If you ever read spy novels, you wonder – ‘how did the detective figure out the bad guy was bad to begin with?  Who, after all, was the ‘source’ of the information which led to the spy’s arrest? Consider. After every spy craze, when several incidents of real espionage seem to blanket our news, the answer is seldom given, “Where did the information first come from?”

The answer quite often is you. As holders of clearances, we have a certain obligation. We’ve taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. These days we are seldom called to take down the musket from over the mantle place and report to the Old North Bridge, there to fire a ‘shot heard round the world’. Rather, ours is a more subtle call.

Imagine the shock when one spy turned up on Radio Moscow during the Cold War, denouncing his former American colleagues he’d left just hours before he spirited over the Iron Curtain. Of course, the shock was palpable. Everyone asked themselves, “Could I have seen this coming? What signs could the spy have shown that I didn’t see? What should I have reported?” Tough questions indeed. Such questions remain with former colleagues for a lifetime. The damage the spy did is incalculable.

How to Spot the Signs

You are at work. You wonder what you should report to your counterintelligence representative. It’s simple.  If someone seems to consistently flaunt the rules, never tells security about his foreign travels say, or that he has constant contact with foreigners, or fudges his official forms, these should raise a red flag.

Or let’s say he seems wealthy beyond explicable reason, after having been strapped for money.

What if he’s overly interested in subjects outside his area, or overly helpful where he should not even be concerned?

A warning flare should go off.

Or you can’t figure him, because he’s very intelligent yet constantly needing reassurance, threatening dire consequences if not recognized.

Report these things? I can hear you lament, isn’t this is being overly sensitive?  No. Report. Your counterintelligence staff holds any reported information in the strictest confidence. Better to report an issue that turns out to be nothing than to not report something and then suffer the consequences to national security.

Each of these examples comes from a real case. The source of the information in each case was a good person who held a clearance, and took seriously his oath to defend the Constitution.

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John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.