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Honey trapping is an investigative practice involving the use of romantic or sexual relationships for interpersonal, political (including state espionage), or monetary purpose. The honey pot or trap involves making contact with an individual who has information or resources required by a group or individual; the trapper will then seek to entice the target into a false relationship (which may or may not include actual physical involvement) in which they can glean information or influence over the target. Typically, this method is seen to be employed by female operatives against male targets in media depictions, but it has been known to be employed by both genders against a range of targets.
Private investigators are often employed to create a honey pot by wives, husbands, and other partners usually when an illicit romantic affair is suspected of the "target", or subject of the investigation. Occasionally, the term may be used for the practice of creating an affair for the purpose of taking incriminating photos for use in blackmail. A honey trap is used primarily to collect evidence on the subject of the honey trap.
Each assignment varies depending on what the agent and client decide on during their prior consultation. A common assignment consists of the agent initiating contact with the subject through face-to-face interaction. The agent will attempt to take the communication further into other outlets including: e-mail, text messaging, phone calls, etc. The step after this can be considered the most crucial moment of the assignment. The agent will propose a second meeting to the subject. Whether or not the subject agrees to further communication will determine whether the assignment will go deeper or come to an end. Hotels are often used as a meeting place, not for sexual intercourse, but to determine whether the subject intends for the relationship to escalate. Once the investigation comes to an end, the agent will turn over any record of communication they had with the subject. Other documents that are recorded include: photographs, videos, venue appointments, etc.
In 2009, the British MI5 distributed a 14-page document to hundreds of British banks, businesses, and financial institutions, titled "The Threat from Chinese Espionage". It described a wide-ranging Chinese effort to blackmail Western business people over sexual relationships. The document explicitly warns that Chinese intelligence services are trying to cultivate "long-term relationships" and have been known to "exploit vulnerabilities such as sexual relationships … to pressurise individuals to co-operate with them."
- Honeypots in espionage fiction
- Operation Midnight Climax – a covert CIA program to investigate the use of LSD on San Francisco men in fake brothels. Brothels were used because men would be less likely to report drugging in brothels to police.
- Salon Kitty – a Berlin brothel used by the SS for espionage during World War II.
- Love bombing
- Kelland, Kate. "Private Eye Defends Integrity of "Honey Trapping"" Reuters 13 Feb. 2008. 18 Feb. 2008 <https://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSL132980220080213?sp=true>.
- Phillip Knightley, The History of the Honey Trap. Five lessons for would-be James Bonds and Bond girls – and the men and women who would resist them, Foreign Policy, (March 12, 2010).