Sunday, May 17, 2020

Honey Traps: Sex, lies, and spycraft.

We happened to catch up with the MI5 warning in 2010, more after the jump.

From Lapham's Quarterly:
According to an MI5 memo distributed in 2008 to hundreds of British organizations deemed potential targets for Chinese spies, intelligence services have “been known to exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships…to pressurize individuals to cooperate with them.”
  • A bust of Julius Caesar.As a young man, Julius Caesar is named ambassador to the court of Nicomedes IV of Bithynia, where he stays much longer than necessary. Though he denies rumors of a sexual relationship with the king, Caesar is dubbed “Queen of Bithynia” by his peers. Nicomedes later bequeaths his entire kingdom to Rome in his will.
  • A painting of Delilah.When she discovers that the strength of Samson, an Israelite judge, will disappear if his long hair is cut off, Delilah reports his secret to the Philistines, who hire her to lop it off. Thus weakened, Samson is turned over to the Philistines, who gouge out his eyes and force him to grind grain.
  • An image of Virginia Oldoini.Sent to Paris by her cousin Camillo Cavour to further the cause of Italian unification by any means possible, Virginia Oldoini becomes mistress to Napoleon III in 1856. Although the relationship is short-lived, the emperor commits French troops to help Vittorio Emanuele II establish the Kingdom of Italy.
  • A black and white photograph of Christine Keeler.British minister for war John Profumo resigns from Harold Macmillan’s government in 1963 after confessing to an affair with teenage model Chris­tine Keeler, who is discovered to have been simultaneously involved with a Soviet spy working as a naval attaché.
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It was never shown that Ms Keeler set a trap, just that Profumo was at risk of same.
And thanks to Christine's pal Mandy Rice-Davies we have been able to repeat one of the most famous (and honest) comments in British politics a few dozen times.

And from March 2010:

"MI5 is worried about sex...." (GS)
From Foreign Policy: 
The History of the Honey Trap
Five lessons for would-be James Bonds and Bond girls -- and the men and women who would resist them.
MI5 is worried about sex. In a 14-page document distributed last year to hundreds of British banks, businesses, and financial institutions, titled "The Threat from Chinese Espionage," the famed British security service described a wide-ranging Chinese effort to blackmail Western businesspeople over sexual relationships. The document, as the London Times reported in January, explicitly warns that Chinese intelligence services are trying to cultivate "long-term relationships" and have been known to "exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships ... to pressurise individuals to co-operate with them."
This latest report on Chinese corporate espionage tactics is only the most recent installment in a long and sordid history of spies and sex. For millennia, spymasters of all sorts have trained their spies to use the amorous arts to obtain secret information.

The trade name for this type of spying is the "honey trap." And it turns out that both men and women are equally adept at setting one -- and equally vulnerable to tumbling in. Spies use sex, intelligence, and the thrill of a secret life as bait. Cleverness, training, character, and patriotism are often no defense against a well-set honey trap. And as in normal life, no planning can take into account that a romance begun in deceit might actually turn into a genuine, passionate affair. In fact, when an East German honey trap was exposed in 1997, one of the women involved refused to believe she had been deceived, even when presented with the evidence. "No, that's not true," she insisted. "He really loved me."

Those who aim to perfect the art of the honey trap in the future, as well as those who seek to insulate themselves, would do well to learn from honey trap history. Of course, there are far too many stories -- too many dramas, too many rumpled bedsheets, rattled spouses, purloined letters, and ruined lives -- to do that history justice here. Yet one could begin with five famous stories and the lessons they offer for honey-trappers, and honey-trappees, everywhere.

1. Don't Follow That Girl
In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli technician who had worked in Israel's Dimona nuclear facility, went to the British newspapers with his claim that Israel had developed atomic bombs. His statement was starkly at odds with Israel's official policy of nuclear ambiguity -- and he had photos to prove it.
The period of negotiation among the newspapers was tense, and at one point the London Sunday Times was keeping Vanunu hidden in a secret location in suburban London while it attempted to verify his story. But Vanunu got restless. He announced to his minders at the paper that he had met a young woman while visiting tourist attractions in London and that they were planning a romantic weekend in Rome.

The newspaper felt it had no right to prevent Vanunu from leaving. It was a huge mistake:....
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