The ten Russian spies arrested last week have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and will be on a plane headed for Moscow by Friday afternoon as part of a "cold war style" spy swap.
The suspects, including the so-called "femme fatale" Anna Chapman, all appeared in a courtroom in New York City Thursday afternoon. They pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as unregistered agents of a foreign government.
In a deal hammered out by senior diplomats in Washington, the ten will be sent back to Russia in exchange for four Western agents in prison there. In a letter to presiding Judge Kimba Wood, the Justice Department wrote:
"The Russian Federation has agreed to release four individuals incarcerated in Russia for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies. Three of the Russian prisoners were convicted of treason in the form of espionage on behalf of a foreign power and are servicing lengthy prison terms. The Russian prisoners have all served a number of years in prison and some are in poor health. The Russian government has agreed to release the Russian prisoners and their family members for resettlement."
The judge asked the suspects if they understood that theoretically, their guilty plea carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. They all said they did. Had any of them pleaded not guilty, the entire deal could have been scuttled.
But now they will be headed home, with our men doing the same -- a quick end to a spy story that brought up memories (for those old enough) of the Berlin Wall, and Nixon and Khrushchev debating in a kitchen.