Allen Dulles served as the first director of the CIA, and in that role he spawned many of the heterodox espionage conventions of the Cold War era. In his book The Craft of Intelligence Dulles dedicates a chapter to the business of counterintelligence, and offers many keen insights into the nascent operational strategies of the agency.
“…counterespionage on our side is directly concerned with uncovering secret aggression, subversion and sabotage. Although such information is not, like positive intelligence, of primary use to the government in the formation of policy, it often alerts our government to the nature of the thrusts of its opponents and the area in which political action on our part may be required.
“The classical aims of counterespionage are ‘to locate, identify and neutralize’ the opposition. ‘Neutralizing can take many forms. Within the United States an apprehended spy can be prosecuted under the law; so can a foreign intelligence officer who is caught red-handed if he does not have diplomatic immunity. If he has immunity, he is generally expelled. But there are other ways of neutralizing the hostile agent, and one of the best is exposure or the threat of exposure. A spy is not of much further use once his name, face and story are in the papers.
“Although the purpose of counterespionage is defensive, its methods are essentially offensive. Its ideal goal is to discover hostile intelligence plans in their earliest stages rather than after they have begun to do their damage. To do this, it tries to penetrate the inner circle of hostile services at the highest possible level where the plans are made and the agents selected and trained, and, if the job can be managed, to bring over to its side ‘insiders’ from the other camp.
“While much of the daily work of counterintelligence is laborious and humdrum, its complex and subtle operations are very much like a gigantic chess game that uses the whole world for its board.
“In the end, however, his ability to get a foot in the door depends on the apparent quality of the information he is offering. Every intelligence service has the problem of distinguishing, when such unsolicited offers come along, between a bona fide volunteer and a penetration agent who has been sent in by the other side. This is no easy matter. If counterespionage succeeds in ‘planting’ its penetration agent with the opposing service, it is hoped that the agent, once he is hired by the opposition, will be given increasingly sensitive assignments. All of them are reported duly by the agent to the intelligence service running the ‘penetration.’
*All excerpts have been taken from The Craft of Intelligence, Rowman & Littlefield.