Intelligence: Sex Succeeds In Securing Secrets

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March 25, 2013: A 59 year American defense contractor, who is also a U.S. Army reserve officer with a top secret clearance, was arrested on March 15th and charged with espionage. The accused (Benjamin Bishop) had been dating a 27 year old Chinese woman he had met at a defense conference and had begun supplying the woman with classified information. The Chinese girlfriend was in the U.S. on a student visa but had been noticed hanging around conferences like the one Bishop was at when he was ensnared in the “honey trap.”

The Chinese frequently use sex to obtain secrets from foreign nations. Usually the "honey trap" is used to blackmail the victim into spying to avoid a sex scandal. For example, four years ago some Taiwanese government officials were lured to a Chinese red light district and covertly captured on video doing something they could be blackmailed (into spying for China) for.

The Chinese, and the Russians, have been doing this sort of thing for many years. It sometimes backfires. This happened seven years ago, when a blackmail demand was made to the head of the encrypted communications section of the Japan's Shanghai consulate. The man was being pressured by Chinese agents to hand over sensitive intelligence or be exposed for sexual activities the Chinese lured him into (a "honey trap"). The Japanese diplomat committed suicide instead, while also alerting his superiors. Having the victim kill himself, instead of cooperating, is always a risk when running a honey trap.

Blackmail is the preferred use of the honey pot technique, although if the female agent can establish a long-term relationship it’s possible to obtain more information and still be able to fall back on the blackmail angle. Sometimes male agents seduce women with access to secret data and use long-term relationships to get a steady supply of material. The Russians used this frequently during the Cold War, especially in Western Europe.

In the Benjamin Bishop case the Chinese girlfriend has not been arrested yet and is apparently still being investigated. American intelligence officials have no comment on this aspect of the case.

 


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