Monday, June 26, 2017

Get a Job - On the Intelligence Beat - By David Atlee Phillips

Get a Job - On the Intelligence Beat 

From: Careers In Secret Operations – How to be a Federal Intelligence Officer. (University Publications of America, Inc.; 44 North Market Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701)

By David Atlee Phillips


In the mid-1970s the U.S. intelligence community – the several agencies and departments that work with classified information and, in most cases, conduct secret operations – was subjected to a barrage of criticism, innuendo, and sensational media exposure. Intelligence officers found their previously romantic image tarnished. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents were described by some and perceived by many as uncontrolled zealots, impervious to good judgment and engaged in every kind of trickery.

The new perception concerning those involved in espionage, counter intelligence, and “dirty tricks” was understandable, perhaps inevitable in a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate America. It was healthy that questionable actions by an agency or its personnel that may have threatened the basic values of our country, especially the rights of American citizens, were the subject of intensive scrutiny by the Congress and the public. At times the heat of the investigations, however, was so searing that I feared the U.S. intelligence establishment, certainly already damaged, might have been crippled.

The debate over this country’s clandestine operations reached its climax in 1975 in a high tide of confusion with the wreckage strewn over the Washington, D.C., landscape and on many foreign shores as well.

Any secret organization in a democratic society is a potential threat, but one, I am convinced, we must tolerate and control for the net gain. In May of 1975 I retired early from the CIA after twenty-five years as an intelligence officer, so I might be free to speak up for the “Silent Services” in the controversy over our nation’s secret operations. One of my principal concerns was that young people contemplating a career in government might hesitate to be associated with the CIA, FBI, or the other intelligence services. I feared the effectiveness of the intelligence community would decline precipitously (and dangerously) without the infusion of new blood from young applicants fresh out of American colleges and universities. Replenishment of ideas and outlooks is vital to any organization, and especially so in the case of government bureaucracies. My fears, however were ill-founded.

The development that precipitated the congressional investigations and the public brouhaha about the CIA was a front-page expose by journalist Seymour Hersh in the New York Times of December 22, 1974. The accuracy of the Hersh story and the characterization of CIA involvement in domestic operations as “massive” was subsequently the subject of considerable, and sometimes acrimonious, debate. One thing is certain. The Hersh revelations produced massive cracks in what had been up to that time a fairy monolithic intelligence establishment. 

The question for the future was simple: Would qualified young people choose to become intelligence officers in the face of such a conglomeration of truths, half-truths, and plain untruths?
Immediately after the Hersh story was published the number of applications for CIA employment tripled.

Why? A tight job market, perhaps? A more plausible explanation, I decided, was to be derived from the refrain, “I don’t care what you write about me as long as you spell my name correctly.” 

Apparently, increasing numbers of young people sought an opportunity to work in the challenging business of intelligence simply because they had learned something about it for the first time; thus, today, only those who survive intense competition obtain employment in government intelligence services…..

An early American agent, Nathan Hale, described intelligence as a “peculiar service.” (Most definitions of peculiar in the dictionary mean funny, odd, strange. Hale was employing a British definition: “A particular parish or church exempted from the jurisdiction of the ordinary or bishop in whose diocese it lies and is governed by another.”) Hale was a spy and was “hanged immediately” when his mission on Manhattan Island was uncovered in 1776.

Since Hale’s days, young Americans have looked for a future of excitement and daring in intelligence careers. I give early warning: James Bond is fictional. Intelligence work often involves the accumulation and assembling of bits and pieces of information into a meaningful mosaic- a tedious business at times. One intelligence veteran once remarked that the truth would be better serviced if the cloak-and-dagger symbol for espionage were changed to that of a typewriter and some three-by-five cards.

But it is also true that on occasion American intelligence agents must act-and react-like James Bond at the barricades. Those who seek foreign adventure will want to work in the Directorate of Operations of the CIA, also known as the Clandestine Service. Or they can find action in one of the several military departments that engage in secret operations and undercover work….In any of these areas, intelligence officers and their agents must live double lives and face danger. It can be a tough way to make a living.

For the less adventuresome, satisfying careers await in the overt side of the intelligence profession. The majority of American intelligence officers and employees do not engage in covert or clandestine activities: they are scholars, analysts, administrators, investigators, communicators, and housekeeping personnel. Unlike their covert colleagues, they identify themselves to friends, neighbors, and credit unions as being associated with intelligence. They enjoy a more normal life-style which is not as demanding of spouses and children as that of the clandestine operative.

In whatever sphere, intelligence is a rewarding career for anyone dedicated to public service, and the personal satisfaction can be substantial. This book will attempt to answer questions of those who contemplate an intelligence career and, for those who have decided to seek such an opportunity, to tell them how to go about entering the profession.

I. Questions and Answers about Intelligence

Q: I’ve been into drugs. Will I be hired? 
A: It depends on the narcotic used, the frequency of use, and how recently you were into it. Experimental or on-and-off marijuana history will not faze interviewers.

Q: I’m gay. Does it matter?
A: Yes. U.S. intelligence agencies and departments do not now hire know homosexuals….

Q: Must American deep-cover agents abroad pay U.S. income taxes? If so, how do they do it without blowing their cover? 
A: All Americans working for U.S. intelligence, whatever they are, must pay income tax. This sometimes requires the preparation of a special return that goes to a cleared unit of the IRS.

Q: I understand there are CIA officers in most American cities. How do I locate them?
A: You can find domestic CIA offices in the phone book.

Q: As a women, can I asked to use sex in intelligence work?
A: No. When cultivating a prospective agent, you will use a reasonable amount of charm in the process, as a man will. But I know of no case where an American women intelligence officer was asked to sleep with a potential agent, or where a female officer allowed herself to lose the authority and control essential to managing an agent by sharing his bed.

Q: Is it true that undercover agents and their families must lead double lives?
A: It goes with the territory. Concealing the truth is a necessary part of getting the job done overseas. And, to sustain cover, a life of duplicity must continue during tours in U.S. headquarters. An undercover agent must lie to his neighbors, his banker, and to most relatives. It’s not pleasant, but it is essential.

Q: How much do intelligence officers tell their spouses?
A: They keep their spouses briefed on what they are doing without going into detail. Even teen-age children, depending on the circumstances and maturity of the child, are told that their father or mother is an intelligence officer.

Q. How many “moles” are there in the CIA?
A: We would not know, of course, of a truly successful mole….

Q: Why hasn’t the CIA assassinated Philip Agee?
A: Two past CIA plots to kill men other than Agee misfired, so the agency seems to be clumsy when trying to assassinate….Certainly Agee would not be a target. Should a truck run over him tomorrow, the CIA will undoubtedly be blamed for the accident.

Q: Are James Bond adventure books accurate?
A: No.

Q: Do undercover families have higher divorce, alcoholism and suicide rates?
A: Divorce and alcoholism statistics are slightly higher than the national average. Suicides are less than the normal figure.

Q: Who watches the CIA?
A: Until recently, eight committees in Congress handled the job. That didn’t work because you can’t conduct secret operations in Bloomingdale’s window. Now the CIA reports to one committee in the Senate and a second one in the House of Representatives….

Q: Do CIA people really call the agency “the Company”?
A: Yes. And some call it “the Pickle Factory.”

The Intelligence Agent’s Language

Spies and counterspies have developed their own jargon, and uninitiated eavesdroppers would be baffled when listening to the dialog between intelligence operatives. ….The following narrative is about an imaginary CIA case officer.

In his overseas operations the case officer prepares to conduct his business by putting in the plumbing. The plumbing is the support structure that must be installed so that his intelligence activity can be carried out, usually by the establishment of a cover facility, emergency contact arrangements with agents, and secure ways to communicate with them.

In addition to his own cover – the installation or activity that explains his presence in a country abroad – he will need a safe house where he can meet his agents. This will be an office or apartment procured in such a manner that it cannot be linked to him or to the other agents who meet there clandestinely. He will also obtain one or more drops (e.g. a hole in an old tree, the tank of a public commode, a hollowed out brick) where he can deposit and retrieve communication from agents without actually meeting them. His agents travel abroad, they may communicate with him by way of an accommodations address, a mail address, usually a post office box. 

Messages cached in a drop or sent to an accommodation address are usually in secret writing (SW) that is, written with an invisible substance, ranging from lemon juice to sophisticated chemicals that appear under certain conditions. If the agent is in another country where strict security conditions prevail, he may send his messages by radio. For maximum safety the agent will use a burst transmission – a preset message transmitted so quickly on an agent radio that it thwarts hostile direction finding surveillance.

As a case officer, he is a manager of spies. Some of his agents are volunteers, walk-ins, usually foreigners who enter an embassy to offer their services. Others he must recruit with a pitch, the act of persuading a person to be an agent. If the subject is approached without prior cultivation, it is known as a cold pitch. A false flag recruitment involves a deliberate misrepresentation of one’s actual employer to achieve the recruitment. An English speaking KGB officer who pretends to be British, for instance, and approaches an agent-candidate would be attempting a false flag recruitment.

The case officer will be alert for someone who can serve as a principal agent, one who recruits and manages a network of subagents. He will also be on the lookout for one or more agents of influence, local personalities who can influence political developments or can manipulate an opinion maker. He will also attempt to recruit other agents for specialized tasks. One, for instance, might be a dangle, someone intentionally brought to the attention of a hostile intelligence service, as a device to learn more about the enemy. He may need an agent capable of installing a bug, a surreptitiously placed radio transmitter, in the headquarters of a local terrorists group. That would require a listening post, a secure area from which transmissions from the bug can be monitored.

In all his dealings with his agents, he will adhere to strict tradecraft, the professional conduct that will prevent a flap, the publicity or controversy that ensues in the wake of a botched intelligence operation. He will be alert for a danger signal, an indicator that a clandestine meeting should be aborted, such as a chalk mark on a wall. Jim will be sure his agents carry the proper pocket litter, the misleading documents and materials an agent has to protect his identity and background should he be apprehended. He will frequently flutter or box his agents – conduct lie detector examinations. This is one of several precautions Jim will take to be sure his man or women has not become a double agent who is pretending loyalty to him while actually in the pay of another….he will also be alert to the possibility his agent has become a fabricator who provides false information. If this is done consistently and in volume, the agents duplicity is known as a paper mill.

The case officer or one of his colleagues may sometimes be involved in black propaganda, an activity that claims to originate, falsely, with a real or imagined source. An example would be a clandestine radio broadcast supposedly made by jungle-based rebels. If no attribution is provided, such propaganda is described as gray.

Less interesting, but absolutely essential to intelligence work, is surveillance. He will spend much of his time overseas supervising the systematic observation or monitoring of places, persons, or things by visual, aural, electronic, photographic, or other means.

All of his activities are undertaken so that he can produce intelligence. HUMIT, information from a person (i.e., human intelligence), is a major category of the product he sends back to CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia…..

Good tradecraft demands that he dedicate himself to good counter-intelligence- an intelligence service’s activities to protect itself from attempts to weaken it or from hostile penetrations…he uses the above words and terms (and dozens more) during his day on the intelligence beat.

Joe Smith's Clandestine Training Classes

Joe Smith on Paul Linebarger

Joseph B. Smith in “Portrait of a Cold Warrior” (Ballantine 1976, p. 75) writes:

….In the early winter of 1952…I got the chance to attend Paul Linebarger’s seminar in psychological warfare. Linebarger had served as an Army psychological warfare officer in Chungking during the war. He had written a textbook on the subject in 1948. In 1951 he was serving as the Far East Division’s chief consultant. He also served as the Defense Department in the same capacity, giving advice on U.S. psychwar operations in Korea, and he was a professor of Asian politics at the School for Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University. His book by this time had gone through three American editions, two Argentine editions, and a Japanese edition.

He was far from a textbook warrior, however. He best described himself when he wrote in the introduction to his book, “Psychological warfare involves exciting wit-sharpening work. It tends to attract quick-minded people – men full of ideas.” His wits scarcely needed sharpening, and he was never at a loss for an idea.

The seminars were held for eight weeks, every Friday night at his home. Going to Paul Linebarger’s house on Friday evenings was not only an educational experience for those who attended the seminar, it was also an exercise in clandestinity. Learning covert operational conduct was considered part of the course. Each seminar was limited to no more than eight students. They were told to pose as students from the School of Advanced International Studies, to go to Paul’s house via different routes, and to say they were attending a seminar in Asian politics.....The School of Advanced International Studies had its campus in Washington, but over in Baltimore at the main campus of the John Hopkins University, Owen Lattimore, the expert on Asian geography, held sway…..

It would be difficult to say whether it was the political atmosphere in general, the office routine of the day just closed, or the drawn drapes in Linebarger’s living room, but students at the seminar met in an appropriately conspiratorial mood that raised the level of their appreciation of their subject.

The mood was fitting if not essential to an understanding of the material. The first point that Linebarger made was the purpose of all psychological warfare is the manipulation of people so that they are not able to detect they are being manipulated.

Wartime psychwar had been a matter of undermining the enemy civilian and military will to continue to fight. The audience, in brief, was very clearly defined. Determining just who it was they wanted to manipulate and for what ends was also pretty clear to the OPC personnel. Their targets were the Communists and their allies. Having this firmly in mind, any methods of manipulation could be used, especially “black propaganda.”

Black propaganda operations, by definition, are operations in which the source of the propaganda is disguised or misrepresented in one way or another so as not to be attributable to the people who really put it out. This distinguishes black from white propaganda, such as news bulletins and similar statements issued by one side in a conflict extolling its successes, of course, or other material just as clearly designed to serve the purposes of its identifiable authors….the United States was faced everywhere with an enemy that was using an untold array of black propaganda operations to undermine the nations of the world in order to present us with a fait accompli one fine morning when we would wake up to find all these countries under Communist control. Hence, it was vital to understand all about such operations from a defense standpoint if nothing else.
There was, however, something else. This was an attitude produced by the mixture of ancient wisdom that a good offense is the best defense, and the spirit of the times that made the existence of conspiracy seem so real. It was good to feel that we were learning how to beat the Communists at their own game.

Paul Linebarger’s was a seminar in black propaganda only. He loved black propaganda operations probably because they involved the wit-sharpening he loved to talk about. Also, he was so good at them that his was one of the inventive minds that refined the entire black operations field into shades of blackness. Linebarger and his disciples decided that propaganda that was merely not attributable to the United States was not really black, only gray. To be called black it had to be something more…This left the term black propaganda for a very special kind of propaganda activity. Black propaganda operations were operations done to look like, and carefully labeled to be, acts of the Communist enemy.

Not only was the attribution given the source of the propaganda activity used as a criterion for defining what kind of propaganda it was, but equally important was the kind of message used…Black propaganda operations, being attributed to the enemy, naturally did not (support US policies). In fact, black propaganda, to be believable, supported the enemy’s positions and openly opposed those of the United States….

Linebarger was always careful to point out that to have any chance of success, these black operations must be based on good solid information about how the Communist Party we proposed to imitate actually conducted its business. He also stressed we needed an equally solid basis of knowledge about the target audience and what it would really find offensive and objectionable if the Communists were to say or do it. This, he liked to emphasize, was why such operations belonged in an intelligence organization where sufficient expertise and specific knowledge of the kind required was most likely to be found. Intelligence information, especially the kind that is clandestinely collected, should serve more than as bits and pieces of the jigsaw puzzle known as enemy intentions. It should be used directly against the enemy while it is fresh. Otherwise, the distinction between intelligence reporting and historical writing tends to blur….

Linebarger undertook a kind of group therapy approach to try to show us that tricking someone into believing black is white comes naturally to everyone and is something that is practiced from childhood.

“Look,” he began, “can’t you remember how you fooled your brothers and sisters and your father and mother? Try to remember how old you were when you first tricked one of them.”

“I want you all to go out and get a copy of David Maurer’s classic on the confidence man. It’s called ‘The Big Con,’ and its available now in a paperback edition,” Paul continued. “That little book will teach you more about the art of covert operations than anything else I know.”

“Your job and the confidence man’s are almost identical…Of course, your motives and those of the confidence men are different. He wants to fleece his mark out of his money. You want to convince a Chinese, Filipino,…a Thai, that what you want him to believe or do for the good of the U.S. government is what he thinks he himself really believes and wants to do.”

“Maurer’s book will give you a lot of ideas on how to recruit agents, how to handle them and how to get rid of them peacefully when they’re no use to you any longer. Believe me, that last one is the toughest job of all.”

We were all soon reading “The Big Con.” The tales it told did, indeed, contain a lot of hints on how to do our jobs. For me one sentence seemed to sum it all up beautifully, “The big-time confidence games,” wrote Maurer, “are in reality only carefully rehearsed plays in which every member of the cast EXCEPT THE MARK knows his part perfectly.” 

He had two leading operational heroes whose activities formed the basis for lessons he wished us to learn and whose examples he thought we should follow. One was Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, the OPC station chief in Manila, and the other was E. Howard Hunt, the OPC station chief in Mexico City. Both of them had what is called “black minds,” and the daring to defy bureaucratic restraints in thinking up and executing operations. He had a number of stories to tell about the exploits of both….

 A note of caution that Linebarger added to these discussions of black operations sounds like a bell down the years. He would explain, after someone had come up with an especially clever plan for getting the Communists completely incriminated in an exceedingly offensive act, that there should be limits to black activities.

“I hate to think what would ever happen,” he once said with a prophet’s voice, “if any of you ever got out of this business and got involved in U.S. politics. These kinds of dirty tricks must never be used in internal U.S. politics. The whole system would come apart.”

Friday, June 23, 2017

Veciana's Conspirator's Commandments

Antonio Veciana – writes in Trained to Kill :

The training was supposed to take two months. Mine was cut in half. I would arrive at 9:00 a.m. and leave at ten minutes to one. That was early enough to avoid being seen by the lunchtime crowd leaving the building, but late enough that I would quickly mingle into the flock of pedestrians going about their midday business on the street.

They told me to get away from the building rapidly, but not so fast that I would arouse suspicion. They wanted me gone by the time (Dick) Melton came down so I wouldn’t see who was picking him up. He was a foreigner who didn’t know his way around the city and depended on others for transportation….

As time went on, it became clear that Melton was not only an educated man, but a man who liked order and thoroughness. He had a folder with all of his notes in it. As we went through each class, he was like a professor, referring to his notes constantly as he explained. In truth, I don’t think he really needed them. He knew exactly what he was explaining. Perfectly. He knew the lessons by heart.
It clearly disturbed him that we had to rush through my training as fast as we did. “I don’t know what kind of operator you’ll be after this course,” he once said to me. “Sorry about that, Maurice and I both are convinced that you have what it takes to go far. But at this rate, a lot of its going to be up to you.”

I didn’t ask Melton questions. I was spellbound. Day after day, minute by minute, I listened intently as he reeled out the inner workings of his tradecraft. I was an apprentice to a form of sorcery I had never imagined – part magic, part skill, and part will – as much an art of deception and illusion as precise execution.

Melton was my master, the imparter of the conspirator’s commandments. And I was determined to commit every detail to memory.

“Your job as a conspirator,” he said, “is to use situation-appropriate means to create chaos within the enemy lines. Your job is to both gather information and cause damage. That might come as the result of a bomb, a fire, a bullet, or a carefully placed piece of misinformation that will disrupt the functioning of the government.”

I listened carefully as Melton explained in intricate detail the methods, the tools, and the skills I needed to be effective. He repeated them again and again, like a teacher guiding his students through the alphabet for the first time.

“This is serious stuff,” he said.”This is a grave matter.”

The wording of the commandments was deceptively simple, easily remembered, but loaded with meaning. Each word implied insinuations. Beach idea involved tactic. The combination of words and ideas represented the conduct expected of me. The limitations and capabilities were laid out perfectly in simple instructions.

-          Achieve favorable opinions for your cause and critical ones for those of the enemy.

-          Always maintain a double personality, disguising your real activity.

-          Maintain your objectives in missions and absolute secrecy.

-          Never reveal your associations, connections or collaborators.

-          Use whatever is necessary in your battle plan. Your enemy is perverse by nature and will not hesitate to use whatever means necessary against you.

-          Mistrust people, situations, and appearances.

-          Be on your guard at all times.

“Your enemy’s best weapon is to infiltrate someone into your group,” Bishop said. “They’ll offer some of your associates their lives in exchange for telling them where to find you. You’ll learn that silence is the friend that will never betray you.”

He warned me never to fall to the temptation of expanding my circle. “You’re not competing to be Miss Congeniality. Your friend and associate today could be your betrayer tomorrow.”
In the eventuality that someone in my group got captured, he said, “they will be tortured. You must anticipate that they will tell everything they know. If someone you work with is arrested, you need to take every precaution. Immediately.”

Your cause needs to come first, before any sentimentality.

-          Be bold in your objectives. Anything is possible if you plan well enough.

-          Anticipate the personal risks you’re willing to take, and the cause they represent.

-          Be disciplined in doing exactly the work assigned, in accordance with the instructions received.
-          Maintain strict silence about your superiors and collaborators from other countries.

-          Use the services of your friends and acquaintances to achieve your goals. Unscrupulously if necessary. The ends justify the means.

“Your position, your personality, your contacts,” Bishop said, “could be very useful to help prevent these people from consolidating their power.”

Neither Melton nor Bishop ever spoke to me about being a spy. They didn’t think of me as someone who would plant bombs or anything like that. What they wanted of me was for me to wage a psychological war against the government. They didn’t call it that. They called it a “propaganda campaign.” To discredit the government. To disrupt the government. That was their goal.

“You’re a man who can organize a resistance to disable the government,” Bishop said. “So that the people understand what the government is.”

…I had access, and I had the ability. I could do things to undermine them. I could use ideas to counter their ideas. Often enough, I ended up using their own ideas against them. That’s what Bishop wanted. More than for me to be a terrorist. I became a terrorist later. They didn’t even want to teach me about weapons. I had to ask for them.

“You’re not in the military,” Bishop said. “You need to be what you are – a person who knows many people and can influence many more.”

“But I need to be able to defend myself, don’t I? To protect myself?

Despite the oft-repeated saying that it’s better to fight and run away (and fight another day), Bishop insisted, “It’s better not to fight at all. Avoid a direct confrontation with your enemy any time you can. Almost always, when someone in the resistance has to shoot it out with the authorities, they lose. There’s more of them than there are of you.”

Eventually, though, I persuaded them. A little at a time. At first they just showed me how to break down a pistol and put it back together. Later they taught me about explosives….

Still, I don’t think they ever expected me to become a man of action. I’m not sure I did, either. Circumstances took me there.

Melton and Bishop insisted on offering me practical advice that they had gained through their own experience, which they knew was vital for an intelligence agent’s success. I never forgot them. Abiding by those rules can save your life.

-          Stop going to places you normally frequent. If you’re being followed, avoid any of the places you previously visited.

-          When you walk on the street, go counter to traffic.

-          Avoid meetings with more than two people.

-          Don’t go out at night.

-          Don’t transport weapons or explosives at night.

-          When you travel by car, do it accompanied by a women

-          Develop and rely on your memory. Do not take notes. If you’re stopped, a little piece of paper could incriminate you.

If I did write things down, or if it was necessary to communicate in writing, they instructed me in the use of invisible ink and simple codes, to obscure information.

They also taught me that the voice is the last thing that changes in a person. People sound the same for a long time. Their looks change. Their faces change. They may gain or lose weight as they age. Their hair color changes, or their style does. They wear it longer or shorter, or they may have less of it. They wear glasses, or they replace the glasses they had with contacts. Men grow beards or mustaches, or shave them off. Ears and noses grow. But the voices rarely change.
They told me if I wanted to remember the way someone looked, I should key in on distinctive features. Notice if someone has a mole, or a birthmark. Large ears, a large or oddly shaped nose, very close-set eyes. It not only helps you recall, it allows you to describe them to someone else succinctly.

There were other important instructions:

-          Don’t take or make incriminating phone calls. Don’t speak over the phone with anyone you don’t know.
-          Don’t show up for an appointment without first monitoring the location, to be sure everything is OK. Never go to a meeting unless you’re absolutely sure that there is no problem.
-          Dress in a normal, unassuming fashion. Don’t wear clothes or colors that call attention to you. Don’t wear dark glasses.
-          Wear a hat or a cap to hide the shape of your head, but don’t make it a very conspicuous one.
-          Learn to disguise yourself with a mustache or a beard that you can grow or change.

One day, after my lessons ended and I was getting ready to leave, Bishop asked me to wait. He spoke very somberly as he said, “Tony, you need to understand that this isn’t about showing how brave you are. For an undercover agent, there are times that the best route is to run away. Even if they call you a coward. You cannot let them arrest you.”

Before he left Cuba – I’ll never forget – he tore twelve American dollar bills in half and handed one set of the halves to me.

“Hold on to these,” he said. “If someone comes to you and they say they’re speaking for me, or they have a message from me, they’ll have to give you one of these halves. If they don’t have one, or if the one they give you doesn’t match one that you have, they’re lying. It’s a trap. Don’t tell them anything, and get away as fast as you can.”

“The success of a clandestine operation requires just that, that it remain clandestine – secret, invisible, unknown,” Bishop said. “The result should appear completely unconnected to any of our actions. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance to not leave tracks or compromising evidence of any kind.”

“But even if you do, remember,” he added, “we will forever deny our involvement. Forever. Even when it’s obvious.”

Secrecy he insisted, was absolute.

“We don’t get to be heroes,” he said. “No one ever knows what we do. Your triumphs won’t be applauded in the newspapers. The president doesn’t shake your hand on the evening news. Our satisfaction comes from doing our duty. It comes from knowing you helped your friends and hurt your enemies, even if no one else ever knows.”

An operative’s goal is to divide and confuse the enemy. To carry out a mission, an agent always needs to think of alternatives. He has to have backup plans. Success depends on his capacity for planning and his capability for execution. He needs to plan, prepare, perform – and expect the unexpected. For that reason, he should frequently evaluate the status of his plan and analyze his progress and consider any obstacles that have risen.

People are his tools, and his targets. They are to be used as means to his ends. If your interests align, they’re allies. If they have no interest, they’re instruments. If they oppose your interests, they’re enemies.

“It doesn’t matter,” Bishop said. “Any of them can be useful, in the right-situation. If you need them, you use them. You just have to find their weakness. Everyone has one. That’s the key.”

He was right. Before I could “work” somebody, I had to prodigiously study their situation, their qualities, their defects. Everyone is penetrable. We just have to discover their weakness. There are those who cooperate because an alluring women offers her bed. Others can’t resist the temptation of a bundle of cash, or the promise of power. Others just need their egos stroked. One way or another, anyone can be bought.

And once their usefulness is at an end, they can be discarded. Or eliminated.

An operative’s methods should not be classified as dirty or clean, he said. They are simply favorable or contrary to our cause. There are no illegitimate means. Anyone who lets his moral judgement affect his mission is, at best, a bad agent. At worst, he’s a dead one.

His arsenal: lies, deceit, intrigue, theft, kidnappings, bribery, corruption, destabilization, subversion, and murder.

“The only advantage of playing with fire,” Bishop said, “is learning not to get burned.”

As I listened to his commentaries and observations, I came to understand that Bishop had a disturbingly dark view of the world. It seemed, at times, worse than Machiavellian.

I came to believe that he considered himself above the law, beyond the rules the rest of us are expected to abide by. And I came to suspect that he might have been right, that he knew something I didn’t. I came to think that there was a parallel power at work in empires that sets its own rules, for its own ends. We’re all aware of the political authority that formally governs the country we live in. But Bishop made me see that outside this traditional, visible authority there is an invisible power acting in the shadows, directing events. These are the true puppet masters on the world stage, shaping the course of history. Political authority changes hand with elections. However, the true power lies in the hands of a hidden consortium that acts as an unseen overlord, watching over and deciding civilization’s destiny….It passes from generation to generation, forever hidden, yet forever in control.

That realization led me to questions that have haunted me ever since. What was Maurice Bishop’s assigned role in all of this?