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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Precarious State of a Double Agent during the Cold War

In this article, Ben de Jong, research fellow at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, examines the relationship between double agents and their handlers.

Eleni Braat, Ben de Jong
25 July 2022
Read the full publication here

While scholarly literature has paid attention to human intelligence professionalism from the perspective of the agent handler, we know relatively little about the precarious positions in which (double) agents often find themselves and what their ensuing needs from their handlers consist of. This article suggests that (double) agents desire a reciprocal, affect-based relationship with their handlers, involving trust and gratitude, more than just a negotiated relationship based on (financial) agreements. This article explains the importance of such a relationship. The main source of this research consists of original, in-depth oral history interviews with former double agent “M.” He operated from the 1960s through the 1990s for the Dutch Security Service and the Central Intelligence Agency against the East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit. The article analyzes the varying degrees of appreciation that these services showed for his work, and it investigates their consequences on the psychological well-being of the double agent.

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