August 3, 2010
By Theunis Bates
The former Soviet bloc seems to have produced a whole generation of danger-loving beauties named Anna. Less than a month after sultry Russian spy Anna Chapman was shipped back to the motherland, another gorgeous Anna — this time with the more Slavic surname Fermanova — has been busted for allegedly trying to smuggle high-tech weapons parts from the U.S. to Moscow.
Federal agents stopped the Latvian-born beautician — who has U.S. citizenship and lives near Dallas — as she prepared to board a March 1 flight to the Russian capital at New York’s JFK airport. They found a $7,000 Raptor 4X night-vision weapons sight in her suitcase, along with two advanced night-vision sights worth $4,000 each, stuffed inside a pair of Ugg boots, according to court documents.
The 24-year-old blonde told officers she was taking the items to her husband — who lives in Moscow, where she also teaches English to children. She told them he wanted to resell the scopes to a hunter friend.
When asked by investigators if she’d known that the sights couldn’t be exported without a State Department license, she replied that she “signed something about that” when she’d bought them online, but was “not really sure what she was signing.” However, authorities said, ID numbers on the scopes had been scratched off or covered with a black marker pen, and she admitted doing this “so they would be less noticeable.”
Agents confiscated the sights and let Fermanova fly on to Russia. She was arrested on arrival back in the U.S. on July 15 and charged with “knowingly and intentionally” attempting to export “defense articles on the United States munitions list” — charges that carry a possible 10-year sentence upon conviction.
Fermanova may share a first name, good looks and a penchant for striking provocative poses in Facebook photos (since taken down, but viewable here) with the 28-year-old Chapman, but her lawyer insists the similarities with the flame-haired spy end there. “She is quite sexy, you could say, but she is not a spy,” Fermanova’s Dallas attorney, Scott Palmer, told The Dallas Morning News. “The government is not accusing her of being a spy, or having any connection with any spy or terrorist organization. She’s just a U.S. citizen who was doing a friend a favor.” And while Chapman was a relatively recent arrival in the U.S., Fermanova has lived in America since was 9, according to the paper, when her Jewish parents fled religious persecution in Latvia.
Fermanova, who is described in court papers as being 5-foot-6, 135 pounds, and having a pierced belly button, is under house arrest at her parents’ home in Plano, where she is going “stir crazy” her lawyer told the New York Daily News. She is expected to appear in Brooklyn Federal Court later this summer.
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July 8, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By: Siobhan Gorman
The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.
The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.
Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.
An NSA spokeswoman said the agency had no information to provide on the program. A Raytheon spokesman declined to comment.
Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs, while others say it is an important program to combat an emerging security threat that only the NSA is equipped to provide.
“The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government…feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security,” said one internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal. “Perfect Citizen is Big Brother.”
Raytheon declined to comment on this email.
A U.S. military official called the program long overdue and said any intrusion into privacy is no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras. It’s a logical extension of the work federal agencies have done in the past to protect physical attacks on critical infrastructure that could sabotage the government or key parts of the country, the official said.
U.S. intelligence officials have grown increasingly alarmed about what they believe to be Chinese and Russian surveillance of computer systems that control the electric grid and other U.S. infrastructure. Officials are unable to describe the full scope of the problem, however, because they have had limited ability to pull together all the private data.
Perfect Citizen will look at large, typically older computer control systems that were often designed without Internet connectivity or security in mind. Many of those systems—which run everything from subway systems to air-traffic control networks—have since been linked to the Internet, making them more efficient but also exposing them to cyber attack.
The goal is to close the “big, glaring holes” in the U.S.’s understanding of the nature of the cyber threat against its infrastructure, said one industry specialist familiar with the program. “We don’t have a dedicated way to understand the problem.”
The information gathered by Perfect Citizen could also have applications beyond the critical infrastructure sector, officials said, serving as a data bank that would also help companies and agencies who call upon NSA for help with investigations of cyber attacks, as Google did when it sustained a major attack late last year.
The U.S. government has for more than a decade claimed a national-security interest in privately owned critical infrastructure that, if attacked, could cause significant damage to the government or the economy. Initially, it established relationships with utility companies so it could, for instance, request that a power company seal a manhole that provides access to a key power line for a government agency.
With the growth in concern about cyber attacks, these relationships began to extend into the electronic arena, and the only U.S. agency equipped to manage electronic assessments of critical-infrastructure vulnerabilities is the NSA, government and industry officials said.
The NSA years ago began a small-scale effort to address this problem code-named April Strawberry, the military official said. The program researched vulnerabilities in computer networks running critical infrastructure and sought ways to close security holes.
That led to initial work on Perfect Citizen, which was a piecemeal effort to forge relationships with some companies, particularly energy companies, whose infrastructure is widely used across the country.
The classified program is now being expanded with funding from the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which started at the end of the Bush administration and has been continued by the Obama administration, officials said. With that infusion of money, the NSA is now seeking to map out intrusions into critical infrastructure across the country.
Because the program is still in the early stages, much remains to be worked out, such as which computer control systems will be monitored and how the data will be collected. NSA would likely start with the systems that have the most important security implications if attacked, such as electric, nuclear, and air-traffic-control systems, they said.
Intelligence officials have met with utilities’ CEOs and those discussions convinced them of the gravity of the threat against U.S. infrastructure, an industry specialist said, but the CEOs concluded they needed better threat information and guidance on what to do in the event of a major cyber attack.
Some companies may agree to have the NSA put its own sensors on and others may ask for direction on what sensors to buy and come to an agreement about what data they will then share with the government, industry and government officials said.
While the government can’t force companies to work with it, it can provide incentives to urge them to cooperate, particularly if the government already buys services from that company, officials said.
Raytheon, which has built up a large cyber-security practice through acquisitions in recent years, is expected to subcontract out some of the work to smaller specialty companies, according to a person familiar with the project.
June 30, 2010
The Wall Street Journal
By Evan Perez
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday criticized U.S. law enforcement, even as his government acknowledged that its citizens were among the 11 people that U.S. authorities charged were part of a long-running spy operation.
Both Mr. Putin and U.S. officials voiced hopes that the brewing scandal would not harm relations between the two countries, and there was no sign in Moscow of the kind of tit-for-tat action that a deeper diplomatic rift would imply.
Still, the emergence of an alleged cell of secret agents reporting back to handlers in Moscow undercut the Obama administration’s claim of improved ties with Moscow as part of a “reset” of U.S.-Russia relations.
President Barack Obama last week took Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to his favorite hamburger joint, which turned out to be just blocks from the Arlington, Va., apartment building where one of the alleged Russian secret agents lived.