On the battlefield in Ukraine a Russian soldier signals surrender, in a video released by a Ukrainian battalion. Off the battlefield, the CIA is openly recruiting Russian defectors and dissidents with a video of its own.
The agency shared it on a newly announced Telegram channel called Securely Contacting the CIA. As of Wednesday, it had more than 11,000 subscribers.
"I think it's about time that the U.S. stepped up and actually started doing something so overt and in Putin's face. They have been messing with us for years and years," said Alex Finley, former CIA officer.
Finley is an expert on Russian intelligence operations. And she sees a psychological effect at play.
SCRIPPS NEWS SASHA INGBER: Are these really efforts to recruit Russians or is this just meant to rattle Russian leadership?
FINLEY: I think this is an attempt at both, to destabilize internally inside Russia. The more you start getting people questioning everybody else's loyalty, the more likely somebody is actually to perhaps take some action themselves. But, also then everybody is really just questioning everybody else around them. And that's when you get this sort of prisoner's dilemma where that destabilization and support for Putin really starts to unravel and fall apart. But then again, if you get somebody and actually recruit them — that's just gravy on top.
Finley says some Russians frustrated with the war are likely to come forward. And even if Russia's intelligence services flood the CIA with false information — something is learned.
In a cautionary note, another retired spy told Scripps News, on the condition of anonymity, that this modern form of recruiting could endanger informants, since no part of the internet is truly secure.
As for Russia, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson told a Russia news outlet it was "a very convenient resource for tracking those who apply."
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