ABC News: A female Russian agent got “close enough” to a sitting U.S. cabinet member that the FBI felt they had to swoop in and arrest the lot — but it wasn’t the famous femme fatale Anna Chapman, federal officials said today.
Chapman, the seductive 20-something SoHo spy, was named by a British newspaper Monday as the reason the FBI decided to finally round up the Russian ring, which had long been under surveillance, in 2010. The paper cited an interview conducted by the British broadcasting network the BBC with the FBI’s counter-intelligence head Frank Figliuzzi.
“We were becoming very concerned they were getting close enough to a sitting U.S. cabinet member that we thought we could no longer allow this to continue,” Figliuzzi said.
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But Figliuzzi never named the Russian agent in question, even if the BBC ran images of Chapman — as well as shots of a look-a-like — during the interview, and now the FBI says he wasn’t talking about her at all. Instead, Justice Department officials told ABC News Figliuzzi was referring to another of the arrested spies, Cynthia Murphy.
According to court documents relating to the spies’ arrest, Murphy had been in contact with a fundraiser and “personal friend” of Hillary Clinton, who took the office of Secretary of State in January 2009. The fundraiser, Alan Patricof, said in a statement in 2010 had retained Murphy’s financial services firm more than two years before, had met with her a few times and spoke with her on the phone frequently. Patricof said they “never” spoke about politics, the government or world affairs.
A spokesperson for Clinton told ABC News in 2010 that at the time there was “no reason to think the Secretary was a target of this spy ring.”
Court documents had said before the FBI had decided to go ahead with the arrests after an FBI agent went undercover and engaged Chapman, who became alarmed. FBI spokesperson Paul Bresson said Figliuzzi’s comments were in line with what the court documents had always said.
“There is no allegation or suggestion in the complaint that Anna Chapman or anyone else associated with this investigation attempted to seduce a U.S. cabinet official,” Bresson said.
After their arrest, the spooks were sent back to Moscow in exchange for four high-value Americans that had been in Russian custody, U.S. officials said at the time.
Since her return to the homeland, Anna Chapman has found fame as a television host and, more recently, runway fashion model.
ABC News’ Lee Ferran contributed to this report.
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