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A Staff Agents Second Thoughts

pros and cons discussed,
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but I had been given a national press cover which enabled me to stay in the press community. Through this I met quite a number of East European diplomats and press people and was able to do a lot of spotting and assessing, though no recruiting.
Such, then, were the developments in the last two years.   My work for the cover company was much the same as before except that it declined in intensity and toward the end I had rather too much time on my hands. Operational activity had its dry and its fruitful spells, as it usually has. My main purpose in writing again is to offer some reflections based on these four and a half years, including some that vary appreciably from those I voiced before. My own views are in large part corroborated by the experience of another unofficial-cover man, a career agent, formerly a staffer, who was in Songhai for about three of these years; he has since resigned.   We discussed our common problems on many occasions and I am sure he would agree with what I say.
   
Isolation  
   
In my last letter I made much of the strain a staff agent suffers in being cut off from the mainstream of his life's work, in going from a very high exposure to intelligence personnel and activity down to the point where he rarely sees anyone in his professional field. The concomitant is that he is also cut off from the sources of intimate knowledge he formerly had about international affairs and the target country, and his capital stock of such knowledge rapidly dwindles, particularly in a place such as Songhai where the press and radio are government-controlled. He can, to be sure, listen to foreign broadcasts and read the foreign press, but a newspaper published, say, in Paris carries very little on Songhai. Locally published information on political _life is ludicrously limited.
To illustrate the other side of the coin, a Soviet illegal operating in London could, by reading three or four daily newspapers, know enough of current affairs to be able to handle properly a sophisticated agent in the Foreign Office, say. Or in running a military agent, there are a number of specialized journals which would give the Soviet illegal a detailed knowledge of the subject matter. None of this is possible in a place such as Songhai.
A case illustrating this difficulty was that of the African in the Songhai foreign ministry whom I had recruited in my second year. This man was appointed ambassador to an important African country, and I turned him over to the station there to handle. It then transpired
   
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Posted: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 09:01 AM