Tuesday, June 29, 2010

FP morning brief 6/29

Federal agents round up elaborate Russian spy ring

After a series of dramatic late-night arrests, federal prosecutors accused 11 people of being part of an elaborate Russian espionage ring on Monday. The alleged spies are charged with being part of an ambitious, long-term program to embed themselves in the fabric of American life, establishing careers and raising families in the United States. The FBI had been surveilling the ring for at least seven years.

The espionage ring has been dubbed the "Illegals Program," because the spies operated outside of official diplomatic cover. Prosecutors described the program as extending to other countries throughout the world. The program was aimed at placing spies in think tank jobs and other nongovernmental positions, where they could obtain information from policymakers on national security issues.

The FBI decided to make the arrest just a few days after a positive meeting between President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. According to one administration official, Obama was unhappy with the timing of the arrests. Members of the accused spy ring have not been charged with espionage, but with conspiring to act as unauthorized foreign agents and money laundering -- crimes that carry a maximum sentence of five and 20 years in prison, respectively.

Google ends redirection workaround: Google, which is seeking to renew its operating license in China, will stop redirecting Chinese users to the site of its Hong Kong site. The Hong Kong website is free from the censorship restrictions imposed on the China site, but the Chinese government objected to the step.

Middle East
The Lebanese government arrested a man it accuses of being an Israeli spy.
French energy company Total will halt oil sales to Iran.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that there was "no chance" of the creation of a Palestinian state by 2012.

Taiwan and China signed a landmark trade agreement, removing tariffs on hundreds of products.
A U.S. surgeon was convicted of manslaughter for killing three of his patients in Australia.
South Korean media reported that Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, secretly became a member of parliament last year.

Four men accused of attempting to assassinate Rwanda's former army chief appeared in a South African court.
Sudan will close its border with Libya.
A $300 million wind farm, the largest in Africa, opened in Morocco.

An Italian appeals court upheld a conviction for links to the Mafia of one of Prime Minister Silvo Berlusconi's key allies.
The head of the British inquiry into the Iraq war said that the panel held a private meeting with U.S. General David Petraeus earlier this month.
Pope Benedict XVI will create a new office to fight secularization and "re-evangelize" the West.

Former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega is on trial in Paris for money laundering.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Cuban leader Raul Castro.
A candidate for governor of a state in northern Mexico was killed in drug-related violence.
-David Kenner

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