A “non-official cover” agent generally refers to an espionage agent working in a foreign nation as a private citizen — without the protection of diplomatic immunity they would enjoy if they were hiding behind another government job. As described by the Department of Justice, “SVR agents operating under such non-official cover — sometimes referred to as ‘NOCs’ — typically are subject to less scrutiny by the host government, and, in many cases, are never identified as intelligence agents by the host government. As a result, a NOC is an extremely valuable intelligence asset for the SVR.”
The FBI was able to uncover Buryakov, along with two alleged accomplices, by employing an undercover agent of its own and allowing the Russians to “recruit” their spy, according to a release by the Department of Justice earlier this year. The “dangle,” as the agent is known in espionage parlance, had posed as an analyst for a “New York-based energy company.”
From then on, the FBI was able to gather information through the undercover agent, including by planting listening devices in “binders containing purported industry analysis” that were taken inside the SVR’s offices, the DOJ said.
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