Russian spies “sleepers” who built public profiles in social networking; Update: “covert” videos added

posted at 9:30 am on June 30, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The case of the Russian spies seems like such a quaint anachronism that it’s easy to dismiss out of hand.  The Associated Press report today on the femme fatale of the ring, a 28-year-old woman using the name Anne Chapman, doesn’t help readers take it much more seriously.  The AP has a picture of Chapman from a Russian alumni website with her dressed as a princess, and her rather public profile in the US suggests that she may never have lost that attitude:

Anna Chapman has been called the femme fatale of a spy case with Cold War-style intrigue — a striking redhead and self-styled entrepreneur who dabbled in real estate and mused on her Facebook page, “if you can dream, you can become it.”

Chapman’s American dream, U.S. authorities say, was a ruse.

The 28-year-old Chapman, they say, was a savvy Russian secret agent who worked with a network of other operatives before an FBIundercover agent lured her into an elaborate trap at a coffee shop in lower Manhattan.

Though the U.S. has branded the operatives as living covertly, at least in Chapman’s case, she had taken care to brand herself publicly as a striver of the digital age, passionately embracing online social networking by posting information and images of herself for the world to see.

Prosecutors have charged Chapman and 10 other suspects with following orders by Russian intelligence to become “Americanized” enough to infiltrate “policymaking circles” and feed information back to Moscow.

If Russia’s intelligence agencies think that building a Facebook page is the best way for its agents to remain covert, we have nothing much to fear from this spy ring.  Apparently, the FBI agrees.  According to this article, the FBI had been tracking the sleepers for years, only arresting them when they attempted to leave the US.  Until then, the US was happy to allow them to operate, probably because they had made themselves obvious, and arresting them would only require Russia to replace them with others and force the FBI to track them down.

Interestingly, none of them have been charged with espionage, which would carry severe sentences on conviction.  Instead, they’ve been charged with operating as foreign agents without registering, which carries a maximum of five years.  If that remains their most serious charge (one man got arrested in Cyprus for money laundering, which carries a potentially longer term), it would seem to indicate that this ring didn’t end up with anything valuable to transmit back to Moscow.

The exposure of Russian spies should not surprise anyone.  The Cold War may be 20 years gone, but Russian espionage predated the Cold War.  Besides, nations want and need intelligence on their friends and quasi-friends as well as their enemies.  Anyone who thinks we don’t have intelligence assets in Russia at this moment is utterly naive.  We may even have sleepers in Russia, but if we do, let’s hope that they’re not on the Russian equivalent of MySpace.

Update: You know, nothing says covert like making videos in Russian while in NYC for a Russian social-networking site:

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

Update II: Chuck DeVore’s not happy with Barack Obama on this issue:

Which brings us back to the President’s reaction about the arrests of the Russian agents: “Not happy.”  “Not happy” that the FBI is doing its job?  “Not happy” that the arrests were made only days after President Obama had an “upbeat meeting” with the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev?  Both explanations betray an American President more concerned with the optics of “resetting” U.S.-Russian relations than with the manifold reasons why this relationship has been, and will remain, difficult.  …

The bottom line is that Russia is reasserting itself as a reincarnation of its Czarist past—and there is little relationship for the U.S. to “reset” here.  The Russians have their interests, we have ours—pretending otherwise won’t change that, other than to encourage the Russians with our weakness, as President Obama did when he made our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic “not happy” by unilaterally canceling the missile defense agreement the U.S. had with them.

T0 be fair, I think that Obama was “not happy” with the espionage, not the arrests.  The rest of DeVore’s commentary is spot-on.  Be sure to read it all.

Update III: Actually, DeVore is more right than I was on the previous point, as the New York Times reported:

“After years of F.B.I. surveillance, investigators decided to make the arrests last weekend, just after an upbeat visit to President Obama by the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said one administration official. Mr. Obama was not happy about the timing, but investigators feared some of their targets might flee, the official said.”

Yeah, that shows a healthy set of priorities, doesn’t it?


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I am puzzled why the Russians even need spies. They have Obama in office who will willingly give all of our power and affluence away. They just need to let him do his work.

search4truth on June 30, 2010 at 9:32 AM

I say she needs a good spanking!

DwnSouthJukin on June 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM

not worthy enough to at least collar Medvedev on over a burger?

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Abby Adams on June 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Safe for Work?

strictnein on June 30, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Isn’t the Russian equivalent of MySpace called “PutinSpace”?

myrenovations on June 30, 2010 at 9:38 AM

Abby Adams on June 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM

They apparently removed that photo. But they didn’t cath them all:

http://photos.smugmug.com/photos/830929732_ykTv5-L.jpg

Abby Adams on June 30, 2010 at 9:38 AM

strictnein on June 30, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Yes… but they’re in Russian…

She’s a technology wiz who’s big into social networking as a business venture.

Abby Adams on June 30, 2010 at 9:39 AM

She probably had a diary on DailyKos

KeepOhioRed on June 30, 2010 at 9:40 AM

The “honey trap” tactic makes a comeback.

RobCon on June 30, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Then again:

No power in the ‘verse can stop her.

Abby Adams on June 30, 2010 at 9:40 AM

I am puzzled why the Russians even need spies. They have Obama in office who will willingly give all of our power and affluence away. They just need to let him do his work. search4truth on June 30, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Maybe they want to learn from him?

Dingbat63 on June 30, 2010 at 9:42 AM

If Russia’s intelligence agencies think that building a Facebook page is the best way for its agents to remain covert

The way to remain covert is to blend in, and they were there to sway opinion, which is far more dangerous. If your spies steal the plans for a new airplane, you still have to reverse engineer the thing, if you have Senators in your pocket that will allow the sale of that plane, or prevent it from being built until you can develop a counter measure to it – bigger victory.

LincolntheHun on June 30, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Um, why wouldn’t they build a facebook page? What does facebook have to do with being ‘covert’?

ninjapirate on June 30, 2010 at 9:44 AM

I found her Facebook page. Somebody posted an article about her arrest on her wall! hahaha

itsnotaboutme on June 30, 2010 at 9:45 AM

I say she needs a good spanking!

DwnSouthJukin on June 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Sit,stay!

katy the mean old lady on June 30, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Yow! This pic completely blows away the old Yakov Smirnov joke when he said, “Een Soviet Union, we have saying: ‘Women are like buses.’ That’s it.”

Captain Scarlet on June 30, 2010 at 9:46 AM

Putin rips Russian spy bust.

Russia media slams ‘unconvincing’ spy scandal.

The Russians may well have handed these socialite “spies” over to the FBI if they wanted to play nice with Obama while Medvedev visits the US.

The Russians never play only one political game at a time.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 9:46 AM

i don’t have a FB page….does that mean I can be a “good spy?”…./

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

LOL
Anna Badenov.

itsnotaboutme on June 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM

I speak Russian:

She said “The Knicks suck”.

rickyricardo on June 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Captain Scarlet on June 30, 2010 at 9:46 AM

/Russian beauties are knockouts.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM

Who needs spies in New York when you can pick up the NYT on every corner.

scalleywag on June 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM

LincolntheHun on June 30, 2010 at 9:43 AM

So, that’s why Obama cancelled the F22!

OldEnglish on June 30, 2010 at 9:49 AM

She’s got those soulless eyes. Like some kind of Democratic Supreme Court nominee.

LibTired on June 30, 2010 at 9:49 AM

search4truth on June 30, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Obama wants all the friends he can get.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 9:50 AM

Ed editorialized:

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

:D That was bad but was it BadEnough ?

Paul-Cincy on June 30, 2010 at 9:50 AM

Who needs spies in New York when you can pick up the NYT on every corner.–scalleywag on June 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM

birds of a feather

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 9:51 AM

I say she needs a good spanking!

DwnSouthJukin on June 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM

It’s a tough job… someone has to… I’ll volunteer.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 9:51 AM

I am honestly trying to figure out how they came up with the “spy” thingy. Seriously, these people were in no way shape or form spys. As a general rule of thumb, spys tend to shy away from anything public, and these guys and gals were all over the freaking place making videos and facebook pages. Way to stay covert!

Johnnyreb on June 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM

A redhead who looks like Jewel Staite from Firefly? Damn, I’d have been caught up in that “honey trap”.

Can we have her put on house arrest in my bedroom for the next 10 to 20?

teke184 on June 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM

infiltrate “policymaking circles” and feed information back to Moscow.

/Kiss and tell taken to a whole new level.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 9:53 AM

So when can we expect Obama to apologize to Putin for our agents acting stupid in uncovering this network of spies?

pilamaye on June 30, 2010 at 9:53 AM

According to this article, the FBI had been tracking the sleepers for years, only arresting them when they attempted to leave the US.

I question the timing. Ogabe needed some leverage with the Russians or maybe “the marks” on the American side would have been embarrassing to the Administration?

Interestingly, none of them have been charged with espionage, which would carry severe sentences on conviction.

Again I question the timing. It didn’t seem too many of them were heading anywhere. Why not wait to see what kind of fish they would catch. Hmmm…maybe they were democrat fish?

Caper29 on June 30, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Way to stay covert!

Johnnyreb on June 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM

It takes all sorts.

maverick muse on June 30, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Reminds me of the Germans in WWII.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 AM

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

Don’t make it worse, it’s Badenov.

Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 AM

I’d give up a state secret or two for that.

MadisonConservative on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 AM

So let’s see. These guys were tasked with influencing US domestic and foreign policy at the highest levels. And…

1. America now has as president a man who counted a member of the US Communist Party as a mentor, who hung around with communists at college, who has appointed admitted Marxists such as Van Jones, and others with Maoist/Communist sympathies, such as Anita Dunn to influential positions in his administration, and counts domestic terrorists Bill ayers and Bernadine Dohrn as frinds

2. That president is driving the US economy into a ditch.

3. That president is at best refusing to confront America’s enemies abroad (Iran, North Korea), and at worse cosying up to them (China, Russia) and enabling them to expand their respective spheres of influence.

4. That president wants to pursue an energy policy that will make the US more dependent on unreliable and potentially hostile foreign providers: specifially, cutting back domestic oil exploration and production while spending billions on ‘green’ alternatives that range from the unproven to the not-even-invented-yet – see also point 2).

5. That president and his administration officials rarely miss an opportunity to downplay notions of ‘American exceptionalism’, and are always ready to blame the US for everything from global warming to racism.

I would think they’ve got the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner out at FIS headquarters.

EnglishMike on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 AM

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

thomasaur on June 30, 2010 at 9:56 AM

Oh, “Moose and squirrel.” I get it.

Akzed on June 30, 2010 at 9:56 AM

I say she needs a good spanking!

DwnSouthJukin on June 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM

I will make the sacrifice and volunteer for that duty.

Using facebook, et al., is not a serious attempt at getting our nuclear & sub technologies, but rather an attempt at seeing how far they, the Russians, can go. Put a few people out there on facebook and writing opinion stories/news articles and just see when the US responds. And it’s not just when/where the US government responds, but how American (& foreign) citizens responds. If the Spanish journalist writes something acceptable to the Western Left, but is in accordance with marxist theory, then that tells you how far to the left the center is.

This was simply a probe at how decadent & weak the West is. Sadly, I think we are very decadent & weak.

rbj on June 30, 2010 at 9:56 AM

The Russians should have hired Mexicans for this job. Then they could have stayed in the shadows and eventually become legal citizens.

Unless they lived in Arizona, of course.

SlaveDog on June 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM

These geniuses were like the Keystone Kops of spies.

Illinidiva on June 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Don’t make it worse, it’s Badenov.

Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 AM

+1

clnurnberg on June 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Reminds me of the Germans in WWII.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 9:55 AM

and WWI remember Black Tom Island!

Caper29 on June 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM

O

h, “Moose and squirrel.” I get it.

Akzed on June 30, 2010 at 9:56 AM

Please share your wisdom. I don’t.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 9:58 AM

What are their Freeper handles ?

borntoraisehogs on June 30, 2010 at 9:58 AM

Please share your wisdom. I don’t.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 9:58 AM

Rocky and B….

Caper29 on June 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

“We read it in the New York Times.”
– Ambassador Kissoff

Just as true today as it was in 1964. All the best espionage coups for our enemies are NYT these days, and in those days. This ring seems like the Russians had too manys spys and not enough assignements. How many people do you need to subscribe to the NYT and read it after all?

Beagle on June 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

I’d hit it.

matd on June 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Poison is pretty much always wrapped in pretty packages.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Rocky and B….

Caper29 on June 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Gotcha! thanks! Brain…is …slow…to…day… Must.. have… cof…fee…

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 10:01 AM

I’d hit it.

matd on June 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

You have to get in line behind me, I am first.

Johnnyreb on June 30, 2010 at 10:02 AM

and WWI remember Black Tom Island!

Caper29 on June 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Lose lips sink ships!

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 10:03 AM

In Soviet Russia, social networking has YOU!

Good Lt on June 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Please share your wisdom. I don’t.

CynicalOptimist on June 30, 2010 at 9:58 AM

Moose = Bullwinkle.
Squirrel = Rocky

Boris and Natasha. You must be a youngster.

Vince on June 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM

I’d hit it.

matd on June 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

You have to get in line behind me, I am first.

Johnnyreb on June 30, 2010 at 10:02 AM

She’s only a year older than I am. That’s crazy that she is a “spy”.

MobileVideoEngineer on June 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Only thing I caught was “State Dinner.”

BKeyser on June 30, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Yeah, but we’re supposed to believe Valerie Plame was covert even though she drove into Langley everyday.

MayBee on June 30, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Maybe these spies are meant to be caught. Maybe they are cover for the real spies. You know, keeps the FBI’s eyes on the bumbling spies while the real spies continue working undetected.

NotCoach on June 30, 2010 at 10:05 AM

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

Okay. Now that right there is funny. I don’t care who you are. LOL

Tennman on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

She’s cute but Russian women rarely age well.

Bishop on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

duh, rocky and bullwinkle—*where be my coffee? dammit*

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

This is silly. They were tasked with infiltrating policy making circles. In order to do that, a great deal of networking would be necessary to make connections with people who have the information they needed. In today’s world, social networking is one of the easiest and most popular ways to go about networking. While they were trying to hide their true identities, they were not trying to “hide” or not be seen in general. In fact, they were trying to do the opposite by making names for themselves. Given all of this, it makes perfect sense that she promoted herself on the internet.

I really do not understand the criticism here.

Joe Caps on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

duh, rocky and bullwinkle—*where be my coffee? dammit*

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

hell Ed–yesterday you was over the 9.8 reading level with post numero uno, today you baffled me with the throwback cartoon reference. strong work.

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Can’t we round someone up to translate what she’s babbling on about?

Disturb the Universe on June 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

no no no boys
im hittin first

She’s cute but Russian women rarely age well.

Bishop on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

When russian women die
they turn into pools of vodka that little russian boys drink from

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

and I never knew rocky was a squirrel…..

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Ginger is good for your chakra.

GnuBreed on June 30, 2010 at 10:08 AM

What secrets do we have to steal?

angryed on June 30, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Additionally, while it has been noted that some of the spies were undercover as regular Americans, it does not sound like that was the case with this woman. She seemed to have made it quite clear that she was Russian in public, so the idea that she was “busted” by posting videos of herself speaking Russian on the internet is also silly.

Joe Caps on June 30, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Russian beauties are knockouts.

All that drug resistant tuberculosis keeps them thin.

Mike Honcho on June 30, 2010 at 10:09 AM

So The F.B.I.’s priority is still the Cold War? Which has been over for how long now…..

Dr Evil on June 30, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Straight from the pages of the National Enquirer:

GORE SEDUCED BY BEAUTIFUL RUSSIAN SPY

Revealed Secrets When She Released His Second Chakra!

novaculus on June 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

lolololol

excellent Ed :)

cmsinaz on June 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM

Ed, a little warning please before add tag lines like,

I don’t speak Russian, but I’m pretty sure I heard “squirrel” and “moose” somewhere in there.

I am perusing HA when I am supposed to be elsewise occupied on more productive tasks, you just blew my “covert action” when I sprayed my monitor with coffee.

Archimedes on June 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM

She’s cute but Russian women rarely age well.

Bishop on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Are you talking about all of them, just expats, or ones who stay in the land of alcoholism and despair?

If you mean the last of the three, that’s like saying women in Florida don’t age well without following it up with “because they spend too much time in the sun, chain-smoking, and snorting an entire bottle of Grey Goose”.

teke184 on June 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM

hell Ed–yesterday you was over the 9.8 reading level with post numero uno, today you baffled me with the throwback cartoon reference. strong work.

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Alright you damn kid, get the hell off my lawn.

Currently I’m plowing through season 2 on DVD.

rbj on June 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM

and I never knew rocky was a squirrel…..

ted c on June 30, 2010 at 10:08 AM

A flying squirrel so not just your typical rabies carrying yard varmint.

Dr Evil on June 30, 2010 at 10:11 AM

She’s a treasonous harpy with a heart as black as sackcloth.

I’d still clean her pipes six ways to Sunday, though.

fusionaddict on June 30, 2010 at 10:12 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PojCDG5816Q

Stupid good-lookings!

jamie gumm on June 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM

I love Eastern European and Russian girls

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM

I wonder if our FBI guys spied on her while she showered or got dressed

LUCKY

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:14 AM

If she tried to pass herself off as an American, then posting these videos of her speaking Russian was a bad idea. It’s a dead give-away! Imagine James Bond, Jason Bourne or Derek Flint doing that.

KillerKane on June 30, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Hey, it’s the cute engineer on the Serentiy ship…

TiminPhx on June 30, 2010 at 10:14 AM

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Sorry boys, laying pipe is right up my alley. I’m first!!

maintenanceman on June 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM

The next lefty Palin meme: Wait a minute!! She uses facebook and She talks about “over-throwing” the government SHE IS A SPY. Now all that talk about being close to RUSSIA makes sense!!!

Dan Pet on June 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM

The next lefty Palin meme: Wait a minute!! She uses facebook and She talks about “over-throwing” the government SHE IS A SPY. Now all that talk about being close to RUSSIA makes sense!!!

Dan Pet on June 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM

+++++++++++++!

maintenanceman on June 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM

lol

This is a sweet fun thread for the morning
dang

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:16 AM

She kind of looks like that chick from spider man movies what’s er name.

Dr Evil on June 30, 2010 at 10:17 AM

When russian women die
they turn into pools of vodka that little russian boys drink from

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:07 AM

First, they extract their oils. That’s the little known secret of Oil of Olay. It’s really Oil of Old Lady.

Daggett on June 30, 2010 at 10:17 AM

best time to lay pipe. wouldnt you say blue?

maintenanceman on June 30, 2010 at 10:18 AM

wanna hear something f’cked up i learned in my russian history course back in college?

when the women were in the factories with their babies, and the babies wouldn’t stop crying, the mothers would either give them vodka or suckle on somewhere unmentionable (in the case of boys).

how WEIRD! it was a very awkward moment in class

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:19 AM

maintenanceman on June 30, 2010 at 10:18 AM

Triple A

Anytime
Anywhere
Anyone

(just not the anyone part)

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:19 AM

It’s interesting that the Cyrillic text on the top right of the video capture shown above has “Chapman” misspelled. The letters on the vid cap above would be pronounced “Champan” instead of “Chapman”.

bugsy on June 30, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Videos of that Russian “spy” chick. You know the one:
http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/11767194_DQ989#830939761_TNtco
Abby Adams on June 29, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Wow! Do I have to become a commie to join that organization? Because with all those good looking women at that symposium I could probably fake it pretty well. Most professed commies I’ve met were fairly clueless so it wouldn’t be difficult.

peacenprosperity on June 30, 2010 at 10:22 AM

So what was the urgency in arresting all these Russian spies? Does becoming “Americanized” pose an imminent threat, somehow? Maybe, for the Justice Department, it’s like becoming “radicalized”.

Why not just watch them?

And, or course, Obama knew all about this while he was having cheeseburgers with Medvedev. Sure.

SlaveDog on June 30, 2010 at 10:23 AM

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Ahhhh, to be a russian baby!! lol

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Agreed, that last A I’m not sure about!

maintenanceman on June 30, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Joe Caps on June 30, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Exactly my thoughts.

being covert doesn’t necessarily mean “being secret.” It can mean being very visible and well-connected, but with the mission being a secret. You’d want someone to be “natural” and what is more natural than a 20-something social networking businessperson in NYC having a Facebook account?

Abby Adams on June 30, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Ed, what does having a Facebook page have to with being covert? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say.

faraway on June 30, 2010 at 10:27 AM

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