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A look at how honey traps are used in espionage

On Friday, Delhi police arrested a driver working for the Ministry of External Affairs in connection with an alleged espionage case. The driver was said to have been “honey trapped” and passed on confidential information to the other defendants involved in the case.

The arrest comes after security agencies alerted police that the driver was passing information to someone in Pakistan. The driver is currently being questioned and further investigation is underway.

Using a romantic relationship or sex for espionage purposes is one of the oldest tactics used to obtain sensitive information. The information may be used to achieve political goals or monetary advancement and sometimes to blackmail the person or extortion.

The world’s most seductive honey traps

Mata Hari case

The trapping of honey in espionage goes back to the days of femme fatales such as the famous Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari or Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod. Based on intercepted telegrams revealing that she was receiving money from a German attache in Spain, she was found guilty of being a German spy. In 1917, she was finally put to death in France by firing squad.

Her biographer Professor Pat Shipman argued in Femme Fatale: Love, Lies and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari that she was innocent and that the French military’s need for a scapegoat led to her conviction. The French had admitted they lacked solid evidence to charge him.

Betty Pack case

Amy Elizabeth Thorpe, popularly known by her married name Betty Pack, used seduction to win World War II for the Allies. An American-born, Minnesota-raised beauty married a British diplomat, leading to an introduction to the senior ranks of U16.

In Warsaw, she learned that Polish was already deciphering Enigma codes, and she passed on the information about using the machine. She also allegedly stole the Vichy codebooks from the Vichy embassy.

Jeremy Wolfenden case

Not all cases of honey trapping are heterosexual. A famous example of a homosexual honey trap case is that of British journalist Jeremy Wolfenden, a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in Moscow in the 1960s. He was targeted by the KGB and was allegedly seduced by the barber of the Ministry of Commerce outside.

The security agency had put a man with a camera in his closet to take incriminating photos. The spies blackmailed Wolfenden, however, he reported everything to the British Embassy on his next visit to London. He was turned into a double agent. With the debilitating stress, Wolfenden became an alcoholic and bled to death at the age of 31 after falling in his bathroom in 1965.

The Markus Wolf Affair

Markus Wolf, an East German spymaster, created one of the widest honey traps in intelligence history. In the 1950s, he realized that West German women needed companionship with millions of eligible men killed in World War II and that women, including German government diplomats, were the target ideal for a honey trap.

Wolf created a Stasi intelligence department with many handsome spies and their task was to seduce West German women for secrets. They were remarkably successful initially, however, the aloof look of the Stasi officers with a short back and side-parted haircut was at odds with West German style trends at the time. This led to many spies being arrested by counterintelligence agents.

Mordechai Vanunu case

Vanunu was a whistleblower as he claimed Israel had developed atomic bombs, leaking his story to British media. After getting bored of keeping a low profile, he went on a trip to Rome with a woman he met in London. She turned out to be a married Mossad officer with a code name “Cindy”.

After landing in Italy, Vanunu was seized by the Mossad. He was drugged and smuggled out of the country to Israel where he was tried for treason. He served 18 years in prison.

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