Were there ever secret agents "licensed to kill" in real-life?

DragonpolDragonpol Schloss Drache.
edited December 2012 in Literary 007 Posts: 12,368
Were there ever secret agents/spies/assasins given a government-sanctioned "licence to kill" in the real-world by America, UK, Soviet Russia or in the rest of Europe? A la James Bond, the globe-trotting trouble-shooter.

I have a feeling that there were, but I would really like to know more as well as members here possibly making recommendations of books/articles to read on this subject matter?

Thanking you for reading.

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Comments

  • Isn't any member of the armed forces, in effect, "licenced to kill"? I mean, killing is sort of their job, isn't it?

    But to answer your question. I have no doubt there were/are agents like that. I also have no doubt no government would ever admit to having them.
  • edited December 2012 Posts: 129
    There is no such thing as a licence to kill, as there is no impunity, there is however state sanctioned assassination, Osama bin Laden being the most recent we know about.

    However If an operator were to be caught in hostile country attempting to terminate a target then he would be treated as an enemy combatant & as a NOC (None Official Cover) operator would be denied by his home nation. They'd be either killed & buried in an unmarked grave which no one would ever know about or used as a media puppet for world wide publicity.

    If it's the later then there is always the chance they would be claimed once the proverbial had hit the fan, it would be a major incident that would create a political storm, but once it's out in the open there's no point in denial.

    If you look at it Bond operates in this reality, he is a sanctioned assassin, but there's no doubt that if he were caught, the UK Government would disown him, so "Licenced to Kill" no not really.
  • Posts: 217
    I suggest you do some research on Nikolai Khokhlov, who was a KGB assassin and rumoured to have helped inspire Fleming.
  • edited December 2012 Posts: 2,550
    There's also one of Britain’s greatest spies of the Second World War, a secret agent called “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas who went by the code name White Rabbit, who has been identified as one of the main inspirations behind Ian Fleming’s James Bond. He certainly killed a few people when undercover behind enemy lines...

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/jamesbond/9560403/Historian-reveals-the-Second-World-War-hero-who-inspired-the-creation-of-James-Bond.html

    In fact there's quite a few that inspired Fleming, such as Sidney Reilly; Peter Smithers; Dušan Popov; Patrick Dalzel-Job - to name but a few.
  • I agree there have been many Spies/Assassins that inspired Fleming but the point is "Licensed to Kill?", none of these persons were given a licence that would have given them impunity from prosecution or execution if caught.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Schloss Drache.
    Posts: 12,368
    Thought I'd bump this one up against as it got quite an enthusiastic response on AJB forums!
  • I think Spectre One has it right here, license to kill is just a term for state sponsored assassination and the person assigned to do it has that support. That happened in the Cold War and I imagine still does to this day. First case that comes to mind is that of Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident and strong critic of the communist regime, who was fatally poisoned with ricin in London in September 1978. A unknown person carrying an umbrella with a hidden pneumatic mechanism to deliver the pellet stabbed him with the tip, and only the failure of the pellet to completely dissolve led to the discovery. It was ordered by the Bulgarian secret police and carried out with the technical support supplied by the KGB. I read that the Russians have been suspected in several poisoning cases since, even as recently as 2011 when a German man died a year after an umbrella containing mercury was used on him. Look up "Bulgarian umbrella" for more information.

    If the assassin was a KGB or Bulgarian agent and had been caught, no doubt his government would have abandoned him and denied knowing anything about it. Same thing happened in DAD when Bond was caught by the North Koreans after trying to kill young Colonel Moon. State sponsored assassination. If you don't get caught, you're a hero to someone. You do, tough luck.
  • DragonpolDragonpol Schloss Drache.
    Posts: 12,368
    Yes, but I have a book called Assassins at Large from 1951 on "licence to kill"-type operations.
  • Posts: 217
    I agree there have been many Spies/Assassins that inspired Fleming but the point is "Licensed to Kill?", none of these persons were given a licence that would have given them impunity from prosecution or execution if caught.

    I agree with SirHenry. Personally i see the Licence to Kill as being related to his work, perhaps the difference being that he doesnt need to be assigned a specific target but can use his own judgement.

    Somehow, im not sure his License would be accepted if he started shooting people for personal reasons e.g. Jumping the queue in a shop

  • DragonpolDragonpol Schloss Drache.
    Posts: 12,368
    I'd like to revive this one as I think it has potential to generate some interesting discussions.
  • Posts: 199
    Theres no such thing as a licence to kill.Do you think everyones goverment would be happy to have their country look foolish going round killing people?
  • edited April 2013 Posts: 833
    I think there is a big difference between an order to assassinate and a "licence to kill".

    An assassination is essentially a deliberately planned murder of an individual, usually politically motivated (but not always). Whilst Bond may be ordered to assassinate someone, this is only a part of his licence to kill. As I understand it, this "licence" essentially means that Bond is sanctioned, at his discretion, to kill anyone whom he deems is necessary to murder in order to complete his overall mission.

    I don't believe that Bond's licence protects him from repercussions should he be captured. Indeed, there are many references to cyanide pills and that Bond (or other similar agents) would be required to commit suicide should they become captured or compromised. I'm not suggesting they would be entirely disavowed, but this licence would not necessarily prevent them from being tried and executed for assassination or espionage if caught.

    Soldiers do not have a "licence to kill". They must follow the rules of engagement.

    However, a friend of mine formerly of MI5 informs me that operations involving orders to kill do occur in Britain.

  • edited April 2013 Posts: 395
    I think there is a big difference between an order to assassinate and a "licence to kill".An assassination is essentially a deliberately planned murder of an individual, usually politically motivated (but not always). Whilst Bond may be ordered to assassinate someone, this is only a part of his licence to kill. As I understand it, this "licence" essentially means that Bond is sanctioned, at his discretion, to kill anyone whom he deems is necessary to murder in order to complete his overall mission.

    I agree with this take completely.

    The one time the films have mucked up the concept of the licence to kill is when Bond tells Scaramanga that "I only kill on the specific orders of my government". The whole point of the OO Section is that its agents are permitted to kill without specific orders. e.g. Bond has clearly been ordered to kill Fischer and Dryden in CR. This is because he hasn't received his Licence to Kill yet.
  • Posts: 4,752
    I think there is a big difference between an order to assassinate and a "licence to kill".

    An assassination is essentially a deliberately planned murder of an individual, usually politically motivated (but not always). Whilst Bond may be ordered to assassinate someone, this is only a part of his licence to kill. As I understand it, this "licence" essentially means that Bond is sanctioned, at his discretion, to kill anyone whom he deems is necessary to murder in order to complete his overall mission.

    I don't believe that Bond's licence protects him from repercussions should he be captured. Indeed, there are many references to cyanide pills and that Bond (or other similar agents) would be required to commit suicide should they become captured or compromised. I'm not suggesting they would be entirely disavowed, but this licence would not necessarily prevent them from being tried and executed for assassination or espionage if caught.

    Soldiers do not have a "licence to kill". They must follow the rules of engagement.

    However, a friend of mine formerly of MI5 informs me that operations involving orders to kill do occur in Britain.
    This guy gets it.
    I've always questioned the intelligence of people claiming Bond's licence to kill is a literal 'licence' that he carries around in his freaking wallet.... and I've heard people say that in all seriousness.... :-?
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    samainsy wrote:
    Theres no such thing as a licence to kill.Do you think everyones goverment would be happy to have their country look foolish going round killing people?

    Governments do it all the time. They're called wars...
  • Posts: 199
    samainsy wrote:
    Theres no such thing as a licence to kill.Do you think everyones goverment would be happy to have their country look foolish going round killing people?

    Governments do it all the time. They're called wars...
    I mean secretly like Bond.

  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    samainsy wrote:
    samainsy wrote:
    Theres no such thing as a licence to kill.Do you think everyones goverment would be happy to have their country look foolish going round killing people?

    Governments do it all the time. They're called wars...
    I mean secretly like Bond.

    Governments use those too. They're called intelligence agencies...
  • Posts: 199
    Yes I know that but the goverment cant really give someone a LTK just because they want too and besides if I had a LTK I wouldnt be able to kill who I want.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    samainsy wrote:
    Yes I know that but the goverment cant really give someone a LTK just because they want too and besides if I had a LTK I wouldnt be able to kill who I want.

    Why does everyone assume that a licence to kill is synonymous with a killing spree? It is quite obvious that you would have to be a level headed agent to get such a privilege, and it is a privilege only to be used when most necessary, kind of like a last resort. Therefore you don't have to worry about any agents going about killing anyone in their sights and causing a diplomatic nightmare. Just because you have a licence to kill doesn't mean you are allowed to pop anyone you please; there are rules that dictate how it is to be used in the business of the cloak and dagger.
  • Posts: 199
    samainsy wrote:
    Yes I know that but the goverment cant really give someone a LTK just because they want too and besides if I had a LTK I wouldnt be able to kill who I want.

    Why does everyone assume that a licence to kill is synonymous with a killing spree? It is quite obvious that you would have to be a level headed agent to get such a privilege, and it is a privilege only to be used when most necessary, kind of like a last resort. Therefore you don't have to worry about any agents going about killing anyone in their sights and causing a diplomatic nightmare. Just because you have a licence to kill doesn't mean you are allowed to pop anyone you please; there are rules that dictate how it is to be used in the business of the cloak and dagger.

    So say if I was to end up like Alex Rider or young Bond and I got given a LTK I wont be able to go into my headteacher office and put a bullet between his eyes?
  • MurdockMurdock Mr. 2000
    Posts: 15,597
    samainsy wrote:
    So say if I was to end up like Alex Rider or young Bond and I got given a LTK I wont be able to go into my headteacher office and put a bullet between his eyes?

    Wow...that's a bit psychotic don't you think?

  • Posts: 199
    samainsy wrote:
    samainsy wrote:
    Yes I know that but the goverment cant really give someone a LTK just because they want too and besides if I had a LTK I wouldnt be able to kill who I want.

    Why does everyone assume that a licence to kill is synonymous with a killing spree? It is quite obvious that you would have to be a level headed agent to get such a privilege, and it is a privilege only to be used when most necessary, kind of like a last resort. Therefore you don't have to worry about any agents going about killing anyone in their sights and causing a diplomatic nightmare. Just because you have a licence to kill doesn't mean you are allowed to pop anyone you please; there are rules that dictate how it is to be used in the business of the cloak and dagger.

    So say if I was to end up like Alex Rider or young Bond and I got given a LTK I wont be able to go into my headteacher office and put a bullet between his eyes?

    THE REAL WORLD ISN'T LIKE A BOND FILM, GET OVER IT.

    And please, do quit with the sadistic death threats. There are people starving all over the world and you are getting on edge about a teacher? Grow up, pal.

    Yes I do know that my life isnt about Bond its about other stuff my mate thinks lifes about ultimate team and I am growing up actually and to be honest I dont think it matters because they can get the southern europeans in to help them or the rich africans like South Africa and by the way I have a pretty good life so you grow up and stop bullying 13 year olds.
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!
    Posts: 15,748
    Questionable content split for future reference.
  • Posts: 199
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Questionable content split for future reference.

    What does that mean?
  • DarthDimiDarthDimi Behind you!
    Posts: 15,748
    samainsy wrote:
    DarthDimi wrote:
    Questionable content split for future reference.

    What does that mean?

    It means we cut a few posts from this thread and saved it in a dark corner.
  • Posts: 11,631
    My ''knowledge'' on the matter is from 'realistic' spy series The Sandbaggers and Queen & Country, so take it with a pinch of salt, but I understand that MI6 agents, as they do not have the right to operate in the UK (this is MI5's turf), cannot even carry arms when not abroad. if there is something somewhat equivalent to a licence to kill, it is very restrictive.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    edited April 2013 Posts: 28,232
    Ludovico wrote:
    My ''knowledge'' on the matter is from 'realistic' spy series The Sandbaggers and Queen & Country, so take it with a pinch of salt, but I understand that MI6 agents, as they do not have the right to operate in the UK (this is MI5's turf), cannot even carry arms when not abroad. if there is something somewhat equivalent to a licence to kill, it is very restrictive.

    Exactly. I think Deaver mentions that in Carte Blanche, and no doubt Fleming did in one of the novels.
  • edited April 2013 Posts: 152
    Whenever younhave a powerful government you will have those who will kill to protect it whether on a bloodhirsty religious cruusade or striking from the shadows. The UK and US both have clandestine "shadow governments" with people who can strike, unrestricted, anywhere that needs it. The real truth is closer to James Bond than many peor realize.
  • edited April 2013 Posts: 11,631
    Ludovico wrote:
    My ''knowledge'' on the matter is from 'realistic' spy series The Sandbaggers and Queen & Country, so take it with a pinch of salt, but I understand that MI6 agents, as they do not have the right to operate in the UK (this is MI5's turf), cannot even carry arms when not abroad. if there is something somewhat equivalent to a licence to kill, it is very restrictive.

    Exactly. I think Deaver mentions that in Carte Blanche, and no doubt Fleming did in one of the novels.

    I don't remember Fleming mentioning it, but it makes sense that they cannot. A scene like the one in DN, when Bond opens the door of his apartment holding his PPK, would be impossible in real life. Well, not impossible, but he would be doing something illegal.
  • Posts: 833
    There are many restrictions on our operatives in the security services. Neither 5 or 6 have powers of arrest, for example. Very few will be allowed to use firearms either. It's not like the day you join MI6 they slap a Walther in your hand. Same goes for 5. MI5's Regional Action Groups however do carry firearms.
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