What happens to compromised spies when they go home?

I know that spys working for foreign agencies are often treated well, note Kim Philby.

But what about a country’s own agent who is compromised, by what I mean that the other side knows who they work for. They can’t be active duty spies anymore obviously, but what are there options.

  1. Training others?

  2. A desk job

  3. Pensioned off?

  4. Some other government employment

  5. Working in espionage (say embassies) where the other sides knowledge is not a handicap or even desired to say put the heat off actual agents.

Yes it is inspired by the exchanged Russians.

Not according to Wiki

Philby’s alcoholism was well known. But he was given a dacha, a failry high privilage and IIRC he was given the protocal of a senior officer, not the authority.

As it is, what about the OP?

In the bad old days, homecoming spies could expect heroes’ welcomes in Moscow, their faces on commemorative postage stamps and lifelong adulation.

from BBC.

They just get new identities and start over. The world’s a big place, it’s not like there is a big blue book of spies you can be looked up in. Unless of course your of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg fame type of spy

I suspect it has a lot to do with;

  1. The Government you worked for. American spies who are compromised can probably expect much more favorable fates than North Korean spies who are compromised.
  2. How successful you were in the job. If you served 15 years and provided a boat load of sensitive data, you’d probably be richly rewarded. If you served 15 minutes and were immediately compromised, you’d probably just disappear without a trace.

Id say that your second point would probably depend on circumstances. A number of American agents were burned from the get go by traitors, long before their parachutes opened in the late forties.

Similarly South Koreans were told to watch for people using outdated or odd phrases , nothing they could really do about it. An example was the movie inglorius bastards, where the english guy was spotted because of his german accent and then nailed with his use of a finger gesture.

I would imagine that a North Korean agent would be high on the totem pole , or at least higher than the average guy, for trusting that they are not only, not going to defect when they cross the DMZ, but that they would also either send back the take or attempt to complete their missions.

So either the North Koreans keep hostages or those spys are valuable not to ice em.


Given that these spies were compromised and monitored for many years, their main role will be to tell others what they did, and then state “don’t do that”. :wink:

Actually - in the case of the captured French agents involved in the Rainbow Warrior affair, they continued with successful careers in the French Security Services. Their handlers/political masters suffered, though. And some of the non-captured agents had travel problems due to outstanding Interpol arrest warrants, long after the political solution had been settled.


I would presume that most intel agencies would have such a book, you would want to know who has been burned, who is suspected etc so you can be careful.