Why do men still fall for the lure of the honeypot?

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When an attractive young Russian finds an ageing Liberal Democrat simply irresistible, the alarm bells should be deafening. Simon Carr reports

The honey trap has come a long way since Christine Keeler.

Not that she was the first, just the first that most of us can remember, as she kicked off the modern sex and security scandal in the 1960s. How things have moved on. Ms Keeler's parents brought her up in two converted railway carriages, she got a first job modelling dresses in Soho, worked as a topless waitress, was attacked with an axe by her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend...

No disrespect to Ms Keeler, but the upper level of modern sexual operatives work in a totally different world. It's health and safety gone mad. The modern Mata Hari is qualified in art history or international relations, works as a translator or analyst, mixes with professionals on an equal footing and has affairs with diplomats, Nato officials and the UN nomenklatura.

The real Eve of the species was probably Pamella Bordes. She was introduced to the House of Commons in the late 1980s by Henry Bellingham MP, and with her security pass she had the run of the place. She was both meltingly beautiful and an adornment to High Table. Not just the daughter of an Indian Army officer but a boarding school-educated Miss India. I heard of a Tory MP – he had better remain nameless – talking about her list of charges. "£500 for oral sex? That seems a lot."

The Tory MP gripped his companion's arm with an unusual intensity. "It is worth it!" he gargled. It all blew up when it came out that she was having a liaison with a Libyan security official as well as a social life with Adnan Khashoggi, Colin (now Lord) Moynihan, Donald Trelford of The Observer and the Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil. Those who followed Pamella into this murky world are educated, well-off and respectable young women who use sex like men are said to. They're only after one thing (and it isn't sex). With the changing mores of the West, a girl's good name can be made even better by a sex scandal. Recruitment to this fifth – or sixth – column becomes ever easier. Russia and China are increasingly active.

This isn't to say the old staples of drugs and hookers aren't useful. The traps still work in two ways, constructively and destructively. In the former, a target is milked for information or influence. We know that Sir Geoffrey Harrison, an Ambassador to Moscow in the 1960s, was caught with a Russian chambermaid inserted into the Embassy by the KGB, and had to leave the country.

It's unlikely his pillow talk included classified information, but the photographs and tapes would have helped his chambermaid's handlers with their questioning.

The current excitement of Mike Hancock and his young Russian girlfriend falls into this category. Although sometime KGB chief Oleg Gordievsky has said that Katia Zatuliveter (who denies being a spy) has been more damaging to UK security than the rest of the KGB in Britain put together, it seems unlikely since the MP would never have known anything of real interest to foreign intelligence services.

The teasing out of increasingly sensitive information is one thing. The surgical destruction of a security target is another. Mordechai Vanunu was a 31-year-old sexual virgin selling nuclear secrets to the Sunday Times; "Cindy" was a recently-married Mossad agent who picked him up at a cigarette stand in Leicester Square. After a week of passion she persuaded him to fly to Rome, where he was kidnapped and flown to Israel to start an 18-year jail sentence. "Cindy" is now selling real estate in the US, and doubtless doing it very well.

Russia's welcome of sexy Anna Chapman – highly educated lingerie model, TV celebrity, national politician and expelled spy – gives an indication of how well thought of espionage is there. As does the professional life of one Ekaterina Gerasimova – she has seduced half a dozen big names in Russian politics, journalism and the media, all critics of the regime.

Filming of the encounter is a professional affair, and soon finds its way on to the internet.

Sexual discreditation is an active policy of the state. And why do men fall for it? Why do they find themselves in bed with women who are so obviously not within their normal range? As Lord Lambton put it after being caught enjoying a prostitute habit: "I should have thought it was obvious."

The Art of Seduction: Other famous dalliances

Judith

In about 580BC, a beautiful Hebrew widow called Judith seduced Holofernes, a general invading Israel on behalf of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Nineveh and Assyria. According to the biblical Book of Judith, she got him drunk, cut off his head and "put it in her bag of meat". She is now the patron saint of Israel's Mossad agents.

Anna Chapman

Chapman was one of 10 alleged Russian sleeper agents deported from the United States in 2010. A series of Facebook photos released after her arrest led to repeated "femme fatale" references. She was deported as part of a prisoner swap, and is now a TV star and parliamentary candidate in Russia.

Pamella Bordes

Bordes was said to have been moonlighting as a "high-class" call girl while enjoying close links to a number of British politicians. So close that she held a security pass for the Commons, apparently arranged by MPs David Shaw and Henry Bellingham. Her association with a Libyan official caused scandal and raised security concerns.

Christine Keeler

The lady at the centre of the "Profumo affair". In 1961, Keeler was involved in concurrent affairs with the British War Secretary, John Profumo, and a naval attaché at the embassy of the Soviet Union. Profumo broke off the affair under the instruction of MI5. She became a celebrity, but wound up more trapped than trapper.

Mata Hari

A Dutch exotic dancer by trade and a promiscuous woman by all accounts, she was killed by a French firing squad after being accused of passing secrets from Allied officers and officials to the Germans during the First World War. After the war, French and British intelligence admitted they had no real case against Hari.

Jeremy Wolfenden

He was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service shortly before becoming The Daily Telegraph's Moscow correspondent in the 1960s. The KGB ordered an agent to seduce him, while a man took photographs. Wolfenden told his British handlers, who told him to co-operate, while giving him instructions of their own.

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