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Russian spies dumped in Vienna after swap

Moscow should've just looked on the net, claims lawyer

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Russia and the US exchanged 14 agents at Vienna Airport in the biggest spy exchange since the end of the Cold War.

The 10 Russians, members of the illegals network, including Anna Chapman, were deported from America after pleading guilty to acting as agents for Moscow. Money laundering charges were dropped. An eleventh suspect of the deep cover espionage ring, Christopher Metsos, skipped bail following an arrest in Cyprus.

The Russians were exchanged for four people convicted of spying in Russia, including Igor Sutyagin, a nuclear scientist jailed for working for the CIA in 2004.

The illegals network used a variety of technology to keep in touch with their controllers, including steganography and ad-hoc Wi-Fi networks.

But their trade craft was poor and they made a number of mistakes that allowed US counter-intelligence officers to monitor their activities, including writing down passphrases on scraps of paper and failing to change the MAC address of their computers.

The glamorous Chapman, helped in part by a large cache of images she left on social networking websites, has emerged as the femme fatale of the saga. The media will doubtless be interested in what the supposed real estate entrepreneur and daughter of a Russian diplomat gets up to next.

It's unclear what the network achieved during its long period as deep cover agents in the US. A US state department official said during a sentencing hearing that there would be no significant national security benefit to jailing the group. Diplomats seemed keen to put the whole episode, which threatens US-Russia relations, behind them.

The group were ordered to infiltrate policy-making circles and gather intelligence. However Chapman's lawyer, Robert Baum, told AP "None of the people involved from my understanding provided any information that couldn't be obtained on the internet."

More on the spy exchange can be found in a BBC story here. ®

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