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US to Fire Russians From its Embassies and Consulates, Swap for Americans

December 22 2014, 17:35

The US has opted to only hire American citizens for supervisory positions in its embassies in Russia, and subject them to a “thorough background check”, which will reduce its reliance on Russian staff. Experts believe the move reflects growing suspicion towards Russian citizens and is aimed at creating an agent network within the embassy.

The US intends to swap all of its supervisory personnel in the country's Russian embassies and consulates for American citizens, following a thorough background check.

President Obama is expected to sign the 2015 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 4681) which dictates the change by the end of the year, the Communications Director of the House Intelligence Committee of the US Congress, Susan Phalen, told Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper.

The bill was introduced by US Congressman Mike Rogers in May 2014 and approved by Congress on December 9, sputniknews.com reports.

The Act requires the Secretary of State to ensure that every supervisory position at a US diplomatic facility in the Russian Federation is held by a US citizen who has passed, and is subject to, a thorough background check. It directs the Secretary to prepare a plan for the US Congress that will further reduce its reliance on locally-employed staff in such facilities, according to Section 313 of the document.

While the practice of hiring local residents is widespread and is applied by different embassies throughout the world (primarily due to its cost-efficiency), experts believe the move is conditioned by the growing suspicion of the US authorities.

“They [the authorities] may think that some of the Russian staff might pass information to Russian intelligence,” Yuri Rogulev, head of the Franklin Roosevelt Center of American Studies at Moscow State University told Izvestiya.

“Then, the reform will lead to an increase [in the number of] US citizens in the embassy, which will allow the US to create an agent network undercover within the embassy,” he added.

Section 314 of the document also requires a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility to be set up in each US diplomatic facility in the Russian Federation, as well as any country that shares a land border with the Russian Federation, and any country that is a former member of the Soviet Union. Consulates and embassies in these 19 countries which already have these facilities would be required to upgrade them.

This is done to improve the security of US intelligence, the newspaper quotes Congresswoman Jackson Lee as explaining.

Yuri Rogulev however, explained that the move is being made to address growing concern over the activity of Russian hackers.

“Russian hackers are the most dangerous for them [the US intelligence],” he told Izvestiya. “The Chinese hackers however [are another major threat]. From the standpoint of industrial and military espionage they are acting even more actively. The US authorities continue to believe that Russia bears a threat to information [security]”.

Rogulev added that the US experiences similarly Russophobic panic attacks on a regular basis. He noted that similar US activity took place in 1950s, after the launch of the first Soviet satellite.

The act also addressed cyber security in Ukraine, specifying the need to increase cooperation between the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the United States and Ukraine in order to improve cybersecurity policies. It says that the US should improve extradition procedures among the governments of the United States, Ukraine, and other countries from which cybercriminals target US citizens and entities.

It stipulates that the president should work to obtain a commitment from Ukraine to end cybercrime directed at persons outside Ukraine and to work with the United States and other allies to deter and convict known cybercriminals.

It highlighted the need to establish a capacity-building program with Ukraine, which could include joint-intelligence efforts, US law enforcement agents being sent to Ukraine to aid in investigations, and agreements to connect US and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies through communications networks and hotlines; to maintain a scorecard with metrics to measure Ukraine's responses to US requests for intelligence or law enforcement assistance.

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