Saturday, September 22, 2012


An awesome read on what is referred in the spy business as 'tradecraft' . . . from the chronicles of the Smithsonian

“I’d come back from an op and couldn’t wait for what happens next.”

The six CIA officers were sweating. It was almost noon on a June day in the Middle Eastern capital, already in the 90s outside and even hotter inside the black sedan where the five men and one woman sat jammed in together. Sat and waited.

They had flown in two days earlier for this mission: to break into the embassy of a South Asian country, steal that country’s secret codes and get out without leaving a trace. During months of planning, they had been assured by the local CIA station that the building would be empty at this hour except for one person—a member of the embassy’s diplomatic staff working secretly for the agency.

But suddenly the driver’s hand-held radio crackled with a voice-encrypted warning: “Maintain position. Do not approach target.” It was the local CIA station, relaying a warning from the agency’s spy inside: a cleaning lady had arrived.

From the back seat Douglas Groat swore under his breath. A tall, muscular man of 43, he was the leader of the break-in team, at this point—1990—a seven-year veteran of this risky work. “We were white faces in a car in daytime,” Groat recalls, too noticeable for comfort. Still they waited, for an hour, he says, before the radio crackled again: “OK to proceed to target.” The cleaning lady had left . . .

These technical specialists of the espionage craft are highly qualified experts in their field. During the course of my career in Special Forces I rubbed elbows with Agency personnel - mostly analysts, and a few case officers, but never these rare birds. - S.L.

Rare birds indeed, and sometimes quite exotic - read on . . .

The Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s predecessor, targeted the Vichy French Embassy in Washington, D.C. one night in June 1942. An operative code-named Cynthia arranged a tryst inside the embassy with her lover, who was the press attaché there. The tryst, as both knew, was a cover story—a way to explain her presence to the night watchman. After the 31-year-old, auburn-haired spy and her lover stripped in the hall outside the code room, Cynthia, naked but for her pearls and high-heeled shoes, signaled out a window to a waiting OSS safe expert, a specialist known as the “Georgia Cracker.” He soon had the safe open and the codebooks removed; an OSS team photographed the books in a hotel nearby, and Cynthia returned them to the safe before dawn . . .

According to another account I read of this operation, "Cynthia" actually seduced the Vichy official, distracting him with a night of lovemaking on an embassy sofa as OSS operators snuck into the embassy and went about their work. - S.L.

Read the rest of this fascinating article

Each page of a Soviet “one-time pad” was used once and discarded.

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