Espionage, or spying, refers to the covert surveillance of another government aimed at gathering information about the behavior and intentions of the opposing state. Espionage encompasses the following activities: undertaking covert operations in foreign countries, recruiting foreign nationals to work as double agents, monitoring the mail and telecommunications of foreign nationals, and using reconnaissance flights for aerial surveillance of enemy territory. Although espionage has existed for more than 2,000 years, it was not until the 20th century that most countries developed permanent espionage programs, creating government agencies and training professional agents. Espionage is common in international politics, but it remains a controversial practice. This entry provides an overview of espionage, detailing the legal and political debates over covert surveillance programs. It then considers the multitude ...

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