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Double agent

For other uses, see Double agent (disambiguation).
"Triple agent" redirects here. For other uses, see Triple agent (disambiguation).

In the field of counterintelligence, a double agent (also double secret agent) is an employee of a secret intelligence service, whose primary purpose is to spy on a different target organization, but who, in fact, is a member of the target organization.[1]

Double agentry may be practiced by spies of the target organization who infiltrate the controlling organization, or may result from the turning (switching sides) of previously loyal agents of the controlling organization by the target. The threat of execution is the most common method of turning a captured agent (working for an intelligence service) into a double agent (working for a foreign intelligence service) or a double agent into a re-doubled agent. It is unlike a defector, who is not considered an agent as agents are in place to function for an intelligence service and defectors are not, but some consider that defectors in place are agents until they have defected.

Double agents are often used to transmit disinformation or to identify other agents as part of counter-espionage operations. They are often very trusted by the controlling organization since the target organization will give them true, but useless or even counterproductive, information to pass along.

Double agents

      Double agent       Re-doubled agent       Mole

Examples of known double agents and moles
Context Agent Nationality Loyal to Spying on Comments References
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
1639 – 1651
Samuel Morland 23px English 23px Restoration 23px Commonwealth of England   [citation needed]
Richard Willis 23px English 23px Commonwealth of England 23px Restoration   [citation needed]
World War I
1914 – 1918
Mata Hari 23px Frisian 23px German Empire 23px French Third Republic   [citation needed]
World War II
1939 – 1945
Mathilde Carré "La Chatte" 23px French 23px Double-Cross System [citation needed]
Roman Czerniawski "Brutus" 23px Polish 23px Double-Cross System [citation needed]
Eddie Chapman "ZigZag" 23px English 23px Double-Cross System Infiltrated the German Abwehr during World War II whilst feeding intelligence to MI5. He was so trusted by the Germans that he is reportedly the only British citizen to have ever been awarded the Iron Cross [citation needed]
Roger Grosjean "Fido" 23px French 23px Double-Cross System French Air Force pilot who worked for the British [citation needed]
Christiaan Lindemans "King Kong" 23px Dutch 23px Abwehr (1944) 23px 23px SOE (1940-1944)
Dutch resistance (1941-1944)
  [citation needed]
Arthur Owens "Snow" 23px Welsh 23px Double-Cross System   [citation needed]
Dušan Popov "Tricycle" "Ivan" 23px Serbian 23px Double-Cross System Yugoslav working for British MI6 and German Abwehr. [citation needed]
John Herbert Neal Moe "Mutt and Jeff" 23px Norwegian 23px Double-Cross System   [citation needed]
Tor Glad "Mutt and Jeff" 23px Norwegian 23px Double-Cross System   [citation needed]
Joan Pujol Garcia "Garbo" 23px Catalan 23px Double-Cross System British double agent in German spy service-awarded both an MBE and an Iron Cross [citation needed]
Johann Wenzel 23px Polish
Before 1942

23px Red Orchestra

After 1942

23px Gestapo

Before 1942

23px Red Orchestra

After 1942

23px Soviet Union

Member of Red Orchestra spy ring who, after being unmasked by the Germans, fed false information to the Soviet Union [citation needed]
William Sebold "Tramp" 23px German
23px U.S. citizen
23px FBI (1939) 23px Abwehr (1939) Coerced by the Abwehr into becoming a spy, exposed the Duquesne Spy Ring to the FBI. [citation needed]
Cold War
1947 – 1991
Aldrich Ames 23px American 23px KGB 23px CIA (1957-1993)   [citation needed]
John Cairncross "Liszt" 23px Scottish 23px MGB
23px Cambridge Five
23px MI5 (1941-1944)
23px GC&CS (1942-1943)
23px MI6 (1944-1945)
  [citation needed]
Anthony Blunt "Johnson" 23px English 23px NKVD
23px Cambridge Five
23px MI5   [citation needed]
Guy Burgess "Hicks" 23px English 23px MGB
23px Cambridge Five
23px MI5 (1939-1941)
23px Foreign Office (1944-1956)
  [citation needed]
Donald Maclean "Homer" 23px English 23px MGB
23px Cambridge Five
23px MI5
23px MI6
  [citation needed]
Kim Philby "Stanley" 23px English
23px Born in India
23px MGB
23px Cambridge Five
23px MI6   [citation needed]
George Blake 23px Dutch 23px KGB 23px MI6   [citation needed]
Oleg Gordievsky 23px Russian 23px MI6 (1968-2008) 23px KGB (1963-1985) Abducted in Moscow in 1985; escaped to the United Kingdom two months later. [citation needed]
Matei Pavel Haiducu 23px Romanian 23px DST (1981) 23px DIE (1975-1982) Defected to France in 1981. [citation needed]
Dmitri Polyakov 23px Ukrainian 23px FBI
23px CIA
23px GRU Executed in 1988. [citation needed]
Robert Hanssen 23px American 23px GRU 23px FBI Worked for the FBI and sold information to the Soviet Union as a mole. [citation needed]
Oleg Kalugin 23px Russian 23px CIA 23px KGB Longtime head of KGB operations in the U.S., provided disinformation regarding American involvement in Prague Spring; and also played a role in the establishment of Yeltsin as post-USSR leader. Sentenced in absentia in 2002 to 15 years imprisonment; the US refuses to extradite him [citation needed]
Oleg Penkovskiy "Hero" 23px Russian 23px NSA
23px MI6
23px GRU A colonel with GRU informed the U.K. and the U.S. about the Soviet emplacement of missiles in Cuba; executed by the Soviets in 1963. [citation needed]
Stig Bergling 23px Swedish 23px GRU 23px SÄPO Among other things, handed over the entire Swedish "FO-code", a top secret list of Sweden's defence establishments, coastal artillery fortifications and mobilization stores. Convicted in 79 and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason. [citation needed]
Arab–Israeli conflict
1948 –
Ashraf Marwan 23px Egyptian Template:Country data Israel Mossad 23px Egypt Egyptian businessman and an alleged spy for Israel, or possibly an Egyptian double agent; managed to become celebrated as a hero in each country for his alleged work against the other. [citation needed]
Basque conflict
1959 – 2011
Mikel Lejarza "El Lobo" 23px Basque 23px CESID 23px ETA   [citation needed]
Northern Ireland conflict
1968 – 1998
Denis Donaldson 23px Northern Irish 23px MI5
23px PSNI
23px Provisional IRA
23px Sinn Féin
Found dead in his cottage after a Northern Ireland newspaper exposed him. [citation needed]
Peter Keeley "Kevin Fulton" 23px Northern Irish 23px Royal Irish Rangers
23px Int Corps
23px Provisional IRA Allegedly betrayed by his employers and nearly sacrificed to cement Freddie Scappaticci's cover in the IRA. [citation needed]
Freddie Scappaticci "Stakeknife" 23px Italian 23px FRU 23px Provisional IRA
23px ISU
Allegedly the British government ordered him to expose Fulton to increase his own standing in the IRA. [citation needed]
Robert Nairac 23px English
23px Born in Mauritius
23px British Army 23px Provisional IRA   [citation needed]
Global War on Terrorism
2001 –
"April Fool" 23px American 23px United States Template:Country data Iraq Iraq Allegedly, an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein [citation needed]
Iyman Faris 23px Pakistani
23px U.S. citizen
23x15px al-Qaeda 23px FBI   [citation needed]
Chinese intelligence operations in the United States Katrina Leung 23px Chinese
23px Taiwan citizen
23px U.S. citizen
23px MSS 23px FBI   [citation needed]

Re-doubled agent

A re-doubled agent is an agent who gets caught as a double agent and is forced to mislead the foreign intelligence service.

F. M. Begoum describes the redoubled agent as "one whose duplicity in doubling for another service has been detected by his original sponsor and who has been persuaded to reverse his affections again".[2]

Triple agent

A triple agent pretends to be a double agent for one side, while he or she is truly a double agent for the other side. Famous triple agents include Kim Philby and Alexander Litvinenko.

A lesser used definition of triple agent is an agent who works for three intelligence services, but is usually truly loyal to only one of them.

Events in which double agents played an important role

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Begoum, F.M. "Observations on the Double Agent". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 

External links