The Clandestine Reporter is the most basic form of information gathering. In clandestine reporting, an agent infiltrates a target entity (nation, corp, organization) and uses their access to report information back to their source agency. While not flashy or exciting, this is the most common form of physical intelligence gathering. Spies are the bread and butter of intelligence organizations, but contrary to the action films, spies aren't dashing agents with licenses to kill, and extreme skill with guns and driving cars. These are typically normal people who have been trained to gather intel, or they are simply assets who contacted the outside agency wishing to divulge information against the organization they are part of.
Why: people can turn to clandestine reporting for a variety of reasons; money, ideology, compromise, or even excitement. Money is simple, because money can be turned into the lavish material desires and the security that wealth can bring. Ideology comes from resenting said organization and then working to bring it down, be it collapsing a corporation, betraying the home nation, or seeing the organization brought to justice. Compromise comes when a person has a vulnerability, such as having committed a crime, or being vulnerable to blackmail. In exchange for keeping their secret, or protecting their weakness, the person becomes an agent for the gathering of intelligence. Finally excitement in a nebulous section. Sometimes the asset feels unappreciated by their organization, passed over, snubbed, or just disinterested, and becoming an agent adds a flare of excitement and a thrill their lives lack.
A variant of the basic spy, the mirror agent can be a double agent, a triple agent, or even more convoluted layers of loyalty. In the spy game, this is the question of allegiances and loyalty. At the end of the day, the spy themselves might be nothing more than a bauble spinning for the entertainment of secret masters of intelligence.
A False Flag operation is any intelligence or military operation carried out with the intent of of making an uninvolved third party appear as the culprit. Thus, the mission is carried out to it's desired goal, and another party is left as the seeming perpetrator of the action. While effective, these operations have the risk of severely damaging the reputation of agencies that are caught carrying them out. This is the most damaging to government agencies, as such actions can actively undermine faith in the entire government, not just the agency involved.
False Flag operations are a key part of shadow wars between the megalithic entities of the Cosmic Era. Many shadowrunners fall into this arena as they are third party contractors, and often themselves do not know who they are working for. Many organizations have their own in house shadowrunners who work as false flag ops, contracting themselves out, often for years, before going after their targets. Some false flag cells are created years before their missions are even created.
TRUST NO ONE: one of the first shadowrunner rules is to trust no one. Deep agents can pose as legit runners for years, before leading their team to the contact that sends them on their false flag op.
The agent provocateur is a professional trouble maker, one who incites events. In the shadowrunning world, this is a common job, make a mess, make a noise, cause a distraction. In the intelligence world this is inciting riots, causing accidents, and so forth. Not by their own hands, that would make them implicit, but rather, they incite others to do these things.
The Courier is an asset whos only value is in moving packages or securing communications. The courier is a deniable asset, as if they are discovered, it would destroy their value as an intelligence agent. Couriers carry things and don't ask questions about what they move.
A fantastic example of the courier template is Jason Statham's The Transporter. He fights, drives, and kills people to make sure that whatever he has been hired to pick and deliver makes it from point A to point B. As a third party, it doesn't matter if he is caught, unlike a government or organization agent.
The Safe House
The Safe House is a secured location that functions as a retreat for agents, a place to store bulky gear, or a place where certain tasks can be carried out with relative safety and security. Nothing in a safe house should be what it appears, or should even be noticed. The best safe house is the one that no one knows about.
Intelligence operations are expensive, and money is the fluid that lubricates it. In the Cosmic Era this can be an issue, since many world powers have since abandoned physical currency, or even traditional currency based economic models, such as the Atlantic Federation's freemium economy system, and the major use of multikards. The Silk Road, of all places, has presented the answer to the Intelligence community's fiscal issues, xuwala.
At its heart, xuwala is a system of exchange where the 'currency' is trust. The actual application of xuwala is nuanced and complicated, and comes down to a series of promises exchanged between interested parties. Parties who fail to meet their obligations lose face, and find xuwala cutting back against them, making their value plummet. While it might be advantageous to stiff someone on a deal, it can very quickly swing around and the same person might suddenly find that no one is willing to exchange with them for food, water, or ammo.
Intelligence ops dealing with xuwala, or prestation debt, are as much managing personnel as assets as it is making actual money.
An example of a xuwala deal would see an agent going into the field with a canister of biogel, trading it to an interested party in exchange for a promise of a water delivery. A few weeks later, the agent uses the water delivery to get on the good side of an arms dealer on the Silk Road and start working for them. Several transactions later, the agent is able to make the big move that was wanted, moving something large and impressive and gaining something equally valuable for it, such as an ACPS agent trading a stockpile of drugs for stolen Federation war gear, (functionally buying it off the black market)