Spying the Spy: 50 Must-Ask Questions to Ask a Suspected Spy

Would you know how to interview a suspected spy?

Posted May 31, 2017

I recently received an email asking how I would do a counterintelligence interview of someone suspected of having a relationship with an intelligence officer or a foreign government. Since the topic has been in the news as it relates to the Russians and the Trump administration, here are some of the questions I would ask the interviewee without specifically asking the nature of that relationship. During the Senate hearings, you would hope these are the questions asked.

  1. When did the relationship or friendship begin?
  2. When did they first see each other?
  3. When did they first speak?
  4. Who approached whom?
  5. Was there an introduction made or did one party or the other approach directly?
  6. Was it done in person, over the phone, by mail, or by some other means?
  7. Was this initial contact noted somewhere?
  8. Was there any attempt to conceal the initial contact?
  9. Since contact was established, by what means do both parties communicate?
  10. Are efforts made to conceal the relationship from coworkers, friends, bosses, the law?
  11. Is there an intermediary person that relays messages between both parties?
  12. Has the manner by which they communicate changed over time?
  13. What is the frequency of the contact?
  14. Has the frequency of contact increased or decreased?
  15. What is the duration of the contact and has that changed over time?
  16. If frequency and duration of contact has changed over time, when did it begin to change and why?
  17. Where does contact usually take place?
  18. Identify all the meeting locations by date and time.
  19. Does the venue or location vary?
  20. Who sets up the meetings?
  21. Is there a reason for the frequency of meetings?
  22. Does time of the month matter?
  23. What is the longest meeting you ever had (please note time)?
  24. What was the shortest meeting you ever had (please note time)?
  25. Were meetings in public venues or private?
  26. What was the purpose of each contact?
  27. What if any was the emotional component if any to each meeting?
  28. Were the meetings for emotional, financial, or personal gain?
  29. What reasons does each party give for their meetings?
  30. Has there ever been a need to cancel a meeting and if so why?
  31. Has there ever been a need to meet because of an emergency?
  32. What do you talk about in the meetings (all topics covered)?
  33. If you were casually observed while setting up the meeting or while meeting this person, would that bother you in some way?
  34. Have you ever brought anything to the meeting and did you show that or give that to the other person (s)?
  35. Does contact with the other person cause any kind of psychological distress or anxiety?
  36. Did you enjoy your meeting(s) with this person?
  37. Would you likely do it again?
  38. What if anything do you hide from this person?
  39. When it comes to this relationship, do you think it was a mistake?
  40. How many people were present at each meeting?
  41. Were you ever asked or tasked with getting information that was needed?
  42. Did you note your meeting down in your calendar or journal?
  43. Did you tell anyone about your meetings with this person and if so who?
  44. Did you have your mobile phone with you during these meetings?
  45. Did you charge your phone at the meeting venue or use any equipment supplied by this person to charge your phone?
  46. Did you at any time turn the phone off, put it in airplane mode, or take out the battery when meeting?
  47. Over time has the relationship become more stressful or less fulfilling?
  48. Have you ever received any money or gifts or even offers to cover travel expenses?
  49. Have you been paid for services in cash or check and if so in what amount and when?
  50. Has that been reported to the IRS?

This is not all inclusive but it is a good place to start a counter-intelligence interview accounting for all time, behavior, motives, as well as emotions.

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Joe Navarro, M.A. is 25 year veteran of the FBI and is the author of What Every Body is Saying, as well as Louder Than Words and Dangerous Personalities. His latest book is Three Minutes to Doomsday; An FBI Agent, A Traitor, And The Worst Breech in U.S History (Scribner). For additional information and a free bibliography please contact him through Psychology Today or at www.jnforensics.com – Joe can be found on twitter: @navarrotells or on Facebook.

Copyright © 2017, Joe Navarro