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Feed the Mole

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You have The Mole on your team. Perhaps you even know who they are, feeding information to the Big Bad, or (if Divided We Fall) to The Rival. How convenient! You can now spread whatever (dis)information you want spread! You may even manage to trigger an Enemy Civil War.

This trope is when a group that has been infiltrated by The Mole ends up exploiting that Mole by deliberately spreading information, or more usually disinformation. There are at least two reasons why they'd do this:

  • Someone in the group thinks there's a mole but doesn't know who it is, so they devise a Secret Test by picking out individuals and giving each one different information. The idea is that the loyal members will keep it to themselves, whereas the mole will pass it on to their boss on the other side. By watching what the boss does, the one who started the test can then gauge which information the boss heard and therefore deduce who the mole is. Feeding different stories to different suspects is a classic way to determine which, if any of them, is the mole.

    Alternatively, or additionally, seeing which of your enemies reacts as if in possession of a piece of false information determines which of them is the mole's boss, if that is unknown.
  • Someone in the group knows who the mole is but hasn't exposed them yet (if they ever will). They simply arrange matters so that the mole ends up passing on bogus information to whomever they work for. The information is always to the other side's detriment. Perhaps it's useless or designed to throw them off the scent. Perhaps they'll act on it, in which case they may get caught in a trap or be led to their deaths. Perhaps, if they're getting more than one report, the information confuses them and thus buys the group some time as their enemies (it's usually an enemy) try to work out which of their contradictory reports are true and which aren't.

    Valid and accurate information that nevertheless causes useful reactions is another route, one that tends to prolong the usefulness of the mole.

A "Mole" who willingly feeds the information you want is a Double Agent. A Mole who is Becoming the Mask may slowly move to being a Double Agent — though if the mole doesn't know you have twigged, there is the little problem that they will choose their own misinformation. Feed The Mole may lead to a You Have Failed Me moment for the unlucky mole concerned, if their boss ever figures out what they did. The boss may even accuse the mole of doing it of their own free will, when really the mole had no more idea what was going on than the boss did.

On the other hand, if the Big Bad figures out or guesses that you know about the mole, he will know that you are feeding him information, false or manipulative, and therefore what you want him to think. If counterploys start forming on each side, this might tumble over into I Know You Know I Know and a Gambit Pileup may ensue.


Note that this isn't exclusive to the hero; the Big Bad, The Dragon, or The Rival could just as easily manipulate The Mole in this fashion. The Chessmaster and the Magnificent Bastard are quite likely to use this tactic to confuse or to trick the hero. If that's the case, then the tactic will generally be condemned more strongly by the audience as playing dirty than if the hero had used it, obviously because the audience is usually (Designated Hero notwithstanding) on the hero's side, or because it's more likely an opponent will be more ruthless by, for example, using it to get the hero killed. Might make for a good Reveal when the hero or the villainous mole says "My God, What Have I Done?"

This is one of The Thirty-Six Stratagems, making it Older Than Feudalism. Compare Bluff the Eavesdropper and Staging the Eavesdrop.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • During Eren's first outside-the-walls expedition in Attack on Titan, Commander Smith, suspecting there might be a mole in his unit, gives different members different information regarding Eren's position in the formation. When an attack, indeed, comes, Smith is able to narrow the suspects down considerably (and eventually expose The Mole) by comparing its direction with his earlier misinformation.
  • In Blood+, Amshel tells Solomon Diva will be at Christina Island to shoot a video in a week. The latter told Red Shield, who arrived on the island. By that time, Diva left the island. James was waiting for them to attack.
  • Kanta of Desert Punk, when asked to guard a town about to become an oasis from the Edo River Gang, starts partying around the village and gains a Professional Butt-Kisser in the process. When it's revealed said ass-kisser was a spy, Kanta explains that he knew this, and lead the spy to believe the villagers would all be defending the side of the village facing an abandoned city, when they were really defending the side facing the open desert. Unfortunately for Kanta, the Edo River Gang were smart enough to spot bad intel, and attacked from the city anyway, forcing him to fight them all himself.
  • In Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: The Steel Seven, the heroes become aware that Europa is an unwitting mole for the enemy, because the Big Bad can read her mind whenever he wants. As a result, they take the prudent measure and lock her up (at her own request). Then when Tobia comes in with her meal, he tells her exactly where they're going, and why they think the item they're after is in the area. When Europa protests this action, Tobia smirks and replies "What guarantee is there that I'm telling you the truth?" As it turns out, he actually was telling the truth, but the Big Bad took the bait and didn't trust his words. When they do end up meeting and fighting, the Big Bad had figured out the heroes' location through other evidence.
  • In Vinland Saga the mole is given information that the group would find no harm in giving to the enemy the king. This was a test to see if the person was a mole. Simultaneously they use it to get the enemy to do what they want.

    Comic Strips 
  • In 9 Chickweed Lane, Edda's grandmother tells how she was sent to sing for German prisoners of war to get them to give up sensitive information to her. They pretty quickly figure her out, but continue to feed her information simply because they like her. When she finds out, she asks if the information was correct. The answer is somewhat ambiguous.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Darkness Series, Dumbledore controlled Trewlawny with the imperious to make her spout out a fake prophesy while he knew Snape would be listening in.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, L'le of the Circle mentions that they know who the Guardians spies are and feed some of them false information For the Lulz.
  • Earth's Alien History: After learning how to ferret out people who have been Indoctrinated, the militaries of the Terran Treaty Organization and their allies start using them to send misdirecting information to the Reapers.
  • In the backstory of A Minor Miscalculation, Isshin Matoi gave the moles in Nudist Beach false information to trick Ragyo and Nui into thinking he lived in the slums of Honnouji island, ensuring his survival but resulting in Nui wiping out most of Mako's family.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 13 Rue Madeleine, Allied intelligence realizes that a Nazi spy has infiltrated their organization. Their plan is to feed him all the false information on the planned invasion (telling him it will come through the Netherlands) and then send him there on a mission so he can pass it along. Then, in an incredibly stupid move, they tell one of his fellow spies that the other agent is a Nazi spy. The agent betrays himself by staring at the Nazi agent, who then cuts the static line before their drop, leaving the good agent to fall to his death and betraying their entire plan.
  • The mole himself suggests this approach in The Departed. Of course, since he's in charge of the search it's all just part of keeping the other cops off his scent.
  • The Guns of Navarone does a variation where one of the loyal men is wounded, and the team medic can't treat him as he is. The team realize he'd get better treatment as a POW, and then Captain Mallory feeds him false information on their plans in case he is interrogated.
  • The Imitation Game: An unusual example in that the mole is fed true information. In the film, MI6 uses the mole to pass on information they want the Soviets to have but Churchill is unwilling to share. (Churchill was paranoid about sharing information with the Soviets, despite being allies.)
    • Subverted, when Stalin refuses to believe it.
  • In the original Police Academy film, Copeland and Blankes intimidate Barbara into asking Mahoney where the shore leave party is being held. Mahoney realizes fairly quickly that Barbara is too introverted to party, so he gives him the name of a tough Gay Bar.
  • In The Rainmaker, Rudy discovers that the opposing legal team have tapped his phone. Instead of removing the tap, he stages a fake conversation which leads his rival to accuse one of the jurors of conspiring with him, thus making his rival look foolish and removing a potentially troublesome juror.
  • This is how George Smiley finally narrows down the identity of the mole in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. He arranges for the mole, one of an increasingly-shorter list of suspects, to catch wind that the man who knows of his existence — if not his identity — has resurfaced and wants to reveal the information to the Circus. That causes the mole to request an emergency meeting with his Soviet handler at the prearranged safehouse, where Smiley is waiting for them.

  • Used in the Belisarius Series when Belisarius and his allies specifically choose an assistant who they know is a weasel and who will report breathlessly to their political enemies exactly what they want him to believe is happening. (As a historical in-joke, said assistant is Procopius, whose Secret History still exists to this day, listing all manner of alleged scandals in the empire of the time.)
  • The above tactic is also mentioned in the Bernard Samson Series — unimportant changes in format are placed in top secret reports sent to different government departments, so if a report is leaked the security services can narrow down where it came from.
  • John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos: In Fugitives of Chaos, Amelia ponders whether Mrs. Wren accidentally or intentionally let slip that they were watching her — or possibly not, and some convolutions of what pose she wanted to take in order for them to interpret her knowledge.
  • Attempted in the Dale Brown novel Day of the Cheetah when those involved with an experimental fighter project are each shown slightly different plans for modifications. Unfortunately, the Deep Cover Agent sees right through the ruse and decides not to pass on the information. He even invokes this trope when his handler insists he should have done so anyway.
  • Lord Vetinari, Discworld's premiere Magnificent Bastard, uses fiendishly difficult encryptions to protect the semaphore messages he sends to his agents. What would-be codebreakers generally don't know is that he has access to absolutely unbreakable encryptions, but deliberately only uses the very, very difficult ones.
    "Otherwise, how would he know what they thought he thought they were thinking?"
  • The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth. At the beginning of the novel the protagonist uncovers a False Flag Operation feeding information to the Soviets. As the mole is a fervent anti-communist (he thought he was giving information to South Africa) British Intelligence decide to make the best of a bad situation and use him to funnel false information to the Soviets. Later they get information that the Soviets are smuggling a nuclear weapon into the country for an unknown purpose. The Chessmaster head of SIS, realising there's no way they can track down the remaining components in time, leaks information through the mole that the Soviet operation has been uncovered and the British are closing in. This causes his Soviet counterpart to deliberately blow the operation (which was being conducted by the General Secretary without his approval) in exchange for a guarantee by The Chessmaster that the whole affair will be covered up.
  • Full Disclosure: When Ericson’s disgruntled mistress and personal photographer Buffie becomes a source for Bannerman, she is quickly found out and fed information meant to make Bannerman distrust his allies and fear for his job, although this doesn't deter him.
  • Gentleman Bastard: The Republic of Thieves uses a tactic similar to the one from Clash of Kings. Locke and Jean realize that Sabetha has a mole among the Deep Roots party, so they feed three of the most important members a different target, and wait to see which one they go after.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Professor Bernardo de la Paz explains:
      The thing to do with a spy is to let him breathe, encyst him with loyal comrades, and feed him harmless information to please his employers...But it would be the greatest waste to eliminate them — not only would each spy be replaced with someone new, but also killing these traitors would tell the Warden that we have penetrated his secrets.
      • Finding the spy involved giving each 'comrade' his own private telephone to "Adam Selene", and so when any number was used by a known Authority figure, boom, spy detected. This has an advantage over identifying them via the secret spy payroll, which could include loyal comrades who were simply taking the Authority's money and feeding them bullshit in return.
      • What they do end up doing is putting all of the known moles together in their own cells, independent from the true ones, so the moles end up telling on each other.
    • In Sixth Column, the fake church accepts anyone but checks to see if they are from the invaders; if they are, they are given horrible food, excessively harsh work assignments, and an easy opportunity to escape and tell the overlords that this is just another church and not an underground resistance organization.
  • From Honor Harrington, one particular character is a high-ranking official of the Committee of Public Safety, and is assigned as the Political Officer to a high-ranking admiral. What the Committee is unaware of is that it's all an act; the official in question is not at all loyal to them, but to the true Constitution of the Republic that had not existed for over two centuries. On top of all that, she's in love with the admiral she's supposed to be reporting on. In possibly the most magnificent and dangerous bit of spycraft in the whole 'verse, she hides her true loyalties (and her relationship) for years, feeding a steady stream of misinformation to the other spies on her ship and to the Committee about the admiral (who shares her loyalties). In the end, they become a critical part of the Thomas Theisman coup that restores the true Republic. The character in question is Eloise Pritchart, the truly elected President of the restored Republic of Haven, a linchpin of the series and one of its most-loved characters, and the man she loves is Javier Giscard, the Republic's Fleet Admiral.
  • In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, it's part of the Back Story about why mockingjays are the symbol of rebellion. The story goes like this: During a time of rebellion, the Capitol created jabberjays, an all-male species of mutation that could memorize and repeat human conversation, and let them loose to spy on the rebels. Unfortunately, the rebels soon figured out what was going on and talked about false information in the jabberjays' range, leading to much embarrassment for the Capitol. When the Capitol realized what was going on, they abandoned the jabberjays, expecting them to die out. Instead, they survived by breeding with female mockingbirds, creating mockingjays.
  • Jack Ryan:
    • Used by the CIA, in The Hunt for Red October, to plant false information regarding the operation to gain control of the titular submarine for the sake of figuring out a longstanding leak. In his Backstory, Ryan became known to the British intelligence community through his proposal for the "Canary trap", which uses a computer program to randomize minor details of reports written more "flashy" than the traditionally staid "govermentese" normally used by the US government, to entice reporters to quote parts verbatim.
    • Also used in the prequel Without Remorse, to determine who leaked news about the Song Tay raid. This culminates with John Kelley confronting the liberal stoner kid who was the source of the leak and offering him a choice between killing himself by lethal injection with heroin earlier taken from a dead pimp, or being shot through the head.
  • The James Bond short story "The Property of a Lady", starts when it is revealed the Soviets are rewarding a known mole for her efforts, so MI6 can make more use of this trope.
  • In Mara, Daughter of the Nile, Sheftu, the leader of La Résistance, has discovered evidence that Mara is The Mole for the queen, but is not completely sure. So he has Nekonkh feed her false information as a test of her loyalty. Although Mara is The Mole (or more accurately, a Double Agent), she has also Become The Mask, and does not betray Sheftu. Unfortunately, Sahure the juggler was also listening when Nekonkh Fed The Mole, and he is also The Mole.
  • In Mr. Standfast, Richard Hannay is asked to help uncover a spy ring that's leaking British military secrets to the Germans during World War I. He assumes at first that the aim is to catch them in the act and arrest them, but Blenkiron quickly and firmly corrects him: they want the ring discovered intact if possible, so that it can be used to feed the Germans with disinformation.
  • In Larry Niven's Oath of Fealty, terrorists are trying to take down an arcology, and they have inside information about the defenses of the arcology's hydrogen pipelines. After a test attack (by unknowing dupes), the security chief makes several upgrades to the defenses — and tells different people different things about the upgrades. When the terrorists arrive with countermeasures against some, but not all, of the new defenses, he knows who the mole is.
  • In Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré, the sort of intelligence deemed suitable for leaking to moles is dubbed "Chickenfeed". The cabal of high-level intelligence officials believe that they are only giving chickenfeed to their pet Soviet mole, while one of their number is in fact feeding the mole with real, vital intelligence. Similarly, they view the intelligence supplied back to them as being gold; Smiley, however, is suspicious from the get-go — "Topicality is always suspect," he remarks of the first report — and confirms in the end that it was all Karla's chickenfeed, with just a few scraps of the good stuff at the start in order to bait the hook.
  • In Jason Matthews' Red Sparrow, Vanya Egorov attempts to find the mole among his colleagues by employing a "canary trap": give each of them a piece of information with only one difference unique to each individual, and whichever version would come back to him would tell him who the mole was. The mole learns of another colleague's version of the story, allowing him to draw suspicion away from himself for a while. He later uses this to set his successor up without her knowledge.
  • In Brian Jacques's Redwall, Cluny knows that Sela will betray him. So he carefully ensures that she believes he wants to batter in the gate when he intends to tunnel. (This trope is not connected to turnip'n'tater'n'beetroot pie.)
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the brothers Cai are fed misinformation so that Zhou Yu can set up Huang Gai's false defection. Another of Cao's spies, Jiang Gan, is also fed false information that leads to the execution of two of Cao Cao's most capable admirals.
  • "The Thirty-Six Stratagems" also have this trope as one of them, and the name for it is "Let the Enemy's own spy sow discord in the Enemy camp".
  • Samson and Delilah: Samson clearly knew his wife was trying to kill him, because every time she asked for the source of his super strength and he fed her a lie, armed soldiers would show up to test the lie.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "His Last Bow", Holmes has been posing as an Irish-American spy for the Germans for some time, feeding them a great deal of false information, meaning the German navy is facing English ships that are faster and better-armed than what they're expecting. Among other things.
    • He also stresses the importance to Watson of collecting the information the Germans have gathered so as to know what is and is not known by them (once they remove what Holmes has been telling them).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: In A Clash of Kings, Tyrion assumes at least one of three members of the Decadent Court is Cersei's Mole, and so feeds them all different stories to see which one gets back to her. Tyrion even singles out one of these three whose motives are still mysterious and and tells him everything he's doing and why, thereby trapping the schemer between the choice of playing along or passing the info and thus letting Tyrion know he's truly an enemy. Hell with Littlefinger, Tyrion is the true Magnificent Bastard.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In New Jedi Order, Mara Jade is given the task of feeding controlled disinformation to the many spies within the Alliance government.
      • A specific case with Tam Elgrin in the Enemy Lines duology in this series. He's been enslaved and conditioned to spy for the Yuuzhan Vong, and is subjected to intense (and potentially lethal) headaches if he fails to comply. He's also not particularly competent as a spy, and the heroes twig on to him fairly quickly. He ends up sending critical false information to the Yuuzhan Vong. After Tam is freed from his conditioning, he eventually makes the discovery about the false information (foiling a Yuuzhan Vong infiltrator in the process), and is much relieved that his spying did more harm than good to the Yuuzhan Vong.
    • In the much earlier-set X-Wing Series, Han Solo was personally flying around slightly-modified sets of orders to check for leaks in communications (quite a valid worry, since the New Republic had lost at least one force to bad intel already). And don't even get started on the plot involving Tycho Celchu (who isn't an Imperial spy, but is suspected [and put on trial for!] being one) and Erisi Dlarit, who really is (the real agent's existence is suspected, but not known for sure). General Cracken and Ysanne Isard are involved, so it's gonna get complicated.
      • Used more simply when it was discovered that there was a mole among one of Rogue Squadron's trading partners. Talon Karrde offered to let them execute her in whichever way they desired — he's got a really good reputation to uphold, after all, and having your trading partners sold out to the authorities is bad for business — but they opt to feed her a little information first, letting her find their base in order to draw out the enemy while making it look like they're still taking Properly Paranoid precautions to hide it so that a trap won't be suspected. It takes a lot of money for them to convince Karrde to hold off on executing the traitor until after they're done feeding her.
      • In Mercy Kill, "Face" Loran pulls off a stunning example of this on his boss. The Wraiths have been formally disbanded, but the head of Alliance Intelligence feels they might still be useful, so he asks Face to Put The Band Back Together for One Last Job. But Face is suspicious that his reports might end up in enemy hands, so he secretly assembles two teams of Wraiths (in case one is caught, the other can continue the mission) and sends back reports about a third, entirely fictitious team. Sure enough, the head of Intelligence passes on the fake dossiers to the villain and unwittingly exposes his true nature to Face, who takes him down.
    • Attempted in The Thrawn Trilogy to identify the ominous Delta Source once the good guys get the mean to decrypt the reports the Source sends to Thrawn. It doesn't work since the Delta Source is not a person. It still proves useful because it pins down the location of Delta Source, which turns out to be an ingeniously hidden recording system.
    • In Han Solo at Star's End, Han has discovered the planet that the secret CSA prison is on, and knows that one of his crew is a mole but not which one. So he has the crew do research on the place. But he tells each of them a slightly incorrect name for the planet, knowing that the Mole would unconsciously look up the correct name.
  • In "A Tall Tail" by Charles Stross, the Americans come up with the idea of sabotaging the Soviet missile and space program by dreaming up the most technologically ridiculous, dangerous, and unworkable rocket propulsion system they can imagine, and then carefully leaking the information to known Soviet agents except for the supposedly top-secret material which makes the system workable (which doesn't exist), hoping the Soviets will get distracted trying to figure out how the Americans did it, and possibly losing a few test facilities along the way due to the inevitable accidents. To their utter astonishment, the Soviets make it work. Sort of. Once.
  • Suggested as a tactic for figuring out who in their spy network has been compromised in The Tamuli, although it ends up not happening.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, Aly feeds every mole she can find. She even, at one point, manages to get herself made one of them in Trickster's Queen.
  • Once the 'villains' of Villains by Necessity learn that Robin is a spy, they tell him a decidedly outlandish story about their alleged plans to report to Mizzamir. The wizard wasn't fooled by the fake intelligence for long, if at all.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, when Ludd reports Gaunt's unusual behavior to Commissiar Balshin, and apologizes, Gaunt explains that he had counted on it. Balshin would have ignored his report. This way, he could lure her to a place where she could see the truth of his words for herself.
    • In Graham McNeill 's Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, when they arrive on planet, Talhoun comes to greet them. Barzano observes afterward that now he knows he can not trust Ballion. He had suspected that it was so, and now he also knows whose pocket Ballion is in.
      • In Dead Sky Black Sun, Honsou uses this to destroy an effort to undermine his fortress.
    • In William King's Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, when Gabriella's aunt, who married into a different House, gets her some information, Torin and Ragnor discuss the possible permutations of Feed the Mole that might be going on. Even if it's a trap, it might be good information, to be a good bait.
    • In Ben Counter's Grey Knights novel Hammer of Daemons, Alaric tells an eldar, a fellow captive, that he does not trust eldar because of a certain battle, implying he had fought in it. Later, he refuses to let the eldar on the ship, because his captor had said he had been in that battle, when in truth, Alaric had just heard of it. Only the eldar could have told him that. Then Alaric accuses him of having long been The Mole.
  • Discussed several times in The Wheel of Time, when Elayne, Perrin, Faile, various Seanchan, and Rand himself deal spies.
  • In Worm, Wards member Chariot is a known agent of Coil, a local Diabolical Mastermind. The Wards become aware of this, and decide to use Chariot, because as a powerful tinker with a specialization in transportation he's highly useful, and so that they can feed Coil misinformation. Coil may or may not have been aware of this, but in any case, it's irrelevant to his plans, which only needed Chariot to be present in one specific battle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Ashes to Ashes (2008), Hunt and Drake know there is a mole in the department, so they set up a sting, telling each member of the team slightly different information, and then wait to see which one will act on it, revealing themselves in the process. Heartbreakingly, it turns out to be Chris.
  • Subverted in Bionic Woman (2007 remake). Jaime overhears her colleague talking on the phone to an assassin planning to kill an African dictator. Jaime is told to feed him false information on the dictator's movements. This leaves the dictator wide open — instead of following the false information, the assassin is following her original plan as Jaime's colleague isn't in cahoots with the assassin, he's just trying to warn her off (she's a former Love Interest turned Rogue Agent).
  • In the final season of Borgen, Nyborg and Katrine use a Canary Trap to discover which of the New Democrats leadership team is leaking information on their policies and campaign plan to the Moderates.
  • Done on Burn Notice when Sam was being blackmailed by the government into squealing on Michael. Michael took advantage of this and simply told Sam what to tell them. Was dropped entirely by the second season, though.
  • Caprica: Agent Duram, suspecting that the GDD is infiltrated, gives his superior a false name for his informant in Clarice Willow's household. Turns out his superior is the mole and the false information causes the innocent Mar-Beth to be murdered by Clarice.
  • In the second episode of Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow"), Syn learns that one of his smugglers, Ransley, plans to betray him to General Pugh. So on the next smuggling run, Syn (as the Scarecrow) secretly gives him barrels of seawater, not brandy, knowing that Ransley will try to sell them for his own profit so he can flee. Then when Ransley is arrested, Syn brings out this fact in court by asking that the brandy be examined and saves Ransley (and more to the point, his sons) from hanging.
  • Doctor Who: In "Last of the Time Lords", Martha does this to ensure the Master finds her, making sure the mole knows where she intends to stop for the night on her journey.
  • After The Mole is outed on Dollhouse, it's implied that DeWitt plans on doing a version of this should the NSA come looking for them — via Mind Rape and/or Fake Memories. Which she coolly tells the former spy about beforehand. Shudder.
  • In Elementary, Sherlock's father Morland Holmes attempts to expose a potential mole in his company by giving the suspects each a slightly different version of the same contract; since each contract has a unique typo in it to distinguish it from the others, Morland reasoned that he would be able to identify the mole based on which copy of the contract was given to his business rivals.
    • In this case, it was indirectly subverted; the mole worked out what Morland was doing when he saw one of the other contracts and abandoned his plans.
  • Game of Thrones: In "What is Dead May Never Die", Tyrion smokes out who is feeding the queen her information by telling three different members of the Small Council that he is marrying off her daughter to a different person. When Cersei angrily confronts him about her daughter being shipped off to marry one of those men, he has his mole.
  • Hogan and company once (in the pilot) fed a mole... pretty much the entire truth about their operation, knowing that he would never be believed.
  • In the third season finale of The Mentalist, Patrick Jane does the first type to root out Red John's mole in the CBI. He tells each suspect that Madeleine Hightower, who Red John wants dead, is hiding in a different room in the same hotel, hoping that The Mole will get Red John to send an assassin to the room they've been given.
    • And the plan doesn't work as intended because the assassin goes to the "wrong" room deliberately, planning to climb to the correct room OUTSIDE. The CBI comes in to arrest her and she jumps from the balcony. It takes Jane until the next day to realize the truth, by which point they'd already tipped off the real mole to Hightower's actual location, thinking they'd cleared him. Fortunately, everyone survives except the mole himself.
  • Mission: Impossible:
    • The classic episode "The Mind of Stefan Miklos" is based on this trope; the IMF have to deal with two enemy moles in the CIA. Mole A is being fed false information, but Mole B has discovered this and reported it back to his superiors. The KGB know that the two moles are rivals, and are sending the titular agent Miklos to investigate; the team must convince him that Mole B is lying and that Mole A's information is real.
    • Used in another episode when an American agent (who's undercover as an senior enemy intelligence officer and under threat of being exposed) conspires with the IMF team to feed information to his assistant, who they know is spying on him for a rival.
  • This is the strategy used to trap the titular "Assassin" in the NUMB3RS episode of that name.
    • This was also part of Colby's mole operation. Under the guidance of his handler, Colby fed information to genuine mole Carter in hopes that Carter would eventually reveal the identity of his contact. He does. Unfortunately, it's not until after said contact had figured out Colby's true allegiances.
  • In the Murder, She Wrote episode "The Cemetery Vote", Jessica suspects Carroll of being The Mole in Jim's office who tipped off the gambling ring before the last raid. To confirm this, she tells said person about a planned raid in two hours. After she leaves the room, they make a call to Mrs. Gunnerson, who helps run it — and get Caught on Tape by the state police.
  • The Punisher (2017): In the seventh episode of Season 1, Dinah Madani realizes her office has been bugged as that's the only explanation for how Gunner Henderson got tracked down and killed so quickly by Rawlins's commandos (as he overheard her talking about him with Sam Stein). After an hours long search, she and Sam find the bug, and decide that the best course of action is to stage a conversation that leads Rawlins and Billy Russo to think Madani is setting up a sting to bust Frank Castle as he meets with a gun buyer at an abandoned warehouse. Actually, it's a sting to capture them, but it goes badly as Russo recruits some private military contractors to come with him to the meet. It ends in a fatal shootout with Russo's men all being killed, and Russo killing five DHS SWAT officers (including Sam).
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1: The Tok'ra do this with a supposedly converted Goa'uld. This exchange occurs when the spy finds out:
      Tanith: I don't understand. Why have I been excluded from such important information?
      Teal'c: [matter-of-factly] The Tok'ra did not wish Apophis to be informed.
    • Stargate Atlantis: Played for Laughs. Sheppard is captured by the Wraith and placed in a cell with another human prisoner, a frightened young woman. However, he becomes suspicious when she asks a few leading questions about Earth, he's right, she's a Wraith-worshipper, so he tells her about the terrible enemy that they're at war with: clowns.
      Sheppard Oh yeah, the clowns. We fight them too. Entire armies spilling out of Volkswagens. We do our best to fight them off, but they keep sending them in.
  • Star Trek: Voyager does this a couple of times. The first is part of a running subplot. Janeway and Tuvok suspect that Seska still has a mole on board feeding her info, and so they enlist Tom Paris to exaggerate his rebellious tendencies and stir up animosity with the unsuspecting Chakotay knowing that the mole will feed this information to Seska making it more believable when Tom "defects" and joins Seska.
    • And the technique was originally used to expose Seska in the first place. She and another suspect are told that a piece of Voyager's technology has been recovered from a Kazon vessel. Seska tries to fabricate evidence that the other officer stole the device in the first place, but Tuvok is monitoring the computer program to see if this will happen, even anticipating that the other suspect was trying to do this to Seska.
    • Janeway suspects that a defector she has granted asylum is faking, and feeds him misleading information about where she is hiding the refugees and where their escape wormhole is located, to buy time for the refugees who are already booking it to the wormhole in hidden shuttles.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: When the Klingons (who are the Federation's allies) go to war with the Cardassians (who are in an uneasy not-quite-alliance with the Federation at that point), Sisko knows he can't directly warn the Cardassians without ending the Federation-Klingon alliance, so he has a meeting about the attack while having his measurements taken by the local exiled Cardassian tailor with the shady background. This is an unusual case of a Guile Hero feeding a mole genuine information in order to help the mole's side.
  • Three Kingdoms follows the novel (mentioned in Literature) broadly faithfully in adapting the Battle of Chibi arc, specifically the Cai brothers and Jiang Gan, although Cao Cao's belief in the Huang Gai defection instead comes entirely from the Cai brothers' report, without mention of Kan Ze who in the novel acted as Huang Gai's messenger.
  • The Wire: After Burrell is surprised to learn about the bug in the Barksdales' back office at Orlando's during Season 1, Daniels realizes that Carver was Burrell's informant on the detail, since Carver had been at an in-service training that day. Subverted in that in that Daniels wasn't actively trying to figure out who the mole was.

  • X Minus One: In "Project Trojan", Phase Three was identifying a German mole (Gogarty) and "losing" files connected to an unworkable Death Ray. Because they were only "losing" some of the files, it would look as if the lack of information meant the Allied powers had developed a solution.

    Video Games 
  • The Blue Sun mod for 7.62 High Caliber adds a mission strand with the Sagrada police department, and one of the relatively early missions involves identifying a mole by telling two different suspected officers a different location where they'll be transporting a briefcase of money and seeing which town has mercenaries ready to attack.
  • A small questline in the fan-made The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind mod pack Tamriel Rebuilt centers around the Enforced Cold War between the Mages Guild and House Telvanni, and both sides, regardless of which one you take, have a quest where you have to help root out a suspected mole/leak from the other side this way. The Telvanni version has you baiting out four suspected moles with "gossip" about a defecting Guild mage (with a different story/mage for each suspect), then laer checking if any of the "defectors" have suddenly disappeared. The Guild quest has you spread a rumor about a fake expedition to one of their agents within the Telvanni to see if they've been flipped. For extra points, the spy for both quests is the same person.
  • Planescape: Torment has an In-Universe example with the story of Vilquar; the Githzerai figured out he had sold them out to the Illithid, so they tricked him into believing that they had given up on their rebellion to fool the Illithid into becoming complacent, as well as prevent future treason by showing how the Illithid kill Vilquar upon getting the bad info.

  • Average Joe is likely showcasing a version of this, as most of the strip is a prolonged flashback story being told by The Hero to The Mole — whereby the Hero has recently noted (not to the mole) that he knows she's working for the unknown enemy...
  • Girl Genius: It's spelled out more explicitly in the print novelizations than the original comic, but Klaus and Gil Wulfenbach do this with both the noble-family students/hostages on board Castle Wulfenbach, and Gil's manservant Ardley Wooster, who is a British spy.
    • Explicitly done after the Time Skip:
      Gil: So, I've been setting traps. Discrete "useful bits of information" to each suspected traitor. I'm sure you know the drill. By now, the attackers at our "completely undefended" outer base should be all sorted out.
  • A Modest Destiny shows that you can use this even on a non-mole ditz, as seen when Gustav is deliberately given bad information so (when asked politely by a disguised villain) he'll accidentally lead the enemy into a trap.
  • Subverted in The Trenches: Q knows there is a mole in the company, leaking secrets to their game's user base, in particular what they plan on doing about an Infinite Gold Bug that slipped through QA and got released. He tells each of the QA testers something different, and then fires Marley when his version goes public. The subversion is that Marley isn't the mole, Cora is; Isaac figured out what was going on and leaked Marley's info himself. He did this for two reasons: A) to protect Cora, who ultimately had the users' best interest at heart, and B) to punish Marley, the QA tester who let the bug go live in the first place by getting too stoned to do his work.

    Western Animation 
  • The Bots Master: When Paradigm finds out a mole planted by The Hero, he uses it to give Zulander misleading information.
  • In Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Hulk is wise to Skaars duplicity and allows him tidbits of information to give to Leader, hoping to win Skaar over in the end.
  • Men in Black: The Series: An alien in the guise of an human woman once infiltrated MiB and gains the confidence of Frank the Pug. J and K cottoned on pretty quickly and provided Frank with bogus information. Frank was genuinely saddened when he learned of her intentions.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: In "Birds of a Feather", Kowl's cousin Red-Eye seeks employment at the Horde and Shadow Weaver uses a spell to enable Red-Eye to see and hear what Kowl does. She-Ra takes advantage of this to give the Horde misleading information.
  • In Skunk Fu!, a ninja monkey who pretends to be kicked out of the mountains by Baboon so he can spy is given bad info from the animals in the valley about when they'll attack next and who'll be leading to report back to Baboon.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "The Spy Humongous", a Pakled claiming to be a refugee is quickly deduced by Ransom and Kayshon to be a spy... and a quite inept one at that, taking photos of himself instead of the Cerritos and asking obviously suspicious questions, like asking to see the warp core and wanting all their codes. Ransom and Kayshon decide to play along and take him to see "classified" locations like the gift shop and the juice bar. He gives them the slip... only to mistake an airlock for the bathroom and flush himself out into space. He survives, but is transported to Pakled Planet at the end, where he triumphantly reveals himself to be a spy to "Janeway" (actually Captain Freeman). Freeman then tricks him to reveal that the Pakleds are building a bomb they plan to drop on Earth.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Grand Admiral Thrawn says in "An Inside Man" that he plans to do this once he finds out who The Mole is, now that he knows there is one. At the end of "Through Imperial Eyes", now that he knows who the mole is, he tells Yularen that he can start actually doing it.

    Real Life 
  • The British planted a spy in Ben Franklin's staff in Paris. When Franklin found out, he proceeded to send bogus information to him, and thus back to London.
  • More or less all the German spies which were captured in World War I suffered this fate, if they didn't defect or end up executed.
  • Again in WWII, every spy Nazi Germany sent to England was caught and turned into a double agent. The Nazis never caught on, and were fed false information for most of the war, with occasional bits of true but harmless information sprinkled in (referred to as "chicken feed") to keep the double agents credible in their German handler's eyes. The second time around was even easier since they'd got a mole of their own: one of the instructors in the spy school.
  • The SIS (British) spy Kim Philby was accused of being The Mole for the KGB (Soviets). He was exonerated, but still not completely trusted. Then he came under greater suspicion, and he had to leave the SIS, and defected to the KGB for real. The thing was, the KGB were quite suspicious that he was a Fake Defector and they didn't trust him either, which prompted Philby to regain contact with the SIS in an effort to actually become a Fake Defector. In the end, since neither side trusted him any more, they embraced this trope, making him essentially a glorified messenger boy.
  • On a more mundane note, this is a good way to quickly filter out your junk mail. Any time you fill out a form where your information will most likely be sent or sold to companies that send junk, give a false name (or at least a different form of your own). If anything comes addressed to the name, you can throw it away without opening it. Discussed one of Wil Wheaton's blog posts: Goddammit, Popular Science. You Had One Job. He used the fake name "Awesomeface Wheaton" when subscribing to Popular Science and found his information had been shared with a third party. Sites like Sneakemail provide a similar service for email.
  • A few celebrities have done this when they've suspected their publicists were leaking stories to the press. They'd just make up a fake story, and if it ended up in the media...
  • By early 1942, the US had already broken the Imperial Japanese Navy's JN-25 codes, and they found out that they were planning an operation around "Objective AF". Since the lettered code names assigned to objectives were separate from the JN-25 code itself, they didn't actually know where "AF" was, but from context suspected it could be Midway Island, containing a strategically important submarine base and airfield. Certain of their intel but needing an example to show to the brass, they had their base at Midway begin sending false messages saying that its distillation plant had been damaged and that they were short on water. When Japanese messages began stating that "AF" was short on water, the US had their proof, giving them the element of surprise that the US utilized to great effect at the Battle of Midway that June. The result was the loss of four Japanese carriers to one American one, and from that point forward, Japan was on the defensive in the Pacific War.
  • Subverted in the 1960 U2 Crisis. The Soviets shot down and captured an American spy pilot, Gary Powers, who was flying over Soviet airspace. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev originally gave the impression that they had no idea exactly what the plane was and were merely annoyed that it had been in their airspace without their permission, whereas in actual fact Powers had told them everything. The Eisenhower administration, relieved due to thinking they'd gotten off the hook, claimed it had been a weather plane. The Soviets then revealed that they knew what the plane was for all along, making the Americans look like liars as well as spies.
  • Paramount used this trope to identify Gene Roddenberry as the leaker of scripts for the Star Trek movies. Copies of the almost-final draft of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock' were distributed to all those entitled to have them, including Roddenberry, with subtle differences in each copy. When bootleg copies were circulated at conventions, the studio was able to determine pretty quickly that they had been copied from the one distributed to Roddenberry, who was actively trying to make the studio backtrack and not let Kirk actually destroy the Enterprise. But by then it was too late to do anything to Roddenberry.
  • In 2019, Coleen Rooney, wife of soccer superstar Wayne Rooney, suspected another soccer wife of leaking her private stories to the tabloids. She tested the theory by making her social media private to everyone but the suspect, then posting false stories and seeing if they spread. When they did, she made a big public accusation, which of course became huge tabloid fodder again.
  • Copyright traps, either in the form of "phantom settlements" in terms of published maps, or "fictitious entries" for published dictionaries and encyclopedias, serve this function. Reference works like these are inherently based on factual information, and you can't copyright the true definition of a word or the actual layout of a city. So, to prevent lazy publishers from simply copying your reference, the idea is to plant a trivial bit of false information in your own work — a fake street in a big city, or a ghost word in a dictionary that has no true meaning. If you find the same bit of planted info in a rival publisher's work, you could use this as credible legal evidence that they are copying your work, rather than doing their own research. This actually came up in a legal case regarding Trivial Pursuit, when a fake trivia entry about Columbo's first name, inserted as a copyright trap into The Trivia Encyclopaedia by Fred L. Worth, was used as a question in the game; the verdict said, in effect, that taking extensively from one source might well be plagiarism, but taking from numerous sources, and comprehensively changing the way the material was used, meant this was instead research, and thus didn't constitute a crime. Worth pursued his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied cert (i.e., declined to hear the case) in March of 1988.