Double agent
A double agent, commonly abbreviated referral of double secret agent
Secret Agent
Secret Agent is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young...

, is a counterintelligence term used to designate an employee of a secret service or organization, whose primary aim is to spy on the target organization, but who in fact is a member of that same target organization oneself. They are often used in local, national and international businesses. Most commercial organizations may formally delay the movement from one organization to another competitor after a defined time limit upon formally resigning from the official 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
Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. For this reason, it is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth...

 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, information to pass along.

Double agents

Some people listed here are not true double agents (as defined above), but rather (single) agents working as a mole
Mole (espionage)
A mole is a spy who works for an enemy nation, but whose loyalty ostensibly lies with his own nation's government. In some usage, a mole differs from a defector in that a mole is a spy before gaining access to classified information, while a defector becomes a spy only after gaining access...

 within an intelligence organization.

Pre-twentieth century

  • Samuel Morland
    Samuel Morland
    Sir Samuel Morland, 1st Baronet , or Moreland, was a notable English academic, diplomat, spy, inventor and mathematician of the 17th century, a polymath credited with early developments in relation to computing, hydraulics and steam power.-Education:The son of Thomas Morland, the rector of...

    , seventeenth century Englishman
  • Richard Willis
    Richard Willis (spy)
    Sir Richard Willis, 1st Baronet was a Royalist officer during the English Civil War, and a double agent working for the Parliamentarians during the Interregnum.-Biography:...

    , seventeenth century Englishman
  • Yoshira, sixteenth century Japanese
  • Benedict Arnold
    Benedict Arnold
    Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

World War II

  • Mathilde Carré
    Mathilde Carré
    Mathilde Carré , known as "La Chatte", was a French Resistance agent during World War II who turned double agent....

    , a French resistance agent who turned for the Germans.
  • Roman Czerniawski
    Roman Czerniawski
    Roman Garby-Czerniawski was a Polish Air Force Captain and Allied double agent during World War II, using the codename Brutus.-Life:...

  • Eddie Chapman
    Eddie Chapman
    Edward Arnold "Eddie" Chapman was an English pre-war criminal and wartime spy. During the Second World War he offered his services to Nazi Germany as a spy and a traitor whilst intending all along to become a British double agent. His British Secret Service handlers code named him 'ZIGZAG' in...

     ("ZigZag") infiltrated the German Abwehr
    The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

     during World War II whilst feeding intelligence to MI5. He was so trusted by the Germans that he is reportedly the only British
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

     citizen to have ever been awarded the Iron Cross
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

  • Roger Grosjean
    Roger Grosjean
    Roger Grosjean started his career as a French Air Force fighter pilot in France, England and North Africa. This involved a short stint as a Security Service double agent during World War II . He then became a very successful archeologist in Corsica. Grosjean was born on July 25, 1920, in...

     ("Fido"), a French Air Force pilot who worked for the British
  • Christiaan Lindemans
    Christiaan Lindemans
    Christiaan Antonius Lindemans was a Dutch double agent during the Second World War. He is better known under his nickname "King Kong".-Biography:...

     ("King Kong") Dutch agent who turned for the Germans
  • Arthur Owens
    Arthur Owens
    Arthur Graham Owens, later known as Arthur Graham White was a Welsh electrical engineer who acted as a mole during World War II. He was working for MI5 while appearing to the Abwehr to be one of their agents. Owens was known to MI5 by the codename SNOW...

  • Dusan Popov
    Dušan Popov
    Dušan "Duško" Popov OBE was a double agent working for MI6 during World War II under the cryptonym Tricycle.-Origins of Tricycle:...

  • Mutt and Jeff
    Mutt and Jeff (spies)
    Mutt and Jeff were spies who worked for the United Kingdom and MI5 and were members of the Double Cross System.In April 1941 two Norwegians, Helge Moe and Tor Glad fetched up on a remote Aberdeenshire beach, having travelled by seaplane and rubber dinghy...

    , Norwegians working for the British.
  • Juan Pujol Garcia
    Juan Pujol (alias Garbo)
    Joan Pujol Garcia , also known as Juan Pujol García , MBE , was a double agent during the Second World War who was known by the British codename Garbo and the German codename Arabel...

     ("Garbo") British double agent in German spy service-awarded both an MBE and a Iron Cross.
  • Johann Wenzel, a member of Red Orchestra who, after being unmasked by the Germans, fed false information to the Soviet Union
  • William G. Sebold
    William G. Sebold
    William G. Sebold , born Wilhelm Georg Debrowski in Mülheim, Germany, was a German spy in the United States during World War II, who became a double agent for the FBI.-Early life:...

    , German agent working for the FBI

Cold War

  • Aldrich Ames
    Aldrich Ames
    Aldrich Hazen Ames is a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer and analyst, who, in 1994, was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia...

    , worked for the CIA and worked for the Soviet Union by selling information to the KGB
    The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

  • Cambridge Five
    Cambridge Five
    The Cambridge Five was a ring of spies, recruited in part by Russian talent spotter Arnold Deutsch in the United Kingdom, who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and at least into the early 1950s...

    : British agents working for the Soviets.
    • John Cairncross
      John Cairncross
      John Cairncross was a British intelligence officer during World War II, who passed secrets to the Soviet Union...

      , British agent working for the Soviets; worked at Bletchley Park
      Bletchley Park
      Bletchley Park is an estate located in the town of Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, England, which currently houses the National Museum of Computing...

       and gave information to the KGB.
    • Anthony Blunt
      Anthony Blunt
      Anthony Frederick Blunt , was a British art historian who was exposed as a Soviet spy late in his life.Blunt was Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Surveyor of the King's Pictures and London...

      , British agent working for the Soviets.
    • Guy Burgess
      Guy Burgess
      Guy Francis De Moncy Burgess was a British-born intelligence officer and double agent, who worked for the Soviet Union. He was part of the Cambridge Five spy ring that betrayed Western secrets to the Soviets before and during the Cold War...

      , British agent working for the Soviets; Worked for MI5
      The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

       and gave information to the KGB, later defected.
    • Donald Duart Maclean
      Donald Duart Maclean
      Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five who were members of MI5, MI6 or the diplomatic service who acted as spies for the Soviet Union in the Second World War and beyond. He was recruited as a "straight penetration agent" while an undergraduate at Cambridge by...

      , British agent working for the Soviets.
    • Kim Philby
      Kim Philby
      Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a spy for and later defected to the Soviet Union...

      , British agent working for the Soviets.
  • George Blake
    George Blake
    George Blake is a former British spy known for having been a double agent in the service of the Soviet Union. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966 and fled to the USSR...

    , British agent working for the Soviets.
  • Oleg Gordievsky
    Oleg Gordievsky
    Oleg Antonovich Gordievsky , CMG , is a former Colonel of the KGB and KGB Resident-designate and bureau chief in London, who was a secret agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1974 to 1985.-Early career:Oleg Gordievsky attended the Moscow State Institute of International...

    , later defected to the United Kingdom.
  • Matei Pavel Haiducu
    Matei Pavel Haiducu
    Matei Pavel Haiducu was a Romanian secret agent who defected to France in 1981. He belonged to the "Direcţia Informaţii Externe" of the Securitate.He was born in Bucharest as Matei Pavel Hirsch...

    , Romanian secret agent who defected to France.
  • Robert Hanssen
    Robert Hanssen
    Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

    , worked for the FBI and sold information to the Soviet Union
    Soviet Union
    The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

     as a mole.
  • Oleg Kalugin
    Oleg Kalugin
    Oleg Danilovich Kalugin , is a former KGB general. He was a longtime head of KGB operations in the United States and later a critic of the agency.-Early life and the KGB career:...

    , 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")


  • Denis Donaldson
    Denis Donaldson
    Denis Martin Donaldson was a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army and a member of Sinn Féin who was exposed in December 2005 as an informer in the employment of MI5 and the Special Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Denis Martin Donaldson (Short Strand, Belfast,...

    , infiltrated the Sinn Féin
    Sinn Féin
    Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

     on behalf the British government. He was found dead in his cottage after a Northern Ireland newspaper revealed this.
  • Kevin Fulton
    Kevin Fulton
    "Kevin Fulton" is the pseudonym of Peter Keeley, a British agent from Newry, Northern Ireland who allegedly spied on the Provisional Irish Republican Army for British Military Intelligence....

     (real name Peter Keeley), infiltrated the IRA
    Provisional Irish Republican Army
    The Provisional Irish Republican Army is an Irish republican paramilitary organisation whose aim was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bring about a socialist republic within a united Ireland by force of arms and political persuasion...

     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
    Freddie Scappaticci
    Freddie Scappaticci was accused in the Irish and British media on 11 May 2003 of being a high-level double agent in the Provisional Irish Republican Army , known by the codename Stakeknife.-Early life:...

     ("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
    Robert Nairac
    Captain Robert Laurence Nairac GC was a British Army officer who was abducted from a pub in south County Armagh during an undercover operation and killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army on his fourth tour of duty in Northern Ireland as a Military Intelligence Liaison Officer...

     British Military Intelligence Agent against the IRA-killed 1977


  • April Fool, allegedly an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

  • Iyman Faris
    Iyman Faris
    Iyman Faris is a Pakistani American former truck driver from Columbus, Ohio who was convicted of providing material support to Al Qaeda, for his role in a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge...

    , worked for the FBI, but was loyal to Al-Qaeda
    Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

  • Mikel Lejarza
    Mikel Lejarza
    Mikel Lejarza Eguía was a member of the Spanish intelligence service. During the 1970s, he worked undercover as a double agent infiltrating the Basque separatist organisation ETA. The secret service knew him by the nickname El Lobo...

     ("El Lobo"), Spanish agent working for the Basque separatist ETA
    ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

  • Katrina Leung
    Katrina Leung
    Katrina Leung was a former high value Federal Bureau of Investigation and PRC Ministry of State Security agent who, on April 9, 2003, was indicted by the United States Department of Justice for "Unauthorized Copying of National Defense Information with Intent to Injure or Benefit a Foreign...

    , worked for both China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

     and the FBI.
  • Ashraf Marwan
    Ashraf Marwan
    Ashraf Marwan was an Egyptian billionaire and an alleged spy for Israel, or possibly an Egyptian double agent. He was married to Mona Gamal Abdel Nasser, the daughter of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser....

    , 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

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".

Triple agent

A triple agent is an agent who works for three intelligence services, but is usually truly loyal to only one of them. It is often considered the same as a re-doubled agent.
  • Henri Déricourt
    Henri Dericourt
    Henri Dericourt was a French agent for Special Operations Executive. There is ambiguity as to whether he became a double agent for the Sicherheitsdienst , or was working under British instructions.-Life and work:...

     Secret Secret Intelligence Service
    Secret Intelligence Service
    The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

     agent with the Special Operations Executive
    Special Operations Executive
    The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

     who "turned" for the Germans (d. 1962).
  • Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi
    Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi
    Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi according to Western intelligence officials, was a Jordanian doctor and a double agent suicide bomber loyal to Islamist extremists who carried out Camp Chapman attack, a suicide attack against a CIA base near Khost city in Afghanistan on December 30,...

     was, according to Western intelligence officials, a Jordanian doctor and a double agent loyal to Islamist extremists. He was identified as the perpetrator of the Forward Operating Base Chapman attack, a suicide attack against a CIA base near Khost city in Afghanistan on December 30, 2009.

Events in which double agents played an important role

  • Babington plot
    Babington Plot
    The Babington Plot was a Catholic plot in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, a Protestant, and put Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, on the English throne. It led to the execution of Mary. The long-term goal was an invasion by the Spanish forces of King Philip II and the Catholic league in...

  • Battle of Normandy
    Operation Overlord
    Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

  • Stormontgate
    Stormontgate is the name given to the controversy surrounding an alleged Provisional Irish Republican Army spy-ring and intelligence gathering operation based in Stormont, the parliament building of Northern Ireland...

  • Cold War
    Cold War
    The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

  • Battle of Lexington
  • Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

  • War on Terrorism
    War on Terrorism
    The War on Terror is a term commonly applied to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as well as non-NATO countries...

  • 1973 Yom Kippur War
  • Duquesne Spy Ring
    Duquesne Spy Ring
    The Duquesne Spy Ring is the largest espionage case in United States history that ended in convictions. A total of thirty-three members of a German espionage network headed by Frederick "Fritz" Joubert Duquesne were convicted after a lengthy espionage investigation by the Federal Bureau of...

See also

  • List of fictional double agents
  • Espionage
    Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

  • Mole (espionage)
    Mole (espionage)
    A mole is a spy who works for an enemy nation, but whose loyalty ostensibly lies with his own nation's government. In some usage, a mole differs from a defector in that a mole is a spy before gaining access to classified information, while a defector becomes a spy only after gaining access...

  • Double Cross System
    Double Cross System
    The Double Cross System, or XX System, was a World War II anti-espionage and deception operation of the British military intelligence arm, MI5. Nazi agents in Britain - real and false - were captured, turned themselves in or simply announced themselves and were then used by the British to broadcast...

  • Dangle
    Dangle (espionage)
    Dangle is a term used in intelligence work to refer to an agent of one intelligence agency or group who pretends to be interested in defecting or turning to another intelligence agency or group....

  • Clandestine HUMINT
    Clandestine HUMINT
    Clandestine HUMINT includes a wide range of espionage sources. This includes the classic spy who collects intelligence, but also couriers and other personnel, who handle their secure communications...

  • Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques
    Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques
    The Clandestine HUMINT page deals with the functions of that discipline, including espionage and active counterintelligence. This page deals with Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques, also called "tradecraft". It applies to clandestine operations for espionage, and for a clandestine phase...

  • Counterintelligence
  • Treason
    In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

  • Undercover
    Being undercover is disguising one's own identity or using an assumed identity for the purposes of gaining the trust of an individual or organization to learn secret information or to gain the trust of targeted individuals in order to gain information or evidence...

External links

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