Espionage means an activity when a government, a company, or an individual comes across or trying to come across information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of whoever possesses it. Such an activity by definition occurs in secret, because it is generally considered unwelcome and, in many cases, is illegal and punishable. Espionage is spying. A similar activity in the time of war is treason.
It is not known exactly when the first espionage took place, but we know that since there have been secrets, there have been spies.
The ancient Egyptians had a well-developed system of gathering information in the enemy territory. The Hebrews used spies, as is told in the story of Rahab. In feudal Japan often used Ninja to collect information.
The cold war led to an intense espionage between the United States, Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China and their allies. Espionage like activities are used against illegal drug trafficking and persons/groups suspected of terrorism, but can also be used to collect information about political or religious minorities. The latter has in recent years become a hot topic in the United States, where federal and State police had particularly far-reaching rights monitoring or arrest people who are not suspected of planning a crime in recent years.
The Dutch dancer Mata Hari was sentenced to death for espionage in 1917, which was depicted in film.
There are a lot of fiction with more or less realistic spies or undercover agents in the central roles, such as Ian Fleming’s James Bond” and Alfred Hitchcock, and comedies such as the series of the “Austin Powers” and “Spy Hard”.
A mole or an infiltrator is a spy recruited only by his principal, and then introduced into the target organization to provide information to the client. A defector is a member of the target organization and gain access to secrets, which he then disclosed to the client. An information leak provides information to the public.
During the war, soldiers without proper uniform, i.e., wearing civil clothes or enemy uniform, may be regarded as spies and do not enjoy the same protection of the Hague/Geneva Convention as regular uniformed POWs do, but are regarded as “illegal combatant”, and in past conflicts have been executed without further action.
A double agent, double spy, works out as a spy for both parties of a conflict, and thus betrays at least one party. One can deliberately give misleading information and take advantage of its status of trust for obtaining secret information.
Counterintelligence is the security operation aimed at preventing espionage and revealing the spies, managed by the security police, or special intelligence agencies such as CIA in the United States. It can be done with the infiltrators. A classic method is to let a suspected spy get special fake “secret information” and see if these spreads further.
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