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Obama started negotiations about spy swap before arrests

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Posted on July 10 2010 6:12 am
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by Peter Baker, Charlie Savage and Benjamin Weiser

On a Friday afternoon in mid-June, President Obama sat down with advisers in the Oval Office and learned that the F.B.I.planned to round up the largest ring of Russian sleeper agents since the cold war. After discussion about what the agents had done, the conversation turned to the fallout: what to do after the arrests?

In that moment was born a back-to-the-future plan that would play out four weeks later, a prisoner exchange with surreal and even cinematic overtones as Russian and American airplanes met on a sunny tarmac in the heart of Europe on Friday to trade agents and spies much as had been done during a more hostile era.

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