Ex-CIA official: Putin took shot across Trump's bow

Ex-CIA case officer and CNN security analyst Robert Baer discusses Russia arresting and accusing Paul Whelan, an American citizen, of espionage.

Posted: Jan 3, 2019 9:48 AM
Updated: Jan 3, 2019 9:48 AM

Paul Whelan's mysterious arrest in Russia has drawn international attention and sparked speculation about what may have prompted his arrest.

Russian authorities say the 48-year-old American citizen has been working as a spy while his family says he visited the country only as a tourist. Whelan's arrest also comes two weeks after alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the United States.

As US officials and Whelan's relatives wait to learn more about his charges, here's everything we know about Whelan so far:

He is a corporate security expert

Whelan was born in Canada to British parents, and lives in Novi, Michigan. He works as the director of global security for an automotive components supplier called BorgWarner. He has worked for the company since 2017.

His twin brother, David Whelan, said the job entails making sure BorgWarner facilities are physically secure. The company has said it doesn't have facilities in Russia.

Before working for BorgWarner, Paul Whelan was a senior manager in the global security and investigations group Kelly Services, a US-based global office staffing company.

He told Security Magazine in 2013 that his job at Kelly Services involved, in part, preventing workplace violence.

He was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct

Whelan served 14 years in the US Marine Corps Reserve until he was discharged for bad conduct in 2008.

His service as staff sergeant ended when he was convicted at a special court-martial on an attempted larceny charge, military court documents show. He was accused of wrongfully using another person's Social Security number and writing bad checks.

During his time in the military, he completed two tours in Iraq, in 2004 and 2006.

Whelan's brother told NPR on Thursday that he family didn't know about bad-conduct discharge until this week.

David Whelan dismissed Paul's conviction as a "relatively innocuous sort of thing," and said that he wasn't surprised his brother concealed details from the family, because "it is not unreasonable for people to put out their best self."

He's traveled to Russia several times

He's no stranger to the country. When Whelan was in the military in 2006, he used his two weeks' leave to visit Russia.

A 2007 online Marine Corps article says he spent the leave "experiencing the post-Soviet era of Moscow and St. Petersburg." A photo shows him standing across the Moscow River from the Kremlin.

He likes to travel around the world and has also visited countries such as India and Iceland, his brother said.

"He has friends in Russia, so that would be an extra draw, people he's met on social media, but I don't know that Russia was a particular place of return for him," David Whelan said.

He was attending a wedding, his family says

Whelan flew to Moscow on December 22 to attend the wedding of a fellow former US service member and a Russian woman, his family said.

He was acting as a tour guide for other wedding guests who had not visited Russia previously, his brother said.

Before his arrest, he had been staying at Moscow's Metropol Hotel and spent time with the wedding party at the Kremlin.

When Paul didn't arrive at the wedding on Friday, the newlyweds filed a missing-person report with Russian authorities, his brother said.

He used Russian social media for years

It appears Whelan had been using a Russian social media platform similar to Facebook for the past 13 years.

Photos showing Whelan have been uploaded to the VKontakte, or VK, social network from around the world for years, in a profile under his name.

The last status update on the page reads "next stop, Moscow..."

Whelan appears to have posted several comments in Russian last year, including one congratulating the Russian people for "Victory Day," the day of Nazi surrender in 1945, and another one wishing a merry Christmas.

The page shows that someone last logged in to the profile under Whelan's name on Friday, the same day Russian officials said he was arrested in Moscow.

When asked about the VKontakte page, Whelan's brother said he couldn't confirm the account, but accepts that his brother likely had one, because he made friends in the country.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 91935

Reported Deaths: 2780
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6903153
DeSoto532153
Harrison368771
Jackson334367
Madison318086
Rankin313473
Lee254066
Jones236078
Forrest231069
Washington215671
Lafayette203039
Lauderdale1984123
Bolivar177465
Oktibbeha173749
Lamar156633
Neshoba1524103
Panola140926
Sunflower138543
Lowndes138457
Warren136650
Leflore134380
Pontotoc120416
Pike120148
Monroe117665
Scott115925
Copiah115433
Coahoma110927
Holmes108458
Marshall106714
Grenada104535
Lincoln104453
Yazoo103429
Simpson100142
Union96524
Tate94537
Leake93535
Adams89135
Wayne87121
Pearl River84850
Marion83633
Covington79321
Prentiss78617
Alcorn75310
Newton74722
Itawamba74121
George73913
Tallahatchie73418
Winston71919
Tishomingo65035
Attala63625
Chickasaw63524
Tippah63516
Walthall58925
Clay56216
Hancock55420
Noxubee54015
Jasper53615
Clarke52538
Smith51714
Calhoun50612
Tunica47213
Montgomery45020
Claiborne44916
Lawrence42212
Yalobusha41314
Perry39016
Humphreys36915
Quitman3625
Stone34611
Greene33516
Webster32813
Jefferson Davis32211
Carroll30812
Amite30710
Wilkinson30117
Kemper28515
Sharkey25812
Jefferson2359
Benton2151
Franklin1863
Choctaw1775
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 128818

Reported Deaths: 2284
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson18648332
Mobile12949288
Montgomery8560170
Madison736573
Tuscaloosa7015112
Lee558259
Shelby550149
Baldwin502148
Marshall376342
Etowah326344
Calhoun321139
Morgan312925
Houston260621
Elmore247547
DeKalb230119
St. Clair218134
Walker217780
Talladega199925
Limestone191919
Cullman180017
Franklin172728
Dallas172526
Russell16912
Autauga162424
Lauderdale159231
Colbert157224
Escambia154324
Blount150413
Jackson146610
Chilton143325
Dale128042
Covington127027
Coffee12388
Pike11329
Tallapoosa112483
Chambers110642
Clarke104417
Marion91428
Butler90238
Barbour8097
Marengo69319
Winston68512
Lowndes64327
Pickens62214
Bibb6179
Hale60828
Bullock58514
Randolph58512
Lawrence57620
Monroe5708
Washington54513
Geneva5404
Perry5356
Wilcox52911
Cherokee52816
Clay5187
Conecuh51611
Crenshaw51531
Macon46619
Henry4524
Sumter41719
Fayette4128
Choctaw34212
Lamar3302
Cleburne3116
Greene29915
Coosa1573
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 75°
Columbus
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 79°
Oxford
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 73°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 73°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather