So this one is going to be a double header. When it comes to Russia and her security and intelligence services, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same…and, well…change. Between the wildest graduation celebration that the spy world has ever seen (or not seen, if they do their job right) and Russian conservatives blasting the new Pokemon Go craze as “satanic” and (yep, you knew this was coming) a CIA plot, one has to wonder just how much crazy can this world stand. So strap yourself in and get ready to Poke-GO! (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
I remember most of my graduations. High school, college, Marine Corps boot camp. I also remember my graduation from the various schools and courses I attended while at CIA. For high school, the celebration consisted of a few friends and a few forty ounces of Old English malt liquor in the park (tell my mother and I will hunt you down.) Marine Corps recruit training graduation was all of the pomp and circumstance that you would expect, and once I got home for my obligatory 10 days of leave, it was time spent with my infant daughter and family. College was pretty much the same (I graduated late in life, and helping to raise three kids was all of the partying I needed.) My CIA graduation(s) were no less raucous. “Hey great job and thanks for being the tip o’ the spear…” then it was in my car to drive home and see my kids before reporting to my new home office the following Monday. Shaken and stirred martini’s all around – not.
Not so for the newest class of graduates of the Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii; or FSB, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. According to a 15 July article in The Atlantic this class of graduates not only celebrated what is likely a long and arduous training course, but they went, as the youngin’s say “buck wild.” Buck wild as in they rented 30 blacked-out Mercedes trucks and booze, which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t also drive said vehicles down main streets and HIRED A VIDEOGRAPHER TO TAPE THE WHOLE THING. Oh, did I mention that they said to hell with the whole purpose of “blacked out windows” and hung out of said windows for the camera to capture in all of their ill-advised glory. You can watch the video here .
To put icing on the “what the hell were you thinking?” cake, the joyous graduates posed for a class photo. I am almost positive that I could hear the high-fives from around the world as spy agency analysts realized what they had in from of them. The only thing that would have made it better is if the graduates had showed up at CIA headquarters to make sure that they got it right “…no no…that is Yuri…THAT is Pasha!”
Needless to say, the big wigs at FSB are none too happy about their newest protégées. While Russian president Vladimir Putin, himself a KGB (the forerunner to the FSB) graduate, has not made any public comment, one retired FSB Major-General, Alexander Mikhailov told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda “For four years they were taught conspiracy, corporate ethics, and that one must not reveal secrets. So pompous and arrogant. If that’s how they start their careers, they won’t do any good.” FSB officials have remarked that those students seen in the film will be punished, that some of the instructors at the academy had been demoted, and that the students onward assignments would be changed. Oh, and on last thing: the Mercedes trucks cost about $100,000 each. Yeah…I am hunting down every cheapskate since I graduated from high school and demanding a gift do-over.
Pokemon Go, the CIA and Satan
Now, on to what is probably the more believable of the two stories. The latest craze to hit the streets – and parks, and skyscrapers and churches and…you get the gist – is Pokemon Go. For some of you born before 1970 (I said some, guy in the corner with the grey beard and Pikachu t-shirt on – quit whining), Pokemon (short for Pocket Monsters) is a Japanese video and card game in which human “Pokemon Trainers” attempt to catch and train the colorful monsters to battle one another (good Lord I sound like a commercial for Nintendo – pay me.)
In this latest version – and correct me if I am wrong, Poke-warriors out there – players download an app, and based on clues sent to them via messages. If I understand it correctly, as players get closer to and eventually come into close proximity to the Pokemon, they throw – via their phone – a ball at the monster that captures it. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but based on the car crashes, people falling off of buildings, and one guy even getting caught cheating on his girlfriend when the locator portion of the app showed him to be “hunting little monsters” at his ex-girlfriends house – there had better be a million dollars waiting at the end of this strange rainbow.
And how do the Ruskies feel about all this good, clean “I can’t believe adults are doing this?” fun? Well the app was due for release last week, and retired FSB Major-General Alexander Mikhailov – yep, same one as above – touched on the potential (and I suppose from an intel point of view, valid) negative impact the game could have on national security infrastructure. In an interview with state news agency RIA Novosti Mikhailov said “Imagine that the ‘little creature’ in question doesn’t appear in some park but on a secret site where a conscript or other soldier takes and photographs it with his camera,” adding, “It’s recruitment by one’s own personal desire and without any coercion. This is the ideal way for secret services to gather information. And no one takes any heed, entertainment is fashionable, after all.”
Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov seems content to let the Poke-hunters have their fun, being of the opinion that if people want to ‘run after Pokemons and fall into ditches,’ that was up to them, adding that he has no plans to place any special regulations or bans on the application. Even the Russian Orthodox church has chimed in on the fad, with comments ranging from stating that deep immersion in the game “smacks of satanism” to the warnings to the players to refrain from using the app in houses of worship, much like the warning posted by such landmarks as the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC after players wandered in searching for Pikachu and his pals – really??
So it seems that the New Cold War (I don’t actually believe that there is one, I just wanted to use it in a sentence just once) has taken a weird turn indeed. A new class of spies’ decision to celebrate their graduation Jersey Shore style might result in their careers in the intelligence world consisting of handing out towels at a senior citizens bathhouse, and the CIA is in cahoots with Lucifer himself to recruit an army of Pokemon hunters to unleash their multi-colored monsters (and grab some sweet selfies by the newest ballistic missile submarine pens along the way) all with goal of undermining the national security infrastructure and dashing Putin’s plans for the Motherland’s return to glory. My two cents? We air drop Kanye and the Kardashian family over Moscow, wait six months – problem solved.
Featured image courtesy of dailymail.uk