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‘OpsLens Terms to Know’: SPY

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With the demand for spy thrillers out of Hollywood, as well as in print novels, on a consistent rise, we thought it would be helpful to describe what the term ‘spy’ actually means.  In almost all instances, the entertainment world, as well as all major news organizations, misuse the term, referring to American intelligence officers as spies.  This is incorrect.

The appropriate use of the term ‘spy’ is for someone that an intelligence officer has clandestinely recruited to spy on their own country. The primary activity performed by the spy is typically collecting information that is not available to the intelligence agency and would be detrimental to the enemy if it fell into the wrong hands.

Example:  An officer from the U.S. Intelligence Community recruits a Russian engineer who works on sensitive projects for the Russian government.  In this case, the engineer is the agent or ‘spy’ that the intelligence officer is handling.  The intelligence officer provides the engineer with tasks and the types of information that he should acquire.  The engineer then clandestinely collects the information and reports it back to the handling officer or agency.

This does not imply that the intelligence officer is not at risk, as his or her duties may often place them in perilous situations.  Rather, it is our hope that the use of term ‘spy’ will be better understood and used in the proper context.

Look for more ‘OpsLens Terms to Know’ on a frequent basis.

By OpsLens Staff

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