Espionage, which can also be called spying, is the action of a person getting information that is either confidential or secret without first getting permission from the holder of the information. Espionage is normally part of an effort by either a corporation or a government; the term itself is most commonly used in connection with spying by the state on its enemies, mainly for military purposes. Espionage goes back, historically, all the way to famous military strategists like Chanakya and Sun-Tzu. One of the students of Chanakya, the founder of the Maurya Empire of India by the name of Chandragupta Maurya, utilized spies, secret agents and even assassinations, which is written about in Chanakya’s treatise on statecraft.
In the world of espionage, there are normally four targets. The first is food, materials or energy, where spies usually co-mingle with bureaucrats who are in charge of administering these resources in their nations. The second is popular sentiment against foreign and domestic policies, where spies are actually recruited from students, researchers, or field journalistic crews. The third target of espionage is strategic economic strengths like infrastructure and production. Here, spies are recruited from commercial enterprises and academia. Finally, the last target of spies is military capability intelligence, where agents receive training from military espionage facilities and get posted while having a covert identity.
Espionage Technology and Techniques
To enable secret agents to do their jobs successfully, a number of espionage techniques have been developed. One of the techniques in espionage is known as agent handling, which is a reference to intelligence officers known as case officers, whose duty it is to manage secret agents, principal agents, and even whole networks. In the annals of agent handling, one notorious case stands out in the form of Donald McLean, who was sexually compromised, more properly termed homosexually coerced, by Guy Burgess, a British double-agent whose allegiance was to the Soviets. Other espionage technology and techniques include the concealment device, a covert agent, a covert listening device, a cut-out, cyber spying, numbers messaging, a dead drop, non-official cover, official cover, interrogation, false-flag operations, a one-way voice link, a safe house, a side channel attack, surveillance, steganography, and honeypot.
Espionage under Elizabeth I of England
Espionage under Elizabeth I of England centered mostly around one man named Francis Walsingham, fondly remembered as her spymaster. As the spymaster, he is credited with being one of the first in practicing the art of modern intelligence methods in terms of espionage as well as domestic security. His operations penetrated the center of Spain’s military preparations and gathered information from all across Europe. He is famous for having discovered the Babington and Throckmorton Plots. These were plots intended to usurp power from Elizabeth I, bring Catholicism to England, and put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne.
Espionage in the American Revolution
Three prominent figures in espionage in the American were John Andre, Nathan Hale, and James Armistead. Andre is today remembered as a British spy, who was hanged in the American Revolutionary War for helping Benedict Arnold when he tried to surrender the fort at West Point to the British. Hale is remembered as being a Continental Army soldier in the American Revolutionary War. He is considered a patriot and war hero for dying for his country after being captured by the British after he volunteered for an intelligence-gathering operation in New York City. Armistead had the distinction of being the first black American double spy. A slave, Armistead became a spy in the army under General Lafayette; he obtained valuable information on traitor Benedict Arnold, which proved instrumental in contributing to the British defeat at Yorktown.
Espionage in the American Civil War
Espionage in the American Civil War was innovated by the use of proprietary companies for the purpose of intelligence gathering. One of the most famous spies of this era was a woman by the name of Belle Boyd, who was known as a Confederate spy. Her modus operandi was to work from the hotel of her father in Front Royal, Virginia. Her work gave valuable intelligence to the Confederate general, Stonewall Jackson, in 1862.
There were other important intelligence networks formed during the Civil War. Captain Thomas N. Conrad and Private J. Franklin Stringfellow, two cavalrymen that became spies, formed the first organized secret-service bureau in 1862 as a division of the CSA Signal Corps. Major William Norris was the head of this bureau, which was the most effective espionage and counterintelligence agency of the war. Their endeavors stretched above the Mason-Dixon line – possibly into Canada.
Espionage in World War I
Four prominent figures in World War I espionage are Jules C. Silber, Howard Burnham, Mata Hari, and Fritz Joubert Duquesne. Silber was a German spy who was employed as a censor in the United Kingdom. As war broke out between the UK and Germany in 1914, Silber plotted to help Germany by getting employment as a post office censor, which allowed him to intercept information that would be useful to Germany. Burnham was an American who was loyal to both the US and France, and he became an intelligence officer so he could spy for France. In 1917, one of his most memorable operations was being sent across enemy lines by the French so he could find out if Germany was plotting a new front through the Alps.
Mata Hari was just the stage name of a Dutch woman called Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. She was fingered as a spy—she spied for Germany in World War I—but there have been doubts about her culpability. Nonetheless, she was killed in front of a French firing squad for causing the deaths of 50,000 soldiers, though no definitive evidence was ever produced. Duquesne was a South African Boer soldier and spy known as the “Black Panther.” He purported to have sunk the HMS Hampshire, killing Lord Kitchener, but his downfall came when he was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison in the US for being part of a spy ring.
Espionage in World War II
Espionage in World War II was famous for its use of informants, two of the best examples resulting in the Oslo Report and the Reseau AGIR revelation of weapon installations in Occupied France. Counterespionage was also prevalent, especially the use of turned double-cross agents whose job it was to mislead Nazi Germany. For the first time in its history, espionage also made more use of women for the purpose of bringing back information from Occupied France to the Allies. This was done because women were seen as less threatening and, thus, were not interrogated by the Nazis as frequently or aggressively as men who worked as spies stood the chance of being. At the outbreak of World War II, the US didn’t have a spy agency, but the Office of Strategic Services was quickly created, which turned out to be the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency.