10 Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember

Contrary to how Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne, James Bond, Napoleon Solo, Nikita  and Jack Ryan complete their missions with a stellar track record, real-life missions are punctuated with comical errors, negligence and incompetence. The below compilation of espionage missions paints a polar-opposite image of covert missions hilariously muddled.

1. Exemplary Espionage: Communist Spies Fool Americans

Setting the Stage

Hana and Karl Koecher were stuck in a hell-hole in Czechoslovakia. Karl was a talented comedy writer, working for a radio station, where he ridiculed the political affairs of his homeland. The local officials detested it. They were deported to American shores. He obtained a doctorate in philosophy. His talent exceeded the confines of comedy and philosophy. He was roped in by CIA to oppose communism. He was recruited in 1973 and was given open-access to top secret documents.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Who can resist that?

A Plot Twist Exceeding The Wildest Imagination

This entire deportation was a smokescreen. He was a double agent, his character was carefully constructed, the subversive broadcasts were well-planned out to attract American attention. More so, his American identity was well-planned just as well. His wife was in cahoots as well. Even the KGB was dumbfounded at times regarding his true allegiance. All top quality information was usually obtained using wife-swapping parties and sexual escapades in Washington and New York (a secret tradition within the CIA).

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

It revealed top secret information up, close and personal. Finally, the couple was exposed in 1984 and returned to their homeland due to the prisoner exchange program. CIA and acquaintances were unable to expose them since it would reveal a secret culture within the agency no individual wanted to be exposed to the public.

 2. Soviet Spy Lunches with Chief of Counterintelligence

The Spy Who Drank With Me

James Jesus Angleton was a thoroughbred civil servant, a famous spy-hunter in the intelligence community. He headed the counterintelligence division at the CIA for 21-years. One particular incident falls in his belt.

In 1949, Kim Philby was a decorated British intelligence spy, tasked to act as the liaison between MI6 and CIA. The two highly ranked intelligence professionals lunched together on a weekly basis at the famous Harvey’s restaurant. The Cambridge background of Philby impressed Angleton, he also noticed he could out-drink the British spy, which became an informal drinking contest.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Bloody wanker, mate

Espionage Becomes Breach of Trust

During 1951, two close colleagues of Philby’s sought refuge in Moscow. However, Angleton still thought Philby was an honest British spy. However, both MI6 and CIA were wrong on all counts.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
He auditioned for Casablanca

One day, Philby defected to Moscow without a trace and confessed to being approached by Soviet intelligence during his Cambridge years. The startling revelation shook Angleton to the core, as his remainder years were spent in paranoia, till the day he resigned from the agency.

3. World’s Worst Spy: The Story of Heinrich Albert

According to the Book:

Being a secret service agent, an unwritten rule is to finish your mission in total secrecy, a la a ninja. Given that each secret service blunder is a triumph for the opposing nation, this blunder takes the cake. Heinrich Albert is a celebrated sleeping secret service agent.

The Curious Case of Heinrich Albert

Working as a German diplomat for German ambassador, Johann von Bergstorff was attempting to sway the public opinion by supporting the German cause in WWI by purchasing newspaper shares. It was working very well.  They even enabled free passage of German sailors to-and-from America.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Inspiration behind Johnny English franchise

Snoozing on Subway

American intelligence kept a vigilant eye on Heinrich Albert. An agent trailed Albert in a subway train where he napped. Jolted, he bolted the subway train with his briefcase left behind. The American government leaked the contents of the briefcase to the newspapers. Now, the heat was on the German government. It was hailed as an enemy by mixed groups. The tables turned and Germany suffered a stained reputation, all due to Heinrich Albert.

Ambiguous Ending

As the dust settled, he resorted to starting his own law firm to represent American interests in Germany, whereas he was employed previously to do vice versa.  To this day, we ask, whose side was he?

4. The Dreyfus Affair: A Propaganda Steeped in History

Back in 1894, France and Germany had a strained relationship, as French intelligence was suspecting of a possible leak among the ranks. Enter poor Alfred Dreyfus, a disliked Jewish military officer. These 2 aspects brought possibly a biblical propaganda on any military official to date. Having no concrete evidence to support guiltiness of Dreyfus, the French authorities decided to forge evidence in order to indict him legally.

The French populace adored its fringe periodicals, as paper mills churned out content regarding The Dreyfus Affair, it propelled the rise and demise of many fringe periodicals.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
When the world is actually conspiring against you

J’accuse is now a popular phrase coined in conjunction with the anti-Dreyfusard group. The phrase is used and reused in multiple contexts. In essence, the entire accumulated evidence was forged. As evidence came to the limelight, more evidence was forged by officials to corroborate the story. It seems like the word is against Dreyfus because he is Jewish. The amount of forged evidence was massive, in order to be tested at trial. However, it escalated into a mindless culture war. Appreciable work by French intelligence.  

France Isolated Itself

The anti-Dreyfusard group was disgruntled, typical, religious and a bigot at best. They demanded the judgments passed to be respected on behest of the French military. In essence, the Dreyfusards have simply been cantankerous, yet intelligent individuals, having a dislike for the French government. The entire affair stirred marches, rallies, riots and instability in international politics. Even Italy suffered severe brunt over this entire circus. France had strained political relationship with both Italy and Germany.

In the End, it Doesn’t Even Matter

Lastly, Dreyfus stood trial against all the doctored charges in a court, exonerated and returned to his previous post in the military, he served in WWI.

5. Nazi Spies Take a Spring Break

When Espionage is Taken for Granted

During WWII, Germany sent 3 different spy groups to America. However, for these spies, covert espionage took a back seat over booze, bimbos, gambling and betrayal.

In Operation Pastorius, dubbed as 1942, 8 spies landed on American shores in groups of 2. They were assigned to take down key American production and manufacturing plants, stir terrorism among the populace by bombing public transportation and explode Jewish department stores. The first group landed in Long Island and the local coast guard took notice of it. The coast guard noticed a disappearing submarine where the group had landed along with the necessary supplies the group had brought along with them, including German uniforms.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Spies are human, right?

Spies on American Tour

The leader of the group Dasch and Ernest Peter decided to abandon their mission and turn themselves into the FBI. However, first things first! After an extensive game of pinochle, Dasch handed himself over to the FBI. Peter kept contact with the German group for FBI to nab them at the hotel.

The other members were similarly just as careless, 2 were handed over by Dasch. One team member was pure American. He spent time with his parents and exhausted the mission funds to purchase a car. He was arrested later by the FBI. Another Germany spy frequented the cinema extensively. Loneliness got the better of him and he frequented some of his friends, revealing to them the secretive information. His friends stabbed him in the back.

An Agent Goes Rogue (sort of)

One German agent and American agent landed in America during 1944, tasked with gathering intelligence. The American named William Colepaugh exhausted $1,500 on liquor and gambling along with prostitutes. More so, William Colepaugh stole the mission funs, entire $48,000 and disappeared. Exhausting the funds, he turned himself into the FBI and handed over his German counterpart.

 6. A Nazi Spy in American Ranks

Atypical Agent

Dr. Ignatz Griebl immigrated to America in 1925. Being a well-respected surgeon, a pivotal member of the American community, army reserve member and lastly, a Nazi sympathizer.

Weird Job Description

Along the years, he built rapport with technology experts and engineers and conveniently convinced them to allow Germany a sneak-peak at the technology at hand. He pooled more spies under his belt. For personal pleasure, he had his own mistresses; the same mistresses used by American military personnel.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Most wanted list of has been

Soon enough, his minion spy eventually landed in FBI’s lap. The snitch named Ignatz as his handler. When Ignatz was brought in for questioning, he revealed all the key details of the covert mission. The FBI satisfied with its work released Ignatz until a grand jury hearing.

A Twist of Events

When he was exposed and, subsequently released for acting as a double spy, Ignatz merely moved to Austria to practice as a surgeon for the remainder of his washed up years.

 7. Venona Code: When Espionage is Too Big to Contain

Capitalizing on Opposition’s Laziness

During 1943, project Venona was commenced by Gene Grabel of the American Army’s Signal Intelligence Service. It was purposed with deciphering the excruciatingly arduous Soviet encryption system. The Soviet messages were decrypted using a book used just one time by both sender and receiver. During the war, the government had to produce a massive number of books to decode the volume of incoming messages.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
All it takes is one bloody blunder

Russian Blunders

These books were used and reused, they were even reprinted. The operators used them since they were unable to obtain new books. Towards the conclusion of the war, same books were used, which gave the break Venona Project just needed. Once the messages were decoded, the rest of them were far easier to decode. It alerted the officials of double agents working on American shores. Kim Philby was well-aware of its progress throughout the war. It revealed Julius Rosenberg and Klaus Fuchs.

8. Pearl Harbour: Espionage was on the Cards

Harbinger of War: Neglected

During 1941, it was reported that Japanese intended to attack Thailand, Phillipines and Hawaii. The attaché report was neglected. Also, a message was intercepted en route to the Japanese embassy to burn down all the cipher machines and code books. The failure: Japanese ships headed towards the Hawaiian coast.

Lack of Coordination

It could be argued that the United States paid minimal attention to floating rumors, it should be contended that this information could have been cross-checked for validation. The leads were abandoned.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Consequences of slacking at work

Analysts contend that American intelligence was receiving contradictory messages, and what was done was the best they could. One false message about an impending attack on Pearl Harbour as tested to be bogus. In any case,it is widely admitted that Americans did underestimate the capability of Japanese counterparts.

 10. A Soviet Spy Infiltrates American Manhattan Project

The General Discontent

During 1942, General Leslie Groves was a decorated American commander, tasked with steering the Manhattan Engineer Project to completion. He collaborated with the most gifted minds of the century, most decorated military officials, scientists and politicians of the time.

What didn’t sit well with Leslie Groves was the needless pompous behavior of the British government as they disallowed vetting its own scientists. The Americans eventually backed down as British scientists entered the American territory with grace.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
Young and full of ambition

Enter the Soviet Recruit

A scientist named Klaus Fuchs was a covert operative. During the next 6 years, he transmitted entire atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb data and returned to the United Kingdom in 1949. He started Harwell Atomic Energy Establishment. By this time, he was disgruntled by the Soviet intelligence community. However, his job description was soon uncovered by intelligence community just as well.

Paying the Price for Espionage

He endured a decade incarcerated, his British nationality was canceled and he sought refuge in East Germany. However, he thrived in communist countries as opposed to capitalist countries. He helped Chinese with building an atomic bomb.

10.  Canada: An Espionage Lesson to Remember

Some Clerical Errors

During 1966, the Canadian Associate Minister of National Defense, Pierre Albert Sevigny, had extensive explaining to do when his name was discovered on the application of a Soviet spy. Gerda Munslinger was a local mistress, bagging in two cabinet ministers. The Royal Mounted Police and American intelligence collaborated information and deported Gerda Munslinger. More so, Sevigny resigned later.

10-Embarrasing Espionage Blunders to Remember
The spy who shagged me

Character Assassination Goes Awry

Seemingly, it was an ordinary routine drill. However, Deifenbaker learned not to throw stones when his house is made of glass. In 1966, criticizing a member of the opposition party, Lucien Cardin, about his handling of a suspected spy. Cardin opened up a Pandora box with the Monseignor case. Soon enough, a huge sex scandal opened up for the first time in Canadian history.


Indeed, espionage is as serious as a job description as it gets, however, human incompetence and unprofessionalism has plagued mankind for eons for that matter.


Umer Asad

Umer Asad invented writing, the airplane, and the internet. He was also the first person to reach the North Pole. He has flown to Mars and back in one day, and was enthusiastically greeted by the Martians. “Very strange beings,” he reported on his return. He has written one thousand highly regarded books; a team of experts is presently attempting to grasp their meaning. “It might take a century,” said the chief expert. Umer is also a great teller of stories — but not all of them are true, for instance the ones in this bio.

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