TITLE: taff Agent's Second Thoughts
AUTHOR: Louis Boifeuillette
VOLUME: il ISSUE: Winter
A collection ol ottidcs on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ot intelligence.
All statements of fact, opinion or analysts expressed in Studies in Intelligence are those of
the authors They do noi necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any oiher US Government entity, past or present. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations
Denoucmcnleep-cover storyoberer clew of stafftentiolities.
A STAFF AGENTS SECOND THOUGHTS Louis Boifeuillette
Some timerote you about my first two yean in Songhai. West Africa,as covered as representativeell-known American firm, the Hefner Brewing Company, promotingin the former Frenchriginally, you recall. Hefner had planned torewery there, but the Songhai government, which was to have shared in the project, backed out. largelyesult of its pro-Communist and anti.IJ.S. leanings. Then there had developed; at time of my lastuite acute foreign exchangefor which the governments stupid and anti-Western economic policies were much tothis was seriously curtailing businessI should like you to know how this al! turned out and to share with you some further ideas about staff agent projects.
After the fall3 the Songhai economy cuntinued its decline and with it the fortunes of Societe Hefner, thead formed to handle imports. The squeeze was really very simple:were controlled by licenses, and the government issued fewer and fewer of these. By5 hardly any licenses weieen the importers who normally handled the bulk of the provisions trade; all beer was importedtate-owned corporation through its central purchasing office in Paris. For several months, therefore beforeeft for good, the business activity of my cover company was virtuallynnounced my intention toew months in advance and released the local staff in stages During these last two years my operational work includedhandlinghird national,ommunist defector, and recruiting an African agent and another third national. My legiti-matcly acquired affiliation with the French financial magazine had come t0 an end- Primarilyad not had time for theo* "LetteriaflfuaWt VIIt.
ad been givennational press cover which enabled me to stay in the press community. Throughetumber ot* East European diplomats and preu people and was able toot ol* spotting and assessing, though no recruiting
Such, then, were the developments in the last two yean. My work (or the cover company was much the same as before eicrpt that it declined in intensity and toward thead rather too much time on my hands. Operational activity had its dry and its fruitful spells, as it usually has. My main purpose in writing again Is to offer some reflections based on these fouralf years. Including some that vary appreciably fromoiced before My own views are in large part corroborated by the erperieoce of another unofficial-coverareer agent,taffer, who was in Songhai for about three of these years; he has since resigned. We discussed our common problems on many occasionsm sure he would agree withay.
In my lastade much of thetaff agent suffers in being cut off from the mainstream of his life's work. In goingery high erposuie to intelligence personnel and activity down to the point where he rarely sees anyone in his professional field Theis that he is also cut off from the sources of intimate knowl-edge he formerly had about international affairs and the targetand his capital stock of such knowledge rapidlylace such as Songhai where the press and radio are government-controlled. He can. to be sure, listen to foreign broad casts and read the foreign press,ewspaper published, say. in Paris carries very little on Songhai. Locally published information on political )ife is ludicrously limited.
To illustrate the other side of theoviet illegal operating in London could, by reading three or four daily newspapers, know enough of current affairs to be able to handleophisticated agent in the Foreign Office, say. Or Inilitary agent, thereumber of specialized journals which would give the Sovietetailed knowledge of the subject matter. None of this is possiblelace such as Songhai.
A case illustrating this difficulty was that of the African In theforeign ministryad recruited in my second year. This man was appointed ambassador to an important African country,urned him over to the station there to handle. It then transpired
Sloff Agent Sequel
thai he regularly made quite long vijitj hack to Songhai, during whichuld be worth while to have himocal case officer. At the time of his 6rstelieve itas on leave and my chief, under official cover at the embassy, met him.eserve communications system. It was immediately apparent that my chief was much better ableo make the most of the man's knowledge. During thisot of complicated moves were in progress in the relationship between Songhai and the other country and also in the general field of African unity. My chief read all the State and Agency trafficever saw at all. Our relative skills as agent handlers apart, heuch better job than I, and he continued to handle the agent.
During the last fewas handling two agents, an Africanhird national. Theunior civil servant, merely brought me out passports and visa application forms, and the third national operatedield closely associated with my import businessad therefore thoroughly mastered. Neither of these was extremely valuable, but they were worth while. The point is that these were the kind of agents whose handling was simple enoughan in my position to do effectively.
Preservation of Cover
I have said that toward the end of myad rather too much time on my hands as my cover job petered out. Now this needs some explanation; you may well ask why, if the guy had so little to do in the Hefner office, he didn't go out and develop some agents. The answer is that by and large you cannot do much unless youalid reason forotential agent at his place of work, and this depends on your cover activity, You cannot simply bargean's office and start developing him. If you are in the embassy, your chances ofalid reason for doing this with respectorth-while prospect are much better.eercannot just drop inolice official, or on someone in the foreign ministry, or on an army officer. You may meet the manocial function orlub, but that will be after office hours.
The other factor in not having enough cover activity is the security question. It is true that other people in the beer business were aware that my volume hadtheirsthere was, more by good luck than gooduilt-in stayability element in my cover. My business card readnd tliis meantovered all the countries in West Africa. id
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not visit all ol them, notpend much time or money on trip.ad enough legitimate or seml-tegitimate Hefner business coupled with enough intelligence business, to visit five or su countries making perhaps one eirursion every threeoint ol letting people know of these trips, and as no one in Songhai had the slightest ideaid in Mali, they metely thought anotherAmerican was out beating the bushes to get morepell this out because whatittleimmick became an entirely valid and efficient means of shoring up cover.
While on the subject ofhould eiprcss my conviction that noRussian.suspected mv In-telligence affiliation. Not evenatellite intelligence service took an interest in meotential agentoopted trade mission member did the spotting and an intelligence officer in the Satellite embassy they cover had excellent security. The one group who may have suspected me were the political and economic people in. embassy, and thiselieve, from my long stay In the Washingtonad not met any of these people in Washington,voided seeing too much of them In Songhaieel that they had thoughts about me. especially when great amounts of publicity were given to CIA in the Songhai press as part of the Soviet inspired world-wide campaign On the other hand, this campaign made the atmosphere in Songliai sufficiently spooky that there was no loose talk by the Americans, and form entirely grateful.
roteonsiderable argument that the targetingtaff agentmall developing country could beI said that it wouldficult to place himeally hot target such as the foreign ministry, the security forces, or the govern-ing party, and thatmall capital city he could, under any cover,ide range of valuable contactsear or two. This is true upoint, but in looking over theecruited, or the worth-whileind that all (he agents and nearly all of the contacts were personset and developed through my coverust be moremet the agents through the beer business, most of the valuable contacts through my press affiliation. For instance, the African who became the ambassador hadrovisions merchant and still ran his business on the side. irst met huneer sale ami this brought me
larly in contact with him during the development stage and lata provided excellent cover Tor meetings after his recruitment.
I still feel that the really exceptional man who can just wow every-one in no time flat and recruit people right and left can be put in any viable cover positionmall developing country But the majority of our case officers, including me, should be belter directed toward targets and frequently icguided through as much communica. tion as possible. The point is that the case officeralid reason forotential recruit during the development. You can't do it all at cocktail parties, and transacting legitimate business orbusiness problems fs an excellent way ofan. This, after all, is what the case officer under embassy cover does. Healid reason for talking to just about anyone, for all the world knows that he is supposed to inform his government on what is going on.
Because, in part, of these built-in handicaps which began to become apparent as time went by. my unofficial-cover colleagueound ourselves turning into support agents. This is in no wiseullas glad, for instance, toouse and operate itemporary listening post for some headquarters technicians; and there were other such jobs in connection with audio operations.mall station the chief must make use of whatever assets he has. and there is no question of anyone being too proud to do any kind of job. But if this goes too far it means that the service isigh salary and high administrative (housing,xpensesupport agent. This may be justified if the product of the activity is good, but over the long run there will vnv likelyaste of skill and money.
This boils down to the fact that headquarters has to do considerablv more planning in advance of dispatching an unofficial-cover agent, has to have more dialog with officers on the target scene. Otherwise, if the agent is placed much on the basis of guess-work, it will resulligher percentage of misfires, whether it is the man or thethat throw things off. But thereeal need for staff-type agents, and one man's experience mayite toward making the most of them-
i-ij aajeaewrrr"Original document.