Spies have used sex as a weapon as long as there have been spies. There are some good reasons. First of all, using sex works because it should, albeit temporarily, put the “honey trap” victim in a relaxed, happy mode. Pillow talk can be a very useful source of information. And if the spy works it correctly, the victim may fall in love with the spy, making the all important job of gathering information all the more easy.
Secondly, sex has wonderful blackmail potential, because the married businessman or compromised government agent doesn’t want it known they have been rolling in the hay with the enemy.
Seduction is a powerful weapon. During the Cold War, the East German Communist government employed operatives dubbed “Romeos” to wine, dine and seduce secretaries at NATO’s New York headquarters. The men had to be charming, sexually accomplished, good listeners and install themselves in any situation as “the center of attention”. That way, the poor unsuspecting secretary usually came to him, not him to her. The next stage in the operation was to foster a romance, propose marriage and then admit that he was a “spy”, but for a friendly country (like Canada). The last sting was to break the sad (but false) news that he was in trouble for not producing results and would be sent back home unless she could come up with some information so his “friendly” handlers would be happy. It was amazingly successful. And the poor women thought it was all very harmless.
In 2013, The Chicago Tribune credited former KGB General Oleg Kalugin with a telling quote:
“In America, in the West, occasionally you ask your men to stand up for their country. There’s very little difference. In Russia, we just ask our young women to lay down.”
But China is the seductive spy nation to watch for these days. In 2011, a UK trade mission to China, complete with government officials and UK billionaire Richard Branson, was compromised when a UK official’s Blackberry was stolen by a young Chinese woman he had taken back to his hotel room. The device did not contain any top secret information, but it would have given Chinese spies access to high level government emails. The whole affair was more embarrassing than harmful.
The honey trap has taken a twist in the digital age. It’s not about sex, but rather access. A training video for defense contractors shows a man picking up a woman in a bar. Back in his hotel room, she drugs him and while he sleeps she implants tracking devices and does a trawl for information on his laptop and wireless devices.
Sex and spies just seem to go together. Here are five spies, male and female, who have used sex as a potent weapon.
5. Roald Dahl
If most people have heard of Dahl, it is as a popular author of children’s fiction. But during World War II he was a handsome spy, with a seductive bedside manner who bedded American women in order to elicit information.
Before the U.S. entered World War II in 1942, the British, especially Prime Minister Winston Churchill, worked hard to woo President Franklin Roosevelt and the military might he controlled. Without American firepower, no one gave the Brits much of a chance against Hitler’s Germany. Churchill all but courted Roosevelt, with frequent letters and visits. Americans, still smarting from World War I, wanted nothing to do with what they saw as a European problem.
Roosevelt was playing hard to get and it was only after Pearl Harbor in 1942 that America entered the war. A small part of this British effort to influence the American Government, Roald Dahl, was a handsome former RAF flyboy ace whose American mission was a simple one. He was to bed wealthy and influential women and get whatever information he could. One of his conquests was the formidable Clare Booth Luce. She was rich and powerful and was the first American woman to be appointed to an ambassadorial post. Said one friend of Dahl, “I think he slept with everybody on the east and west coasts that [was worth] more than $50,000 a year.” Apparently, Luce wore him out and he tried unsuccessfully to be taken off of his overly strenuous assignment. His handlers sent him back for more. Moderately successful in picking up gossip and rumor, he passed-on some pillow talk, including a rumor that Roosevelt was having an affair with a Norwegian princess.
4. Mata Hari
“Mata Hari had a very wicked reputation. She was willing to be thrilling for her information.” Or so the old song goes. The real story is less clear cut. Essentially orphaned, Margaretha Zelle left the Netherlands in 1905 to seek fame and fortune in Paris. She got plenty of fame when she became a famous, some say infamous, exotic dancer and notorious courtesan. The tall, dark, exotic dancer took on the stage name of Mata Hari. And the rest is history.
The French grew suspicious of her activities and in 1916 she was arrested and tried as a German spy. She was accused and convicted of using sexual favors in exchange for information. She was summarily executed by firing squad in October of 1917. Stories vary as to whether she actually confessed, but German documents unearthed after the war have put her firmly in the German spy camp. After her death, no one claimed her body, which was donated to medical research. In a bizarre twist, it was later discovered that her head had gone missing.
3. Christine Keeler
Take a suspect doctor with Russian friends, a model and a government minister and what do you get? The Profumo Affair. Christine Keeler, a fun, fun swinging girl of the 1960’s had been used by MI5 to seduce a Russian naval attaché. She went on to make friends with Dr. Stephen Ward, an osteopath with Russian connections. They lived together for a time and it was Ward who introduced her to the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo. It would have been hard for him to miss her that day, as she was swimming naked in Lord Astor’s swimming pool. Her sidekick in good times, model/escort Mandy Rice-Davies was rumored to have had an affair with the august Lord.
Profumo and Keeler had a brief affair before Keeler moved on to affairs with other men. One of her paramours tried to shoot her while she hid out in her West End house. The culprit’s arrest meant that Keeler and her escort activities made a big splash in the press. The press soon uncovered Keeler’s connection to John Profumo. As a result, the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan was disgraced. The scandal was huge and Profumo resigned. Ward was tried on a bogus charge (probably cooked up by a vengeful government) of living off Keeler’s and Rice-Davies supposed “illicit earnings”. Humiliated and distraught, Ward committed suicide. Keeler went on to a series of failed marriages.
2. Ellen Rometsch
You will be forgiven for never having heard of this femme fatale East German spy who, in the 1960’s reportedly had an affair with non other than President John F. Kennedy. It was juicy stuff. Rometsch was a call girl at Washington D.C.’s Quorum Club (the politicians did not come in the front door). JFK was no stranger to affairs, having had a brief fling with none other than Marilyn Monroe. But this one was dangerous. As always, poor old baby brother (and Attorney General) Bobby Kennedy was left the task of shipping Rometsch back to Europe and making certain she didn’t talk. She probably went back to East Germany with a chunk of the Kennedy fortune. Bobby was also given the unpleasant job of heading off J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI investigation of the mess. Hoover was not a big fan of the Kennedys and so it must have been quite a task.
1. Anna Chapman
One of several suspected Russian spies arrested in New York in 2010, Chapman had married a British citizen, gotten a British passport and moved to the U.S. She supposedly ran an international property company, but was really employed by the Russians to solicit information by whatever means. She “dated” a number of rich and important men. After her arrest and trial, she was deported back to Russia, where she transformed herself into a TV personality.
Recent rumors concern a possible engagement to noted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, now a resident in Russia. Her British husband divorced her and sold his story to the tabloids. Before Chapman’s arrest, he claims not to have noticed anything unusual, save for the fact that her nonexistent property company had 50 “employees”. He did say a few nice things in parting. Namely, that was she was kinky and good in bed.