get its captured pilot back, but now a top official of the Middle Eastern nation says the government has not received proof that he’s still alive.
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh posted a message on Twitter saying the government asked for, but has not received, “evidence of health and safety of the hero, Muath,” referring to Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, a pilot who was captured by ISIS last December after his aircraft was shot down.
Earlier on Wednesday, Jordanian officials said the government was prepared to meet ISIS’ demand to free a convicted terrorist in prison there, Sajida al-Rishawi, in return for al-Kaseasbeh.
In an ISIS video uploaded online Tuesday, ISIS repeated the demand for al-Rishawi’s release through another hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, saying that if she was not freed within 24 hours, Goto and al-Kaseasbeh would be killed. At the time, Jordanian military officials noted that ISIS’ message did not specifically say al-Kaseasbeh would be freed in an exchange.
In the ISIS video, al-Kaseasbeh is only seen in a photograph held by Goto. Al-Kaseasbeh was also not present for a previous video that featured Goto and another Japanese hostage earlier this month.
Al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman, has been on death row in Jordan since she confessed to her role as a would-be suicide bomber in a string of al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed dozens.
Prior to reports of Jordan’s willingness to accept the trade, Middle East expert Jon Alterman told ABC News that by asking for, and potentially gaining al-Rishawi’s release, ISIS is attempting to bolster its long-held goal of being seen as a proper nation-state on a geopolitical scale.
“What it represents is ISIS again trying to act like a real country. It’s a small group of outlaws trying to engage in governments,” Alterman, head of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday.
ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded dozens of captives, including a handful of Western journalists and aid workers, sometimes after making demands of their governments.
At a Wednesday briefing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the department would not "discuss the details of our diplomatic exchanges with Jordan, with Japan, with any other country involved." She did not say whether the U.S. would support a prisoner exchange.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told ABC News Wednesday that the U.S. policy is "that we don't pay ransom. We don't give concessions to terrorist organizations." That policy, he said "predates this administration" and is "one that we've communicated to our friends and allies across the world."
The Japanese hostage Goto was not mentioned in statements made by Jordanian officials about a potential deal on Wednesday, despite reports that Japanese officials have been working closely with Jordan to find ways to free both hostages.
“Please save Kenji’s life,” Goto’s mother said in her own video, released Tuesday. “Kenji has only a little time left.”
Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has RSVP'd to a May celebration in Russia commemorating the Soviet victory over Germany in World War II.
The historic trip would be the North Korean leader's first visit outside his country since he took power and succeeded his father in 2011. It would also be his first time meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in person.
North Korea and Russia have been strengthening their relationship in recent months.
goralikus/iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli military convoy was struck by an antitank missile along the Lebanese border Wednesday, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding at least seven, according to statements by Israel's military. A Spanish soldier serving with the United Nations along the border inside Lebanese territory was also killed.
It’s the most serious escalation on this border in years. The attack took place in the contested area called Shebaa Farms, or Mount Dov, as it’s called in Israel in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Both Syria and Lebanon lay claim to that portion of land along the border.
Shortly after the attack Wednesday morning, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah officially claimed responsibility, saying it was carried out by the “heroic martyrs of Quneitra” brigade, a reference to the six Hezbollah fighters and Iranian general killed by a suspected Israeli strike in Quneitra, Syria, on Jan. 18.
Israel was expecting a response by Hezbollah, but as with any conflict in the region, there are fears that it could escalate into an all-out conflict.
Speaking on a conference call with international journalists on Wednesday, Israel Ziv, an Israeli reserve major general and former head of the army’s operations, described the situation in the north as a "very tricky and, I would say, flammable situation.”
“Israel has to contain it, to defend our interests, but not get drawn in” to those northern battlefields, Ziv said.
Roughly an hour after Wednesday's initial attack, mortar shells landed near Mount Hermon in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) evacuated civilians from the area.
In a statement, the IDF confirmed that it retaliated by air and land against “Hezbollah operational positions."
“We have responded to Hezbollah’s escalation,” IDF spokesman Peter Lerner tweeted. He added later, “we reserve the right to respond further against Hezbollah.”
The United Nations and the Spanish embassy in Beirut confirmed to ABC News that a Spanish soldier for the U.N.'s monitoring body UNIFIL was killed during the shelling while at his post along the border. A Spanish medical team that rushed to the post from a nearby base was unable to save him, an embassy official said.
The prime minister of Spain tweeted his condolences.
Mi más profundo pesar por el fallecimiento del militar español en #Líbano. Mi afecto y condolencias a su familia y compañeros. MR
Wednesday's fighting came after two rockets fired from Syria landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Tuesday. They landed in open areas and didn't hurt anyone but Israel quickly responded by firing artillery into Syria. Just before midnight, Israel struck again, hitting Syrian Army artillery positions, the IDF said.
After Wednesday's attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to Tel Aviv from southern Israel for an emergency security meeting.
“We will not allow terror elements to disrupt the lives of our citizens and threaten their security," he tweeted. "We will know how to respond with force to whoever challenges us.”
Speaking earlier Wednesday at an event in the southern city of Sderot, Israel, Netanyahu struck a similar tone.
"To anyone who is trying to challenge us on the northern border, I suggest looking at what happened here, not far from the city of Sderot, in the Gaza Strip,” he said. "Hamas was dealt its heaviest blow ever since its founding, and the Israel Defense Forces is prepared to act forcefully in all areas.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday cut short a visit to the United States, returning to Tel Aviv after the attack. Rivlin had ben scheduled to meet with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday.
ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(NEW YORK) — Angelina Jolie followed up her visit to Northern Iraq this past Sunday with an op-ed piece in The New York Times Tuesday that describes the devastation she witnessed in the refugee camps and pleas for help for the millions of displaced Syrians and Iraqis who are homeless.
"I have visited Iraq five times since 2007, and I have seen nothing like the suffering I'm witnessing now," she writes. "For many years I have visited camps, and every time, I sit in a tent and hear stories I try my best to give support. To say something that will show solidarity and give some kind of thoughtful guidance. On this trip I was speechless."
The 39-year-old actor/director goes on to detail conversations she had with ISIS victims, and the helplessness she felt.
"What do you say to the 13-year-old girl who describes the warehouses where she and the others lived and would be pulled out, three at a time, to be raped by the men?" writes Jolie, who is also the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Jolie continues, "How can you speak when a woman your own age looks you in the eye and tells you that her whole family was killed in front of her, and that she now lives alone in a tent and has minimal food rations?"
She goes on to describe the dire situation, with neighboring countries running out of room for the refugees and her frustration over the international community's inaction. "What does it say about our commitment to human rights and accountability that we seem to tolerate crimes against humanity happening in Syria and Iraq on a daily basis?" Jolie asks.
"It is not enough to defend our values at home, in our newspapers and in our institutions. We also have to defend them in the refugee camps of the Middle East, and the ruined ghost towns of Syria," she adds.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — There were indications Tuesday that Yemen is closer to splitting into a country run by numerous factions as the head of the Houthi rebel group in control of the capital city of Sanaa denounced a separatist movement in the south that wants to act autonomously, The New York Times reports.
With the resignation last week of Yemen's president and cabinet, it is unclear who's exactly in charge as Washington ponders how to continue counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in the country.
The majority party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh still runs parliament and is seeking approval from the Houthis to appoint a transitional president.
Houthi leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi suggested in a televised speech there is room for compromise with supporters of the old government, citing the release of a presidential aide who was kidnapped during the midst of a violent uprising by rebel forces against Yemen's military.
However, al-Houthi, who opposes relations with the U.S., also warned that the southern separatist movement, Heraq, is the biggest threat to unification. Heraq, meanwhile, has seized control of territories and government buildings in the southern region as it tries to assert its independence.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the U.S. nonetheless is trying to conduct operations against AQAP, launching a CIA drone strike Monday that killed three suspected terrorists.
PeterHermesFurian/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations says that 3,000 child soldiers in South Sudan are to be freed thanks to the United Nations Children's Fund.
According to a U.N. statement, the first group of 280 children were released on Tuesday at the village of Gumuruk. Ranging from 11 to 17 years old, the children were recruited by the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction and have been fighting for up to four years. Many of them have never attended school, the U.N. says.
The U.N. further claims that 12,000 children have been recruited and used as soldiers by armed groups in South Sudan in the last year.
"These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience," UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch said. "The release of thousands of children requires a massive response to provide the support and protection these children need to begin rebuilding their lives."
The children being released by Cobra Faction will be supported with basic health care, protection, food, water and clothing.
iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Attorneys for convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein claim in a new court filing that the billionaire financier will be "irreparably harmed" if emails and letters his lawyers sent to federal prosecutors during plea negotiations are made public, and they're asking a judge to order that the correspondence remain sealed.
Epstein's legal brief, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida late Monday by attorneys Roy Black and Martin Weinberg, represents his first formal statements since explosive allegations emerged last month that he had forced a then-17-year-old girl to have sex with Britain's Prince Andrew and other powerful men.
Epstein's court filing is peppered with references to "the gossip media" and "grocery store tabloids," and contains thinly-veiled accusations that the lawyers for recognized victims of Epstein's alleged sexual crimes are feeding a media frenzy.
"This is a widely watched and reported case," the court motion states. "Mr. Epstein and a host of other individuals have been the subject of the most outlandish and offensive attacks, allegations, and plain inventions."
Virginia Roberts, 31, recently reignited worldwide interest in Epstein's controversial non-prosecution agreement when she claimed in court documents that Epstein had kept her for sex for years as a teenager, and -- in turn -- trafficked her for sex with a host of his prominent associates, including three times with Prince Andrew, the middle son of Queen Elizabeth II, and at least six times with longtime Harvard legal professor Alan Dershowitz.
In an affidavit filed last week, Roberts offered to appear before the court for sworn testimony and vowed to "pursue all reasonable and legitimate means to have criminal charges brought against these powerful men for the crimes they have committed against me and other girls."
Both the prince and Dershowitz have strenuously denied the allegations.
"Every single word in her affidavit about me is a deliberate and categorical lie," Dershowitz told ABC News in an interview last week, and he also filed a sworn declaration in court asserting that he had never even met Roberts.
Dershowitz said he wants Roberts to come forward with dates and times on their alleged encounters so he can use his travel records to prove his innocence, he said. "She picked on the wrong innocent person, because I have the will, the determination and the resources to fight back and prove that what she's saying is false," he said.
Buckingham Palace issued a strongly worded statement on behalf of the prince, categorically denying Roberts' allegations as "false and without foundation." And then the prince himself, speaking last week before an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, referred vaguely to the "events that have taken place in the last few weeks," before saying that he wished to "reiterate and reaffirm the statements" already made by the Palace.
Roberts made her claims in court as she seeks to join a case filed by two other women against the U.S. government. Those women contend that the deal with Epstein violated their rights as crime victims to be consulted and treated with fairness in the administration of justice. Epstein is not a party to the case but has been permitted to intervene on a limited basis to argue motions that affect him directly.
The government has opposed Roberts' entry into the case, which was first filed in July 2008 as an emergency motion to stop the deal from taking place without their input. Unbeknownst at the time to the victims, the agreement had already been signed nine months earlier. The government asserts that Roberts waited far too long before seeking to join the lawsuit.
Epstein, an enigmatic financier who has palatial homes in Florida, New York, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, was the subject of wide-ranging state and federal investigations, beginning in 2005, looking into claims that he had illegal sexual contact with dozens of minor girls at his Palm Beach mansion and elsewhere. By mid-2007, he was facing a potential federal indictment for alleged sex crimes involving nearly three dozen teenage girls. If charged and convicted, he could have faced 10 years to life in prison.
Instead, Epstein entered into the unusual and, at the time, confidential non-prosecution agreement with the federal government that resulted in him pleading guilty to two comparatively minor sex crimes in a Florida state court. He pleaded guilty to a count of solicitation of a prostitute and a count of solicitation of a prostitute who is a minor. He served 13 months in jail and must now register as a sex offender for the rest of his life -- in any state where he owns a home.
Dershowitz was among a group of prominent attorneys who helped Epstein secure the deal, which also granted federal immunity to any possible co-conspirators who may have assisted Epstein in the commission of the alleged crimes. The deal also required Epstein to pay the costs of a private attorney to assist the alleged victims who wished to negotiate financial settlements without litigation.
Roberts' attorneys have alleged that Epstein used his wealth and influence with prominent people to secure the favorable deal.
Kenneth Marra, the federal district court judge overseeing the case brought by the victims, has already ruled that the government had an obligation to inform Epstein's victims about the deal, but has reserved judgment about whether the government failed to meet its obligations until a more complete factual record is developed. Marra has indicated that, if he finds the government violated the victims' rights, one possible remedy he would consider is a rescission of Epstein's deal.
The plaintiffs' attorneys, Bradley Edwards and former federal judge Paul Cassell, have long argued that the correspondence between Epstein's attorneys and federal prosecutors is "central to this lawsuit" and argued in a motion filed late Monday night that sealing it "would prevent the public from learning about matters of considerable public concern."
When reached by ABC News, Cassell declined to comment on Epstein's allegations that the victims' attorneys were engaged in a "frolic with the media."
Last fall, Judge Marra unsealed a small portion of the correspondence from Epstein's attorneys that had been kept under seal for several months after being filed. One excerpt -- a one-line email from an Epstein attorney sent just as the terms of the non-prosecution deal were being finalized -- reads simply: "Please do whatever you can to keep this from becoming public."
Marra has not set a hearing date, and it is unclear when he might rule. If he were to side with the plaintiffs, the immediate effect could be the unsealing of a 23-page letter written in part by Dershowitz and sent to federal prosecutors two months before the agreement was signed. That letter was filed under seal by the plaintiffs last week.
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Several gunmen wearing ski masks stormed the Corinthia Hotel, a hotel popular with western diplomats and journalists in Libya’s capitol, Tripoli, on Tuesday, taking a number of hostages and leaving at least eight people dead.
The U.S. State Department and a Libyan government source confirmed to ABC News that a U.S. citizen was among the dead.
The American fatality was identified as David Berry. Berry was an employee of Team Crucible, a U.S. security and training company based in Virginia.
In a statement Tuesday, Team Crucible said it "mourns this extraordinary loss."
Security services told the AFP they managed to surround the gunman on the 23rd floor of the hotel, which is when the men then detonated their explosives.
An eyewitness described the harrowing attack to the BBC, saying, "I suddenly heard shots and saw people running towards me, and we all escaped from the back [of the hotel] through the underground garage. The hotel did a lockdown after that."
Images purportedly showing the gunmen from the hotel's surveillance video have shown up on social media, but there has been no official confirmation on who the attackers were.
A Twitter account affiliated with ISIS claimed responsibility, saying the attack on the Corinthia Hotel was in revenge for the death of a Libyan jihadist by the name of Abu Anas al Libi. Al Libi was linked to the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
State Dept(WARSAW, Poland) -- About 300 people returned to Auschwitz on Tuesday for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp in Poland where more than one million people were slaughtered during World War II.
They are old. And they are the last who can testify to us about what it was like -- the darkness, the unspeakable darkness. For others, the smell of burning bodies, human smoke from the crematoriums, lingers forever in memory.
Tuesday’s commemoration was noticeably smaller than those in previous years. Only a few world leaders came and the U.S. sent the Treasury secretary.
However, as the terror attacks in Paris and other recent anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and elsewhere have demonstrated, Jews are once again being targeted in Europe, just because they are Jews.
"For a time, we thought that the hatred of Jews had finally been eradicated," Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, told those assembled at Tuesday's ceremonies. "But slowly the demonization of Jews started to come back.
"Once again," Lauder said. "young Jewish boys are afraid to wear yarmulkes on the streets of Paris and Budapest and London. Once again, Jewish businesses are targeted. And once again, Jewish families are fleeing Europe."
Added Roman Kent, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, fighting back tears, "We do not want our past to be our children's future."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Tuesday that the U.N.'s mission was "shaped by the tragedy of the Second World War and the Holocaust," and that he and his organization remain "committed to protect the vulnerable, promote fundamental human rights and uphold the freedom, dignity and worth of every person."
"Humankind united to overcome the Nazi menace," the secretary-general said, "Today, we are being tested again." According to Ban, "Minorities everywhere often face bigotry. Sectarian tensions and other forms of intolerance are on the rise. Anti-semitic attacks continue, with Jews being killed solely because they are Jews."
"Vulnerable communities around the world," he said, "continue to bury their dead while living in fear of further violence."
Ahmed Muhammed Ali/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Japanese journalist held by the terror group ISIS said in a chilling new video that he and another captive have been given 24 hours or less to live unless a convicted terrorist is freed from prison.
In a new video uploaded online early Tuesday, journalist Kenji Goto tells the camera he has been told it is his "last message" and that "time is running very short."
"It is me for her," he says, referring to Sajida al-Rishawi, a female would-be suicide bomber who confessed to her role in a string of deadly al Qaeda attacks in Jordan in 2005. She has been on death row in Jordan ever since. In a previous video, ISIS first made the demand for al-Rishawi's release.
Goto says first ISIS will kill a Jordanian pilot they've been holding captive, and then himself if the terrorists' demands aren't met.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — This is a storm-watching vantage point like none other. A newly released video taken from the International Space Station shows stunning flashes of light as a lightning storm strikes Earth.
Taken from an altitude of 250 miles, the time-lapse footage was created using several dozen images captured in 2012 by an astronaut at the ISS. The video was released Tuesday on YouTube by the European Space Agency.
Since the space station moves at nearly 18,000 miles per hour in low-Earth orbit, it would be impossible to get a crisp image using a normal video camera.
The video was created using the agency's Nightpod camera, which accounts for the motion of the station and keeps the area being photographed in the center of the frame. The result: Breathtaking images, just like those seen here.
iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russia has rejected accusations that one of its citizens, Manhattan banker Yevgeny Buryakov, and two of its diplomats were actually spies for Russian intelligence, as alleged by the FBI following the arrest of the banker Monday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said there was “no evidence” to support the charges and blamed the incident on Washington’s hostility during an “anti-Russian campaign."
“We demand that provocations against Russian representatives started by U.S. security services stop, that consular workers have immediate access to Yevgeny Buryakov, that the rights of the Russian citizen be strictly observed and his release from custody be ordered,” Lukashevich said.
He warned Buryakov's arrest will “aggravate” U.S.-Russia relations.
The FBI, however, contends it has reams of evidence against the three men, including candid recorded conversations of some of the spies talking to each other and other alleged secret agents about operations and potential sources of information.
In one recorded conversation, the two “diplomats,” Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, discussed the problems recruiting young females in New York City as spies.
“I have lots of ideas about such girls but these ideas are not actionable because they don’t allow [someone] to get close enough,” Sporyshev says, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. “And in order to be close you either need to f*** them or use other levers to influence them to execute my requests. So when you tell me about girls, in my experience, it’s very rare that something workable will come of it.”
Sporyshev and Podobnyy were not arrested in connection with the alleged spy ring, as they no longer live in the U.S. and have diplomatic immunity. However, Buryakov was allegedly a “non-official cover” agent -- a spy who comes into a target country in the guise of a private citizen without the protection of diplomatic immunity.
As described in another court document, "in many cases [NOCs] are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government. As a result, a NOC is an extremely valuable intelligence asset for the SVR."
Mark Stout, a former CIA analyst, said the tradecraft described in the criminal complaint seemed straight out of the Cold War.
“This is really a classic case of espionage, I think, in terms of how it was conducted both on the Russian side as well as on the FBI side,” Stout told ABC News Monday. “The FBI is very good at this. I would not run up against the FBI trying to run an espionage operation in the United States.”