The cloak-and-dagger world of human resources

By Todd Humber (

Who says human resources isn’t full of intrigue and clandestine behaviour?

When news broke recently about a spy ring — involving Russians in the United States, many claiming to be Canadian and possessing fake Canuck passports — the cast of characters read like a spy novel. (And we thought the Cold War was over.)

There was Anna Chapman, described as a “sultry, 28-yearold ‘femme fatale’ with a swish Manhattan apartment.” An acquaintance dubbed her a James Bond-type girlfriend.

There was Michael Semenko, a party guy in his 20s who made a splash in Arlington, Va., last summer tooling around in a high-end Mercedes. He apparently held rowdy parties and was fluent in Russian, English, Chinese and Spanish.

But mixed in with this cast of characters was HR staffer Anne Foley. Foley lived what was described in the Toronto Star as a “perfect Boston” life with Donald Heathfield, starring as fortysomething parents of two teenage sons.

What, precisely, was Foley’s cover? She said she was from Montreal, and claimed to have worked as a human resource officer in Toronto. (Though she took a real estate gig in Boston.)

HR doesn’t need any more signs it has arrived as a profession — that train rolled into the station years ago. But now we know the profession is good enough to work as a cover for a Russian spy.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. For more information, visit


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