If Hollywood blockbusters have taught us anything, it's that "globe-trotting secret agent" is the best career in the world, somewhere between "decorum-ignoring archaeologist" and "Bill Murray." Just think of Tinseltown's iconography of espionage: 151-proof martinis, Pilates-sculpted assassins sultrily murmuring in every accent from Laplander to Cree, and the occasional bout of sexy amnesia.
But, of course, reality has failed yet again to deliver the popcorn thrills. Here's why the recent arrest of an alleged American spy in Russia had less in common with Skyfall and more with a straight-to-DVD sequel to Austin Powers starring an unknown and irritable Cockney truck driver (which would obviously be titled Austin Powers in Oi! That's Me Lorry!).
#3. The Spy's Mission Was Totally Boring
Our story's unlucky agent, American diplomat Ryan Christopher Fogle, had a simple objective: recruit a Russian intelligence officer to secretly coordinate with the CIA. But this mission had no moonlit exchanges of encoded communiques.
Russian Federal Security Service
He might have used semaphore, for all the good it did.
No, Fogle's mission began with him giving his would-be double agent directions on how to set up a Gmail account. (Actual CIA tip: "As you register, do not provide any personal info that can help identify you or your new account [...] If Gmail asks for personal info, start the registration process again and avoid providing such data.") Indeed, Gmail's automated questioning system was Fogle's very own Goldfinger, foiling his double agent with riddles most diabolical.
Fogle went on to offer his mole $100,000 just to talk to the CIA, a million per year to keep talking, and the possibility of even greater bonuses. Yes, this entire escapade's plot resembled your email account's spam folder more than any John le Carre novel.
#2. His Gadgets Were from the Dollar Store
Every single news organization that has reported on Fogle's arrest has been sure to mention that he was equipped with a unique array of gadgets. And -- as way too many James Bond movies have demonstrated -- cloak-and-dagger doodads can make even the dumbest mission mildly tolerable. So what sort of shadowy materiel was our super-spy sporting?
Federal Security Service
The American Q's "lab" consists of $40 and an Office Depot.
Two wigs, a few pairs of sunglasses, a map, a compass, a knife, a flashlight, and a Bic lighter. That's it. No laser pens, no shark-exploding bullets, no nothing. When the CIA equips a field agent like he was a peeping tom going for a somewhat vigorous nature hike, you know that mission's been compromised from the get-go.
AP / Mirror
We're sure his tuxedo was just out at the tailor.
Just look at him. That isn't the face of a man who has just been arrested for spying. That's the grimace of a man who realized that he left his coupon for 90 rubles off at Yakov's Little Dutch Boy Wigs and Pervert Glasses Warehouse in the pocket of his other pair of spy pants.
#1. Not Even Russia Seems to Give a Shit
If Fogle's mission had a $150 million special effects budget, he would've been freed from Russian detainment by a crack team of no-mercy protocol-smashing shit-kickers. There would've been explosions, helicopters, and probably a Siberian tiger that some sadistic spymaster taught how to Rollerblade. Sure, this scenario would've marked the complete disintegration of Russo-American relations, but the whole affair would've been like Rocky IV, if the Tunguska event unfolded the exact second Ivan Drago hit the mat.
What happened instead? Russian authorities -- after a night of questioning (and presumably a cup of cocoa) -- handed Fogle back over to his American handlers and asked them to please remove him from the country.
Russian Federal Security Service
That guy in the white shirt looks so disappointed in American spycraft.
If you find this story too spectacularly dumb to be believed, you're not alone. Intelligence experts have noted that just about every single facet of this situation flew in the face of CIA field craft. Also, news of Fogle's arrest suspiciously broke when the American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, was engaged in the middle of a scheduled Twitter Q&A. Did Russia time the arrest to embarrass the United States on social media? If these are the stakes of 21st century spy games, please bring back the Cold War.
When Jack Hall isn't watching spy movies, he helps moderate the Cracked Comedy Workshop.