Russian spy suspects in court 311 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The White House began deliberating a spy swap with Moscow as early as June 11, well ahead of the arrests of 10 Russians in the United States on June 27, a White House official said Friday.
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chargesRumors of US-Russia spy exchange
In the course of the following negotiations with Moscow, the United States put forward names of the four people who were released by Russia on Friday as their part of the bargain, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
The swap took place Friday in Vienna. The official said all the children of the Russian spies had left the United States for Russia or were in the process of leaving.
In the biggest spy swap since the Cold War, 10 Russian agents who infiltrated suburban America were deported Thursday in exchange for four people convicted of betraying Moscow to the West.
The spies left New York for Moscow hours after pleading guilty to conspiracy in a Manhattan courtroom and being sentenced to time served and ordered out of the country, said a law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak on the record.
The spy swap carries significant consequences for efforts between Washington and Moscow to repair ties chilled by a deepening atmosphere of suspicion.
The US defendants were captured last week in homes across the Northeast.
They were accused of embedding themselves in ordinary American life
while leading double lives complete with false passports, secret code
words, fake names, invisible ink and encrypted radio.
One spy worked for an accounting firm, another was a real-estate agent,
another a columnist for a Spanish-language newspaper.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the "extraordinary" case took years of
work, "and the agreement we reached today provides a successful
resolution for the United States and its interests." White House chief
of staff Rahm Emanuel said on PBS' "NewsHour" that President Barack
Obama was aware of the investigation, the decision to go forward with
the arrests and the spy swap with Russia.
In Russia, the Kremlin said President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree
pardoning four convicted foreign spies so that they can be exchanged for
the 10 US defendants.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement saying that the
exchange being conducted by Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service and
the CIA was conducted in the context of "overall improvement of the
US-Russian ties and giving them new dynamics."