Welcome back to another edition of ‘in their own (code) words’ wherein we look at the words of the world’s spymasters. I’m looking at Allen Dulles’ rather stolid The Craft of Intelligence, written in 1963. Dulles (1893-1969) had a long and storied career in intelligence, including a role as the first civilian director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Today I’ve chosen to look at the question of why someone would choose to be an agent (not an intelligence officer — note the distinction that Dulles draws). Allen Dulles lets us know in today’s quite political (and sort of one-sided…he doesn’t go into much detail about why a Westerner might betray their country) excerpt:
The intelligence officer engaged in covert intelligence collection described above is a career staff member of the intelligence service, an American citizen, on duty in a particular place, at home or abroad, acting on the instructions of his headquarters. He is a manager, a handler, a recruiter, also an on-the-spot evaluator of the product of his operatives. The man whom he locates, hires, trains and directs to collect information and whose work he judges is the agent. The agent, who may be of any nationality, may produce the information himself or he may have access to contacts and sources “in place” who supply him with information. His relationship with the intelligence service generally lasts as long as both parties find it satisfactory and rewarding.
If the staff intelligence officer succeeds in locating someone who is attractive to the intelligence service because of his knowledge or access to information, he must first ascertain on what basis the potential agent might be willing to work with him, or by what means he could be induced to do the job. If the agent offers his services, the intelligence officer does not have this problem, but he must still ascertain what brought the agent to him in order to understand him and handle him properly; he might, after all, have been sent by the opposition as a penetration.
As motives, ideological and patriotic convictions stand at the top of the list. The ideological volunteer, if he is sincere, is a man whose loyalty you need rarely question, as you must always question the loyalties of people who work chiefly for money or out of a desire for adventure and intrigue.
Actually, ideology is not the most accurate word for what we are describing, but we use it for want of a better one. Few people go through the analytical process of proving to themselves abstractly that one system of government is better than another. Few work out an intellectual justification or rationalization for treason as did Klaus Fuchs, who claimed that he could take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown and still pass British secrets to the Soviet Union because “I used my Marxian philosophy to establish in my mind two separate compartments.” It is more likely that views and judgements will be based on feelings and on quite practical considerations. Officials in Communist bureaucracies who are not utterly blind to the workings of the state that employs them cannot fail to see that cynicism and power-grabbing prevail in high places and that teh people are daily being duped with Marxist slogans and distortions of the truth. Communism is a system which deals harshly with all but its fanatical adherents and those who have found a way to profit from it. Every Communist country is full of people who have suffered at the hands of the state or are close to someone who has. Many such people, with only a slight nudge, may be willing to engage in espionage against a regime which they do not respect, against which they have grievances or about which they are disillusioned.
The man engaged in espionage on behalf of his own country is committing a patriotic act. The man who gives away or sells his own country’s secrets is committing treason. Today we frequently encounter another situation, in which it is usually unjust to speak of treason. The internal political conditions of the Communist nations, as was once the case in the Fascist nations, have caused thousands to flee their homelands, either to save their own lives or because of their vigorous disapproval of the government in power. If an escapee aids his hosts in the country of adoption against the country he has fled, he can hardly be said to be committing treason as that term is generally used.
The ideological agent today usually does not consider himself treasonable in the sense that he is betraying his countrymen. He is motivated primarily by a desire to see the downfall of a hated regime. Since the United States is not imperialistic and makes the distinction of opposing Communist regimes rather than peoples of those countries, there can be a basic agreement in the aims of the ideological agent and the intelligence services of free states.
The more idealistic agent of this type will not engage in espionage lightly. He may at the outset prefer to join some kind of underground movement, if there is one, or perhaps to engage in the political activities of exiles which aim directly at unseating the tyranny which dominates his country.
This post first appeared on the Mister 8 Website, December 2009.