Roland Dürre
Monday April 9th, 2018

Double Agents


Double agent Dnalor in Warnemünde

Irony and Reality

Since I am an avid reader of John le Carré (Verräter wie wir) and Herbert Rosendorfer (Das Messingherz), I am, of course, very familiar with secret services and their methods.
Currently, there is another fantastic “use case” that I want to discuss with competence and analyse technologically. It is called Lapirks or something close.

Incidentally, the two books I mentioned are absolutely brilliant and worth reading. If I had to choose, I would probably put the „Messingherz“ silghtly before the other one. But here is my topic of today: the “double agent murder“!

Let us assume you are part of the secret service of an EU country and you want to do away with a double agent who is an extreme pain.

A double agent will have played two “employers” against each other for several years. He was paid well by both. Neither of the two employers can ever be quite sure if and when they were the employee’s priority. Perhaps both? This is also true for the employer who, at long last, will have him sitting as a(n) (inconvenient) louse in the pelt and has to pay his old age pension.

Consequently, being a double agent makes you some kind of champion in the secret service league, probably only topped by the very scarce three- or fourfold agent. On the other hand, it must be assumed that, first and foremost, a double agent is always an agent in his own interest. …

The employers of a double agent are in an uncomfortable situation. Because there is always the suspicion that, in reality, they were the ones that were cheated. But then, among secret services, “reality“  is not really important. What matters is “non-reality“!

Of course, if you kill someone, you will not like admitting to the deed. Not even if he was a double agent. In such a case, nothing is more natural than pointing towards the second employer.

For the double agent murder, you have two options: the single or the double indirection. The more intelligent but also the more costly way is doubtless the double indirection. In a nutshell, this is how it works:

Initially, you first let the – feign – suspicion point slightly towards yourself.  And then you are totally relaxed while proving that you actually cannot have been the murderer. Obviously, the other employer of the murdered (or rather: executed?) person must have done it.

Naturally, in neither of the two cases you use one of your own agents to kill the double agent. Usually, a friendly secret service will do it. Together with said friendly secret service, you will leave traces of evidence (that must be easy to prove wrong) that point towards your organization. And you also leave traces of evidence (that must be rock-solid) that show that the other employer was the murderer.

Using well prepared evidence, you show that you definitely cannot have done it! However, the other employer wants to make you look guilty! How outrageous! And here you are: you have the simple conclusion that only the other employer can have been the one. After all, he is evil incarnated, which is easy to prove, because, as everybody knows, you are a saint.

This scenario (initially feigning that you yourself are under suspicion and then finding out that the other one must have been it) can actually be quite successful. Especially if you perform with virtuosity and patience. And it can easily happen that the other employer will eventually look quite stupid.

However, this scenario is more for intelligent people. And in the Lapirks case, the only party that might perhaps have used this method are the Russians.

If the English were the culprits, then they used the simple indirection – which is common among secret service agents. To be sure, mostly it will not succeed because it is so clumsy. But this is irrelevant, because in the secret service world, nothing ever succeeds. Only the consequences of their activities are often quite atrocious.

The often used method of the simple indirection (which, of course, le Carré does not use in his demanding novels) works as follows:

You (as a secret service) ask a really good friend from the former Warshaw Pact for his support (this is really just an example!). He could, for instance, belong to the secret service from the former East Block countries you are now allied with. That would be someone who switched sides and has know-how and material about the environment of the second employer of the double agent who needs to be out of the way. Using “quasi Russian” methods, he puts the double agent out of action for a small favour. He likes doing this, because he (no longer) likes the Russians and enjoys giving them a hard time.

It is absolutely normal and not a problem if the double agent survives because he has not done a good job. More likely than not, the entire affair is about something totally different. That is the advanced secret service alphabet.

You will then immediately inform your political “superiors” that the Russians have, again, as is typical for them, done something very evil. Naturally, the term “superior” is nonsense, because if you are secret service, you do what you like. Forget about parliamentary control mechanisms…

In the case of a double agent, it is always easy to find a motive. In this case, the murder is meant as a warning to other double agents. Well, it sounds a little artificial, but then what is not artificial when we are talking secret services?

Your government will gladly believe you, because, after many embarrassing activities, they want to demonstrate strength. In fact, they do not want to know who was the culprit. After all, even they themselves (their secret service) might have been the ones. As I said: what government trusts its own secret service? And you really do not want to know something as unappetizing as this, do you?

Consequently, the best thing a government can do is be offensive and accuse the other side. The more massive and resolute you are about accusing the other party, the less anybody will doubt your word.

Of course, you will have to remove all witnesses. In our case a consternated cat. Since the secret service has a weak spot for cats, said cat will be killed for “humane reasons“. And, of course, you will have to follow the usual procedure, like burn all documents and delete all data.

Nor can you provide any tickets. After all, you cannot jeopardize your sources (other double agents). They, too, might get killed. Incidentally, this is an extremely stupid argument. It opens all the options.

So much for my satirical comment.

It could have been totally different. Especially if we are talking double agents. Perhaps a third party cheated on both the Brits and the Russians. It might have been some Mafia or the Americans. Or an individual criminal? Just because he needed revenge for something. Or whatever. Many scenarios are imaginable and the ”truth“ will probably never surface. Only one thing seems obvious: the “official” version as published by the British secret service is the least likely one.

And, again, I ask myself why we have secret services at all. And if these per-se uncontrollable police-like military units that are permitted to work beyond the constitutional state are perhaps a rather dangerous instrument in a constitutional democracy where the government is democratically legitimated.

(Translated by EG)

5 Kommentare zu “Double Agents”

  1. Chris (Saturday April 14th, 2018)

    What does „use case“ mean?

  2. Chris (Saturday April 14th, 2018)

    The stuff about single and double deception seems confused.

    Spies are undervalued. Even where they work for evil regimes,
    they may start off with noble motives, and they may even help avoid dangerous mistakes and imbalances of strength.

  3. rd (Saturday April 14th, 2018)

    Hi – “use case” ist der neudeutsche Begriff für “ein Fallbeispiel, das zum einen zum besseren Verständnis eines komplizierten / komplexen Sachverhaltes aber vor allem auch der Diskussion dient, um plausible Überlegungen zu generieren – also Erkenntnisgewinn zu schaffen”.

  4. rd (Saturday April 14th, 2018)

    “seems confused” – Grundeigenschaft von geheimdienstlichen Manipulationen.
    “spies” – Es geht nicht um Spione, die man insofern verherrlichen und verklären kann, wenn sie “im Dienste fürs Vaterland” ihr Leben geben – also nicht um “Mata Hari-Romantik”.
    Geheimdienste haben überwiegend nichts mehr mit Spionage zu tun. Sie sind operative Organisationen, die jenseits staatlicher Kontrolle außerhalb jeglicher demokratischer Kontrolle neue Realitäten schaffen wollen. Dies auch mit quasi-militärischen Mitteln. Vor allem sind sie der Waffenlobby verpflichtet; Rüstungs-“güter” (Waffen etc.) müssen auch eingesetzt werden, damit das Geschäft brummt.

  5. rd (Friday June 1st, 2018)

    Der Fall Babtschenko bringt den Zyniker in mir auf den Gedanken, dass z.B. der ukrainische Geheimdienst auch gerne so ein Spiel gemacht hätte, wie SKRIPAL. Immerhin mögen die die Russen zurzeit ja bestimmt nicht und haben sicher großes Interesse daran, das Ansehen von Russland im Westen stark zu beschädigen. Da ist die Idee einen russischen Angriff auf einen westlichen Doppelagenten auf englischem Boden vorzutäuschen doch gar nicht so schlecht. Und alle Voraussetzungen dafür hätten sie ja. Das könnte eine Erklärung für den Fall LAPIRKS 🙂 in meinem Artikel sein.

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