Russians spies are quietly living inside a New York City high-rise in what a retired FBI special agent called an “open secret,” a new report revealed this week.
According to Fox News, the Russian Diplomatic Compound is located in a white high-rise tower at 355 West 255th Street in New York City’s Riverdale neighborhood. The building houses Russian diplomats, including some who function as intelligence “operatives” for Russia. The spies gather information and create connections in the United States that serve to benefit the Kremlin, multiple experts said.
Robin Dreeke, a retired FBI special agent and former head of the bureau’s Counterintelligence Behavior Analysis Program, said most Russian spies live in the building, known among law enforcement personnel as the “plex.” The Russian intelligence officers in the building are known to work for the Foreign Intelligence Service, as well as Russia’s military intelligence agency Main Intelligence Directorate known as GRU.
Some top Russian intelligence officers are permitted to rent homes in the neighborhood, Dreeke said, adding that Russian spies living in New York is common knowledge.
“Open secret is a good way to put it,” Dreeke said. “I think they think it’s more of a secret than we do.”
Dreeke said the Russian spies monitor “everything.”
“A lot of people think that spies are just going for the high-level classified military infrastructure kind of stuff,” Dreeke said, adding that “the real purpose of spying/intelligence collection is filling information gaps that another country has, and mostly to provide their policymakers and decision-makers the knowledge they need that’s not common knowledge that they can get through legitimate means.”
He said Russia has spies that pose a “symmetrical threat” or an “asymmetrical threat.”
“It’s what we called a ‘symmetrical threat.’ We know they’re here. They’re diplomats under diplomatic cover, so they actually have all the privileges of diplomats. So, when they’re caught conducting espionage against our country, you can’t throw them in jail, because they’re diplomats,” Dreeke said.
“No one likes it. But it’s a fact of life,” he added.
Dreeke explained that some Russian diplomats in the building are not spies, but “then you have others that, they do the diplomatic job probably one or two hours a day. And the rest of the day is spent collecting intelligence” to send to Moscow.
Rebekah Koffler, a Russian-born former intelligence officer for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said nations stationing intelligence officers around the world is “standard procedure.”
“The United States also has intelligence officers posted all over the world,” she said, noting that the Russian spies in Riverdale “don’t necessarily spy on that community. They spy in general – they spy on the United States.”