Of M.I.C.E, Men, and Trump


For a brief period of time in the late 80’s I had the privilege of serving my country in Berlin, Germany.

One of the many problems with the way Germany was divided up after the Allies won World War II was the fact that the capital, Berlin, was located on the Eastern side. Given its economic and cultural importance, the Allies weren’t willing to hand the entire city over to Stalin. The solution agreed to, was to divide Berlin up into four key sections; an American sector, an English sector, a French sector, and a Soviet sector.

As more people began defecting into the democratic districts of the city, the communists decided to surround the Allied sectors with a wall. A barricade designed to keep people in, trapping their own citizens in what was beyond doubt, the dark side of the metropolis. In some places it was a fence, in others a water barrier patrolled by speedboat, and in many sections it was the now iconic, and then ominous, 12’ high cement “wall”. Regardless of where someone tried to cross, they would find guard towers, dogs, barbwire, and Soviet block soldiers ready to shoot and kill anyone who tried to leave their socialist utopia. And more than a few times from my apartment, you could hear the alarms that signaled someone was trying anyway.

People who have a more naïve view of history may think President Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire” rhetoric was misplaced, or, at the very least, too hawkish. Having lived in Berlin while the wall was still up, and having crossed over into East Berlin on several occasions, I can ensure you it was anything but. It was as if you had walked from a full color musical, the beautiful, modern, megalopolis of West Berlin, into a black and white horror film, the grim, bullet ridden remnants of the city known as East Berlin, filled with the shuffling and miserable poor. And no matter where you went once you moved through Checkpoint Charlie, and no matter how aware the East German citizens were of their constant and malevolent observation by Stasi and KGB operatives, they still risked their lives to approach you and beg you to help them cross over to freedom.

One of the first places you went when you arrived to your assignment in Berlin was a school. There, you were given a crash course in history. Much of it was designed to give historical context to the National Socialist movement, the economic collapse that preceded it, and the treaty of Versailles that helped ignite it. They didn’t want young Americans like myself living amongst the population absent either a sense of history, or a sense of empathy.

The other lesson they ingrained in you was just how populated the city of Berlin was at the time, with foreign intelligence agents. As a way point between East and West, Communist and Democratic, Berlin served as a sort of Mos Eisley Cantina for spies. If you had or were ever going to have, any access at all to classified information, the question wasn’t whether a foreign intelligence agent would approach you, the question was when.

It wasn’t just the East German Stasi or Russian KGB or GRU who were everywhere; it was every National intelligence service on the planet. Berlin was crucial to the Cold War. And given that reality, the United States government had a vested interest in letting us know how agencies like the KGB worked, what methods their officers used to turn people like us, into stooges for people like them.

The Russians had a handy acronym they taught their KGB case officers – M.I.C.E.

Money – Ideology – Compromise – Ego

M.I.C.E, once you hear it you don’t forget it. It’s clean, clear, and pretty comprehensive. M.I.C.E represented the four methods used to turn a representative of the United States government, into as asset, or, at the very least, a useful idiot. A term we will return to in a short while.

M – Money is an obvious motivator. Yet surprisingly, you’ll find the sums used by the Russians to turn western agents, was, given the seriousness of the crime, usually quite small. The former Marine, Clayton Lonetree, gave his KGB handler hundreds of classified documents, including floor plans to a US Embassy; and in exchange he made a sum total of about 18,000 dollars. The KGB always had to worry that their field agents, who had more freedom of travel than the average Soviet serf, would defect to a free Nation. Giving them access to six figure sums wasn’t something they liked to do.

I – Ideology was the next motivator and most intelligence officers will tell you that by far, it was the most powerful and reliable one. But, given the unpleasant nature of communist nations, it wasn’t one that was often available. And it certainly wasn’t one that was easy to inculcate in a potential American turncoat. The acquisition of ideological assets tended to weigh in the favor of the western powers, not the Soviet ones.

C – Compromise was next, and it was common. Compromise meant, for the most part, blackmail. Gaining leverage through the collection of embarrassing or criminal information regarding a potential asset. What vices does the individual have? Do the like hookers, drugs, gambling, or theft? Do they have secrets? Are they cheating on their spouse? If not, would they? Are they gay? As long as there was a stigma around something, that something remained a place for leverage – no matter what it was. And even if they hadn’t indulged yet, getting people to bite the hook of temptation isn’t always difficult, assuming you use the right bait.

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the simplest, easiest to employ, and by far most common way to get individuals to betray their own nation, E – Ego.

It might surprise you to learn that lots of people have given away national secrets, become Judas to their own country, through the use of little more than flattery. Give a man a “covert weapon”, a 10$ cane with a hidden sword inside. Make them feel like James Bond. Make them feel smart. Make them feel strong. Make the feel attractive. Make them feel important. And slowly, over time, they’ll hand over nuclear codes. That is, if our government fails in its duty to keep such things out of the hands of people who are weak enough, fragile enough, needy enough, to be susceptible to the kind of approbation a skilled KGB agent can offer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a highly trained, highly skilled, intelligence officer. A man who rose through the ranks of the KGB, you can rest assured that one his greatest talents is learning where people are vulnerable. In fact, I promise you, he’s a master of it. Ego, in all its vein forms, is one of the greatest weaknesses a man can have. Bluster, bravado, a quick temper, a tendency to lash out, a need for adulation, a desire for approval, a hunger for flattery, these are not strengths within the human animal – they are the things a man like Putin looks for in an asset.

When I watched Trump give his speech at the Republican convention, I saw a man who was oozing weakness – and I wasn’t alone. The candidate who stood on that stage emulating the idiosyncratic mannerisms of Mussolini betrayed the kind of character traits that give KGB officer’s wet dreams.

I recognize that some folks thought they were watching some form of strong autocrat, and they liked it, but it isn’t uncommon for people to mistake pomposity for power, or bombast for backbone; especially if they are just as susceptible to the same level of manipulation as the make-believe strong man on the stage.

Trump is probably the weakest human to be considered for this office in modern times. We can’t afford that kind of debility. For a trained intelligence officer, a man like Trump is in a very real way, a “useful idiot”. His character being so transparently vain, he can be turned without even recognizing it. He’s easy to use. This is why another high-level intelligence professional, the former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morrell, took the unprecedented action for a man in his career, of speaking out publicly against Trump.

To quote Morrell:

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.”

Trump can’t help himself; whether he is being trolled on Twitter, or skewered in the pages of a newspaper, his response is predictable, childish, and vulgar. Take a look at his recent reaction to an article by NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd:


You don’t have to be a fan of Dowd, the NY Times, or the media in general, but you do have to acknowledge that Trump’s retort lands somewhere between Junior High School insult, and ranting insane person. Trump is far too fragile to ever be frightening, but the fact that so many seem to be so willing to look past this sort of mental disorder is absolutely terrifying.

If Trump were at least smart enough to know how ignorant he was, we could hope he’d take the counsel of wiser men. But his ego is too tender for that. And that makes him extraordinarily dangerous to our safety. Even if Trump were able to recognize his own glaring character flaws, he is incapable of masking them. He lacks the tools. He is so vulnerable to manipulation, so thin skinned, so uninformed, so shallow, and so vacant of anything that could be considered moral character, that he makes a cagey former Secretary of State who helped cover up decades of indiscretions by her lecherous husband, the better option.

The bottom line is this – Trump is the perfect candidate for manipulation via the E in the M.I.C.E method of the KGB. And that is why he must never get anywhere near the office of Commander in Chief of the most powerful military in human existence. A man like Putin, a trained professional and killer, would, to put it bluntly – make Trump his bitch.