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Recruiting Intelligence Agents

Updated on May 29, 2010

How to Recruit Spies

Have you ever wondered how the spies in the world today get their information? It's not all guns-blazing James Bond style work. In fact, the vast majority of "spying" isn't done by spies at all!

Most of the information gathered by Human Intelligence Officers (employees of an Agency) is actually done by Intelligence Agents, who are people with access to classified information who are paid to give up their secrets.

This lens will teach you the tips and tricks used by spies to do this so-called recruiting.

The Stages of Agent Recruitment

There are four stages in Agent Recruitment, starting with trying to find a person, and continuing through right up until the point you establish your official "business" relationship with them.

  1. Spotting
  2. Assessment
  3. Development
  4. Recruitment

Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego

There are four criteria commonly used by Intelligence Officers to recruit Agents. These are known as the MICE criteria, from the first letters of each of them.

  1. Money. It's been shown time and time again that people with access to classified information who have money problems will probably sell them. This is why a credit check is important when you go to work for a Federal position.

    Several spies (most famously Aldrich Ames) have aroused suspicion simply because of their lavish spending. When someone making $50,000 a year can suddenly afford a mansion and a new convertible, people tend to wonder what's going on.

  2. Ideology. In this case, the person simply believes that the people they're giving their information to deserve it. This was most common in the Communism vs. Capitalism fight of the Cold War, where people would work for one side and then defect.

    Several Agents were exposed through these defections, when Russians would come to the US and give names of people passing along Intelligence, and vice versa.

  3. Coercion and compromise normally entails blackmail, whether real or imagined, used against the spy. The USSR was notorious for using blackmail in order to coerce people into giving up information.

    This is often in conjunction with the honeypot, below.

  4. Ego. Ego involves spies thinking they're now important to the party they're spying for. This has also been associated with people spying for the thrill of it, and because they're arrogant and think they can get away with it.

    Because of defectors (see above), most spies don't last very long before they're caught. The ego element has also blinded spies to their mission, and caused them to make costly mistakes.

MICE

The MICE criteria sum up the reasons a person would sell their secrets.

Spotting Stage

Finding the Right People

The most important aspect in any sort of Intelligence gathering mission is potential access to information. In International Intelligence, people working in Embassies, Academics with constant access to people who have classified information, or those recently retired are the most valuable.

Of course, potential access is different from actual access.

While an Intelligence Analyst working for an Intelligence or Military Agency probably has have access to classified material, it's just as possible that the Janitor working on the property could be coaxed into obtaining similar material, for the right price.

The Janitor would also be much more likely to give Intelligence in response to the MICE factors. MICE stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion/Compromise, and Ego, and is an easy way to sum up the reasons that potential recruits would be willing to pass information on to you.

People with potential access to information should be the ones you go after. This is also important in Counterintelligence, which is the discipline of detecting and removing other Intelligence agents who might pose a threat to your operation.

The reason so many terrorist and paramilitary cells and groups are able to function with relative ease is because of the amount of security they use. People have to be vetted, information is compartmentalized, and a need-to-know policy is in effect.

Spotting

People with potential access to information are easier to work with than people with actual access.

Assessment Stage

Sorting through the Personality

Once you've determined that a person has access (or could be manipulated into getting or giving access), you need to determine their motivation. This goes back to the MICE criteria. While they were a minor thought in the first stage, these criteria become especially important in this stage.

The most common motives an individual is motivated for are as follows:

- Greed (Money)

- Revenge/Dissatisfaction

- Blackmail

- Appeal to emigrant's national pride

- Exploitation of an emotional/physical connection

- Exploitation of naiveté

- Ideology

There are steps that can be taken to test each of these. A credit report or financial statement is an easy way to check if someone is having financial difficulties, while simple conversation can determine whether someone has been wronged by their government, or whether they have nationalistic tendencies.

While emotional and physical connections require time to develop, they can be leveraged against a person. The most common ways are through a preexisting relationship or a short-term sexual seduction (see honeypot, below.)

Naiveté and ideology are harder to detect; training yourself to look for and exploit the other weaknesses will increase your ability to spot naiveté, and exposure to people committed to an ideology (for instance, Communist leaders and their followers) will help you spot similarities that exist in them.

Assessment

The assessment stage is about determining a person's possible motivations for spying, and their weaknesses.

Retired MI6 Spy on Tradecraft

Development Stage

From Friend to Associate

Development of an agent is a touchy subject. While the CIA doesn't publish its tradecraft on the subject, the US Department of Defense (DOD) did publish a white-paper on the tradecraft used by the KGB (Russian Security Service.)

The process they used to develop Agents for long-term use starts with developing some common ground and interests with the person. Before they ever meet, as much information as possible is gathered and placed in an Intelligence report for the Officer's use.

Often an "official meeting" based on the cover job (the excuse for the Officer to be in the country) is used to assess basic things about the agent's and their job are discussed, and this plays heavily into the development of the Agent.

Through multiple meetings, the type of conversation is slowly shifted from official business related conversation to more personal and clandestine things.

These more personal meetings allow confirmation of things such as interests, hobbies, political affiliations (if not immediately visible), and relationship status.

The Officer then begins the process of information extraction by asking for a relatively harmless, unclassified document (one that even he would have access to) and paying the Agent handsomely for it, giving a reason why he can't get it himself.

Thus begins a process of reciprocation, and causes the target to distances himself from getting too friendly with the Agent. A warm friendship is always second to the official cover-job, and his reason for being in contact with the target in the first place.

Over time, the Officer continues asking for things and paying the target for getting them.

As he begins to shift into sensitive and classified information, the Officer should make sure he explains why he needs the information, so that the agent doesn't even believe he's breaking any rules, much less betraying his country.

Development

Development is about trapping the Agent into giving you confidential information that you can use later.

Recruitment Stage

Sealing the Dealing

As the target becomes more comfortable routinely granting information of more a more sensitive manner, the payment for this should lower.

This is both because it is economically unfeasible to continue giving large amounts of money for access to information, and because once they've very clearly given the Officer information they were not entitled to have, they've broken the law and they are now in the Officer's control.

This is often done with the pretext that the Agent's security is being protected; tax authorities and other Government services can and do perform audits on people whose lifestyle exceeds their income, but of course this is not the reason at all.

Eventually, the Officer needs to make a transition and inform them of the fact that they work for an Intelligence Agency.

This serves to legitimize the relationship, and establishes an official agreement. The officer can also use this time to threaten (however overtly or covertly) the Agent, to ensure they maintain their secrecy.

Training on how to complete the recruitment stage is perhaps the most important of all in Agent recruitment, as a poorly executed recruitment could jeopardize both the Agent himself (who has already given classified information to a third party) and the Officer in question.

Recruitment

Recruitment is about legitimating the relationship, and formalizing the rules of contact and tradecraft.

CIA Recruiting Ad

While it's not designed at luring people in high places, viewing recruiting pieces for Intelligence Agencies can give you an idea of their tactics.

The Honeypot, and Blackmail

Short-term seduction, long-term damage

The honeypot, or sexual entrapment, has successfully been used by several nations; it's use is considered very infrequent by the United States, however.

The basic idea is that an attractive man or woman meets a target, and seduces them.

It's at this point that blackmail will follow, depending on the situation. If the target has a wife, photos can be used to coerce him into giving Intelligence.

In one instance, the KGB once told a target that the woman he had sex with several weeks before was now pregnant; he was coerced into giving secrets to prevent the release of that information to his wife.

The KGB also once encouraged a (gay) British man to get drunk and encouraged him to have sex with several men. The photos of this were used to blackmail him into giving documents for many years until he was finally detected because of his extravagant spending.

His credibility was already doubted, however, because of several defectors who gave his name to the CIA.

It's obviously important to avoid such manipulation. An Intelligence Officer has to be on their feet as much as possible to ensure they don't fall for such blackmail.

It has been shown in the past that Officers involved in extensive spying could have avoided much of their issues if they had avoided these traps, or informed their Headquarters once it happened.

In fact, it provides a valuable source of Counterintelligence opportunities, with this "blackmailed" spy giving false information to his enemy under the presumption the information is true.

Honeypot

The honeypot is a form of sexual seduction, often practiced by the KGB/FIS to blackmail people.

Recruiting Agents and Other Tradecraft Books

When Poor Tradecraft is Exercised

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Can I Join ?

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      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)