2009 Spy Conference Wrap-up
Sexspionage Topic of 6th Raleigh Spy Conference
By Rick Smith
Separating sex from espionage is simply not possible. As a lure of betrayal, seduction has been part of history since man made his entrance on the world stage.
“Espionage will never lose the human element,” said British author and espionage expert Nigel West in an interview following the sixth Raleigh Spy Conference March 25-27, 2009 titled Sexspionage: Famous Women Spies and the Ancient Art of Seduction. “The pendulum swings back and forth between technology and cryptology, but the reality is there is always the need for human intelligence – and “sexspionage.”
“You will always need some sort of penetration so you know what the enemy is thinking. You will never be able to get into the mind of a despot with satellite images and communication intercepts, as we found to our chagrin in Iraq.”
The 2009 spy conference – founded by Raleigh Metro Magazine editor and publisher Bernie Reeves in 2003 - traced the use of sex as a method of espionage by both men and women from ancient times to the present. In addition to West, speakers included former intelligence investigators and operators Brian Kelley of CIA; Ron Olive of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and I.C. Smith of the FBI - along with British historian and author Terry Crowdy.
“There has been an espionage case every year since 1909 - when the British security services were founded - where sex has played a pivotal role,” West, a former member of the British Parliament and author of the newly released Historic Dictionary of Sexspionage, told attendees in his keynote address.
Talking about “swallows” (female spies) and “ravens” (male spies), West described why women often make good agents. He noted that since the U.K. founded its spy agencies, “the majority of workers have been women.”
However, in the world of sexspionage, while women are most often depicted as the “honey pot” lures, West pointed out men could be the seducers. He discussed the extended sexual escapades and adventures of British traitor John Symonds, a Romeo spy trained in the sexual arts by KGB-provided prostitutes. Following his training in the art of sex, Symonds traveled the world tasked to “seduce the wives and daughters of CIA agents.” During “pillow talk,” Symonds would glean secrets for use by his Soviet masters. West also talked wryly about the KGB spy nicknamed “Tricycle,” named for his preference to have sex with two partners.
The world of James Bond make-believe aside, West pointed out that women have “particular skills” that make them well suited to be spies. And he wasn’t simply talking about sex appeal.
“They are very good at keeping secrets,” West said. “They gossip, but it’s superficial nonsense covering their observational skills. And they have no need to impress one another like men, who feel the urge to brag. Women do not feel the obligation to compete.
“Women also think chronologically,” he added. “That makes them useful in untangling complicated scenarios and generating leads that often crack cases. They remember when and where they were and when things occurred.”
West also pointed out that getting the job done is the priority for female agents. “They avoid self-promotion promotion and will play a backseat role in order to accomplish their goals.”
Brian Kelley, former chief of CIA’s Soviet desk counterintelligence operations, who was wrongly implicated by the FBI in the investigation that led to the arrest of FBI traitor Robert Hansen, captivated the crowd with a collection of video interviews about notorious spy cases involving wives, girl friends and prostitutes - and the case of FBI traitor Richard Miller and the female former Soviet citizen who seduced him.
Among his most interesting materials were videos and information about Felix Bloch, the fired U.S. State Department Deputy Chief of Mission in Vienna, Austria who now lives in Chapel Hill. While suspected of being a spy for the Soviets, Bloch has never been formally charged.
Kelley played a video of an interview with the prostitute from Austria whom Bloch paid regularly once or twice a week “to be humiliated and beaten.” She called Bloch “hund” – dog.
Bloch has “never been charged for a lot of reasons,” Kelley added, but he noted that the case remains “one of the great unsolved cases of the Cold War.”
The Pollard Case
Ron Olive, the agent who led the investigation that captured Jonathan Pollard and his wife for spying for Israel, described how Pollard, who is imprisoned in Butner and fighting for a presidential pardon, was shown in surveillance videos stuffing a briefcase full with classified U.S. Navy documents. A co-worker of Pollard – as yet unidentified -turned him in.
“This is the only case ever that I am aware of where the spy was caught through the vigilance of a co-worker,” West told Metro after Olive’s presentation. “In other cases, the agencies involved will say a co-worker was involved, but that’s a lie. It’s usually a defector.”
Former FBI Special Agent IC Smith reminded the audience that the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union did not end espionage. He discussed at length Katrina Leung, a Chinese national who seduced not one, but two FBI agents assigned to handle her as a double agent. Known as “Parlor Maid,” Leung helped the Communist Chinese government obtain a wide variety of sensitive information. According to Smith, Leung was doubled by the FBI, then tripled by the Chinese and then quadrupled by the US - the only known case of an spy turned four times.
Sexspionage Through The Ages
British historian Terry Crowdy opened the conference with a historical review of espionage and the role of sex built around his book The Enemy Within. Crowdy noted numerous biblical episodes of spies, including the harlot who helped bring down the walls of Jericho.
Women also could be used as assassins through sex, as he recounted with the story from ancient India of “poisoned damsels,” or “vishakanyas” – young girls who were administered doses of venom and poisonous herbs. By the time they were ready to seduce a target, their bodies “were deadly poisonous to those who had contact with them – especially intimate contact.”
Regardless of side of cause, many female agents shared at least one admirable quality, according to Gene Poteat, president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
“One aspect I liked about all of these stories is the bravery,” he said. “The bravery they had was beyond belief.”