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Thursday, November 18, 2010


The moment a target is approached for recruitment is known as the “pitch” and, because it is an unmistakable request to engage in espionage, invariably compromises the individual making it. Pitches can be made after a period of cultivation, in which the quarry has been gently prepared for the offer, or can be made “cold,” without any previous contact. Targets with access to classified information, such as professional intelligence personnel, are trained to report such offers, and in some organizations the failure to make such a declaration can itself be regarded as potentially incriminating.
Pitches can take many forms, and during the Cold War, Soviet Bloc targets were often subjected to “gangplank pitches” in which an adversary leaving the country at the end of a tour of duty, sometimes literally on the gangplank joining a ship, was taken aside and offered political asylum in return for information or was slipped a card offering a contact telephone number in a third country where a discreet message indicating a willingness to cooperate would be taken. Such incidents were often regarded as usefully disruptive because if the target reported the approach to his superiors, as required to do so, it indicated that their true role as an intelligence professional had been discovered, thereby diminishing the chances of further overseas assignment. On the other hand, officers who failed to report such a pitch were thought to have either consciously decided to protect their careers and were vulnerable to suspicion, thereby making them better targets in the future.