The Facebook Adventures of Accused Russian Spy Mikhail Semenko
Accused spy Anna Chapman wasn't the only suspected Russian agent on Facebook. A tipster with access to co-defendant Mikhail Semenko's Facebook photos sent us some of his pictures. Want to see an alleged spy in a Bill Clinton costume?
Ten people were arrested by the U.S. government on Monday and accused of spying for Russia. One of the indicted, Anna Chapman, had pictures from various social networking sites posted all over the internet today (you can see those photos at the bottom of this post). Unsurprisingly, another one of the ten defendants had a significant social networking presence: Mikhail Semenko, an Arlington, Va. travel agent.
Semenko, whose LinkedIn profile has already been the subject of media speculation, worked at a travel agency called Travel All Russia, where he had a reputation for being "'clumsy' and 'quirky,' but highly intelligent." Our tipster, who knew him slightly, says he "was pretty much just super socially awkward... He always said weird jokes that no one really got. Probably super smart though."
So, not exactly James Bond. He and his fellow defendants are facing charges of "conspiracy to act as agents of a foreign government while concealing that from the U.S. government"—not espionage or high treason. In fact, they may not have done much spying at all. To be sure, this wasn't necessarily their M.O.; Russia may have just been hoping for vague and limited access to policymaking circles, with no specific information-gathering objectives. But mostly, Semenko and others seem to have blended in so well as ordinary Americans that, like ordinary Americans, they didn't have a lot of access to state secrets.
Semenko's Facebook photos don't really contradict that. The Seton Hall graduate looks like most goofy 20-somethings, messing around with friends at parties. How many Russian master spies do you think have been photographed wearing "U.S.S.R." t-shirts or Bill Clinton masks?
Then again, how many 20-somethings are accused of being spies?