Spy-craft 101 is the ability to blend into the back ground, to become one of the millions of nameless faceless people that are around us everyday. A spy doesn’t want to be recognised, remembered….unless they want you to…in which case they’ll probably stand out, but I digress, the main objective is to live in the shadows. I really wish this would explain the large number of zip up cardigans we currently have in the office, if only it could.
There’s a very good reason that Hollywood dresses their leading men in Tuxedos and Saville row suits, because it’s a bloody film! No one, repeat no one has ever rocked up to a foreign country wandered into a very public place, like, oh I don’t know let’s say, a casino, looking ultra conspicuous and then stating their real name for all and sundry to hear. I mean they could, and it certainly would be an interesting way to end ones career, but they don’t.
No, thankfully field agents go through a rigorous training program learning what we call spy-craft. The whole aim of the game is to become the little grey man, unremarkable, indistinctive and instantly forgettable. Now depending on your job or your mission, this can be done in a number of ways. The way we dress is all important, it forms our first impression and whether we engage or instantly dismiss an individual. But the fact is you have to do your homework, you can’t wear jeans and a wind cheater if you’re going into a biker bar.
It all starts with the mission goal, who are you ? What do you have to do ? What is your job ? If you’re moving things from A to B, coming and going from the office, then think dull drab….i’d like to say that excuses the cardigans, but it doesn’t. The next thing to consider is the likelihood of escalation, that is, any unnecessary contact with anyone what so ever. This will probably be low if you’re running errands, especially if you’re on home soil. The issue of escalation only really raises its head on overseas jobs when you have to think on your feet.
A typical scenario would be something like this, you need access to an organisation and there’s no option to tap in electronically. You need old school eyes on the ground for a limited amount of time, anything under 5 minutes is what we term limited. The easiest way to secure access to an entire building is as a mail boy. Obtaining I.D. and if needed a uniform, shouldn’t be a problem, if you can’t, then you’re in the wrong profession, try politics, their standards are much lower.
Entering via the mail room is excellent, because the mail boy gets to go everywhere virtually unchallenged and is someone that’s hardly noticed. This is second only to cleaner as best covert job, and as most cleaners are subcontracted, easier than you’d think. The fact is that rich city boy types don’t look twice at domestic staff. I can guarantee the boss doesn’t know your name, couldn’t be less interested in your kids or the state of your marriage, again, it’s not Hollywood.
You need to avoid starting small talk at all costs, think escalation. The problems start when you interact with people, the more people, the worse it gets. The trouble is the more you talk the more you give away, or if you are doing your job properly, the more you have to remember. These aren’t an issue with deep covers, these you’ve had time to build, time to learn. No, it’s the quick cover that you only use now and then, that gets you shopped every time, and by shopped I mean caught, tortured and, depending on where you are, probably executed….so you know, no pressure.
In this line of business, if your cover has to last more than 5 minutes, then you live it, and that’s a literal 5 minutes, not a throw away statement. Why am I telling you all this ? So that when you’re in a real world scenario, we won’t have to make up a cock and bull story to tell your relatives. And if by some miracle enough of you learn from this, the likelihood of me having to run any more cover familiarisation classes will be greatly reduced, which as far as I am concerned, can’t come soon enough.
“So Colin, what’s your cover story ?”
“I am an armoury technician.”
“No…that’s you job…your real job…whats your cover?”
“My cover is….that of an armoury technician.”
“Do you think we’d ever use your actual job as a cover?”
It’s the …er…that lets me know we’ll be here for hours.
“Colin, do you know what a Russian interrogations like ?”
“…er…no…will I have to learn that as well ?”
“I wouldn’t worry, you’ll to find out someday.”