Spy Finances: What's the Going Rate for Espionage in Russia?

Ryan Fogle
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A $100,000 signing bonus, a $1 million salary, a brand new netbook or tablet, and additional rewards depending on performance: That's the compensation package, if media reports are correct, awaiting a Russian counterterrorism officer specializing in the Caucasus region who's willing to spy for Uncle Sam.

News broke Tuesday that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) had arrested a U.S. diplomat, Ryan Christopher Fogle, on charges of working for the CIA. In a photograph published by Russia Today, Fogle is shown being pinned to the ground by a Russian officer; the American is wearing a baseball cap and a blond wig. The FSB says Fogle was trying to flip a Russian secret services member. When he was caught, he was allegedly carrying "special technical equipment" including another wig, a microphone, a Moscow atlas, a compass, two knives, multiple pairs of sunglasses and several stacks of cash -- in 500 euro notes.

Also in Fogle's possession, the Russians say, was a letter meant to be delivered to the officer Fogle intended to suborn. This missive, if authentic, gives a glimpse into post-Cold War espionage, including the going rate for betraying Mother Russia. Signed "Your friends," the letter, as translated from Russian and published by RT, compliments its intended recipient and promises hefty compensation in return for unspecified confidential disclosures:

Dear friend,

This is a down-payment from someone who is very impressed with your professionalism and who would greatly appreciate your cooperation in the future. Your security means a lot to us. This is why we chose this way of contacting you. We will continue to make sure our correspondence remains safe and secret.

We are ready to offer you $100,000 to discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation. The reward may be much greater if you are willing to answer specific questions. In addition to that, we can offer up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation, with extra bonuses if we receive some helpful information.

So much for safe and secret.

The letter continues with instructions on how to contact the sender: by registering for a Gmail account, without providing any personal information, and sending a message to a strange address (unbacggdA@gmail.com); "In exactly one week, check this mailbox for a response from us." (RT, a state-supported media outlet, has a bit of fun reporting that this underwhelming example of tradecraft demonstrates Fogle's "technological prowess in the digital era").

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Assuming the letter is legit, it tells us that spies, in addition to their enviable salary, are able to expense items necessary to their clandestine work: "If possible," the letter advises, "buy a new device (paying in cash) which you will use to contact us. We will reimburse you for this purchase."

According to The New York Times, those stacks of 500 euro notes aren't the only moneys currently concerning Russia's leadership. The paper reports that the diplomat's detention comes at a time of both increased cooperation between U.S. and Russian intelligence (following the Boston bombing) and rising concern in the Kremlin over Western efforts at political subversion:

Mr. Putin has supported new laws to block Russian officials from depositing wealth overseas, saying that doing so leaves them dangerously exposed to pressure from foreign governments. Nongovernmental organizations working in Russia are accused of meddling and are forced to register as "foreign agents" if they receive financing from abroad.

For his part, Fogle -- described by RT as "a career diplomat working as the third secretary of the Political Section of the American embassy in Moscow" -- looks to be out of a job. After questioning him, the Russians branded Fogle "persona non grata" and handed him over to the U.S. mission to be taken out of the country. Presumably, the U.S. government provides for those who do risky work like recruiting double agents (again, assuming the Russians are correct about Fogle's activities); if worst comes to worst, the Foreign Service Pension System pays an annuity supplement to eligible employees until they are 62, if they retire before that age.

Ryan Fogle Detained By Russia, Accused Of Spying For C.I.A.
Ryan Fogle Detained By Russia, Accused Of Spying For C.I.A.