CNN Declassified, "Spies among us: Get a peek at their playbook" by Thom Patterson, Updated July 18, 2017, reports of an expert estimate of 100,000 foreign agents:

(CNN)Spies are living among us.

In the United States alone, one expert estimates that there are about 100,000 foreign agents working for at least 60 to 80 nations -- all spying on America.

"That's not paranoia -- that's a good guess," said Chris Simmons, a retired counterintelligence supervisor for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, appearing on CNN's "Declassified."

On page 60 of the Feb 18 - March 3, 2019 TV Guide magazine, a half page write-up of NBC's thriller The Enemy Within begins with the sentence:

Let this chilling fact sink in: An estimated 100,000 foreign spies reside in the U.S. working to undermine America every day.

This vague factoid brings up various related questions:

  • Are 100,000 foreign agents (CNN) the same thing as 100,000 spies (TVG)?
  • Whose estimate is this? (TVG doesn't say, presumably it's the Chris Simmons estimate)
  • How was this estimate arrived at?
  • Don't foreign spies take any holidays?

But the main question would be: how many foreign spies actually are in the US?

Presumably that's impossible to know, though it might be publicly knowable over the decades when historians get to survey eventually declassified documents, but a brief survey of present-day "spy census" estimates and the ranges of numbers they offer would better than nothing.

  • 3
    This article provides the same claim in a text centered format. The article provides almost no verification of sourcing how the "expert" knows this. cnn.com/2016/07/20/us/… – BobTheAverage Feb 16 '19 at 23:38
  • 1
    This is a teapot question, i.e. you can't disprove it but there is zero evidence that it is true. An answer stating "there is no evidence, and I can't prove a negative" isn't likely to get many upvotes either. – dont_shog_me_bro Feb 25 '19 at 11:04
  • @dont_shog_me_bro, On consideration, it's not a Russell's Teapot question. There almost certainly are at any given time some spies in the USA, so it's a question of "approximately how many spies are there really?", or rather how might we indirectly estimate that, which is more of a Fermi's Piano Tuner question. – agc Jan 1 at 18:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .