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In the field of counterintelligence, a double agent (also double secret agent ) is an employee of a secret intelligence service for one country, whose primary purpose is to spy on a target organization of another country, but who is now spying on their own country's organization for the target organization.
Double agentry may be practiced by spies of the target organization who infiltrate the controlling organization or may result from the turning (switching sides) of previously loyal agents of the controlling organization by the target. The threat of execution is the most common method of turning a captured agent (working for an intelligence service) into a double agent (working for a foreign intelligence service) or a double agent into a re-doubled agent . It is unlike a defector, who is not considered an agent as agents are in place to function for an intelligence service and defectors are not, but some consider that defectors in place are agents until they have defected.
Double agents are often used to transmit disinformation or to identify other agents as part of counter-espionage operations. They are often very trusted by the controlling organization since the target organization will give them true, but useless or even counterproductive, information to pass along.
|Context||Agent||Nationality||Loyal to||Spying on||Comments||References|
| Wars of the Three Kingdoms |
1639 – 1651
| World War I |
1914 – 1918
| World War II |
1939 – 1945
|Mathilde Carré "La Chatte"|
|Roman Czerniawski "Brutus"|
|Eddie Chapman "ZigZag"||Infiltrated the German Abwehr during World War II whilst feeding intelligence to MI5. He was so trusted by the Germans that he is reportedly the only British citizen to have ever been awarded the Iron Cross|
|Walter Dicketts "Celery"||Ex RNAS officer sent to Lisbon and Germany to infiltrate the Abwehr, report on invasion plans for Britain, and establish the bona fides of Snow (subsequently imprisoned until the end of war). Subjected to an intensive five-day interrogation in Hamburg and survived. Later sent back to Lisbon to persuade Abwehr officer, George Sessler, to defect and worked undercover in Brazil.|
|Roger Grosjean "Fido"||French Air Force pilot who worked for the British|
|Christiaan Lindemans "King Kong"|
Dutch resistance (1941-1944)
|Arthur Owens "Snow"|
|Johann-Nielsen Jebsen "Jonny" "Artist"||Anti-Nazi German intelligence officer and British double agent. Jebsen recruited Dušan Popov.|
|Ivan Popov "LaLa" "Aesculap" "Dreadnought" "Hans"||Yugoslav working for his national military agency VOA. He also worked for British MI6 and German Abwehr. In German Gestapo he held rank of Obersturmbannführer. Brother of Dušan Popov.|
|Dušan Popov "Duško" "Tricycle" "Ivan"||Yugoslav working for his national military agency VOA. He also worked for British MI6 and German Abwehr. In British army he held rank of colonel. Brother of Ivan Popov.|
|John Herbert Neal Moe "Mutt and Jeff"|
|Tor Glad "Mutt and Jeff"|
|Juan Pujol García "Garbo"||British double agent in German spy service-awarded both an MBE and an Iron Cross|
|Johann Wenzel||Member of Red Orchestra spy ring who, after being unmasked by the Gestapo in 1942, fed false information to the Soviet Union from August until his escape in November. Later joined the Belgian resistance.|
|William Sebold "Tramp"||Coerced by the Abwehr into becoming a spy, exposed the Duquesne Spy Ring to the FBI.|
| Cold War |
1947 – 1991
|John Cairncross "Liszt"|
|Anthony Blunt "Johnson"|
|Guy Burgess "Hicks"|
|Donald Maclean "Homer"|
|Kim Philby "Stanley"|
|Oleg Gordievsky "Sunbeam" "Nocton" "Pimlico" "Ovation"||Abducted in Moscow in 1985; escaped to the United Kingdom two months later.|
|Matei Pavel Haiducu||Defected to France in 1981.|
|Dmitri Polyakov||Executed in 1988.|
|Robert Hanssen||Worked for the FBI and sold information to the Soviet Union as a mole.|
|Oleg Penkovskiy "Hero"||A colonel with GRU informed the U.K. and the U.S. about the Soviet emplacement of missiles in Cuba; executed by the Soviets in 1963.|
|Stig Bergling||Among other things, handed over the entire Swedish "FO-code", a top secret list of Sweden's defence establishments, coastal artillery fortifications and mobilization stores. Convicted in 1979 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.|
| Arab–Israeli conflict |
|Ashraf Marwan||Egyptian businessman and an alleged spy for Israel, or possibly an Egyptian double agent; managed to become celebrated as a hero in each country for his alleged work against the other.|
| Basque conflict |
1959 – 2011
|Mikel Lejarza "El Lobo"|
| Northern Ireland conflict |
1968 – 1998
|Denis Donaldson||Assassinated at his cottage in County Donegal after being exposed by a Northern Ireland newspaper, The Derry Journal .|
|Freddie Scappaticci "Stakeknife"|
|Robert Nairac||Murdered by the Provisional IRA in County Louth in 1977.|
| South African espionage in Zimbabwe and the Gukurahundi |
1980 – 1987
| Global War on Terrorism |
|"April Fool"||Allegedly, an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein|
A re-doubled agent is an agent who gets caught as a double agent and is forced to mislead the foreign intelligence service. F.M. Begoum describes the redoubled agent as "one whose duplicity in doubling for another service has been detected by his original sponsor and who has been persuaded to reverse his affections again".
A triple agent is a spy who pretends to be a double agent for one side, while they are truthfully a double agent for the other side. Unlike a re-doubled agent, who changes allegiance due to being compromised, a triple agent is usually considered to have always been loyal to their original side. It may also refer to a spy who works for three opposing sides, such that each side thinks the spy works for them alone.
Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information or divulging of the same without the permission of the holder of the information. A person who commits espionage is called an espionage agent or spy. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring, in the service of a government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome. In some circumstances it may be a legal tool of law enforcement and in others it may be illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a method of gathering which includes information gathering from non-disclosed sources.
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is an intelligence agency of the United States federal government, specializing in defense and military intelligence.
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is a 1963 Cold War spy novel by the British author John le Carré. It depicts Alec Leamas, a British agent, being sent to East Germany as a faux defector to sow disinformation about a powerful East German intelligence officer. It serves as a sequel to le Carré's previous novels Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality, which also featured the fictitious British intelligence organization, "The Circus", and its agents George Smiley and Peter Guillam.
Counterintelligence is an activity aimed at protecting an agency's intelligence program from an opposition's intelligence service. It includes gathering information and conducting activities to prevent espionage, sabotage, assassinations or other intelligence activities conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations or persons.
In espionage jargon, a mole is a long-term spy who is recruited before having access to secret intelligence, subsequently managing to get into the target organization. However, it is popularly used to mean any long-term clandestine spy or informant within an organization, government or private. In police work, a mole is an undercover law-enforcement agent who joins an organization in order to collect incriminating evidence about its operations and so bring its members to justice.
An intelligence officer is a person employed by an organization to collect, compile or analyze information which is of use to that organization. The word of officer is a working title, not a rank, used in the same way a "police officer" can also be a sergeant, or in the military, in which non-commissioned personnel may serve as intelligence officers.
A sleeper agent is a spy who is placed in a target country or organization not to undertake an immediate mission but to act as a potential asset if activated. Even if unactivated, the "sleeper agent" is still an asset and is still playing an active role in sedition, treason or espionage by virtue of agreeing to act if activated. Sleeper agents are popular plot devices in fiction, particularly in espionage fiction and science fiction. This common use in fiction is directly related to and results from repeated instances of real-life "sleeper agents" participating in spying, espionage, sedition, treason, and assassinations.
The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation or SVR RF is Russia's external intelligence agency, focusing mainly on civilian affairs. The SVR RF succeeded the First Chief Directorate (PGU) of the KGB in December 1991. The SVR has its headquarters in the Yasenevo District of Moscow.
The MGB, an initialism for Ministerstvo gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti SSSR, was the name of the Soviet state security apparatus dealing with internal and external security issues: secret police duties, foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence, etc from 1946 to 1953.
In intelligence organizations, agent handling is the management of so-called agents, principal agents, and agent networks by intelligence officers typically known as case officers.
The Directorate of Operations (DO), less formally called the Clandestine Service, is one of the smallest components of the US Central Intelligence Agency. It was known as the Directorate of Plans from 1951 to 1973; as the Directorate of Operations from 1973 to 2005; and as the National Clandestine Service (NCS) from 2005 to 2015.
Countries with major counterintelligence failures are presented alphabetically. In each case, there is at least one systemic problem with seeking penetration agents when few or none may actually have existed, to the detriment of the functioning of the national service involved.
Clandestine human intelligence is intelligence collected from human sources using clandestine espionage methods. These sources consist of people working in a variety of roles within the intelligence community. Examples include the quintessential spy, who collects intelligence; couriers and related personnel, who handle an intelligence organization's (ideally) secure communications; and support personnel, such as access agents, who may arrange the contact between the potential spy and the case officer who recruits them. The recruiter and supervising agent may not necessarily be the same individual. Large espionage networks may be composed of multiple levels of spies, support personnel, and supervisors. Espionage networks are typically organized as a cell system, in which each clandestine operator knows only the people in his own cell, perhaps the external case officer, and an emergency method to contact higher levels if the case officer or cell leader is captured, but has no knowledge of people in other cells. This cellular organization is a form of compartmentalisation, which is an important tactic for controlling access to information, used in order to diminish the risk of discovery of the network or the release of sensitive information.
The Clandestine HUMINT page deals with the functions of that discipline, including espionage and active counterintelligence. This page deals with Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques, also called "tradecraft". It applies to clandestine operations for espionage, and a clandestine phase before direct action (DA) or unconventional warfare (UW). Clandestine HUMINT sources may also act as local guides for special reconnaissance (SR).
National governments deal in both intelligence and military special operations functions that either should be completely secret, or simply cannot be linked to the sponsor. It is a continuing and unsolved question for governments whether clandestine intelligence collection and covert action should be under the same agency. The arguments for doing so include having centralized functions for monitoring covert action and clandestine HUMINT and making sure they do not conflict, as well as avoiding duplication in common services such as cover identity support, counterespionage, and secret communications. The arguments against doing so suggest that the management of the two activities takes a quite different mindset and skills, in part because clandestine collection almost always is on a slower timeline than covert action.
Clandestine HUMINT asset recruiting refers to the recruitment of human agents, commonly known as spies, who work for a foreign government, or within a host country's government or other target of intelligence interest for the gathering of human intelligence. The work of detecting and "doubling" spies who betray their oaths to work on behalf of a foreign intelligence agency is an important part of counterintelligence.
Espionage refers to the idea of using spies in order to obtain governmental or military-related information.
The head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William Donovan, created the X-2 Counter Espionage Branch in 1943 to provide liaison with and assist the British in its exploitation of the Ultra program's intelligence during World War II. A few months before, Donovan had established a Counterintelligence Division within the Secret Intelligence Branch of the OSS but rescinded this order upon development of the X-2. The X-2 was led by James Murphy, whose branch would have the power to veto operations of the Special Operations and Secret Intelligence Branches without explanation. Donovan modeled the Counter Espionage Branch on British Counter Espionage. With the creation of the X-2 Branch, the British insisted that it follow British security procedures to maintain the secrecy of Ultra. The X-2 established separate lines of communication for itself as a self-contained unit. By the end of World War II, the X-2 had discovered around 3,000 Axis agents.
The Defense Clandestine Service (DCS) is an arm of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which conducts clandestine espionage activities around the world to answer national-level defense objectives for senior U.S. policymakers and military leaders. Staffed by civilian and military personnel, DCS is part of DIA's Directorate of Operations and works in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations and the U.S. military's Joint Special Operations Command. DCS consists of about 500 clandestine operatives, which is roughly how many case officers the CIA maintained in the early 2000s prior to its expansion.
David Henry Blee served in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from its founding in 1947 until his 1985 retirement. During World War II in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), he had worked in Southeast Asia. In the CIA, he served as Chief of Station (COS) in Asia and Africa, starting in the 1950s. He then led the CIA's Near East Division.