Friday, April 24, 2015

The Perils of Spycraft

In 1777, George Washington briefly employed Nathaniel Sackett of Orange County, New York as his spymaster. Sackett was recommended by Congressman William Duer as "a person of intrigue and secrecy" and for a few months Washington seems to have thought highly of him. But then Sackett launched a scheme that failed in spectacular fashion, and Washington quietly dismissed him. Washington never said what the scheme was or how it had gone wrong, and for years neither did Sackett. Then in 1789 Sackett wrote to Washington asking for help in procuring a government job, and he explained that
I had gone through all those dangers that awaited me in getting a regular plan laid, and was beginning to carry it on with every appearance of success, but the Jersey man fell in love with his horse, the doctor narrowly escaped with his life, and the whole scheme was frustrated.
And that is all that was ever said about the matter.

From Alexander Rose, Washington's Spies (2006)

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

"You there, emotionally troubled young fellow inordinately gifted in deceit and willing to perform deeds of obvious immorality, typically of a violent nature, entirely in the name of profit!

I require you to undertake a nefarious deed on my behalf, and then in no way implicate me as being involved! I will pay you just enough to uncertainly maintain your fickle loyalty, and at the slightest sign of your inevitable betrayal, I will attempt to kill or otherwise silence you to eliminate the extremely vulnerable position I have placed myself in by employing your services! Do we have an accord?"

I've never understood how anyone could consider spies to be a worthwhile investment.