The man on the left is the sketch of “Maurice Bishop,” the name of the shadowy covert action case officer who ran one of the leaders of Alpha 66.
David Atlee Phillips was a CIA covert action officer involved in Cuban operations.
Careers In Secret Operations – How to be a Federal Intelligence Officer. By David Atlee Phillips. (University Publications of America, Inc.; 44 North Market Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701).
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?
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.”
XV 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, Jim Sears.
In his overseas operations, Jim Sears prepares to conduct his business by putting in the plumbing. The plumbing is the support structure that must be installed so that Jim’s 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 Jim’s 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 Jim 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. Jim Sears’ 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 to Jim 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, Jim Sears is a manager of spies. Some of his agents are volunteers, walk-ins, usually foreigners who enter an embassy to offer their services. Others Jim 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.
Jim Sears 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. Jim 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, Jim Sears 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 Jim while actually in the pay of another….Jim Sears 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.
Jim Sears 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. Jim 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 Jim Sears’s 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 Jim sends back to CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia…..
Good tradecraft demands that Jim dedicate himself to good counter-intelligence- an intelligence service’s activities to protect itself from attempts to weaken it or from hostile penetrations…Jim Sears uses the above words and terms (and dozens more) during his day on the intelligence beat.