When news broke this week that Russia claimed to have apprehended an American spy in Moscow, it seemed like a throwback to the days of Cold War espionage. The alleged spy, U.S. diplomatic worker Ryan Fogle, was photographed with a bag of tricks that seemed bizarrely old-school: Bad wigs, a compass, a map of Moscow and a pile of cash.
While it's true that the Cold War has ended, it's also true that Russia and the United States have never stopped spying on each other. In fact, it's likely that the United States has more agents in Russia now -- and vice versa -- than during the Cold War, says Peter Earnest, a 36-year CIA veteran and executive director of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. "Spying between states still goes on, always has, and will continue," Earnest said.
If Fogle was indeed a spy caught in the act -- and not everyone believes that he was; more on that later -- it's less a security issue than a public relations headache. That's because the life of an active U.S. spy -- or CIA operations officer, to use the official parlance -- isn't anything like what we see in the movies.
So what's it really like to be a spy?