Obama’s advisors were divided. On one side were CIA Director Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Panetta wanted to rescue their informant, a Russian asset who had exposed the domestic spy ring, and Mueller wanted to arrest the Russian sleeper agents. On the other side were the White House and the State Department, who wanted to keep the whole thing quiet.
Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and the “diplomatic players” agreed with the president. Biden and Donilon strongly argued in favor of sweeping the illegal spy ring under the rug. Without a hint of irony, Biden said, “Our national security interest balance tips heavily to not creating a flap.” Obama’s top officials apparently believed that bowing to Russia was in the best interests of U.S. national security and that punishing Russian spies would “blow up the relationship.”