Double agents, also commonly referred to as moles or deep cover agents, are operatives of divided loyalties recruited for one function: to gain secret intelligence and information while playing both sides. Double agents are spycraft staples in the world of espionage and have been part of military strategy for centuries.
In The Art of War, sixth century Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu outlines the importance of “double spies.” Tzu touts the critical utilitarianism of seeking out enemy spies and the significance of bribing and instructing them in order to gain an advantage against an opponent. Winning or losing the war could depend on the turning of a key agent. In other words, the fate of the world could rest on the shoulders of a person of questionable allegiances.
In the modern era, several United States government intelligence branches have been infiltrated by double agents. One such agent is Aldrich Ames, who began his career as a respected CIA analyst tasked with recruiting Soviet intelligence officers and was later convicted of spying for the Russian government. Another is Robert Hanssen, who was assigned to find a Soviet mole as part of his counter-intelligence work at the FBI before it was discovered that he was the one who’d been feeding secrets and information to the Soviet government for two decades.
The dirty deeds of the more nefarious double agents get the lion’s share of publicity, but the motives of a double agent are not always dirty. One example is Juan Pujol Garcia, one of the most successful double agents in history. Garcia engaged in an elaborate disinformation campaign that ensured the German government was unprepared for the Allied invasion of Normandy, a vital turning point in World War II.
Double agents spy best when they are pretending to serve one government while secretly serving another. It’s a messy high wire act that requires a skilled juggling of lies and deceit. When the lines between allies and enemies become blurred, a double agent is forced to walk a tightrope rife with double crosses and betrayal… and it’s a long way down.Read More