Recent testimony by a Senior Fellow from The Institute of Statecraft in front of the British House of Commons Defence Committee would have us believe that Russia has more “sleeper” agents in the West now than it did during the Cold War. I’m not going to dispute that. With the fall of the Soviet Union came a much easier path for Russian spies to enter the West and move freely among us and mitigated the need for the elaborate plans we are accustomed to seeing in Bond films.
Illegals, as they are often referred to, like Anna Chapman or those portrayed in the television show “The Americans” could settle in the West almost unnoticed. What I find interesting is that the hyper sensitive environment that currently exists in the U.S. might end up playing a role in how well a certain vein of these illegals can accomplish their mission.
I mentioned Bond movies before. A staple of any Bond movie is what has come to be known as the Bond girl, an attractive and well “equipped” and trained woman sent to turn our hero. In the real world of espionage, these women are known as honey pots or honey traps and they are used throughout the world, often to great effect. I have on occasion seen a few would-be honey pots that, at the risk of sounding catty, shouldn’t make it onto any man’s radar. And yet they do and they have.
I recall stories of the Chinese intelligence services going so far as to up their game from offering what our overseas personnel had termed 3’s and 4’s (a scale of 1-10) and replacing them with 7’s and 8’s. They have also offered up men and even men dressed as women if they suspected that a target’s personal interests varied from the traditional methodology. Regardless, the 2’s and 3’s usually did the trick. And why is that? There is only one line of work older than espionage in the world, and recruiting an asset in the world of espionage is all about getting that second date or repeat customer.
Unfortunately, a little attention goes a long way and most targets are in for the second “date” with very little effort. We all have that buddy that wears beer goggles; the super thick kind with which he clearly cannot see what is in front of him. But where a stage 5 clinger just wants to be your friend and a prostitute expects to be paid in currency, a honey trap expects to be paid with information. The distinction is one that can get you a tour in a prison cell if you don’t learn the difference.
All of this leads me to my concern for this age-old tool in the tradecraft tool belt. Can a honey trap still throw herself full tilt at a high value target if said target is worried that a sexual harassment suit lurks around every corner? Will the high number of Russian illegals and other nation-state sleeper agents suspected of living in the West have to modify their honey trap tactics, techniques and procedures in order to account for potential charges of offense or worse? Is being tasked as a honey trap now a job fraught with legal traps of a new kind? Will even average Joes, who used to fool themselves into thinking every conference crawler and uniform chaser genuinely found them irresistible, no longer make such an easy mark? I suspect the many in power positions will think twice, if only for a little while, with human nature eventually prevailing and placing every man in the crosshairs of the honey pot again.
Be careful out there.
Featured image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.