First word of a possible spy swap came from an imprisoned Russian scientist, CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports. Igor Sutyagin, accused of passing nuclear submarine secrets to the CIA, told relatives he'll be among a group of Russian prisoners traded for the 10 alleged spies recently arrested in the United States.
His brother said Sutyagin was suddenly transferred from a remote prison to a Moscow cell.
While a Russian television newscast trumpeted an imminent exchange, no official swap has been announced. The White House swatted away questions.
"This is … a law enforcement matter," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at his briefing.
Sources say it's likely the spy deal will get done as U.S. and Russian negotiators work out the details. In a possible precursor, the alleged spies arrested in Virginia and Boston, where all 10 suspects will be in court Thursday.
"What the tea leaves seem to suggest is that you have a bundling of the individuals and the issues so that if there is a deal to be struck it can be struck quite effectively and efficiently," CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate said.
Sources say a spy exchange could be a tidy ending to what's become a bit of diplomatic mess. The arrests of the 10 alleged Russian agents came just days after the so-called Hamburger Summit designed to reset U.S.-Russian relations.
And it seems the alleged spies, who the FBI watched for years, stole little of importance.
"They didn't recruit a lot of people who may be in the government currently, and so the calculus may be made that these people are relatively unimportant," Zarate said.
Spy and prisoner swaps are nothing new. At the height of the Cold War, U.S. U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was exchanged for an imprisoned KGB spy in a handoff on Germany's Glienicke Bridge.
Twenty-five years later on the same span, Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky and three others walked to freedom when the West released eight Communist spies.
A number of legal steps must be taken before any exchange occurs, and sources say U.S. officials would want at least some admission of guilt from the suspects.
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