The Moscow Rules: Cold War Directives for Tradecraft and Espionage - ITS Tactical

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The Moscow Rules: Cold War Directives for Tradecraft and Espionage

By The ITS Crew

Moscow Russis

During the Cold War, a list of rules was developed to keep operatives safe. While there’s debate that the list was ever physically recorded or is still classified, the protocols outlined kept agents from being compromised during their missions.

“Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood for conducting our operations in the most difficult of operating environments: the Soviet capital.” – Antonio Mendez, retired CIA Technical Operations Officer specializing in support of clandestine and covert CIA operations.

The Rules

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!

Spy Tactics

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.

Moscow Rules

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.

It’s obvious how these rules are important to the safety of a spy but they also can be applicable to your daily life. What ways do think you could implement these guidelines? 

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Discussion

  • ArkVet85

    By maintaining a “grey man” type of posture. Utilizing the 3-5 second rush mentality of “I’m up they see me I’m down”. It’s all about situational awareness like it always is.

    • jcw122

      ArkVet85 What does the rush mentality mean?

  • ImJacob

    Some of these things seem contrary or confusing until you put them into context or understand that they are dynamic in nature. I’m guessing that how/when they are applied is all a matter of situation.

  • This is SO helpful to me right now, thank you!

  • UserError

    The Ten Commandments of Counterintelligence, from the Agency’s former director of CI, dovetails the Moscow Rules nicely. And the author of the Ten Commandments of CI is also one of the key developers of the Moscow Rules.

    https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/fall_winter_2001/article08.html

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