Spy Term Dictionary

Spy Term Dictionary

Background checks, fingerprint scans and government-trained security agents manning the doors – welcome to CIA.

Most of us might have dreamed of becoming a spy once in our life.

And to be one, you should be familiar of the following spy Lingo’s out there.

If you expect to be one like them out there, you’re going to need to learn some of their terminologies. Put in the work here and you’ll be familiar with all the slang of this language in no time.

People | Agents | Positions

Access Agent

A talent spotter, performs reconnaissance for recruiters.

Action officer

Case officer designated to perform an operational act during a clandestine operation, especially in hostile territory.

Acorn

Slang for someone who is performing an intelligence function.

Agent

A person, usually a foreign national, who has been recruited by a staff case officer from an intelligence service to perform clandestine missions and is often a source of information.

Agent of Influence

A deep-cover agent with influence among the members of a target group. They usually works within the government or media of target country to influence national policy.

Agent in Place

An agent serving as a penetration into an intelligence target who has been recruited or has volunteered to stay in place. They influenced to cooperate with a foreign government instead of defecting; now working for two employers instead of one.

Agent Provocateur

A deep-cover agent who feigns enthusiastic support while tempting the target to incriminate himself/herself through action or words 

Assaulter

A member of a SWAT team responsible for making a forced entry.

Asset

A clandestine source or method, usually an agent.

Babysitter

Slang for bodyguard.

Bagman

An agent who pays spies and bribes authorities

Birdwatcher

Slang for a spy by British Intelligence.

Black Flagged

An agent or intelligence officer who is to be interrogated and summarily shot if apprehended.

Bridge Agent

An agent who acts as a courier or go-between from a case officer to an agent in a denied area.

Brick Agent

An FBI agent who works inside a field office.

Cannon

a thief who steals back the inducement offered by the spies to an informant, defector, etc.

Case Officer

An operations officer serving as an official staffer of an intelligence service. They manages agents and runs operations

Casuals

Casual observers to a surveillance exercise; nonparticipants visible in the area.

Chief of Station

Officer in charge at a CIA station, usually in a foreign capital.

Chokadar

A gatekeeper commonly used in the Asian Subcontinent for guarding the entrances to walled compounds.

Cobbler

In the shadows of undercover ops, a cobbler is a spy who produces fake documents, such as visas and passports.

Control / Comptroller

 In a surveillance exercise, the one directing the team remotely, usually by electronic communications.

Controller

 Often used interchangeably with handler, but usually means a hostile force is involved-that is, the agent has come under control of the opposition.

Consumer

A person or an organization on an intelligence agency’s distribution list (also known as product)

Cousins

Slang for CIA.

Courier

Delivers documents, money, etc.

Covert Action Agent

A spy who works to reorient an entire nation’s politics in favor of his country.

Cowboy / Loose Cannon

CIA slang, an unflattering term that denotes an intelligence person who defies the rules, regulations and conventions and conducts himself in an unprofessional, flamboyant way. aka a “loose cannon”.

Cut-out

A mechanism or person used to allow agents to pass material or messages securely; also an agent who functions as an intermediary between a spymaster and other subagents.

Dangle

A person sent by the intelligence agency of his or her own country who approaches an intelligence agency in the hope of being recruited as a spy so as to allow a double agent operation for the purpose of intelligence collection or disinformation.

Defector

A person who has renounced his/her country of citizenship.

Double Agent

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

A spy who pretends to be working against one country but who is in fact working for that country’s opponent.

Doppelganger

A look-alike.
Bullets

Escort

Operations officer assigned to lead a defector along an escape route.

Eye

The person on the surveillance team who has the target under visual observation at any given moment.

Expats

Citizens of one country who live in another.

FBI

Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S.’s domestic counterintelligence service and federal law enforcement agency

Floater

A person used one time, occasionally, or even unknowingly for an intelligence operation

Foots / Feet

Members of a surveillance team who are working on foot and riding as passengers in a surveillance car.

Friend

Slang for an agent, informant, or mole providing information to a handler.

Friends

Slang for Britain’s secret intelligence service, MI.6.

Follow

A surveillance team is executing a follow when they are shadowing a moving target.

Ghoul

Agent who searches obituaries and graveyards for names of the deceased for use by agents.

Guan-xi

An access agent for China’s intelligence agency

Handler

A case officer who is responsible for handling agents in operations.

Hard Man

An experienced operative who can survive in a hostile environment and who has killed.

Hard Target

A surveillance target who is actively maintaining secrecy and may not reveal that he/she has detected the surveillance team.

Honey Pot

Mata Hari, Raven, lady, femme fatale; a female agent using romance to compromise a target.

Hunting Pack

Slang for surveillance team.
Sniper gun

Illegal

An intelligence officer operating in a foreign nation without the protection of diplomatic immunity, having assumed new identities and even new ethnicity.

Informant

A legitimate member of a target group providing intelligence to the surveillance team.

Intelligence Officer

A trained member of an intelligence agency, an employee on salary.

Investigative Specialist

The FBI’s name for a surveillance operative (vehicle or foot). Pay grade GS-7 to GS-10.

Joe

A deep-cover agent

Lady

Honey pot.

Letter Box

A person who is acting as a go-between.

Local Agent

An agent recruited in a particular target area to do a local task.

Look-a-likes

Decoys used to confuse hit squads and surveillance teams.

Mata hari

Honeypot, femme fatale

Mili-man

A militia man; a member of the national police force under the Soviet Ministry of Justice.

Mole

An agent of one organization sent to penetrate a specific intelligence agency by gaining employment; a spy who burrows into the ranks of an enemy governmental staff or intelligence agency. 

Musician

Slang for a clandestine radio operator

Naked

A spy operating without cover or backup.

Night Crawler

A talent spotter who prowls bars and nightclubs looking for government employees, military personnel, etc. who can be compromised using booze, drugs, or sex. 

Ninjas

Slang for members of a SWAT team.

NOC

A spy with Non-Official Cover. A fake or real private sector job used by a case officer as a cover.

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

Notional Agent

Made up or nonexistent secret agent, usually used for a source of fabricated information or the means by which such information was obtained.

Nursemaid

Russian term for the security service officer who accompanies delegations to other countries to prevent anyone from defecting.

OG

An acronym for original gangmembers, now in their thirties and forties, who supply cocaine and heroin to street gangs.

Okhrana

The secret police under the Russian czars, 1881-1917.

Operative

An intelligence officer or agent operating in the field.

Opposition

The enemy service; any hostile operational force.

Outrider

A wheel artist responsible for ensuring that the target does not get outside the floating box of surveillance vehicles.

Pavement Artist

Outdoor surveillance specialist operating on foot.

Peep

Photographer

Pianist

A Kapelle operator. Also used to describe a clandestine radio operator.

Pig

Russian intelligence term for traitor.

Product

Finished intelligence that has been evaluated by an intelligence agency and is ready for distribution to consumers.

Point

 The member of the surveillance team who is following the target from the closest position, the point position.

Prober

An operative assigned to test border controls before an ex-filtration is mounted. Usually a specialist in false documents.

Provocateur

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

Rabbit

The target in a surveillance operation

Raven

A male agent employed to seduce people for intelligence purposes.

Rent-a-Goon

Operatives proficient in hand-to-hand combat, used as muscle support when direct physical confrontation is likely.

Rezident

A KGB chief of station in a foreign location, usually under diplomatic cover.

SA

FBI special agent.

Splashed

Describes a bodyguard whose client has been assassinated.

SPO

Security Protective Officer at CIA headquarters responsible for providing physical security.

Spook

spy

Staff Agent

A CIA staff officer without access to CIA secure facilities or classified communications.

Six

Slang for a police officer, police cruiser, or a police patrol. Used as a warning in the criminal community.

Sleeper Agent

An inactive deep-cover agent.

Soft Target

An easy surveillance target, untrained and not looking for surveillance.

Spook

Spy

Spymaster

The leader of espionage activities, and an agent handler extraordinaire

Street Agent

An FBI agent whose work takes him to various locations.

Swallow

A female agent employed to seduce people for intelligence purposes.

Target

The victim of surveillance, the subject.

Talent Spotter

Same as access agent.

Technical Operations Officer

An OTS officer responsible for working with the case officers in the field and providing all manner of tradecraft techniques.

Techs

The technical officers from OTS.

Throwaway

An agent considered expendable.

Trigger

a surveillance operative who is watching the target’s vacant vehicle, home, garage, office, restaurant etc. and who alerts the rest of the surveillance team when the target is spotted.

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.

Watcher Team

A surveillance team usually assigned to a specific target.

Watchlist

people targeted for routine surveillance.

Wizards

 An ad hoc collection of top U.S. scientists, researchers, and other technical experts assembled from time to time by OTS to consult on a one-of-a-kind problem.

Watchlist

People targeted for routine surveillance

Wheel Artist

An outdoor surveillance specialist operating in a vehicle.

White Coats / Spooks in White

Is inside slang for CIA doctors/physicians.

Zephyrs

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

Groups | Teams | Organizations

Action Direct

An underground group in France.

AIS

Argentina’s intelligence agency.

Al Amn Al-Khas

The Iraqi Special Security Organization was the most powerful Iraqi security agency under President Saddam Hussein and was responsible for personal security of high-ranking government officials and presidential facilities.

Aman

One of Israel’s intelligence agencies ; Military intelligence, or Aman, produces comprehensive national intelligence estimates for the prime minister and cabinet, daily intelligence reports, risk of war estimates, target studies on nearby Arab countries, and communications intercepts. Aman also conducts across-border agent operations.

Amerika

Underground metaphor for a fascist USA reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Asala

Underground group in Armenia ; The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia

ASIO

Australian Security Intelligence Organization. ASIO exists to protect Australians and their interests from serious threats to their security.

ASIS

Australian Secret Intelligence Service, a department of ASIO. The Australian Secret Intelligence Service is Australia’s foreign intelligence agency. ASIS was formed in 1952, but its existence remained secret even within the Government until 1972.

Aum Shinrikyo

Also known as Aum and Aleph, is a Japanese cult that combines tenets from Buddhism, Hinduism, and is obsessed with the apocalypse. They are listed as a terrorist organization because of the 1995 attack and for previous attempts to carry out biological and chemicalattacks.

AVB

Hungary’s security service, the Allami Vedelmi Batosag.

Caribinieri

Italy’s federal anti-terrorist police.

CBI

India’s security service ; Central Bureau of Investigation

Cheka

Russian secret police founded in 1917 to serve the Bolshevik party; one of the many forerunners of the KGB

CIA

Central Intelligence Agency; U.S.’s foreign intelligence gathering service; formed in 1947 to conduct foreign intelligence collection, covert action, and counterintelligence operations abroad. Also responsible for providing finished intelligence to U.S. policymakers.

CID

The Clandestine Imaging Division of the Office of Technical Service of the CIA. Responsible for providing technical support to clandestine agent operations in the form of photography, secret writing, and video surveillance.

Citadel

A supersecret department in U.S. intelligence responsible for collecting foreign signals and communications intelligence.

Clandestine Service

The operational arm of the CIA responsible for classic espionage operations, usually with human assets. Also known as the Directorate of Operations (DO) and formerly the Directorate of Plans (DP).

CNT

An acronym for crisis negotiation team. CNTs are used by police in situations involving hostage-takers or barricaded suspects. The name CNT is a misnomer – their true role is not to negotiate, but rather to obtain intelligence to facilitate an assault by the SWAT team, and to distract the suspect to divert his attention from the coming assault.

Commando

A civilian, military, or paramilitary combat group using irregular tactics. Commando can refer to an individual, a cell, a squad, or the organization as a whole.

Cheng Pao K’o

China’s intelligence agency.

Chobetsu

One of Japan’s security services.

Cong An Bo

Vietnam’s security service.

Coordination De La Securite Du Territoire

Algeria’s security service.

CSE

Canada’s signal intelligence agency, Communications Security Establishment. 

CSIS

Canada’s security service ; The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is at the forefront of Canada’s national security system. CSIS’ role is to investigate activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada and to report on these to the Government of Canada. CSIS may also take measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada in accordance with well-defined legal requirements and Ministerial Direction.

DLS Class

Acronym for Daily Living Skills Class, for those living with a disability whether it be recent or born to – in this case if would be for officers/agents injured badly on assignment.

DCSS

Denmark’s security service ; The agency focuses solely upon national security, and foreign intelligence operations is handled by Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, the foreign intelligence service administered by the Danish Royal Defense.

DDIS

Denmark’s intelligence agency

DDO

The Deputy Director of Operations of the CIA, and head of all HUMINT operations; formerly the DDP.

DDP

The Deputy Director of Plans (now: DDO) ; Deputy Director for Plans office – this division of CIA was responsible for covert operations.

DGI

Cuba’s intelligence agency ; Dirección General de Inteligencia

DGSE

France’s intelligence agency ; Directorate-General for External Security

DHS

Department of Homeland Security – USA agency ; The United States Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet department of the U.S. federal government with responsibilities in public security, roughly comparable to the interior or home ministries of other countries.

DIA

A US intelligence agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency

DS

Bulgaria’s security service, the Drzaven Sigurmost

DSD

Australia’s signal intelligence agency, Defence Signals Directorate ; Defence Signals Directorate is the primary defence collector of signals intelligence, and provides both intelligence and communications security to the government as a whole

DST

Direction de la surveillance du territoire ; France’s security service

Element

 A five-man SWAT team that consists of a team leader, scout, rear guard, and two assaulters. The rear guard provides cover for the scout and is usually armed with a 12-guage shotgun. The assaulters usually carry Heckler & Koch 9mm MP-5 submachine guns.

ETA


Euskadi Ta Askatasuna ; An underground group in Spain.

EXCOM

The Executive Committee of the CIA, made up of the deputy directors and chaired by the executive director (EXDIR).

FALN

An underground group in Puerto Rico ; Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional

FBI

Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S.’s domestic counterintelligence service and federal law enforcement agency

FDS

One of Mexico’s security services ; Dirección Federal de Seguridad

FMLN

Frente Farabundo Marti para Liberacion Nacional, an underground group in El Salvador.

FRA

Sweden’s military signals intelligence agency.

FSB


The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation ; Internal security service in Russia, successor to the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate (internal counterintelligence).

First Chief Directorate (First CD)

The foreign intelligence arm of the KGB, now known as the SVR.

GAD

The Graphics and Authentication Division of the Office of Technical Service, responsible for operational disguise and false documentation capabilities for the CIA.

GCHQ

Government Communications Head Quarters ; the Government Communications Headquarters is an intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom.

GIA

An underground group in Algeria ; The Armed Islamic Group, was one of the two main Islamist insurgents groups that fought the Algerian government and army in the Algerian Civil War.

GID

Iraq’s main intelligence organization, Da’ Irat al Mukhabarat al-Amah

GRU

Russian military intelligence, the Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye ; The Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, abbreviated G.U., formerly the Main Intelligence Directorate and still commonly known by its previous abbreviation

GSS

Israel’s security service (also called Shin Bet) ; Israel Security Agency Sherut ha-Bitachon ha-Klali (Shabak). The Israel Security Agency, known in Hebrew as Shabak or Shin Bet

Guoanbu

One of China’s security services ; The Ministry of State Security is the intelligence and security agency of the People’s Republic of China, responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and political security. It is headquartered in Beijing.

Hamas

An underground group in Palestine (now in power) ; Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization. It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Hezbollah

Hezbollah —also transliterated Hizbullah, Hizballah, etc.—is a Shi’a Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s paramilitary wing is the Jihad Council, and its political wing is Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc party in the Lebanese parliament.

They are alleged to have operating units in Latin America with links to major drug dealers.

HVA

East German foreign intelligence service.

ICBM

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Capable of international nuclear assaults from almost any range ; An intercontinental ballistic missile is a guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometres primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery. Similarly, conventional, chemical, and biological weapons can also be delivered with varying effectiveness, but have never been deployed on ICBMs.

INTERPOL

International police body that coordinates the intelligence gathering and investigative activities of member police forces.

IRA

Irish Republican Army ; An underground group in Northern Ireland.

Istikhbarat Al Askariya

Libyan military intelligence.

ITAC

An acronym for International Terrorist Assessment Center, located in Washington DC.

JETRO

One of Japan’s intelligence agencies.

Jihaz Amn Al Dawla

Egypt’s security service.

Japanese Red Army (JRA)

An underground group in Japan. Communist terrorist group founded by Fusako Shigenobu early in 1971 in Lebanon. After the Lod airport massacre, it sometimes called itself Arab-JRA. The JRA’s stated goals were to overthrow the Japanese government and the monarchy, as well as to start a world revolution.

Jedburghs

OSS and SOE term for teams dropped into Europe before D-Day to help resistance groups. Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action (“Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operations”) and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into occupied France, the Netherlands and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerrilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.

Kempeitai

Japan’s secret police ; The Kempeitai were the military police of the Japanese Imperial Army. Literally translated, the name means “Law Soldier Regiment.” Westerners of 1930s generally called them “gendarmerie”

KGB

Kometet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti ; 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.

K-Line

SVR internal security and investigations section.

Koancho

Japan’s counterintelligence and security service.

Lakam

One of Israel’s intelligence agencies (Ministry of Defense).

M-19

Underground group in Columbia.

MBRF

One of Russia’s intelligence agencies ; Ministerstvo Bezopasnosti Rossiskoy Federatsi

MI.5

Britain’s security service. K Branch is responsible for counterespionage, F Branch for countersubversion, C Branch for security of sensitive government installations.

MI5’s mission is to keep the country safe. For more than a century we have worked to protect our people from danger whether it be from terrorism or damaging espionage by hostile states.

MI.6

Britain’s intelligence agency ; They work secretly overseas, developing foreign contacts and gathering intelligence that helps to make the UK safer and more prosperous. They help the UK identify and exploit opportunities as well as navigate risks to their national security, military effectiveness and economy. They work across the globe to counter terrorism, resolve international conflict and prevent the spread of nuclear and other non-conventional weapons. They are here to help protect the UK’s people, economy and interests.

MILF

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a group based in Mindanao, Philippines seeking an autonomous region of the Moro people from the central government. The group has a presence in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Basilan, and other neighbouring islands. 

MITI

One of Japan’s intelligence agencies ; The Ministry of International Trade and Industry was one of the most powerful agencies of the Government of Japan. At the height of its influence, it effectively ran much of Japanese industrial policy, funding research and directing investment.

Monteneros

Montoneros was an Argentine leftist urban guerrilla group, active during the 1960s and 1970s. The name is an allusion to the 19th century cavalry militias, called Montoneras, who fought for the Partido Federal during the Argentine Civil Wars.

Mossad

One of Israel’s intelligence agencies, noted for its expertise in wet affairs. Literally translated as “institute”. Never referred to asthe MOSSAD, but rather simply called MOSSAD ; Mossad short for HaMossad leModiʿin uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim is the national intelligence agency of Israel. 

MST

Landless Rural Workers Movement, an underground group in Brazil.

Mukhabarat

Libya’s intelligence agency.

Muslim Uighur

an underground group in China ; The Uyghurs Uighurs, or Uygurs are a Turkic ethnicity who live in East and Central Asia. Today,Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, where they are one of fifty-five officially recognized ethnic minorities.

Naicho

One of Japan’s intelligence agencies ; relatively small Japanese intelligence agency that reports directly to the prime minister.

NE Division

The Near East Division of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.

NKVD

The Soviet security and intelligence service from 1934 to 1946.

NMI

Norway’s security service

NSA

The National Security Agency is a national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense, under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence.

NSS

Bulgaria’s security service.

OBS

Croatia’s intelligence agency, the Obavestajna Bezbednostna Sluzba.

OGPU

The Soviet intelligence and security service from 1923 to 1934.

Okhrana

The secret police under the Russian czars, 1881-1917.

OMS

Is the acronym/slang for the CIA’s Office of Medical Services.

OSS

Office of Strategic Services; U.S.’s WWII intelligence, sabotage, and subversion organization

OTS

The Office of Technical Service, formerly the Technical Services Division, the CIA’s technical arm of the Clandestine Service. Develops and deploys technical trade craft needed for clandestine and covert operations.

PFLP

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine ; an underground group in Palestine.

PSB

One of China’s secret police agencies ; Public Security Bureau ; Refers to a government office essentially acting as a police station or a local or provincial police; the smallest police stations are called police posts

PSIA

One of Japan’s security services ; The Public Security Intelligence Agency is the national intelligence agency of Japan. It is administered by the Ministry of Justice in the government of Japan, and is tasked with internal security and espionage against threats to Japanese national security based on the Subversive Activities Prevention Act.

Quang Bo

Vietnam’s military intelligence agency.

QODS

 One of Iran’s security services.

Q Branch

The fictional part of the British intelligence service (MI6) that provides spy gadgetry to James Bond. OTS is the real “Q.”

RAW

India’s External Intelligence Agency ; India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has long faced allegations of meddling in its neighbors’ affairs. 

RCMP

Police agency in Canada similar to the FBI in the USA. Acronym for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Also known as RCM Police.

Red Brigade

An underground group in Italy ; The Red Brigades was a left-wing terrorist organization, based in Italy, responsible for numerous violent incidents, including assassinations, kidnapping and robberies during the so-called “Years of Lead”.

Resistance

A civilian underground organization, consisting of cells (1 to 10 persons), circles (a group of cells), and sections (a group of circles

RG

France’s police intelligence security service, Renseignements Generaux ; The Direction Centrale des Renseignements Généraux, often called Renseignements Généraux, was the intelligence service of the French police, answerable to the Direction Générale de la Police Nationale, and, ultimately, the Ministry of the Interior. 

Ring

A network of spies or agents.

RZ

An underground group in Germany. Literally translated as revolutionary cell

SAPO

Sweden’s security service.

SAVAK

One of Iraq’s security services.

Shining Path

An underground group in Peru.

Smersh

 KGB assassination group. Officially disbanded 😉 The name derives from the Russian phrase “death to spies”.

SIDE

Argentina’s security service ; Secretariat of Intelligence ; the premier intelligence agency of the Argentine Republic and head of its National Intelligence System.

Sinn Fein

The political arm (party) of the IRA.

SIS

One of Britain’s intelligence agencies, the secret intelligence service.

Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa

Poland’s security service, also called the SB.

Second Chief Directorate (Second CD)

The counterintelligence arm of the KGB responsible for domestic counterintelligence. Currently known as the FSB.

Seventh Directorate

The internal surveillance arm of the KGB. These are the watchers that include the mobile surveillance teams and the technical eavesdroppers.

Sixteenth Directorate

The science and technology directorate of the KGB.

SOG

An acronym for Special Operations Group, FBI agents who conduct surveillance. Incontrast, SSG is composed of non-agents. 

Special Branch

The security branch of the British police.

SPO

Security Protective Officer at CIA headquarters responsible for providing physical security.

SRI

Romania’s security service (rumored to be made up of former members of Ceausescu’s secret police).

SSG

An acronym for Surveillance Specialist Group, which is what the FBI calls a surveillance team.

SSS

Georgia’s security service ; State Security Service ; The State Security Service of Georgia is a secretive militarized government agency of the Republic of Georgia, which covers a broad spectrum of tasks to preserve national security in accordance to state legislature and relevant laws. 

SST


 Special Surveillance Team, formed at OTS to simulate hostile surveillance tactics in training simulations.

Stasi

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

StB

Czechoslovakia’s security service, the Statni Tajna Bezpecnost.

Surreptitious Entry Unit

Unit in OTS whose specialty was opening locks and gaining access to enemy installations for the purpose of supporting bugging operations.

SVR

One of Russia’s intelligence agencies, the Sluzhba vneshney razvedki ; The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation or SVR RF is Russia’s external intelligence agency, mainly for civilian affairs. The SVR RF succeeded the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in December 1991. The headquarters of SVR are in the Yasenevo District of Moscow. 

Taliban

underground group in Afghanistan ; The Taliban or Taleban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization in Afghanistan currently waging war within that country. Since 2016, the Taliban’s leader is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Triads

Asian organized crime gangs.

Tupamaros

Tupamaros, also known as the MLN-T, was a left-wing urban guerrilla group in Uruguay in the 1960s and 1970s. The MLN-T is inextricably linked to its most important leader, Raúl Sendic, and his brand of social politics. José Mujica, who later became president of Uruguay, was also a member.

United Red Army

an underground group in Japan.

UOP

Poland’s security service.

USSA

slang for a USA reminiscent of the oppressive totalitarianism of the former USSR.

VEVAK

The Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the primary intelligence agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a member of the Iran Intelligence Community. It is also known as VAJA and previously as VEVAK or alternatively MOIS.

Wahabi

Islam. a follower of ʿAbd al-Wahhab (1703–1792), who stringently opposed all practices not sanctioned by the Koran. The Wahhabis, founded in the 18th century, are the most conservative Muslim group and are today found mainly in Saudi Arabia.

Watcher Team

A surveillance team usually assigned to a specific target.

Yakuza

Yakuza, also known as gokudō, are members of transnational organized crime syndicates originating in Japan. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call them bōryokudan, while the Yakuza call themselves ninkyō dantai.

Zapatista National Liberation Army

an underground group in Mexico.

Zhongyang Lianluobu

one of China’s intelligence agencies.
Girl with gun

Action Terms

Ambush

The surprise capture and arrest of a case officer in an act of espionage by an opposing counterintelligence or security service.

Analysis

Drawing conclusions about raw information by assessing its significance and by collating it with other information.

Backstop

An arrangement between two persons for the express purpose of substantiating a cover story or alibi.

Bang and Burn

Demolition and sabotage operations.

Blind Date

The first meeting with an unknown person

Blowback (Flap)

 Potential bad publicity that might result if a CIA operation is exposed.

Blown

Discovery of an agent’s true identity or a clandestine activity’s real purpose

Blue on Blue

Friendly fire, inadvertent hostile engagement between allies.

Briefed

When an Officer/Agent is told pertinent facts before executing an assignment, job, operation etc.

Brief Encounter

 Any brief physical contact between a case officer and an agent under threat of surveillance.

Brush Pass

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

Bumper-lock

A harassing move in which vehicular surveillance follows the target officer so closely that the surveilling car’s front bumper is almost locked to the rear bumper of the target car.

Burned

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

Burst-out

A leak of electronic communications from a secure enclosure before they are encrypted by the code machine.

Burned

When a case officer or agent is compromised

Cheating

Command of the target from in front of the target during floating box surveillance. 

Cipher

A system for disguising a message by replacing its letters with other letters or numbers or by shuffling them

Cloak

A sensitive disguise and deception illusionary technique first deployed by the CIA in Moscow during the mid-1970s.

Commit

A surveillance operative performing the commit function is watching a location to determine the direction that the target takes

Command of the Target

Active visual observation of the subject of the surveillance operation. Used during pedestrian and vehicle surveillance.

Compromised

Breached security status.

Computer Forensics

Investigation of a computer system believed to be involved in cybercrime. Also used in espionage to retrieve intelligence from stolen laptops or pcs.

Counterespionage

Activities designed to impede the efforts of hostile intelligence agencies engaged in espionage against one’s own nation, allies, and citizens.

Counter Intelligence

Activities designed to impede or thwart the efforts of hostile intelligence agencies attempting to penetrate or compromise one’s own intelligence agency.

Compartmenting vertical ; lateral ; double

The various ways that information is held to only those who “have-a-need-to-know” in an organization. Vertical denies information up or down the chain of command, and lateral denies information from peer groups. Double is spoofing the original group who held the information into believing the operation has ended when it has simply moved to a new compartment.

Cover Stop

A stop made while under surveillance that provides an ostensibly innocent reason for a trip.

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.

Canary Trap

In a spy organization or operation in which different versions of sensitive information are given to each suspected leaker. Prior to canary trap, versions of this strategy were referred to as Barium meal tests.

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.

Data Recovery

Bureaucrat-talk for the backdoor built into all US-exported crypto software since 1998

Dead Telephone

A signal or code passed with the telephone without speaking.

Decoy

Distracts adversary’s attention (aka diversion)

Dezinformatsiya (Disinformation)

The Soviet and Russian term for disinformation operations: operations designed to pass false information to the enemy. False information purposely given to mislead.

Diversion

Distracts adversary’s attention

Dry Clean

Actions agents take to determine if they are under surveillance

E&E

Evade & Escape

Elliptical Conversation

Says one thing but means another.

Executive Action

Assassination

Exfiltration

A clandestine rescue operation designed to bring a defector, refugee, or an operative and his or her family out of harm’s way.

False Flag Recruitment

Impersonation by a spy while recruiting an informant, defector, agent, etc.

Filing

Act of inserting material in a dead drop.

Flip

 a U Turn made by the target during a vehicle surveillance operation.

Floating Box

Method of surveillance where a team of operators establishes a containment box around the target wherever he/she goes.

Follow

a surveillance team is executing a follow when they are shadowing a moving target.
A follow begins when the target exits the stakeout box and a surveillance operative attains command of the target.  

Four Bagger

Discipline of an agent by FBI headquarters, consisting of censure, transfer, suspension, and probation.

Frequency Flooding

A technique that allows an ordinary telephone to become a covert listening device.

Funkspiel

Impersonation during electronic communications. Derived from the German phrase for “radio game”.

Funny Paper

Slang for the counterfeiting and forged documents section of an intelligence agency or security service.

Ghost Surveillance

Extremely discreet and seemingly omnipresent surveillance, working mostly out of the view of the target.

Honey Trap

Slang for use of men or women in sexual situations to intimidate or snare others. This use of sex to trap or blackmail an individual is standard practice in intelligence operations

Hostile Recruitment

Recruitment by threat or force of an uncooperative informant, mole, or agent-in-place.

HUMINT

Intelligence activities involving people rather than electronic eavesdropping or communications interception.

Infiltration

The covert moving of an operative into a target area with the idea that his presence or true affiliation will go undetected for the appropriate amount of time.

Impersonal Communication

Secret communication techniques used between a case officer and a human intelligence asset when no physical contact is possible or desired.

Internal Operations

CIA operations inside the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War.

Jarking

Bugging a weapons cache, often rendering weapons unusable.

Lockstep

When a surveillance team is following so close on foot they seem to be moving in lockstep with the target.

Offensive Penetration Operation

Infiltration of an agent into a target group or organization.

Over Target

Deliberately attempts to draw attention and drain the resources of an intelligence agency or security service. Occasionally a decoy.

Parallel Line / Incidental Capacitance

A method of telephone, telex, and communications eavesdropping that is virtually undetectable.

Passive Probe

Someone sent on an intelligence mission just to passively observe and record details about the target location or organization.

PDB

 The president’s daily brief, the CIA briefing document delivered to the president of the United States first thing each day. It is always accompanied by a senior CIA officer.

Personal Meeting

A clandestine meeting between two operatives, always the most desirable but a more risky form of communication.

Picket Surveillance

Focuses on times and places when target is likely engaged in activities of interest to the surveillance team. Also called choke point surveillance. Named after the openings in a picket fence.

Pickup

When the target of a surveillance operation is first spotted inside the stakeout box.

Playback

To provide false information to the enemy while gaining accurate information from him or her.

Profile Stop

A random stop and search by police, based on a suspect’s race, minority status, economic status, religion, physical appearance, travel status, location, etc. Previously inflicted on minorities and poor whites, but currently being expanded by bureaucrats to include all US citizens.

Profiling

Stereotyping a group or “type” of person to assess potential dangers, suspects

Psychic Combat

A condition of active psychological warfare operations between two covert adversaries.

Provocative

A harassing act or procedure designed to flush out surveillance.

Put up a Signal

To clandestinely signal another operative or secret source, as in putting up a signal like a chalk mark on a light pole.

RAID

An acronym for Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection, consisting of teams of National Guardsmen who assist civilian authorities after a suspected biological/toxin/chemical attack on a population center.

RCMP Security Service

Counterespionage, counterintelligence, and counter terrorist branch of RCMP. Also known as RCMP SPECIAL SERVICES.

Rolledup

When an operation goes bad and an agent is arrested.

Ruse de Guerre

Subterfuge ; The French ruse de guerre, sometimes literally translated as ruse of war, is a non-uniform term; generally what is understood by “ruse of war” can be separated into two groups.

Repro

Making a false document.

Sanitize

To delete specific material or revise a report or other document to prevent the identification of intelligence sources and collection methods.

SERE

An acronym for survival, evasion, resistance, and escape.

Servicing

The act of removing material from a dead drop.

Set Up

To begin to conduct surveillance on a target.

SDR

Surveillance detection run; a route designed to erode or flush out surveillance without alerting them to an operative’s purpose.

Sitrep

Situation report.

Smoking-bolt Operation

A covert snatch operation in which a special entry team breaks into an enemy installation and steals a high-security device, like a code machine, leaving nothing but the “smoking bolts.”

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.

Stage Management

Managing the operational stage in a deception operation, so that all conditions and contingencies are considered: point of view of the hostile forces and the casual observers, physical and cultural environments, etc.

Swarming

Overfilling a location with surveillance operatives. Often used in psy ops as a means for controlling the target’s environment.

Terminated

Murdered.

Traffic Analysis

methods for gaining intelligence from the patterns and volumes of messages of radio intercepts.

Tosses (hand, vehicular)

Tradecraft techniques for placing drops by tossing them while on the move.
Person aiming his gun

Places

Camp Swampy / The Camp / The Farm

CIA’s secret domestic training base

Camp X

Canada’s secret domestic training base during World War II

Center

KGB headquarters in Moscow

Cellar

The room in the cellar of Lubyanka Prison where Russian intelligence executed traitors prior to WWII.

Chokepoint

A narrow passage-such as a bridge, tunnel, or Metro station-used as a surveillance or counter-surveillance tool for channeling the opposing force or monitoring their passage.

Dead Drop

A physical location where communications, documents, or equipment is covertly placed for another person to collect without direct contact between the parties

Dead Letter Box / Dead Letter Drop

Same as dead drop

DLB

Acronym for dead-letter box

Dubok

Russian term for a dead-letter box

Director

The cable address of CIA Headquarters.

Dirtech

 The headquarters cable address of the Office of Technical Service.

DO and DODO

The Directorate of Operations of the CIA and the Directorate of Operations Duty Office, where all espionage communications worldwide are managed from CIA Headquarters.

Dzerzhinsky Square

 Historic site in Moscow of Lubyanka Prison, longtime headquarters of the Soviet security organs, including Cheka, NKVD, and KGB. Now the headquarters of the FSB, the internal security service that replaced the Second Chief Directorate of the KGB.

Emerald City

The code name the Special Surveillance Team used for the CIA Headquarters Building during their exercises.

Forest

New location of KGB headquarters outside of the Moscow Ring Road.

Hole

The special security enclosure where the KGB’s Kapelle device was kept.

Hospital

Russian slang for prison

Lubyanka

The prison on Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow that is the traditional headquarters of the Soviet intelligence services. Now occupied by the FSB.

LLB

An acronym for live-letter box, an address used to receive communication to be forwarded to an intelligence agency.

OP

Observation post. ; An observation post manned by a static surveillant.

Offsite

A covert FBI site or facility situated away from a field office.

Rezidentura

A KGB station, usually located in their embassy in a foreign capital.

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.

Rolling Car Pickup

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

Safehouse

A dwelling place or hideout unknown to the adversary.

Sanctum

The secure location of a KAPELLE device in a Soviet stronghold abroad.

SCIF

Acronym for Secured Compartmentalized Information Facility (in Fort Gillem, GA, USA) where Clipper is housed (rumored to have already been penetrated by agents of China’s intelligence agencies).

Station

Post where espionage is conducted

Uncle

the HQ of any espionage agency or service

Warming Room

A location out of the weather where a surveillance team can go to keep warm and wait for the target.

Zone

The area set aside in Washington, D.C., by the Special Surveillance Team (SST) to run simulations against the ZEPHYRs.

Terms

Air America (AA)

The CIA’s air lines, used by CIA officers/operatives.

Appendix

The tower in Lubyanka that houses the KGB’s most sensitive departments. It is a nine-story tower that connects the old and new wings of the building and overlooks an inner courtyard.

BIGOT

List A list of the names of all persons who are privy to the plans for a sensitive intelligence operation; it dates back to World War II when Allied orders for officers were stamped TO GIB for those being sent to Gibraltar for preparations for the invasion of North Africa; later their orders were stamped BIG OT (TO GIB backwards) when they were sent back to begin planning Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy.

Biographical Leverage

Blackmail info

Black Bag Job

A surreptitious entry operation usually conducted by the FBI against a domestically located foreign intelligence target.

Black Operations

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

Black Propaganda

A disinformation that is deniable by (and not traceable to) its source.

Brevity Codes

A system of code-words used by members of a surveillance team.

Bombe

Polish electro-magnetic device created to help decipher Enigma cipher machine settings; early precursor to the modern computer

Bona fides

An operative’s true identity, affiliation, or intentions.

BOX

Slang for the MI5

Bug

The spy senses of this word, “to install a secret listening device” and “a hidden eavesdropping device,” perhaps evolved out of insects’ aptitude for infiltrating spaces unnoticed.

Cam Car

A vehicle equipped with a concealed camera used for clandestine casing and surveillance operations.

Carnivore

 Computer program designed by the FBI to allow the FBI (in compliance with court orders) to collect electronic communications from a specific user targeted in an investigation (at the exclusion of all other users’ transmissions)

Chase Car

A security detail or bodyguard vehicle that follows the subject.

Chicken Feed

Low grade information fed through a double agent to one’s adversary with the intention of building the credibility of the double agent.

Clandestine Operation

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

Clean

Unknown to enemy intelligence. Also means free of any kind of surveillance.

Code

A system for disguising a message by replacing its words with groups of letters or numbers

Codebook

A list of plain language words opposite their codeword or codenumber

Colossus

An electronic device that helped solve German cryptograms; the world’s first electronic computer

COMINT

All intelligence gathered from intercepted communications

Comm

A small note or other written communication from an underground organization or one of its members. They are typically written on cigarette wrappers, chewing gum wrappers, etc.

Commandment 11

A most important rule for a spook, “Thou shalt not get caught!”.

Cooked

A mixture of genuine and fake material provided via a double agent to one’s adversary.

Cover

Persona, profession, purpose, activity, fictitious image maintained by an undercover operative.

CS Gas

A form of tear gas, full name ortho-chlorobenzalmalanonitrile, used by cops, SWAT teams, and the military.

Commo Plan

 The various secret communications methods employed with a particular agent.

Concealment Device

Any one of a variety of innocuous devices used to secretly store and transport materials relating to an operation.

Cryptonym

Code name; crypt or crypto for short, always capitalized. GT and CK prefixes to code names are used to identify the nature of the clandestine source. These two prefixes were both “diagraph” identifiers for the Soviet and East European program during this period. The diagraph is used in front of the cryptonym of the source as a more formal way of referring to the subject, not unlike putting “Mr.” in front of “Smallwood.”

Cryptology

The science of codes.

Dope Book

A notebook kept with a sniper rifle for the purposes of recording the atmospheric conditions, range, lighting, and resulting hit or miss of every shot fired.

Ears Only

Material too secret to commit to writing

Elint

 Electronic intelligence; derived from the interception of radiation sources such as radars

Enigma

The machine used by the Germans to encode messages during WWII.

Equestrian Posture

an effect produced by rigor mortis whereby the cadaver sits upright as if riding in a saddle, with arms outstretched.

Espionage

Clandestine collection of intelligence by a non-domestic intelligence agency.

ESS

Acronym for environmentally stable strategy, a concept used in strategic game-theory.

EVOC

An acronym for Emergency Vehicle Operation Course, taught at the FBI academy in Quantico

Eyes Only

Documents that may be read but not discussed.

EEI

Essential elements of information; an outline to be used for collecting intelligence on a particular topic.

EEO Complaint

A complaint leveled at a supervisor or peer regarding unlawful discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Amendment.

ELINT

 Electronic intelligence, usually collected by technical interception, such as telemetry from a rocket launch collected by receivers at a distance.

Enigma

A cipher machine used by the Germans to encode messages during WWII

Film Loop

A loop of film used to project or record a sequence of images on a continuous basis.

Fibonacci

A system of non-carrying addition used for one-time pad codes. For example, (Fib) 999 + 222 = 111.

Finesse

Sensitive disguises developed by the CIA using a Hollywood consultant and contractors.

Flaps & Seals

Tradecraft involved when making surreptitious openings and closings of envelopes, seals, and secure pouches.

Flash

The highest precedence for CIA cable communications.

FLIR

Forward-looking infrared device.

Footfall Detector

Vibration sensor designed to detect walking humans.

Forensics

The use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in criminal or civil courts of law.

Front

A legitimate-appearing business created by an intelligence agency or security service to provide cover for spies and their operations.

Graymail


Threat by a defendant in a trial to expose intelligence activities or other classified information if prosecuted

Gambit

 A highly sensitive disguise developed for the CIA with the help of their Hollywood consultant. It was first used in Indochina in 1971.

Hooligan Tool

A specialized tool much like a crowbar, developed by fire departments for prying open doors and windows. Also used by SWAT teams.

ICBM

Instant Calm Breath Method, a way to overcome the flight-or-fight reflex (panic). Also reduces hyperventilation.

IMINT

IMage INtelligence.

Info War

Information Warfare, modern propaganda through (mis)information

Innocent Postcard

A postcard with an innocuous message sent to an address in a neutral country to verify the continued security of an undercover operative.

Immediate

The second-highest precedence for CIA cable communications.

In the Black

Surveillance-free for a time span greater than a few seconds.

In the Gap

Surveillance-free for a few seconds but not as long as a minute.

In the Wind

When a target of surveillance has escaped and left for parts unknown.

IOC

Internal Operations Course – A special training course devised for those being assigned to the Soviet Bloc.

Kapelle Device

A super secret communications security device used by the KGB.

Keylogger

A software or hardware device or program used to capture the keystrokes any actions of a computer user, often without their knowledge.

L-pill

A lethal cyanide capsule issued to intelligence operatives who would prefer to take their own life rather than be caught and tortured.

L5

4096 bit encryption algorithm

Legend

The faked biography of a deep-cover agent.

Link Diagram

Connections being analyzed in a complex police investigation or counterespionage case.

LSD

An acronym for d-lysergic acid diethylanide, a hallucinatory drug discovered in 1943 by Dr. Albert Hofmann, a researcher at Switzerland’s Sandoz corporation, a pharmaceutical manufacturer. Subsequently monopolized by the CIA for its MKULTRA project that developed methods for secretly controlling people. Still used today by numerous intelligence agencies and security services for the following functions – 1. disturbance of memory; 2. discrediting by aberrant behavior; 3. eliciting of information; 4. creation of dependence; 5. suggestibility. At the CIA’s request, in 1954 Eli Lilly & Company developed a method for manufacturing LSD from publicly available chemicals. The CIA’s bungling of MKULTRA allowed the drug to escape from the lab, where the CIA lost control of it. LSD subsequently ruined two generations of young Americans. No CIA officer or contractor was ever reprimanded or punished.

MASINT

Measurement and signature intelligence; uses elements that do not fit into the traditional scope of IMINT and SIGINT.

Maskirovda

Russian name for deception techniques designed to fool US spy satellites. Recently used by India’s counterintelligence agency to conceal nuclear testing from the CIA.

Mercury Fulminate

An initiating agent for detonating PETN ; Mercury(II) fulminate, or Hg(CNO)₂, is a primary explosive. It is highly sensitive to friction, heat and shock and is mainly used as a trigger for other explosives in percussion caps and blasting caps.

METKA

A KGB umbrella program that encompassed research on all their various tagging and marking substances, like spy dust.

Mice

An acronym for money ideology compromise ego (methods used by intelligence agencies and security services to ruin a target).

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.

Mini Manual of the Urban Guerrilla

An underground operations manual by Brazilian freedom-fighter Carlos Marighella. Contains 41 chapters. Banned in many countries.

Min/Max

A concept in strategic game-theory.

Moscow Rule

The ultimate trade craft methods for use in the most hostile of the operational environments. During the Cold War, Moscow was considered the most difficult of operating environments.

Music Box

Slang for Clandestine Radio

Narcotherapy Hypnosis

CIA interrogators use hypnosis to force regression in the prisoner to make him believe he is talking to his spouse. The prisoner is first prepared by pharmaceuticals according to the following protocol. 1. An injection of 10 mg sodium pentothal to render unconscious. 2. Wait 20 minutes. 3. An injection of 10 mg benzodrine to revive the prisoner to a state partway between waking and sleep. 4. Repeat step 3 if required. At the end of the interrogation a hypnotically induced amnesia is invoked.

Neurolinguistics

A branch of psychology used by intelligence agencies and security services to covertly manipulate unsuspecting human targets.

Neutron Bombardment

Used by security services like Britain’s MI.5, America’s FBI, Germany’s BfV, and France’s DST to detect microdots and invisible writing in postal mail. Originally developed by the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Britain for use by MI.5.

Nitrous Oxide

An anesthetic inhalant used to render sleeping targets unconscious during surreptitious entry by goon squads.

NSTL

The FBI’s national security threat list

Nugget

British term for the bait (money, political asylum, sex, or career opportunity) used to offer a potential defector

NIACT

The CIA cable slug that indicates that “night action” is necessary.

OC

Operations Course – The eighteen-week course that all CIA case officers take at the beginning of their careers.

One Time Pad

An unbreakable code system that works by adding the numeric value of the plain text with a randomly-generated code string (the one-time pad).

Open Source

Intelligence gained from public materials.

OSA

Official secrets act, usually a law to enable governments to conceal their mistakes from their own population.

OSINT

Open source intelligence; an all-source process which includes HUMINT, IMINT, SIGINT, and MASINT which analysts must understand and integrate to produce the best possible intelligence.

Ops Farm Course

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

Optical System


A tracking system that uses optical marks and sensors.

Overhead Platform

A technical platform, aboard an airplane or satellite, used for technical surveillance and reconnaissance.

OWVL

One-way voice link; shortwave radio link used to transmit prerecorded enciphered messages to an operative, who is usually working in place in a hostile area.

Paroles

Passwords to identify agents to each other.

Pattern

The behavior and daily routine of an operative that makes his or her identity unique.

Perimeter Surveillance

Is used to alert the surveillance team when the target enters or leaves a specific area.

PETN

Pentaery-thritol tetranitrate, a plastic explosive favored by intelligence agencies and security services. 

PhotInt

Acronym for photo intelligence.

Pinhole Camera

Video camera with fiber-optic lens attachment.

Plaintext

The original message before encryption.

Pocket Litter

Items in a spy’s pocket (receipts, coins, theater tickets, etc.) that add authenticity to his or her identity.

Posse Comitatas

Latin phrase that loosely means power of the people.

Problem Solving Matrix

A grid-based notation system used by police investigators and counterespionage officers when dealing with complex cases.

Prodessional Name

Nom de guerre of a spy.

Psychodynamics

The CIA’s psychological profiling system, used in combination with psychobiographic analysis.

Plasma

A secret technique or device used to defeat a lock.

Profile

All the aspects of an operative’s or a target’s overt physical or behavioral persona.

Purple

American name for the Japanese diplomatic cipher machine used from 1939-1945.

QRF

quick reaction force.

RADINT

acronym for radar intelligence.

Red

American name for an early Japanese diplomatic cipher machine.

Roscoe

Handgun.

Rybat

A code word meaning that the subject matter is extremely sensitive.

RQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

A medium-sized, long-endurance asset for reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition in moderate risk areas

SEMTEX

A military explosive suitable for sabotage and terrorist operations.

Secret Classification

Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, and (SCI) Special Compartmentalized Information.

Secret Writing

Any tradecraft technique employing invisible messages hidden in or on innocuous materials. This includes invisible inks and microdots, among many other variations.

Secret Service

Usually a country’s internal counterintelligence service.

Sensing Device

A technical sensor designed to react to a concealed mark, chemical compound, or passive element.

Seventy-One Yards

According to FBI statistics, this is the distance at which a typical police sniper will get you. Although the SR60 .308 sniper rifle used by most police departments is designed for distances up to 600 yards, most police snipers do not fire at suspects beyond 400 yards. (Of course, at any distance anexecution is still an execution.)

Shoe

If the gumshoes are hot on your tail and you need to skip town while on a top-secret mission, ask your “cobbler” for a “shoe.” In spy lingo, this term refers to false documents.

Signals

Any form of clandestine trade craft using a system of marks, signs, or codes for signaling between operatives.

Silver Bullet

The special disguise and deception trade craft techniques developed under Moscow rules to help the CIA penetrate the KGB’s security perimeter in Moscow.

SOS

dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot.

Spydust

A chemical marking compound developed by the KGB to keep tabs on the activities of a target officer. Also called METKA. The compound is made of nitrophenyl pentadien (NPPD) and luminol.

Star-burst Maneuver

 A countersurveillance ploy in which more than one target car or target officer is being followed and they suddenly go in different directions, forcing the surveillance team to make instant choices about whom to follow.

Steganography

Techniques for concealing the very existence of a message (secret inks or microdots)

Stronghold

A foreign-based Soviet mission.

Stingball

A flashbang grenade used by SWAT teams to disperse crowds and disorient barricaded suspects. Throws off rubber fragments when detonated. It is standard police procedure to cover up the deaths of suspects inadvertently killed by stingballs.

Synthetic Hemoglobin

A component used in carbon monoxoide detector alarms. The radiation weapons recently developed and deployed by DARPA will set off these alarms.

TDY

Temporary duty assignment.

TECHINT

technical intelligence; analysis of fielded equipment for training, research, and the development of new weapons and equipment for eventual intelligence use.

The Take

Information gathered by espionage.

Thermal Imager

a heat-sensitive surveillance video camera and display.

Three B’s

Booze, broads, and bucars. The three temptations of FBI agents.

Throw Phone

a cellular telephone thrown to a barricaded suspect by the SWAT team.

Timed Drop

a dead drop that will be retrieved by a recipient after a set time period.

Trade Craft

The methods used in clandestine operations such as espionage. The skill acquired through experience in a trade; often used to discuss skill in espionage

Trunk Line

A major electronic communications line, usually made up of a bundle of cables.

Tunnel Sniffers

Technical air sampler sensors designed to sniff for hostile substances or parties in a dark tunnel system.

201 File

The file at CIA that contains all the personal information on a staff officer or an agent, including any training and operational details unique to the person.
Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2

U2

the world’s most famous spy plane, developed by the U.S. specifically for intelligence collection in the thin atmosphere 55,000 feet above the Soviet Union; it is still in use today.

UACB

FBI acronym for Unless Advised to the Contrary by the Bureau.

Ultra

Codename for intelligence derived from decryption of messages encrypted by the German Enigma cipher machine during WWII

VCP

vehicle control point.

Wet Job / Affair

results in death of target or major bloodshed.

Wilderness of Mirrors

a spy operation so complicated that it is no longer possible to separate truth and untruth.

Window Dressing

ancillary materials that are included in a cover story or deception operation to help convince the opposition or other casual observers that what they are observing is genuine.

X Rays

used by intelligence agencies and security services to pick key-locks and to deduce the settings for combination locks. Equipment fits in a standard briefcase.

Zero Out

the range at which a weapon’s sights will produce a bull’s eye hit. Handgun fixed sights are usually zeroed-out at 25 yards. A sniper rifle scope is usually zeroed-out at 100 yards. The termcold barrel zero refers to the calibration of a SWAT sniper rifle so that the first (cold) shot will hit a target at 100 yards. Subsequent rounds will diverge due to barrel heating.

Zou-hou-man

back door access to a protected target (as used by China’s intelligence agencies).

References

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