Monday, January 09, 2012

Moscow Rules

With the recent adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy currently at the cinemas, I thought it timely to blog about another legacy of Cold War espionage: the Moscow Rules.

In case you don't know, the Moscow Rules are an alleged set of maxims regarding clandestine operations in, well, Moscow during a period of particularly aggressive counter-espionage efforts by the opposition.

Whether the 'rules' ever actually existed as a coherent body of work is open to debate. Antonio 'Tony' Mendez, a former CIA officer, stated: 
"Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood ... By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense..."
So, what are these rules?

Bear in mind that the following list (taken from the internet), while plausible, is unlikely to be canonical. However, there are some very valid points that are of relevance to a private investigator, whether they are of legitimate provenance, or not.

  1. Assume nothing.
  2. Technology will always let you down.
  3. Murphy is right.
  4. Never go against your gut.
  5. Always listen to your gut; it is your operational antennae.
  6. Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  7. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone. Use your gut.
  8. Go with the flow; use the terrain.
  9. Take the natural break of traffic.
  10. Maintain a natural pace.
  11. Establish a distinctive and dynamic profile and pattern.
  12. Stay consistent over time.
  13. Vary your pattern and stay within your profile.
  14. Be non threatening: keep them relaxed; mesmerize!
  15. Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  16. Know the opposition and their terrain intimately.
  17. Build in opportunity but use it sparingly.
  18. Don’t harass the opposition.
  19. Make sure they can anticipate your destination.
  20. Pick the time and place for action.
  21. Any operation can be aborted; if it feels wrong, then it is wrong.
  22. Keep your options open.
  23. If your gut says to act, overwhelm their senses.
  24. Use misdirection, illusion, and deception.
  25. Hide small operative motions in larger non threatening motions.
  26. Float like a butterfly; sting like bee.
  27. When free, In Obscura, immediately change direction and leave the area.
  28. Break your trail and blend into the local scene.
  29. Execute a surveillance detection run designed to draw them out over time.
  30. Once is an accident; twice is a coincidence; three times is an enemy action.
  31. Avoid static lookouts; stay away from chokepoints where they can reacquire you.
  32. Select a meeting site so you can overlook the scene.
  33. Keep any asset separated from you by time and distance until it is time.
  34. If the asset has surveillance, then the operation has gone bad.
  35. Only approach the site when you are sure it is clean.
  36. After the meeting or act is done, “close the loop” at a logical cover destination.
  37. Be aware of surveillance’s time tolerance so they aren’t forced to raise an alert.
  38. If an alert is issued, they must pay a price and so must you.
  39. Let them believe they lost you; act innocent.
  40. There is no limit to a human being’s ability to rationalize the truth.
Many of these rules are just common sense and employed without thought or planning. However, there are a few gems in there worth applying deliberately and consciously as needs dictate.

You don't need to be in a Cold War, or Russia, to start adhering to Moscow Rules.

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