How to Identify Professional Spies
I have first hand experience with the intelligence community. I suggest you read this in order to know how to protect yourself. I've provided a link. See the link for examples.
How to Identify Professional Spies
By: Stephen DeVoy
Over the course of my life, due to my area of expertise, I've found my life intersecting with intelligence agencies. When I first left the university, I worked for the Department of Defense, had a secret clearance and worked on a military base. During that time, I was spied on extensively. Sometimes I was aware of it, sometimes I would find out much later and sometimes I would never know.
Later in my life, I would find out too late, that a project I managed was funded by the CIA. Before that, I would discover that another project was likely funded by the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). After the CIA funded project, I would find myself working for the Information Awareness Office without ever having made the explicit choice to do so.
In addition to my actual experiences being spied upon, I was also trained on how the Soviet bloc spied on Americans with security clearances. Not surprisingly, there is no difference between how the Soviets spied and how the Americans spy. Indeed, there are no meaningful differences between the spying techniques of all modern states. Technology may differ, but the art of espionage remains the same.
I will not include real world examples in the article. It would take too long to go over each instance of being spied on in detail. What I will present is a formative description of the techniques used by spies to gain your confidence and the indicators that someone is a spy.
The Basic Technique of Personal Espionage by States
When a government chooses to target an individual as a subject of an intelligence operation involving actual and direct contact with an operative, other work has already been completed. Exposing a human intelligence resource to a potential enemy is risky, not necessarily with regard to physical danger, but with regard to making the face and actual job of the human intelligence resource known. It costs a lot of money to train a spy and a great deal of effort is put into keeping the identity of a spy secret. Direct contact with a subject risks revealing the identity of this human asset - a potentially expensive loss. Therefore, it pays to do homework before risking such a loss.
Pre-contact homework takes the form of surveillance. The subject's telephone is monitored, the subject's postal mail is read and information from other human sources is sought out (past associates of the subject, etc.) A profile of the interests, psychology, sexual inclinations and beliefs of the subject is made. The human intelligence resource (hereafter referred to as "spy") is selected from a pool of spies based on his or her compatibility with the following goals:
The spy must be viewed by the subject as an unlikely example of a spy.
The spy must have the facility to feign shared interests with the subject.
The spy must have the personality profile that psychological complements the subject.
Of course, intelligence agencies are not perfect. In my own case, I am aware of only one instance where they chose their spy well (and this was probably by accident, I was in Taiwan, she was Taiwanese and beautiful and I am attracted to beautiful woman with black hair and olive skin - so next time, when choosing a spy, please note my actual preference). In other cases that I am aware of, they did not choose their spy well. What remains are those cases where they chose so well that I never knew, which I must assume has occurred.
Once a spy has been selected, the spy must be "trained" for the specific target. If they spy does not already share the same interests as the subject, he or she must be trained in those interests. The more specifically focused the interests of the subject, the more specifically focused in the same area must be the training of the spy). One single "common interest" is not enough. In order to make an impression on the subject, there must be several areas of "common interest" between the subject and the fake persona of the spy. The spy is a form of bait and simple correlations are not enough to make a nibble likely (i.e. the correlation in interests between the subject and the fake persona of the spy must be stronger than what one would not be surprised to find by mere chance). Depending on the intellectual capacity of the subject, caution must be taken not to make the correlation of interests so high that it becomes statistically impossible. This is where the training of spies used to target me has gone most wrong. I studied probability in the university and am very much aware that some combinations are so improbable as to be nearly impossible. The reason intelligence agencies make these mistakes is based on their reliance upon information from official sources (e.g. schools). My intellectual capacity did not become known until much later in my life. In fact, as a child, I was so focused on studying things not taught in school that my school work suffered and did not take standardized tests seriously. I spent most of my childhood educating myself in the library and not in the school. The difference between my actual IQ as tested later in my life and that wrongly established by my childhood school is more than 50 points. The short of it is that the government seems to be unaware that I am a genius (which has been a good thing (as an ace up my sleeve), but now I know that they already know the truth so I don't mind being open about it)1.
Deploying a spy takes skill. Spies usually meet their subjects "coincidently." Of course, no coincidence is involved, it is made to look like a coincidence. A simple rule from common sense is that incredible coincidences do not happen. While the rule is technically incorrect, you should always assume that it is correct, for the price you will pay by assuming the opposite is too high.
Spies can be deployed anywhere. They can be placed on the seat of plane next to yours when you are traveling, they can enter an elevator at the same time you do, they can show up in a bar just after you start your first drink or they can show up at an event where you practice one of your favorite interests. The possibilities are endless.
The best scenario for the spy is the scenario where you contact the spy first. In order to get you to make the initial contact, the spy must exploit your psychological profile. For example, if you are a male that likes nerdy women, a nerdy woman might be placed at the aforementioned bar, all alone, with an inviting smile. Of course, this is not to say that every woman that appeals to such a man is a spy. I am writing specifically of a person selected as a subject for an intelligence operation.
If you are an activist, another "activist" (the spy) might be placed at an event where you are expected to show and that "activist" will attempt to gain your attention by exhibiting political passions similar to your own. Naturally, you will make contact with him or her.
He or she will attempt to gain your confidence, usually over time. In time, he or she will seek specific personal information either to forward the gathering of information to which you are privy or to obtain information which may later be used to blackmail you. This is a fairly passive approach. A more active approach, one which indicates that the goal is to do you specific harm, will be to seduce you into doing something which can later be used either to blackmail you or convict you of some crime. Beware of people that randomly walk into your life and mine the relationship for information.
Let's explore how to determine whether someone is actually a spy. The easiest technique is to eliminate the possibility that an encounter is random. If you can eliminate the possibility that an encounter is random while establishing that it is intended to appear random, then you can be certain that the encounter is part of an espionage program.
The best way to explore this is by using an example. I will use myself as that example. I am the inventor of two concepts: disorganized resistance and meme warfare. I am also a fanatic about maters of space exploration. More specifically, I believe that it is vital to the survival of humanity that we one day (the sooner the better) colonize another world2. The best candidate for the first world of colonization is Mars. Therefore, I am an advocate of Mars colonization, so much so that I was once a member of the Mars Society.
I propose that the number of individuals on the planet Earth, at this point in time, that are fanatical about disorganized resistance, meme warfare and Mars colonization simultaneously is so small (perhaps I am the only one) that any random encounter between two such people cannot be a coincidence. Furthermore, in addition to speaking English, I speak Spanish and have a long history of interest in Latin America. If you combine this interest with the aforementioned interests, two bilingual (English/Spanish) individuals with a high degree of interest in Latin America, disorganized resistance, meme warfare and the colonization of Mars probably do not exist. I would be surprised if, at this exact point in time, there is even one other individual on the person that meets that description. However, even if there are 100 hundred of them, given a population of 6,000,000,000, the probability of two of them meeting randomly is so small that it must be dismissed as not coincidental.
Based on the previous example, if I were to show up in Harvard Square for an event and if another person meeting that description were to show up, it is certain that the meeting is not coincidental. If the person moves to form a personal relationship and seeks personal information, it is certain that he or she is a spy.
Once you have determined whether someone is a spy and whether that someone is targeting you as a subject, then you must determine what to do about it. What you choose to do should be a function of your goals. Some of your choices may apply in all cases but some will be specific to your own agenda.
The first thing you should do is to find a reason to photograph the person. Having a photograph of an actual spy is a valuable thing. Spies can no longer be spies when their image is known. A photograph of a spy is a great ace to have up your sleeve. Since that ace can be taken away by killing you, you should feign ignorance until you have had the time to give another trusted person the photograph of the spy with instructions to expose the spy should anything happen to you.
Anything you wish to accomplish by using the spy must be accomplished through feigning ignorance that the spy is a spy. Once the spy knows that you know that the spy is a spy, you can not use the spy any longer.
How can one use a spy? Well, first of all, if someone is being paid to spy on you, he or she has a budget. This means that he or she can purchase things for you and bill it to the government. You could use a spy to have the government finance your activities. A spy can be used in other, more interesting ways, as well. A spy can be used to expose an intelligence agency without the spy actually knowing it. The key to pulling off this stunt is to convince the spy that you do not know that he or she is a spy (i.e. you must play dumb).
A spy can be used to feed a government disinformation. The purposes of feeding a government disinformation are many. For example, you could feed a government disinformation in order to distract it from your actual mission. You could feed a government disinformation in order to prompt it to take action against your enemies. You could feed a spy disinformation in order to see whereto the information flows. Let's examine the last use of disinformation for I personally find it the more interesting.
Several fields of science us a standard technique in order to explore things unseen. For example, scientists wishing to understand the connectivity of various caves may pour a dye into the water entering a cave and then look for locations where water colored by the dye surfaces. This is one of many steps in determining the unseen structure of a network of caves. Doctor's may introduce a radioactive substance into any of the many "plumbing" systems of the human body and then use x-rays to "see" where it flows or collects. These techniques can be grouped under the concept of "tagging." Something which flows is tagged such that it can be identified at a later point in its travels.
Information both flows and can be tagged. Tagging information is not difficult, it merely requires some forethought. Spies seek information. The kind of information they seek says a great deal about the mission of the spy. If the spy seeks information about the logistics or membership of an organization, then it is the organization that the spy is targeting. If the spy seeks information about an individual, then the individual is the target of the spy. Individuals are targeted for defamation, blackmail and harm. Information about individuals must surface in order for the goals of an operation targeting an individual to succeed. This can be exploited.
Let us suppose that I know of some event X. Chances are, others know of event X or can find out about event X. Some of the details of event X, however, may not be determinable. For example, the color of your underwear when you were at event X may be known to no one but yourself. The amount of sugar you put in you coffee at event X may be known to no one but yourself. If no one knows, then that aspect of the information could be tagged.
Let us suppose that event X was a conversation with some person and that you were drinking coffee during event X. Let us suppose that you drink your coffee black with no sugar. When recounting event X to a spy, you could find some reason to speak about how great the coffee was and that you put too little sugar in it, thereby giving the false impression that you like sugar in your coffee. If the "information" that you like sugar in your coffee emerges somewhere, you know that it flowed from the spy to the point where it surfaced. You also know that you can demonstrate that it is false, should you decide to do so. This tells you something about the structure of the intelligence operation targeting you. It also leaves you a means to prove that your discovery about the structure of the intelligence operation is true - for you can prove that the information that surfaced was tagged.
If you make it a practice to tag information and then observe its flow, you can determine the overall structure of the intelligence operation and who is involved. This takes time, but with patience it pays off.
Under all circumstances, remember that spies seek to harm you. If the goal is to jail you or blackmail you, they will attempt to induce you to do things that will later be used against you. They may even engage in illegal activities in order to (1) encourage you to do the same and (2) give you the false impression that engaging in such activities is safe. When a spy attempts to engage you in illegal activities, you can be sure that the specific goal of the mission to do you harm. You should be very careful, document his or her suggestions and make sure you avoid any compromise.
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