By Gregg Giles
Most people understand the essentials of espionage: what one can’t learn through legal channels, one must steal. Generally, it is much simpler to obtain information through diplomacy, but when those ties between nations have been cut by war or tense times, espionage becomes a necessary evil.
The Rebellion is the perfect atmosphere for “The Game”. The chaos and turmoil of the times present more opportunities than ever for characters to explore new areas of adventure, as well as pursue a potentially lucrative business. In addition, referees can easily lure characters into an exciting campaign of “clock and dagger” operations.
Information (which we will call “data” for simplicity’s sake) is the goal of spying. It is the money of the espionage world, and can be used to gain other vital data or attain an advantage over an opponent. The general term used for collection of this data is “gathering”. Agents and operatives are directed to gather this data and return it back to their headquarters for studying.
There are many ways to gather data, including use of agents, “moles”, informers, “bugs”, hidden cameras, satellites, and through limitless variations of surveillance devices. It has always been disputed which method is the best to use, but neither man nor machine have managed to prove the other defunct. For this reason, espionage relies upon a combination of trustworthy personnel and advanced technology.
Before field agents are trained by an organization, they are first investigated. The group will probe deep back into the candidate’s history (sometimes as far back as early childhood) to determine if the agent is mentally unstable, hold radical political or social views, or has a characteristic that may prove dangerous to himself or the organization. After successfully completing this examination, the character is then led into various educational and training courses, where they will be taught that things that will become essential to their survival. Depending on the organization and the background of the new agent, such training and education can last from several weeks to a few years. Generally, however, training in most governmental agencies lasts one year. Skills learned range from astrography to zoology. Training calls for intensive attention during the year, as well as a great deal of patience.
The agent may or may not be assigned to gathering activities – most are not. On average, only 1 out of 8 new intelligence employees will be assigned to hazardous duties. Those remaining will find themselves pursuing various administrative, assimilation, transportation, and service-oriented duties. Nearly half of each intelligence organization in human space is devoted to administration.
Employees assigned to “internal duties” often find themselves behind desks, and only a fraction of those personnel will ever deal with even the least-sensitive information.
Often referred to as “operatives” or “agents”, these personnel perform the actual gathering duties. Most of these agents will find themselves in dangerous duties, and some even mortally dangerous, but their length of service is usually limited for security purposes. Agents that remain in the field for more than a year in the same region run a very high chance of discovery by the enemy.
Common orders given to operatives include forced-entry, sabotage, subversion, assassination, terrorism, surveillance, deception, and planting false information. These assignments are typically supplied to agents by a “controller”.
A “controller” is someone that has been given the authority to direct the activities of one or more field agents. It is the controller that is responsible for an operation, not the agent, although both must work together for a mission to succeed. If a controller fails, an agent can be left exposed or in mortal danger, and if an agent fails that the controller may not have any operatives left with which to continue a vital mission. Rarely are more than three or four agents assigned to a single controller. However, in important missions, multiple controllers may cooperate to achieve a common goal; in such cases, a high level intelligence office is typically assigned to oversee the larger operation.
If one were to chart the hierarchy of a typical intelligence agency, they would notice that it forms a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid are field personnel that do information gathering and other duties. As the pyramid gets taller, it shrinks in width with the organization’s director or commander at the very top. Between these two extremes are others, including contacts, couriers, specialists, administrators, and controllers.
Field agents collect the huge amounts of data that is then transmitted, transported, or hand-carried back to the headquarters or other operations center. There the data is then deciphered, filed, and presented to the controller and analysts. The controller can then use the data to determine the agent’s next objective.
Field agents are required to faithfully execute the orders given by their controller. These duties are often hazardous, and some may even seem suicidal, particularly in the case of sabotage. However, everyone involved understands that only by executing his or her orders can a mission be successful. Some of the missions an agent may be required to perform follow.
Infiltration: In a physical sense, infiltration is the aversion of a security system in order to get access to a target or sensitive data. In a social sense, infiltration is accomplished by gaining the confidence and trust of an enemy, making him believe that the agent is a trustworthy friend or ally, without exposing their true intentions. Counter-insurgency is another form of infiltration. An agent that infiltrates a target organization and remains in place for an extended duration is called a “mole”.
Sabotage: The intentional and deliberate destruction of a target in order to gain a military, economic or political advantage over a rival. Sabotage can be used to deprive an opponent of information, equipment, or some kind of production capacity. Often referred to as a “strike” assignment.
Agitation: A unique assignment with the sole purpose of annoying an enemy. This tactic is often used when an agent doesn’t have the capability to directly damage an enemy, but instead use intimidating methods to put an enemy off balance. Agitation isn’t as direct as sabotage, and in fact may not even require physical force; it can be accomplished by letting an opponent know they are always one step behind - some flamboyant agents do this merely to “rub it in” on their opponents. In a strategic sense, terrorism is a form of agitation in that it uses physical violence to promote change through fear.
Black Operation: Often referred to as a “Black Op”, this term applies to any mission that requires an agent perform a dangerous field duty in a hostile environment, such as sabotage or assassination. In some cases an agent may be required to operate independently without being able to contact a controller for direction.
Counter Insurgency: Also referred to as counter-intelligence, counter-espionage and internal security. This is a duty designed to ward off or expose insurgent enemy agents and prevent access to vital data and equipment. When trying to reveal a mole, an agency may plant a rare “triple-agent” in its own ranks; this is someone working for the agency that pretends to be an agent for the enemy and gains the confidence of the enemy’s double agent.
Misinformation: Also known as “deception” and “disinformation”, misinformation is the art of lying or bending the truth to achieve an end result. Misinformation methods are used to reveal double agents by planting false information such that the mole will expose himself by reacting suspiciously. Propaganda is a form of mass misinformation designed to sway public opinion.
Interdiction Probe: A rarely practiced form of espionage before the advent of the Third Imperium. The Imperium has the absolute power to interdict (quarantine) a world for public safety purposes or punishment – such worlds are placed under travel restriction and given a “red zone” classification by the Travellers’ Aid Society. When a populated world is interdicted for political reasons, the Imperium may insert agents to quietly observe and report on the world’s activities. Such missions, called “interdiction probes”, are usually brief but may require substantial risk by the agent.
Psychological operations: Called “psy ops” for short, this is a unique form of warfare that is used largely by Zhodani and Terran intelligence agencies, although the manner that each executes them is radically different. The main goal of any psyop is to a lower an enemy’s morale on a wide-scale, particularly during wartime when they are used to weaken the enemy’s will to fight. The Zhodani use psionics to influence thoughts and emotions, while the Solomani (especially the Terrans) sometimes wage psyops in the form of public atrocities like massacres, assassinations and other horrors that weaken public will.
Surveillance: The most common duty of an agent, this is usually the monotonous and uneventful observation of a target. Surveillance often requires complex equipment, long hours, and plenty of reading materials. Field reconnaissance is a form of surveillance.
Espionage Library Data
Agency: An organization or group that performs intelligence operations. Most agencies are an operating arm of a government.
Black Card: Granted to only the highest and most trusted Imperial Agents, this is an exclusive Imperial license to kill that also grants immediate and unconditional access to Imperial facilities and information. Typically only granted to agents and assassins in the immediate employ of the Emperor, who have proven their loyalty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The “Black Card” name is derived from the pitch black card-like identification badge used to identify the bearer and the unquestionable rights granted to them by the Emperor. A Black Card has powers equivalent to an Imperial Edict 97, and is also known as a “Blank 97” because of its unlimited scope and powers. It is believed that upon presentation to even an Archduke, the bearer would secure an immediate and private audience and unquestioned full cooperation. It is believed that fewer than 100 individuals in known space are granted such a license, and are collectively referred to as “The Black Cards”.
Informer: Someone, generally an innocent or naïve third-party, that is used by an agent to gain important information.
Legend: A false background created by an agency to provide an agent with a false history and false present, known as a “cover”. Legends may cover only a few years of the agent’s past, or may be defined in elaborate detail back to the agent’s birth. The complexity of the legend is usually dependent upon the skill of any opposing agency that may investigate the agent’s past; an elaborate legend may not be necessary when infiltrating a poor backwater government with little resources to check facts. In complex legends, legal documents will be forged (including birth and marriage certificates, property titles, educational records, taxes, etc.) When an agents cover is blown, a legend becomes useless and is permanently discarded.