David Charney was a speaker at the Institute of World Politics’ Chancellor’s Council Meeting. He spoke on the topic of “Countering the Threat of Insider Spies”.
Here is a video of his talk:
Thank you thank you it’s good to be here. John Russo actually makes my life a little easier because he handled one of the one issue that I always have to deal with lay groups and even insiders is the aliveness of spying today. He laid out the threat across a huge dimension of life in the United States.
My story today is how to counter Insider spies. Because of the great advances in technology, artificial intelligence machine learning, I believe that we can apply all of these concepts to helping protect us from spying. I will be getting into some equations during the course of my talk and some symbolic logic and calculus that you’ll be able to—relax I’m not doing that at all.
I don’t believe in that. You’ll see why because the way I think of any big problem is that if you can precisely and accurately define the nature of the problem first, then your fifty percent of the way to solving it my experience is kind of unique.
How I got there I’m not really sure but I have it now and I would like to pass along to all of you some of what I learned. As John Russo said, spying is a big problem and I’m agreeing with that. The one thing that he didn’t say that I picked up from working with so many people in the IC, the Intelligence Community, is that even though the detection is regarded as like the sum of everything that everybody wants to be working on and it actually doesn’t work very well.
The dirty little secret of the Intelligence Community and counterintelligence: most spies are caught by somebody from the other side coming over with information about the spy.
Most of the spies–this is what I call a dirty little secret of the Intelligence Community and counterintelligence–are discovered because somebody from the other side comes over to our side with enough hints and information so that the Bureau can do it what is very good at to figure out exactly who it is.
So the way I like to describe it is that some KGB guy in Moscow gets tired of eating borscht every day for lunch. He wants a Big Mac and he’s going to come over and he’s going to help us find those bad guys on our side.
Now, how did I get to be an expert in this weird area? Well I was trained as a shrink I was in the Air Force for two years one month three days 12 hours and seven minutes. I did have the experience, the first year was at a SAC-base with nuclear weapons but the second year was here at Andrews Air Force Base and that way I got a number of cases from NSA and that kind of puts the interest in me about the whole world of intelligence.
I really wanted to do something in that world after I separated from the Air Force, started up my private practice in Alexandria Virginia and I thought okay the nearest big agency is CIA. I’ll go for that one. Well, I got an application that was about that thick they wanted to know everything about my mother, my toilet trainee, went on and on.
I just couldn’t do it. I was so busy with starting a practice I had to put it on the side. Well years later when I set up a larger practice and I was recruiting people I got a call from somebody when I was all filled out. She was a social worker applicant and I just had to give her an interview because she dropped a name on me of my best buddy of New York where I went to a residency. She had everything you would want–a social worker every nice quality and I said I got to make room for her at the table.
About eight and nine months later, I get a letter from CIA telling me you’re approved to get referrals from our Medical Department. What, what? I didn’t apply and plus don’t they investigate you? Mystery. Eventually I found out that Judy’s mother, that social worker I told you about, her mother worked for the CIA. Her mother stood up the first employee assistance program. She knew about me without my knowing it, put me into the pipeline and boom now I’m getting my dream experience of being a consultant for people from CIA. I got to know the CIA very well over about a decade. All the different divisions of it. I thought of them as tribes, each of these portions of the Agency. They’re very weird, very different from each other.
Okay, swell, ten years go by. I have my immersion into the field of intelligence. Now bear in mind I was trained not to ask any questions about classified material and every patient I saw was also trained don’t talk about anything classified. But you know you can absorb a whole lot about the culture the interactions all kinds of other things in open source when your mind is up into it. So that was cool.
I also hired a number of psychiatrists in the government because they were trained to be psychiatrists–do therapy but they didn’t get a chance in their government jobs to actually conduct that sort of work anymore. They were getting a little rusty and they wanted to preserve their skills so they would work for me as a moonlighter meaning that it would come in the evening and see maybe four or five cases and that way, they keep their hand there.
Well one of them was Larry who worked for the State Department, and he couldn’t help but notice that I was doing a lot of CIA stuff. After a couple of months, he said David, can we talk? Yeah Larry. Um, David I don’t work for the State Department. Oh? I work for CIA. Oh, well that was so interesting to have a buddy where now that we can sort of chat back and forth about that stuff.
Another couple of months goes by. Larry says, “David can I please talk with you?” I said oh my God now what? He says, you know I was playing squash with a friend of mine who’s a lawyer over the weekend. That friend of mine said Larry we have this very interesting case that came into our firm we’d like you to be a consultant on it. They told me that it was an FBI special agent who turned out to be a KGB spy.
Whoa! Larry said that is very interesting but hey I’ve got a conflict of interest in that I worked for the government. I think I know somebody who might be able to help you. That turned out to be me. That was my first spy case. Again, I’m talking about these weird accidents that got me into knowing about all this stuff.
Did I want to do that? I was conflicted. Why? When you work in association, let’s say with an Intel agency like CIA, you form attachments and loyalties and the idea of working with somebody who is an enemy of that Agency, what it stands for—whoa. That’s on the one hand.
On the other hand, how much is known about what really drives and motivates spies? Not a whole lot. I could tell from what I knew and if there was a chance to get to know somebody deeply that would be uniquely special and would make possibly a contribution to the National Security. I just felt, okay I just gotta do this.
Now the problem for government shrinks is that they have limited portfolios of what they can do. Do they come in and talk with these court spies for a little bit? Yeah they have a checklist and a little routine questions but they cannot, they don’t have the room to develop a relationship with the spy where you get the real knowledge about what makes them tick.
What I did learn along the way is that working for the defense, which is what I had to do, to learn about all of what I learned gives you the access and access is key because nobody can get access to a court spy unless they have special clearances or they work for the defense. Who knew that? I didn’t know that at the beginning. I learned that but anyhow that’s what gave me the access there.
I’m meeting with Earl Pitts, wow. I was thinking a lot about what to do with him because when I talked to his attorney I was getting feelings that there was a real potential for suicide here. He was really a broken guy and I’m thinking oh well yeah I deal with that in my office but how do I do that in a jail cell where I don’t have the authority? I can’t prescribe? Really what am I going to do?
I had the germ of an idea at that point. If I could persuade Earl to be open with me and let me know what was in his mind when he crossed that line that that would be a partial atonement for what he had done that was bad. If he was open to seeing it in those terms, and I presented it to Earl and he said and I quote “I’ll be your guinea pig”. So he was my first spy that I was able to learn about in a very intimate way.
If I could persuade Earl to be open with me and let me know what was in his mind when he crossed that line that that would be a partial atonement for what he had done that was bad. If he was open to seeing it in those terms, and I presented it to Earl and he said and I quote “I’ll be your guinea pig.
But I didn’t stop with one. I could tell you very interesting stories about how I got into my second third and fourth by. . . . I’m not mentioning the fourth one because I really can’t but my second one was a notorious spy, Robert Hanssen. There’s been lots of the movies and made for TV things about him. He really was bad in the sense that a about a dozen people who worked for us within Russia were executed on account of him. So we’re not talking about a good guy here. Brian Regan, I can mention him, but won’t go into detail there.
Now you know how I did this. I was applying what I knew from my private practice of psychiatry that the more time that you spend with somebody, you get you get to know them.
I was able to do visits to the jail cells which is very hard to do. It’s very unpleasant to go into a prison. There are metal doors clinging and clangy behind you as you get deeper and deeper into the place. It’s really suffocating and spiritually. But hey, I could get in there. Might meet with these guys for up to two hours each time and do it once a year. Quite remarkable for a whole year once a week for a whole year.
Now what’s my secret? Which you will not be able to tell from today’s talk. What’s my secret? In my office I know how to shut up. I can be with you and hear your story the way you want to tell it as long as you want to tell until you’re done. And if I ask a question, it’s kind of soft and open. I’m not an interrogator. I did that with these guys.
What did I learn? First, a spy is the loneliest person in the world. Think about it. Who is he seeing every day? I’ll tell you who, fellow prisoners–the ones that they’re allowed to be with. Mostly these are street criminals and so on. Not the kind of guys that they (the spy) are.
They will be dealing with the marshals that operate the prison system. They’re not the friendliest guys. They will meet with their attorneys. Now attorneys are different than shrinks. On average they like to talk and they come in with all this agenda of how they have to work that case and they’re pushing a lot of material and they don’t particularly have a whole lot of time to listen.
A spy is the loneliest person in the world.
Then along the way they have meetings for damage assessments where they sit there in a room with people from the FBI from counterintelligence, and from the Agency that they betrayed on one side of the table and they’re on the other. They can look at the eyes of the people across there and they know that given half a chance, those guys would like to leap over the table and strangle you to death. There’s no love there at all. That’s all they have exposure to of human contact when they’re in there.
And there I was, coming in sitting down asking them how they were doing and shutting up. That’s how I started to learn more and more about what I needed to know.
If you’ve heard about all the spy stuff from reading articles and the hearing lectures and all that you always hear about this acronym mice m-i-c-e . That’s an acronym that stands for Money. John Russo described all the bucks that are exchanged. That’s a no-brainer in a capitalist society. Ideology. That’s not so much current because that’s faded in the world but back in the 1930s and the 1940s that was a big deal of Communism and so forth. Maybe somewhat now with extreme Islamic thinkers.
Compromise. Well that was mentioned if they’ve got your mother in China is one example but if they do a Honey Trap and you had a little thing going with some babe and they have it on video okay. Or back in the day if you were gay and they caught you in and with proof that you had a gay relationship. Finally, Ego, that’s the big thing that they talk about. They talk about narcissism and this and that and the other. I call that name-calling because it sounds like you really understand somebody but not so much be that as it may.
I like to say that all these ideas out there: a quote from H.L. Mencken: “To every complex problem there is a simple answer. And it is wrong.” Because it ain’t so simple.
How do I frame that so you get it? I talk about the importance of asking why, like a four-year-old. You know having four-year-olds just go on and on with their questions. I give you a sample one to see how you feel about it. I’ll pose a question and I’ll give you an answer and I’m going to ask you if you’re happy with it there.
It is, why do people eat in gourmet restaurants? Answer because they’re hungry. Is that sufficiently satisfying to you? I hope not. So why do people spy? For the money. Because every time a spy is caught by the Bureau, when they had the microphone in front of them, what did they say? He was a greedy bastard. He did it for the money. They say that every time. And everybody’s mind shuts off, that’s it.
Now taking a sort of a larger view, we keep finding these guys, these spies, and a few women. I don’t understand that. I like to think of the bell-shaped curve of life. At one end there are the people who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Everything goes right for them. They are in a wealthy family, they have siblings that are very sweet and nice and Mom and Dad are constantly attending your games and all that and then you go to a private school and then you get into an Ivy League school and then you get picked up by a top law school or whatever and then it was a great firm. There are people at that end of the bell-shaped curve of life and I hate them.
Then there are the people of the other end and you know them too. You’ve seen them in school–at every decision point, whatever comes up and there’s a choice of A or B where A is right and B is wrong, they go B right? Everything goes south to them big time.
Well when you have a very large population in an intelligence agency, a big number, isn’t it likely given the spread of the Bell shape there’s going to be a few people at that bad end? Oh yeah oh yeah and they are the vulnerable ones. I call it Where’s Waldo? You know it’s a children’s thing, how are you going to find these people? All right but that’s the job of CI, counterintelligence to find them. But let’s not forget the law of diminishing returns: the more effort that you put in yeah you’re going to get some and then you put in double the effort where you get double the results no and you put even more effort it just starts to be less and less which is a problem.
What about screening for spies? What are the problems? False negatives being one that there are some really good ones and you won’t catching them they’ll just go right through the filter. But worse than that, in some ways are the false positives the people who are not spies but are fingered to be a spy.
I was honored a couple of years ago to give the memorial speech for a dear friend of mine, Brian Kelley. He taught at IWP. He was a fabulous patriotic wonderful man, and yet he was the one who was accused of being the spy that Robert Hanssen actually was. The impact on him and his wife and his family I cannot begin to describe now. You didn’t see it here, of those of you were at IWP, because on average Brian just held it inside.
I spent hours with him hearing about how it affected him because you know it’s like any of you. You put out your whole life and effort for the United States and your you get kicked in the teeth for it. It was awful but he took the high road, he never sued the government. Eventually obviously it turned out it was Robert Hanssen. Kelley was mostly brought back and he came back into the game but sadly, I believe he died young because I think the stress of it just burnt him out. So when I talk about false positives, I don’t look at this lightly. This is a real problem here and there.
You put out your whole life and effort for the United States and your you get kicked in the teeth for it.
Then the effect on any organization with all kinds of screening stuff that everybody has to go through. It just exhausts people and has a morale impact.
But hey, I am a doctor. I’m a psychiatrist. I went to med school and I discovered–I’m just so thrilled with myself–I discovered the genetic marker for a spy. Yes I did. It’s the Y chromosome. 95 percent of spies roughly speaking are men okay? Hello that that’s the clue. We’re talking about male pride and ego is what I figured out.
Then I put together what I call the Core Psychology of The Insider Spy—an intolerable sense of personal failure as privately defined by that person. Now why did I add the last part? Because you can look at somebody and say, all right, you’re not a team player but see I put you at a minus or B. I mean this went well and that went well, that didn’t go so well and that went so so awesome. Doesn’t matter what you think it–doesn’t matter at all. It matters what the person thinks inside themselves–how they are defining what they see as success. If they have failed and if a guy feels that he’s failed in his life in any big ways, it eats at him terribly, it just does.
The Core Psychology of The Insider Spy—an intolerable sense of personal failure as privately defined by that person.
You know everybody in the audience that are guys, you know that I know that and the women here, you know what about your guys. It’s kind of known, isn’t it? And it’s worldwide that way.
We’re talking about what happens if somebody, a guy inside feels like a loser or a failure inside of himself. There are many ways to handle it obviously. One way is drink one, other ways to have affairs. There are so many nasty bad ways to handle it. But there are some subset that take it inside to process it for a bit and say no, I’m not the loser I’m not the failure. It’s those bastards that screwed me over. They messed me over, otherwise I’d be fine.
So now you have a situation of wondering, okay, who’s them and usually them is in the context of somebody’s life where are, who are they working with, who are they living with–all that. The apocryphal thing that we all have heard about here in Washington anyhow is somebody going postal. You’ve heard that phrase and it actually happens that somebody working for the post office at night for nine or ten years on, stuff happens in his life. One day it comes in with an AK-47 and he blows away three or four people because those are the people who screwed him and maybe blows himself away too. That’s the context side and this is the psychology of it, projecting outward the inner feeling that you have yourself but pushing it outward on somebody else.
When we talk about the Intolerable sense of personal failure, when you look at the ages of people, a lot of the spies that get recruited are not getting recruited in their early years but rather after they’ve had a chance to give life a try and they run into some trouble and started to feel like they were failures.
Gender differences. Men I’ve been talking about. You know men need to be viewed as career successes, good providers by their family and here’s another secret thing–a man can’t respect risk losing the respect of his wife. Why is that? She knows everything about him. There’s no imagery there. If you cannot conceal from your wife that you’re not making it, you have nothing left so trying to protect against that is very key.
What about women? Now I’m over generalizing and I’m sure things keep changing in society but if you had to list the top things that we all are concerned about, and there’s a list of 200 things that we want in our life, the top ones are career success and success with personal relationships. I’m just shooting this out that on average, all you could say, is guys would put the career success first. It is really important, the top thing. The relationship number two but with women it’s reversed. This is only on average, so I point that out to say that if women have had emptiness in their life, they haven’t had a loving relationship developed that makes them feel good as a woman, that also creates that vulnerability and a feeling of failure.
Now I want to talk about profiles because when I talk about understanding those minds of spies to people, they get all glowy, particularly in the IC. Oh you have a new profile, you know a checklist that if you just check this and that and that and this other thing that nobody thought of yet, then you’re good. Oh no, I do not believe in profiles at all and why is that? Because it’s a little bit like a still photo. You can learn a lot from looking even at one still photo but what I say is, to understand the story, you have to look at them as though it’s a movie. A movie because unfolding over time that the movie can start off real swell and then some bad thing happens suddenly out of nowhere and then you recover from that but oops another bad thing comes in. Well, all of that is shaping people. It’s a dynamic story. It’s not a profile.
I do not believe in profiles at all and why is that? Because it’s a little bit like a still photo. You can learn a lot from looking even at one still photo but what I say is, to understand the story, you have to look at them as though it’s a movie, because unfolding over time.
What I learned to do from all the cases is I put together the idea of the 10 Life Stages of The Insider Spy. That shows how the level of tension and agony inside of a person will change through these different stages.
The first stage is sensitizing. It’s what everybody thinks about: adverse experiences when you’re a kid growing up, that you had a father who was an alcoholic and beat you or a mother that was depressed all the time and unavailable, etc, etc. What I like to say is if those were determinative, 85 percent of all people in law enforcement, military and intelligence would have to be let go because they’ve been so damaged when they were kids.
You know, forget about it. I don’t believe that and why is that? Because a lot of people in those fields that I’ve talked about including what we all are interested in IWP, you have those tough experiences, and you deal with it by saying I’m going to be one of the protectors. I’m going to make sure that other people aren’t screwed over like I was. I’m going to be a cop and protect people. I’m going to be a soldier and protect my country. So they take the lemon and they make the lemonade. That’s most people that I’ve run across.
The next stage is different where stuff starts to pile up on people stress spiral stage. That’s when life happens. The kind of thing where it’s unpredictable and yet it hammers you. It just hits you from, well I just did now, you weren’t prepared and blamed but imagine big bad things pile up on you like your spouse has cancer, your son is caught with drugs, your daughter gets pregnant in high school. Name the bad things that can happen to anybody. But what happens if too many of these things pile up on you at too short a period of time? They overlap a lot. I call that a psychological Perfect Storm because that can make you feel like you’re drowning. I don’t care who you are. I’ve talked to a lot of audiences. You’re tough guys from the Intelligence Community and so forth and I go into a longer list of some of the bad things that can fall on them at the same time and I start seeing that they sort of look at me with a smirk you know yeah right huh and when I mentioned the fourth or the fifth or the sixth thing, they’re not smirking anymore because they know people where that’s happened. Just a bunch of bad things.
Then I’m talking about the third stage crisis, climax and resolution. Well what am I talking about there? If you get too much stuff piled up on you then you thought, you’re not thinking straight anymore after a while. You want to rescue out of it. You want some brilliant thing that will somehow fix it all quickly please. That puts you into a weird state–it’s sort of a state of passion, of drowning of anxiety and panic. That’s different if somebody’s feeling all those things and they’re inside the Intelligence Community because they have access and if they have this projection mechanism I mentioned before. Uh oh.
In some cases, some people will have an epiphany: Okay I see a way out of this. I could cross the line and boy they would really see what a smart dude I am and plus they’re going to pay me all this and get some of that financial pressure off and plus my wife will see that I’m doing okay financially. She won’t think that I’m a loser and on and on like that. It’s kind of like it spins up and it’s I call it a bubble psychology because you’re inside the bubble, you’re inside a bubble and you’re not getting logic anymore working, it’s more like wishful thinking. That’s a little psychotic but then you decide you’re gonna cross the line.
Then there’s the post recruitment. Okay, I did this thing. They picked me up. It’s not so easy to be picked up by the way they’re not stupid on the other side. Oh and the handler that I have he’s thinks I’m smart. I knew I was smart but, you know, he really appreciates my genius. You get all this training and your trade crafts and what you have to do and all that–the kind of really interesting and fun stuff.
As you might guess, no crisis lasts forever and then you have the morning-after stage. Basically, the famous question, what was I thinking? You realize that it was crazy what you did, but you also are realizing that the solution that you figured out is not making a whole lot of sense given what you are coming to understand–that you are stuck and trapped. Oh you could go to your KGB handler and say you know what uh Dimitri, I don’t know what was in my mind. You know we’re good friends and all that but I just really don’t think . . . . Oh right, yeah. Do that with the mafia. Don is doing you a favor. Is that gonna work? No I don’t think so. You know that too, so you don’t even ask.
I call it the shark and a shark tank. They can swim fine with each other, any shark, but if one gets nicked and starts to bleed a bit, they will turn on that shark like prey. Okay you’ll do the right thing, you will go to your security department or a counterintelligence and say look I don’t know what was in my mind I did something stupid but I want to come clean. I want to so we can protect against this, and they’ll take you in with open arms, won’t they? Oh no they won’t, they will turn on you like prey. Have I met such people? Yes. Are they sad people? Oh yes. It’s a disaster. Is that known in the corridor, in the hallways where it’s not official but people talk? Yes.
So what am I saying to you once you’ve crossed the line, you can’t get out of it from the KGB Handler and you can’t really come clean because it destroys your life. You are stuck and you start to realize that you are stuck and trapped next slide so you’re stuck with your active spy career and you gotta live it somehow. So you just have rationalizations that, you know, what I’m doing has a good purpose and the greatest scheme of things and I really can’t–there’s no way out actually, so I just got to keep doing this.
Once you’ve crossed the line, you can’t get out of it from the KGB Handler and you can’t really come clean because it destroys your life. You are stuck.
But what do you have all the time in your mind? Uncertainty. Now what do I know as a shrink for my practice? What is the worst mental state for all of us? Oddly enough while bad news is horrible and we’ve all had our share, you get the bad news, you get swept, you’re exhausted, you’re terrified and then after a little bit of time you pull yourself together and say okay, okay now what do I do now? What I do? Uncertainty doesn’t give you that role and you just don’t know what to do. You’re twisting slowly in the wind and if you have constant uncertainty and now and then, I’m sure people even in this audience have had that experience. Let’s say with medical things supposing you had a brush with cancer and they have to do a test on you every month and the number will tell it’s back or it’s not there. You don’t know until you have the test and okay, it’s good this time and you feel great for a day or two and then you’re back to the uncertainty what will be next month? You know what I’m talking about. Well that’s what a spy has all the time, all the time and why? Because he never knows where the other shoe will drop. He doesn’t know when somebody will knock on the door and flash a badge at you and say you’re under arrest.
Let’s say with Robert Hansen. He was so clever that he concealed his identity even from the KGB, so we thought. and you know all this cleverness will somehow protect them but remember I said all it takes is somebody from the other side to come over with some clues, and you’re toast. Even though you did the best you could with your tradecraft. So you have paranoia and uncertainty all the time
What I have over here is just one meeting in Vienna that I don’t know where I found it [update: it’s the KGB’s directions to their spy John Walker for their meeting in Vienna, Austria] but it’s an example of the directions that you have to do to get to a certain location for a meet or drop site. Now look at that for one meeting. How long does it take to do that you have to do it after hours if you’re a State Department employee because you’re busy with your regular job daytime. That can take you three hours of doing the SDR and doing this and that and the other. It used to be fun–it kind of like reminded you of teenagers games that you would play in camp, but not when you’ve done it for the 18th time. Drudgery, exhaustion.
Let’s talk about dormancy stages for a minute. You know if these spies were like relentless evil players they would just want to screw our country all the time, every bit of the time no matter how long they were doing the spy game. But they don’t. Every one of the spies that I worked with have tried to stop doing what they were doing. Technically called dormancy. Sometimes for a long time even. I learned that with Earl Pitts. Why was that? Because they dream of being out of that stuck place. Where’s the pride in being stuck in your life? They hope, as Earl Pitts felt, if he started to give kind of useless information–he told me what he did he would read Newsweek articles and kind of reword them. Stuff that was out in the open press and handed him as his take. What he was hoping for is that the KGB handlers would say ah this guy is not producing, let’s put them on the back burner and leave him alone. He’s no good anymore. That was the secret wish of somebody who’s going dormant. Then they’re smart enough, the KGB does kind of tug on the leash when it’s useful for them and whoops you back in again.
Insider spies dream of being out of that stuck place.
Pre-arrest days. I found that so interesting because what I would hear from people later after a spy was caught that they would have them under surveillance like a camera in the ceiling or something and they would observe the spy being kind of stupid and having sloppy trade craft and all that. You know, what an idiot he is. Really, is that what’s going on? Not really. Why? They’re not so stupid. They know what’s happening, they know we’re on to him and they kind of really wish to get it over with so they quit being real tight with that trade craft.
But when you start to think of them as stupid, wait a minute how come they got away with it right under your noses for 10 years? That’s what I would say. It’s a little bit more complicated.
And then they get arrested and everything you thought about the spy comes out of their mouth. Robert Hanssen was quoted saying sort of snottily, what took you so long? You know it’s like catching a teenager finally who ran up the odometer when he wasn’t supposed to drive last night. You know that kind of snottiness and surly. So it kind of gives the impression of what their psychology is, narcissistic bastards and so on.
Uh-uh, that’s not what it is. It’s his third big failure in life. The first failure was things that didn’t go so well and they couldn’t handle his life and that made him cross the line. Then he discovers that he’s stuck and trapped, so he thought he would get freedom but he gets the opposite. The third one is now everybody knows it, he couldn’t even be a good spy, he got caught. So he acts like a snotty teenager
But then I learned from my guys is that they’ve changed when they’re in jail after a while and they get sadder and wiser and they actually want to help the country, believe it or not. They still feel like they are true loyal Americans. I’ve heard all kinds of observations and advice from all three of them about how things could be done better in terms of catching spies, running intelligence, this and that, but nobody wants to listen to them anymore, however. Peculiar.
Final stage. I mentioned the dilemmas of the insider spy: failure upon failure, being stuck, terrible, and one last thing: convergence of psychology which is our opportunity. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what avenue it took for somebody to cross the line, it could be all kinds of different reasons, but once somebody has crossed the line they all share the same thoughts and feelings.
Again I will make a reference to cancer diagnosis. Why? It doesn’t matter what kind of a life you had before you got the diagnosis? But once you fall into that zone it could be any other disease or other situations you share very intensively the same thoughts and feelings that people have this condition. Suddenly you’re bonded by that sort of similarity. What’s the story with the spy? You being caught, of course. The grinding uncertainty, yeah waiting for the other shoe to drop no matter how good your trade craft is–not enough protection. Hopeless about the direction of their life, wishing to be out of it somehow magically. Those are my 10 stages.
Catching spies–why is it not working very well? Because I think not enough effort was put into the psychology of what goes into people crossing the line.
Catching spies–why is it not working very well? Because I think not enough effort was put into the psychology of what goes into people crossing the line. If you’re always looking for people being greedy, that’s all you’re looking for. That’s easy enough to track more or less but you’re going to miss out on other things. Washington is wired with Beltway Bandits trying to solve your problem if you’re an intelligent agency. What do they like to do? They like the big huge technology-based solutions that involve computers and machine learning. Remember I said that at the beginning I wasn’t going to give you equations but they will do that when they’re making their presentations to government leaders with the kind of promise and hope that their solution this time is going to solve this for you. That’s Washington–they monetize the problem with their technology and then the thinking stops.
Why is that a bad way to go about it? Because if you’re not getting the insider spy out of their spying, they go deeper and deeper into the arms of the hostile intelligence agencies and we have worse and worse losses year by year.
Time for something new. This is what I came up with. Now for people that are in the intelligence world here this is where I give you a trigger warning–you’re going to hate me because what I’m going to say is going to run so counter to what you have lived with your whole career that’ll bother you. I’m saying what if there was a way, a way out, a way that a spy could voluntarily turn himself in? A government sanctioned safe off-ramp exit. Think about it.
I have to come up with a new word for that because you know what there’s no such a thing that a spy voluntarily turns himself in. Remember I told you how hard it was? I use the word reconciliation as used for all the reasons but I repurposed it for this situation. I invented the idea of NOIR. It’s an acronym: National Office for Intelligence Reconciliation. It would be a little unit where somebody could turn himself in reasonably safely and–stop smiling now, here’s where you’re gonna choke on it–as part of the package there’s got to be no jail. Why did I come up with that? Because if I were a spy, I was trying to imagine it, there would be a lot of hits that I’d be willing to absorb to get out of that awful life but if they said I would go to jail anyhow I’d say I’ll take my chances. So all the other punishments that you can think of are left on the table: you lose your job, you lose your clearances, you might have to pay fines, you got to have financial scrutiny for the rest of your life so hidden assets are not accessible. You might have to go into something like the Witness Protection Program to get a new identity because the KGB are nasty players as you were told about, and so forth.
The sooner we stop the spy giving away our precious secrets, the more safe we are.
Now what’s the spirit of this idea? Because it’s a trade-off. Is this out of sympathy and empathy because I’m a shrink and you know I want to be nice to everybody? No no, not sweet sentiment. It’s only for national security because the sooner we stop the spy giving away our precious secrets, the more safe we are. People will ask me questions sometimes, they’ll prod me and I just want to remind you of scale, the scale of the problem. One spy giving away certain information could result in the destruction of one United States aircraft carrier. There are a hundred advanced planes on those carriers, each one of which is worth at least 10 million dollars. The aircraft carrier itself is a trillion dollars. Five thousand lives. What’s the trade-off? Are you going to be satisfied that you caught the spy finally after 10 or 12 years of spying because you were lucky because somebody in Moscow wanted a Big Mac burger? And now we’re going to give the spy a life sentence or at least 20 years? Yep we did our job. Oh, the aircraft carrier went down. Okay, well you know things happen. No, the scale of it has got to make you think about stretching to consider other ideas.
I thought about a safe off-ramp exit for existing spies that crossed the line. That was my first big idea. I won’t go into all the other reasons why I moved to my next idea but I’m going to tell it to you just to know that if there’s such a thing as a safe off ramp exit for somebody who’s already crossed the line, why not have a safe offering exit before they cross the line? Which is another way of saying: Prevention. How much of that is being done in the IC smartly? Not much, it just doesn’t happen. If you look at the bottom of the slide there when I wrote part three, I call it the missing link and then I say three things: counterintelligence is the stepchild of the Intelligence Community. John Russo mentioned that everybody correctly is putting a huge amount of energy into positive intelligence collection. How much respect and attention goes to CI counterintelligence? Lip service is given. Actually doing stuff where it really makes a difference? Eh. So it’s the stepchild and everybody knows that.
Then I say prevention is the stepchild of counterintelligence because all they do is wanna find spies but they don’t want to stop it from happening in the first place. I say detection gets all the love. That has to change. So if you want to read more about it’s easy enough. I put my website there. It’s simple: NOIR4USA.org and you’ll have all my material there for you to look at at your leisure. I appreciate your attention.