He came to D.C. as a Brazilian student. The U.S. says he was a Russian spy.
Wow. Shocking how close this guy got.
Gift link to the Washington Post – but read the whole story, it’s worth it.
His real name is Sergey Cherkasov and he had spent nearly a decade building the fictitious Ferreira persona, according to officials and court records. His “team” was a tight circle of Russian handlers suddenly poised to have a deep-cover spy in the U.S. capital, positioned to forge connections in every corner of the American security establishment, from the State Department to the CIA.
Using the access he gained during his two years in Washington, Cherkasov filed reports to his bosses in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, on how senior officials in the Biden administration were responding to the Russian military buildup before the war in Ukraine, according to an FBI affidavit.
After he graduated, he came close to achieving a more consequential penetration when he was offered a position at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He was due to start a six-month internship there last year — just as the court began investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine — only to be turned away by Dutch authorities acting on information relayed by the FBI, according to Western security officials. Officials in the Netherlands put him on a plane back to Brazil, where he was arrested upon landing and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence for document fraud related to his fake identity.
Another short excerpt:
The details that have since emerged provide extraordinary visibility into highly cloaked aspects of Russian intelligence, including the Kremlin’s almost obsessive effort to infiltrate Western targets with “illegals” — spies who operate as lone agents with no discernible link to their home service — rather than diplomats with the legal protections that come with working out of an embassy.
The case has revealed lingering vulnerabilities in Western defenses more than a decade after the FBI arrested 10 Russian illegals in a sweep that made global headlines and spawned a popular television series, “The Americans.” U.S. officials acknowledge that the bureau discovered Cherkasov’s identity and GRU affiliation only after his arrival in Washington. The FBI declined to comment on the case.
The revelations have also exposed serious lapses in Russian tradecraft. Authorities have mined Cherkasov’s computer and other devices and found a trove of evidence, according to court records and security officials, including emails to his Russian handlers, details about “dead drops” where messages could be left, records of illicit money transfers, and an error-strewn personal history that he appears to have composed while trying to memorize details of his fictitious life.
Score one for the FBI.
I saw Brazil and thought it was going to be about Santos.
@Baud: Good faith assumption, since Santos founded the KGB.
A round of applause for Stan Beeman or Son!
I’ve been waiting for an open thread to respond to everyone regarding Water Girl’s post about 5:36 pm yesterday entitled “BJ Hive Mind (Open Thread)” soliciting suggestions to help me with my recent car crisis.- Blown engine on a 2007 Volvo C70 T5. I didn’t get home in time to participate so…
If you made suggestions on that thread I’m very grateful! I’ve followed up on virtually all your suggestions – and had already tried some.
It’s important to note: I play music and have done nothing else for my entire adult life. What I personally know about cars is if I turn on the key and it doesn’t start I look at the gas gauge. If I have gas I call a tow truck. It’s not my area of expertise.
As for locating an engine (the biggest problem with this particular car) I think I may have that one solved.
Mrs. Ajabu owns the exact same Volvo and hers has lots of annoying problems – mine had been the more reliable vehicle – and offered her engine to swap to mine. She wants a small SUV anyway. So now I’m in the process of trying to beat down the mechanic’s price for removing two engines to install one to an acceptable level. If I’m successful, I’ll find her a nice used SUV at an auction (Good suggestion by jackals). In the interim, I’m working every gig I can get my hands on to try to defray this unexpected massive expense.
I’m still likely to be a month or more before I can get my car back on the road so if anybody in metro Atlanta has a functional vehicle you can loan me please get my contact info from Water Girl. As an old musician with rapidly diminishing income I can’t afford a rental but I have to have a car to make any money. (Catch 22). All I can offer you in return is eternal gratitude and a bunch of free CDs.
In any event, Much thanks to everyone involved in the post yesterday. That’s why I love this community so much!!
I don’t post much but I stay involved. My regular daily routine is check my email, check my bank balance, read Balloon Juice.
And BJ is usually a hell of a lot more uplifting than the other two. Thanks again everyone!
OT but has Mickey’s trick been discussed?
@misterpuff: Ha! I wonder if they lived next door.
Heh. I love asshole vs. asshole fights.
There’s a GoFundMe for the Texas Observer that may be of interest to those following.
@Alison Rose: Well done.
@topclimber: I had not seen that, but I can say with heartfelt enthusiasm – go Disney! Good job.
edit: And fuck Tiny D. (my favorite of all the nicknames)
It’s no accident that the Russians sent him undercover as a Brazilian.
Brazilian Portuguese has many vocal sounds that sound like they are Slavic. Sometimes when I hear a Portuguese speaker on the radio, I think briefly that it is Polish or Russian.
That means that a Russian speaker with accented English can explain the character of their accent by claiming to be a native Portuguese speaker, and it will sound roughly plausible, even to people who might find the accent suspicious otherwise.
The real test, of course, would be putting them together with an actual Brazilian speaker of Portuguese. But I guess that never happened.
That one bit gives me pause about the ICC. How in the entire fuck could he pass their background check?
@Baud: Surely those never happen here?
Do you mean what republican state legislatures do when a Democrat is elected governor?
Anonymous At Work
Btw, Shoe Drops on Disney and Reedy Creek: Apparently Disney planned ahead and took power away from the zoning board for decades.
Thanks. I’m going to need it. This kind of repair job is ridiculously expensive and I am ridiculously broke. Bad combination…
We wish we only had two assholes.
These DC-based grad programs really need to take a look at themselves. See Butina, Maria.
They’re too busy taking a look at the tuition checks.
@topclimber: Delicious! Now the state has to maintain roads and infrastructure in Reedy Creek. Plus it stays in force until the last of King Charles descendants dies. How does a board miss these details?
@Ajabu: Thanks for the update. Spares are good! :-)
Best of luck finding a temporary ride. Sorry I can’t help, but do continue to ask around. Normal people like helping, and there are still lots of normal people out there. :-)
Sister Golden Bear
@Baud: Has Cherkasov ever been seen in the same room as Santos? I think not. Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.
@Anonymous At Work: Methinks The Mouse is just getting started.
Thanks for the pointer.
Disney didn’t get to be 99 years old and be – and remain – an industry giant without having devious (and smart) lawyers.
David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
Caitlin Clark mania sweeping country
hells littlest angel
@misterpuff: Gabriel and Claudia did not respond to requests for comment.
@glc: I’m glad to see them doing well with the fundraising (the original goal that I saw was $100k).
@David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch:
I missed that one, but I watched the Iowa – Georgia game earlier in the tournament. I have definitely hopped on the Caitlin Clark bandwagon. I only wish my Boilermakers had her on the men’s team to help Zach Edey (Big Maple)!
I do wonder how many “illegals” (in the Russian spy sense) are still in the US, even after the sweep.
As fans of “The Americans” may recall, the long-term plan was to train the children of “illegals” – people who by birth were legal citizens and all – to also be agents. They would be even less discoverable/traceable precisely because they are legal citizens. I know “The Americans” was fiction, but it was very well researched fiction, so that plan may have been real.
If that program indeed started in the 1970s-80s, then those kids are parents, and possibly grandparents, by now. Are they still working for Russia? Are their own children and grandchildren? How many of them are political strategists, campaigners… public officials?
@David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch:
I’m super glad I moved to California after graduating from Iowa (and would never move back) but the Iowa Women’s team has made all Hawkeye fans around the nation extremely proud. The team is awesome and Caitlin Clark is just amazing.
It sounds as if another possible problem is if they encounter someone who’s a good Russian speaker. The article mentions one of his classmates was a former intelligence officer who spoke Russian and asked if he had any Russian ancestry because it sounded as if his accent had a hint of Russian. I don’t think that interaction would have been remembered if he hadn’t reported it to some contact in the intelligence community at the time.
That actually highlights something I find a bit odd about the article more generally. The way it’s written, it makes the whole thing seem like a failure for US counter-intelligence. The tone is about how this guy slipped past the system and managed to establish himself, but the facts reported in the article suggest otherwise.
The article talks about how he was set to establish himself within official Washington, but he actually headed back to Brazil after graduating because he couldn’t get a job in DC. The article mentions that he was communicating with his Russian handlers about the intel he picked up before the invasion of Ukraine, but his conclusions were wrong. And, of course, he never got his wonder job at ICC because the US authorities were still following him and tipped off the authorities in Europe. It sounds to me as if the system worked pretty well in this case.
He didn’t. The FBI blew up his cover.
All the ICC would have seen and been able to check on, is the same cover story that allowed him into the US, got a prestigious Grad position close to power, and allowed him to exploit that for well over 4 years in DC.
The current crop of Illegals are posing as boring, semi-successful, “normal” people.
Most of the recent “catches” have been discovered by Bellingcat’s work, exposing that the FSB and SBU use “batches” of passports, numerically sequenced for their spies and illegals and those databases, (passport numbers) have been leaked.
Find spy #21378954, start looking at #213789953 and #21378955.
Interesting story. Thanks.
Meanwhile, … Phys.org:
I’m not surprised by the results – trust is indeed what matters, and politicians / tribal leaders / charlatans / etc. have know this for thousands of years. Finding ways to build trust is vital, because so much flows from that (because people cannot be experts at everything, and have to take so much of life “on faith” (so to speak).
@CaseyL: And the “illegals” are not just spying for Russia. Other countries did the same thing. Iran comes to mind.
Canada has been trying to pull the citizenship of the son of a pair of “illegals”, based around that concern.
@Roger Moore: Yup. The story seems to be hyping an awful lot of “what might have happened” vs what actually did.
E.g. “the U.S. capital” is Washington, D.C. – the city in the District. Something like 712,000 people live there. It’s not the same as the U.S. Capitol (the seat of the national government).
And it takes about 2 years just to figure out how to navigate the DC traffic and the Metro system.
It’s good he was caught, but working in D.C. and talking to federal employees at bars (or whatever) for a couple of years doesn’t mean he was on the path to getting nuclear secrets, or something.
DeSantis hacks vs. Disney lawyers is a bigger mismatch than me trying to go one-on-one against LeBron.
@Another Scott: Buzzkill.
Seriously, what you’ve written is what it looks like to me, but which version gets more clicks? You know, the usual one.
Snarki, child of Loki
@Princess: “the “illegals” are not just spying for Russia. Other countries did the same thing.
IranIsrael comes to mind”
@Burnspbesq: It’s this or they didn’t even read it. “Until the last descendant of King Charles dies.” Who are the dopes who didn’t say whoa?
@Burnspbesq: DeSantis looking real presidential alright…
Rule against perpetuities!
Maybe his name was in one of those bags of money that the NYFBI counterintel officer used to pick up from the Russians?
Or in spite of him?
@David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch:
Aaliyah Boston is arguably a better player, but America likes its female sports heroes ponytailed, cute, and white. See, e.g.,Hamm, Mia; Bird, Sue.
@topclimber: Now that’s entertainment!
@Anonymous At Work: Funny, that Yahoo news article talks about the big time law firm the DeSatan’s handpicked replacement board has hired to fight Disney, and the firm brags that it has Adam Laxalt on staff, the guy who lost to Cortes Masto (D – NV) last election. My relatives in NV say he’s well known as a legacy-riding idiot, but who knows really? //s
@Burnspbesq: It’s amusing your two examples are both certified badasses in their respective sports.
@Baud: Dan is a bright guy, but he is a landscaper not a lawyer/historian.
@Snarki, child of Loki:
Not sure Israel would need to recruit the children of “illegals” – or have “illegals” at all – when until fairly recently plenty of US Jews would be happy to do that work, and there are also plenty of US-born Israeli citizens (who can not only blend in completely, but may also have dual US-Israel citizenship).
Iran, OTOH, like the USSR/Russia is an adversary nation: much harder to get into the US, much more closely scrutinized. So the ROI on “illegals” and their offspring is a lot better.
@sab: “Damn it, Jim, I’m a…”
Maybe, but Caitlin Clark was just awarded the Naismith Award
Spy craft looks so exciting in the movies but really, this guy was plowing through dense texts, sweating over term papers, and studying for exams. Sounds awfully tedious to me.
Hope he rots in the Brazilian jail he’s in.
It’s Sassy Boots and Big Mouse. Three falls, fifteen-minute time limit. In the Steel Cage.
Let’s see who goes higher in the WNBA draft.
Dont get me wrong, Clark is a great player, but she can be held in check by elite defenders. Celeste Taylor did that when Iowa played Duke last season. It’ll be really interesting the first time Clark has to go up against the likes of Chelsea Gray.
I think the idea of training the children of illegal operatives to become operatives is one of those things that works better in fiction. Some possible problems:
Is it possible for one generation of deep penetration agents to raise another? Sure. But trying to do it would put the first generation in grave danger, since they’d be depending on the discretion and good behavior of literal children to keep their cover.
@Roger Moore: Kids do their own thing. They challenge their parents’ opinions and beliefs. It is part of growing up.
Anonymous At Work
@StringOnAStick: The replacement board didn’t hire hte lawyers, the State of Florida hired them on behalf of the replacement board. None of the board or its budget is inconvenienced by the massive expenses. Worth getting right.
Yeah, but those are movies. Even to the extent they’re realistic about the details, they’re condensing everything into 2 hours by leaving the boring parts out.
Anonymous At Work
@pluky: What more can Disney do? Taking back the board when DeSantis is floundering to muster even a Mitt-Romney-level of human emotion and campaigning? Unlikely, he might never leave the state after Iowa’s straw poll.
Disney got theirs but is facing the loss of a large number of employees. Disney’s power in Florida depends on its park having both a lot of employees and the ability to handle large numbers of tourists. Cutting employment threatens both.
I’d expect Disney to virtue-signal like with the LGTBQ conference, maybe some token statements against GOP bills, but that’s it from here out.
Heh. I’m the last person to champion Disney, but in this case, go Mickey! Love it.
Even if the kids are thoroughly indoctrinated and want to be spies, there’s no guarantee they’d actually be fit for the job. The world is littered with people who tried to follow in their parents’ footsteps and failed miserably.
Meanwhile, Senate passes repeal of AUMF, with some GQPers, and the rest of the GQPers are panicked that it may pass the House. TheHill:
My Senator – Tim Kaine – has been pushing to repeal the AUMF(s) for a very long time. I’m glad it finally got through.
The GQPers fighting and panicking is icing on the cake.
All good possibilities. I’d add that kids generally want to fit in with other kids. They may be excited to be “Americans” (or whatever country they are being raised in), just like their peers. They may grow to become quite attached to the country they are being raised to spy on.
Laura Rozen excerpted some of the Washington Post story on her Twitter account, including:
And it looks like Brazil might not want Cherkovsky, but Russia does:
I cannot recommend Laura Rozen highly enough as a sound source for news, whether it’s foreign affairs and national security in general, or particular subjects like the Iran’s nuclear program and the political crisis in Israel. I found Ms. Rozen through Cheryl Rofer.
@Anonymous At Work: Astonishingly, all the comments on that story are in Disney’s favor.
How much are Floridians willing to pay to defend Puss In Boots’ bullshit? At $800/hour times multiples of lawyers, it’s going to be multiple millions for just this one lawsuit.
It’s one parcel and it’s 21 years after the death of the last descendant. Clearly not in perpetuity. Right?
caring & sensitive
@Dan B: I haven’t seen a Rule Against Perpetuities clause since first year law (1971)
Thanks to the rule against it!
@Baud: So does potential perpetuity plus 21 count?
@Baud: We need a Rule against Twerpetuities. That would knock out Kraven McCarthy and most of his caucus.
Russia is trying the old “wanted in Russia for crime-ing” trick to extradite him back to Russia.
@Anonymous At Work: DeSantis is probably biting his nails right now because this is a slap in the face of his power.
He has the legislation on his side, so he can probably come up with a bill that gives him even more sweeping powers to ignore something and make sure he gets his way.
@Jay: I expect Brazil will give the guy up. They’re spectators more or less in the U.S./Russia rivalry.
@Jay: That is why I said I hope he rots in his Brazilian jail cell.
@David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch:
Brazil knows the criminal charges and the application for extradition are bogus. They gave the guy the max sentence, because in part, he’s not the first “Brazilian” to be outed as an illegal, and that makes it difficult for talented actual Brazilians, to “go places” in the international community.
They also know that the moment his extradition flight boards the Airoflot jet or charter flight, he’s a free man.
The US is also applying for his extradition.
Normally, in these sort of cases, it’s a swap, or a trade, as they are “assets”. So is Russia holding an actual Brazilian that Brazil would like back, or is the US holding a Brazilian that Brazil would like back. Whomever has the “ace” to trade, Russia or the US, will get the deal.
And he may have been in a very prestigious grad program in international relations, but it was still just a grad program. The suggestion that Johns Hopkins should screen its applicants better strikes me as absurd: you don’t need a security clearance to go to grad school, even for a program like that. All they needed to care about was whether he was academically qualified.
And sure, he may have had the opportunity to hobnob with some interesting people through the grad program, but I’m sure Foreign Service and similar types get regular training about not divulging sensitive information, and are reminded of the penalties of doing so. We employees of my government statistical agency are routinely reminded of such things, even though the worst that could happen in our case is that someone might be able to identify people who took our survey.
So like you, I don’t see an intelligence failure here.
David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
@Burnspbesq: If it was a question of looks then Louisville’s Hailey van Lith would be everyone’s favorite (photo – left). They like Caitlin because of her monster Logo threes and because she’s a showman (photo).
David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
They’re not in the same draft class. Boston will go number one this year. Caitlin will obviously go number one in 2025.
@Jay: Brazil probably just wants to be rid of the guy. Sending him back to Russia is the easiest way. They can bank a favor.
@Roger Moore: I don’t think it’s giving away too much to say that that’s eventually a major issue for the characters in The Americans.
@Hob: There was also a side character (son of another pair of “illegals”) who turned to be … way too enthusiastic about being recruited. Horribly so
ETA: Yes, in the West, kids grow up to be their own persons, whereas the “illegals” lived their earlier years and their training in a culture and a situation that simply didn’t allow such thoughts to ever be born. So I agree recruiting the kids would be a mixed bag, and very very dangerous for the parents.
@Jay: fascinating! I do admire Bellingcat.
@CaseyL: yeah the Americans was a terrific tv series. One that I urged my uncle to watch but as it turned out, he knew the spy family from Cambridge, and even had them over for a visit. He felt incredibly bad for the children. Couldn’t watch the series as a result. Another uncle asked me to tell him the story and now I think my 70,000 words might be shaped into a novel about it.
That’s pretty cool.