asset – A clandestine source or method, usually an agent.

black operations – Clandestine or covert operations not attributable to the organization carrying them out.

bona fides – An operative’s true identity, affiliation, or intentions

brush pass – A brief encounter where something is passed between a case officer and an agent.

burned – When a case officer or agent is compromised, or a surveillant has been made by a target, usually because they make eye contact

case officer – An operations officer serving as an official staffer of an intelligence service.

Cheka – Russian secret police founded in 1917 to serve the Bolshevik Party; one of the many forerunners of the KGB.

CIA – The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, formed in 1947 to conduct foreign intelligence collection, covert action, and counterintelligence operations abroad. Also responsible for providing finished intelligence to U.S. policymakers.

clandestine operation – An intelligence operation designed to remain secret as long as possible.

code – A system used to obscure a message by use of a cipher, mark, symbol, sound, innocuous verse, or piece of music. (“Two lanterns in the church tower . . .”)

COMINT – Communications intelligence, usually gathered by technical interception and code breaking, but also by use of human agents and surreptitious entry.

compromised – When an operation, asset, or agent is uncovered and cannot remain secret.

covert action operation (CA) – An operation kept secret for only a finite period of time, or an operation whose real source remains secret because the operation is attributed to another source.

dangle operation – An operation in which an enticing intelligence target is dangled in front of an opposition service in hopes they will think him or her a bona fide recruit. The dangle is really a double agent.

dead drop – A secret location where materials can be left in concealment for another party to retrieve. This eliminates the need for direct contact in hostile situations.

double agent – An agent who has come under the control of another intelligence service and is being used against his original handlers.

FSB – Internal security service in Russia, successor to the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate (internal counterintelligence).

GRU – The Soviet military intelligence organization.

HUMINT – Human intelligence, collected by human sources, such as agents.

IMINT – Image intelligence, usually collected by high-altitude planes or space vehicles.

KGB – The all-powerful intelligence and security service of the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. Ultimate successor to Cheka. Disbanded into the SVR and the FSB in 1991.

MASINT-data provided by the measurement of machinery or signatures (like the contrails of a plane) left behind.

microdot – A photographic reduction of a secret message so small it can be hidden in plain sight under the period at the end of this sentence.

MI5 – The British domestic and foreign counterintelligence service responsible for national internal security.

MI6 – The British foreign intelligence service.

mole – A human penetration into an intelligence service or other highly sensitive organization. Quite often a mole is a defector who agrees to work in place.

Mossad – Israel’s foreign intelligence service.

NOC – A CIA case officer operating under nonofficial cover, similar to the KGB illegal.

one-time pad (OTP) – Sheets of paper or silk printed with random five-number group ciphers to be used to encode and decode enciphered messages.

operative – An intelligence officer or agent operating in the field.

opposition – The enemy service; any hostile operational force.

Ops Fam Course – The Operations Familiarization Course; a six-week course for CIA staffers who work with case officers in the field.

OSS – The Office of Strategic Services; forerunner of the CIA, 1942-1945.

pattern – The overt behavior and daily routine of an operative that makes his identity unique.

PHOTINT – Photographic intelligence; renamed IMINT, image intelligence. Usually involves high-altitude reconnaissance using spy satellites or aircraft.

provocateur – An operative sent to incite a target group to action for purposes of entrapping or embarrassing them.

provocative – A harassing act or procedure designed to flush out surveillance.

rabbit – The target in a surveillance operation

Roll-out – a surreptitious technique of rolling out the contents of a letter without opening it. It can be done with two knitting needles or a split chopstick.

rolled up – When an operation goes bad and the agent is arrested.

rolling car pickup – A clandestine car pickup executed so smoothly that the car hardly stops at all and seems to have kept moving forward

SIGINT – Signals intelligence; the amalgamation of COMINT and ELINT into one unit of intelligence gathering dealing with all electronic emanations and transmissions.

signals – Any form of clandestine tradecraft using a system of marks, signs, or codes for signaling between operatives.

spoofing – A ploy designed to deceive the observer into believing that an operation has gone bad when, in fact, it has been put into another compartment.

Stasi – East German State Security; included internal security, counterintelligence, and foreign intelligence collection.

Sun Tzu – The Chinese general who wrote The Art of War in about 400 b.c.

timed drop – A dead drop that will be retrieved if it is not picked up by the intended recipient after a set time.

tosses (hand, vehicular) – Tradecraft techniques for placing drops by tossing them while on the move.

tradecraft – The methods developed by intelligence operatives to conduct their operations.

walk-in – A defector who declares his intentions by walking into an official installation, or otherwise making contact with an opposition government, and asking for political asylum or volunteering to work in place. Also known as a volunteer.

ZEPHYRs – A cadre of CIA case officers who were specially trained to operate in hostile areas like Moscow during the Cold War.

  1. 2blake2 says:

    “MASINT-data provided by the measurement of machinery or signatures (like the entrails of a plane) left behind.”

    Does the Agent mean “contrails”?

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