Inspectors Clouseau

Curse of the Pink Panther

Okay, will everybody please just calm down?

Yes, they arrested some people they think are spies, and yes there are spies in America, just as there are American spies all over the world. But, really people? These are the spies you string up in the public square? People who are surreptitiously going to think tank talks? And trying to decipher broad policy positions they could glean from top-secret sources like Politico? And giving out fake addresses like 99 Fake Street?

Linger on that one for a while.

So anyway, what could they have possibly learned that anyone in Moscow with an internet connection — or a Russian journalist in Washington — couldn’t have learned? Why the elaborate computer-to-computer wifi networks? Why the brushes, the Canadian passports? It’s just so…ridiculous.

And can we all stop calling Anna Chapman hot? It’s a little weird, and round-peg-square-hole attempt to invoke more lame spy cliches, and, well, she’s just not that hot.

But I digress.

I wrote about this — or at least the Russian reaction to their spies (or Clouseaus) getting caught — for The Daily Beast, but what I really want to emphasize is the remarkable reaction on both sides.

A few years ago, this would have provoked angry rhetoric on both sides, people getting kicked out of both countries, a ratcheting up of the spite factor. This time, with both Russia and America having reaped so many delicious candies from the detente, the two sides are running from any signs of confrontation. Obama responds to a question about the spies with a curt “Thank you” and scuttles off the podium. Even Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, from whom everyone expected a snarl, was shockingly relaxed and measured about the whole thing. “Your police have gotten carried away, putting people in jail,” he said, and then weaved away from the fire, adding, “I really expect that the positive achievements that have been made in our intergovernmental relations lately will not be damaged by the latest events.”

People, this is huge. This is good.

via The Daily Beast

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29 Responses to Inspectors Clouseau

  1. Mark Adomanis says:

    Julia,

    I agree that the laughter which has greeted these arrests is an unabiguously good sign (I myself was initially far more pessemistic about how the whole situation would turn out, which I guess shows how good my judgement is). However, when there’s a “99 fake street” involved it would frankly be remarkable if there wasn’t some laughter somewhere in the mix.

    Where I would disagree is on the attractiveness of Anna Chapman. She’s pretty hot. Maybe not “betray your country and risk spending the rest of your life in federal prison on an espionage conviction” hot, but certainly attractive.

    • yalensis says:

      Mark is correct, of course: Anna Chapman is VERY hot. If and when she is exonerated from these unfair charges, I will look forward to watching her every week on her own reality show.

    • Julia Ioffe says:

      Mark Adomanis! Have we swapped kaleidescopes? But yes, I agree. As soon as I read “99 Fake Street,” the jig was up. And I’m so glad Obama and Medvetin didn’t fall for the bait.

    • I vote sizzling HOT. At least on Anna’s airbrushed photos… which as we all know is the only thing that matters in our hyper reality. 🙂

  2. andylevinson says:

    The Russian spies were spying on Obama…trying to learn from Obama how Russia can get its communist mojo back

    In fact, after Obama is kicked out of office in the next election….he can go to russia and teach them communist theory….he is the expert

    • ncfrommke says:

      Andy! Hi! Where have you been?- you weren’t commenting much for a while! I hope you’re feeling better now! You can take off the electrodes now! Because, if you don’t, they might short-out you tinfoil hat! Wheeeeee!

  3. ragnar says:

    “And can we all stop calling Anna Chapman hot? It’s a little weird, and round-peg-square-hole attempt to invoke more lame spy cliches, and, well, she’s just not that hot.”

    Notice that its a woman saying that. I’m pretty sure its in the girl code to diss other women. Jealousy and all that.

    I’ll buy “not that hot” when I see a bunch of guys saying it.

  4. grafomanka says:

    But, but, but.. she’s just not that hot … she isn’t!

  5. ncfrommke says:

    As a straight American male, I have to observe that “Anna Chapman” is pretty cute- as Adomanis says, not “betray-your-country-hot” (although there’s no predicting these things where male lust is involved)- but she’s plenty cute enough to be Media Meat, seeing as how our calmly analytic and emotionally mature cable news channels are stone suckers for a pretty-woman angle. In any case, Julia, she’s not as attractive as you.

    • Julia Ioffe says:

      I’m so glad that, of all the policy implications of what could’ve been a massive spy scandal, you guys have all latched on to this most important one: Anna’s alleged hotness. I’m gladder still that ragnar saw through my petty attempts to hide my hatred of all women because I see them as competitors, hidden in such a pitifully sheer veneer of criticizing the media for wanton use of cliche. And, obviously, I keep this blog so y’all can know how hot I am. Truly.

      (Thank you, grafomanka!)

      • ncfrommke says:

        Well… I AM a guy… you know how we are… my point about “Anna’s” appearance being cable news catnip still stands. (At HuffPo they think she’s facinating, and Gawker is running a photo spread.) And clearly, you’re too strong and centered an individual to be susceptible to flattery…

        Anyhow, (he said, smiling nervously, backing away from a dangerous subject, trying to look casual while doing so) NOBODY, not you or Mark, or the “ratings-conscious” dweebs on cable, has explained why the Russian intelligence services would spend so much time and money on such a silly spy network as this one seems to be. Rather than actually HAVING any serious policy implications, the whole business has turned into a comedy routine- even here. (Suddenly, he turned and dove through a window, that being the nearest exit.)

  6. Timothy Post says:

    I guess this “debate” on Anna Chapman’s sexiness quotient proves once again that where you stand depends on where you’re sitting.

    Julia is sitting in Moscow and surrounded by some world-class scenery. Mark, on the other hand, is not. Hence, it’s completely unsurprising that they come to different conclusions on whether Chapman is a тёлка.

    Never thought I’d say this but….. Julia is correct (i.e. Anna Chapman isn’t ugly but she could just as easily be working at Ростикс KFC ).

    • Mark Adomanis says:

      Timothy, do your dastardly pro-Russian ways know no bounds? Now you are reduced to mocking and belittling the lovely and upstanding young women of Washington DC? If you love Russia so much why don’t you just move there!

      (And since this is the internet the above was sarcasm, folks.)

    • Philipp Churilov says:

      Being a Russian male, there’s some pride to have in that what in America is considered “hot” could be found in any fast-food trashtaurant in Moscow.

      Kinda sets the bar, you know 🙂

  7. Julia, you don’t seem to show that reporter’s curiosity you show with some of your other pieces.

    I think you should study the Facebook friends of some of these spies.

    Oops, you can’t because now the Facebook management has hidden them from view.

    Anna Chapman, for example, had some pretty heavy hitters from Russian Silicon Valley and American Silicon Valley.

    http://3dblogger.typepad.com/minding_russia/2010/06/spy-20.html

  8. >So anyway, what could they have possibly learned that anyone in Moscow with an internet connection — or a Russian journalist in Washington — couldn’t have learned? Why the elaborate computer-to-computer wifi networks? Why the brushes, the Canadian passports? It’s just so…ridiculous.

    Because…spying and influencing policy and gaining access isn’t about only all those things, Julia.

    It’s about Facebook friends. It’s about Silicon Valley.

    And your questions should be asked of former KGB chief Vladimir Putin who created this network, not of Obama’s FBI who arrested them.

  9. Timothy Post says:

    @Mark ))) lol

    Reminds me of Victor Kiam’s “I loved it so much I bought the company.”

    Not only did I move to Russia but I married one of its most beautiful (I am a little biased granted) women too (12 years and counting).

    On a slightly more serious note, I just wanted to take a moment and say that it’s great to have both Julia and Mark covering Russia. The Russia Watcher scene was getting a tad bit stale until they showed up.

    @Catherine Ann
    What’s your point? It’s the internet so I can’t read your tone (wink, wink).

    Are you suggesting that if Julia doesn’t slam Putin and Russia in every column then she can’t be a member in good standing of the self-righteous Western journalists club.

    Catherine, regarding your paranoid thesis concerning Anna Chapman, there is another explanation. Namely, Chapman had friends in the Web 2.0 world on Facebook because she ran an internet real estate company. My goodness…. you guys really haven’t adjusted your fears of Russia since the 1970’s.

    On the other hand, perhaps you’re right about that sneaky Chapman trying to steal all our secrets from Silicon Valley. You probably should write an email to former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. On second thought…. you might want to use snail mail because email is so…. well, let’s not risk it, the Russians might have cracked Hotmail too.

    Finally Catherine, I’d like to remind you that Matt Taibbi was once the pariah of the Russia Watcher world. Where is Matt today and where is Michael Wines? Unlike the other “Green Zone” Western journalists in Moscow, Julia is actually speaking to some Russians who DON”T speak english. What a novel idea.

    PS: Mark, you really ought to move over to Russia too. Let me know if you want to visit Krasnodar. I’d be happy to show you around and we can even stop by Ростикс KFC (kidding).

  10. Steve McNally says:

    More and more, the obvious conclusion of the arrests and media frenzy is that it’s all a big PR campaign for the new Angelina Jolie movie.

  11. Oh, dear, Timothy, you need to go back to bar camp!

    Chapman isn’t just “in real estate”. She was heavily involved in the venture capital and tech start-up community because her real estate domdot.ru *was* an invested start-up. Her video posted in AMBAR (American Business Association of Russian-speaking Professionals) isn’t about real-estate; it’s about how she easily made her way into the high-tech world in New York and Washington and the comments there let you know that. AMBAR was the group that met with President Medvedev during his trip to Silicon Valley.

  12. Timothy Post says:

    OMFG!!

    Catherine, Are you brain-dead or just effing stupid? I rerally don’t know where to begin with your insanity.

    You are worse than La Russophobe. At least “they” have some intelligence behind their rants. You are simply a paranoid idiot NYC who thinks that Edward Lucas is a standard bearer for indignant journalists everywhere.

    I’ve watched you get your fat ass whipped today on Twitter by basically everyone in the Russia Watcher community. You’re so out to lunch that you accused Sean Guillory of being a radical. Whatever!!

    Are you actually attempting to make fun of Barcamp? Do you even have the slightest idea of what barcamps are all about? Didn’t think so. Honey, go Google “barcamp” and then we can talk. You may just be the first person to actually have a beef with barcamp. (Where the eff did you come from?)

    AMBAR? No shit it’s not about real estate!!! I know what it is… I’m a freakin member of it on LinkedIn!!!!

    Oh God…. I can’t do this anymore with you. You are a complete fucking waste of time. You really need to stop venturing out of your virtual worlds. Just go put on your Second Life naked suit and keep bitching about the Griefers and Linden Labs.

    For those of you who are wondering… go check out “Catherine A. Fitzpatrick” on Wikipedia.

    Do you REALLy think that the open source movement is “technocommunism”? Wow!!!

  13. Timothy Post says:

    Catherine started it )))

    • Julia Ioffe says:

      Whoever started it, and whoever she is, I ask that we all keep it civilized, please. There’s really no need for such vitriol, no matter who anyone is. Or is that too pro-Western of me?

  14. Oh, I see I’ve probed a nerve, very interesting. Certain people thought they’d endlessly enjoy mindshare without any pushback and are in for a shock.

    Um, no, this story isn’t some horn that has called out slumbering Cold Warriors. Wait a minute, there’s something uncool, and not ok about taking a weather eye to this kneejerk liberal dismissal of a serious spy round-up by the FBI?

    I’ve been watching Russia before you were born lol, but I’m an Obama voter and I oppose NATO expansion. Just because someone is critical of Russia doesn’t make them a “Cold Warrior”. And BTW, just what sort of attitude would one have to Stalin’s mass murders if not…a bit chilly?

    Duh, I know what barcamps are, and have known of them for years, and know precisely the kind of insular, self-serving and self-celebratory open-source tyrannical cultural they breed all in the name of “innovation”. I think they may have found their soul brother in the government-controlled Skolkovo.

    Yes, I believe the opensource movement is a form of technocommunism. And guess what. Kevin Kelly, Andrew Keen, and Jared Lanier conceived of this kinship with communism before me, I’ve merely elaborated on it further from what I know of Soviet culture. But you wouldn’t dare harass and bully them online, now would you, Timothy, as they are tech heroes — or at least, sufficientlly credentialled geeks that you wouldn’t dare speak like that to them.

    Whoever started it? *Really* Julia, that’s the best you can do?! Your friend Timothy has gone absolutely postal on my very legitimate and very much-needed criticism of this incessant pro-Putin commentary one finds everywhere and this pro-Kremlin pall over the liberal blogosphere. He and his…two friends…are what he imagines is “all of the Russian blogosphere laughing at you”. Is it a requirement that you be this puerile and this offensive to be a blogger on the topic of Russia?!

    It’s really important to keep an open mind on Russia. It’s a complex and moving target. And that means not reciting like parrots all the Marxist and liberal memes that seem to be enjoying such a rebirth (talk about golden horns summoning the slumbering!).

    Anna Chapman has been charged with using clandestine methods to communicate with Russian government officials. The judge in this case has said the evidence is compelling. So why all the scoffing and snickering?

    Is sometimes agreeing with Edward Lucas such a profound challenge to these thin-skinned Russki bloggers that they have to unleash the most vile vitriol on a legitimate critic? I’m not getting this. What is it really about?

    As for sneering at somebody’s Wikipedia profile — I’m a big critic of Wikipedia, I didn’t write my own profile there, some griefer wrote it, it has been hotly contested and re-edited by many hands, mainly with an aim to harassing me. So what? What’s your story?

    • grafomanka says:

      Catherine

      I have to support my fellow Russkis here … You are being just a tiny bit paranoid. Didn’t Ms Chapman study in the UK in one of those investment bankers nursing institutions? – Russians studying in good UK universities will have plenty of facebook friends who work for UK/US gov departments, silicon valley, major investment banks, nuclear industry. They can easily be facebook friends with people who have connections to politicians. The world is actually small. And then she’s a rich girl and she is an entrepreneur – no wonder she’s done a fair bit of networking.
      Really, until somebody proves that Ms Chapman has done anything really useful (for Russia) I would be very skeptical about this ‘spy’

  15. Timothy Post says:

    @Catherine… I love it that I can now call myself a “techcommunist.” Perhaps, I should do a talk at our next barcamp on the topic. Do you really believe the sh*t you write or do you just do it for effect? Wow!

    Regarding your unseemly whining about the tone of exchanges in the blogosphere, as long as there is La Russophobe out there dropping “Google Bombs” (Google it hon) on anyone who dares question their “viewpoints” I feel quite justified in fighting the fire with fire.

    Honey, if you can’t take the heat perhaps you ought to go back to your groupies in Second Life and exchange naked suits.

    PS: I voted for Obama too… how’s that working out for us?

    PPS: For the sake of Julia and her readers sanity, perhaps we should take our squabbles off of her blog? Let’s agree to only exchange pleasantries on Twitter (hint, hint 140 character limit).

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