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Paul Whelan probably isn’t a spy. So why did Russia detain him?

Siobhán O’Grady and Amie Ferris-Rotman report:

According to Russia’s domestic security services, a former U.S. Marine named Paul Whelan was in Moscow on a “spy mission” when he was arrested there last week. But experts say Whelan’s detention doesn’t look like a spying case at all.

Whelan received a bad-conduct discharge from the Marines in 2008, according to military records. He is now the corporate security director at BorgWarner, a Michigan-based automotive parts supplier, and his family said he was in Russia over the holidays to attend a wedding in central Moscow. Nothing in Whelan’s background, said former CIA official John Sipher, suggested he would be a likely spy.

Sipher told The Washington Post that Russia has “an incredibly robust and talented counterintelligence service” and that the United States is well aware of the sophistication of Russian espionage. “The way we run spy cases in Moscow is very, very carefully, very meticulous,” Sipher said. “We don’t send in random Americans without diplomatic immunity to collect low-level stuff.”

Whelan’s job title alone would probably attract attention, not avoid it. “You wouldn’t use a cover like a global security guy to commit espionage,” Chris Costa, a former U.S. intelligence officer who is the executive director of the International Spy Museum in Washington, said to The Post. [Continue reading…]

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