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TURN: Washington’s Spies Spycraft Handbook – Access Agent

In Episode 205, “Sealed Fate,” Abe returns to New York City to make his strongest attempt yet to recruit Robert Townsend to be a New York-based agent for the Culper Ring.

In modern spy terms, Townsend falls into the category of an “access agent.” Rather than working directly for the organization being spied on, an access agent is either connected to people who work for the organization, or well-positioned to overhear their conversations. As the proprietor of a boarding house near the docks who provides rooms and meals to British military personnel, Townsend is in a unique circumstance to obtain sensitive information: he simply needs to remain on cordial terms with his Redcoat guests and keep his ears and eyes open.

Successful recruitment of agents is a necessary skill for any spy, and dramatically affects the intelligence game. As part of his effort to recruit Townsend, Abe must convince him of the intrusive nature of the King’s government, and that it is his duty to expose British secrets to the men who stand against the King’s tyrannical control of the colonies.

However, dogma is often not enough to recruit a new agent. When modern day spies evaluate a potential agent, they use an acronym, MICE, that summarizes four potential personal vulnerabilities which could make a target agreeable to recruitment: Money, Ideology, Coercion or Compromise, and Ego.

Though such a formalized recruitment assessment did not yet exist when Abe approached Townsend, Abe seized upon ideology as a tool to use to recruit him. In addition to judging Townsend as someone likely to be predisposed to agreeing with Patriot philosophies, Abe is able to use Townsend’s Quaker belief in nonviolence to position Townsend’s choice: spying will hasten the onset of peace and an end to the violence, whereas refusing to spy will help allow the war to continue.

Read TURN: Washington’s Spies Spycraft Handbook – Wax Bust Intelligence.

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