A Russian woman worked as a spy inside the United States embassy in Moscow for over a decade before she was discovered, it has been reported.
The woman, who had her security clearance revoked in the summer of 2017, had access to the secret service’s intranet and email systems, according to The Guardian.
Those files gave her a window into potentially confidential material, including the schedules of the president and vice-president.
Suspicion was aroused in 2016, during a routine check from the state department, when it emerged she was having regular and unauthorised meetings with members of the FSB, Russia’s principle security agency.
A source told the paper that “her frequent contacts with the FSB gave her away … numerous unsanctioned meetings and communications”.
The secret service did not deny she was a mole, but downplayed her role, stating that standard security concerns mean foreign nationals are given duties “limited to translation, interpretation, cultural guidance, liaison and administrative support.”
Congress was not informed of the breach, however – something which will certainly raise questions for the committees currently investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
A source told the paper: “A government committee needs to investigate the secret service for hiding this breach.
“The US Congress is focusing on Russian hackers when it is possible that all of the information they needed to get into the system came from the internal breach in the secret service.
“Her activities of stealing and sharing information could shed more light on how the Russians were able to hack the 2016 presidential election office of the DNC [Democratic National Committee].”
The Guardian did not disclose her name or role, and said she had not responded to attempts to contact her.
Her cover was blown in 2016, during a routine five-yearly check on foreign nationals working for US embassies.
The state department’s resident agents in charge alerted the secret service in January 2017, the paper claimed, and at least nine high-ranking secret service officials became aware of the findings.
An intelligence source told the paper: “The secret service is trying to hide the breach by firing her.
“The damage was already done but the senior management of the secret service did not conduct any internal investigation to assess the damage and to see if [she] recruited any other employees to provide her more information.
“Only an intense investigation by an outside source can determine the damage she has done.”