Motivations and Espionage

A very simple model for human motivations, taught in espionage circles for recruitment of agents for spying behaviors, is the so-called MICE model, which I have modified to be MICES, whereby the letters in the acronym are about the motivations as follows:

  • Money (selfish greed)
  • Ideology (usually intellectual, but can be emotional, e.g., religious)
  • Coercion (such as blackmail)
  • Ego (status instinct)
  • Stimulation (sensational work just for the thrills and excitement, or sex such as a honeypot but without blackmail)

This model is often applied to analyses of the following situations:

  • national espionage -- spying on one's own government on behalf of another to gain advantages for the latter over the former
  • business espionage -- spying within the organization a person belongs, to benefit a competitor or themself

For agents who secretly engage in behaviors against the best interests of their group, the most common motivations are M=Money and E=Ego.

This is a very simple outlook which simple people can understand.

I find it particularly fascinating in those cases where people damage the Greater Good just out of their own individual selfishness, greed, and ego.

"Ideology" can be an honorable motivation, such as a member of a repressive and militaristic government feeding information to much more ethical, peace oriented, and free institutions (though of course the free institutions are not free to expose a spy as a source). This can be about how its leaders think, their intentions, and/or their technical capabilities. People who perform espionage for idealistic reasons are typically not motivated by money nor ego, and may not want to take money.

Is "religion" an "ideology"? In my opinion, in many cases "no", but it's arguable. For example, a religious fanatic may have a job which allows them to provide technology or information to a foreign government, terrorist organization, private company composed of people of their religion, or some other group based on religious affiliation. In the cases of religious fanatics, it's often a selfish desire to go to appease their "god" and go to a place they imagine as "Heaven" ... whatever that is ... (as discussed in another section on this website), which is a selfish motivation. I would categorize this as S=Sensation, the drive to go to Heaven. However, others may categorize this as I=Ideology.

In my investigations, countless times employees of a company have sold information on customers for a bribe or commission, or sold other secrets of proprietary information.

On the other hand, some employees have departed a company because they did not like its ethics, and then gossiped or discussed information without taking money in order to try to protect others from being tricked, for example.

In business, an employee may disagree with the ethics of their superiors, coworkers, or institution, which falls under "ideology", especially when there is no money bribe involved, and divulge some confidential information and/or go against the unethical intentions of the company which pays or formerly paid them. However, if money is given for information, then the person may try to rationalize their behavior in taking a bribe or stealing from the company, by getting picky about relatively petty and maybe personal matters about their employer or some of its personnel, in order to try to convince themselves and others that what they are doing is not unethical, to try to preserve their image which is E=Ego, in addition to M=Money, instead of truly I=Ideology.

There are many possible situations analyzed from this angle. I look at these situations in terms of whether a person is motivated out of self-interest, or wanting to benefit the "Greater Good" or a better alternative group, selflessly.

This article is meant to be a simple one to address human nature from another angle. > Our instincts, yourself, society > Motivations and spying

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