Former Gore Aide Among Alleged Spy Ring's Targets

A onetime national-security aide to former vice president Al Gore was among the U.S. foreign-policy specialists targeted by the alleged Russian spies who were rounded up by the FBI last week, according to eyewitness accounts and published reports. But there is little evidence that the accused spies had much success ingratiating themselves with those experts or got any significant information from them. As far as government investigators can say so far, Russia's foreign-intelligence efforts to plant long-term sleeper agents inside the U.S. policy establishment appear to have been a colossal waste of time and money.

According to reports in The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal, former vice presidential aide Leon Fuerth was approached several years ago by accused Russian "illegal" Donald Heathfield, a Cambridge, Mass., resident who once attended Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. News reports say Heathfield once ran a company called The Future Map, which the Globe says was in the business of designing software to help the government predict future trends. According to the Journal, a 2008 version of the company's Web site lists Fuerth as an adviser, but the Journal says it has received an e-mail from Fuerth denying that he was ever an adviser to Heathfield's company. Instead, Fuerth said, Heathfield introduced himself after a speech Fuerth had given and eventually proposed that they become partners on a research grant. "Once he understood I was not interested, he stopped communicating," Fuerth told the paper. He sent a similar message to the Globe.

For what it's worth, however, Declassified has unearthed this set of graphics for a 2008 presentation by Heathfield (identified as "the inventor of the Future Map concept and company CEO") to the World Future Society. One of the slides includes a quote from Fuerth: "No permanent solutions—only permanently mutating problems."

Court papers made public by prosecutors allege that Heathfield came to the United States around 1999, along with his purported wife, who used the name Tracey Lee Ann Foley. The government says it has decoded messages the pair exchanged with Russian spy controllers at "Moscow Center" in which Heathfield and Foley claimed to have established contact with someone who has been publicly identified only as a "former high-ranking United States government national security official." (Another of the couple's alleged targets was someone who "works on issues of strategic planning related to nuclear weapons development.") Court documents suggest that Moscow Center and its field operatives gave the code name Cat to the former-national security official, a description that would fit Fuerth. The former Gore aide was not available for immediate comment, according to his office at George Washington University, where he is now a research professor of international affairs.

Meanwhile an op-ed piece by James Robbins in The Washington Times tells of his own encounter with Mikhail Semenko, another member of the alleged ring, on June 9 of this year after Robbins spoke on a panel on Iran at a meeting hosted by the D.C. World Affairs Council. At a reception after the meeting, the editorialist says, Semenko approached him, handed him a business card, and expressed a desire to work with the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), a conservative-oriented think tank with which Robbins is associated. The young man told Robbins he was from Russia's Far East and said he spoke Chinese as well as English and Russian, adding that he had recently started blogging about the Chinese economy. Robbins tells Declassified he took part in the panel discussion as a fill-in for AFPC vice president Ilan Berman, whose online biography describes him as an expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation and says he has consulted for the CIA and Pentagon. Berman is also listed as editor of Russian Reform Monitor, an AFPC bulletin that Declassified regularly receives.

Berman probably was "Semenko's immediate target," Robbins says in his op-ed. "You can suppose that [Berman] is the sort of person in Washington that they [Russian intelligence] would have an interest in," he tells Declassified. Semenko later reached out to the council's president, Herman Pirchner, and dropped the names of Robbins and another person associated with the council, according to the piece. "Everything the council does is for public consumption," Robbins wrote, "so Mr. Semenko could have saved the effort." In the view of some administration officials familiar with the case, the alleged spies might just as well have done Google searches to gather their information on U.S. foreign policy. Berman did not immediately respond to Declassified's request for comment, but as he told Robbins: "It's nice when they show they care."