Analysis & Opinions - Politico

That Time the Soviets Bugged Congress, and Other Spy Tales

| May 22, 2017

Allowing a photographer from the Russian state media into the Oval Office was an act of breathtaking recklessness

During a private meeting in the Oval Office earlier this month, President Donald Trump is understood to have disclosed highly classified intelligence to two senior Russian diplomats. U.S. reporters and photographers were excluded from the White House meeting, but bizarrely, a photographer from the Russian state-run media agency, TASS, was admitted. Soon, commentators were asking an obvious question: whether it was smart to allow a Russian government photographer, with his electronic equipment, into the Oval Office. Responding to that point, a former deputy director of the CIA, David Cohen, replied: "No, it was not."

In the days that followed, Vladimir Putin helpfully offered to provide a "recording" of the Russian meeting in the Oval Office, leading to howls of laughter on Twitter at the Kremlin leader's puckishness. It turns out this was a mistranslation from Russian: He meant a written "record." However, though it may seem like a storyline from The Americans, fears that the TASS photographer may have planted an electronic monitoring device in the Oval Office are not as far-fetched as they first seem....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walton, Calder.“That Time the Soviets Bugged Congress, and Other Spy Tales.” Politico, May 22, 2017.