On spies and stratagems/Target

Operational targetsEdit

In economic terms operation targets are the goals that a given action wants to reach as an outcome. This can be a bit more complicated when used in reference to a security agency activities, at a higher planing stage it may be the same but at operational level it signifies the real targets of the operation. These targets may be persons, information or items.

Due to the problematic and sensitive nature of operations it is also normal to give the targets a code or avoid using real identifiers, they are often referred as "The package", or a similar alias.

In popular couture the short for "President of the United States", POTUS has become entrenched, even if it is doubtful if it has evert been used as a security measure. Even so it is believed that FLOTUS ("First Lady of the United States") was indeed used in the 1980s, by the Secret Service's as the code name for Nancy Reagan. Most of the OTUS abbreviations seem derived a book titled The Phillips Telegraphic Code for the Rapid Transmission by Telegraph by Walter P. Phillips in 1879.

Types of operationsEdit

There are two root types of operations, those that have an official cover and those that have no official cover (NOC).

Official cover means that the agency is not only fully aware of the operation, but if there is a blow-back or agents are captured or detected, it will acknowledge its involvement. This type of decision is mostly political and has at root diplomatic and public relations interests. The mission's definition also clarifies the operative agents on how secure they will be if the mission fails, it may not only mean life or death but spending long times in captivity at times even without an acknowledgment of their capture.

A mission that is acknowledged and taken responsibility for does permit some form of mitigation and containment of any blow-back. It may even become part of some form of misdirection or part of a more general political or diplomatic pressure effort. It is even possible to have an allied agency take responsibility for the operation or use it shape public opinion. Ultimately the acknowledgement of operations is the result of the calculated political risks and the impact it may have the overall agencies activities. By acknowledging some operation the opposition is also informed of awareness, interests, personnel and modus operandi (protocols) and a myriad more of data points.

For the agents involved the official cover permits a diplomatic/political resolution as a possible outcome of getting caught. From a general pardon to becoming part of prisoner exchange or any other form of negotiated solution.

The now famous Checkpoint Charlie was a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War (1947–1991). It became famous by featuring frequently in spy movies and books as a spy exchange point, even if all is probably mostly fiction.

Operational subgroups (OSGs)Edit

Self-contained support operations or activities. It can cover many aspects of non specific functions transport, resource gathering even multi-agency operation coordination.

Special opsEdit

Black opsEdit

Intelligence classificationEdit

A large part of the work of an Intelligence Agency is to process raw data and turn it into relevant information, from rumors to the information gathered from direct operation it becomes one of the most hardiest task to sift all the data into what if valid and relevant, not only today but in the predictable future. This has of course a large parallel (if not similar relation as general war and technology) to the evolution of information technology from categorization, communications to computing, as we have seen.

Solid intelligence is the gold standard in the real of information gathering. It is the top quality of the information that results from the data processing. There are basic similitudes in the general process, even if some points varies from agency to agency. From establishing source credentials, target analysis and channel safety there are a myriad of steps that are required, and mostly automated so as to validated and categorize information. Do not ever get eluded, if this carefully crafted process fails there can only be one reason, the failing was intentional and carefully planned. Note that lack of information is never a failing of the data validation and categorization process.

Source analysisEdit


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Like journalistic reporters sources must not only be certified but the information be validated by multiple sources. Cover the problem of the "single threaded intelligence"

Rouge source

The concept of a rouge source is that of someone to pass or create false intelligence that not only is found acceptable by the agent (or agency). Most sources as we have seen pass some levels of scrutiny to verify that they are not a plant or source of misdirection. The problem is when a source has no clear ties to the target it is providing information or when the agent (or agency) fails to understand the motivation behind the false information provided.

Photographic identificationEdit

Intelligence gathering / Data acquisitionEdit

"no time ever spent in reconnaissance is ever wasted"


Data vs Information

Its important to understand that data is distinct from information, it is its raw amorphous form. While all data will generate information of some sort, especially with moderns tools (computers, record keeping) and techniques (mathematics, statistics and algorithms) it is only treated and picked information that is ultimately the goal and actable upon.

Passive surveillance

Passive surveillance is all the information gathered from operations that did not have as a primary goal acquiring it or results from automation or protocol and bureaucracy.

Active surveillance

Active surveillance is all the information gathered form directed operations against defined targets with the intent of obtaining data.

Technological Advances Any science as it develops into practical technology can and will be used to do harm. The problem is clearly not about the science or the technology but how people use it. This is one of the reasons Governments in general try to suppress, even control knowledge, even more since the state will always try to monopolize the capability to exert violence, from its citizens and from other states. There is also an effect on research; as the state is often the major founder of it and it is undoubtedly the one that sets policy into motion. No one will like to be involved with research that is seen as "problematic".

Leveraging dataEdit

This type of surveillance is often silent so operational secure and broad-spectrum (multiple targets) even detecting targets the agency was not aware. One form of keeping tabs on technology is to over regulate and create layers of red tape to workers on the sensitive fields, enough that it generates a bureaucratic trail of data points that can, even more so today, be sieved for usable data. The weaker the civil rights are especially regarding to their privacy and the state stronger the ability, from state or enterprise, to data-mine and correlate information the easier it is to control a population, especially against their will and often without their knowledge.

Fiscal Information
Basic Utilities

One example amongst many is how the FBI attempts to monitor book uses in the public libraries (see American Library Association (ALA) page regarding Intellectual Freedom Issues).

  • "Dangerous" substances
    • People
    • Chemicals
    • Pathogens; Even if there is already a large bureaucratic control over the storage and access to dangerous pathogens, and often the repositories are under military control, there is a rising risk that civil research (that is public information) regarding technological processes will become problematic. The U.S. government today regulates 15 biological agents and in Set. 2014 asked universities to flag risky pathogen experiments.
      • Avian influenza virus (highly pathogenic)
      • Bacillus anthracis
      • Botulinum neurotoxin
      • Burkholderia mallei
      • Burkholderia pseudomallei
      • Ebola virus
      • Foot-and-mouth disease virus
      • Francisella tularensis
      • Marburg virus
      • Reconstructed 1918 Influenza virus
      • Rinderpest virus
      • Toxin-producing strains of Clostridium botulinum
      • Variola major virus
      • Variola minor virus
      • Yersinia pestis
Social Media

Reading ground tracks becomes more difficult at midday as the sun's position will reduce the tracks' shadow.



In sum this is somewhat a reversal of pickpocketing, the idea behind it is to describe a quick transfer of items without any observer noticing it. It may require the connivance of the recipient but it may also serve as to plant something, like a "bug", a "tracer"/"tracker" or any other item.

"making a drop"Edit
"dead drop"Edit

A dead drop is an indirect delivery or even an exchange. The object will be of a physical nature, information media or specific hardware. The dead drop is defined by pre-establishing a specific location for dropping the package, this will sometimes also include some sort of protocol to indicate that the drop will take place to the receiver, and may also include countermeasures in case the agent that will execute the drop thinks he is under observation, as to indicate that the content is false or that the receiver should stay away as to avoid himself being identified or captured.


Intelligence suppression / Data poisoningEdit


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Complete basically it consists in reverse, difficult or negate external Intelligence gathering / Data acquisition. Use it to provide examples and complement the previous.

Managing General Social Unrest / ExtremismEdit

Managing Elections / Political changeEdit


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w:Watergate scandal, w:Trump–Russia dossier, Oleg Deripaska & FBI, Latest Explanation for Cuban Embassy Symptoms: Microwave Weapons

Counter intelligenceEdit

State securityEdit


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Mine wikipedia:Counter-terrorism

"to turn someone"Edit

The direct action of subversion of an opposing agent or asset, the creating a defector, to "bring over" that asset to work toward the agency objectives. A good operative path to advance counter intelligence, not only as a source of intelligence about the opposition but also as a way to infiltrate them, if the one turned agrees to act as a double agent or indicates someone that can be put to that task. A rotten apple can spoil the barrel if not detected in time.

There are many ways to reduce the chance of "being turned". The spy should reduce ones attachments or at least reduce the access to information about one's life, since they can be used to exert pressure, also, by not living shamefulness life that can be used to blackmail or in other ways compromise the spy.

The agency can only act pre-emptively on the selection of agents, grooming, monitor and check. This include spot checks of actions and performance, controlled dissemination of misinformation as to non-authorized sharing of information and by increasing loyalty factors and stakes. It is not by chance that traitors are often shoot.


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Mine wikipedia:defection

"the double back"Edit


A scam, is the art of using misdirection as to gain advantage over someone with the collaboration of one or more third participants that are kept unaware of the ultimate goal but are motivated by their own self-interest. That are often kept in check by criminal or moral liability at the end of the process, when realizing their own uninformed implication in the affair.

Agents my be required to use this type of tactic to convince and motivate someone to work against their own best interests. More common in criminal activities this type of tactic is also used in many other contexts, even by police forces. A scam can have the secondary objectives of creating a fragility in loyalties even as to permit to establish control of a human asset trough blackmail/social coercion/exposure of liability.

A scam ultimately hinges on a combination of persuasion, misplaced trusts and self-delusion, often motivated by greed.


This type of operations is extremely complex and time sensitive and is predicated in a very deep knowledge of human nature. In the operation those that define the plan are often called the brains. Even if this type of operations can fallow a preset configuration, they need be fluid enough to adapt to the specifics and be sufficiently robust to deal with rapid changes.


Set the target(s) up with a lure or bait. This is done by setting up a motivator or the convincer. Consisting in starting the other parties in motion in accordance to the plan. The one placing a lead or leading is often called the roper, it does not only sets the operation in motion but will often intervene to keep those involved motivated, that is hooked.

"the tail"Edit

This can be the function of a specific operator or a designed set of prearranged circumstances that will permit the monitoring of the evolution of the plan and keeping at the same time those that are not aware of the process, distracted from any event that would permit a premature unveiling of the operation.

"blow off"Edit

This is the end stage. It consists in terminating the action in a way that the targets are kept unaware of what transpired or put into a position that it is in their own self-interest to keep silent.

Ego MassageEdit



Honey potEdit


The spy may be required to perform an assassination, that is to "take down", terminate, silence or retire someone.



Political FiguresEdit

State PoliticiansEdit


Dry cleaningEdit

Dry cleaning, is a response to a non-wet operation (wet meaning bloody). A dry cleaning is the removal of all traces of agent(s) presence on a possible crime scene or in a location that any adversary agency must not detect interference.

It may constitute the removal of finger prints, DNA traces and other indications of any or specific physical presence at the location.

It can also be an indication to procedures to detect if one is under surveillance, but in that meaning the term has fallen in disuse.


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Cover/link to forensics cover identity verification and countermeasures (finger prints etc). A tooth analysis and even a the germs in one's bellybutton can say much about an individual and its past.


Most agents are trained on how to perform at least basic interrogation. This includes how to handle non invasive psychology pressure points and trough observation of reactions read the subjects body language. There are also several mechanical or computational tools to ascertain state of mind and even a crude form of computer aided mind reading is possible today. Other more proactive forms do involve mental and physical torture.

Agents are not only trained on how to perform but how to resist interrogation. There is no way to avoid being coerced into providing information even one that is not valid or complete, the "game" most favored is to first negate, then provide partial truth mixed with some form of previous established set-up that actions by the enemy on it will warn that one has been compromised, fallowed by endurance to the coercion as delaying effort to make the information as less useful as possible or to enable the agency to take any possible countermeasures.

Body languageEdit

Today most agents should have at least a crude understanding on how to read body language, from a nervous walk and suspicious behavior, to at least have indication if the target is cooperating and telling truth of lying.

This has all to do with perception of minute details and micro-expressions that are not easy to consciously replicate, one should be aware that body language accounts a great part of how we communicate, this is often disregarded, but something that is of crucial importance in an interrogation. It provided a line of obtaining important feedback.

Most body language falls into commonsense, something that most of us learn to read without a conscious effort, but at times without a full conscious understanding of the meaning. In is not only important to understand what you read but what you transmit, how the target perceives the interrogator is almost as important as what the interrogator can read from the target. Interrogation ultimately is a dialog, a mental contest.

The brain functions are mostly all located today in the brain's structure and general to all persons, and it is why and how we known that eye movement normally fallows the increased activity on one side of the brain or the other.

Normal "tells" (indications), include shifting of eyes (indicating unease, nervousness). Eye contact indicates interest and attempt to empathize, if it last longer it can be interpreted as dominance assertion (and even threatening or an indicative of deception, depending on the setting) while eye contact avoidance indicates fear or recognition of dominance.

A 2012 article The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming based on two studies by the Edinburgh University and Hertfordshire University, seems to demolish the common belief of reading when a person is telling a lye by their eyes movement.
It was previously believed that eyes up or up and to the right, would signify access to imagination (possible lie). Eyes down, left, left and up would indicate memory access (possible truth) and that eyes down or down but shifting side to side would indicate logical processing (like making a mental calculation), and that if the problem was complex it would lead temporarily to the closing of the eyes.


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Add more details

Hypnosis and hypnoticsEdit


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Add more information


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Mine wikipedia:Scopolamine - wikipedia:Sodium thiopental

Stress and duress techniquesEdit


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Sleep deprivation, sound and light censorial stress. Getting someone to "self inflict" muscular pain still fits in this category.

Enhanced interrogation techniques (torture)Edit


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CIA term for physical pain, from water-boarding to torture. Vietnam techniques and teached also to South American US friendlily forces, of electrocution have been put also in this classification.


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Mine wikipedia:Waterboarding

Disclosed OperationsEdit

US vs USSR: (Project Azorian - 1974)
US vs IRAN: (Operation Merlin - 2000, Operation Olympic Games - 2008)