Did Russian Officials Sting Evan Gershkovich?

Ever since the arrest by Russian officials of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on charges of espionage, U.S. officials have been vehemently denying that he is a spy. But as I wrote in my article “Evan Gershkovich: U.S. Spy or Simply Naive?” those denials mean nothing because U.S. officials would deny it even if he was a spy.

It is not difficult to imagine the CIA approaching Gershkovich and asking him to acquire secret information while he was reporting inside Russia. The CIA and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment have been obsessed with Russia since at least 1947. Moreover, the CIA would know that as a reporter for the prestigious Wall Street Journal, Gershkovich would have a perfect cover, one that naturally would involve having the Journal and other mainstream newspapers unwittingly coming to his defense. 

It is also not difficult to imagine a young, right-wing, idealistic journalist jumping at the chance to be working secretly for the CIA. He would consider it a wonderful opportunity to “serve his country.”

After all, that was what Operation Mockingbird was all about during the Cold War racket. Countless American journalists leaped at the opportunity to become CIA spies or informants in the “patriotic” quest to defeat the Reds and prevent them from taking over America.

According to Wikipedia, 

Without identifying individuals by name, the Church Committee stated that it found fifty journalists who had official, but secret, relationships with the CIA. In a 1977 Rolling Stonemagazine article, “The CIA and the Media,” reporter Carl Bernstein expanded upon the Church Committee’s report and wrote that more than 400 US press members had secretly carried out assignments for the CIA….

A much more likely possibility, however, is a Russian sting operation, one in which a Russian “friend” of Gershkovich or a trusted source gave him secret information in violation of Russia’s espionage laws. If that’s what happened, then that conversation or transaction was undoubtedly secretly videotaped or recorded. If Gershkovich was the victim of that type of sting operation, he would have a difficult time defending himself against a charge of espionage. 

U.S. officials would undoubtedly cry “entrapment” until they were blue in the face. But there would be a big problem with their cry — Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who received a 25-year jail sentence here in the U.S. arising from a sting operation orchestrated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

As I detailed in my article “Time to Revisit the Viktor Bout Case,” in order to get Bout, the DEA came up with a concocted, made-up, fictitious crime that DEA officials induced Bout to commit — in Thailand! Working closely with Thai officials, U.S. officials then used that fake crime as the basis for extraditing, prosecuting, convicting, and incarcerating Bout here in the United States. Using their “sting” operation, U.S. officials proudly and gleefully took more than 10 years out of Bout’s life, until he was traded for Brittney Griner, the American basketball star who was convicted of violating Russia’s war on drugs.

It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if Russian officials decided to copy the unsavory method that U.S. officials used to get Bout and employed it against Gershkovich. The Russians might well subscribe to the adage that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. 

This first appeared on Hornberger’s Expand Freedom blog.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.