Although many of his colleagues in the CIA considered him paranoid, James Jesus Angleton believed that enemy intelligence services had the capability of establishing moles in sensitive positions in US intelligence. Moles such as Robert Phillip Hanssen in the FBI and Aldrich Ames in the CIA should, in his view, be expected.

What remedy did he propose to the mole problem?


It was neither strapping people into "lie-detector" polygraph machines nor expelling Embassy diplomats in Washington DC.

Angleton's Remedy

Angleton believed, rightly or wrongly, that the recruitments of moles was inevitable. Individuals in a poorly-paid bureaucratic matrix were not an equal match for a resourceful head-hunting intelligence service with unlimited tricks to tempt and compromise.

To deal with this problem, he had proposed a "mimicry program." It was analogous to the method used to control mosquito infestations. In the case of mosquito control, a plethora of sterilized female mosquitoes are intentionally released so that male mosquitos, unable to discriminate between the fecund and the sterile females, would waste their time mating with ones that could not be reproduce and missing ones that could. Similarly, in mole control a la Angleton, counterintelligence would dispatch a plethora of "sterile" volunteers to make contact with Russian diplomats so as to exhaust their limited recruitment resources.

In terms of its mechanics, the contact need not be personal meeting in which they could be closely assessed or tested. Instead, they could send messages designating dead drops in which they would leave documents and in which the intelligence officer would leave in exchange large cash payments. Or they could make "brush" contacts, surreptitiously exchanging their attache cases or envelopes. They would have to provide real documents for the mimicry to work, but these documents could reveal what the Russians might already know or suspect— such as a tunnel under their embassy— or collection programs and agents that have been abandoned. Unlike strategic disinformation programs, which need to be continually kept credible, a mimicry program works effectively even when it is not continually credible. It can even be blown intentionally. Because when the targeted intelligence service learns through such slips that it is "mating: with sterile agents, and paying for the privilege, no less, it tends to suspect the real moles. And the real moles cannot prove their bona fides, since the documents that they provide are similar to the real documents delivered by the fake moles.

If such a mimicry program succeeds in confusing the real with the fake, the risks for Russians in recruiting a sterile agent outweigh the rewards of recruiting a real agent, at least in terms of their career advancement. It also depletes the Russian's "buy" money by many million dollars and, can even be, self-financing. Result, if it works: a diminishing of the infestation of moles.

For more on Angleton (From my diary) see

On damage, by two moles, see