While the collection of Intelligence in the modern era is increasingly challenged by technology (ubiquitous video surveillance, cell phone vulnerability, etc.), our fast-paced world and the velocity of change means that for both businesses and national governments alike, intelligence collection is more sought than ever before.
When it comes to HUMINT, however, we find that the same motivations that drove people to espionage centuries ago still hold. Although these motivations are multi-faceted and complex, they can be summarized as MICER: money, ideology, compromise, ego, and revenge.
In the case of former DIA Officer Ron Rockwell Hanson and CIA Officer Kevin Mallory, both suspected of spying for China, as well as former Israeli official Gonen Segev, accused of spying for Iran, money seems to be the prime motivator.
But a spy’s motivations are rarely purely financial. Often traitors have troubled relations with coworkers or superiors that can make revenge a powerful co-motivator. Often bearing substantial egos, they can feel “unappreciated” in their position, which can make them ripe for exploitation by a vigilant foreign Intel Officer. Compromise, more often used by foreign services, is sometimes used by Western services against terrorist targets — the thinking here is that recruiting someone unwilling will likely result in a relatively poor agent.
Ideology, along with money, constitute the Evil Twins of HUMINT. Ideology is personified by the “True Believer.” When we think of the ideological traitor, we usually think of those who, out of a misplaced loyalty to International Communism, gave the A-bomb plans to the Soviets — their greatest intelligence coup.
Ideological spies can be the most dangerous of all, as they are dedicated to The Cause, and often work for long periods uncaught, sometimes from the beginning of their intelligence careers.
Mi6’s Kim Philby, and likely FBI’s Robert Hanssen, did just this, undermining their respective nation’s security for decades. With traitors like these, it can be tempting to just close up shop…
Ominously, nowadays Ideological motivation for treason is undergoing a bit of a comeback — but with a 21st Century twist.
With the advent of social media and an increasingly globalist mindset among youth, many nations are seeing “transformed” work forces — including in the intel community. Unfortunately, this transformation, the fruits of a decades-long “experiment” in Progressive education, emphasizes “social consciousness” at the expense of critical thinking skills and patriotism.
Such people are more easily manipulated by the mainstream media and forces of political correctness — or “old school” Case Officers like myself. I am not the only person concerned with a new generation of Intel (or military) officers less tied to notions like patriotism and having a different take on “transparency.”
In the very recent example of CIA contractor Joshua Adam Schulte, we see this “ideological” motivation at work. Schulte, no doubt justifying his actions in the name of “social consciousness,” is suspected of posting highly sensitive CIA hacking tools on WikiLeaks. Revenge/Ego was also probably a factor. While this suspected public posting of secrets (like Bradley Manning) was not for the benefit of a particular enemy or for apparent monetary gain, Schulte’s move may have done more damage because multiple services will access those tools for use against U.S. interests.
This 21st Century dynamic was also seen in the infamous case of Edward Snowden, who spied for his own selfish interests, but cynically wrapped himself in a blanket of “social justice” to deflect his treason, and thus received accolades from many circles.
Intelligence Community (IC) Leadership (or the lack thereof) is also a factor in why we are seeing more of these ideological traitors.
What is the effect on a workforce of the possibly illegal actions and asinine tweets of former CIA Director John Brennan, and serial perjurer James Clapper — not to mention their present CNN gigs?
While they are thankfully both out of office, the damage they wrought still echoes in the IC. What type of moral example do they provide for junior officers?
I found that while handling agents in places like Azerbaijan and Kosovo for over a decade, many agents had the view that in their corrupt societies "everybody was doing it" — so they decided to work for the CIA. Outside of the First World, you see, being honest was synonymous with being poor….
As we continue to witness Leaks from officials used as a form of retribution against President Trump, inappropriate tweets from former senior officials, and even calls to violence due to political differences.
How long before more government officials, seeing such vitriol, say to themselves, “Everybody is doing it…”?
Part 3 of this article series will continue to explore Intelligence in the modern era.
To read Part 1 of this series, click here now.
Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator, and has a weekly podcast, "the Station Chief," that can be found on iTunes or at www.thestationchief.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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