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Julian Assange and the United States' claim that he should be charged for espionage[edit]

Events in late 2010 have led to a very high-profile case wherein the website, WikiLeaks, and its co-founder, Mr. Julian Assange, are being targeted by the United States government and many other organizations who claim that he should be charged as a spy (for "espionage-related" crimes). WikiLeaks + espionage at Google News.

Perhaps THIS article can help to clarify (a) what, exactly, does the U.S. government propose Assange be charged with and how/why do they think his actions can be defined as espionage; and (b) are there any clear lines between 'whistle-blowing', 'investigative journalism' and 'espionage'? Regards. (talk) 06:53, 9 December 2010 (UTC)

See Espionage Act ... the topic is vast. Assange gets the media attention but there are several former officials who have been charged with the act for giving information to reporters Decora (talk) 15:50, 19 March 2011 (UTC)
If a government is wrong, and it has power, it can justify whether one has committed crime when the one reveals the secrets of the government... --HiddenIP (talk) 15:35, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Double Agent, Triple Agent and... Freelance?[edit]

The entry lacks terms for spies and kinds of spies even though "spy" redirects to here thus forcing the concept of "spy" to have a space in the entry of "espionage" (As "spy" is the perpetrator and "espionage" what is perpretated, an entry for "spy" could concentrate on some famous spies, some entry on motivations, while leaving the main entry "motivations for spies" greater, fields of work used by spies, types of spies, how the occupation repercutes in their life, etc. while "espionage" would concetrate on the technique, the items it use, it's change throughout the ages and implciations, etc.).

Working definition of espionage[edit]

In order to avoid drawing the entire spectrum of secret dirty stuff into this article, things that do (or should) have their own articles, I think we need a working definition of espionage. I propose this: The collection or transmission of information gained by clandestinely entering the boundaries of an organization's exclusive control, including exclusive communications channels. By working with this definition, I would say things like these should not be considered espionage

  • Surveillance of a country or organization's broadcast communications from the outside is not espionage... it does not involve gaining access to exclusive areas or media
  • Codebreaking is not espionage unless stolen information was used
  • Creating strong codes is not espionage
  • Clandestine operations are not espionage if their goal is not the retrieval of information
  • Application of classified information is not espionage, unless it is used to aid further acts of espionage
  • Transmission of information is not espionage unless it takes place in an area where there is a strong risk of disruption or theft of said information.

These are heuristics I have been using to decide what is a noteworthy event in the history of espionage and what is not. I hope this makes the article more meaningful, although of course I could be wrong.The Hokkaido Crow 15:04, 8 September 2005 (UTC)

This is not a functional definition. The majority of US Intelligence Community's Consumer Needs are met from OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) and this method is not clandestine at all. Wikipedia is one of the most common OS sources.

Cryptology is a form of espionage. Do broken codes count as "stolen" the answer is no. Espionage is Planning and Directing Intelligence requirements, Collecting the actual raw intelligence, Processing and exploiting the intelligence, analyzing and producing the intelligence into its brief or package and disseminating and integration of the intelligence via consumer feedback. --Samfisch 02:02, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Assuming you mean cryptanalysis, not the superset of cryptology, no, it's not espionage, any more than the media shorthand "spy satellite" implies an imaging bird is committing espionage. To give a quick definition, espionage is the unauthorized acquisition of non-public information by human means, usually by someone with authorized access since it's much harder to break into a safe and not have it noticed. I'd put it as a subset of HUMINT. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:01, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

Noteworthy events[edit]

At present, this section is ridiculously skewed toward Cold-War era events. Also, it includes some information about codebreaking... although cryptography and espionage are intimately related, codebreaking really is a category in its own respect. Thus I think code-related events should go under cryptography. The Hokkaido Crow 01:27, 16 July 2005 (UTC)

Espionage is just a word used for the lack of a better one to describe human intelligence and/or intel collection as a whole. In other words its been obsolete for more than 100 years. Espionage means the literal use of spies.

Tactical collection is based on what troops in the field collect and report.

Strategic collection is based on every other thing under the sun; travellers, envoys, POWs, trade missions, diplomats, charge d'affairs, etc,... that would report on a wide variety of topics related to technology, procurement, readiness, training, logistics, lines of communication, food production, international trade, etc,...

Tactical/strategic information, two sides of the same coin, you never stop collecting in both applications.

The operational side is like in other categories, organized as per the standard staff system.example of

Personnel-wise, you have collectors, analysts, technicians, generic personnel necessary for the field/international deployment of the same.

Professional aspects. Personnel either serve on staff or as collectors in the field. Professional experience is necessary for advancement, the result is personnel, both as officers and enlisted acquiring a global experience in their particaular field.

Thats all just one example, that of the US Armed Forces, its not too difficult to reconcile and edit those details that will result in an internationalized article.Radical man 7 (talk) 23:08, 15 February 2009 (UTC)

what about Mata Hari?[edit]

Isn't Mata Hari worth mentioning?

Well, ... The French (or someone in French counterintelligence) thought she was -- maybe -- a German spy. Though she had, apparently been working for the French earlier -- doing what has never been too clear. The Germans were suspicious of her, but seem to have decided that whatever she was doing it wasn't enough of a problem to them to arrest her. The English may have had an opinion, but I can't recall a credible account of it. However it may all be that one or the other thought she was a spy, or that she really did tell someone something she shouldn't have, she was apparently trapped with fake evidence by the French who proceeded to execute her. So, was she a spy and if so for whom? I can't figure it out. Can anyone? ww 19:56, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)

No, Mata Hari is not that relevant given that she was not a competent asset, access agent, mole, double or whatever. She changed with the tides and was foolish. Her actions were no more noteworthy than the actions of Vitaly Yurchenko, Robert Hanssen, Aldrich Ames, Julia Child, Milton Bearden, Jack Downing, Burton Gerber, Adolf Tolkachev, Rem Krassilikov or any other great spy in the last century. She is a hyped figurehead for spying sued by the media because she was attracted, a prostitute and an exotic dancer, scandal that the reading public latches onto.

I am not discounting her merits, but she should not be considered anymore than the others would led similar lives, lost their lives and provided actionable intelligence. --Samfisch 01:37, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Conflation of espionage, intelligence, paramilitary, and covert operations[edit]

From the article:

The word "espionage" in governmental language has been replaced by the doublespeak "intelligence"; thus intelligence agency for "espionage agency".

Far from being a recent doublespeak innovation, the term "intelligence" originally meant something along the lines of "timely news gathered elsewhere" (from Latin inter, between or among, and legere, to choose, to gather, or to read), and has been used at least since Shakespeare's time to mean both the products of espionage (or any other information gathering activity), and various meanings along the lines of "perception". What has happened is that the original meaning has generally fallen out of use in everyday English, though it is still used in formal speech, while the "perception" type meanings have come to dominate. "Doublespeak" however implies a deliberate and dishonest obfuscation, thus I consider the statement quoted above to be of dubious NPOV-ness, and also largely wrong. -- Securiger 03:02, 17 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Intelligence also implies the analysis of open source and legally obtained data to obtain information that the originators would like to keep secret.
The definition of espionage in the article would apply to, say, a company reverse-engineering a rival's product to discover the secret manufacturing techniques used to produce it. This is not what most people would consider espionage. Illegal should be somewhere in the definition but, even then, some countries consider the possession of secret information illegal regardless of how it was obtained. GreatWhiteNortherner 05:14, Feb 17, 2004 (UTC)

I think the article still has a problem with this. As others have mentioned intelligence agencies engage in espionage and intelligence-gathering, but they also engage in "black ops". I think that to some degree it is doublespeak when government agencies use the euphemism "intelligence operations" for what is really black ops and subversion, and people mistakenly perpetuate the erosion of the term, as in paragraphs like this:

Spies have also engaged in assassination and kidnap of people who are considered threats to their country, for example, the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad kidnapped Mordechai Vanunu after he began publicly discussing Israel's nuclear program. Intelligence agencies have also been involved in covert and overt paramilitary activity (including assassination, kidnap, sabotage, guerrilla warfare, more conventional warfare behind enemy lines and coups d'état), this included many CIA operations during the Cold War and the current "war on terrorism".

I think the above paragraph deals with black ops exclusively. The above events are related to espionage only in that they are supported by intelligence gathered through espionage and were carried out by agencies that do espionage. The operations themselves aren't intelligence or espionage operations (although again, the government denials might include euphemizing them as such). That's what I think, anyway. The Hokkaido Crow 01:36, 16 July 2005 (UTC)

unknown affiliation confusing[edit]

What's with the "unknown affiliation" list? Most of the persons on that list have a perfectly well known affiliation. Have I missed a discussion disputing the conventional history of these persons, or did the person who categorised the list just not know about them? Securiger 00:55, 24 May 2004 (UTC)

Although I do see some problems:

  • James Armistead - presumably James Armistead Lafayette, but definitely for American rebels in that case.
  • Mansfield Cummings - arguable not a spy so much as a bureaucrat in charge of an intelligence agency.
  • Ian Fleming - undoubtedly British intelligence, why is he here?
Admin for Naval Intelligence in WWII. Is there any reason to believe he was anything else -- before or after? ww 18:57, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
perhaps CIA whilst working for W Germany post WWII, but otherwise bureaucrat like Cummings
  • Anatoli Golitsin - with this "affiliation" based list, how do we class defectors?
I'd suggest 'belonged to/spied for KGB', 'defected to US'.
'working for' is different than 'belonging to'? need we/should we make this distinction? ww 18:57, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
ex belonged to KGB ww 18:57, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • Gordon Lonsdale - definitely for Russia, why is he here?
  • Ana Montes - for Cuba. Having sub-categories for every small country will result in more markup than content.
  • Harold Nicholson - double agent, CIA and KGB.
can this be clarified, please. This is new to me! ww 18:57, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • Alfred Redl - double agent, Austro-Hungary and czarist Russia
General Staff Austrian Army, spy for Russia. Double agent how? ww 18:57, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • Saville Sax - clearly KGB but never prosecuted; maybe double agent?
helped his college friend make contact w/ Soviets in NYC, I know of no further espionage activity. Is he so 'clearly KGB'? His friend never was prosecuted either. ww 18:57, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Maybe we should change this sub-list to "Double agents, multiple affiliations, or disputed status"? Basically, the whole "for XXXX" categorisation is problematic in the murky world of espionage. Still, several of them are wrong. I don't think there's the slightest doubt Ian Fleming was a British agent, for example. Securiger 01:17, 24 May 2004 (UTC)

The answer to your question is "the person who categorised the list," namely I, "just [did] not know about them." The list as I found it was just a long list of names with no other information. I thought it would be more helpful if it were sorted in some way, and whom-they-spied-for seemed as good a sorting method as any. (I followed links to find affiliations; thus those without writeups are in the unknown pile.) I suppose in a perfect world we would have a grid with "spied for" and "spied on" as the axes, but given the width of most screens I'm not sure how successful that would be. --Rjyanco 16:24, 25 May 2004 (UTC)

One could question whether Vassall's real allegiance was to the KGB. He was entrapped and blackmailed by them into becoming their agent, and then did very well out of it as they doubled his salary, but had that not happened I would have thought he would have been a loyal subject. Dbiv 23:20, 15 Oct 2004 (UTC)


The Cuba circumstance has involved espionage activities for centuries. Early in the 20th century major intelligence and spying experience and capabilities developed with the growth of The Cuban communist (PSP) after the since USSR inserted "Fabio Grobart" into Cuba in the 1920s to serve as a Latin American base. Under Castro the growth of these agencies has been enormous. See not only the subsections here in Espionage [[1]], but also the Cuban espionage and related extraterritorial activity revised. El Jigüey 12-3-05

Earliest spy[edit]

Who was the earliest famous spy? -wshun 08:24, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Judas? Maybe Odysseus, if you count the Trojan Wars (and the Horse) as real. Sun Tzu mentions spying in "The Art of War". Palm dogg 13:28, 12 October 2005 (UTC)


Why does snitch redirect here? If that is correct, and not just a fu, then it should be mentioned somewhere on the page. Snitch is certainly not a synonym of espionage. AFAIK it's a someone who tells the police (for example) whodunnit, so to speak.

I agree... as mentioned in another section of the talk page, people tend incorrectly to lump all "dirty secret stuff" into the category of espionage. An snitch is just an informer, and is not a spy per se. The movements or activity required to get close to a particular informer, or transfer the information gained from that informer, could involve espionage.

External link removed[edit]

Why the link pointing to Dr. One Spy "The history of Espionage" was removed? I believe he did a great job putting all that info together in just one place, and now they are judged not reliable only because it's in my homepage? Well, I've spent hours looking for 1spy's original docs whereabouts and sadly I did not find anything, and even if he still mantains the material anywhere, it would be no more than a personal website too. I think it would be much better if people before deleting any reference took the time to read and check if the information is reliable or not. Thanks. Wintceas

In brief (and I'd love to expand but I'm pressed for time momentarilly), two reason (1) for what the list lacks; persons who should be listed are not (could give dozens of significant example). (2) for what the list has; the Elizabeth Bentley article, for example, seems cut and pasted out of the The Nation magazine & New York Times, and takes no account of recent evidence. Frankly, it lacks credibility a source material. nobs 17:32, 11 September 2005 (UTC)

Apparently some are quite busy removing Espionage articles they do not agree with, often citing spurious or mendicious reasons. For example the very well researched piece Cuban espionage and related extraterritorial activity revised has been erased continually and finally "banned." El Jigüey 12/3/05

It probably was the work of the self-appointed expert called snob... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:44, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

Aldrich Ames[edit]

One of the most notorious spies in U.S. history, and should probably be mentioned if the Plame case, a relatively minor U.S. incident, is included.

Does Plame really count?[edit]

Plame's name was leaked to the US press, not a foreign government. It's really more of a political scandal than a case of espionage, plus can we REALLY speculate on why it was leaked before there are any indictments, let alone convictions? Palm dogg 21:57, 11 October 2005 (UTC)

I see no reason why we shouldnt comment on possible reasons for the leak somwhere on wikipedia. However, I do agree with you that it probably shouldn't be discussed here, since it was definitly more of a political scandal, the press are really the ones that added all the intrigue. Plame really wasn't the kind of secret Agent that most lay persons thinks she was.- Moshe Constantine Hassan Al-Silverburg [[User_talk:Moshe Constantine Hassan Al-Silverburg|(talk)]] 07:52, 16 November 2005 (UTC)
However, she is the physically and socially attractive type that agencies recruit, not knowing what kind of work she might later become best at. I used her as an example for this reason. It's a reality that men tend to blab when they are talking to a pleasant and attractive woman. Milo 21:24, 2 January 2007 (UTC)
"Plame really wasn't the kind of secret Agent that most lay persons thinks she was" According to the lengthy Valerie Plame article one of her jobs was recruiting secret agents. Running a spy ring is right up there with microfilm photography in the things the public thinks of as classic spy work. Milo 18:05, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Intelligence Officer, Intelligence Officers, and Intelligence officer[edit]

Given that Spy and Secret agent currently redirect here, I guess it would make sense for these terms (which are kind of a tangled mess at the moment) to direct here as well. I actually think it is probably possibly to establish a separate article detailing the various types of practioners of espionage, but for now I have added all the non-duplicated content of Intelligence Officer (which, contrary to naming conventions, was the top target of these three, at the moment) here.

I took a course on US homeland security which covered a lot of intelligence/espionage material last fall.. I'll give my notes another look through, and see if I can't cleanup and expand this article a little more shortly. MC MasterChef :: Leave a tip 14:44, 3 November 2005 (UTC)

Thanks! Considering the subject material, this article clearly doesn't do it justice. Palm_Dogg 16:04, 3 November 2005 (UTC)
Was amazed to see that those re-direct to here! Most intelligence officers in today's armed forces are not spies. Likewise most spies are not officers either! Mathmo Talk 09:01, 3 February 2007 (UTC)


Some here have viewed Cuba as a "small country," this is not exactly correct when ability to project agents and other matters are considered. The Cuba circumstance has involved espionage activities for centuries. Early in the 20th century major intelligence and spying experience and capabilities developed with the growth of the clandestine wing of the Cuban Communist Party(PSP), this was especially so after the since USSR inserted "Fabio Grobart" into Cuba in the 1920s to serve as a Latin American base for Stalinist intelligence and agents. Under Castro the growth of these agencies has been enormous. See not only the subsections here in Espionage [[2]], but also the Cuban espionage and related extraterritorial activity revised. El Jigüey 12-3-05


Unless this is another bizarre Americanism, can I suggest that we remove all occurences of the nonword "surveil"? It's not a verb and it never has been AFAIK - "conduct surveillance on" is the (admittedly wordier) correct form. Tyrhinis 22:19, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

"Surveil" may well be an north Americanism, since it doesn't appear in a search of the British English Compact Oxford English Dictionary:(no result). But "surveil" is not bizarre. By usage, a Google test shows 687,000 hits, and it appears in several dictionaries including Milo 05:49, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Active editors: Have you thought of writing...[edit] article about GPS/SMS bugs? These tiny devices, hidden somewhere at your car, determine its position via GPS and transmit the coordinates via GSM's (or other standards') SMS service to your surveillant(s). They are apparently widely abused by the LEC, secret services or private snoops, thereby infringing on basic civil liberties. Also the aspect of possible counter-weapons could be discussed.

Go to and check out '14: GPS tracking'. Feel free to contact me directly, if you prefer.


Patriot POV[edit]

This: "For a variety of reasons, including changes in technology, it has been necessary to do this without warrants and it is argued that the necessity makes it legal" seems a little POV to me. I know it isn't an integral point of the article, but I still think that "necessary" is a dangerous word, so far as POV goes, and if it is indeed neutral it should be clearly and explicitly explained why. --Jammoe 21:33, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree, and so have added a "[citation needed]" tag. "Necessary" should be sourced and explained; or, at least POV-sourced to someone like a government official who refuses to explain, followed by a dissenting POV. Milo 06:31, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

My changes[edit]

I've made a few changes to the article, and as there are too many to list in the history entry, I'm summarising them here, along with my rationale for them:

  • Move paragraphs discussing laws about espionage from head section to its own subsection; the head is too large and this was a good candidate for a subsection
  • Remove paragraph about l0pht. While this is significant in the field of cryptography, I don't see their contribution as significant to the history or concept of espionage as a whole.
  • Change unsubstantiated claim that all foreign communication from the US is routinely "surveilled"; I doubt this is true as it would require an inordinate amount of work to review such a large volume of information. I dropped the word 'all', as I'm pretty sure that some is.
  • Stop using 'surveil' as a verb. It isn't in the OED, so using it seems unwise.
  • Remove 'or working against the interests of defense contractors such as Halliburton or other government agencies' -- this is incredibly unverifiable, not to mention false as Haliburton *isn't* a government agency.
  • 'Unmanned intelligent predator drones'. If they're unmanned drones, they're clearly not intelligent, unless a breakthrough in artificial intelligence has occurred that I wasn't aware of. I'm not sure what 'predator' refers to here: is it the name of the type of drone, or something similar? I've removed both words, as they make the sentence confusing. 'Unmanned drones' is sufficient to get the message across.
  • Clean up links to articles about use of espionage in various conflicts
  • 'One time pad' doesn't belong here. There's already a link to cryptography which should have a link there.

JulesH 19:35, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Addendum: I'm concerned about the following parapgraph:

Since January of 2000, a long list of agencies have been data mining the world's stock exchanges; this program was formalized on October 26, 2001 in the form of the Patriot Act. This helps track the financing of people who might be laundering money from drug transactions. For a variety of reasons, including changes in technology, it has been necessary to do this without warrants and it is argued that the necessity makes it legal.

I don't know a lot about the content here, but it doesn't seem to me that this *is* espionage. It's data mining, or intelligence gathering, but not espionage. I also don't know whether it's true or not. Also, the paragraph doesn't make it clear whether we're talking only about US agencies (as implied my the mention of the patriot act). I'd suggest future editors pay close attention to this paragraph, possibly removing it. JulesH 19:41, 19 February 2006 (UTC)

Also the paragraph takes a clear stand on the issue of whether or not the wiretaps were justified and/or legal, which is clearly controversial. There are no sources saying that this data mining does indeed help to track this financing, nor are there any opposing viewpoints. I think it should be removed. Makerowner 03:47, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

Redirect link[edit]

Redirect honey trap to honeypot.

Why does "Eyes and Ears of the King" redirect to this page?[edit]

The link from the article on the Persian Empire page about the ancient Persian secret police redirects to this page.

Why don't we have a seperate page for this? It seems that information relevant to a specific and very ancient orginiztion is not within the scope of a general espionage article.

Further, there is little/no info about the Eyes and Ears of the King on the page.

Is this for a reason?

````Jeffrey Luz-Alterman —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 02:50, 5 May 2007 (UTC).

Article needs work[edit]

This article feels a bit like a fan page and not comparable with most wiki articles i've seen. Can some effort be put towards strengthening the profesisonalism of the writing? This is outside my field so I'm not volunteering for a major effort. And yes, I do realize it's easy to criticize and harder to make change. Thanks, Hu Gadarn 20:49, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

Espionage- someone who spy on some one else. otherwise known as peeking in on someone bussiness. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:42, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

General intelligence article overhaul (variant also to military history page)[edit]

I've been working on a mostly top-down approach to intelligence, starting with intelligence cycle management. Now that I have a reasonable pass at the technical disciplines, although IMINT could use more work, as well as the general processes of collection guidance, analysis management, dissemination, counterintelligence, I've been working on HUMINT. The HUMINT article has largely dealt with the non-espionage aspects, such as interviewing and reporting. Counterintelligence is both a subset of intelligence cycle security, and also couples closely, especially in the areas of offensive counterintelligence/counterespionage, to espionage.

There's a certain scatteredness going on, which I think can be turned around. The counterintelligence article now deal with most of the cases of mole, defector in place, double, and triple that are mentioned here in espionage, as well as some other variants such as false flag recruitments and provocations. In counterintelligence, I have discussed some of the psychological characteristics of doubles and variants, but not, for example, dealt with the motivational things such as covered by MICE.

It would be my suggestion that "espionage" focus on how someone is recruited at least to the mole and defector in place roles, with perhaps some espionage tradecraft, especially communications. The idea would be that espionage and counterintelligence become mirrors, with espionage dealing with recruitment and counterintelligence with defense, but doubling and such becomes offensive counterespionage.

Individual articles such as moles, doubles, etc., may not have enough meat to be more than stub articles, unless they are places for historical and even fictional references. Otherwise, I'd suggest folding them into espionage and counterintelligence, with appropriate linkages from HUMINT.

The counterterror theme is all mixed in with some of these topics, but also has some Rambo-ish qualities. I've built out a somewhat skeletal structure of counterintelligence and counterterror organizations, which consciously do not include tactical antiterror. I should flag that some antiterror also gets into special ops, and there to special reconnaissance, a HUMINT mission.

Anyway, I'm not necessarily trying to create a project, but I'd certainly like to see a way things can get more focused with less duplication, as well as the occasional drive-by sentence "a spy is this".

Thoughts? Howard C. Berkowitz 02:31, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Vandal surge[edit]

Okay, I've noticed that virtually all of the recent edits to this page have been the work of vandals... not good. If this keeps up, semi-protection may be necessary. --Luigifan 02:07, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

I may not have enough experience with vandalism to judge the nuances, but the last few things that are undone, if I assume good faith, seem like a child trying to contribute without understanding the full context. From memory, the last two were things like "spies do it in war" and "spies can get shot." That's a lot different from a burst of profanity. Still, they aren't helping.
There really are a lot of stubby articles dealing with aspects of espionage, and I wonder if that is an argument for consolidation. Yes, I've been consolidating (and filling in) a lot of intelligence related material, which is part of why I've noticed.
I might, more immediately, have gone to merging espionage and counterterror, but the one class of thing I'd really rather not bring into the intelligence article are the fictional spies, Rambo clones, etc., unless they serve to illustrate a particular point. Perhaps "Lists of spies" and such might be a lightning rod for the vandalism, and we could concentrate on getting solid articles in the HUMINT and counterintelligence areas? Really, I'm not solely trying to push my own area of interest; it's just that I see several concurrent problems. Howard C. Berkowitz 02:58, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

The fate of a captured spy... is death.[edit]

Okay, from what I've heard, spying is an extremely dangerous profession. If a spy is noticed, he/she usually would not have the tools and weapons that would be necessary to escape a deathtrap or defend themselves from the guards; their role is stealth and intelligence gathering, not combat. (James Bond doesn't count.) If a spy is captured, he/she will probably receive no mercy, and no hope of rescue; a spy captured in warfare, for instance, will likely be tortured and executed nearly immediately (unlike the actual soldiers, who have to be treated humanely and can hope to be freed through a P.O.W. exchange.) The reason for this is the value of intelligence; if your foe knows, say, the exact location of your base, then you're going to be at a severe disadvantage. Furthermore, I'd like to bring up the whole "If you are captured, we will disavow any knowledge of your existence" thing. Nobody wants to look like a peeping Tom, so an intelligence agency can't afford to go rescuing its agents; that would reveal its whole game. In other words, this basically means that a captured spy cannot expect anything other than a swift and brutal death... Why the hell is nobody bothering to mention this sort of thing in the article? --Luigifan 23:35, 11 November 2007 (UTC)

Many counterintelligence agencies believe that there is nothing much you can do with a dead spy, but you may be able to interrogate, exchange, or double a live one. A good military counterintelligence officer is unlikely to be happy with troops that quickly kill a spy, rather than send him back, if physically possible, for specialized interrogation.
Many services will try to get their assets back, with varying levels of success. At the time, there was considerable grumbling about exchanging Abel for Powers, the latter not even being a spy and the former a very professional intelligence officer with much operational experience to bring back. The Soviets were willing to exchange Wynne but not Penkovsky. There's no absolute rule that spies will be executed, although it's unlikely that a captured one can escape without outside assistance.
With the British Double Cross systems, spies were given a choice of death or doubling. Often, a service that sends out a spy will tell them to appear to double, but usually have some very subtle "bluff checks", such as deliberate errors in communications, or a particular word choice, that will alert their service that they are under duress. The home service then may send misleading (for the catpuring service) questions to the spy. There are no absolute rules. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:52, 15 November 2007 (UTC)
I was referring to wartime... and, besides, there isn't much that your enemies can do with a dead spy, either. --Luigifan (talk) 05:20, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
Again, there are no firm rules, in wartime or not, and depending on the laws (or lack thereof) of the country that captured the spy. Actually, your enemies may not know their spy is dead if their confirmations aren't well done, and you may be able to confuse the other side.
Spies that infiltrate other countries are fairly rare. The more common situation is that someone trusted is found to be spying, and, depending again on the country and circumstances, the fate will vary. The Soviets could exchange Wynne because he was basically a courier with no special knowledge, but Penkovsky still had a lot of knowledge in his head. Soviet practice varied from shooting to rumors of a couple of very nasty and witnessed deaths, such as being fed alive into a crematorium.
In the US, Mr. Hanssen, Mr. Ames, Mr. Pollard, and Mr. Walker are enjoying the all-expenses-paid lifetime hospitality of the federal government. Hanssen supposedly plea-bargained a life sentence in Supermax to avoid the death penalty; I think I'd prefer the needle myself.
If you have sourced material that spies are always killed, it would be a useful addition to the article. Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 05:57, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
You mentioned that you could fool the other side into thinking that their spy is already dead... that sounds interesting. What do you mean by that? --Luigifan (talk) 12:22, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
Actually, there were cases both ways: convincing the spy's sponsor he was dead when actually alive, and convincing them he was alive when actually dead. This would be harder with modern communications, but it could work when they used Morse code radio. Someone could come up, especially if they had sent at least one message, much later, send a juicy piece of information, and explain they had been in a verifiable (mostly) train crash. The information was good enough that it made the sponsor want to believe their spy was alive, and they were then send disinformation.
In the reverse, they might have convinced the spy to cooperate, and, in the middle of a radio transmission, have him send "they're breaking". Sooner or later, they would send a replacement, and, through various sources, counterintelligence would expect him. Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 14:37, 20 November 2007 (UTC)

A common theme in a number of war movies involving soldiers who operate behind enemy lines is that, if you are captured out of uniform, you are deemed to be a spy and subject to summary execution. For example, the German soldier in "The Eagle Has Landed" wear their German uniforms under the British uniforms they are wearing as a disguise, and when they take action, they removed the outer uniforms to reveal the German ones to avoid this fate. Is there any basis in fact to this idea, or is it merely a plot device? And if this is real, why should an enemy spy or soldier operating behind lines out of uniform be considered to deserve such a fate? Note - I am not talking about a traitor who spies on his own country. (talk) 02:00, 14 May 2010 (UTC)

Potential merge of original content here into more relevant articles, and leaving this as a pointer to true and fictional coverage[edit]

The details of recruitment and tradecraft, I believe, belong in the hierarchy of articles starting with Clandestine HUMINT. There is a good deal of fictional reference here, which should not be lost, but there is so much fiction as to confuse the main reference on the act itself. Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 14:28, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

I agree, it's two generations of articles, the more recent one being more professional. No real reason to keep the Mickey Mouse version as long as it's details can be merged. Erxnmedia (talk) 20:49, 1 February 2008 (UTC)

Did you just blow Mickey's cover, as the unsuspected masterspy of the USA for over 75 years? (for the record, Noel Coward was a British spy, on the theory he was so flamboyant that the Germans could not believe anyone would trust him with a secret mission) Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 21:51, 1 February 2008 (UTC)
(in response to reverting comment by editor User:Exemplar sententia
Please see some past discussion on the talk page, and note that this article has had incomplete citation and other tags for months. As you may see from the talk page, the reason for referring to those other articles is that the intention had been to merge most of the non-fictional content here into the more technical and better sourced HUMINT articles.
I would agree that under ideal circumstances, that would involve having mergeto and mergefrom tags, but the problem -- and I'm open to suggestion -- is that espionage doesn't cleanly map to the hierarchy of HUMINT articles. Espionage splits into several of those articles so it's hard to show, with a basic tag, how to merge it. Still, I don't consider a single sentence referring to other articles as "enormous"; many articles have pointers to related articles in their introductions.
There is material about fictional espionage here that should be preserved, but most, if not all of the other detail is covered and sourced in more detail elsewhere.
The reason for saying that espionage is done by a human, rather than as an "act", is that too many comments are made about satellites, other means of technical collection, etc., saying they are "spy" material. They are not; "spy" and "espionage" are not synonyms for "clandestine". Even intelligence analysis is sometimes called "spy" craft. If you want to change it away from a human-oriented definition, please source that.
Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 09:35, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

Editing Espionage issues[edit]

-- as posted on my talk page --

Please see some past discussion on the talk page, and note that this article has had incomplete citation and other tags for months. As you may see from the talk page, the reason for referring to those other articles is that the intention had been to merge most of the non-fictional content here into the more technical and better sourced HUMINT articles.

I would agree that under ideal circumstances, that would involve having mergeto and mergefrom tags, but the problem -- and I'm open to suggestion -- is that espionage doesn't cleanly map to the hierarchy of HUMINT articles. Espionage splits into several of those articles so it's hard to show, with a basic tag, how to merge it. Still, I don't consider a single sentence referring to other articles as "enormous"; many articles have pointers to related articles in their introductions.

There is material about fictional espionage here that should be preserved, but most, if not all of the other detail is covered and sourced in more detail elsewhere.

The reason for saying that espionage is done by a human, rather than as an "act", is that too many comments are made about satellites, other means of technical collection, etc., saying they are "spy" material. They are not; "spy" and "espionage" are not synonyms for "clandestine". Even intelligence analysis is sometimes called "spy" craft. If you want to change it away from a human-oriented definition, please source that.

Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 09:32, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

I'm quite interested in your statement regarding satellites and "non-human" information gatherers. Might I point out whom it is operating the satellites, and by whom the information is examined? It seems to me that whether the human party is using a computer, a satellite, or his own peepers (whether it is indeed an induvidual spy, or in fact an institution), espionage is still espionage. A non-sentient being cannot commit espionage, for the very reason that it isnt aware of anything, let alone the information being collected, and the act therein.

Regarding the HUMINT articles; if a merge cannot integrate - with complete fluidity - the two subjects, then a merge is NOT necessary, and moreover would be detrimental to Wikipedia's knowledge base.

If a merge is in this case fitting, such a detail still has no place in the opening lines of an article. The HUMINT information concerns a related aspect of the practice of espionage, and is not definitional.

Finally, I'm fairly ceratain it says somewhere (I'm quite open to contradiction) that wikipedia headers are meant to be no longer than a paragraph of three to five sentences, or thereabouts.

Before I hear your reply, I would like to fully apologise for not taking the time to examine any discussion before my edits. I can only claim the defence of believing my edits to be mainly structural.

 Exemplar Sententia. 10:03, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

As opposed to many intelligence gathering techniques, espionage, the oldest of them all, is defined reasonably well in customary international law. "Shot as a spy" is a cliche, but a very real one. Without hauling the exact language out of several legal codes, they essentially agree that it is an act, by a human being, of obtaining information by direct interaction with it under illegal circumstances. Those circumstances might be illicit access to a document or obtaining the information from a person trusted with it, but it clearly involves human beings as the primary sensors, typically with grievous risk to the agent.
National means of technical verification, for example, are not treated as espionage by the parties to arms control treaties, but a necessary part of it. Nations, sometimes reluctantly, admit that intelligence-collecting satellites are operating above an altitude at which national sovereignty ends. Many knowledgeable people find the news media talking about "spy satellites" to be ludicrous; spying is a specific thing.
Espionage is a subset of HUMINT, not the other way around. The HUMINT articles were written, in part, because the espionage article was confusing and wandered from high-level goals to micro-level techniques to historical & fictional references. If you go into the history of the article, a number of people have tried and failed to improve it, and the consensus was that a new set of articles on the topics, well sourced and going systematically from high level to low level, would be more effective. All espionage is HUMINT, but many parts of HUMINT, such as overt interviewing of local residents or interrogation of POWs, are not espionage.
I don't think there is a hard and fast limit on introductions; I have seen many more, including Featured Articles, that had several paragraphs. The usual interpretation is that the introduction should be no longer than it needs to be. In many military articles (i.e., under the Military History Project, to say nothing of its Intelligence Task Force), it's been determined that an existing article simply does not structure itself well, and there routinely are wikilinks to related articles.
May I suggest you review the HUMINT series, and, for that matter, the intelligence collection management above it, where it might be much easier to add the improvements that can always be added? Believe me, there still is a lot of work to do. I'm not happy with at least one of the Clandestine HUMINT series articles, and it would benefit with other knowledgeable eyes examining it. Howard C. Berkowitz (talk) 14:53, 2 March 2008 (UTC)

Spy versus WP[edit]

I am astonished there's no Intel/Espion Project.... If one should get started, be sure & tag this. (Try not to avoid the temptation to use hidden script! =]) TREKphiler 15:54, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

Spy cam[edit]

I noticed there isn't yet an article called spy cam. If someone decide to make it note that spy cams have now entered the digital age too. The Minox DSC Digital Spycam is an example of this (talk) 11:06, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Send Further Reading section to own page[edit]

The "Further Reading" section is sufficient long to have it's own page, and it's inclusion in this article is weird, I think. Njerseyguy (talk) 22:38, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

Fictional examples[edit]

The fiction section is more than twice as long as should be. Its Cold War paragraph could perhaps use a bit more background, but the list of examples should go somthing like, "James Bond is the most commercially successful of the many fictional spies created by intelligence insiders during the Cold War. His less fantastic rivals include George Smiley." Details about these two, and mention of the others, can be left to the linked Main article. Jim.henderson (talk) 01:16, 17 June 2010 (UTC)

Women in espionage section[edit]

I think this section is in need of a serious rewrite. Both the soviets and the UK used female agents prior to the second world war. Most prominent example being Melita Norwood recruited in 1937. Olga Grey a further example recruited in 1931 by the security service to infiltrate the Communist Party of Great Britain. Are there any earlier examples? I am going to attempt a re-write of this, does anyone know where the claim "Before the Second World War, it was still viewed as unethical to have women in any major position in war or in espionage." has come from? 9riffin (talk) 12:18, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Looks to me like a job for insinuation rather than direct statement. Something like, "The demand for male soldiers, an increase in womens' rights, and the tactical advantages of female spies led the Special Operations Executive] (SOE) to put aside any lingering Victorian Era prejudices and begin employing them in April 1942." Jim.henderson (talk) 00:13, 29 July 2010 (UTC)

Spy and secret agent redirect to espionage[edit]

Should they instead redirect to covert agent? Or should covert agent itself be merged with espionage and made to redirect to espionage?--Sonjaaa (talk) 03:36, 27 July 2010 (UTC)

in fiction[edit]

Since you guys included Alex Rider, shouldn't you also include Sam Fisher, a character from the popular Splinter Cell series by Ubisoft?— (talk) 23:38, 21 April 2011 (UTC)

Why does one beget the other? --OuroborosCobra (talk) 09:54, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

Espionage In Communist Countries[edit]

I think that the Communist countries have a lot of spies as the suppress political freedom. For example, Russia has secret police in its own state like Gestapo. Any evidence spies are still present? --HiddenIP (talk) 15:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

What about making 'List of Spies Participating in WWII' ?[edit]

I've read a book about the German spies. Well, at least some of them. Thats why I propose to make List of Spies Participating in WWII --HiddenIP (talk) 15:44, 7 January 2012 (UTC)


the perosn who works for the goverment who watches people to know information that they need useally spies worl alone or with others in that matter eather way is fine of your choice also spies can be know as secret agents or stuff — Preceding unsigned comment added by Moonfur555 (talkcontribs) 19:18, 27 December 2012 (UTC)

Espionage historians[edit]

Does anybody know any websites or email addresses and names of any Espionage historians? And such information might be relevant enough to be included in the article. I am looking for a historian who might be able to give me some information on World War One spy William Jarosch. He allegedly was an accomplice of Karl Respa; Hashtag# Although Jarosch might have been a double agent working undercover for the United States, as he alleges in a handwritten letter in my collection Marc S. Dania Fl (talk) 19:45, 14 August 2013 (UTC)

Removal of External Links[edit]

The link to the Rosenberg Interactive Timeline was broken and I've put in the correct url ( However, the page with the actual timeline doesn't seem to be working, I've been waiting about 10 minutes now for it to load without any success. I'm using a cable modem, so I doubt this is going to be of much use to anyone. I'm not comfortable removing the link completely, the Wilson Center seems like an authoritative site. I'll leave that to someone else. I'd also say that the external link to the Wiktionary article is of less than marginal use. Imdonne (talk) 01:01, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

Prior content in this article duplicated one or more previously published sources. The material was copied from: here. Copied or closely paraphrased material has been rewritten or removed and must not be restored, unless it is duly released under a compatible license. (For more information, please see "using copyrighted works from others" if you are not the copyright holder of this material, or "donating copyrighted materials" if you are.) For legal reasons, we cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or published material; such additions will be deleted. Contributors may use copyrighted publications as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously, and persistent violators will be blocked from editing. While we appreciate contributions, we must require all contributors to understand and comply with these policies. Thank you. Diannaa (talk) 01:50, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

Orphaned references in Espionage[edit]

I check pages listed in Category:Pages with incorrect ref formatting to try to fix reference errors. One of the things I do is look for content for orphaned references in wikilinked articles. I have found content for some of Espionage's orphans, the problem is that I found more than one version. I can't determine which (if any) is correct for this article, so I am asking for a sentient editor to look it over and copy the correct ref content into this article.

Reference named "Haykal 1976":

I apologize if any of the above are effectively identical; I am just a simple computer program, so I can't determine whether minor differences are significant or not. AnomieBOT 17:31, 13 October 2014 (UTC)