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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]

      Double agent       Re-doubled agent       Mole

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 Abwehr (1944) Netherlands United Kingdom SOE (1940-1944)
Dutch resistance (1941-1944)
  [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]
John Herbert Neal Moe "Mutt and Jeff" Norway Norwegian United Kingdom Double-Cross System   [citation needed]
Tor Glad "Mutt and Jeff" Norway Norwegian United Kingdom Double-Cross System   [citation needed]
Joan Pujol Garcia "Garbo" Catalonia Catalan[2] 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
Before 1942

Soviet Union Red Orchestra

After 1942

Nazi Germany Gestapo

Before 1942

Nazi Germany Red Orchestra

After 1942

Soviet Union Soviet Union

Member of Red Orchestra spy ring who, after being unmasked by the Germans, fed false information to the Soviet Union [citation needed]
William Sebold "Tramp" German Empire German
United States U.S. citizen
United States FBI (1939) Nazi Germany Abwehr (1939) Coerced by the Abwehr into becoming a spy, exposed the Duquesne Spy Ring to the FBI. [citation needed]
Cold War
1947 – 1991
Aldrich Ames United States American Soviet Union KGB United States CIA (1957-1993)   [citation needed]
John Cairncross "Liszt" Scotland Scottish Soviet Union MGB
Soviet Union Cambridge Five
United Kingdom MI5 (1941-1944)
United Kingdom GC&CS (1942-1943)
United Kingdom MI6 (1944-1945)
  [citation needed]
Anthony Blunt "Johnson" England English Soviet Union NKVD
Soviet Union Cambridge Five
United Kingdom MI5   [citation needed]
Guy Burgess "Hicks" England English Soviet Union MGB
Soviet Union Cambridge Five
United Kingdom MI5 (1939-1941)
United Kingdom Foreign Office (1944-1956)
  [citation needed]
Donald Maclean "Homer" England English Soviet Union MGB
Soviet Union Cambridge Five
United Kingdom MI5
United Kingdom MI6
  [citation needed]
Kim Philby "Stanley" England English
British Raj Born in India
Soviet Union MGB
Soviet Union Cambridge Five
United Kingdom MI6   [citation needed]
George Blake Netherlands Dutch Soviet Union KGB United Kingdom MI6   [citation needed]
Oleg Gordievsky Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Russian United Kingdom MI6 (1968-2008) Soviet Union KGB (1963-1985) Abducted in Moscow in 1985; escaped to the United Kingdom two months later. [citation needed]
Matei Pavel Haiducu Romania Romanian France DST (1981) Romania DIE (1975-1982) Defected to France in 1981. [citation needed]
Dmitri Polyakov Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic Ukrainian United States FBI
United States CIA
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic GRU Executed in 1988. [citation needed]
Robert Hanssen United States American Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic GRU United States FBI Worked for the FBI and sold information to the Soviet Union as a mole. [citation needed]
Oleg Kalugin Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Russian United States CIA Soviet Union 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 [citation needed]
Oleg Penkovskiy "Hero" Russian Empire Russian United States NSA
United Kingdom MI6
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic 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. [citation needed]
Stig Bergling Sweden Swedish Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic GRU Sweden 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. [citation needed]
Arab–Israeli conflict
1948 –
Ashraf Marwan Egypt Egyptian Israel Mossad Egypt 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. [citation needed]
Basque conflict
1959 – 2011
Mikel Lejarza "El Lobo" Basque Country (autonomous community) Basque Spain CESID Basque Country (autonomous community) ETA   [citation needed]
Northern Ireland conflict
1968 – 1998
Denis Donaldson Northern Ireland Northern Irish United Kingdom MI5
Northern Ireland PSNI
Ireland Provisional IRA
Ireland Sinn Féin
Found dead in his cottage after a Northern Ireland newspaper exposed him. [citation needed]
Peter Keeley "Kevin Fulton" Northern Ireland Northern Irish United Kingdom Royal Irish Rangers
United Kingdom Int Corps
Ireland Provisional IRA Allegedly betrayed by his employers and nearly sacrificed to cement Freddie Scappaticci's cover in the IRA. [citation needed]
Freddie Scappaticci "Stakeknife" Italy Italian United Kingdom FRU Ireland Provisional IRA
Ireland ISU
Allegedly the British government ordered him to expose Fulton to increase his own standing in the IRA. [citation needed]
Robert Nairac England English
Mauritius Born in Mauritius
United Kingdom British Army Ireland Provisional IRA   [citation needed]
Global War on Terrorism
2001 –
"April Fool" United States American United States United States Iraq Iraq Allegedly, an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein [citation needed]
Iyman Faris Pakistan Pakistani
United States U.S. citizen
 al-Qaeda United States FBI   [citation needed]
Chinese intelligence operations in the United States Katrina Leung China Chinese
Taiwan Taiwan citizen
United States U.S. citizen
China MSS United States FBI   [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".[3]

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. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ 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.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

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