Right up there with farming and being a lady at night, espionage is one of the world’s oldest professions. Before 1900, though, spying was looked upon as something below the upper-class, done by cloak and dagger types by moonlight. Around the turn of the century, centralized agencies began to form. In modern times, anyone could be spying on you. This was proven yet again just a few weeks ago, when police arrested Canadian naval intelligence officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle in Halifax for alleged spying, including passing top secret documents to Russian diplomats. Needless to say, getting caught isn’t the mark of a good spy. Delisle made a number of mistakes that made him easy to catch. Here are three infamous spies who made bigger slips.
The Untalented Mr. Riley: Sidney Riley
World War One British spy Sidney Riley may be one of history’s most famous, but that’s because most people don’t know the whole story. After Riley’s unsuccessful (mostly drunken) stint in Russia in 1919, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 fired the man. In some demented fashion, Riley managed to convince himself he was still a top spy and travelled back to Russia by his own accord. Unsurprisingly, he was caught by the Cheka (the Russian state security). While in prison, Riley begged the British government to come to his aid, to no avail. In 1925, he was taken for a “walk in the woods,” never to be heard from again.
When Hari Met Sullied: Mata Hari
Unemployed woman turned exotic dancer Mata Hari’s willingness to appear almost nude on stage made her a hit in France during World War One. But Hari had other goals, including being a spy. Her tactics were unfair — sleeping with French army commanders, getting them to spill secrets during pillow talk and passing them over to the Germans (most of which were outdated). She then obtained German secrets and passed them onto the French (all of which were only half-truths or mixed up because of her memory). With her supposed double-agent lifestyle, when the British finally captured her, they were somewhat confused as to her allegiance. In the end she was passed off to the French and executed in 1917.
The Spy Who Came in with the Noze: Stewart David Nozette
In 2009, NASA scientist and defense analyst Stewart David Nozette found a great way to ruin his career. While being investigated for distorting government expense reports, the FBI noticed Nozette had sent an email to undisclosed recipients that said he would be interested in spying on the US for a foreign country — for the right price. FBI agents posing as Israeli Mossad agents contacted Nozette and easily got him to hand over classified information. Nozette plead guilty and was sentenced to 12 years in prison spying for Israel, even though he was never actually recruited.
Image courtesy of MikeyAngels.