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Russian TV shows video of alleged spy activity of U.S. naval attache

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian state television broadcast video Tuesday showing alleged spying activities of a U.S. naval attache at the American embassy in Moscow.

The report used video purportedly shot undercover by the FSB (the former KGB).

In Washington, U.S. defense officials told CNN the video portion of the tape appears to be authentic but claimed that the audio track has been altered by the Russian government to make the naval attache appear to be involved in espionage.

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A senior defense official who asked not to be identified said "bits and pieces" of audio recordings of attache Robert Brannon's voice have been patched together in an effort to make it appear that he is involved in conversations that did not take place.

The official called the audio track a "patchwork" of individual words and phrases and said they were intended to make the naval officer appear guilty.

The Russian television report begins with telephone contact between a Russian citizen, Anatoly Popov, and a person speaking Russian with an American accent. The tape also shows Popov purportedly meeting with Americans from the embassy in a Moscow restaurant.

The report claims that Popov was recruited by American intelligence agents working "under the protection of the embassy."

In the restaurant sequence, Popov reports to embassy personnel about carrying out "requests" to collect information on Russian defense issues.

The report said Popov was sentenced to prison in 1976 for trying to steal an airplane in the city of Bishkek. After 12 years in jail, he lived in Krasnoyarsk, where he worked for several years as a freelance correspondent for The Associated Press. He dreamed, the report said, of moving to the United States.

In 2000, the report said, "fate brought him together" with Brannon. U.S. law forbids allowing terrorists to enter the United States, the report said, but Brannon promised Popov that he would try to help him if the Russian provided defense information.

The report said Brannon began working at the embassy in 1998, and that the leadership of the Pentagon considers him one of its best experts in the Russian area. The Russian Defense Ministry three times issued protests about Brannon's violations of rules for a foreign attache in Russia, the report said.

Brannon, the report continued, was very well known to Igor Sutyagin, a member of the staff at the Institute for the U.S.A. and Canada, who has also been accused of spying. It said Sutyagin shared naval information several times with Brannon.

After Sutyagin was arrested, Brannon left Russia, the report said. But he returned later and recruited Popov.

The report ends with the Russian reporter saying, "Russian counterintelligence agents say that according to the rules of international intelligence, recruiting a former criminal or terrorist is bad form. But recently it is notable that American special intelligence is not particularly shy about this."

CNN National Security Producer Chris Plante contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of State
Embassy of the Russian Federation
Russian FSB (former KGB) in Russian

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