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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Suburban spies

It's a little hard to get one's arms around the recent scandal involving Russian spies in this country. First, some of the methods they used seemed weirdly old-fashioned. They did use some high tech methods, like transmitting messages via the coding in pictures posted publicly on the internet. But they also relied on invisible ink, bag drops, and cash buried in a field. (I remember being taught to use lemon juice/invisible ink in elementary school.)

Second, they seemed incompetent. One female spy who claimed to be from Montreal couldn't speak French with a French-Canadian accent. Another who claimed to be from Toronto knew nothing about the city when asked about it by someone who had lived there.

But third, and more importantly, they seemed unable to gather any worthwhile information. One of the eleven charged with espionage was able to contact a "former high-ranking American national security official and a nuclear weapons researcher," according to the NY Times. But he got nothing from them. And several of the spies lived out in the suburbs. It's hard to imagine exactly what information they expected to collect out there. Perhaps they were trying to ferret out the following vital secrets:

(1) Grandma's recipe for apple pie.

(2) American secrets for getting along with Little League coaches.

(3) The most effective method for mowing a lawn.

(4) Where one can obtain the best prices for diapers.

(5) The inner workings and the power structure of the PTA.

(6) If the Tupperware parties are all they're cracked up to be.

Vladimir Putin must be one curious fellow.

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