Why Russian Media Identified the Alleged CIA Agent, While U.S. Outlets Did Not

Mulitple Russian news sites identified the CIA spy exfiltrated from Russia because of concerns about his safety, while U.S. news outlets did not. He is Oleg Smolenkov, an assistant to a top foreign policy adviser to President Vladimir Putin.

American outlets reported the asset fed the CIA secrets for years and was able to photograph top-secret documents. But they didn’t report his name, even though they claim to know it, at least not until the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Smolenkov had been living under his real name in suburban Washington.

Two Russian business newspapers Vedomisti and Kommersant, reported yesterday that Smolenkov was the spy. So did Bellingcat, the international investigative site.

Here’s what Meduza an independent news site said while American newspapers were holding back.

Smolenkov also worked at the Russian Embassy in the United States, when [Yuri] Ushakov was the ambassador, and then in the apparatus of the government of the Russian Federation, where Ushakov was deputy head.In the presidential administration, the source claims, Smolenkov had access to “Very sensitive information,” including intelligence information. Another source of Vedomosti in the power structures said that Smolenkov did not have access to classified data, but he could find out such information/

Why the difference? By all accounts, the U.S. media has greater freedom than Russian media. But in this case, Russia media acted more freely.

That’s because U.S journalists deferred to their sources in the intelligence community who said identifying Smolenkov would endanger him. To defy the sources’ desire for continuing secrecy would threaten the journalists’s access to inside sources.

Russian journalists had no such concerns because they have no such sources.

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