Background InvestigationsObtaining Security Clearance

A New Style of Turncoat

An April 27, 2008 Los Angeles Times article reported on a new study, released in March, by the Pentagon’s little-known Defense Personnel Security Research Center, which examined the changing nature of espionage from 1947 to 2007.

. . . the biggest change in espionage is in the motivation to commit the act in the first place. The multinational, globalized spy of 2008 is less tempted by money than by ideology and “divided loyalty, loyalty to both the U.S. and another countryā€¯ with 57% spying solely as a result of divided loyalties.

The study also reported that:

While before 1990, roughly 80% of American spies were native-born citizens, since 1990 the percentage of native-born offenders has fallen to 65%, while the corresponding percentage of naturalized citizens rose to 35%. Also since 1990, the percentage of American spies with foreign attachments (relatives or close friends overseas) increased to 58% and those with foreign business or professional connections jumped to 50%. From less than 10% before 1990 who had cultural ties to foreign countries, that percentage with foreign cultural ties increased to 50%.

Your thoughts?

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    I wonder what the statistic is for blackmail, as that seems to be a big part of the clearance process. Also the statistic for approaching/being approached.

    The trends are indeed troubling.

    As a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed the books mentioned at the end of the article (Body of Secrets, Pretext for War) and would definitely recommend them to other site-goers.

  2. Avatar

    I just read the whole study. It is important to note that the trends show turncoats having loyalties primarily in the Asia Pacific region, Central and South America, some of the unfriendly countries in the Middle East (and interestingly, Israel for some reason). I think the clearance process should really focus on these regions. If someone’s relatives are from Australia, Greenland, Europe it wouldn’t seem accurate to generalize and put them all into the same foreign influence risk basket along with the person who has political affections to China. After reading the report it also looks like a lot of it has to do with sympathies to political causes and not just family overseas.

  3. Avatar

    Scorp –

    Israel is a huge problem. They have a very large espionage operation here, even though they are a close ally. Here is a link to the most recent case related to Israel (man arrested on April 22nd).

    Just because the country is friendly doesn’t mean they aren’t spying on us. That’s why even British spouses must be investigated.

  4. Avatar

    The study uses information about spies that are caught and are prosecuted. Not all cases become public. At least I hope not. Neutralization and exploitation should be preferrable to criminal prosecution. The risk has to be based on the threat and the threat is based on intelligence regarding the capabilities and activities of foreign intelligence services. As a practical matter, adjudicators evaluate foreign countries in terms of threat/risk.