Search This Blog

Monday, April 24, 2017

U Is For... Undercover Agents: A To Z Challenge 2017


Free to use clip art from

Undercover agents are a kind of spy who work for the police force. The first organised group of undercover agents was started by an amazing man called Eugene Vidocq in France, but I'll tell you about him tomorrow. He deserves his own post.

Undercover agents have the job of infiltrating groups of criminals or terrorists, or sometimes befriending individual crooks, then turning them in at the appropriate time.

According to Wikipedia, this can often be a problem for the agent. You are under stress, in danger all the time, away from your family and friends - and sometimes you end up feeling bad for the person you're about to betray or even, heaven forbid, joining them! 

You'd have to be a very good actor and quick-thinking to do this job, like other types of spy. You'd have to hope that nobody you know saw you and blew your cover!  

In fact, one retired FBI agent, interviewed here, did once see some people he knew in a hotel lobby where he was with the people he was investigating. He hadn't seen them in years and they came from a long way off - how likely was he to have run into them? Fortunately, he was able to make them undrstand with a hand gesture that now was not a good time to approach him.

And if you were doing it for a while, you'd really have to hope that nobody who could harm your family would find you out! 

On the other hand, it isn't always what you might think. In this interview with a Department of Homeland Security agent who did undercover with drug cartels, he points out that, unlike in the movies, it isn't in their best interests to kill you when they suspect you might be an agent, or demand that you prove yourself by killing someone or taking drugs(though, he says, if you have to smoke something to prove yourself, the Department will understand). If they get caught smuggling drugs, the worst they can expect in the U.S. is a trip to court, where they can fight it. They are, he says, more likely to try to convince you that they aren't doing anything wrong than kill you. Murder might be a bit harder to get away with. 

Still, it's a dangerous job, which, at the very least, might make you feel sick with disgust, such as the time when the FBI agent was penetrating a pedophile ring, though he was in no physical danger from that kind of criminal. 

 Well, somebody's got to do it. You have to be a certain type of person. And this man admits that he misses the adrenaline rush he got out of it when he was working. 

What do you think - would you make a good undercover agent? 


Unknown said...

I would not make a good undercover agent - my face always betrays what I'm thinking!

Ros from Fangirl Stitches

Sue Bursztynski said...

Mine too, it's difficult even to persuade family and friends that I really liked that gift or that the cooking was great, let alone persuading drug dealers that I was one if them!

Weekends in Maine said...

I can't imagine this kind of work. To always have your world split in two parts. It must be incredibly difficult. WeekendsInMaine

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, it takes a special kind of person, like the two agents I've mentioned. Follow the links - their memories are fascinating!

Deborah Weber said...

I'd be a failure for sure. Deliberate deception is way out of my depths and danger is not my game. The only kind of agent I might succeed at is a travel agent, although truthfully since I"m directionally dyslexic I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be a wild success either.

Sue Bursztynski said...

My nephew is a travel agent. Unless you can sell ice cream to Inuit, forget it! Fortunately, he can.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - I couldn't be an undercover agent - I'd be hopeless at it ... I might slot in along the way and uncover a few snippets ... but a full blown agent - I'm no actor and you need some of that I think ... cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

You do indeed need to be an actor - one who can improvise, not just use a script!

Kalpana said...

I'm impressed by the quick thinking agent who managed to convey with a hand gesture that now was not a good time to the people he knew who popped up suddenly. I don't think I would make a good undercover agent. I'm very bad at hiding what I'm thinking.
Enjoyed your post. Happy A to Z ing.
Unity #Lexicon of Leaving

Sue Bursztynski said...

Quick thinking and not panicking is why he was an undercover agents and we aren't! ;-) thanks for dropping in! I did attempt to comment on your post, but my computer loaded way too slowly, for some reason.

Shirley Corder said...

I would never get away with it for the same reason as Sue. I have a very expressive face which would give me away before I even got started! U is for Understanding URLs as you Build a Better Blog. #AtoZchallenge.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

The movies that portray the life of an undercover agent, such Donnie Brasco, often portray the agent as going over to the dark side. The glamour of the opening scenes become tarnished rather quickly. My niece successfully walked the tightrope for several years until she finally became too familiar a face and was transferred to a desk job.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Shirley, I'm sure they must choose people for the job because they are likely to be able to get away with it. Gail, that's fascinating about your niece and, of course, after a while you would have to stop it for that very reason.

Sharon Himsl said...

An problematic dilemma going undercover and the emotional risk they sometimes felt befriending the crooks....and then having to turn them in. Hadn't thought of that.
Thanks, Sue!

"Female Scientists Before Our Time"

JazzFeathers said...

Yes, I do think you have to do the right kind of person, and you have to be extremely motivated. I'm very grateful there are people like these that allow us to be safe. They deserve our gratitude.

The Old Shelter - 1940s Film Noir

Sue Bursztynski said...

Definitely a case of someone's got to do it!