Mole (espionage)

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A mole is a spy who works for an enemy nation and works within his nation's government. A mole differs from a defector in that a mole is a spy before gaining access to classified information, while a defector only becomes a spy after gaining access. However, some use the term mole to describe any agent of a foreign power within a government organization.

Perhaps the most famous examples of moles are the Cambridge Five, five men recruited as students at Cambridge University who later rose to high levels in various parts of the British government. Because of the long preparation time and the difficulty of inserting moles, they are quite rare in the top levels of espionage. For instance there is only evidence of one mole ever penetrating the CIA: Karl Koecher. By contrast, Aldrich Ames became an intelligence officer and then Director of Counterintelligence before he offered his services to the KGB. Moles are far more common in police work, where they are known as undercover officers.

The term "mole" is also commonly used to describe anyone working in one organization, seeking access to confidential information that they will pass to the organization for whom they really work. For example, a news reporter seeking information on a company's employment practices (such as its use of illegal aliens) may obtain a job with the company to observe the practices first-hand.

The term "mole" first appeared in the History of the Reign of King Henry VII (1626) by Francis Bacon. But in modern times it is to be found in the novels of John le Carré. Le Carré said in a BBC television interview in 1976 that it was a KGB term. Moles have also been featured in some James Bond films and the TV series Airwolf and the currently airing 24.

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Mole (espionage)

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