Photo: celebrity blog
Anna Chapman, the sexy Russian spy who was expelled from the U.S. in 2010, is back in the news today.In a new interview with the BBC, obtained by The Independent, FBI counterterrorism chief Frank Figliuzzi said that the real reason Chapman was arrested was because she was getting “closer and closer” to seducing a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
“We were becoming very concerned,” he said, according to The Independent. “They were getting close enough to a sitting US cabinet member that we thought we could no longer allow this to continue.”
Figliuzzi refused to name the U.S. official who targeted by the spy ring. Fortunately, we aren’t easily deterred, so we’ve handicapped Obama’s Cabinet officials from 2009-2010 to see who was most likely to fall into the honey trap.
Here’s the list, ranked from most likely to least likely. Obviously it’s pure speculation, but leave any tips in the comment section.
ABC is reporting that The Independent misquoted Figliuzzi’s interview, and that the FBI chief never said anything about seduction. We have emailed the FBI for clarification and will update when we hear back.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice emailed Business Insider to say that The Independent’s story “badly misrepresented” Figliuzzi’s remarks.
Here’s a statement from the FBI:
“Mr. Figliuzzi’s comments to BBC were consistent with and confined to the information outlined in the criminal complaint that was filed nearly two years ago. There is no allegation or suggestion in the complaint that Anna Chapman or anyone else associated with this investigation attempted to seduce a U.S. Cabinet official.”
In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, Orzag's role in crafting the federal budget may have made him an appealing target to foreign intelligence agents, and his Cabinet role aligns with Chapman's business and finance background.
Orzag's position would also have likely brought him to New York often in 2009 and 2010, when Chapman was living at 20 Exchange Place. He resigned from the White House in July 2010, the same month that FBI officials arrested Chapman and her fellow Russian spies. Soon after, Orzag took a job at Citigroup as Vice President of Global Banking.
Chapman's background is in banking -- she allegedly worked at Barclays while living in London -- so it would make sense if she had targeted the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Moreover, while in New York, Chapman lived at 20 Exchange Place -- just four blocks away from the New York Federal Reserve.
It would probably have been easy for Chapman to get close to LaHood, a popular and well-connected Washington player who is known for being chatty. Although LaHood's position was probably of little interest, it is possible that Chapman was interested in LaHood's son Sam, the director of the International Republican Institute, which runs 'democratization programs' and funds political parties overseas.
Shinseki has a pretty unglamorous Cabinet post, but his experience in the military could be valuable to foreign spies. Shinseki was a general for more than 10 years in Europe, and as Army Chief of Staff, he initiated a controversial plan to make the Army more mobile and strategically deployable in urban terrain. After his retirement, he served as director for several corporations, including Honeywell International and Ducommun, two military contractors.
As Trade Representative, Kirk is in charge of developing, recommending, and coordinating U.S. trade policy, and for conducting bilateral and multilateral trade talks, so his position might have been of interest to Russian intelligence. But Kirk lives in Texas and Washington, so there would have been little geographical overlap between him and Chapman.
The Department of Justice oversees the FBI so seems unlikely that Holder could have interacted with Chapman without having been informed of who she was. (The FBI was surveilling the Russian spy ring before Chapman's seduction prompted the arrests.)
But Holder hasn't always fully aware of what was going on inside his own department, and his close relationship with President Obama would make him a prime target for a honey trap. Given the historic animosities within the DOJ, it's also not hard to imagine the FBI's counterterrorism chief relishing the opportunity to take a veiled jab at his boss in an interview with the BBC.
During the years Chapman was in the U.S., Locke was responsible for the department that regulates U.S. international trade, exports, and intellectual property, making him another possible target for foreign espionage. This position, and his ties to the American business community, also align with Chapman's financial and business backgrounds.
But Locke is now the U.S. Ambassador to China, and it's hard to believe that the administration would have appointed him to that post if he had fallen for a B-side Russian honey trap on U.S. soil.
As part of the First Family's original Chicago crew, Duncan is a confidante and basketball buddy of President Obama's, which would probably appeal to a spy. But apart from that proximity, Duncan and his Cabinet position would probably have been of little interest to Chapman, and he also rarely visits New York.
It is unclear what Chapman or her Kremlin higher-ups would want with the head of the U.S. Bureau of the Interior. Moreover, in 2010, Salazar was embroiled in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill mess so there probably wouldn't have been an opportunity for Chapman to get 'closer and closer.'
Still, Salazar has intel on U.S. energy production, which may have been useful, particularly at a time when the Obama administration's plans for regulations and leasing were so uncertain.
Again, it is not immediately clear why a Russian spy would be interested in the U.S. Housing Secretary. But Donovan, the former New York City housing chief, has strong ties to the city so may have had more of an opportunity to encounter Chapman than some of his Cabinet colleagues.
It probably would have been pretty difficult for Rahm Emanuel to find time to rendez-vous with strange woman in New York while managing a chaotic White House amid a global financial crisis and a legislative battled over healthcare reform. Still, if Emanuel had wanted to 'get close' with a red-headed siren, it seems like he probably would have found a way.
I don't know why Chapman would want to get 'close' to the Secretary of Agriculture, but I am not an expert in Russian intelligence (or in agriculture.) Plus, Vilsack isn't in New York very often, so he doesn't seem like a strong candidate for a honey trap.
It's also worth noting that the Shirley Sherrod scandal happened around the same time as Chapman's arrest, so it would have been easy for the Obama administration to ask Vilsack to step down if he had also been ensnared by a spy.
There would have literally been no time that Chapman could seduce Chu. The Energy Secretary and Nobel laureate published papers on gravitational redshift in Feb. 2010 and July 2010, so his research would have roughly coincided with Chapman's time in the U.S. According to Nature magazine, which published the papers, Chu worked on his research 'during nights, weekends and on planes -- after putting in 70--80 hours a week as energy secretary.'
It is highly implausible that the Kremlin would send a honey trap to ensnare the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (although before today, most people probably wouldn't have guessed sexy Russian spies were seducing anyone anymore). But Panetta is now the Secretary of defence, a position he probably wouldn't have gotten if he'd fallen for Chapman's schemes.
It's also unlikely that the Vice President would have been able to get 'close' to a Russian spy, no matter how sultry she was. In the unlikely event that Biden could have thwarted his Secret Service and rendez-voused with Chapman, the FBI wouldn't have waited to make an arrest while she got 'closer and closer.' And the head of counterterrorism would definitely not have copped to it on British television this week.
Still, for the sake of national security, let's hope that Chapman's target wasn't our loose-lipped Vice President.
Gates spent most of his career as a Kremlinologist with the CIA, so it's safe to say he would have seen right through Chapman's tricks.
Of course, it is also possible that Chapman targeted one of the woman in Obama's Cabinet at the time: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of labour Hilda Solis, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Christina Romer.
Of those women, however, only Clinton, Napolitano, Rice, and possibly Romer would seem to hold positions that would be of interest to a foreign spy.
UPDATE, 6:32: ABC News is reporting that Figliuzzi doesn't actually mention Chapman's name in the BBC interview, and may have instead been referring to her fellow female spy, Cynthia Murphy. The original criminal complaint against the spies says Murphy was in contact with a 'close personal friend' and fundraiser for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although there was no evidence she was a target. If there was no seduction involved, than Clinton could be the Cabinet member in question.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.