Russia also outed as bugging world leaders?

Russia, the hosts of the recent G20 summit in September, is being accused of giving visiting heads of state goodie bags that contained, among other things, memory sticks that contained bugging software. The Russians are denying it.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov denied the allegations of attempted spying and accused Western governments of trying to divert attention away from the scandals caused by disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency has been spying on its allies’ communications.

“It is definitely nothing other than an attempt to switch attention from the problems that really exist, which dominate the agenda between the European capitals and Washington, to problems that are ephemeral and nonexistent,” Peskov said, according to the Voice of Russia broadcast.

If true, it seems like a pretty pathetic effort by a country that must surely have a more sophisticated spying system. Surely they would know that such devices would be scrutinized before being used by any head of state?

The Daily Show has fun with this story.

(This clip aired on October 30, 2013. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)


  1. Acolyte of Sagan says

    No! Not the Russia run by ex-head of the KGB Vladimir Putin! Whatever is the world coming to?

  2. mnb0 says

    Of course Russia is spying too and so is China.

    “a country that must surely have a more sophisticated spying system.”
    Why? And if it has don’t exclude the option of a diversionary manoeuvre.
    It’s likely that during the Cold War the Dutch Secret Service BVD deliberately developed a public image of a clumsy organization – there were some silly minor scandals now and then – to better hide the operations they really thought important. Despite lots of international organizations seated in Den Haag The Netherlands never had a serious spying scandal, like the USA, UK, West-Germany and even France.

  3. Mano Singham says

    It could be diversionary. But a major country like Russia is unlikely to not have developed a sophisticated espionage and counter-espionage apparatus.

  4. Jared A says

    “If true, it seems like a pretty pathetic effort by a country that must surely have a more sophisticated spying system. ”

    No, that seems naive to me. I’ve only had a tiny amount of counterintelligence training, but a major point was that sophisticated espionage agencies absolutely rely on these cheap throwaway tactics, because people are on guard for something more sophisticated. Bugged USB sticks were pointed out as a classic example, and that one should always expect that the espionage crew use every tool in their box. Probably no one was dumb enough to use them, but also the russians are not dumb enough to not try. It is unlikely that a head of state would ever use a bugged-USB stick, but the point is that if anyone even remotely associated with the summit uses it, it’s a marginal victory at essentially no cost. I am sure this is par for the course, and would usually not even be remarked upon.

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