Washington — The CIA is trying to recruit Russian spies and entice them to reveal their secrets, targeting potential recruits with a dramatic video published across social media networks that promises to protect them if they come forward.
"The CIA wants to know the truth about Russia and we are looking for reliable people who know and can tell us this truth," the intelligence agency said in the caption of the video posted on YouTube. "Your information may be more valuable than you think."
The two-minute video shows fictional Russian officers secretly contacting the CIA through its dark web portal. "I survived. My family will survive. We will live with dignity thanks to my actions," a narrator says in Russian toward the end of the clip.
"We want to reach those brave Russians who feel compelled by the Russian government's unjust war to engage CIA and ensure they do so as securely as possible," a CIA official told CBS News. "In today's Russia, it remains very difficult to speak out and telling the truth often carries serious consequences. CIA wants to know the truth about Russia and we are looking for trustworthy people who can tell it to us and with whom we can communicate securely."
The official, who provided details about the effort on condition of anonymity, said the video is meant to provide guidance on how potential recruits can securely contact the agency. The push follows alast year to recruit Russians disaffected by the war in Ukraine via the dark web.
"We would not be pursuing this similar, stepped-up effort if those previous efforts had not yielded results," the official said, while declining to specify how many Russians had come forward as a result of the campaign.
The official also declined to give additional details about how the video was produced, including where it was filmed. Asked whether similar efforts would be made to contact individuals in countries like China, Iran and North Korea, the official said, "We're not ruling anything out."
The CIA's video follows a similar campaign by the FBI to identify potential Russian assets. The FBI has for years run ads on Twitter, YouTube and other platforms seeking to turn Russians against their country, including well before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
A Twitter ad posted by the FBI's Washington Field Office in February appeared to target Russian diplomats at the embassy in Washington, D.C. Set to piano music, the ad starts at the Russian Embassy in Northwest D.C. and shows the journey from the diplomatic compound to FBI headquarters nearly four miles away in downtown D.C.
"Do you want to change your future?" the ad asked. "Celebrating the first anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, we observe a world in which the two sides are devastated by war. I turn to you, to those who have the power to change the future. Contact the FBI office any time and say you want to change your future. Come visit us or talk to the Americans you trust. Tell them you want to talk to the FBI and they will contact us on your behalf."
The ad gave details on how to securely contact the FBI through Signal, an encrypted messaging app.
Other recent Russian-language ads from the FBI on Facebook say, "10 minutes of your time with us can be the beginning of your new future" and "Your future has no boundaries." They lead to the website of the FBI's Newark Counterintelligence Program.
The CIA official said the spy agency is hoping to recruit Russians with a wide variety of backgrounds in its latest push.
"People may also be unaware that what they know is of great value to us. Our interests are not just about counterintelligence and spy versus spy. We're interested in advanced science, military and cyber technology, financial information versus valuable data, and foreign policy secrets," the person said, adding that the campaign is "absolutely not about regime change or fostering instability in Russia."