Intelligence: Why Spy

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December18, 2006: Many spies have been captured recently, including several in uniform. This lead to the question: Why do people spy? There are a number of answers, and they are often surprisingly simple.

There are five basic reasons why people spy; Money, Ideology, Conscience, Compromise, and Ego. Here's how each of these breaks down.

Money: This is the spy who is out to make a buck. He either wants more money than the government is paying him, or he is in debt. They will work for anyone who has the cash. Aldrich Ames is the classic example of a spy motivated by money.

Ideology: This spy feels more of a kinship to the country he gives the secret to than the country he is working for. A number of spies in the Cold War era were committed Communists - not out to make money like Ames and the Walkers. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and the Cambridge Five are examples of this sort of spy.

Conscience: This is a spy who believes his government is doing something wrong, and he begins to pass secrets to enable others to stop it. This spy often does not seek money, and he may even be an idealist for the system his country has. He may also be trying to avert a war or reach a cease-fire. Some of the Russians working for the West during the Cold War fell into this category. These men saw the Soviet Union as corrupt and dangerous, and were willing to risk their lives to work against the Evil Empire.

Compromise: This is a spy who has been forced in. A foreign intelligence service has found out some deep, dark secret that will cause damage to his or her career - or major embarrassment - if revealed, and threatens to expose it unless secrets are forthcoming. Alfred Frenzel, a spy for the Czechoslovakian intelligence service in the 1950s, was recruited in this manner.

Ego: This is the spy who is doing it for his or her own gratification. He or she may have been passed over for a promotion, subjected to sexual harassment, or maybe is out to prove his or her brilliance. In many cases, he or she may be in it for the thrills as well. John Douglas Charlton, a former Lockheed employee who retired early and was arrested in 1995, is one such spy.

Often a combination of these factors may lead a person to spy. Robert Hanssen started out spying for the thrills - largely due to having read Kim Philby's memoirs. However, he also earned over $1.4 million for his efforts over two decades. Others may not even fit into those categories - Michael Stephen Schwarz passed classified information to the Saudis out of friendship from 1992 to 1994.

Why spies betray their country matters. In some cases, knowing why a spy betrayed his country will help lead to measures to prevent others from doing the same path. In some cases, it might mean improved pay or a change in policies. In others, potential spies may be denied clearances that make their espionage possible. These same methods are also used to attract spies for the United States - and learning why a spies starts his career can help attract agents that will help the United States. In the world of intelligence, everything can be a double-edged sword. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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