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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 at target organization.

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]

Some people listed here are not true double agents (as defined above), but rather (single) agents working as a mole within an intelligence organization.

Pre-twentieth century[edit]

World War I[edit]

  • Mata Hari (stage name for Margaretha Geertruida "Grietje" Zelle)

World War II[edit]

Cold War[edit]


  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Robert Nairac, British Military Intelligence agent who sometimes went undercover in the IRA. Killed in 1977.


  • April Fool, allegedly an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein.
  • Iyman Faris, worked for the FBI, but was loyal to Al-Qaeda.
  • Mikel Lejarza ("El Lobo"), Spanish agent working for the Basque separatist ETA.
  • Katrina Leung, worked for both China and the FBI.
  • 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.

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".[1]

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 Eddie Chapman, 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. ^ 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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898 news items

Breitbart News

Breitbart News
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 10:48:45 -0700

Now Storm is getting his 15 minutes of fame, including a TV special via CNN: Double Agent: Inside al Qaeda for the CIA. Why would any reputable news organization spend so many resources on a thug who has as many aliases as President Obama has golf ...


Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:31:46 -0700

Morten Storm, an alleged radical Islamist turned double agent for the CIA, is claiming he lived a “schizophrenic lifestyle” for years as he worked to maintain the trust of senior al Qaeda leaders while also juggling different names and personalities to ...


CNN (blog)
Thu, 11 Sep 2014 12:18:45 -0700

The world's most dangerous terrorists. Intelligence gathering. Betrayal and assassination. "Double Agent Inside al Qaeda for the CIA", a CNN Special Report, will encompass all of this and more; a thrilling spy story about a man who claims he was a ...
The Seattle Times
Sun, 07 Sep 2014 05:56:15 -0700

This is the story of a German-born American citizen named Wilhelm Gottlieb Sebold, who was recruited by Adolf Hitler's regime to spy on the United States in the early days of World War II and who became, according to Peter Duffy, “the first counterspy ...

Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:56:15 -0700

When Yousef was imprisoned, Yitzhak saw him as a prime candidate to turn into a double agent, even though he knew by doing so he would be ruining the youth's life. By 1997 he had manipulated Yousef, now codenamed “the Green Prince,” into Shin Bet's ...
Power Line (blog)
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:12:05 -0700

Never mind the idea that Nancy Pelosi may be a GOP deep-cover double-agent.* I think I've figured out who is operating in even deeper cover: Secretary of State John Kerry. Today in Jakarta Kerry spoke about the causes of climate change. Here are some ...
The Local.de
Mon, 15 Sep 2014 23:46:53 -0700

An alleged CIA double agent secured his laptop so well that German secret services have failed to crack it since he was arrested in July, according to reports. UK, US spies can access telecom records: report (14 Sep 14); Germans want cooler relations ...

Toronto Star

Toronto Star
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 06:02:07 -0700

It now seems absurd that it was so easy for the man who would become the second-most famous double agent in history (Mata Hari being the first) to simply waltz into MI6 headquarters and steal secrets for his Soviet masters for decades. But that is ...

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