By Terry Frieden and Adam Levine
U.S. officials are denying a claim in a British documentary that accused Russian spy Anna Chapman was close to seducing an Obama Cabinet official.
A BBC documentary about modern sleuths included the allegation along with an interview with a top FBI official, who says that the United States cracked down on the spy ring because "they were getting close enough to a sitting U.S. Cabinet member that we thought we could no longer allow this to continue."
The official, Frank Figliuzzi , FBI assistant director of counterintelligence, would not identify the Cabinet official but he did say in the documentary interview that the official was warned about the efforts.
The spy ring was monitored by U.S. law enforcement for years and the members were ultimately arrested in 2010. Among them was Anna Chapman, who has parlayed her notoriety and good looks into celebrity status.
Later in the documentary, which aired this week, Figliuzzi is asked if Anna Chapman was a "honey trap," a spy term for trying to lure a potential target with amorous advances.
"I think part of her value was indeed her ability to be engaging, charismatic and I think to that extent I think she might have been viewed by them as a potential honey trap," Figliuzzi responded.
He then says, in a clip that was edited together with the previous answer: "she was getting closer and closer to higher and higher ranking leadership."
A senior administration official said Figliuzzi's comment to the BBC had nothing to do with Chapman and nothing to do with a possible sexual liaison.
Another official said the claim is "just not true."
An FBI spokesman said that Figliuzzi was merely referring to what the U.S. government alleged in the complaint filed against the members of the spy ring when they were arrested and sent back to Russia in 2010.
"Mr. Figliuzzi's comments to BBC were consistent with and confined to the information outlined in the criminal complaint that was filed nearly two years ago. There is no allegation or suggestion in the complaint that Anna Chapman or anyone else associated with this investigation attempted to seduce a U.S. Cabinet official," said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.
In fact, the allegation in the 2010 complaint is that another member of the spy ring, known as Cynthia Murphy, had several banking meetings with a financier described as "a personal friend of (a current Cabinet official)." The name of the official was omitted.
The complaint alleges Moscow handlers considered the financier an "interesting" target who might be able to give up rumors and internal White House discussions. There is no mention of attempts to seduce the financier in the complaint.
Figliuzzi has made no public comments himself regarding the documentary.