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SpyCatchers
Special Report

SpyCatchers

By Jim Stallard

Secrets are part of human nature -- and spying a part of civilization. As long as nations have held competing interests, they have sought information about one another's plans and capabilities. Trying to learn the secrets of a country, whether enemy or ally, follows logically from the belief that knowledge is power, and obtaining a vital piece of intelligence can make a critical difference in world affairs.

Although espionage, or spying, for political purposes is thought to have first emerged during the French Revolution, it wasn't until the end the 19th century that states created permanent intelligence bureaus. Systematic spying helped the Japanese defeat Russia in 1904-05. It began to take on greater importance during World War I, as Germany targeted France and the U.S., gleaning information and sabotaging war efforts. The German spies in France often disguised themselves as trade representatives, teachers, and agricultural and domestic workers. The most famous of the accused agents was Mata Hari, a dancer in Paris whom the French eventually executed.

Espionage played a critical role in World War II, with some intelligence coups, particularly by Britain against Germany, as crucial as victories in major battles. In the U.S., the catastrophic intelligence failure leading to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor stimulated the postwar growth of a large intelligence system. During the war, the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) was created to gather international intelligence and hopefully prevent a similar future disaster. In 1947, the OSS was replaced by the Central Intelligence Agency, which focused on international espionage.

The portrayal of spying in popular culture relates mainly to the postwar years, especially the Cold War. To many in the intelligence community, the Cold War represented a golden age of spying because it was clear who was friend or foe, and both sides followed certain ground rules. The CIA spies matched wits with those from their Soviet counterpart, the KGB, in countries around the world. On U.S. soil, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) focused primarily on crime but nonetheless also handled counterintelligence and the detection and exposure of spies.

Today, the age of clear threats has given way to a muddled world. Intelligence agencies around the world have needed to reinvent themselves to face more ambiguous enemies. The FBI has made protecting the U.S. from terrorist attack its No. 1 priority, with more than 10,000 ongoing terror-related investigations.

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies were lambasted for a number of oversights, most seriously for failing to share critical information with one another. As a result, intelligence about terror threats is now coordinated between the FBI's 56 field offices, the CIA, and 34 other government agencies at the FBI's Strategic Information Operations Center (SIOC). The FBI has also increased the number of agents working on counter-terrorism from 500 to 7,000.


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Spying in the Cold War

Name: Oleg Gordievsky
Spied for: Britain
Details

Name: Edward Lansdale
Spied for: U.S.
Details

Name: Oleg Penkovsky
Spied for: Britain
Details

Name: Dmitri Polyakov
Spied for: U.S.
Details

Name: Francis Gary Powers
Spied for: U.S.
Details

Name: The Cambridge Spy Ring
Spied for: U.S.S.R.
Details

Name: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
Spied for: U.S.S.R.
Details

Name: George Blake
Spied for: U.S.S.R.
Details

Name: Aldrich Ames
Spied for: U.S.S.R.
Details

Name: Larry Wu-tai Chin
Spied for: China
Details
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