Hawaiian Couple accused of being Russian spies
A U.S. defense contractor Walter Glenn Primrose and his wife Gwynn Morrison have been indicted on July 22, 2022, on multiple charges of identity theft and conspiracy against the United States. Preliminary evidence suggests espionage ties to Russia.
Intriguing facts have come to light. The couple abruptly left their Texas home 40 years ago after telling friends and family they were avoiding legal and financial trouble. Without leaving a trail, they subsequently established themselves in Hawaii under the stolen identity of two infants who had died in the late 1960s.
After arriving in Hawaii, Primrose enlisted in the coast guard under the assumed name of Bobby Edward Fort as an avionics electrical technician. He managed to obtain a security clearance that allowed him to work as a US defense contractor in his retirement.
Curious evidence found in their home includes kits of invisible ink, maps of military facilities, documents with coded language, and old polaroid images dating back to the eighties of Primrose and his wife posing in what appears to be a KGB jacket.
The couple was taken into custody last Friday, July 22, and have been detained without bail due to a flight risk possibility, while authorities are embarking on an extensive investigation on whether they have links to Russian intelligence agencies. Morrison’s attorney Megan Kau has told The Associated Press that the couple took pictures in the KGB jacket for fun.
The case draws a chilling parallel to a decade-long FBI counterintelligence investigation, “Operation Ghost Stories,” that monitored 10 deep-undercover Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) operatives who were arrested in 2012. Executing a long-term strategy, the Russian agents assimilated into American society with the objective to develop ties to individuals near or within U.S. policy making circles.
A known tactic of the Russian operation was to base their agents’ fabricated existence off the identity of dead people, or ‘dead doubles’, hence earning its name “Operation Ghost Stories.” Living seemingly normal lives, the spies often posed as married couples, communicating through encrypted messages, and using invisible ink. They were unable to obtain classified data and were prosecuted and expelled from the United States.
This Russian intelligence strategy is an established modus operandi called “illegals” and has its own dedicated directorate in the SVR. In recent developments, a list of 620 agents of the SVR’s sister service, the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti (FSB) was exposed by the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of the Ukraine on 29 March 2022. The list reveals covert Russian operatives functioning in NATO countries under similar circumstances to the Russian intelligence operation uncovered 10 years ago.
The discovered agents seem to only scratch the surface of what the Russian intelligence services are up to.
Only time will tell whether Primrose and Morrison form part of this bigger Russian operation. If not, an alternative motive for their actions is yet to be established. Prosecutors are expected to reveal additional evidence at a hearing on Thursday, and the investigation is ongoing. At the very least, this case will focus attention on the need to remain vigilant as foreign governments pose an ever-increasing threat to US vital security interests.