TODAY   |  June 29, 2010

FBI arrests 10 in alleged Russian spy ring

In what seems like a throwback to the days of the Cold War, ten people from New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts have been taken into federal custody, accused of espionage. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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NATALIE MORALES, anchor: Ten people are in custody this morning accused of spying for Russia from the suburbs of the Northeast in a throwback to the days of the Cold War . NBC 's justice correspondent Pete Williams is in Washington . Pete , the FBI had been tracking them for years.

PETE WILLIAMS reporting: Right, and the Justice Department says this is the takedown of a ring of Russian spies operating deep undercover, some here as long as 20 years. And what they're said to have done is the stuff of spy movies. Federal agents on Monday began searching their homes in the suburbs of Boston , New York City and Washington , DC , and say the Russians were sent here as individuals. They paired up, got married and posed as the folks next door. One senior official says it's even possible some of their children had no clue their parents were Russian agents. The mission, the FBI says, was to become friends with college professors, congressional staffers, defense contractors, anybody who might have information useful to Russia . Court documents say they even had set phrases they'd use if they have to confirm the identity of another operating

deep cover, and one such exchange was to go this way: `Excuse me, but haven't we met in California last summer?' And the reply, `No, I think it was the Hamptons .' Russia 's foreign minister this morning calls the allegations baseless and improper, Natalie .