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For other uses, see Double agent (disambiguation).
"Triple agent" redirects here. For other uses, see Triple agent (disambiguation).

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.[1]

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 agents[edit]

Examples of known double agents and moles
Context Agent Nationality Loyal to Spying on Comments References
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
1639 – 1651
Samuel Morland England English England Restoration Commonwealth of England Commonwealth of England [citation needed]
Richard Willis England English Commonwealth of England Commonwealth of England England Restoration [citation needed]
World War I
1914 – 1918
Mata Hari Friesland Frisian German Empire German Empire France French Third Republic [citation needed]
World War II
1939 – 1945
Mathilde Carré "La Chatte" France French United Kingdom Double-Cross System [citation needed]
Roman Czerniawski "Brutus" Poland Polish United Kingdom Double-Cross System [citation needed]
Eddie Chapman "ZigZag" England English United Kingdom 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 [citation needed]
Roger Grosjean "Fido" France French United Kingdom Double-Cross System French Air Force pilot who worked for the British [citation needed]
Christiaan Lindemans "King Kong" Netherlands Dutch Nazi Germany Nazi Germany Netherlands Dutch resistance
United Kingdom SOE
Belgium Belgian army
Dutch agent who turned for the Germans [citation needed]
Arthur Owens "Snow" Wales Welsh United Kingdom Double-Cross System   [citation needed]
Dušan Popov "Tricycle" "Ivan" Austria-Hungary Serbian United Kingdom Double-Cross System Yugoslav working for British MI6 and German Abwehr. [citation needed]
"Mutt and Jeff" Norway Norwegians United Kingdom Double-Cross System Norwegians working for the British [citation needed]
Joan Pujol Garcia "Garbo" Catalonia Catalan United Kingdom Double-Cross System British double agent in German spy service-awarded both an MBE and an Iron Cross [citation needed]
Johann Wenzel Poland Polish member of Red Orchestra who, after being unmasked by the Germans, fed false information to the Soviet Union [citation needed]
William G. Sebold German Empire German
United States United States citizen
United States FBI Nazi Germany Gestapo
Nazi Germany Duquesne Spy Ring
[citation needed]
Cold War
1947 – 1991
  • Aldrich Ames, worked for the CIA and worked for the Soviet Union by selling information to the KGB.
  • Cambridge Five: British agents working for the Soviets.
  • George Blake, British agent working for the Soviets.
  • Oleg Gordievsky, later defected to the United Kingdom.
  • Matei Pavel Haiducu, Romanian secret agent who defected to France.
  • Dmitri Polyakov, GRU officer working for the CIA, executed by the Soviets.
  • Robert Hanssen, worked for the FBI and sold information to the Soviet Union as a mole.
  • Oleg Kalugin, longtime head of KGB operations in the United States. Loyal to the CIA. Provided disinformation regarding American involvement in Prague Spring; and also played a role in the establishment of Yeltsin as post-USSR leader. Convicted in absentia in 2002 by Russian authorities, sentenced to 15 years imprisonment; the US refuses to extradite him.
  • Oleg Penkovskiy ("Hero"), a colonel with GRU during the late 1950s and early 1960s who informed the United Kingdom and the United States about the USSR placing missiles in Cuba; executed by the Soviets in 1963.
  • Stig Bergling, Swedish Security Service officer at SÄPO working for the Soviets. Among other things, he handed over the entire Swedish so-called FO-code, a top secret list of Sweden's defence establishments, coastal artillery fortifications and mobilization stores. On 7 December 1979 he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.
[citation needed]
Arab–Israeli conflict
1948 –
  • Ashraf Marwan, an 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.
[citation needed]
Basque conflict
1959 – 2011
  • Mikel Lejarza ("El Lobo"), Spanish agent working for the Basque separatist ETA.
[citation needed]
Northern Ireland conflict
1968 – 1998
  • Denis Donaldson, infiltrated the Sinn Féin on behalf the British government. He was found dead in his cottage after a Northern Ireland newspaper revealed this.
[citation needed]
  • Kevin Fulton (real name Peter Keeley), infiltrated the IRA for British Intelligence. He was allegedly betrayed by his employers and nearly sacrificed to cement Stakeknife's cover in the IRA (see below).
[citation needed]
  • Freddie Scappaticci ("Stakeknife"), infiltrated the IRA for British Intelligence. Allegedly, the British government ordered him to expose Fulton to increase his own standing in the IRA.
[citation needed]
  • Robert Nairac, British Military Intelligence agent who sometimes went undercover in the IRA. Killed in 1977.
[citation needed]
Global War on Terrorism
2001 –
[citation needed]
[citation needed]
Other [citation needed]

Re-doubled agent[edit]

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".[2]

Triple agent[edit]

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 and Alexander Litvinenko.

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.

Events in which double agents played an important role[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/double%20agent
  2. ^ Begoum, F.M. "Observations on the Double Agent". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_agent — Please support Wikipedia.
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