The notion of imbedded sleeper agents has been fodder for many a scary plot line. I recently watched The Manchurian Candidate (1962) where Laurence Harvey plays an intelligence analyst brainwashed by communists to act unknowingly on their behalf when queued, with the goal of destroying the U.S. Another instance of the imbedded sleeper agent is the epic T.V. series Battlestar Gallatica (2004-9) where enemy Cylons live amongst humans, either under cover or as unknowingly programmed robots to be ‘turned on’ by their masters at the appropriate, strategic moment.
Maybe the reason these fictions are scary is that every once in a while, they aren’t fiction.
More information has recently come to light about the Russian spy cell arrested in 2010, best known perhaps for its glamorous member Anna Chapman. Initial statements about the ring’s activity indicated that it was more or less ineffectual. But it has since been reported that one member infiltrated a well-connected consultancy with offices in New York and DC, under the guise of an in-house computer expert.
But much scarier is the report that one of the children of this ring’s members had been recruited and was ready to defend Mother Russia (his term) as a spy. Spy children raised in the U.S. would obviously be valuable assets insofar as they could pass background checks and generally fit in. It’s not unreasonable to imagine that a solid long term plan might have found this kid working as an adult at a high level in a sensitive installation. This kind of infiltration is not a novel approach, of course.
We depend on our professional intelligence agencies to gather info, identify spies and prevent them from harming us. But how as members of society can we look out for the potentially dangerous people amongst us without becoming paranoid xenophobes? It’s a tricky question. Any ideas?
Speaking of secret agents, this blog writer is going bionic, having thrown one too many roundhouse kicks. For the next weeks, Security Girl will be reporting from the field – in this case the orthopedic ward.