Disgruntled Russians Targeted by CIA as Potential Assets

CIA believes the war in Ukraine has been a massive failure for Moscow and that it opens opportunities for Western intelligence agencies among Russians disgusted” with the conflict, says David Marlowe, the agency’s deputy director of operations.

Being ‘open for business’, according to Marlowe, the CIA is interested in recruiting disaffected Russians – military officers and oligarchs who have had their finances impacted by Western sanctions on Russia, above all – and is looking for them around the world.

Marlowe said this while addressing the academic audience at the “CIA at 75” event – was his first public appearance in his official capacity since June 2021 – organized last week at George Mason University’s Hayden Center in Arlington, Virginia though the Hayden Center only made the video of it public on Monday.

Also present at the panel in Washington-area think-tank were CIA’s one-time acting director Michael Morrell, and CIA Deputy Director for Analysis Linda Weissgold, which is responsible for producing finished intelligence reports for President Biden and the rest of the US leadership.

Marlowe, which was appointed to the position by current CIA Director William Burns, is an Arabic speaker and expert in the Near and Middle East after serving multiple tours as chief of CIA’s stations overseas, including in the Middle East, as well as in the Near East Mission Center at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Per the CIA’s deputy director of operations, Putin managed to squander every single bit of his power and ability to coerce Ukraine, influence NATO, and demonstrate that Russia is a powerful nation he possessed before invading Ukraine.

He described the conflict as a massive failure for Moscow and said it presented opportunities for Western intelligence agencies to recruit disaffected Russians.

Marlowe’s remarks echo other former senior CIA officers’ assertions about disgruntled Russians in February – providing ground to recruit agents – although Moscow has limited the opportunities for espionage by significantly cutting the US diplomatic presence in the country.

CIA, however, which has also made public efforts to recruit Russians inside Russia earlier in the war, has set up a dark web website back in May where potential spies can reach them using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – which allow users to circumvent geographic internet restrictions- to make contact.

It also released instructions in Russian on how to access the site on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media sites.

To enhance the efforts, the US has increased the funding of VPN companies through the non-profit Open Technology Fund (OTF), which is funded by the US government. The same fund is used by Washington to support protesters around the world by giving them surveillance avoiding tools and tools to get around internet censorship.

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