Secrets of the tradecraft, of MICE and gullible men

PETALING JAYA: Intelligence agencies recruit foreigners to spy for them to avoid connections between the recruiters’ country and the foreign asset, says a security analyst.

“If an intelligence agency uses its own citizens to spy, it would be too obvious,” says Rakyan Adibrata, a Jakarta-based homeland security analyst.

“It is better to recruit someone from another country to do an espionage operation in a different country.”

Rakyan was commenting on the case where a foreign country’s intelligence agency recruited a Malaysian to spy in Norway.

The security analyst also said that a non-citizen is recruited so that if the foreign asset is arrested, there would be no direct link between him and the country the handler is working for.

“The recruits might not even know which country was recruiting them,” he added.

Rakyan said intelligence agencies recruit foreign assets through the ‘MICE’ method – money, ideology, coercion and ego.

In espionage, he explained that the tradecraft word is MICE, the basic traits of people who can be recruited.

“One is money orientation. In a situation where the potential recruit needs money – for example, if a family member is sick – and a ‘good person’ pops up and offers him help. Or it can be the case that the potential recruit is greedy and wants to work for money,” he added.

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The security analyst said ideology is when someone is willing to work for an intelligence agency because he supports the country’s doctrines.

“Coercion is when you force someone to do something based on something he had done. For example, an intelligence agency will send a woman as a honeytrap to a potential recruit and then force him to work for it as it has something that can be used to ruin his reputation.

“When it comes to ego, it is usually when a female handler approaches an ‘alpha male’ and he proves to her that he can do the tasks,” Rakyan said.

He also said the recruits may not even know which country is recruiting them or that they have been recruited.

He said identifying a potential recruit is called “spotting”.

“You spot someone, and it might take months to check and verify his background, characteristics and mental stability before recruiting him,” he said.

The security analyst said that one way to spot a potential recruit is through the Internet.

“In the 21st century, people publicly put their data on the Internet. One place to go is LinkedIn, where people post facts about themselves, including their traits, characteristics, abilities and skills,” he said.

According to Rakyan, the handler (the one from the intelligence agency dealing with the recruit) will give need-to-know information to the foreign asset.

“This is because if the recruit is caught, there is a cut-off system where you can’t give much information about the intelligence agency that recruited you,” he said.

Rakyan explained that when a foreign asset is burnt (arrested), the detained recruit usually won’t even know which country hired him to do the job.

“One of the common tradecraft techniques in recruiting foreign assets is when the handler deliberately feeds a piece of false information as part of the deception to make sure if the assets get caught, they won’t be able to give the correct information during interrogation,” he said.

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