Friday, February 2, 2024

Two-Faced Liars: Unveiling the World of Doubles and Impostor-Replacements in Covert Operations


Two-Faced Liars: Unveiling the World of Doubles and 

Impostor-Replacements in Covert Operations

Tina Foster

Doubles and impostors have played a fascinating and often overlooked role in the world of espionage, counter-intelligence, and political intrigue. From the medieval era to modern times, these decoys have been strategically employed to deceive enemies, protect political figures, and even shape public opinion. In this article, we delve into the history and methods behind the use of doubles and impostor-replacements, exploring real-life examples that have shaped the course of history.

Historical Instances:

One of the earliest instances of using a double for intelligence purposes dates back to medieval times. However, it was during World War I that Mata Hari, the famous dancer and double agent, was impersonated. Sent to Berlin for espionage training, a double was deployed to take her place on her dancing tours, successfully fooling audiences and maintaining the secrecy of her covert mission.

During the rule of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader had not one but four doubles to stand in for him during public appearances. This tactic was designed to mislead potential spies and foil assassination attempts. Stalin's "main double," Felix Dadaev, even assumed the dictator's identity as he lay on his deathbed, showcasing the extent to which impostors were utilized for security.

Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president, also leveraged doubles to protect himself from potential threats. These decoys not only confused potential assassins but also led to tragic consequences when one of Hussein's stand-ins was mistakenly assassinated by a Shiite group in 1984.

Doubles in Psychological Warfare:

The use of doubles extends beyond mere physical protection; they can also be employed in psychological warfare operations. The CIA's plan to interrupt Iraqi television programming with a fake news bulletin, featuring an actor playing Saddam Hussein announcing his resignation in favor of his son, Uday, exemplifies how doubles can be used to manipulate public perception and disseminate false information.

The Most Extreme Measures:

In certain historical instances, the use of doubles has transcended the realm of mere deception, evolving into a perilous strategy that involves orchestrating a coup d'état. The audacious concept revolves around the assassination of a political leader, followed by their surreptitious replacement with a convincing double. This method, characterized by its strategic and covert manipulation of political power, aims to wield control over a nation's governance trajectory, often driven by specific, clandestine agendas.

Examining the cases of Kim Jong Il, the former Supreme Leader of North Korea, and Saddam Hussein, the late President of Iraq, sheds light on the use of doubles in such high-stakes scenarios. Toshimitsu Shigemura, a Professor of International Relations at Tokyo’s Waseda University, posited a theory suggesting that Kim Jong Il passed away in the autumn of 2003. According to Shigemura, a succession of doubles subsequently assumed Kim's role at official state events, prompting speculation about the North Korean military elite perpetuating the illusion of Kim Jong Il's continued leadership.

Similarly, in the case of Saddam Hussein, a narrative proposed by Moslem Al-Asadi, a doctor in exile in Iran, contends that the real Saddam succumbed to cancer in 1999 and was thereafter substituted by impostors. Al-Asadi alleges the involvement of Hussein's sons, his first wife, and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in concealing the truth about Hussein’s demise through the deployment of three doubles. This theory implies that the Iraqi regime aimed to sustain control and project an image of stability by upholding the illusion of Saddam's presence.

The deployment of doubles in staging a coup d'état serves dual purposes. Primarily, it enables those orchestrating the operation to eliminate a political leader without instigating immediate political chaos or public backlash. By seamlessly substituting the leader with a convincing double, a semblance of continuity is maintained, preempting the potential power vacuum that might ensue after the leader's demise.

Secondarily, the use of doubles facilitates a controlled transition of power, providing covert orchestrators the opportunity to manipulate political decisions without overtly disrupting the established order. This approach permits the execution of premeditated agendas, as the puppet double can be directed to act in ways conducive to the interests of those masterminding the operation.

The use of doubles in this manner represents a high-stakes gamble, fraught with potential consequences ranging from the consolidation of power to the instigation of widespread political instability. The controversy surrounding such instances underscores the formidable challenges of discerning truth in the enigmatic world of political machinations, where deception and covert operations can indelibly alter the course of nations.

Methods of Deception:

The success of doubles often hinges on meticulous disguises, prosthetics, and even plastic surgery. Disguise specialists can alter physical features, create realistic prosthetics, and employ full or partial face masks to transform individuals into convincing replicas of their targets. Plastic surgery was used during World War II, and today's technology allows for even more sophisticated transformations.

Playing the Part:

Impersonating someone convincingly requires more than just physical resemblance. Doubles undergo extensive training to mimic the speech patterns, gestures, and behaviors of their targets. Whether it is Mata Hari's impostor or Stalin's double, these individuals immerse themselves in the role, often studying video and audio recordings to perfect their performances.


The use of doubles and impostors in intelligence and political realms is a fascinating and often secretive aspect of history. From protecting leaders to manipulating public perception, the deployment of decoys has shaped the course of events in ways that may never fully be revealed. As technology and techniques continue to evolve, the world of doubles and impostor-replacements remains a compelling and enigmatic facet of covert operations. 

All of this and more is discussed in The Splitting Image: Exposing the Secret World of Doubles, Decoys, and Impostor-Replacements.



Cynthia F. Hodges, JD, LLM, MA
Attorney and Author

• “Den of Vipers: Central Banks & the Fake Economy” @

Auriga Books, LLC
Email: cyn (at)



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