the way the Russians now make initial contact with a potential asset is often perfectly legitimate, Jamali said. They start with “walking through the front door” and asking for access before assessing “whether you’re a viable candidate for recruitment.”
A Russian spy ring uncovered by the FBI in 2013 that involved three Russian citizens who posed as a banker, a Russian trade representative, and a UN attache is a good example of the way Russian espionage has evolved, Jamali said.
Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, met the spy posing as a UN attache, Victor Podobnyy, at an energy conference in 2013. He and Podobnyy stayed in touch for the next few months, according to court filings.
Page, who runs an energy firm called Global Energy Capital, provided Podobnyy with information about the oil and gas industry that he has said was not sensitive or classified.
Jamali said, however, that “once [the Russians] decide to recruit you, it’s a process of slow, careful relationship-building.”
“They work on moving that relationship from overt to covert, largely by pinpointing what their target’s motivation is,” Jamali said. “So I had to figure out what the Russian profile is for someone who would be motivated to spy for them and build a caricature around that profile so that I would seem legitimate. In my case, it was money and ego.”
Jamali said that he “negotiated with the Russians very hard about money to make them believe that was my biggest motivation” in working with them.
“That’s what they believe Americans are after, above all else,” Jamali said. “That and ego-stroking.”
Jamali said he thought former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s pattern of belatedly reporting his contact with foreign agents “raised a red flag” because it indicated that Flynn might be vulnerable to exploitation by foreign intelligence services.