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. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring (a cooperating group of spies), 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 intelligence gathering which includes information gathering from non-disclosed sources.
Espionage is often part of an institutional effort by a government or commercial concern.
One of the most effective ways to gather data and information about a targeted organization is by infiltrating its ranks.
Intelligence services value certain intelligence collection techniques over others. The former Soviet Union, for example, preferred human sources over research in open sources, while the United States has tended to emphasize technological methods such as SIGINT and IMINT. In the Soviet Union, both political (KGB) and military intelligence (GRU
Targets of espionage
Espionage agents are usually trained experts in a targeted field so they can differentiate mundane information from targets of value to their own organizational development.
Broad areas of espionage targeting expertise include:
- Natural resources: strategic production identification and assessment (food, energy, materials). Agents are usually found among bureaucrats who administer these resources in their own countries
- Popular sentiment towards domestic and foreign policies (popular, middle class, elites). Agents often recruited from field journalistic crews, exchange postgraduate students and sociology researchers
- Strategic economic strengths (production, research, manufacture, infrastructure).
- Military capability intelligence (offensive, defensive, manoeuvre, naval, air, space). Agents are trained by military espionage education facilities and posted to an area of operation with covert identities to minimize prosecution
- Counterintelligence operations targeting opponents' intelligence services themselves, such as breaching the confidentiality of communications, and recruiting defectors or moles
Methods and terminology
Although the news media may speak of "spy satellites" and the like, espionage is not a synonym for all intelligence-gathering disciplines.
Unlike other forms of intelligence collection disciplines, espionage usually involves accessing the place where the desired information is stored or accessing the people who know the information and will divulge it through some kind of subterfuge. There are exceptions to physical meetings, such as the Oslo Report, or the insistence of Robert Hanssen in never meeting the people who bought his information.
The US defines espionage towards itself as "The act of obtaining, delivering, transmitting, communicating, or receiving information about the national defence with an intent, or reason to believe, that the information may be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation".
- Agent handling
- Concealment device
- Covert agent
- Covert listening device
- Cyber spying
- Dead drop
- False flag operations
- Non-official cover
- Numbers messaging
- Official cover
- One-way voice link
- Safe house
- Side channel attack
- Surveillance aircraft
A spy is a person employed to seek out top secret information from a source.
In larger networks, the organization can be complex with many methods to avoid detection, including clandestine cell systems. Often the players have never met. Case officers are stationed in foreign countries to recruit and to supervise intelligence agents, who in turn spy on targets in their countries where they are assigned. A spy need not be a citizen of the target country—hence does not automatically commit treason when operating within it. While the more common practice is to recruit a person already trusted with access to sensitive information, sometimes a person with a well-prepared synthetic identity (cover background), called a legend in tradecraft, may attempt to infiltrate a target organization.
These agents can be moles (who are recruited before they get access to secrets), defectors (who are recruited after they get access to secrets and leave their country) or defectors in place (who get access but do not leave).
A legend is also employed for an individual who is not an illegal agent, but is an ordinary citizen who is "relocated", for example, a "protected witness". Nevertheless, such a non-agent very likely will also have a case officer who will act as a controller. As in most, if not all synthetic identity schemes, for whatever purpose (illegal or legal), the assistance of a controller is required.
Spies may also be used to spread disinformation in the organization in which they are planted, such as giving false reports about their country's military movements, or about a competing company's ability to bring a product to market.
Many governments spy on their allies as well as their enemies, although they typically maintain a policy of not commenting on this.
Many organizations, both national and non-national, conduct espionage operations.
Communications both are necessary to espionage and clandestine operations, and also a great vulnerability when the adversary has sophisticated SIGINT detection and interception capability. Agents must also transfer money securely.
Agents in espionage
In espionage jargon, an "agent" is the person who does the spying; a citizen of one country who is recruited by a second country to spy on or work against his own country or a third country.
- Double agent: "engages in clandestine activity for two intelligence or security services (or more in joint operations), who provides information about one or about each to the other, and who wittingly withholds significant information 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 rather than a service are not double agents because they are not agents. The fact that double agents have an agent relationship with both sides distinguishes them from penetrations, who normally are placed with the target service in a staff or officer capacity."
- Redoubled agent: forced to mislead the foreign intelligence service after being caught as a double agent.
- Unwitting double agent: offers or is forced to recruit as a double or redoubled agent and in the process is recruited by either a third-party intelligence service or his own government without the knowledge of the intended target intelligence service or the agent.
- Triple agent: works for three intelligence services.
- Intelligence agent: provides access to sensitive information through the use of special privileges. If used in corporate intelligence gathering, this may include gathering information of a corporate business venture or stock portfolio. In economic intelligence, "Economic Analysts may use their specialized skills to analyze and interpret economic trends and developments, assess and track foreign financial activities, and develop new econometric and modelling methodologies." This may also include information of trade or tariff.
- Access agent: provides access to other potential agents by providing profiling information that can help lead to recruitment into an intelligence service.
- Agent of influence: provides political influence in an area of interest, possibly including publications needed to further an intelligence service agenda. The use of the media to print a story to mislead a foreign service into action, exposing their operations while under surveillance.
- Agent provocateur: instigates trouble or provides information to gather as many people as possible into one location for an arrest.
- Facilities agent: provides access to buildings, such as garages or offices used for staging operations, resupply, etc.
- Principal agent: functions as a handler for an established network of agents, usually considered "blue chip."
- Confusion agent: provides misleading information to an enemy intelligence service or attempts to discredit the operations of the target in an operation.
- Sleeper agent: recruited to wake up and perform a specific set of tasks or functions while living undercover in an area of interest. This type of agent is not the same as a deep cover operative, who continually contacts a case officer to file intelligence reports. A sleeper agent is not in contact with anyone until activated.
- Illegal agent: lives in another country under false credentials and does not report to a local station. A nonofficial cover operative can be dubbed an "illegal" when working in another country without diplomatic protection.
Espionage is a crime under the legal code of many nations. In the United States, it is covered by the Espionage Act of 1917. The risks of espionage vary. A spy breaking the host country's laws may be deported, imprisoned, or even executed. A spy breaking their own country's laws can be imprisoned for espionage or/and treason (which in the US and some other jurisdictions can only occur if they take up arms or aids the enemy against their own country during wartime), or even executed, as the Rosenbergs were. For example, when Aldrich Ames handed a stack of dossiers of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents in the Eastern Bloc to his KGB-officer "handler", the KGB "rolled up" several networks, and at least ten people were secretly shot. When Ames was arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), he faced life in prison; his contact, who had diplomatic immunity, was declared persona non grata and taken to the airport. Ames' wife was threatened with life imprisonment if her husband did not cooperate; he did, and she was given a five-year sentence. Hugh Francis Redmond, a CIA officer in China, spent nineteen years in a Chinese prison for espionage—and died there—as he was operating without diplomatic cover and immunity.
The United States in World War I passed the Espionage Act of 1917. Over the years, many spies, such as the Soble spy ring, Robert Lee Johnson, the Rosenberg ring, Aldrich Hazen Ames, Robert Philip Hanssen, Jonathan Pollard, John Anthony Walker, James Hall III, and others have been prosecuted under this law.
From ancient times, the penalty for espionage in many countries was execution.
In modern times, many people convicted of espionage have been given penal sentences rather than execution.
Espionage laws are also used to prosecute non-spies.
As of 2012, India and Pakistan were holding several hundred prisoners of each other's country for minor violations like trespass or visa overstay, often with accusations of espionage attached.
Espionage is illegal in the UK under the Official Secrets Acts of 1911 and 1920.
An individual convicted of espionage can be imprisoned for up to 14 years in the UK, although multiple sentences can be issued.
Government intelligence is very much distinct from espionage, and is not illegal in the UK, providing that the organisations of individuals are registered, often with the ICO, and are acting within the restrictions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
However, espionage and intelligence can be linked.
There are also laws surrounding government and organisational intelligence and surveillance.
In military conflicts, espionage is considered permissible as many nations recognize the inevitability of opposing sides seeking intelligence each about the dispositions of the other.
The Hague Convention of 1907 addresses the status of wartime spies, specifically within "Laws and Customs of War on Land" (Hague IV); October 18, 1907: CHAPTER II Spies". Article 29 states that a person is considered a spy who, acts clandestinely or on false pretences, infiltrates enemy lines with the intention of acquiring intelligence about the enemy and communicate it to the belligerent during times of war. Soldiers who penetrate enemy lines in proper uniforms for the purpose of acquiring intelligence are not considered spies but are lawful combatants entitled to be treated as prisoners of war upon capture by the enemy. Article 30 states that a spy captured behind enemy lines may only be punished following a trial. However, Article 31 provides that if a spy successfully rejoined his own military and is then captured by the enemy as a lawful combatant, he cannot be punished for his previous acts of espionage and must be treated as a prisoner of war. Note that this provision does not apply to citizens who committed treason against their own country or co-belligerents of that country and may be captured and prosecuted at any place or any time regardless whether he rejoined the military to which he belongs or not or during or after the war.
The ones that are excluded from being treated as spies while behind enemy lines are escaping prisoners of war and downed airmen as international law distinguishes between a disguised spy and a disguised escaper. It is permissible for these groups to wear enemy uniforms or civilian clothes in order to facilitate their escape back to friendly lines so long as they do not attack enemy forces, collect military intelligence, or engage in similar military operations while so disguised. Soldiers who are wearing enemy uniforms or civilian clothes simply for the sake of warmth along with other purposes rather than engaging in espionage or similar military operations while so attired are also excluded from being treated as unlawful combatants.
Saboteurs are treated as spies as they too wear disguises behind enemy lines for the purpose of waging destruction on an enemy's vital targets in addition to intelligence gathering.The%20Contempor]]World War II Operation Pastorius nomic targets. Two weeks later, all were arrested in civilian clothes by the FBI thanks to two German agents betraying the mission to the U.S. Under the Hague Convention of 1907, these Germans were classified as spies and tried by a military tribunal in Washington D.C. On August 3, 1942, all eight were found guilty and sentenced to death. Five days later, six were executed by electric chair at the District of Columbia jail. Two who had given evidence against the others had their sentences reduced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to prison terms. In 1948, they were released by President Harry S. Truman and deported to the American Zone of occupied Germany.
The U.S. codification of enemy spies is Article 106 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This provides a mandatory death sentence if a person captured in the act is proven to be "lurking as a spy or acting as a spy in or about any place, vessel, or aircraft, within the control or jurisdiction of any of the armed forces, or in or about any shipyard, any manufacturing or industrial plant, or any other place or institution engaged in work in aid of the prosecution of the war by the United States, or elsewhere".
Spies have long been favourite topics for novelists and filmmakers. An early example of espionage literature is Kim by the English novelist Rudyard Kipling, with a description of the training of an intelligence agent in the Great Game between the UK and Russia in 19th century Central Asia. Even earlier work was James Fenimore Cooper's classic novel, The Spy, written in 1821, about an American spy in New York during the Revolutionary War.
During the many 20th-century spy scandals, much information became publicly known about national spy agencies and dozens of real-life secret agents.
Johnny Fedora achieved popularity as a fictional agent of early Cold War espionage, but James Bond is the most commercially successful of the many spy characters created by intelligence insiders during that struggle. His less fantastic rivals include Le Carre's George Smiley and Harry Palmer as played by Michael Caine.
Jumping on the spy bandwagon, other writers also started writing about spy fiction featuring female spies as protagonists, such as The Baroness
Espionage has also made its way into comedy depictions.
- Anderson, Nicholas NOC Enigma Books 2009 – Post-Cold War era
- Ishmael Jones The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture Encounter Books 2008, rev. 2010
- Michael Ross The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists McClelland & Stewart 2007, rev. 2008
- Jean-Marie Thiébaud, Dictionnaire Encyclopédique International des Abréviations, Singles et Acronyms, Armée et armament, Gendarmerie, Police, Services de renseignement et Services secrets français et étrangers, Espionage, Counterespionage, Services de Secours, Organisations révolutionnaires et terrorists, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2015, 827 p
- Animals used in espionage
- Chinese intelligence operations in the United States
- Classified information
- Clandestine operation
- Dumpster diving
- Intelligence assessment
- Flying monkeys (psychology)
- History of Soviet espionage
- Human intelligence (intelligence gathering)
- Labor spies
- List of cryptographers
- List of intelligence agencies
- List of intelligence gathering disciplines
- Military intelligence
- Operation Snow White
- Security clearance
- Jalal Haji Zawar