The feds say Maria Butina was a Russian spy sent to build a secret backchannel to the Kremlin. Sure, she allegedly seduced her way into the senior-most levels of the American conservative movement, but she left a trail of sloppy tradecraft a mile long in the process. So who is Maria Butina and what’s the deal with her sudden interest in cybersecurity after Donald Trump was elected?
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Compare and contrast: When Butina was direct messaging her mentor, former Russian central banker Alexander Torshin, he likened her work in the U.S. to Anna Chapman, one of 10 Russian spies busted by the FBI in 2010 after they’d been operating in the U.S. for years without diplomatic cover or immunity. Butina, like ginger-haired Chapman, stands accused of seducing American politicos for Russia and offering “sex in exchange for a position within a special-interest organization.” There is, however, a major difference between Butina and the Russian spies from 2010, and that is: Butina absolutely sucked at her job and didn’t have the faintest clue how to hide her dealings from the U.S. government.