5. All the Single Ladies
The broadest honey trap in intelligence history was probably the creation of the notorious East German spymaster, Markus Wolf. In the early 1950s, Wolf recognized that, with marriageable German men killed in large numbers during World War II and more and more German women turning to careers, the higher echelons of German government, commerce, and industry were now stocked with lonely single women, ripe -- in his mind -- for the temptations of a honey trap.
Wolf set up a special department of the Stasi, East Germany's security service, and staffed it with his most handsome, intelligent officers. He called them "Romeo spies." Their assignment was to infiltrate West Germany, seek out powerful, unmarried women, romance them, and squeeze from them all their secrets.
Thanks to the Romeo spies and their honey traps, the Stasi penetrated most levels of the West German government and industry. At one stage, the East Germans even had a spy inside NATO who was able to give information on the West's deployment of nuclear weapons. Another used her connections to become a secretary in the office of the West German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt.
The scheme lost its usefulness when the West German counterintelligence authorities devised a simple way of identifying the Stasi officers as soon as they arrived in West Germany: They sported distinctly different haircuts -- the practical "short back and sides" variety instead of the fashionable, elaborate West German style. Alerted by train guards, counterintelligence officers would follow the Romeo spies and arrest them at their first wrong move.
Three of the women were caught and tried, but in general the punishment was lenient. One woman who managed to penetrate West German intelligence was sentenced to only six and a half years in prison, probably because ordinary West Germans had some sympathy with the women. Wolf himself faced trial twice after the collapse of communism but received only a two-year suspended sentence, given the confusion of whether an East German citizen could be guilty of treachery to West Germany.