Exclusive: Russia carried out a 'stunning' breach of FBI communications system, escalating the spy game on U.S. soil
The Elmcroft Estate was one of two Russian diplomatic compounds seized by Washington. (AP: Alexander F Yuan)
Yahoo News • September 16, 2019
On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government. As the Russians burned papers and scrambled to pack their bags, the Kremlin protested the treatment of its diplomats, and denied that those compounds — sometimes known as the “dachas” — were anything more than vacation spots for their personnel.
But there was another critical, and secret, reason why those locations and diplomats were targeted. Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials.
The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials.
It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community.
American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams . . .