Intelligence: The Curse of the Old Country

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December22, 2006: A 44 year old British Army corporal has been charged with spying for Iran. Corporal Daniel James is of Iranian ancestry, on his mothers side, speaks Pushtun (the most common tribal language in Afghanistan and Pakistan), and served as a translator for the NATO commander in Afghanistan. James was caught passing classified information to Iran.

Details of the case have not been released, but the situation is a common one faced by intelligence agencies everywhere, but especially in nations that accept a lot of immigrants. In the United States, for example, it was quickly discovered after World War II that migrants from communist controlled countries were a major security risk. Not so much because the migrant was eager to betray their new country, but because if the migrant had kin back in the "old country," and the communist secret police were quick to use these family members to force the migrant soldier or government official to betray the United States and spy for the communists. China uses similar tactics today against Chinese immigrants to the United States. Sometimes, threats are not needed. Appealing to the migrants ethnic loyalties will often do the trick. Spymasters will also attempt to get the migrant to provide secrets without seeming to be doing so. Just getting the migrant soldier or official to talk about their work will often elicit useful intelligence. And sometimes, it's just about money. For sergeant James, the details will come out in the trial, because at the moment the British government is not giving out many details.

 


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