The 10 Russian spies exchanged in Vienna on July 9 were employed to gather background intelligence. Private lobbyists now carry out this work.
Rather than paying undercover agents for many years in the hope that they will eventually infiltrate decision-making circles in the U.S., most countries nowadays prefer to leave diplomatic and political information-gathering in Washington to lobbyists. Although lobbyists are supposed to declare to the federal government if they are working for a foreign government, many do not bother to do so, and they are rarely penalised.
The Foreign Agent Registration Unit ’s dozen-strong team is in charge of monitoring lobbyists on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Since it was set up in 1996 it has only lodged a few complaints and obtained a mere two convictions.
Via lobbying firms, several former for U.S. intelligence agents sell their savoir faire to foreign governments. These include Mark D. Cowen, a former Assistant Legislative Counsel to the head of the CIA, who is now a partner in the lobbying firm Patton Boggs (IOL 316 ). Cowan’s clients have included the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Sandra Charles ’ firm C&O Resources employs Melissa Boyle Mahle, who spent 16 years with the CIA and spent a substantial period posted in Palestine.
The company Jefferson Waterman, which has a contract with the presidency of Azerbaijan and with the government of Kosovo, is run by three U.S. intelligence veterans, Charles Waterman and Samuel Hoskinson, two former staff of the National Intelligence Council, and Samuel Wyman, who spent 11 years at the operations headquarters of the CIA (IOL 577 ).
China used to be reticent to employ Americans but has done so since 2005. Taiwan, on the other hand, has had no qualms about totally privatising its information gathering in Washington.
Russia is one of the rare countries not to rely on lobbyists, even though Russian publicly-owned conglomerates are regular clients. Gazprom employs the law firm Venable and the lobbying firm Gavin Anderson, while Rosatom uses the services of the PR firm Apco Worldwide and the law firm White & Case.
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