Monday, October 18, 2010
Intelligence personnel, both officers and agents, deployed operationally are unable to undertake their work by declaring their true role, and accordingly they adopt covers to assist in the completion of their duties. Categories of cover include commercial, diplomatic, academic, journalistic, or religious, but only diplomatic (or consular) cover offers any protection under the terms of the Vienna Convention from arrest and prosecution. U.S. agencies distinguish between non-official cover (NOC)—posts either made available by well-disposed businesses or created for the purpose within fronts or proprietaries—and official slots made available by the State Department. In order to avoid suspicion of espionage falling on missionaries and aid volunteers, the Central Intelligence Agency is prohibited from using either religious cover or the Peace Corps and may not recruit American journalists as agents. However, it is free to recruit foreign journalists and clerics as agents and to place its own personnel under journalistic cover. Similarly, British intelligence agencies were banned from using journalistic cover in Northern Ireland, following protests from the media when army personnel were discovered to have been issued with forged press cards.