The Spy Who Turned Me

How, then, does a case officer persuade someone to become a traitor? There is no definitive handbook. The process is as complex as human relationships. If possible, a friendship should develop between the case officer and the prospective agent; bonds of trust must be established. But beneath the surface, there is the CIA officer’s constant and often uncharitable assessment of the target’s aspirations, fears and desires. You must know what motivates the potential recruit so that you can better exploit his vulnerabilities and, in the end, put him in the right frame of mind for your “pitch.”

In making this assessment, the CIA relies on four basic human motivations, described by the acronym MICE: money, ideology, conscience and ego. Some agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, perhaps not realizing that MICE is already a plural word, insist on adding an S to the end for sex. But sexual entrapment is not a reliable recruitment technique. A blackmailed agent tends to be resentful, brooding, prone to disloyalty and the fabrication of intelligence.

Human Chess

A Former CIA Case Officer on the Most Effective Levers for Persuading Someone to Become a Traitor.

By Jason Matthews, The Wall Street Journal

During my thirty-plus years working abroad for the CIA, the unspoken truth among case officers like me was that you’d have to be nuts, as the citizen of another country, to be a spy for a foreign intelligence service. In recruiting an agent or “asset,” we were asking him to ignore the instinct of self-preservation, to break the laws of his own country—to become a traitor. And we were asking him to trust that no leak or mole would ever expose him.

Today, there are still secrets that need stealing, and the consequences of detection remain dangerous. Moscow’s recent expulsion of an alleged CIA officer was dramatic, but such moves are among the lesser costs of espionage gone awry.

How, then, does a case officer persuade…

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3 thoughts on “The Spy Who Turned Me

  1. Excellent find. I will read that article and report back. I will also memorize that acronym, MICES – money ideology conscience ego and sex.


    1. I preferred his original, MICE. Sex can be classified under “Ego” in this model. Aside from the basic physical urges, sex with a hot Natasha Russian spy is an ego thing more than a physical need.

      But yeah, Money Ideology Conscience Ego MICE, that’s a great model.


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