Russian Spies Reportedly Targeted Clinton Supporter

The Obama administration says that even though a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser close to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly was targeted for cultivation by a Russian spy ring, there is no evidence that Clinton herself was a target of the spies.

"There is no reason to believe that the Secretary of State was a special target of this spy ring," P. J. Crowley, assistant secretary of state and Mrs. Clinton's chief spokesman, told Declassified. News reports suggested that New York financier and tycoon Alan Patricof, a longtime Clinton supporter, was probably the American financier alleged, in a Russian spy message, to have had several meetings with a Russian operative who used the name Cynthia Murphy. Murphy was one of eight alleged Russian spies arrested on Monday by federal authorities, who accused them of carrying out long-term, "deep cover" assignments inside the U.S. for Russia's principal, post–Cold War foreign-intelligence agency, known as the SVR.

Two additional defendants were also arrested in the case—one of them an American. And another suspect, described by U.S. officials as a "cutout," or intermediary, who passed messages and cash between the spies and their masters in Moscow was arrested in Cyprus, but reportedly later released on bail.

According to FBI documents about the investigation that were made public on Monday, investigators apparently intercepted a February 2009 electronic message among alleged members of the spy ring reporting that alleged spy Cynthia Murphy "had several work-related personal meetings" with a person described as a "prominent New York–based financier." The message also described the financier as "prominent in politics," "an active fundraiser" for an unnamed political party, and "a personal friend of" someone the FBI described as "a current Cabinet official, name omitted." The government says that Russian intelligence headquarters, known in spy jargon since the Cold War as Moscow Center, sent a reply in which it said that the unnamed financier had been "checked in C's [Moscow Center's] database—he is clean. Of course he is very interesting 'target.' Try to build up little by little relations with him moving beyond just [work] framework. Maybe he can provide [Murphy] with remarks re US foreign policy 'roumours' [sic] about White house [sic] internal 'kitchen,' invite her to venues … etc. In short, consider carefully all options in regard to [financier]."

Patricof, a well-known venture capitalist and longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, confirmed to The Washington Post that he believed he was the financier and fundraiser targeted by the alleged spies. He apparently met the woman who called herself Cynthia Murphy while a client of a Manhattan tax-preparation service called Morea Financial Services, where Murphy, who reportedly had an MBA degree, worked. (Morea declined to comment.)

Patricof did not respond to several messages left by Declassified on Tuesday and Wednesday requesting comment, but told The Washington Post that he and Murphy "never discussed anything but paying the bills and taxes in normal phone calls or meetings. … She never once asked me about government, politics, or anything remotely close to that subject." Patricof was first identified as the prominent fundraiser mentioned in FBI documents by Politico.

While Patricof's political activities have been closely identified in news reports with the Clintons, a senior U.S. official familiar with the spy investigation, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that Patricof also "knows lots of political figures." The official added that from information available so far, "it doesn't appear that [the accused Russian spies] were particularly successful in gaining insights beyond what is readily available through Google." Court papers say that in addition to trying to get close to a wealthy fundraiser like Patricof, the Russian undercover spies also established contact with "a former high-ranking United States Government national security official"—so far unidentified—and another unnamed person who worked at an unidentified U.S. government research facility on strategic planning related to nuclear weapons.

Several of the accused Russian spies are expected to appear at federal court hearings in Manhattan, Boston, and Alexandria, Va., on Thursday.

UPDATE: After this item was posted, financier Alan Patricof sent us the following statement: "Cindy Murphy worked for Morea Financial Group, a firm I retained approximately two and a half years ago to handle my personal bookkeeping, bill paying, accounting and tax services. During the course of that time, I met with her a limited number of times and spoke with her frequently on the phone on matters relating to my personal finances. We never – not once – discussed any matter other than my finances and certainly she never inquired about, nor did we ever discuss, any matters relating to politics, the government, or world affairs. Since I understand she was employed by Morea approximately ten years before I became a client, I highly doubt that I could have been an intended target by her."