Memo to Americans Spying for Another Country or Considering It

A recent Defense Department report cites cases of 173 Americans arrested between 1947 and 2007 for passing state secrets to al-Qaeda, China, Egypt, Cuba, Poland, Germany, Russia, North Korea, France, among others.
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Most people know about Aldrich Ames, Jonathan Pollard and Robert Hanssen, but the list of Americans who have spied for other countries hardly ends there.

A recent Defense Department report, Changes in Espionage by Americans: 1947-2007, cites cases of 173 Americans arrested between 1947 and 2007 for passing state secrets to al-Qaeda, China, Egypt, the Philippines, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Libya, Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Ecuador, Japan, Vietnam, Liberia, Taiwan, South Korea, Greece, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Iraq, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, El Salvador, Jordan and Taiwan, among other countries or organizations whose identities were not discovered.

Since the report's publication in March 2008, "There have been at least ten or twelve more arrests," says its author, Katherine Herbig. In addition, a companion report entitled Espionage Indicators 1985-2005, which is classified Secret, cites even more cases.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Herbig speculates there are hundreds of other Americans still spying.

If you're one of them, possibly it happened something like this: You became friends with another member at your racquet or golf or yacht club. We'll call him J.P. He's from -- let's say -- Fredonia. His work regularly brings him to your city. You two had a lot in common, you hit it off, even your wives clicked. Also you have Fredonian roots. You and your wife spent a week's vacation with J.P. there.

After you'd been friends for more than a year, he confided to you that he does a little work for the Fredonian intelligence. And he asked you a favor. Your company has been contracted to do a project for the Army. J.P. wanted a look at the specs.

"I'd like to help Fredonia," you said. "But isn't that illegal?"

"It's not really that big a deal," he said. "Fredonia and America are allies."

So you did it, for reasons that could be considered noble. Or you're thinking about doing it now. Of course you hope you won't be caught. Your country, after all, would consider you a traitor. That aside, there's one thing you should know:

J.P. is most likely not Fredonian, but an agent of the Russians.

Or the Chinese.

Or al-Qaeda.

Or a different organization flying a false flag in order to capitalize on your ancestral, religious or other ideological affiliation with Fredonia.

The house you stayed at in Fredonia, J.P.'s office you visited there: fronts. And his wife probably wasn't really his wife.

From the vantage point of a case officer, it's a relatively simple op. "You figure out who has the information you need, then you figure out how to get it out of them," says Fred Rustmann, a CIA case officer for twenty-four years before becoming chairman of CTC, a private counterespionage company. "The best way to get it is to get them to want to give it to you. So you have to become someone that person will want to talk to. A good case officer, using the right access agent, can dupe them."

Rustmann ought to know. He once penetrated Hezbollah using the same tactic. "The agent thought he was working for Khomeini," he says.

Says one Defense source, "It's a nice thing that Americans are willing to trust a stranger coming up the street." Still, the intelligence community would like Americans to bear in mind the words of Jefferson: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

If you've been solicited by a J.P., or even if you've already given him secrets, call your local FBI field office.


Your lapse may be forgiven. Moreover, it may prove a boon to our national security.

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