The Art of the Double Cross

As regular readers of this blog well know, self has been reading Ben Macintyre’s World War II espionage saga, Agent Zigzag (There is a fantastic blurb by John Le Carré on the front cover.  But, even without this blurb, self would have known Macintyre would deliver a ripping good yarn.  His poignant The Englishman’s Daughter is still one of her favorite nonfiction books of all time).  Here, on p. 133 of Agent Zigzag is a succinct elaboration of what makes a “double agent” succeed.  Self loves this passage because it contains the word “verisimilitude.”

It was an article of faith among the double cross team that a double agent should, as far as possible, live the life the Germans believed he was living, and do the things he claimed to be doing.  Masterman called this “the principle of verisimilitude, the imperative necessity of making the agent actually experience all that he professes to have done.”  It is far easier, under interrogation, to tell part of the truth than to sustain a latticework of pure lies.  If Chapman was going to pretend to have blown up the De Havilland factory,then he must go and case the joint, precisely as he would if he were genuinely bent on sabotage.

P. S.  The De Havilland Mosquito was an aircraft built entirely of balsa wood that was capable of carrying up to 4,000 lbs. of ordinance from Britain to Berlin.  It was a particular thorn in the side of Commander of the Luftwaffe Herman Goring.  It appears that Goring was reviewing a military parade in Berlin when the occasion was hastily interrupted by the arrival of Mosquitos from the 105th. Thus, the De Havilland factory was a prime target of Germany’s ace spies.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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