The alleged Russian spy ring arrested in the US have sent the world’s media into a frenzy as details of their storybook operation come to light.

The ‘spy ring’, all seemingly upstanding members of middle America, were known as “illegals” – short for illegal Russian agents – and are believed to have had fake life stories known as “legends”.

According to the FBI, the suspected spies’ mission was “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US.”

Intercepted messages showed they were asked to learn about nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control positions, Iran, White House rumors, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, Congress and the political parties, prosecutors said.

The spying methods adopted by ring have proved particularly newsworthy, fitting into pretty much every spy film or novel stereotype there is.

The ‘femme fatale’
Alleged spy Anna Chapman has attracted the most press, mainly because she’s really hot. An entrepreneur who was finally trapped by an undercover FBI agent in a Manhattan coffee shop.

Fake identities
All 11 of the alleged spy ring had forged identities, allowing them to blend into American society. Richard and Cynthia Murphy were such convincing suburbanites that their friends refused to believe the scandal. “They couldn’t have been spies,” one neighbour told the New York Post. “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

A copy of a Canadian birth certificate in the name of one of the suspects, Donald Heathfield was found but the unfortunately the ‘real’ Donald Howard Heathfield is dead.

Forged passports
Most of the alleged agents are accused of having fake passports. Apparently, one had a false Irish passport and it is thought that Chapman was married to a UK citizen.

Agent Parrot
The alleged spies used codenames for each other, such as Parrot and Cat.

Digital-age spying
The FBI claims that the alleged agents exchanged information between designated laptops. Anna Chapman was observed in a coffee shop taking a laptop out of her bag at the same time as another agent drove past in a minivan so that data could be exchanged wirelessly between the two computers, according to court papers.

Data encryption

The alleged spies used steganography, an encryption method in which text files are converted to seemingly unrelated images that can be shared.

‘Unbugged’ mobile phone

When Chapman bought a phone for short-term use to ensure it wasn’t bugged, she gave the address 99 Fake Street. Got to love her cheek!

And the less high-tech…

Two alleged agents were observed ‘dropping’ $5,000 cash in a folded newspaper in Washington park. We’d have liked to ‘intercept’ that.

Tags: Russian spies, Russian spy ring, fake passport, spy kit