|Road to Recruitment
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Are you a target? How would you know? Foreign
intelligence operatives are not obvious. They don't wear trench coats or have shifty eyes.
In today's world, they're usually friendly people who pursue their trade under the guise
of activities that appear normal and natural. They want to cultivate you as a
The only thing you can be certain of is that you are a potential
target if you have access to classified, controlled or sensitive proprietary information.
That's why it's important to be careful what you say when talking with ANY foreign
Not just careful what
you say about your work. Also careful what you say about yourself and your co-workers.
Don't talk about the cost of putting two sons through college at the same time, or the
cost of medical help for your daughter's leukemia. Don't talk about your stupid boss, how
you hate the IRS, problems with your spouse, or your colleague's drinking problem. A
foreign intelligence operative may interpret any of these as clues that you (or your
colleague) may be worth cultivating.
You already know that you must report
anything that suggests you may be the target of a foreign intelligence service or other
hostile group. That sounds simple. What you may not realize is this: If you haven't
learned how intelligence services operate, you very likely won't recognize when you are
being targeted and assessed until the process is pretty far advanced. The purpose of this
description of the "road to recruitment" -- is to help you recognize an
intelligence operative even before he (or she) does anything overtly suspicious.
Foreign intelligence personnel look for any
legitimate activity that lets them meet and gain some assessment of the people who have
access to the information they want. They then become a part of this activity. The rituals
of espionage like secret meetings and deaddrops are often avoided, at least during the
early stages of most cases.
If Im trying to get information from
you, my goal is to make it easy for you, not to give you sleepless nights. We meet over
lunch, become friends. I learn what makes you tick, sympathize with your problems, and
feed your ego. If it seems like you may be amenable, we talk about information that is
easy for you to rationalize talking about. I look for ways to gain one small step of
cooperation at a time. To gain your sympathy, I may talk about my country's need for
economic development or the threat from my country's enemies. If its done right, you
may not know its a spy operation until you are so far down the road that you are either
afraid to turn back or don't want to turn back.
One of the most succinct descriptions of the
spotting, assessment, development, and recruitment process used by all intelligence
services was provided by a former Soviet KGB officer. He called it the "road to
recruitment." While the terminology he used is typically Russian, the process is
similar to that used by all intelligence services.1
1,000 initial contacts leads to
100 operational contacts, which leads to
10 developmental contacts, which leads to
3 trusted sources, which leads to
Like a sales or marketing plan, the road to
recruitment is a guide on how to proceed and what to expect. It is a gradual process of
sorting through and winnowing down a large number of possibilities in order to succeed in
eventually making just a few small sales (trusted sources) and perhaps one big one (full
recruitment as an agent).
The foreign agent's goals at each stage on
the road to recruitment are as follows:
- Initial Contact: If
not already known, confirm whether or not you have information of value. If you do have
information of value, establish some logical basis for continuing contact and obtain your
agreement to meet again. This is generally expected to be successful in about one out of
ten cases. Scientific conferences, international business development programs, seminars,
exhibits, and meetings of all types where networking is encouraged are spy heaven. They
offer ideal opportunities for making a large number of initial contacts in a short period
- Operational Contact: Look for
some indication of exploitable vulnerability or susceptibility. In other words, determine
whether it's worth spending time and money developing the contact with you? The faster the
foreign agent accomplishes this goal, the more time he/she has available to devote to
promising developmental contacts. Again, the expectation of many intelligence collectors
is to be successful in about one out of ten cases. One indicator of success is your
willingness to talk about topics or people of intelligence interest. Elicitation of useful
-- but not necessarily secret -- information is an interim goal, or way station, on
the road to recruitment. Elicitation is discussed in greater detail in Getting Information Out of Honest People Like Me.
- Developmental Contact: At
this point, the goal is to establish a relationship of friendship and trust. Get to know
what makes you tick as a person. Determine your weaknesses and your unfulfilled goals and
ambitions. Give you some sense of personal interest or pleasure in maintaining the
contact. Cause you to feel a sense of obligation. Start you down the road of providing
information, beginning with easy and innocent requests for professional advice, discussion
of developments in your professional field, discussion of your work colleagues and the
best way to deal with them, your explanation of the rationale behind your company's policy
or American government policy. This may progress to requests for articles from
professional journals that are ostensibly difficult to get in your "friend's"
home country or technical information about your company's products that is not protected
but also not readily available. Anything to establish a regular pattern of your coming to
meetings prepared to provide information, no matter how innocuous that information may be.
A request for your organization's internal phone book is not innocuous. It's a red flag.
For an intelligence organization, a phone book is a basic tool for identifying the names
of people who have access to the key information the organization is seeking.
- Trusted Source: Of each 10
developmental contacts, maybe three can be developed into trusted sources. These are
regular sources of useful information. They are trusted in the sense that the foreign
intelligence organization believes their source is telling the truth and is not reporting
the contact to his/her security office. If a trusted source is providing classified
information, it will usually be in oral discussions rather than in documentary form. A
trusted source may not know (or not admit to themself) that their "friend" is an
intelligence officer. Of every three trusted sources, perhaps only one will become fully
recruited as a knowing agent who regularly provides classified documents or who accepts
money in exchange for information or other services.
If you are the target, you should be
reporting to your security officer by the time you are classified as an operational
contact (being assessed). If you havent reported it by the time youve
graduated to a developmental contact, you may be close to getting into trouble. Your goal
is to recognize this process and report it to your security officer. The foreign
intelligence operative's goal is to make it so easy for you to get involved, or to put
yourself in a compromising position, that you won't want to report or will be afraid to
report it to your security officer.
Your main defense is awareness and reporting
on your foreign contacts. If you report, we can alert you when you are dealing with a
known foreign intelligence operative, or we may identify a foreign intelligence operative
as a result of your reporting. That's part of our job -- identifying the few intelligence
officers or agents among the many legitimate government officials, businessmen, or
scientists you meet. Your reports on your contacts are an important contribution to the
data base that makes these identifications possible.
If the FBI or a military service
counterintelligence office learns about your contact, it will probably ask your security
office if you are reporting on it. If you are not reporting it, they will be obliged to
open an investigative case on you. In other words, if you do report, you are part of the
solution. If you dont report, you can become part of the problem.
You should not avoid contact with foreigners
or distrust all persons from abroad. Your encounters with foreign colleagues and cultures
should be among your most treasured experiences. But you must be aware that among the
millions of foreigners who come to our country, or whose countries you visit, there are
some who would exploit your trust.
||If you do find yourself in contact with a
foreign intelligence operative, there's no need to be afraid -- only careful. You won't be
hurt, but you may be manipulated and used -- if you let that happen. You are much more
likely to be charmed by a "friend" than blackmailed by an enemy.
If the contact goes so far that you are asked
to provide information, perhaps as a "consultant," you should listen carefully,
be observant, and remember as many details as possible. Keep all options open by neither
agreeing nor refusing to cooperate. Remain calm, be noncommittal, ask for time, and report
immediately to your security office.
The following tables examine in greater
detail the first three stages on the road to recruitment. They look at it from the
perspective of what you might observe as a target and what this means your contact might
be trying to do.
It May Mean
about the nature of your work at first meeting.
determine as rapidly as possible whether you are someone worth spending time on.
to lunch or any other request for follow-up meeting.
willingness to maintain contact.
|Make an erroneous
statement about an activity or person that you are familiar with.
into providing the correct information, or test your willingness to do so.
or falsely implying to be a representative of a particular firm, organization or country.
story to gain your confidence and make you more comfortable with the contact.
request for information via mail, phone, or Internet directed to you by name, rather than
to other appropriate addressee such as corporate marketing department.
of openly available information. Or testing your willingness to be helpful by responding
to such a request, especially if request comes from a foreigner with the same national,
ethnic, or religious background as you. If you respond, you may then be targeted and
assessed by other means.
It May Mean
that lead in the direction of sensitive or classified topics.
willingness to talk about sensitive topics.
about your own job satisfaction or professional rewards.
exploitable weaknesses, such as bitterness or alienation.
his/her country's need for economic development or threat from foreign enemies.
sympathy for his/her country's problems and motivate you to be helpful.
technical explanations from a person who, because of his or her alleged credentials,
should already know the answer.
accustomed to responding to questions. Testing whether you respond to flattery about your
knowledge or have a need to feel important. Or maybe the alleged credentials are not real.
to you of what you would consider to be sensitive information.
you to verify facts or findings. Make you feel that it's okay to talk about such
information. Trying to put contact on a "confidential" basis.
treated royally during foreign visit.
sense of obligation to somehow reciprocate. Setting the stage for relaxed discussion and
is sought on subjects of common interest.
precedent for you providing information, no matter how innocuous it may be. Test whether
flattery and making you feel important makes you more open and talkative.
It May Mean
|Offer of a
consulting fee on a private basis, even for providing innocuous information.
your financial motivation, getting you into the habit of providing information for money.
introduction to another person, or to provide innocuous information such as unclassified
reports from your library or an organizational telephone book, with no mention of
inclination to be helpful, or establishing a pattern of your providing information.
get you inebriated while engaging in a technical discussion.
elicit privileged information, or testing whether you can be led into a compromising
situation while drunk.
expenses paid invitation to visit foreign country to attend conference, share technical
expertise, or for sabbatical.
invitation may be entirely innocent, but if the intelligence service arranged it you may
be in an advanced developmental stage. The goal may be to reward you for your assistance,
create a sense of obligation, or get you on their home turf where they can try to
compromise you by heavy drinking, black market currency exchange, or sexual provocation.
gain inside or privileged information by offering favors or money.
||This is past
the assessment and development stage, moving toward recruitment.
If you are targeted and
assessed by a foreign intelligence officer, this certainly does not mean that you have
done anything wrong. It does not in any way reflect on your reliability. You are a natural
target because of your access to protected information, and because your job or other
circumstances brings you into contact with foreign nationals. You have done nothing wrong
unless you start maintaining a regular contact without reporting it to your security
Related Topics: Reporting Foreign Intelligence Activity, The Insider Espionage Threat, The Insider Threat to Information Systems.
1. Many ideas in this topic came from a NRO foreign intelligence
threat awareness briefing.