I often punctuated security briefings with a slogan which was ‘Easy to Remember, but so Hard to Forget.’ Slogans which remain with cleared personnel forever start somewhere. I wanted everyone to remember “Need to Know”, “Double-check Before Leaving!”, the “Two Person Rule” to name some. Of course, there were a host of others we tried to explain clearly and with current-event illustrations. In fact, this title ‘Easy to Remember, and So Hard to Forget’ was from a 1935 Bing Crosby song. It recalls just what I aimed for when I set up our periodic briefings. I wanted my listeners to understand it was easy to report possible security violations or potential espionage. I wanted them to know they had only to contact their security office to get action. To this end, I had notices, email reminders, ‘walk around and be seen’ activities, and a host of other ideas so that they’d know where to come and to whom to report if they saw something…and wanted to say something. Nothing in the intelligence world is worse than your source not knowing where to report something. Even worse is not having a delivered report responded to. The very reason your office exists is to receive and act upon possible threats, but that mission is subverted when you don’t get around to investigating the incident reported.

Make Reporting as Simple as Possible

Let’s consider. Studies have shown that the mere presence of a weapon increases the chances of suicide dramatically. Final decisions to harm oneself with a gun are made primarily on impulse, scientific research suggests.  Ease of access makes the final decision so much easier if the weapon is at hand. What can this possibly have to do with cleared personnel issues? It suggests that if it is easy to do something, a person might take that avenue before another. A person might even make horrific decisions, such as betrayal of secrets he’s vowed to protect, if it is not easy to report his concerns to proper authorities. We want to make it simple to report issues that concern our employees. We want to make it easy for them, so that they might avoid a bad choice which could lead to doom.

Battling Espionage

So it is with espionage. We seldom find spies who slip into espionage on impulse. They reflect, they take their time. Why? A decision to betray your country, your colleagues, and family is a monumental step. Spy recruiters know this decision is hard indeed. They try to make it easy, suggesting like a purring cat that their requests are simple, straightforward ‘business arrangements.’ Their approach might be to offer financially enticing business offers, or perhaps access to ‘insider tips’. They know their mission is to make someone betray his country, so they make it ‘elementary’ and a ‘clear, simple solution’ to what the possible betrayer believes is wrong. This is why the spy recruiters suggest ‘win-win’ solutions. Jonathan Pollard was told he was helping an American ally, Israel, not betraying secrets. Christopher Boyce believed he was exposing American perfidy, not betraying his country for money. Another potential recruit sought business in Russia, and found willing business arrangements which appeared on the face to be unprecedented, but fair and profitable. Others have been recruited and never knew they were enlisted by an adversary, but rather a friendly country. These are called ‘false flag’ approaches. Because the spy can’t make his gradual tightening of his web obvious, he employs deviousness. This is why the counterintelligence effort at your company must be seamless, easy, and above board.

Ways to make Reporting Espionage Easy

It must be easy to remember how to report such insinuations.

1. Make yourself and your security staff known.

Imagination is employed here. Our office made a regular routine of entering every company contest or event, and making it known who we were. We would plan daily introduction visits to each directorate and sub office. We’d show up with an appointment. We’d give a tailored-to-that-office, well-presented briefing on what we do, and ask for a similar briefing on their mission in return. We’d befriend the team members. We’d then leave them with a reminder of what we’re mainly looking for, and remind them how to report.

2. Give briefings that catch everyone up on ‘issues of the day’.

We’d give concrete examples of cases which affected us, revealing as much as was possible. No one likes shop worn subjects they’ve heard a dozen times. We’d explain our initiatives, and request comments from everyone. We always solicited the views of our colleagues. They aren’t customers, but fellow defenders of our way of life. We want to make that fact ‘so hard to forget.’

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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.