Defection is a term that means to change sides. This is usually used in the context of the change of allegiance, duty or loyalty particularly in a political context. In a religious context defection is known as apostasy.
Defection can also means failure, lack, or loss: e.g. He was overcome by a sudden defection of humor.
The word is often associated with the Cold War, when individuals would defect from the Russia or East Germany to the West, although some also moved the opposite way from the United States or United Kingdom. Defectors were often supplied valuable intelligence and intelligence agencies often tried to delay their defection for as long as possible. As a reward they would often be given a house and job in their adopted country but ultimately often ended up sad and lonely in their new home.
Perhaps the most famous case of defection from the US to the USSR in the Cold War was the flight of William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell. The pair of mathematicians, who worked for the NSA, had access to top secret information and were in a homosexual relationship. Their sudden flight from the USA through Mexico and Cuba to the USSR was an action completely unexpected by the NSA and the US government, and caused great distress in the government, especially with their trusted access to the information. Their defection led to major changes with how government agencies monitor their employees. A 1991 Pentagon study of paraphilia (kinky or bizarre sexual behaviors) issued by the Defense Security Service and used today in military circles counts Martin and Mitchell among a group of "publicly known homosexuals" who betrayed their country.
"There are about 200,000 to a quarter of a million homosexuals in Government." Seelig then referred to the 1950 Senate hearings under the late Senator Clyde Hoey, who warned there "are security risks endangering the United States" and that "two code experts in the National Security Agency, William Martin and Bernon Mitchell, defected to the Soviet with vital defense secrets."
Some notable defectors
- Kim Philby (Britain to USSR)
- Guy Burgess (Britain to USSR)
- Donald MacClean (Britain to USSR)
- Oleg Gordievsky (USSR to Britain)
- Mikhail Baryshnikov, dancer (USSR to Canada)
- Rudolf Nureyev, dancer (USSR to France)
- Martina Navratilova, tennis player (USSR to USA)
- James Joseph Dresnok (USA to North Korea)
- Jerry Wayne Parrish (USA to North Korea)
- Bernon F. Mitchell (USA to USSR)
- William H. Martin (USA to USSR)
- In the Presence of Our Enemies: A History of the Malignant Effects in American Schools of the Un's UNESCO and Its Tranformation of American Society from the Lips of Those Who Did It By Ellen McClay Published by AuthorHouse, 2006. p 245 Google Books link.