The Dangerous Business of Exfiltrating Spies – Part Two

When someone decides to spy on their own country for the U.S., they know they’re taking a risk.  But when news broke recently that the U.S. had extracted a high-level Russian official in 2017 with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it highlighted not only the value of human intelligence, but also the ongoing risks that a spy faces if they choose to defect.

The New York Times described the Russian asset’s role as important in helping U.S. officials trace the source of election tampering by Russia in the 2016 election, all the way back to Putin himself. 

But Putin has a long memory according to former case officers, and a hatred for those he deems traitors. So, when a spy, like the one in this recent case, decides to defect, there are efforts made to protect their identity, but the defectors don’t always follow the advice of the CIA.  That is one of the issues often addressed as defectors come through the CIA’s National Resettlement Operations Center (NROC).

This is part two of a two-part briefing on the NROC (which former Agency officers refer to as the Defector Operations Center) with its former chief, Cipher Brief expert Joseph Augustyn.  Augustyn is a 28-year Agency veteran who was responsible for the resettlement of high-level defectors, affording him the unique opportunity to meet and know many of the CIA’s top spies.

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