Observations On The Double Agent
John P. Dirnmer, Jr. (aka P. M. Begoum)
6 ISSUE: Winter
A collection ol articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, ond theoretical aspects ot intelligence.
All siaiements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Sludies in Intelligence are those of lhe aulhots They do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency or any other US Government entity, past or preseni Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and interpretations.
Guideposts for the dim,half-world whereraises deception to the second and third powers.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE DOUBLE AGENT F. M. Begoum
The double agent operation la one of the most demanding and complex counterintelligence activities In which anservice can engage. Directing even one double agentime-consuming and tricky undertaking that should beonlyervice having both competence andCompetence may sufficeervice that can place legal controls upon Its doubles, but servicesparticularly those operating In areas where the police powers are In neutral or hostilesubtlety as well.
Other requisites are that the case officerouble agenthorough knowledge of the area andigh order of ability In complex analytichorough grounding In local laws governing espionage, enough time from other duties to run the operation well and report Itetailed understanding of the adversary service or services (and of any liaison service that may bedequate control of the agent's communications. Including those with theull knowledge of his past (and especially of any prior Intelligenceolid grasp of his behavior pattern (both as an Individual and asationalnd rapport In the relationship with him.
Like all other Intelligence operations, double agent cases are run to protect and enhance the national security. They serve this purpose principally by providing currentabout hostile Intelligence and security services and about clandestine subversive activities. The service and officerouble agent possibility must weigh netadvantage thoughtfully, never forgettingou-
agent U, lnondoned channel of communication with the enemy.
Some Western services have become highly skilled through long experience with double agent cases and otheroperations. Of the Communist Bloc services, the Soviets manifest patienceonceptual pattern bothand inherently consistent; to create or enhancein an important doubleagent they are willing to sac-rifice^hroughTurn litfoitratldn*^
the reacting service Into accepting his bona fides. They make extensive use of provocateurs to establish double agents,among emigres. Not much Is known about Chinese Communist capabilities In this specialty; available Indications suggest mediocrity. The remainder of the Bloc is spotty: the North Koreans are amateurish, the Hungarians and Czechs have demonstrated competence, and the Poles, maintaining an old tradition,evel of skill (but not of resources) approaching that of the Soviets. We Americans havea broad range of experience since our entry into World War II, but twenty years Is not enough time for mastering such an art. We are especially unversed In active and passive provocation.
HU Nature and Origin*
A double agenterson who engages in clandestinefor two intelligence or security services (or more In Jointho provides information about one or about each to the other, and who wittingly withholdsInformation from one on the Instructions of the other or Is unwittingly manipulated by one so that significant facts are withheld from the adversary. Peddlers, fabricators, and others who work for themselves ratherervice are not double agents because they are not agents. The fact that doubles have an agent relationship with both sidesthem from penetrations, who normally are placed with the target servicetaff or officer capacity.
The unwitting double agent Is an extremely rare bird. The manipulative skill required to deceive an agent Into thinking that he is serving the adversary when In fact be Is damaging Its Interests Is plainly of the highest order.
Theouble agent case starts deeply affects thethroughout Its life. Almost all ol them begin in one ol the three ways following:
The Walk-In or Talk-In. This agent appears in person, sends an Intermediary,elephone call,etter, or even establishes radio contact to declare that he worksostile service and to make an offer tot2 teAki though ^the^danger^of provocation;resent, some walk-ins and talk-Ins have proved not only reliable but also very valuable.
The Agent Detected andervicean adversary agent may offer him employmentouble. His agreement, obtained under open or Implied duress. Is unlikely, however, to be accompanied by aswitch of loyalties. The so-called redoubled agent-one whose duplicity In doubling for another service has been detected by his original sponsor and who has been persuaded to reverse his affectionsbelongs to this dubious class. Many detected and doubled agentsInto what are sometimes called "piston agents" orho change their attitudes with their visas as they shunt from side to side. Operations based on them are little more than unauthorized liaison with the enemy, and usually time-wasting exercises Inotable exception Is the detected and unwillingly doubled agent who Is relieved to be found out in his enforced service to the adversary.
The Provocation Agent. The active provocateur Is sent byoohat he worksut wants to switch sides. Or he mayalk-In ratheralk-In. In any event, the significant Information that he Is withholding, In compliance with As orders, is the fact that his offer Is being made at A's Instigation. He is also very likely to conceal one channel of communicationecond secret writing system. Such "side-commo"o keep In full touch whilethrough the divulged communications channel only messages meant for adversary eyes. The provocateur may also conceal his true sponsor, claiming for example (and truthfully) toatellite military service whereas
his actual control ia tbefact which the Soviets conceal from the Satellite as carefully as from us
The passive provocation, orubtlerof the tribe. Inurveys theterrain through the eyes ofa species of mirror-reading) and selects those citizens whose access to sources and other qualifications make them mostto B.hen recruits from these and waitso.ionow.suUjraThe stakeoutar better chatKn of success ln areas like Africa, where Intelligence exploitation of local resources ls far less Intensive, than ln Europe, where persons with valuable access are likely to have beenrepeatedly by recruiting services during theyears.
ouble agent operation is turned overiaison services. service or by one US. service toWhenransfer ls to be made, the Inheriting service ought to delve Into the true origins of the case and acquire as much Information as possible about Its earlier history.
For predictive purposes the most important clue imbedded In the origins of an operation Ls the agent's original oraffiliation, whether It was formed voluntarily or not, the length of Its duration, and its Intensity. In extreme cases the agent may have volunteered or willingly agreed to workostile service before. case officer who Is now weighing the merits of doubling him was even bom. The effects of years of clandestine association with theare deep and subtle; the American caseouble agent of Russian origin against, say. the KGB should never forget that the agent and his Soviet case officer share deep bonds of language and culture, even If the agent Is profoundly anti-Communist.
Another result of lengthy prior clandestine service Is that the agent may be hard to control in most operations the case officer's superior training and experience give him so decided an edge over the agent that recognition of thismakes the agent more tractable But add to the fact that the experienced double agent may have been ln the business longer than his US control his further advantage
in havingirst-hand comparative knowledge of the workings of at least two disparate services, and It Is obvious that the case officer's margin of superiority diminishes,or even Is reversed.
The Value of His Services
The nature and value of the double agent's functions de-Pendia personal abuity^wcllTor ChelcTner service He can alwaysreport on the objectives end conduct of this mission and possibly more broadly on the positive and counterintelligence targets of the otheror on Its plans. If he Is skillful and well trained, he can do valuable work by exploiting the weaknesses of others: all Intelligence officers of any service, despite their training, have some weaknesses. Some are loose-mouthed, some like to drink, others tend to brag.
The case officer may find his agent toonderful fellow and confide In him, putting himood position to elicit specific Information and making him the recipient of allof unsolicited Information. The agent may be able to learn the operational techniques, the security practices, the training methods, and the Identity of other members of the service. Possibly, Ifigh enough level, he may even be able to report the policies and intentions of the government. Althoughouble agent Is extraordinary, there are on record some whose reports have been of major nationalNormally, however, the double agent does not have access to such Information.
ouble agent,eriod of time, Is able toon the capabilities of the other service, If not directly at least by giving Information on his own handling from which specific capabilities can be Inferred. For example, he canon the type of support given him In servicing dead drops, providing accommodation addresses, arrangingand supplying technical equipment. If he has been Issued some modern technical device, say an automaticIt can logically be concluded that the serviceood support capability.
The double agent often has access through his travels for the other service to positive Intelligence on that country, or on third countries of Interest to the controlling service. But
wen when his mission does not afford such opportunities,always able to report his observations of the otherbits of Information can be accumulated until theypicture of the other service's administrative practices.and possibly Its liaison with other intelligenceservices. Debriefing for this purpose In minuteIs time-consuming, however, and Iteal problemthe right balance In the agent's time between him back lnts**the oUier'aerTlcT^,
The double agent serves alsoontrolled channel through which Information can be passed to the othereither to build up the agent in its estimation or forof deception. Often operational build-up material Is passed first toelter reception for the deception material: obviously the greater the stature of the agent In the eyes of the other service, the better the reception of the reports he provides. In the complex matter of deception we may distinguish here between operational deception, that concerning the service's own capabilities. Intentions, andof the agent, and national deception, that concerning the Intentions of the controlling government or otherof it. National deception operations are usually very delicate, frequently Involving the highest levels of theand therefore require prior coordination andat the national headquarters level.
The double agent channel can be used by the controlling service to Insert data Into the mechanisms of theumber of possibleexample, toits activities In some field. The Inserted material Isto Induce certain actions on the part of the other service, which are then observed through another operation or group of operations. The material has to be designed very skillfully If It la to deceive the other service and produce the desiredophisticated operation of this type Is most likely to be used when the stakes are high or the case complicated.ituation might arisease officer handling several operations wanted to set up still another and needed to find out In advance what the pertinent operational pattern was. The passing of data through the double agent channel for the consumption of the other service for what-
frtr purposereat dea) of knowledge about lhe
A double agent may serveeans through which acan be mountederson, an organization, an intelligence or security service, or any affiliated group to Induce action to Its own disadvantage. The provocation might be aimed at identifying members of the other service, at diverting It to less Important objectives, at tying up orIT-wasting Its assetsciesr*aT' "sowing dissension within .its ranks, at Inserting false data Into Its flies lo mislead it. at building up Inainted filepecific purpose, at forcing It to surface an activity It wanted to keep hidden, or at bringing public discredit on It, making It look like ananizatlon of Idiots. The Soviets and some of the Satellite services, the Poles in particular, are extremely adept Ln the art of conspiratorial provocation. All kinds of mechanisms have been used to mount provocation operations; the double agent ls only one of them.
There is still another important function the double agent can perform. He canhannelecruitment or defection operation against the other service. If he Is shrewd and personable enough to have succeeded insychological ascendancy over his case officer Ln the other service, he may be able to recruit htm or persuade him toIf the attempt falls, of course, the whole operation has to be terminated. ouble agent operation that Isonlyertain span of time or one that for anyls about to collapse, there may be an opportunity at the point of termination to use the agent toecruitment or defection approach. The agent can be instructed to make his lastitch to the other service's case officer,that he has been under the control of theumber of years, pointing out that the case officer's name will be mud when he returns to his headquarters, and suggesting that he may as well save his skin andn this attempt the agent might be limited tothe seed, or he might cany through the completeor defection.
erviceouble agent whom It knows to be under the control of the other service and therefore has
Irte Double Agenl
little ability to manipulate or even one who it knows has been successfully redoubled. The questionervice sometimes does thisalid one. One reason for us Is humanitarian: when the other service has gained physical control of the agent by apprehending himenied area, we oftenthe operation even though we know that he has been doubled back because we want to keep him alive if wa can Another reason mightesire to determine ho* the other service-conducts Its double "agent operations orwrtfl It uses for operational build-up or deception material and from what level It Is disseminated. There might be other advantages, such as deceiving the opposition as to the service's ownskills. Intentions, etc. Perhaps the service might want to continue running the known redoubled agent In order to conceal other operations. It might want to tie up theof the opposition. It might use the redoubled agent as an adjunctrovocation being run against theelsewhere.
nown redoubled agent Is like playing pokerrofessional who has marked the cards but whois unaware that you can read the backs as well as he can.
Sometimes, although Infrequently, double agent operations are started for propagandaoviet-controlled provocateur worksestern serviceear or two and Is then pulled back home, where he Is surfaced on the radio and in press Interviews to denounce his former Western spy masters. More frequently the Soviets use this trick to get added mileage from an operation that Is dying anyway.
Finally, liaison servicesouble agent Jointly against an adversary quite naturally use this opportunity to assay each other's capabilities. There Is nothing perfidious In this practice as long aa It la kept within bounds. Unless the US. service operatingriendly country, forcan realistically gauge Its host's capabilities In such vital matters as physical surveillance, phone taps, andInterrogation, the operation Is likely to go awry.
ood deal of nonsense about control sometimes crops up In our thinking about doubleefinition Is
drat in order. Control Is the capacityase officer (and his service) to generate, alter, or halt agent behavior by using or indicating his capacity to use physical or psychological means ofase officer does not control an agent the way he controls an automobile.ase officer working overseas does notouble agent theoliceman controls an Informer The intelligence officer who thinks of control In absolutes of black andjhltc does hisisservice; the areas of gray ;"
First,. case officer running an operation abroad usually lacks executive powers Second, the very fact that the double has contact with the opposition affects control. For example, pressure exerted bluntly or blindly, withoutInto the agent's motivation and personality, may cause him to tell the truth to the adversaryeans of escapingainful situation. Before the case officerutton on the agent's control panel he should know what is likely to happen next. Finally, the target service Inevitably exercises some control over the double agent. If only ln his performance of the tasks that It assigns to him. In fact, itrimary principle of the counterintelligence service not to disrupt hostile control of the positive half of the operation and thus tip its CI hand- Even if the positive side Is being run so poorly that the misguided agent ls In danger of coming to the attention of local authorities whose Intervention would spoil the CI aspect too. the case officer must restrain hisimpulse to button up the adversary's operation for him. At the very most, he can suggest that the agent complain to the hostile case officer about Insecure practices, and then only If the agent's sophistication and relationship with that case officer makeomplaint seem normal.
Complete physical control of the double agent Is rare ln peacetime situations Normally It Is achieved only over the agent captured In war. Limited physical control, however, may be exercised In varying degrees: an agent may have his home In an area where he Is subject to complete surveillance or he may live In an uncontrolled area but work In aInstallation.
The degree to which an agent's communications can beruns closely parallel with the degree to which he Is
physically controlled. Communications control, at leastIs essential: the agent himself Is controlled to aextent If his communications are controlled. But even when his communications are completelyell-trained agent doubled against his will can appear to bebut manage at an opportune moment toignal to his own service Indicating that he Is under duress. Aof captured wartime Soviet, British, and German agents did manage to get off such -'T*
With only partial control, if the agent is In communication with the opposition serviceourier, dead drop, or live drop, some control or surveillance has to be established over these meetings orhe double agent who makes trips In and out of the area where he can be physically controlledultiplicity of problems
Assessing His Potential
Acquisitionouble agent may be the result of afollow-up of leads, or It may be opportunistic. Thescreening process that forms part of security programs produces many leads. Others may arise In the course of positive operations. Opportunistic acquisition, asalk-In. has the disadvantage of being unexpected and therefore unplanned for: the decision toouble agent should be made onlyreat deal of thought,and evaluation, and If the candidate comes aa athe service may have to act without sufficient time for reflection. In this situation the necessity of assessing the candidate conflicts also with the preservation of security,If the officer approached Is In covert statusand walk-Ins are tricky customers, and the possibility of provocation Is always present On the other hand, some of our best operations have been made possible by volunteers. The test of the professional skill of an IntelligenceIs Its ability to handle situations of this type.
ouble agent candidate appears, judgments are needed on four essential questions In order to decideotential operation exists, whether to run the candidate, and whether the service has the capability to do so.
Has he told you everything? Enough Information canbe obtained In one or two sessions with the candidate
to permit testing by polygraph, Investigation of leads, and nle checks These steps must be taken very quickly because it Is not possible toan. The two areas ofconcealment which are especially dangerous are prior intelligence ties and side-commo.
Does he have stayabilityt This term combines twoability to maintain access to thetarget for the foreseeable future, and his(ahdlscrnetm^sle^Hi^i^
Ingl pressure of the double agent'sf he lacksmay still be useful, but the operation must then beshort
Does the adversary trust htm? Indications of adversary trust can be found In the level of the communicationsgiven him, his length of service, the seniority of thecase officer, the nature and level of requirements, and the kind and extent of training provided. If the opposition keeps the agent at arm's length, there Is little prospect that doubling him will yield significant returns.
Can yov control his commo both ways* Control ofon your own side can be difficult enough, especially if the agent lives In hostile territory. But control of adversary channels Is hard under even the best of circumstances. Itreat deal of lime, technicalule-manpower.
Negative answers on one or even two of these questions are not ground for immediate rejection of the possible operation. But they are ground for requiring some unusually highon the credit side of the ledger.
The Initial assessment Is made essentially throughusedroad sense to Include friendly debriefing or Interview. The Interviewing officer may be relaxed and casual, but underneath the surface his attitude Is one ofpurpose: he Is trying to find out enough to make an initial judgment of theuman beingomplicated personality, and the interviewing officer must penetrate below the surface, sensing the man'sand mental processes. For instance, if an agent walks In. says heember of another service, and revealsso sensitive that the othor service would surely not
The Double Aoenf
give it away juit lo establish the inforrnant's bona fldea. there are two ponlbUittea: either the agent Is telling the truth or he Isrovocation. Sometimes the manner In which the man conducts himself win suggest which of the two it Is.
In addition to establishing the Individual's trueexamining his documents, the officer should get asas possible on the service he belongs to and hisfast Initial Judgment: for example, he may be one ofor three Intelligence officersmall office whereabsence would causemay be more difficult to determine the reason why the
agent presented himself than to establish who he is and what service he represents, because motivationomplex of mental and emotional drives. The question of the double agent's motivation Is approached by the Interviewing officer from twoagent's professed reasons and theown Inferences from his story and behavior. The agent mayove for democracy, but the officer cannot elicit any convincing evidence ofove. Some of the agent's reasons may not ring true. To decide between what thethinks the motive ls and what the agent says It Is Is not easy, because double agents act outide variety ofsometimes psychopathic onesasochistic desire for punishment by both services. Others have financial,political, or vindictive motives. The last are often' the best double agents: they get pleasure out of deceiving their comrades by their every act day after day.
Making the Judgment about the agent's psychological and physical suitability is also difficult.hysician or psychiatrist can be called In under some pretext. For the most part, however, professional assistance Is not available, and the Interviewing officer must rely upon his own skill In assessing human beings and understanding what makes them tick. Such skill can be acquired only by experience.
Experience suggests that some people who take to theagenta majority of willing ones. Inumber of traits in common with the con-man.describe such persona as sociopaths From the
point of view of the double agent operation, here are their key traits:
They are unusually calm and stable under stress buttolerate routine or boredom.
They do not form Lasting and adult emotional relationships with other people because their attitude toward others Is exploitative,
y^re^good vexv or morehey are skeptical and even cynical about the motives and abilities of others but have exaggerated notions about their own competence. Their reliability as agents is largely determined by theto which the case officer's instructions coincide with what they consider their own best Interests They are ambitious onlyhort range sense: they want much and they want it now. They do not have theto plodistant reward. They are naturally clandestine and enjoy secrecy andfor its own sake.
In brief, the candidate must be considerederson and the operationotential. Possibilities which wouldbe rejected out of hand can be accepted If theservice Ls or will beosition to obtain andan Independent view of both the double agent and the case. Perhaps such Independent collateral can be acquired from another operation. In being or In the offing.
The officer's estimate of the potential value of the operation must take into consideration whether his service has the requisite personnel, facilities, and technical support; whether ninnlng the operation will prejudice other activities of Ids government; whether it will be necessary or desirable, at the outset or later, to share the case with foreign liaison; and whether the case has political Implications.
Running the Operation: Do's and Don'tt
The following principles apply to the handling of ail double agent operations In varying degrees. In composite theyheck-List against which going operations might be
cailygiven special examination with theof danger signals.
that testingontinuous process. Useearly and run later tests as well. Be alertIn agent motivation. When you can do sosuch additional means as further recordschecking out of operational leads, technical analysisand equipment, surveillance and counters urvell-
lance, njaUJan'd^telephone Wps^^ubsuMtlve^anaysl^of
reporting. Althoughaces cannot be run on every
person mentioned by the agent, do not be stingy with them
on persons who have farnlllal, emotional, or business . ,
Train the agent, but onlyouble. Give himas needed In security of the doubled part of the operation, CI reporting, coverouble, the handling of technical equipment used for CI purposes, etc. But do not poach on enemy territory by teaching him the skills he needs forpurposes. An "Inexplicable" Improvement In his work would draw suspicion.
Be careful about awakening In the hostile service anwhich cannot later be satisfied without giving away too much. Do not furnish build-up material that transcends the agent's access or that will rouse adversary Interest in sensitive areas. In general, let the agent carry out hisassignments on his own Instead of spoonfeeding him. although there are exceptions to this rule.
Require the agent to report and, as security permits, turn over to you everything he gets from the other side-money, gifts, equipment, documents, etc. If he Is permitted to hold out anything he may grow confused about which side he Is working for. But do not be too rigid In following this rule. It may be better, for example. Instead of confiscating his payments from the adversary, to put themhird-country bank account and promise him the lump sum upon successful termination.
Avoid interference. Oblige the other service to solve any problems that arise from the agent's activity on Its behalf. For example. If the agent is arrested or threatened withby local authorities, the counterintelligence officer
The- Double Agent
should not rush to his aid. The threatened agent should lake his problem to the adversary, who may be forced toa new asset in order to help him. It should be explained to the agent that you are not Indifferent but on the contrary too concerned about his security to blow him by meddling.
6 Be constantly alert for hostile provocation. Themayecurity crisis for the agent, or he may at tlieh^tlgatlon reportethe clalmthoroughly and test It.
f the adversary appears toatellite service, do not lose sight of the possibility that the agent ls beingbehind the scenes by the Soviets, probably without the Satellite's knowledge.
eep analyzing the agent as well as the case. Do not be satisfied toabel (such aso him Instead of learning to understand him
f the agent Is to pass. Information to the adversary, keep precise records of what was passed, which department or agency cleared the release, and the datea
Do notecepuon operation or pass deception material without prior headquarters approval.
Do not reveal your service's assets or CI knowledgeouble. It is vital that double agents be run within the framework of their ownInformation which they themselves supply. Junior CI officers, especially, may be tempted to Impress double agents with the omniscience of their service. The more you keep from an experienced double the Information he should not have, the more he will bethat his own safety la In good hands.
1J. Prepare ail briefings carefully. Have the agenthis Instructions. If you think It advisable, brief him on resistance to Interrogation; but be cautious, if you do, about revealing to him the specifics and scope of yourof the adversary.
inor-read. Look at the operation from the viewpoint of the hostile service. But be careful not to Impute to It the motives. Ideas, methods, or other characteristics of your own service. Do not put the adversary ln your place; put yourself Inask which requires both knowledge andof him.
not run the operationacuum. Be awarepolitical implications that It may have, locally or
not hesitate to ask for help.
eview the case file periodically. Restudy of thesometimes throws Into relief facts previously Ignored, misinterpreted, or improperly linked to one another. As new Information develops. It willew light on the oldnd review cover now andyour service/yourself, the agent, and your meetings withonsider whether new developments require any changes.
Decide early In the operation how it will be terminated If the need arises. Do not merely drop It without further steps, leaving an unsupervised hostile agent In place. If he is to be turned overocal security service, try to make the transfer while there Is still some equity In It for them.
If the operation is Joint, weigh Its probable effect upon the liaison relationship.
ull record. Including dates, of all adversarygiven the agent.
eport the case frequently, quickly, and In detail. The hostile services are centralised. Pitting against them theresources of. officer or field installation means giving them needlessly favorable odds. Only timely and full reporting to your headquarters will permit It to help you effectively.Original document.