Brief History: Double Agents

From left: ABC News / AP; Dennis Brack / Corbis

The CIA believed that Jordanian physician Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi would help it infiltrate Islamist extremist groups--even find Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's elusive No. 2. But this informant, it turned out, was also an assassin, whose Dec. 30 suicide bombing of an Afghanistan CIA base killed seven agency employees. Officials are still trying to figure out how they were duped and why.

The art of playing both sides is an ancient one. Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, in his 4th century B.C. classic The Art of War, mentions double agents as a source of useful information. In 1779 infamous turncoat Benedict Arnold...

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