Why it’s suddenly not OK for Russian spies to be here

Mar 26, 2018, 8:47 AM | Updated: 1:20 pm

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Russia’s consulate in Seattle would close as the United States expels 60 diplomats from the country.

RELATED: A less dangerous way Russia’s leader can prove his manhood?

After all, the consulate is in close proximity to naval bases, an Air Force base, and Boeing.

But why now?

CBS News correspondent Steven Portnoy says in the tradecraft of spying, it’s understood countries assign spies to foreign embassies. They operate under diplomatic cover as they gather intelligence.

“From one nation’s capital to another, there’s the understanding that as part of the work, we have our spies in their countries and they have their spies here,” Portnoy told Seattle’s Morning News. “It’s sort of a gentleman’s agreement that it’s allowed.”

But the U.S. believes there are an unacceptably high number of spies posing as diplomatic agents right now. There are approximately 100 Russian intelligence officials operating in the U.S. Portnoy says officials likely know who they all are.

RELATED: US joins in blaming Russia for spy attack

The Trump administration says 60 diplomats will be expelled as part of joint punishment for Russia’s alleged role in poisoning a former spy in Britain. It’s likely the toughest action of its type since the Cold War.

The Russian consulate in Seattle must close by April 2 — diplomats must leave by the same date. The facility is of particular counter-intelligence concern because of its proximity to “a Navy base,” U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

Listen to the entire conversation with Portnoy here.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan released a statement shortly after the news broke on Monday morning.

“The real question is why it takes so long to stand with our allies and take action against a government who continues to threaten and undermine our democracy. When Seattle was previously targeted by Russian hackers, we acted and brought Roman Seleznev to justice. Attacks from Russian intelligence, including interference in the 2016 election, need to be met with aggressive enforcement against those who participate or cooperate.”

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
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Why it’s suddenly not OK for Russian spies to be here