Why the Russian Consulate was Closed – Espionage?

Edit: See end.

Reuters: U.S. to search Russian consulate in San Francisco, says Moscow. Quoting,

“The American special services intend to conduct searches on Sept. 2 in the general consulate in San Francisco, including in the houses of employees who live in the building and who have immunity,” the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said.

Families, including children and toddlers, had been told they would have to leave the building for 10-12 hours, she said.

Termination of diplomatic status of the building renders it accessible to search. So  “retaliation” is at least partly an excuse. The abruptness of the closure order facilitates a search for something that cannot be quickly  destroyed, eradicated, or moved. Since code books and cryptography devices are easily destroyed, what is it? What can’t they remove in a diplomatic bag?

In December, the consulate was implicated in espionage. (SF Gate  December 29, 2016) Russian diplomats in San Francisco among those told to leave U.S. Quoting,

The State Department didn’t immediately identify the diplomats being expelled or say how many were working in San Francisco. All 35, department officials said, “were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status,” which is political-speak for spying.

Start Google Earth on your computer and zoom in  on the consulate. The imagery is recent and of revealing quality. The  The roof of the Russian Consulate is at an altitude of 231 feet. There are structures on the roof that rise to 246  feet. Such structures are typically “machine rooms”, holding A/C, elevator, and perhaps a water tank. But what if there is something else?

Zoom out, and  slowly move your cursor south-southwest towards San Francisco Bay. The altitude declines all the way down to the bay. When you’ve reached sea level, continue your course, and you’ll hit San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley, 44 miles distant. The consulate has what is called “line of sight” access, unobstructed by hill or buildings, perfect for a tight microwave beam, or perhaps a laser.

As we know from watching spy movies, we would like to set a trap to catch the industrial spies in the act. But perhaps this has not been fruitful. Perhaps the Russian communications links are asymmetrical, with the Russians receiving return messages from their agents by other routes, such as the venerable dead drop.  Or perhaps agents operate their stealth-burst radios from mobile platforms. Counterespionage is a highly intellectual game with many strategies. One of them is,  if you’re not winning, change the game. By forcing the adversary to change tactics, it may become more vulnerable.

So it appears to be more than a game of tit-for-tat. It could be as complicated as tic-tac-toe. Sergey Lavrov, I will have to wait to hear you laugh.

Edit: (Reuters)Russia hands note of protest to U.S. over plans to search trade mission. Quoting,

The ministry called the planned “illegal inspection” of Russian diplomatic housing an “unprecedented aggressive action”, which could be used by the U.S. special services for “anti-Russian provocations” by the way of “planting compromised items”.

Sergey Lavrov, get a hold of yourself. Are you suggesting we would bug your building? Perish the thought! We would never do a thing like that.  We would never stoop so low. You know us better than that. We’re you’re  friends. But if you worry anyway, here are removal instructions.

Thank you, Maria Zakharova, for your explanation of the San Francisco smoke. Quoting,

“In relation to this, the windows could be closed, the light could be turned off, the water could be drained out, the heating appliances could be turned off, the garbage could be thrown away, essential services could be turned off and many other things,” she wrote on social media.

I thought somebody left some Rice-a Roni, the San Francisco Treat,  on the grill too long. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a wonderful change from potatoes.

 

 

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