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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

House Holds Hearing On Russian Espionage




LOS ANGELES -- Denying he is trying to "create paranoia and a new Cold War,'' a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on Russian espionage Monday with a former spy testifying and a congressional colleague displaying a mockup of a briefcase-size nuclear weapon.


Stanislav Lunev, a former Soviet and Russian spy, was led into the hearing room with a black bag over his head, then was placed behind a screen that shielded him from the audience at the sparsely attended U.S. House Committee on Government Reform hearing.


Much of his testimony was a repeat of allegations made in his 1998 book in which he alleged that Russia's post-Cold War leaders still see the United States as the enemy.


Lunev, who is in the federal witness protection program, said he masqueraded as a reporter for the Russian news agency Tass for three years during which he scouted drop sites for weapons caches. But he said he has no idea if they were ever planted.


The member of Congress holding the hearing, Dan Burton of Indiana, sought to explain why he chose California as the location for it.


"It's my understanding that there are many potential targets for Russian sabotage in California,'' he said. But by the time the hearing ended, no one had been able to do more than speculate that there were "dead drop sites'' for Russian weapons in California.


Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who also testified Monday, suggested in November that the spy caches might include suitcase-sized nuclear weapons. Russian officials have confirmed their arsenal includes such devices, but investigators have said there is no evidence they were part of the purported hidden stockpiles.


During a break, Burton was questioned by reporters about his motives for the hearings and whether he knows of actual weapons sites in California. "I don't know whether there's anything like that here nor does the administration,'' he said, but he insisted that the Russians should be asked.


When he returned to the hearing room, Burton said, "Some members of the media are indicating we might be trying to create paranoia and a new Cold War. That's untrue. ... I'm distressed that some members of the media think we're trying to scare everyone to death.''


Burton said he has repeatedly asked the White House and the U.S. State Department to investigate the question of weapons caches but they have never responded.