I recently gave a talk as part of EVE University’s 5th birthday celebration on the topic of how newer players can get involved in espionage far more easily than other aspects of the game. One of the questions which kept coming up was a request for rules or guidelines on how to infiltrate hostile alliances – the basics of how one gets in, gets the job done, and gets out. Similarly, I was asked by a number of aspiring corporate officers about the basics of the counterintelligence game – how to try to find and out hostile agents. While there are no hard and fast rules on either side of this divide, the example of one of my now-retired agents and his infiltration of Veritas Immortalis illustrates a number of lessons about the spy game.
Blitter had no experience in the espionage game. He approached me out of the blue with a difficult question: Having just purchased a 38m skillpoint character with a ‘clean’ corp history (ie, not affiliated with an agent’s home alliance) capable of piloting capital ships, should he put the character in Goonfleet – ruining it for any espionage use in the process – or take a crack at infiltrating our enemies? This wasn’t an easy question to answer. It was October of 2006, at a time when Goonswarm was living in Red Alliance’s home system of C-J6; we had no conquerable space of our own, and the bare handful of capital ships our group of determined newbies could muster could barely be called a ‘capfleet’. On the other hand, a capital ship character was the opposite of the stereotype of a goon agent, who our enemies conceived of as a recently-created newbie alt with no standings or employment history. There didn’t seem to be much harm in giving it a shot, so I encouraged Blitter to infiltrate one of the Southern Coalition alliances which were arrayed against us at the time.
As an espionage agency, we were lucky that we had been able to plan in advance for the war against the Southern Coaliton. Months before Goonswarm moved in to live with Red Alliance in Insmother we began seeding our future enemies with spies: Veritas Immortalis, Knights of the Southerncross, Interstellar Starbase Syndicate and Lotka Volterra had been thoroughly infiltrated long before we made the cross-galaxy journey from our motherland in Syndicate to Insmother. Blitter acquired his capital agent at just the right time – we were about to try to seize Scalding Pass from Veritas Immortalis, the first target in what would rapidly develop into the first Great War.
When Blitter approached Veritas, he wasn’t entirely sure how to go about it. The invasion of Scalding Pass had just begun; paranoia was rampant. In the end, he opted for complete openness: he made a post on Veritas’ forum in their recruitment section, mentioned that he owned an Archon carrier, had an incredible amount of skillpoints, and was willing to help out with logistics in the fight against the goon hordes. The response was immediate and positive; within a day, Blitter was in Dragons of Redemption, one of the primary corporations in Veritas. At the time we were both surprised by how quickly Veritas jumped on him, but in hindsight it makes sense: he was offering them exactly what they would want in an ideal recruit, and it seemed impossible to Veritas that a capital pilot could be a GIA agent. The best way to get into a hostile organization is to keep your story simple and tell people what they want to hear. No convoluted explanation or fancy stories needed: take the direct approach.
What could Veritas have done differently? First, they should have held their potential capital recruit to a higher standard of scrutiny. Capital pilots are privy to far more strategic information than the regular membership, so you must be especially certain they are not spies. They could have checked his employment history and contacted the CEOs or known members of his prior corporations for references; had they done this, they may have found that the character had been sold, and that the ‘Lenutza’ applying to Veritas was not the same ‘Lenutza’ as before. They could have investigated the character sales section of the Eve-Online forums looking for evidence of a potential sale. At the very least, they could have resisted the urge to believe what they wanted to believe, and held Blitter in a ‘trial period’ of sorts where his access and information had been limited. But, they didn’t.
Once inside Dragons of Redemption, Blitter became every CEO’s dream carrier pilot. This was during the days where capital ships were rare, Rorquals and Jump Freighters did not exist, and carriers were the primary logistics engine of conquerable space, moving critical fuel, strontium and ships from the empire markets into deep 0.0 without risk. None of this ferrying is particularly fun, and carrier pilots were not known for being eager to help out with this sort of alliance-level drudgery; Blitter ingratiated himself almost immediately by helping with this. Beyond this, he was nice to his new corpmates, witty, and sociable. An agent who is considered a funny, friendly member of the team isn’t going to be suspected of being a spy; in fact, if an agent is good enough at making friends, anyone who accuses him of espionage may find themselves under suspicion. By doing the critical yet boring carrier work, Blitter quickly gained the trust and respect of the Veritas leadership. Inside of five days, that trust would be betrayed.
The system was JLO-Z3, one of Veritas’ five stations in Scalding Pass. Blitter and seven other carrier pilots were inside a POS staging for a capital operation when the first major opportunity to act against Veritas presented itself. Contacting me via instant messenger, Blitter incredulously related the situation: the CEO of one of the Veritas member corporations, Doctor Einstein of Grettistak, was planning on ejecting from his Chimera-class carrier and warping between the other towers in the JLO system to check on their fuel levels. Carriers were too clumsy to warp around in this way, and Dr. Einstein had announced his plan over teamspeak. The teamspeak channel only had eight people in it, including Blitter; the tower the carriers were staging at had a password set to prevent any hostiles from gaining access, but each of them had the password. If it could be arranged properly, Blitter had key to to a capital-level Grand Theft Spaceship.
We scrambled to find a pilot who could fly a Chimera who was online at the time, without giving away the nature of what we were doing to any possible Veritas agents. Luck was with us; we got a pilot and had him log off in a pod in a system one jump from JLO-Z3. While Blitter kept an eye on Dr. Einstein’s empty carrier from his own Archon, he kept the Veritas pilots on teamspeak occupied with idle chatter – using his charisma to reduce their awareness level while building up trust. A Swarm covert ops pilot got into JLO-Z3 and began carefully setting up a warp-in on the tower with the staged carriers; if it was arranged properly, the pod with the goon Chimera pilot could log on, jump into JLO and immediately warp to the covops, placing him just within range of the empty capital ship. If the warpin was set up improperly, or if the Veritas crew noticed that something was amiss, they could change the password as soon as the goon pod showed up and ruin the whole plan. Tension increased as everything was in readiness; Dr. Einstein remained out of pocket, clueless. Go time: Pod logs on. Pod joins gang with the Covops. Pod jumps into JLO-Z3, hits warp, enters the password Blitter gave him while mid-warp: bam, the pod lands within 10 kilometers of the unpiloted carrier. It has to slowboat to get within six klicks of the Chimera to board it; with nailbiting slowness it approached. Blitter reports that the Veritas pilots have caught on: “Hey, there’s a pod in here!”
It was too late. The Swarm pilot had reached the Chimera and boarded it, cackled and then warped away. A huge win for an alliance as lacking in capital ships as Goonswarm; an embarrassing loss for Veritas, who had fewer than ten carriers themselves. We judged it a worthwhile ‘win’ to burn Blitter’s cover over, and waited for the inevitable. There were only eight pilots who knew the password to the Veritas tower; one of whom had his carrier stolen, so that left a list of seven suspects, Blitter incldued. A quick background check would have noticed that Blitter had only been in Veritas for five days; compared to the veterans in the tower with him, he was the most obvious spy. Whenever you find a hostile espionage action and you want to try to catch a spy, the first thing to do is write down the names of everyone involved and the time it occurred; this is the ‘timestamp’ and even if no conclusions can be immediately drawn from this, it can be pieced together with other timestamps to catch a hostile agent. This was not done. Blitter remained.
We knew that it would only be a matter of time before Veritas realized the error of their ways, did their homework and caught Blitter out. Even though it wasn’t official yet, his cover was blown; when this happens, the only sensible thing to do is to cause as much damage and havoc as you can, sow mistrust and hope to go out with a bang. The opportunity came the next day, as Veritas began evacuating from JLO; the system had been invaded the night of the carrier theft, and a general pull-out was called to safer areas of Veritas space. Blitter volunteered to help with his carrier agent, and his seemingly selfless offer was gladly accepted.
The evacuation was an arduous process and accomplished entirely through the use of carriers, because subcapitals couldn’t make it through the Swarm blockade of the system. Several other Veritas carrier pilots helped out, and as a group Blitter and his companions would jump between JLO and 28Y and back, all night, until every personal and alliance asset in JLO had been cleared to safety. Pilots would trade Blitter their ships and items and in theory he would deliver them back in 28Y. In reality, Blitter was taking the items and putting them on escrow (the primitive precursor to the contract system) to himself so it looked as if the items were not being stored in his hangar. Each time, Blitter would undock from JLO and jump to 28Y with an empty cargohold to keep up appearances. Once in 28Y, he used GIA funds to fully buy up Veritas’s market in 28Y, which was a factory hub, and then bring this war materiel to JLO to be sold to the Swarm once JLO fell. As the night wore on, the other Veritas carrier pilots tired and went to sleep, leaving the rest of the work for the ‘loyal’ and ‘tireless’ Blitter. When the evacuation was at last complete, it was time for the reveal:
Lenutza > Well folks, have some bad news. I’m actually a goon spy. I was responsible for the carrier theft yesterday and as for the 20 or so carrier jumps out of JLO- I just did
Lenutza > Well, all of those POS fittings are going to Goonfleet. The Mittani sends his regards. So long and thanks for, well, everything.
Kirby Khariton > 😮
Nari Teko > wtf
General Dynasty > holy fuck
Lenutza > the 31 large arty batteries and month’s worth of POS fuel especially will help.
Kraydon > hows he get his hands on all those pos fittings
Lewisc > just been handed to him to jump out i think
Kraydon > er, er wtf
Chi Ana > ouch
Meteorus > The scumbags have to resort to underhand tactics they cant win a fair fight.
Jokull > why the fuck does someone get his hands on that kind of stuff after being in corp 8 day´s ????????????
Lewisc > iwas thinking that too
huxorator > ask dorm.
Lewisc > warfare of faggotry
Kraydon > exactly why i asked the question i asked in the first place 🙁
Lewisc > typical goon shite
Lewisc > dirty underhanded
Lenutza > fofo, etc etc
Anomaly21 > That’s WHY YOU DON”T RECRUIT DURING WAR TIMES….
huxorator > lenutza did you do that before, I mean are you experienced in spy stuff?
Alpha Dread > lenu is a piece of shit
Chi Ana > tbh someone should prolly have checked his employment history also.lol
Anomaly21 > might have been a good idea
Jah’Ret Khan > He may ahve stolen all that shit, but he’s still a fat goon with a neck beard. THe morale victory is to -V-!
Anomaly21 > and you know like not recruiting people during war times…
Meteorus > Fair point
Chi Ana > take heart v spying is a sign of desperate peeps
The impact on the Veritas morale was catastrophic. Not only had they lost a system in JLO, but their compromised evacuation to 28Y had compounded the loss. The incident severely shook the confidence of the Veritas members in their leadership; why, it was asked, was a pilot who had only been in the alliance for eight days been given so much control and responsibility? Why was he not caught and booted after the incredibly obvious theft of Dr. Einstein’s Chimera? Because the leadership could not be trusted to provide effective counterintelligence, an atmosphere of ‘witchhunting’ developed, where individual pilots would investigate and accuse each other of being hostile spies. Usually the victims of such a witchhunt are unpopular but innocent; one corporation in Veritas summarily kicked any pilot who had been with that corproation for less than three months in hopes that this would clear out GIA spies; none of those booted were actually working for us. Bitterness soared and fleet participation plummeted. In the end of the campaign for Scalding Pass, the greatest defenders of the region were Veritas’ neighboring ally, Lotka Volterra, not Veritas themselves.
It didn’t take a convoluted cover story for Blitter to achieve all this: just a bit of forthright lying and enough charisma to be likeable, along with a willigness to work for the cause of his target alliance above and beyond what a regular member did. On Veritas’ part, it wouldn’t have taken anything fancy to catch our agent: a basic background check, investigation of references, or – in the aftermath of the carrier theft – a modicum of common sense. It might cause chaos and carnage, but the espionage game is best when it’s uncomplicated.
Ah, the ‘Blitter Takes Out Veritas’ story – it still warms the heart, five years on. One of the reasons why Blitter was so effective that isn’t mentioned in this column is that he was a leader. Leadership is probably the rarest quality among humans, and certainly in EVE; finding those few people who are willing to take the initiative and make something happen is the key to making any functioning organization.
Blitter wasn’t just a passive agent – those are pretty common and easy to get. Instead, Blitter actively stepped up and looked for ways to aid Veritas, and – as a leader among followers – was given ever more responsibility. Veritas was shocked, in hindsight, that he had been given so many roles, but it doesn’t surprise me at all given the rarity of leadership.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by The Mittani.