Double agent  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Double agent is a counterintelligence term for someone who pretends to spy on a target organization on behalf of a controlling organization, but in fact is loyal to the target organization. Double agents may be agents of the target organization who infiltrate the controlling organization, or may be previously loyal agents of the controlling organization who have been captured and turned by the target; the threat of execution is the most common method of turning a captured agent into a double agent. Compare to defector.

Double agents are often used to transmit disinformation or to identify other agents as part of counter-espionage operations. They are often very trusted by the controlling organization, since the target organization will give them true, but useless, information to pass along.

The term "double agent" is often used in popular media erroneously to refer to someone acting simply as a spy or secret agent. A spy simply relays information from a target to his or her controlling organization.

A triple agent pretends to be a double agent for the target organization, but in fact is working for the controlling organization all along. Usually, they keep the trust of the target organization by feeding information to them that apparently is very important but is in fact misleading or useless.


Double agents

Some people listed here are not true double agents (as defined above), but rather (single) agents working as a mole within an intelligence organization.

Pre-twentieth century

World War I

  • Mata Hari (a nickname for her real name, Margaretha Geertruida "Grietje" Zelle)

World War II

Cold War


  • Denis Donaldson, infiltrated the Sinn Fein on behalf the British government. He was found dead in his cottage after a Northern Ireland newspaper revealed this.
  • Kevin Fulton (real name Peter Keeley), infiltrated the IRA for British Intelligence. He was allegedly betrayed by his employers and nearly sacrificed to cement Stakeknife's cover in the IRA (see below).
  • Freddie Scappaticci ("Stakeknife"), infiltrated the IRA for British Intelligence. Allegedly, the British government ordered him to expose Fulton to increase his own standing in the IRA.


  • April Fool, allegedly an American officer who provided false information to Saddam Hussein.
  • Iyman Faris, worked for the FBI, but was loyal to Al-Qaeda.
  • Mikel Lejarza ("El Lobo"), Spanish agent working for the Basque separatist ETA.
  • Katrina Leung, worked for both China and the FBI.
  • Ashraf Marwan, an Egyptian billionaire and an alleged spy for Israel, or possibly an Egyptian double agent. Managed to become celebrated as a hero in each country for his alleged work against the other.

Events in which double agents played an important role

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Double agent" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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