Good reporting by The Daily Beast, but they’ve applied a terrible headline that does not convey the main point of the article. It turns out that Butina was very chummy with the FSB, whereas previously she portrayed their relationship as adversarial – as if the FSB where ready to crack down at any moment on her pro-gun, pro-NRA activities and throw her in jail. In other words, in the past she was basically saying, “How could I ever do the FSB’s bidding – they were out to get me!” This email exposes a very different relationship – one of congenial cooperation. The headline here should be something like: Email Shows Butina and Russian Intelligence Were on Friendly Terms.
“Dear International Man of Mystery or should we just start calling you “Austin Powers” to your face??” [Butina’s boyfriend Erickson wrote to incoming NRA President, Pete Brownell], with a smiley face.
“Miss Butina has (apparently) moved heaven and earth and manipulated the Russian FSB (the current incarnation of the old KGB) and gotten you cleared for a tour of one (1) Russian arms factory the day before the NRA delegation arrives in Moscow,” he continued. “She found a way to shrink a normally 3-week process into about 3-days (probably because most of the FSB agents ‘assigned’ to her want to marry her).”
Erickson’s email, which included logistics for Brownell’s Russia travels, maintained a cheerful tone throughout. It differs sharply from how Erickson and Butina—who started a Russian gun rights group and courted American conservatives—described her interactions with the FSB to journalist James Bamford for the New Republic piece. Those interviews are their only extensive on-record comments about the case since last summer, when Butina was arrested and charged with acting as a covert agent for the Russian government.
Erickson and Butina say the Russian authorities … scrutinized her.
“She was under constant FSB surveillance in Russia,” Erickson told Bamford. “They would go to all the public meetings of her group, and they would go to all the rallies. Sometimes just show up in her offices once a week.”
Butina also described a fraught relationship with the FSB.
“We were watched,” she said, “but unless you crossed the line, no one’s going to go to prison. The question becomes: Do you cross this line? Do you become dangerous to the regime at a certain point? I had a bag packed in my hallway at home in case I’m imprisoned, somebody can bring it to me. That’s my reality.”