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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.
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 agent Re-doubled agent Mole
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".
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.
- Henri Déricourt, Secret Intelligence Service agent with the Special Operations Executive who may have "turned" for the Germans (d. 1962).
Events in which double agents played an important role
- Babington plot
- Battle of Normandy
- Cold War
- Battle of Lexington
- Vietnam War
- War on Terrorism
- 1973 Yom Kippur War
- Duquesne Spy Ring
- Camp Chapman attack
- List of fictional double agents
- Mole (espionage)
- Double Cross System
- Clandestine HUMINT
- Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques
- Begoum, F.M. "Observations on the Double Agent". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved January 5, 2010.