What is Honey Trapping?
Honey trapping is a tool of espionage in which an intelligence operative uses sexual / romantic relationships (or the perception / promise of) to collect information or extract favors from a target.
The operative may be male or female, but honey trapping is typically associated with female operatives seducing male targets.
While it has most commonly been associated with intelligence work, it can also be used for political or industrial espionage.
The goal of honey trapping is often to obtain classified information or to force the target to perform an action that he would not do otherwise. For example, a target may be blackmailed into handing over classified documents if the honey trap has photographs or video footage of the two of them together.
In some cases, the target may simply be enticed into doing something illegal or unethical that can be used to damage his or his group’s reputation.
The Origins of Honey Trapping
Intelligence and law enforcement agencies like the CIA and FBI have allegedly used honey traps to gain information from foreign diplomats and spies.
Honey traps have been used for centuries as a way to gather intelligence and exert influence over powerful people. One of the most famous honey traps in history was Cleopatra, who reportedly used her charms to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony in order to protect her throne.
Honey trapping is the weaponization of sex.
During World War II, the British intelligence agency MI5 ran a successful operation called “The Dark Millenium” in which Nazi officials were lured to England with promises of sex and alcohol, only to be arrested and interrogated for information about German war plans. The operation was so successful that it was adapted by other Allied intelligence agencies.
As long as there is espionage, there will be the seduction of unsuspecting targets with access to secrets.
In more recent years, honey traps have been used by both Russia and China as a way to gather information from political rivals and foreign dignitaries. In 2010, Russian spies were caught using a Canadian woman named Katia Zatuliveter as a honey trap to glean information from British MP Mike Hancock.
In 2013, Chinese state media revealed that Bo Xilai—a powerful politician who was later jailed for corruption—had fallen victim to a honey trap set by his wife.
How Honey Trapping Works
Honey trapping is a form of social engineering using the art of seduction to complete the task / mission.
A typical honey trap works by luring the target into a compromising situation usually involving sex, but not always — and then using that situation to blackmail the target or extract information from them.
The “honey” is living, breathing, thinking, beautiful bait that is also the weapon.
In some cases, the trap may be set up without the target even realizing it was anything unusual – even long after the ordeal has passed.
For example, if an attractive woman approaches a man in a bar and they end up sleeping together, he may not realize that she was sent by someone else to gather information from him.
Entire manuals can and have been written about recognizing, countering and defending against honey trap attacks. Each individual scenario dictates how to respond but to simplify on how to protect yourself is simply to calm your hormones and check your ego.
The Ethics of Honey Trapping
Honey trapping is often seen as a morally dubious practice, and for good reason. After all, it relies on tricking someone into doing something they wouldn’t ordinarily do — and that can have serious consequences for the victim.
Targets have lost their jobs, their families, or even their lives as a result of being caught in a honey trap.
Regardless, it can be an effective and physically non-violent method of completing the mission.
While it may seem like something out of a spy film, honey trapping is a very real and effective way to gather intelligence and exert influence over powerful people. This tactic has been used for centuries from the Roman Empire to the CIA.