Real life espionage: Stranger than fiction - Metro US

Real life espionage: Stranger than fiction

“Salt” might have seemed like another entertaining summer movie. But the discovery and arrests last month of 10 Russian agents living undercover in the U.S. adds an intriguing new layer to the film. And it also serves as a stern reminder, says former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.

Metro spoke with Ridge and a panel of intelligence experts at the International Spy Museum just hours after the suspected spies were exchanged in Vienna for four Russian prisoners. “The term ‘Cold War’ may have been generally removed from our conversations, but the notion that we would spy on one another to secure information … that still exists,” Ridge says.

Oleg Kalugin, a former major-general for the KGB, admits that while he was stationed in the U.S., he knew of some “illegals” — spies living abroad with no official ties to their home government. “We did have a couple of guys,” he admits. “One had a very special mission. His job was to act in case the United States and the USSR were close to military conflict. Then this illegal would blow up the power line grids in the Washington area … and poison water supplies — not to kill people, just make them sick.”

As far as art imitating life, Kalugin has seen “Salt,” and admits he was “enchanted” by Jolie. “But her performance had perhaps a little too much violence,” he says.

Former CIA intelligence officer Melissa Boyle concurs: “Yes, the action scenes are over the top. If I had one day like ‘Salt,’ I’m not sure I would’ve had a very long career,” she says. “Espionage is chess, and chess makes boring film.”

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