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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
|Context||Agent||Nationality||Loyal to||Spying on||Comments||References|
|Wars of the Three Kingdoms
1639 – 1651
|Samuel Morland||English||Restoration||Commonwealth of England|||
|Richard Willis||English||Commonwealth of England||Restoration|||
|World War I
1914 – 1918
|Mata Hari||Dutch||German Empire||French Third Republic|||
|World War II
1939 – 1945
|Mathilde Carré "La Chatte"||French||Double-Cross System|||
|Roman Czerniawski "Brutus"||Polish||Double-Cross System|||
|Eddie Chapman "ZigZag"||English||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|||
|Roger Grosjean "Fido"||French||Double-Cross System||French Air Force pilot who worked for the British|||
|Christiaan Lindemans "King Kong"||Dutch||Abwehr (1944)|| SOE (1940-1944)
Dutch resistance (1941-1944)
|Arthur Owens "Snow"||Welsh||Double-Cross System|||
|German|| Abwehr (1939-1941)
|Abwehr (1941-1945)||Anti-Nazi German intelligence officer and British double agent. Jebsen recruited Dušan Popov.|||
|Ivan Popov "LaLa" "Aesculap" "Dreadnought" "Hans"||Serbian|| VOA (1939-1945)
|Abwehr (1941-1945)||Yugoslav working for his national military agency VOA. He also worked for British MI6 and German Abwehr. In German Gestapo he held rank of Obersturmbannführer. Brother of Dušan Popov.|||
|Dušan Popov "Duško" "Tricycle" "Ivan"||Serbian|| VOA (1939-1945)
|Abwehr (1941-1945)||Yugoslav working for his national military agency VOA. He also worked for British MI6 and German Abwehr. In British army he held rank of Colonel. Brother of Ivan Popov.|||
|John Herbert Neal Moe "Mutt and Jeff"||Norwegian||Double-Cross System|||
|Tor Glad "Mutt and Jeff"||Norwegian||Double-Cross System|||
|Juan Pujol García "Garbo"||Catalan||Double-Cross System||British double agent in German spy service-awarded both an MBE and an Iron Cross|||
||Member of Red Orchestra spy ring who, after being unmasked by the Germans, fed false information to the Soviet Union|||
|William Sebold "Tramp"|| German
|FBI (1939)||Abwehr (1939)||Coerced by the Abwehr into becoming a spy, exposed the Duquesne Spy Ring to the FBI.|||
1947 – 1991
|Aldrich Ames||American||KGB||CIA (1957-1993)|||
|John Cairncross "Liszt"||Scottish|| MGB
| MI5 (1941-1944)
|Anthony Blunt "Johnson"||English|| NKVD
|Guy Burgess "Hicks"||English|| MGB
| MI5 (1939-1941)
Foreign Office (1944-1956)
|Donald Maclean "Homer"||English|| MGB
|Kim Philby "Stanley"|| English
Born in India
|George Blake||Dutch||KGB||MI6|||
|Oleg Gordievsky||Russian||MI6 (1968-2008)||KGB (1963-1985)||Abducted in Moscow in 1985; escaped to the United Kingdom two months later.|||
|Matei Pavel Haiducu||Romanian||DST (1981)||DIE (1975-1982)||Defected to France in 1981.|||
|Dmitri Polyakov||Ukrainian|| FBI
|GRU||Executed in 1988.|||
|Robert Hanssen||American||GRU||FBI||Worked for the FBI and sold information to the Soviet Union as a mole.|||
|Oleg Kalugin||Russian||CIA||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|||
|Oleg Penkovskiy "Hero"||Russian|| NSA
|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.|||
|Stig Bergling||Swedish||GRU||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.|||
|Eduardo Sagaro||Cuba||Dirección General de Inteligencia||CIA||A Cuban paediatrician who was recruited by the CIA to report on the health of Fidel Castro, other Cuban leaders, Cuban troops in Angola and health related issues in Cuba including the effect of infectious diseases but in fact during his CIA career he worked for the Cubans.|||
|Ashraf Marwan||Egyptian||Mossad||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.|||
1959 – 2011
|Mikel Lejarza "El Lobo"||Basque||CESID||ETA|||
|Northern Ireland conflict
1968 – 1998
|Denis Donaldson||Northern Irish|| MI5
| Provisional IRA
|Found dead in his cottage after a Northern Ireland newspaper exposed him.|||
|Peter Keeley "Kevin Fulton"||Northern Irish|| Royal Irish Rangers
|Provisional IRA||Allegedly betrayed by his employers and nearly sacrificed to cement Freddie Scappaticci's cover in the IRA.|||
|Freddie Scappaticci "Stakeknife"||Italian||FRU|| Provisional IRA
|Allegedly the British government ordered him to expose Fulton to increase his own standing in the IRA.|||
|Robert Nairac|| English
Born in Mauritius
|British Army||Provisional IRA|||
|Global War on Terrorism
|"April Fool"||American||United States||Iraq||Allegedly, an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein|||
|Iyman Faris|| Pakistani
|Chinese intelligence operations in the United States||Katrina Leung|| Chinese
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 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, Alexander Litvinenko and even fictional characters like Severus Snape.
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
- 1973 Yom Kippur War
- Babington plot
- Battle of Lexington
- Battle of Normandy
- Camp Chapman attack
- Cold War
- Duquesne Spy Ring
- Vietnam War
- War on Terrorism
- "Definition of DOUBLE AGENT".
- García, Juan Pujol; West, Nigel (2011). "Childhood". Operation Garbo: The Personal Story of the Most Successful Spy of World War II. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 9781849546256.
- Becker, Brian (12 December 2016). "How Cuba Penetrated the CIA Ring in Cuba: Spy VS Spy-Hunter". Loud & Clear. Sputnik.
- Begoum, F.M. "Observations on the Double Agent". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- Bennett, Dashiell. "Poisoned Russian Spy Was Working as a British 'Triple Agent'".