This past election was a doozy for everyone, thanks in part to some digital meddling by the Russians. Yesterday, we learned that some of their intelligence-gathering was likely happening right here in Maryland at a secluded property on the Eastern Shore.
President Obama on Thursday announced a series of sanctions against the Russian government that will in part send 35 diplomats back home to Mother Russia and shutter a couple of their compounds in the United States. One of those compounds is a 45-acre property based at Pioneer Point in Centreville, Md., where the Corsica and Chester rivers meet.
If you’re thinking, “Wow, that must have been a top-secret, hidden facility,” you’ll be surprised to learn that it can be found right on Google Maps.
The Russians’ presence at the property has actually been well-documented over the years. The Soviets bought the property in 1972 and transferred it to the Russian Federation upon the Soviet collapse in 1995, according to the Sun. They also kept a smaller property nearby that followed the same transfer timeline. Together, the parcels are valued at about $8.5 million.
The Russians seem to have mostly used the larger property, which houses a mansion, tennis courts and a swimming pool, as a resort. Though locals expressed concerns over the years about spying, the Russians appeased some of those concerns with dinner parties and tours of the compound that indicated larlgely leisurely recreational activities were unfolded in the strange, guarded atmosphere.
But according to yesterday’s announcement of sanctions, the property was indeed used for “intelligence collection activities,” according to the White House. The Obama administration didn’t give specifics on what kinds of meddling activities were happening there, but intelligence officials told NBC News the property was used to monitor the National Security Agency.
Also included in the White House’s punishments are the shuttering of an unidentified property also owned by the Russians in Long Island, N.Y., the evictions of 35 Russian diplomats declared “persona non grata” in the United States and direct sanctions of two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies that allegedly supported one of the agencies and four officers for the agency.
Russia obviously wasn’t too happy upon hearing about the ejections of its diplomats and closures of its properties. The Russian Embassy in the U.K. shared this very official response on Twitter:
President Obama expels 35 🇷🇺 diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl 🇺🇸 people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm. pic.twitter.com/mleqA16H8D
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) December 29, 2016
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin praised the move by Obama in his final weeks in office, but said the sanctions aren’t enough. “Now is not the ‘time to get on with our lives,’” – a direct response to Donald Trump’s passé reaction to the controversy yesterday – “but to take an appropriate response in line with the ongoing threat that Russia poses to our democracy and global security interests,” Cardin said in a statement.
Cardin said he plans to introduce two new bills in the Senate, one establishing a nonpartisan commission to study the hacking activity and another to frame future U.S.-Russia policy, including sanctions.
Amid all of this hysteria, there’s an open question about what Donald Trump will do once he takes office next month. In our world of blurred ethical lines in politics, perhaps one of the real estate mogul’s first actions in office could be acquiring the property as soon as it’s on the market.
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