Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Cover for Status / Cover for Action

As you probably know, Dear Reader, one of my favourite areas in the investigations business is conducting surveillance. If I could specialise in just one area, this is most likely it - although I also do enjoy other facets of investigations as well so the choice would not be an easy one.

Today I'm going to to briefly discuss two terms that come straight out of the tradecraft lexicon, Cover for Status and Cover for Action, and how they specifically relate to a surveillance operation.

While these terms are specifically in reference to intelligence operations, they are also useful concepts for your average gumshoe to keep in mind. However, unlike intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, or even terrorist groups - we have to rely on fewer resources and, often, with no support.  

Cover for Status

Essentially, this refers to getting into a suitable 'character' for the specific job at hand. Think of this as your reason for being where you are: you are a student, a buyer, a tourist.

In other words, your cover for status should reflect your environment in that you will not stand out.    

Cover for Action

Essentially, this refers to acting in a manner appropriate, and in character, for your appearance. If your cover for status is a student, you would not look out of place hanging out in a cafe. If your cover for status is a buyer, you would fit in at a trade show or convention. If your cover for status is a tourist, your presence in a museum would be expected.

A bad cover for action would be acting in a manner contrary to your appearance. Sitting at a park bench for several hours would not be in character for someone who appeared to be an electrical worker, for example. 

Covers for Status / Action and the Average Gumshoe

Let's face it, unlike the various agencies who might employ surveillance, we are lucky if we get to work as part of a small team and certainly do not have the luxuries afforded them in terms of manpower and resources.

That being said, it is worthwhile to keep these concepts in mind when planning your surveillance operation. While you want to be grey, nondescript, you also want to blend in with your surroundings and not look entirely out of place where you are.

 Look like you belong, as best you can. And act like it.

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