Sex and Spying

RORERT FONTAINE is known for all sorts of light writing, ranging from a successful comedy on Broadway to many books and short articles.

“As long as sex is around it will be used in spying,” said the head of the Central Intelligence Agency recently. The statement, I am sure, was forced from him as the result of scandals in Britain and elsewhere that made it obvious that spies for all sides were joining in orgiastic moonlighting, where not only military secrets were laid bare.

In spite of threats of automation and synthetic production of proteins, it is obvious that sex will be around for some time to come. In the light of new and broader interpretations of the law, there seems a slight possibility it will become something of a bore in time and may ultimately take its place with midget golf and the music of the ukulele. Meanwhile, however, it is enjoying a popularity unprecedented since Elizabethan times, at least and seems to be reasonably secure for the next generation or two. Unlike the weather, sex is a matter that not too many people talk about but nearly everyone does something about, one way or another.

The matter of spying, however, is another thing. Spying, in my youth — and, I believe, before that — while not without its aspects of romance and boudoir whoop-de-do, was a sort of clean-cut career in which the spies for our side were all noble and endearing fellows and girls and the treacherous rascals on the other side were all depraved cads and underprivileged strumpets, uneducated, unwept, unhonored, and unhinged.

All the literature and motion pictures referring to spies in my day showed each of our fellows to be a dedicated heroic lad, seven feet tall, with a square chin, blue eyes, and when necessary, a splendid musicalcomedy baritone.

He approached his work with singleness of purpose and devotion to duty that were unmatched. He moved through dangerous areas where round black bombs were handy and the fuses ready to be lit. He met the siren approach of enemy lassies with a faint and gentlemanly smile, as if to say (if. indeed, he did not actually say), “Were things otherwise, my charming friend, perhaps there would be a difference!”

Now and then he did become involved in a romance with a beautiful agent from the enemy, but his purpose was always patriotic and sincere. If he wanted the siren’s love, it was for the noble purpose of marrying her and showing her how marvelous a nation he lived in and how it was the decent thing to act as a spy for it.

He demonstrated with a clear and sunny logic that the U. S. A. spied only to make the world a better place to live in, and agents of the United States fell not so much into the category of espionage men as into that of educators and ambassadors.

I never recall that our agents worked for money. Possibly they were given living expenses and a little extra for travel, but spying was definitely not a career in which one could become either wealthy or socially prominent. As for girls — well, a spy might have a good, clean, healthy girl friend who wondered where he disappeared to all the time but who trusted him unreservedly. Anything beyond that was definitely frowned upon.

The old-time spy had one mission, and that was to find out what the enemy was up to. In time of war his object was simple. It was to obtain the map showing the next attack, from inside the drunken general’s coat (the enemy general, of course — our generals were clear-eyed and alert). In time of peace our spy’s work was much the same. He had only to find the documents inside the drunken ambassador’s dinner jacket, the documents that detailed carefully what the enemy country intended to do for the next few years.

It was all very simple and pleasant, and if, now and then, a fellow got shot, he was safer and his work more agreeable than that of most chaps in most occupations.

All that seems to have changed, if I read the papers rightly. It is hard to tell which spy is spying for whom and why. None of the spies I come across these days seem to give their heart and soul to intelligence. They have turned professional, so to speak.

Honest spying has declined. There is no more courage in the thing, no more true patriotism, no more virtue and decency.

As a boy, I looked up to our spies. I wanted to be one. I was eager to risk my life for my beloved country. What shall I say to my son if he shows the same ardor? Shall I tell him the girls are less expensive and more attractive in Hollywood or Detroit? Shall I wistfully inform him that spies work for everybody these days in a sort of international cartel and that everybody knows everything about everybody else?

I suppose I shall find a way to disillusion him gently. But what shall I tell my heart when, in spite of all, I can still see in my imagination that true-blue fellow dangerously picking the plans out of the general’s pocket and singing a dangerously rousing patriotic song at the same time?

I can only pray that I have maligned the breed and that somewhere there is a sturdy and simple chap, a good husband and devoted father, conscientiously picking ambassadors’ pockets while he warmly hums “America the Beautiful.”