They’re both looking for Russians disillusioned by the war in Ukraine. But the agencies’ approaches on social media differ.
On Monday night, the CIA released a video—deftly produced, like a holiday pharmaceutical ad—in an attempt to recruit Russian spies. It depicts various Russian government workers in deep moral conflict as they go about their days. They grasp their heads, stare at ice-choked rivers, and pace about while the disembodied Russian voiceover poses provocative questions: “Is this the life I dreamed of? Is this the path I have chosen? Why are the lives of some people more valuable than the lives of others?” At the end, some of these Russians contact the CIA online—presumably to volunteer state secrets. “[My family] will live with dignity thanks to my actions,” the voiceover affirms.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the FBI has been running a similar ad, one that appears constantly on YouTube and Twitter throughout DC. The bureau’s version depicts a somber, wintertime journey from the Russian embassy in Glover Park to the FBI’s headquarters downtown. Over clinking piano music, the Russian voiceover emphasizes that listeners can “change [their] future” by talking to the FBI. (In other words, they can trade classified information for money or resettlement in the West.) Both videos target Russians who are upset about the invasion of Ukraine, and who might therefore be willing to spill Russian secrets to the United States. Back in March, we wrote an explainer of the FBI’s video—so if you’re skeptical that a Twitter ad might entice Russian intelligence officers to betray their country, that’s a good place to start.