A Guide to the Psychology of Espionage (David Charney, John Irvin)
Perhaps the most intriguing question is why a person who has been placed in a position of trust would then betray that trust and engage in espionage? Why harm his or her country or group? Why expose one’s family to scandal…or worse? This is the issue of the so-called “insider spy.”

Building a Better Mole Trap (Newsweek)
David L. Charney, an Alexandria, Virginia psychiatrist who’s been counselling CIA and other intelligence agency personnel for decades, thinks he has a better spy trap: He calls it “reconciliation”—not the namby-pamby, let’s-sing-Kumbaya-and-put-it-all-behind-us kind. His proposed program would function as a kind of come-to-Jesus facilitator for active American turncoats. He even has a name for the new unit: the National Office for Intelligence Reconciliation (NOIR).

Psychiatrist Treats Cloak and Dagger Set’s Woes (Congressional Quarterly)
What makes a good spook tick? For almost 20 years, Dr. David L. Charney, 66, has seen a parade of CIA personnel come to his Alexandria, Va., office, looking for help with their emotional problems. . .

Inside the Mind of a Spy (Newsweek)
For Pitts, who calls his own crime ‘loathsome,’ greed is a ‘simplistic’ and ‘insulting’ explanation. Nor does ideology account for his betrayal. Pitts always regarded himself as a ‘patriot,’ and still does. The real reasons he spied, he believes, are more complex, rooted in a rigorous childhood that gave him a streak of perfectionism and an enduring fear of failure. . . .

A Spy’s Secret World (Newsweek)
“A spy is one of the loneliest people in the world,” says Dr. David Charney, a psychiatrist who has spent 20 hours interviewing Earl Pitts about his career as a spy. “He is completely dependent on his handler.”

Christopher Boyce Congressional Testimony (1985) Example of Stage Five.
In April 1985, Boyce testified at hearings before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in Washington, DC, which concerned the US Government Personnel Security Program. During the proceedings, Boyce told the subcommittee what it is really like to commit espionage. (Video and Text)

Convicted U.S. spy Christopher Boyce: ‘Snowden is doomed’ (CNN, 2013)
Another example of Stage Five

Inside the Mind of the Spy: Agents Struggle in the Shadows (Daily Beast/Dr. Ursula M. Wilder )
Espionage is physically and mentally unforgiving, and anything but exotic. A psychologist to the clandestine world on the unseen toll—and true heroes—of intelligence work.

What makes a perfect spy tick? (Washington Post)
…Alexandria psychiatrist David L. Charney, 68, has spent decades treating the emotional problems of CIA personnel. The operations people are “excitement junkies,” he says. They quickly tire of one task and take on another, like plate-spinners who keep adding items until the whole enterprise crashes. “They seem to be highly functional ADDs,” people with attention deficit disorder, he says. “You might think a person with ADD can’t tie their shoelaces, but quite the opposite is true. They’re energetic, restless, people who have to physically keep moving. Lock them to a desk, and they can’t deal with it. They can’t stand to be bored.”

America’s Increased Vulnerability to Insider Espionage (International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence)
Explore U.S. vulnerability to the crime of insider espionage by examining known factors that, on the basis of past experience, can serve to make insider espionage more or less likely to occur. A recent study has identified technological, social, and economic trends that are serving to increase the opportunity and motivation for insider espionage.

See the NOIR Blog for additional articles


What Makes Traitors Tick? (Smithsonian Associates/International Spy Museum, Feb 5, 2014)
He was the psychiatrist for notorious spy Robert Hanssen and interviewed him extensively in prisonDavid L. Charney knows better than anyone how Hanssen felt immediately after his long-term espionage was discovered. Did he feel remorse, did he worry about his family, did he care? The answers may surprise you. Charney has worked with a number of high-profile spies, and has focused extensively on the psychology and motivation of traitors.

Christopher Boyce Complete Congressional Testimony (CI-TV)
Three part video of Christopher Boyce’s 1985 testimony to Congress about security at government contractors and effectiveness of security awareness programs. These videos are from 1998 episodes of CI-TV, an internal US government counterintelligence awareness TV series. Christopher Boyce had been an employee of a government contractor with a top secret security clearance and worked in a SCIF. He sold classified information to the Soviet KGB and later was arrested for espionage.

A Spy’s Confession (Canadian Government)
Jeffrey Delisle, a Canadian naval officer, tells about his emotional state that led to his spying for the Russians.

Witness To History: The Investigation of Robert Hanssen  (International Spy Museum)
Former FBI Agent Mike Rochford, author David Wise, and psychiatrist David Charney talked about the career of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent who spied for the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia for 22 years. The speakers focused on the contradictory nature of Hanssen, a self-described “patriot” that became a double agent. This event was hosted by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC.

Blowing Blofeld’s Mind: The Psychology of Villainy (International Spy Museum)
An intriguing exploration of the inner workings of a psychos psyche. Find out what makes a villain tick, both in real life and on the Silver Screen. This will include the infamous fictional adversaries featured in the Museums new exhibition, “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains,” many of whom were inspired by evildoers of the real world. Join psychological experts as they relate the criminal actions and behaviors of Bonds villains to their own experiences with real-life villains from recent history: Dr. David L. Charney — As a renowned psychiatrist, he regularly interviewed notorious spy Robert Hanssen while in prison. Dr. Stanton Samenow — The noted forensic scientist and author served as a mental health witness in the prosecution of D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. Why would someone betray their country like Robert Hanssen or GoldenEye’s Alec Trevelyan? How realistic is the Stockholm syndrome suffered by Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough? What makes people consider crime as a way of life? In this extraordinary conversation, you’ll learn exactly how maudlin sentimentality Blofeld’s love for his cat, for example, can coexist with chilling brutality.


The Expanding Spectrum of Espionage by Americans, 1947 – 2015
The report describes characteristics of 209 Americans who committed espionage-related offenses against the U.S. since 1947. Three cohorts are compared based on when the individual began espionage: 1947-1979, 1980-1989, and 1990-2015. Using data coded from open published sources, analyses are reported on personal attributes of persons across the three cohorts, the employment and levels of clearance, how they committed espionage, the consequences they suffered, and their motivations. The second part of the report explores each of the five types of espionage committed by the 209 persons under study. These include: classic espionage, leaks, acting as an agent of a foreign government, violations of export control laws, and economic espionage. The statutes governing each type are discussed and compared. Classification of national security information is discussed as one element in espionage. In Part 3, revisions to the espionage statutes are recommended in light of findings presented in the report.

Allegiance in a Time of Globalization

Changes in Espionage by Americans: 1947-2007

Espionage Against the United States by American Citizens 1947–2001

Espionage and Other Compromises to National Security 1975-2008

Ten Tales of Betrayal: The Threat to Corporate Infrastructures by Information Technology Insiders Analysis and Observations

Technological, Social, and Economic Trends That are Increasing U.S. Vulnerability to Insider Espionage

Reporting of Counterintelligence and Security Indicators by Supervisors and Coworkers

Cleared DoD Employees At Risk―Report 1: Policy Options for Removing Barriers to Seeking Help
The purpose of this report is to present basic background information and a series of recommendations concerning a problem of growing importance to the DoD: How does DoD encourage people to deal with their personal problems while at the same time maintaining personnel security requirements for people who have access to classified information? This report, designed for the policymaker, answers three questions: what is the problem; why does this problem need to be addressed now; and what can policymakers do about the problem?

Cleared DoD Employees at Risk-Report 2: A Study of Barriers to Seeking Help
This study examined the relationship between DoD security policy and Federally mandated Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for civilians and counseling/referral services for military personnel to identify any barriers for cleared DoD employees to using these programs. The study, based largely on interviews, but also on focus-group information and on a review of policy documents and other literature, found that policy is in place to help cleared individuals with personal problems get access to the counseling and treatment they need. However, research showed that cleared employees, civilian or military, often remain suspicious that their attendance at such programs will result in clearance revocation. Thus, some consult counseling programs outside the Federal system, eschewing the very programs that the government has set up to help them. Report 2 documents the research and presents findings and conclusions; it also contains a series of appendices that provides back­ground information for the interested reader on such topics as the EAP movement, military counseling/referral programs, and DoD personnel security policies and programs.

Improving Mental Health Reporting Practices in Between Investigations

Personnel Security Underreporting: Establishing Rates and Estimating the Problem

An Evaluation of the Utility of Expanding Psychological Screening to Prevent Insider Attacks

Enhancing Supervisor Reporting of Behaviors of Concern

The Resource Exfiltration Project: Findings from DoD Cases, 1985-2017

Military Leaders’ Use of Behavioral Health Resources: Barriers to Care and Possible Solutions

A Strategic Plan to Leverage the Social & Behavioral Sciences to Counter the Insider Threat

Mental Health and Help-Seeking in the U.S. Military: Survey and Focus Group Findings

Modeling Insider Threat From the Inside and Outside: Individual and Environmental Factors Examined Using Event History Analysis

Identifying Personality Disorders that are Security Risks: Field Test Results

More PERSEREC Reports