The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is keeping a weather eye on the cyber horizon, in search of Russian insiders to recruit.
The CIA, or simply the Agency, has released a new Russian-language video to try to persuade Russian intelligence employees to work as moles – or double agents – for Washington.
Back in July, CIA Director William Burns said that ‘disaffection among some Russians over the war in Ukraine was creating a rare opportunity to recruit spies’, and that the Agency was taking full advantage of it.
In the new video, released on the CIA’s official social media channels, the spooks try to reach ‘patriotic Russians’ working inside Russian intel agencies, people who they believe feel betrayed by ‘widespread corruption in elite circles’.
“‘Those around you may not want to hear the truth. But we do. You are not powerless’, says the video, the latest in a series of recruitment videos targeting Russia, before detailing ways to contact the CIA.”
In the effort to recruit the viewers, the Agency resorts to using fiction – maybe because in movies and series the agents are ‘knights in shining armor’ defending freedom, and not mere recruits from ‘the Farm’.
Melancholy classical music plays as a 35-year-old male employee of Russia’s military intelligence agency reflects on the situation.
He believes himself to be ‘a patriot who loves Russia’ and once served as a paratrooper.
“‘Do I have enough courage to confront this betrayal?’ the video shows him saying, before he says he has realised the real enemy is inside Russia in the form of a corrupt leadership and elite.
‘The top leadership has sold the country out for palaces and yachts at a time when our soldiers are chewing rotten potatoes and firing from prehistoric weapons. Our people are forced to give bribes to simply find work’, the man says as video clips of a bleak Russian winter are spliced with images of official limousines and wealthy Russians giving toasts.”
The video’s final shot shows a well-dressed man contacting the CIA by mobile phone from a snowy courtyard.
“A CIA official said on condition of anonymity: ‘We are seeing more outreach from Russians as a result of these videos’. Reuters could not independently confirm that statement.”
While it is indeed true that western intel services have increased espionage efforts inside Russia, on the other hand these somewhat clumsy video efforts may attract ‘dangles’ – agents specialized in pretending to want to defect in order to extract intel from their would-be recruiters.
The Kremlin in fact seems unfazed by the new video.
“‘You know, this practice is quite common, intelligence agencies around the world very often use the media and social networks to recruit new employees. And they do it all the time, the CIA does it every year’, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.”
The CIA posted the video on Facebook, on X, and on Telegram.
— CIA (@CIA) January 22, 2024