CIA Surveillance Detection
CIA Surveillance Detection
Lindsay Moran (Former CIA Spy) gives expert video advice on: What is 'Surveillance Detection Training' for the CIA?; How much time is spent on surveillance detection training?; How will surveillance detection training help you in the field? and more...
What is 'Surveillance Detection Training' for the CIA?
Surveillance Detection Training' is a very integral aspect of the training for a typical spy, is basically just like it sounds. You need to be able to detect if you're being surveilled. You need to be able to tell if somebody is following you, and that's really the keystone to operating safely overseas. If you are unable to tell, for example, if you're in Moscow and there's a whole cadre of KGB agents who have been following you around, you're never going to be able to do anything operationally. You've never going to be able to meet with a foreign agent because that would expose them and expose you. You're never going to be able to get information or recruit a foreign spy. So with 'surveillance detection training', the CIA devotes a lot of time to it and it is, I would say, foremost the one aspect of the training that if you cannot master it you will not become a spy. You will get cut from the CIA training program.
How much time is spent on surveillance detection training?
When I was going through training, we spent an entire month devoted solely to surveillance detection training. When we did our trade craft training, surveillance detection was a part of our everyday activities. That is, any time that we did something 'operationally' during our training, which meant meeting with an instructor posing as a foreigner, or doing anything that was 'spy' related. We had to spend at least an hour before hand driving around the Williamsburg environment to try to determine if we were under surveillance.
How will surveillance detection training help you in the field?
Surveillance detection training, I think, is the one aspect of the training that you really do use on a daily basis when you are in the field. When I was living overseas, I didn't go anywhere without being very aware of my surroundings and looking for surveillance, looking to see if I was being followed. And it's a little more complicated than it sounds, you tend to think if you are being followed the car is going to be right behind you but that's not how it is. The car can be anywhere around you and usually if you are being surveyed, they'll have a team of 4 or 5 cars, so it's a lot more difficult to detect. Sometimes they will switch license plates, sometimes they will switch drivers or passengers, or a driver or passenger will put on a disguise, all intended to throw you off. So it was essential that we have the training that we did at the CIA in order to be able to do our job without getting caught.
Why is surveillance detection training important to the CIA?
Surveillance detection training is important because if you are followed to a meeting with your foreign agent, that's going to expose you as CIA officer, probably, unless you have an iron-clad cover story. But more importantly, or more gravely, it's going to expose the foreign agent. Typically, CIA spies have diplomatic cover. That's the kind of cover I had, meaning I was posing as a diplomat. Had I been caught and exposed as a CIA officer, or suspected of being a CIA officer, I probably would have been declared persona non grata by the host country government and I would have been sent back home and it would have been a glitch in my career. For the foreign agent, however, it can have grave consequences. Sometimes life imprisonment, sometimes execution. This is the reason that, above all, you have to make sure if you're going to meet with a foreign agent, that you don't have anybody tailing you, that there's no one watching what you're doing.
What types of trainees fail during surveillance detection training?
In order to pass surveillance detection training you have to have a real eye for details and a pretty good memory, because you have to notice that little red car that might be several meters behind you on the highway. And then you'll need to remember if you see it 45 minutes later on the opposite side of town, with maybe even with a different driver or license plate. So you have to really pay attention to details. Sometimes memorizing license plate numbers and letters, and sometimes by jotting them down. I used to jot them down on my leg or on a little piece of paper. You also have to be able to multi-task. You have to be driving, looking where you're going , and also looking all around you to see if you're being followed, and obviously sometimes you will need to write down notes. If you notice a car that you've seen more than once, or if you notice a pedestrian that you saw somewhere else at a different time.
How is surveillance detection training conducted?
The way that surveillance detection training is conducted when you are down on the farm is that anytime you are driving around (every CIA trainee had a car that was provided to them) not only the farm but the entire area around Williamsburg, Virginia and all the way down into Newport News, the CIA might deploy a "team" of surveillance. These cars would follow you, not directly behind you usually but they would usually coordinate among themselves using walkie-talkies or radios, to be able to know where you were going. It made it very difficult to tell if a car was following you because in fact, four or five cars were following you. Anytime you came back from doing an operational exercise or driving around, if you thought you had been under surveillance you were supposed to make a report, called a surveillance detection report, on which you would write which cars had been following you and where you saw them. If you failed to do that, then you failed the exercise. Also, if you reported you were being followed when you were not being followed, which is what we would call "seeing ghosts", then you also failed the exercise.
Have you ever been detected by a surveillance shadow?
During training I had a lot of surveillance, as did all the other trainees, and I was always able to detect when I was under surveillance because I had been trained to do so. For this reason I passed this aspect of the training, which if you don't pass that aspect, then you're not going to make it through the program. When I was overseas I had an instance where I thought that I was under surveillance, and I reported it when I got back to my office. Also, I didn't go to meet my agent. If you ever think that you are under surveillance, you certainly should not go to meet your agent because that will lead your surveillance to the agent. A lot of people think that if you are under surveillance you're supposed to try to lose the tail, like start going really fast and cutting corners so that you will lose the people behind you. That's exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do. You want to give the impression that you're just 'Joe Schmoe' out for a drive running errands. Even when you detect that you're under surveillance, you're supposed to act as normal as possible and continue your errands and then maybe go home.