True Spies: Sexpionage, Part Two: Anna Chapman
NARRATOR: Welcome to True Spies. Week by week, mission by mission, you’ll hear the true stories behind the world’s greatest espionage operations. You’ll meet the people who navigate this secret world. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would YOU do in their position? I’m Vanessa Kirby, and this is True Spies: Sexpionage, Part Two: Anna Chapman.
NARRATOR: New York, New York. After dark.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Downtown, below 14th Street. Or below 23rd Street on the West side.
NARRATOR: It’s 2010. We’re on the dancefloor of one of the city’s elite nightclubs. It’s teeming with the great, the good, and the merely very rich.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Pretty tight security at the door. If it didn't look like you had enough money to spend, you weren't coming in. Some hip hop artists, Wall Street people. Truthfully, they were all pretty much the same.
NARRATOR: It’s in that rarefied milieu that we find a young woman - petite, pretty, and dressed to the nines. Nothing out of the ordinary - not for this part of town.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: In those nightclubs, she would not have been the best-looking woman in the room. These nightclubs were awash in six-foot wannabe models or models.
NARRATOR: But if she’s insecure, she’s not letting on.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: A lot of touching, a lot of casual touching on the shoulder or the leg. Telling jokes. She would have been charming, more than beautiful, if that makes sense.
NARRATOR: Whatever ‘it’ is, she’s got it in spades.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: From what people said, she could tell you the weather and make it seem like a come-on.
NARRATOR: Her name is Anna Chapman. She’s a Russian spy. And her drinks are on you. Welcome to the next installment in our first True Spies anthology. In these episodes, we’re exploring the role of honeypots - operatives who use sex and seduction to achieve their aims.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: There are dozens of variations on honey traps. Do you want to blackmail somebody? Do you want to embarrass them in the press? Maybe it's a long-term game where they’ll approach somebody five or 10 years down the road. There are dozens of variations of how they can be played.
NARRATOR: Last time, author, journalist, and former military intelligence officer Michael Smith clued us in on Operation Diamond - an audacious four-part honeypot conducted by Mossad to steal a cutting-edge fighter jet from the Iraqi Air Force. This week, we’re leaping forward more than 40 years to uncover the true story of a thoroughly modern honeypot. Her image in the world’s media - an image she heartily leans into - is one of a vivacious, superspy seductress. But who is the real Anna Chapman? Let’s find out. Meet your guide.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: My name is Henry Schlesinger. I'm an author and a journalist, and my new book out is called Honeytrapped: Sex, Betrayal, and Weaponized Love - and it's a history of sexpionage.
NARRATOR: Henry Schlesinger has been writing about espionage for 20 years.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: I started off writing about technology and that segued into espionage. Espionage has the reputation for using cutting-edge technologies.
NARRATOR: But a honeypot operation is, at its heart, resolutely low-tech. Like all human intelligence techniques, it plays on a target’s natural desire for intimacy, power, and respect. In the hands of somebody like Anna Chapman, those basic drives are powerful tools indeed. She was one of 10 Russian spies who were deported by the US government in 2010, in return for four American assets held by Moscow. She’d arrived in the United States less than a year earlier, and had quickly acclimated to the Manhattan party scene. Her mission, such as it was, had been to make rich and powerful friends.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She was getting close to lawyers and Wall Street people, finance guys.
NARRATOR: It’s believed that Anna Chapman was ‘spotting and assessing’ - identifying influential individuals who might be vulnerable to recruitment or blackmail by the Russian Federation. Long-time listeners of this podcast will recognize the terminology as the first two steps in the SADRAT system - Spotting, Assessing, Developing, Recruiting, Agent Handling, and Termination. In this episode, you’ll find out why she never made it to Step 3. Her eventual arrest made her a household name in the US and Russia, and she parlayed her notoriety into a series of lucrative roles in fashion and media. To the best of our knowledge, she's one of only a handful of convicted Russian spies that you can follow on Instagram. Over half a million people have done just that. None of this should be too surprising. Born in 1982, she’s an elder millennial. For Anna, the strictures of the Communist USSR are a childhood memory - nothing more.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She was part of the first generation of Russians who had access to Western culture. She would grow up listening to Western music and watching Western television. The 1950s Cold Warriors, or Cold War spies from the Soviet Union, didn't have access to Western culture, or they had very limited access. So she was able to fit into these nightclubs and night scenes where they were playing house music or EDM or hip hop.
NARRATOR: The New Russia’s relative cultural openness did not translate to wholesale adoption of the Western outlook. Patriotism, drawing on the glories of the Soviet and pre-Soviet past, was still a part of Russian life. In Anna’s case, the call of duty must have been especially strong. ‘Chapman’, it should probably go without saying, is not her given surname. She was born Anna Kushchenko, the daughter of Vasily Kushchenko, a senior KGB operative.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Well, it's a very particular kind of industry and there's always been a nepotistic quality about it. It's not unusual to see Americans that are second-generation in the CIA or military intelligence. It's not unusual in England to see second-generation spies.
NARRATOR: In 2001, Vasily Kushchenko was serving as the Russian Ambassador to Zimbabwe. Anna visited him in the summer of that year, taking a short break from her studies at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, in Moscow. It’s here, observers have hypothesized, that she was recruited as an operative for the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service. Like so many aspects of Chapman’s story, the whole truth may never be unearthed.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: But she was part of that new generation of Russian intelligence officers, young with not a lot of training in their background. It was on-the-job training so it's kind of unclear when she joined.
NARRATOR: Regardless of whether or not Anna was a fully-fledged operative at this point, Zimbabwe served as a launching point for her journey west. Fittingly, it begins in another nightclub - this time in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She was at a club. She meets a deejay. They hit it off.
NARRATOR: Twenty-eight-year-old Englishman Marcus Read was smitten with Anna. According to a salacious tell-all piece in a British tabloid, published at the time of her arrest, the couple shared their first kiss behind the Ambassador’s residence - entering through a side door, naturally. He flew back to London the next day, but the pair swapped numbers. A couple of weeks passed. Then, Read received a message from Anna. She wanted to visit. A couple of days later, the 19-year-old Russian bowled through the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport, brandishing a sizable bottle of whisky. The party had arrived.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: The relationship lasted several weeks. And then she meets her future husband, at a rave in the Docklands.
NARRATOR: The Docklands, for those unfamiliar with London’s nightlife scene, are a former industrial area in the East of the city. It’s here that Anna Kushchenko met the man who would provide her with love, devotion, and a legitimate Western identity. Alex Chapman was 21 years old - two years Anna’s senior. A trainee psychologist, he worked at a recording studio to pay the bills. In much the same way as Marcus Read, he was immediately taken with Anna when he met her at a warehouse rave. As far as he knew, she felt the same way. For Marcus Read, the party was over. In a pattern that would be painfully familiar to her future partners, Anna had moved swiftly on. When Anna returned to Moscow, Alex Chapman followed her. They were married in the Spring of 2002. Some observers, like journalist and former military intelligence officer Michael Smith, assert that the marriage was a way to de-Russianize the 20-year-old spy.
MICHAEL SMITH: It's essentially a laundering operation. So, she's sent to the UK where she marries a Brit, and that then gives her a status that makes her westernized. She could go to America and say that she's married to a Brit.
NARRATOR: But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. In those early days in Moscow, despite having no connections in Russia beyond his young wife, Alex Chapman soon found himself in remarkable demand as an English tutor.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: He posted a notice on an obscure building to teach English.
NARRATOR: A building, by the way, that Anna had specifically suggested.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: And the next day, he had a dozen calls. People who wanted to learn English from him.
NARRATOR: It’s entirely possible that the people of Moscow had a ravenous appetite for the English language, and would seek it out wherever they could. Although, the more cynical among us might consider that the eager students were plants, put there by the SVR as a way to funnel money to the Chapmans. Later that year, the couple returned to their base in London, but Anna visited Russia frequently, ostensibly to complete a master’s program at a Moscow university. It’s likely that these visits were used as cover by Anna and the SVR to plan the next stage in Anna’s career as a spy. In a 2010 interview, Alex Chapman recalled that Anna began spending more time with Russian friends during their time in London, often excluding him from their gatherings. She grew increasingly distant, and in 2005, the marriage ended in divorce.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She had her British passport and she had her British name, and she had some acclimation to British and American culture. So, my guess is that Chapman had served his purpose.
NARRATOR: That year, Anna Chapman, now a newly-minted UK citizen, moved into a flat in Mayfair - a swanky area of West London. She supported herself with a succession of jobs which kept her close to the kind of people she would later target in New York.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: There's a startup charity. She works for a hedge fund investment firm. She works for a private jet company. She works for a bank - jobs that put her in the financial world or among wealthy people and with access to the data of wealthy people.
NARRATOR: Due to the legendary opaqueness of the British intelligence community, we don’t know if Anna Chapman was spying on UK soil. We do know that an investigation was launched at the time of her arrest and that both Marcus Read and Alex Chapman were questioned by MI5. We also know that rent in West London has never been cheap. Newly single, Anna Chapman needed a roommate. She found one in Lena Savitskaya, who worked at a hotel bar in nearby Knightsbridge - a popular destination for Britain’s uber-wealthy, including a cluster of Russian oligarchs.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: The flatmate was already in the service industry at a high end. She was already in the top-tier nightlife, and that propelled her [Anna] into it.
NARRATOR: Anna and Lena lived together for two years. During that time, they became familiar faces on the West London club scene and attracted a number of well-off admirers.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: It looks as if she's going after businessmen and business people. But also keeping in touch with the Russian ex-pat community.
NARRATOR: One such ex-pat was Boris Berezovsky, who dated both women for a time. Berezovsky was a billionaire oligarch who had become a vocal critic of the Putin regime. His time in London was, in effect, an exile - he’d been charged with fraud in Russia, and found guilty in absentia. The UK’s refusal to extradite him was a source of some considerable diplomatic friction between the two countries. He was found dead at his Berkshire home in 2013, after an apparent suicide - although the coroner did not rule out foul play. It’s worth mentioning that Berezovsky was an associate of another Russian emigré, Alexander Litvinenko, who many believe was assassinated by the Putin regime. By that time, Anna Chapman was very much out of the picture - but it’s not unthinkable that the SVR had used her to keep tabs on Berezovsky in the years before her arrest. Another alleged target of Chapman’s during her time in London was rather more high-profile.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She had a thing for one of the princes. I think Harry.
NARRATOR: Anna used her nightlife connections to befriend the manager of a club called Boujis, one of the favorite haunts of the young princes, Harry and William. It’s unknown whether she managed to make meaningful contact with either Royal, but her fellow partygoers observed that her presence at the club was, in a large part, geared towards becoming a part of their circle.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: And she was very smart about it. She just didn't show up at the door of a club to try to get in. She made friends with party promoters and managers and things like that.
NARRATOR: Still, this was ambitious, to say the least. But this is how Russian spy agencies operate. The game they play is a numbers game, and they can play it for years at a time. It’s part of a peculiarly Russian system of espionage called ‘active measures’.
MICHAEL SMITH: Active measures mean working behind the scenes within your enemy's society to actually confuse, disrupt, and cause problems. And that's why you need lots of agents on the ground.
NARRATOR: This is Michael Smith, a journalist, and former military intelligence officer with first-hand knowledge of Russian tactics.
MICHAEL SMITH: That's why it's so helpful to have lots of agents on the ground. You've got someone who might not be doing anything on your behalf most of his time there. But on that particular day, you need him to do something. He does it. And that triggers a plan. And it is random. It's designed to disrupt.
NARRATOR: Ultimately, Anna was unable to make any headway with the princes. In 2007, she returned to Russia, where she started an online real-estate company - domdot.ru. If you’re in the market for a multi-million dollar townhouse in a ritzy European neighborhood, you can still visit it today. In January 2010, after a number of preparatory visits to the US, Chapman made a permanent move to New York. She set herself up in an apartment in the city’s financial district, founded a new real-estate start-up for the American market, and got ready to inveigle herself into a new scene - a party that could put her on the path to real money, and real influence.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: I have a lot of friends that are still into the nightlife. So they said: “You have to see the scene at this club or that club.” And they would take me to a nightclub and there would be a Chinese business guy dropping $50,000. She was making contacts among some very wealthy guys.
NARRATOR: What Anna didn’t know is that this would not prove to be a new beginning - only the beginning of the end. A city’s clubs and bars are fertile ground for spies of all stripes. That goes double for honeytraps.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: They offer anonymity to a certain degree. I think they offer access. They allow spies to assess their targets in terms of vices, in terms of behavior, in a relaxed atmosphere that you wouldn't have in a business situation. You can enter and leave them anonymously.
NARRATOR: Anna Chapman was anything but anonymous, but her time on the New York club scene gave her plenty of opportunities to hone in on potential assets - people with access to corporate, financial, and legal information that might prove useful to Russian interests down the line.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Disgruntled employees of larger companies, people with financial problems, people with drug problems, people with alcohol problems. That's a large chunk of the nightlife scene. But you know, there it is.
NARRATOR: But, as with any seduction, you can’t make it too obvious. It was crucial to her cover that she operated within the social mores of the New York club set.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She was portrayed as a sexpot and very promiscuous, and that kind of thing. And that's standard when these people are caught and put in the press and they're portrayed as the new Mata Hari. Speaking to people who knew her back in the day when she was on the club scene, she did nothing to raise any eyebrows. I mean, the club scene is a fast scene, as it is in New York, and she wasn't the fastest in that crowd.
NARRATOR: What made Anna special was her superhuman interpersonal skills - an innate ability to charm, and appear to be charmed. In a world of beautiful people, she knew how to stand out - to offer more.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: These very beautiful women in these nightclubs, okay. They don't get behind the ropes often. She would have been seen as an exotic business person.
NARRATOR: She made enough money through the real estate business to keep herself afloat, but relied on a string of high-powered lovers and boyfriends to maintain the more luxurious aspects of city living.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: I think there were three or four serious relationships. Everything else was just a thing in the spring. And even the non-serious ones seem to act as cover for the serious ones, if that makes sense.
NARRATOR: And, just as she had done in London, she used the city’s glut of party promoters and ‘nightlife consultants’ - middlemen who source drugs or sex to high-rollers - to earn herself a seat behind some of New York’s most impenetrable velvet ropes.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: If she had zeroed in on one particular guy, it would have looked suspicious. But she was out and about. And she wasn't out and about in a way that raised eyebrows.
NARRATOR: Here’s an example. Her last romantic entanglement in New York was with John Altorelli, a prominent lawyer with a reputation for big spending.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: He throws a lot of money around to get clients. So that means taking them to baseball games. It means taking them to nightclubs.
NARRATOR: For a spy, a lawyer - especially one operating at the top of his profession, with high-value clients - is an excellent target.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Lawyers have all kinds of access to privileged information. That could be military contractors. It could be anything.
NARRATOR: For example, the law firm which employed John Altorelli, Dewey & LeBoeuf, had clients ranging from fossil fuel titans to monolithic, mouse-themed entertainment companies. Given enough time, Anna Chapman could have been privy to conversations happening in the biggest boardrooms in the world. Hindsight is 20/20. But to an outside observer, Anna’s lifestyle was fairly pedestrian. She was just one of many young men and women who orbited the big spenders in downtown Manhattan. But that does depend on who is observing, doesn’t it?
HENRY SCHLESINGER: They had a mole inside Russia.
NARRATOR: ‘They’ in this instance, are the CIA. The mole is one Alexander Poteyev, the deputy head of the ‘S’ Directorate of the SVR. S Directorate is the unit within Russia’s foreign intelligence agency that is responsible for running deep-cover agents like Anna Chapman - illegals. Poteyev had been recruited by the agency in 1999 - only a year before he took the deputy directorship. This was the kind of access that governments dream of. And 11 years later, it began to really pay off. Poteyev passed on the identities of 10 illegals active within the United States, including Anna Chapman.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: They would have been run separately for security reasons. It's only as secure as the weakest link. That's a mistake that networks have made in the past. Everyone in the network knows each other. So if one person folds, they're able to identify other people in the network.
NARRATOR: The CIA passed on the information to the FBI, who immediately put ‘eyes on’ Anna.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Because she was traveling under her true name, they needed proof that she was doing something clandestine.
NARRATOR: If Anna had been using a false identity, and a CIA source identified her as a Russian national, she might have been picked up immediately. However, as things stood, she was a British passport holder, using her married name. In fact, there would be no reason to suspect that Anna Chapman was born in Russia until you heard her speak.
MICHAEL SMITH: She isn't coming directly from Moscow, and that's the key thing, and then you want her to just become part of society in America.
NARRATOR: During the course of their investigation, the FBI surveillance team was able to identify Anna’s handler in America - an SVR officer posing as an employee of Aeroflot, the Russian national airline. They also detected the means by which Chapman would file reports to the SVR. It’s called a COVCOM, or Covert Communications system. Typically, Anna was more glamorous than most.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: What they were using is a point-to-point system.
NARRATOR: A point-to-point system is a method of communication wherein only the participants are privy to the information being discussed. It’s less complicated than it sounds - a phone call, for example, is a point-to-point communication. In this case, however, we’re talking specifically about a wireless data link between two computers - a link that can only be established in close proximity. For that, you need specialist hardware - what prosecutors would later describe as a ‘range extender’. A small device with twin antennas that fit snugly into a large, expensive handbag.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: And she would sit in a Starbucks with her Chanel bag and the range extender in it that connected wirelessly to her laptop, and she would send a burst signal to a passing car.
NARRATOR: True Spies regulars will doubtless be familiar with the ‘brush-past'. It’s a tried-and-tested tradecraft technique where information - say, a note - is passed between two people through subtle physical contact. To an observer, it should be almost imperceptible. Think of Anna Chapman’s COVCOM system as a digital variant on a classic. When the receiving computer came into range and the connection was established, Anna would send an encrypted file.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: And they were reports like regular reports on who she met and what she was doing and that kind of thing.
NARRATOR: At this stage, the Bureau had eyes on both Anna and her handler, who would drive innocuously past the Starbucks on 8th Avenue in a minivan.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: It's unclear whether they were able to decrypt the material that she was sending, but it does seem to have been intercepted.
NARRATOR: Ten of these data transfers took place, always at the same time on a Wednesday, between her arrival in New York and June of 2010. By then, the FBI has gathered enough evidence to affect the final stage of their operation - an undercover sting. A Russian-speaking Bureau agent makes contact with Anna, and they arrange a meeting at yet another branch of Starbucks - this is New York in the Noughties, remember - a few blocks away from her apartment. Alexander Poteyev, the CIA’s mole inside the SVR, has provided the necessary passphrases and identifiers that will establish the agent’s bona fides to the young Illegal. Posing as an SVR officer, the FBI agent tells Anna that one of her fellow spies - one who is using a false identity - is in need of a new passport.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: So they gave her a passport to give to someone else.
NARRATOR: She agrees and learns the special passphrase - or ‘verbal parole’ - that will identify her to her so-called colleague. “Haven’t we met in California last summer?” “No, I think it was the Hamptons.” When that’s over and done with, she’s asked to fix an upside-down postage stamp to a public sign nearby. That’s called a ‘signal site’. Once all this is done, the Bureau will have enough evidence of clandestine activity to make an arrest. The meeting has gone well. And there’s a cherry on top - Anna hands over her laptop to the undercover agent, complaining that the machine must be faulty. She’s had difficulty establishing a connection with her handler of late. More evidence for the pile. But Anna isn’t stupid. Whether it’s gut instinct or some half-remembered piece of training, she realizes that something is amiss as she walks out of the cafe and back onto the streets of Manhattan. It begins to dawn on her that, if the man she just met is not who he says he is, then she may have made a serious mistake. Like any 20-something out of their depth in a foreign country, she needs to phone home. But that’s not as simple as hitting speed-dial on her cell. First, she needs a clean phone - preferably an untraceable one.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She contacted her father through a burner phone and a phone card.
NARRATOR: Anna buys the burner phone in Brooklyn - a less glamorous part of town than she’s used to.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She was in downtown Brooklyn, which is a bustling area. She probably had the idea that there were a lot of drug dealers and that kind of thing buying burner phones from that store.
NARRATOR: She has to sign for the phone, and gives a false name. At this point, she’s panicking. The address she gives is not going to stand up under scrutiny.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: It was 99 Fake Street. And that seems to mirror an episode of The Simpsons where Bart gives an address, 123 Fake Street.
NARRATOR: As she leaves the store, she crumples her receipt and throws it in the trash.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: The FBI immediately snatched it up from the trash and was able to listen in on the calls.
NARRATOR: The FBI surveillance team is listening when Kushchenko picks up the phone.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She told her dad what had happened, that she had been approached by somebody who claimed to have been in the same business as her and who used the password. Her dad got back to her and said: “This isn't good.” I would assume that he checked something with his sources inside the SVR and then he gave her the advice to try to brazen it out… and go to the police and say: “This guy gave me a passport to hand off, I think it might be an espionage thing.”
NARRATOR: By going to the police and playing the Good Samaritan, Chapman and her father believed that she might be able to escape further scrutiny.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She goes into the First Precinct, which is downtown, and they say: “Okay, this might be an espionage deal.”
NARRATOR: The police and the FBI are expecting her. And now that they have her laptop, there’s enough evidence to finally bring her to justice. After six months of constant surveillance, the net is finally closing in. But law enforcement, like life, is full of frustrations. At the last minute, the ugly specter of international politics raises its head. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, is on a state visit to Canada. If the FBI bust a major Russian spy ring while their leader is on North American soil it could spark a diplomatic incident.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: They had to wait till his plane was in international airspace.
NARRATOR: Stalling for time, the FBI asks Anna if she’ll look at some mugshots to see if she can identify any of New York’s criminal population.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: So they gave her hundreds of images to look through on a very slow computer. And she wants to be cooperative. If she wants to appear cooperative… So she begins looking through these images for hours and everyone's polite.
NARRATOR: Five hours later…
HENRY SCHLESINGER: Then the Russian plane hits international airspace and they come in and arrest her.
NARRATOR: Anna’s arrest precipitated the arrest of nine other illegals, all of whom had been identified by Alexander Poteyev. To this day, it’s unclear as to why the American government moved so quickly to end the operation when there could have been tangible benefits to letting it run and observing the Russians at work. But there is a working theory.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: They said that one of them, one of the 10, was getting very close to becoming dangerous. She was friends or colleagues with somebody who knew Hillary [Clinton] when she was secretary of state, I believe.
NARRATOR: After the fact, it was reported that this potential threat at the heart of the US government was Anna Chapman. It wasn’t. But the fact that somebody like Anna could rise so far was troubling.
MICHAEL SMITH: Russians have far, far more agents inside America. It's amazing how naive some people were during the conversations about the 2016 presidential election, about how, the Russians as in the show, The Americans, the Russian agents like that, that was just fantasy. It wasn't the real world. It is the real world. That is the way the FSB and the SVR and the GRU operate in America. There will be a lot of people out there who are Russian agents in some shape or form.
NARRATOR: In 2018, political activist Maria Butina was arrested in Washington D.C, charged with acting as an agent for a foreign government. Her vocal support for conservative causes, and a Republican presidency, was intended to aid in the delivery of a US administration with a friendlier attitude towards the Russian Federation. Anna Chapman’s aims were less obvious. We may never know exactly what kind of information she was targeting. It’s typical for Russian intelligence agencies, mostly working independently of each other, to run numerous deep-cover agents in the hope that one or two of them, eventually, strike lucky. If that seems disorganized, it is - deliberately so.
MICHAEL SMITH: Everyone thinks that Russian intelligence is controlled by Putin from the top, and Putin is out there spinning a web of intrigue, but it's much, much less organized in that sense, than that. It's not just that there isn't a need for it all to be organized and in this wonderful, planned fashion, it actually serves its purpose that it isn't in a planned fashion because it covers up Itself automatically.
NARRATOR: Organized spy agencies leave patterns. Patterns can be traced and broken. Ordinarily, an agent like Anna is hard to spot, which is why Alexander Poteyev’s information was so crucial. Typically, when Anna was deported to Moscow on the 9th of July, 2010, she moved on with style.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: She gets back to Russia. She keeps her Chapman name. And first, they deny it. Or first, they denied that she was a spy and that the other 10 were spies.
NARRATOR: One of the four Western agents deported from Russia as part of the spy swap was Sergei Skripal, whose attempted assassination in Salisbury, England made international news in 2018. You can hear all about his ordeal in episode 16 of True Spies, N is for Novichok. Anna Chapman, by comparison, had a far easier ride.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: They realized they've got something of a superstar on their hands. And they said: “Okay, they were spies, but they were sleepers, and she became the standout.” She's invited on to talk shows. She's given interviews. She did a layout for Maxim. One of the guys here tried to negotiate a layout for Playboy, and that fell through. And she's put on the runway at Fashion Week in Moscow, where she drops her prop gun, makes television appearances, and is given a hero's welcome by Putin where they have a singalong.
NARRATOR: Yes, really. As hard as it might be to imagine, Russia’s stony-faced premier claimed to have led the exposed agents in a round of patriotic Soviet-era anthems. Not even spies, it seems, are exempt from team-building exercises. Anna Chapman was an international sensation - a sultry super spy with charisma to burn and a taste for adventurous liaisons if you believe the newspapers.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: And that's a kind of a standard thing for when they catch somebody engaged in sexpionage. They try to paint them as a… nymphomaniac would be the quaint term.
NARRATOR: The Russian security services have always used sex and honeypots more conspicuously than their counterparts - and sometimes with deadly consequences. In the final installment of the Sexpionage anthology, we’ll infiltrate the villa of exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky - and expose the complex honeytrap that led to his brutal assassination.
HENRY SCHLESINGER: It's seen as a very sloppy kind of spur-of-the-moment planned thing. It was actually a very sophisticated assassination attempt with a lot of people involved. And several continents.
NARRATOR: I’m Vanessa Kirby. Join us next time for the true story of one of history’s most famous killings. Or, if you’re a subscriber to *Spyscape Plus* on Apple Podcasts, there’s no need to wait. You can listen to it right now.
Henry Schlesinger (pictured) is a New York author and journalist who has covered intelligence technologies, counterterrorism, and law enforcement. His work has appeared in many publications including Popular Science, Technology Review, and Smithsonian magazine. He is also the author of Spycraft.
Michael Smith served in the British Army Intelligence Corps and has worked as a journalist for the BBC, Daily Telegraph, and The Sunday Times. He is also the author of several books including The Secrets of Station X, The Spying Game, and Foley. He lives in England with his wife and family.