Spies & Spying Personality Profiling: Intelligence Operations Officers

From The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

Intelligence Operations Officers (IOOs) provide essential reinforcement and administration of operations to ensure their success. These operatives are the glue in the operation and are essential members of the team. 

IOOs will research targets using data from open sources; they will support technical operations; they will be part of a team that conducts counter-surveillance. They will also manage the overseas offices and act as personal assistants or manage the administration for others in the office. They have to be multi-skilled and multi-talented.

Naomie Melanie Harris and Daniel Craig as Moneypenny and 007
Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is a classic IOO

Spies & Spying: IOOs in fiction and film

In fiction, the classic IOO is Miss Moneypenny who it is interesting to note in the more recent James Bond films has a much more active role.

They are often involved in meeting sources, working with the Technical Officers and the Analysts. They tend to be generalists and knowledgeable. In most services the specialists turn to these operatives to make things happen when and where they are needed and with the necessary resources. Their work is often unseen but ignored only by the foolish.

Spies & Spying: Psychological profile notes

These individuals need to be team players: to be sociable, outgoing, and happy working with others. They need to be conscientious, well-organized, reliable, and hard-working. Again, they need emotional intelligence and to be highly adaptable.

Three essentials for the Intelligence Operations Officer:

Three essentials for the Intelligence Operations Officer

It is a characteristic of this group of officers that they do not seek the limelight and there are none with a significant and recent public profile. 

The assessment of people to ensure a perfect fit

We summarize below the main skills and qualities which recruiters will look for in their assessment of potential intelligence officers. 

Intellectual horsepower

Not everyone in an organization needs to be super clever; they do however need to be ‘bright enough’. There are different kinds of intellect that are required in an intelligence service: 

  • Intellectual and cognitive capacity (IQ): an individual’s efficiency at information processing and storage. It predicts how quickly and efficiently they learn. People can be taught skills but there is not much people can do to improve their intelligence.
  • Analytical: the ability to identify relationships and patterns from information and data. 
  • Numeric or deductive ability: this relates to those posts which demand a strong mathematical or scientific approach to their work.

Personality - is about preferred ways of doing things and seeing the world. Intelligence officers cannot change their personalities but they can learn to change their behaviors. Different roles require different personality traits. Recruiters will want to assess the following:

Stability/resilience/composure - an ability to withstand stressful external stimuli without psychological hindrance. All roles involve pressure, some more than others. It is important that people do not buckle under pressure and make bad decisions.

Openness/inquisitiveness - open to experience and embrace the new and the different. They are less fazed by unusual or different places, people, or ways of doing things. Inquisitiveness is about an individual’s ability to innovate and be curious when presented with intelligence from an existing source or a new source. 

Sociability/extraversion - value social interaction and a preference to work in groups and as part of a team. Introverts value independence, preferring to work alone, or in an insular manner.

Risk-taking preferences - central to intelligence roles is the concept of risk. While all risks are thoroughly analyzed, understood, and (as much as possible) mitigated, intelligence roles require that people take risks. We split risk into two distinct parts:

  • ‘Hot’ Risk - risk where decisions have immediate (and potentially dangerous) consequences. This represents a person's willingness to engage in missions that are physically stimulating/frightening. 
  • Cold’ Risk - risk where decisions have effects that are distant and in the future. This represents a person’s willingness to make strategic decisions based on intelligence or challenge existing intelligence in favor of a different strategy. It is calculated, planned, and strategic.
     

Drive/conscientiousness/work ethic - this trait assesses the level of self-motivation, organization, and drive within an individual. A conscientious person is organized, reliable, and responsible.

Integrity/honesty - an individual’s ‘moral compass’. It focuses on whether the individual is manipulative, callous, and devious or whether they have an ethical sense and moral backbone. This is one of the most important traits in the spying world, famous for its intrigues and falsehoods. It is vitally important that insiders can trust their colleagues.

Skills

Skills can be taught - people can learn to do better. Inevitably an individual’s intellect and personality tend to dictate both what skills they initially have and how efficiently they learn further or higher skills.

Interpersonal skills - the ability to cultivate and maintain relationships. Certain jobs specify a need for strong social skills, not only to gather information but also to operate with others.

Observational skills - the ability to observe and follow targets. Certain roles have a need to be aware of their surroundings.

Physical ability - some roles require more than average physical fitness.

Leadership - leadership is relevant primarily for the Spymaster and for those who have to lead groups. It needs to encompass strategic ability, ambition, and a willingness to delegate. The desirable qualities of a leader are much debated. 

Excerpt courtesy of The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

Spies & Spying Personality Profiling: Intelligence Operations Officers

BY
SPYSCAPE
5
MINUTE READ
Share with Twitter
@SPYSCAPE
Share
Share to Facebook
Share to Twitter
Share with email

From The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.

Intelligence Operations Officers (IOOs) provide essential reinforcement and administration of operations to ensure their success. These operatives are the glue in the operation and are essential members of the team. 

IOOs will research targets using data from open sources; they will support technical operations; they will be part of a team that conducts counter-surveillance. They will also manage the overseas offices and act as personal assistants or manage the administration for others in the office. They have to be multi-skilled and multi-talented.

Naomie Melanie Harris and Daniel Craig as Moneypenny and 007
Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is a classic IOO

Spies & Spying: IOOs in fiction and film

In fiction, the classic IOO is Miss Moneypenny who it is interesting to note in the more recent James Bond films has a much more active role.

They are often involved in meeting sources, working with the Technical Officers and the Analysts. They tend to be generalists and knowledgeable. In most services the specialists turn to these operatives to make things happen when and where they are needed and with the necessary resources. Their work is often unseen but ignored only by the foolish.

Spies & Spying: Psychological profile notes

These individuals need to be team players: to be sociable, outgoing, and happy working with others. They need to be conscientious, well-organized, reliable, and hard-working. Again, they need emotional intelligence and to be highly adaptable.

Three essentials for the Intelligence Operations Officer:

Three essentials for the Intelligence Operations Officer

It is a characteristic of this group of officers that they do not seek the limelight and there are none with a significant and recent public profile. 

Article Ad
Article Ad
Article Ad

Oleg Gordievsky the KGB Colonel turned British spy
Oleg Gordievsky the KGB Colonel turned British spy


Spies & Spying

In the story below, Oleg Gordievsky, a former KGB officer working for the British, identified Joan (not her real name) as an IOO. 

A trust of spies

('Treachery' and 'duplicity' appear to be the accepted collective nouns for a group of spies but we prefer the collective 'trust' - acknowledging purist wordsmiths may raise an eyebrow!) 

Based on the accounts in Oleg Gordievsky’s (1995) and author Ben Macintyre’s (2018) books. 

Location: Russian Embassy and SIS safe flat, London
Date: June 1983
Principal Personnel:

Arkady Guk: KGB Resident

Oleg Gordievsky: KGB member of Residency and British agent

Joan (not her real name): Member of British intelligence

Michael Bettaney: Member of British Security Service who offered his services to the KGB 

Arkady Guk, the KGB resident in London showed Oleg Gordievsky a letter that had been delivered to Guk’s home in Holland Park, London. The letter claimed to be from a serving member of MI5 and was offering to pass crucial intelligence to the KGB. Guk believed the letter was a hoax, that MI5 was trying to trick the KGB with a ‘double agent’ operation.

Gordievsky, an agent working with SIS, doubted this and worried it might threaten his own security. He called for an emergency meeting with his SIS handlers. “I found that Jack was temporarily away, and in his absence, it was Joan who met me. By then I had total confidence in her, and was delighted to see her, but at the same time I felt that this meeting was a huge responsibility for a general service officer not used to conducting complicated debriefings… I told her the outline of what had happened, and she came out with a classically calm British reaction. ‘As far as I know,’ she said, ‘there is no operational game in progress.’”

Gordievsky worried that the letter was genuine and, if so, there was a traitor in MI5 who might know he was an agent and pass his identity to Guk.

Sir John Jones, the Director General of MI5, was briefed. He immediately established a secret unit and appointed the best counterintelligence analysts onto the case. They narrowed down the possible list of suspects which included Bettaney as its prime suspect. Surveillance Teams were deployed to follow Bettaney and Technical Officers were tasked with eavesdropping on his phone.

The police arrested Michael Bettaney, a British intelligence officer who worked in the counter-espionage branch of MI5, in September 1983 for conspiracy to commit treason. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He had not in fact passed any information to the KGB and was released on license in 1998. He died in 2018.

Who’s who?

Masterspy: Guk was the head of the KGB in London – the Resident in KGB parlance.

Agent Handler: Oleg Gordievsky worked in the KGB; but his full loyalty was as an agent of SIS, in effect a penetration agent.

Intelligence Operations officer: ‘Joan’ (not her real name) worked in the Soviet section of SIS.

Agent Handler: Jack was Gordievsky’s handler working for SIS.

Spymaster: Sir John Jones was the Director General of the British Security Service.

Others mentioned generically are the Counterintelligence Analysts, the Surveillance Operatives, and Technical Operation Officers.

Michael Bettaney was a Senior Analyst working in MI5. He offered his services as an agent to the KGB. He was motivated in part by money and because he resented the way he had been treated by his employers in particular after his arrest for drunkenness and assaulting a police officer. 

Psychological note:

Gordievsky’s liking and respect of ’Joan’ contributed to the trust he had in the British agencies.

Excerpt courtesy of The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.
SPYCHOLOGY
You can try the SPYCHOLOGY personality element online


SPYCHOLOGY

Your personalized SPYCHOLOGY profile is based on a series of challenges available exclusively at SPYSCAPE HQ and included free in the price of admission. While the complete SPYCHOLOGY experience is only available at our HQ in New York City you can try the personality element online.

The assessment of people to ensure a perfect fit

We summarize below the main skills and qualities which recruiters will look for in their assessment of potential intelligence officers. 

Intellectual horsepower

Not everyone in an organization needs to be super clever; they do however need to be ‘bright enough’. There are different kinds of intellect that are required in an intelligence service: 

  • Intellectual and cognitive capacity (IQ): an individual’s efficiency at information processing and storage. It predicts how quickly and efficiently they learn. People can be taught skills but there is not much people can do to improve their intelligence.
  • Analytical: the ability to identify relationships and patterns from information and data. 
  • Numeric or deductive ability: this relates to those posts which demand a strong mathematical or scientific approach to their work.

Personality - is about preferred ways of doing things and seeing the world. Intelligence officers cannot change their personalities but they can learn to change their behaviors. Different roles require different personality traits. Recruiters will want to assess the following:

Stability/resilience/composure - an ability to withstand stressful external stimuli without psychological hindrance. All roles involve pressure, some more than others. It is important that people do not buckle under pressure and make bad decisions.

Openness/inquisitiveness - open to experience and embrace the new and the different. They are less fazed by unusual or different places, people, or ways of doing things. Inquisitiveness is about an individual’s ability to innovate and be curious when presented with intelligence from an existing source or a new source. 

Sociability/extraversion - value social interaction and a preference to work in groups and as part of a team. Introverts value independence, preferring to work alone, or in an insular manner.

Risk-taking preferences - central to intelligence roles is the concept of risk. While all risks are thoroughly analyzed, understood, and (as much as possible) mitigated, intelligence roles require that people take risks. We split risk into two distinct parts:

  • ‘Hot’ Risk - risk where decisions have immediate (and potentially dangerous) consequences. This represents a person's willingness to engage in missions that are physically stimulating/frightening. 
  • Cold’ Risk - risk where decisions have effects that are distant and in the future. This represents a person’s willingness to make strategic decisions based on intelligence or challenge existing intelligence in favor of a different strategy. It is calculated, planned, and strategic.
     

Drive/conscientiousness/work ethic - this trait assesses the level of self-motivation, organization, and drive within an individual. A conscientious person is organized, reliable, and responsible.

Integrity/honesty - an individual’s ‘moral compass’. It focuses on whether the individual is manipulative, callous, and devious or whether they have an ethical sense and moral backbone. This is one of the most important traits in the spying world, famous for its intrigues and falsehoods. It is vitally important that insiders can trust their colleagues.

Skills

Skills can be taught - people can learn to do better. Inevitably an individual’s intellect and personality tend to dictate both what skills they initially have and how efficiently they learn further or higher skills.

Interpersonal skills - the ability to cultivate and maintain relationships. Certain jobs specify a need for strong social skills, not only to gather information but also to operate with others.

Observational skills - the ability to observe and follow targets. Certain roles have a need to be aware of their surroundings.

Physical ability - some roles require more than average physical fitness.

Leadership - leadership is relevant primarily for the Spymaster and for those who have to lead groups. It needs to encompass strategic ability, ambition, and a willingness to delegate. The desirable qualities of a leader are much debated. 

Excerpt courtesy of The Psychology of Spies and Spying by Adrian Furnham and John Taylor.
Read mORE

RELATED aRTICLES

Gadgets & Gifts

Put your spy skills to work with these fabulous choices from secret notepads & invisible inks to Hacker hoodies & high-tech handbags. We also have an exceptional range of rare spy books, including many signed first editions.

Shop Now

Your Spy SKILLS

We all have valuable spy skills - your mission is to discover yours. See if you have what it takes to be a secret agent, with our authentic spy skills evaluation* developed by a former Head of Training at British Intelligence. It's FREE so share & compare with friends now!

dISCOVER Your Spy SKILLS

* Find more information about the scientific methods behind the evaluation here.