Notes on Communication with the Agents’ Network

November 1, 2018

Notes on Communication with the Agents’ Network


Copy No. __



Signed for printing 5.V-70

Print Run 100

Author’s Sheet 3,73

Journal No. 174/1445ss

Edition No. 6/182



Note: This is a summary translation of the original 75-page Russian document. Only lines with quotation marks are direct translations from the text.

I. Concept of Communication

“‘Communication’ in intelligence means constant interaction between divisions and links in the intelligence and agents’ apparat, exercising espionage tradecraft [konspiratsiya] with the aid of special means and methods.”

“Espionage communications are usually established between a central intelligence apparat (the Center) and ‘legal’ and illegal rezidenturas [intelligence base of operations] of the intelligence agencies of socialist states in capitalist countries, inside rezidenturas, between staff and agent groups and individual agents.”

– The Center runs all the work and supplies cash and operational technology.

– The rezidentura in capitalist countries reports intelligence to the Center and makes suggestions how to develop it.

– The legals and illegals run agent networks, train them and get materials from them.

Communications are vital because the Center may need to issue an assignment or warn an illegal of a threat. Information obtained by socialist intelligence in capitalist countries loses value if it can’t be communicated quickly. Communications are also the most vulnerable point; the greatest percent of failures or disruptions of work is caused by poor organization of comms channels. The success of the whole intelligence service depends on communication between officers and agents; within the rezidentura and with the Center.

Capitalist intelligence agencies have stepped up their counterintelligence, which has created significant difficulties for the legals. Agents have to fight consistency and use simplified means of communication.

o Espionage tradecraft — maintain total secrecy not only from outsiders but those not directly involved, even if in intelligence. Use methods to guarantee comms won’t be deciphered or intercepted.

o Vertical comms from Center to rezidentura, from intelligence officers to agents and visa versa, from intelligence officer to rezidentura, from rezidentura to Center. Horizonal comms are not allowed, in order to ensure security. It’s harder to determine the location of failures if they are allowed.

o There will be cases when one agent is known to another if the assignment requires it. But don’t allow lines to cross; it makes it easier for the enemy to intercept.

— Tradecraft [Konspirovka] also means the ability of the officer and the agent to adapt to the surroundings, and blend in; not to stick out. Making a pattern is the most harmful and dangerous thing for konspirovka; don’t use the same places to meet, or same dead drops, or the same time. Constantly check the reliability of the comms channel; use camouflage and cipher.

— Reliability of comms — no interruptions, no interceptions; make sure agents know how to use technology.

— Use only reliable communications agents, couriers, agents who maintain safehouses; make sure their cover is convenient for comms among various nodes in the network. Think ahead to what changes might dictate adaptation, and prepare in advance other means of communication i.e. meetings, signals, etc. Sometimes use redundancy when there isn’t confidence comms are going through. Have some messengers and radio stations in reserve. Check the reserve channels to make sure they’re working.

– Use radio comms as fastest means.

Excessive clutter and complication are just as harmful as using simplified comms or the same comms or having a pattern.

II. Personal Communications

Personal meetings enable the giving of instructions accurately and the resolving of issues on the spot; they enable the controller to provide political and moral influence and to react quickly to negative behavior or moods. Personal meetings enable the agent to be trained in the use of technology and tradecraft; his personal qualities and capacities can also be studied. They are especially useful for new recruits.

But because personal meetings are so vulnerable to counterintelligence, especially with intensification of bourgeois intelligence counterintelligence against the socialist fraternity and increased surveillance, special attention must be paid to security; reduce the number of personal meetings to a minimum; they should mainly be used for new recruits for training. Hold separate meetings for instructive chats, discussing increased responsibilities, etc.

Brush meetings, either parallel or head-on, should be used to transmit materials; agents do not let on that they know each other; they should do this in crowded areas, say, at the escalators in stores or the metro, at theater box offices, during rush hour, in post offices; in narrow passageways etc.

Before making a head-on brush pass, decide exactly where the location is, in which hand you will carry the material, what the back-up plan should be. Make the time of meeting precise to the minute.

Don’t set patterns, be inventive, change the times, or you will be discovered. Calculate for changing conditions. Have a legend ready in case of arrest.

– Selection of location

Take into account the time and nature of the meeting, i.e. long or short; whether hand-off is small or large volume of materials; the age and sex of the officer and agent.

Know the city and transportation routes; know layout of parks, squares, streets, sights, libraries, stores, cafes, hours they are open. Know locations outside the city.

Stay away from police posts; places where counterintelligence agents might be, i.e. buildings that are guarded, prohibited areas, government buildings, foreign embassies, residences of foreign diplomats, hangouts of criminal elements. Chose a place where you can tell if you are being followed.

Take into account methods of local counterintelligence; how well qualified its agents are; how modern their technology is.

Take into account culture of local population, especially in countries of the East; will the appearance of a European provoke curiosity or suspicion? Take into account racial discrimination in the US and other countries.

Watch out for political events (strikes, demonstrations); declaration of martial law; increased police activity.

The type of place depends on the purpose and whether short or long, i.e. training or discussions with the agent about his capacities, instruction on the use of tech, etc. It’s better to use a safe house for these longer meetings; if they are not available, use places where you can walk outside the city; remote restaurants or cafes far from the center; automobiles.

If the meeting is to hand off documents, written assignments, intelligence reports, you can meet in museums, at exhibits, in libraries, in movies and theaters, elevators of big stores. These should be kept short to minimize detection. Locations should be selected that enable disappearance from sight for a few sections — a corner to turn, a store vestibule, a crowd.

If a large object or volumes of materials must be transferred, use suitcases, bundles of books, rolled-up tubes, magazines, newspapers etc. in the tram, metro, bus; in change rooms of athletic clubs, public pools, ski stations; laundries — any place where a suitcase or package will not provoke suspicion.

Legal agents of rezidenturas must select a place where he is not known as a representative of a socialist country and where he is least likely to be recognized as a foreigner.

If an intelligence officer lives in a small town or his cover requires prominent position or a lot of friends, then he should not have meetings in that city, but go to another. If he appears in a restaurant, cafe, on the street, at the theater, at a stadium with a local resident he may be recognized. Fishing trips, hunting, excursions to see sights outside the city may be used as cover for meeting agents.

The agent’s legend should fit the place, i.e. if a wealthy person meets in a cheap restaurant in the workers’ quarter, he may stick out; or conversely, meeting in an expensive restaurant if he is a petty clerk could provoke suspicion.

If the agent is a prominent civic, political or government figure, then he should only meet in situations that are the most “legal” – diplomatic receptions, official visits, interviews or at safe houses. Keep in mind that embassies may be bugged by the enemy.

A cover story needs to be provided to explain long absences from home, otherwise as practice has shown, wives may get jealous. One wife hired a private detective to follow her spouse who found him meeting with an intelligence agent.

Take into account the sex of those meeting; in the capitalist countries, there are places such as certain bars or restaurants where only men or only women may be accepted.

Meetings on the street have a greater chance are not likely to be bugged and have a greater chance of not falling under surveillance.

If a long conversation is needed, it is recommended not to meet on noisy, crowded streets but on side streets, or far from the center, away from government buildings. Agents can look like people coming home from work or going into the city.

A beach swim, picnic, fishing expedition, ski trip can provide cover for meeting outside the city.

In Western Europe and America, almost all classes of people go to cafes and restaurants where they can spend an unlimited amount of time reading or playing games or having business meetings. So they make good cover, but keep in mind that police and counterintelligence are also watching them. Go to a cafe or restaurant where the owner and waiters don’t know you. Avoid places where there are black marketeers and other criminal elements, because there may be police raids.

Don’t meet in cafes known to be frequented by foreigners or emigres or diplomats.

Meet on major streets where patrons don’t know each other and where agent and officer can appear to meet accidentally. Pass materials in the parking lots which are often available.

Use safe houses when the agent needs a place to prepare reports or use special technology like radio, cameras, cryptograms, encoders, etc. A safe house sometimes has a photo lab to take pictures of materials that have to be immediately returned to an agent. The cover can be the lab of an amateur photographer.

Safe houses should ideally have a cover as the home of a doctor, lawyer, music teacher, foreign language teacher, tailor, etc. to account for a lot of visitors.

A safe house preferably should not have elevator operators, concierges, etc. with free entry where foreigners will not be conspicuous.

Check the safe house periodically to see if it is under surveillance. The keeper of the safe house needs to work out a danger signal in advance if he suspects counterintelligence at work or if there is a raid of the safe house.

In capitalist countries, neighbors may be put to work spying on a suspicious safe house, or the apartment may be bugged or photographed.

If a safe house is raided, it is much harder to keep a cover story than if found on the street. That’s why the keeper of the safe house needs a good legend as a professional who could have visitors.

Only meet with vetted agents at a safe house and only if there is a necessity. Each agent needs a separate safe house.

– Use of automobiles

It is better if the officer does the driving so that the agent isn’t made nervous by the presence of a third party, the driver. Or with advance preparation, convince the agent that the driver is reliable and knows no foreign languages.

Avoid heavy traffic so as to reduce chance of a ticket and attention to oneself. Police know the license plates of the socialist embassies. Plan the route in advance. The conversation can take place not just while driving but at a parking lot hidden from view. Ensure that when the meeting is over the agent can exit in a place where he won’t draw suspicion.

The car should be used not only for meeting agents but other ordinary activities so as to reduce suspicion, and preferably should not have diplomatic plates. The car should also not stand out in model or in paint color. Check to see if you are being followed.

Check cars frequently, especially before meetings, to see if there are any bugs. Use rental cars to attract less attention. Don’t meet in places where agents live, where they might have an accidental meeting with someone who knows them. Don’t meet near military or government buildings or near any laboratories or science centers or plants that might be under guard. Don’t meet near embassies or residences of diplomats; don’t meet near jewelry stores or banks, where there may be guards, especially at night.

Don’t meet in areas where there may be criminal elements, where police may show up.

– Time of meetings

It is better to meet agents in the evening after work, and where it is easier to escape surveillance in the dark. Meet agents at times when cafes are most crowded and waiters are too busy to watch you. Know when street life dies down in a city. Don’t stand out by meeting at a time when people aren’t out on the street. In some countries of the East, people go to bed very early and no one is out on the street after 6 pm.

Be on time, so that neither an officer or agent become conspicuous by having to wait. Make sure watches keep time accurately.

Mix up the times to foil local counterintelligence.

– Preparation of agents

Because capitalist countries have stepped up counterintelligence, meetings have to be prepared carefully, especially if several agents are involved.

Plan the route and have back-up options. Have a reserve of intelligence officers and technicians in case someone isn’t available.

Discuss the plans for meetings with the rezident [station chief] or his deputy and get approval; sometimes the Center must approve the meetings.

Ascertain if you are under surveillance; do this always, not only on the day of a meeting. Do this with sophistication so that the enemy can’t detect you. Have a plausible legend ready, for example visiting a park, cinema, store, museum, library, etc. Intelligence officers should having outings and contacts with neutral persons to foil counterintelligence.

If an intelligence officer only goes outside on certain days and only to meet agents, he will draw the attention of counterintelligence. If he sees he is being followed, he has to suspend meetings with agents but keep up his regular trips outside for business or personal reasons. Only after he is sure the surveillance is suspended should he meet with the agent, checking all the while.

Organize trips into town by other intelligence officers to distract surveillance, and enable the intelligence officer who is meeting an agent to go out undetected. Don’t use as a cover a visit to the movies or other entertainment during the day because this can look suspicious. A visit to a doctor or tailor could be a cover.

Make up a cover story of a business trip or sight-seeing vacation of 1-2 days if a meeting must be made in remote areas. In many capitalist countries, officers from socialist countries have to alert the foreign ministry of their plans and obtain special permission.

Assign the purchase of tickets to another intelligence officer to distract from the one making the meeting, especially if he knows the local language well; the agent can do this if justified by the nature of the trip. Get unreserved seats for flexibility. In the US and England, some unreserved tickets can be bought on board.

Leave in plenty of time to perform cover activities before the meeting. Know the city well so as to detect surveillance. In the event a tail is found, don’t go to the meeting unless there is an extreme emergency, i.e. when materials have to be returned to an agent. Then measures should be taken to shake the tail in such a way that it seems natural, that the tails lost him. Careful checks are needed not only before the meeting but during and after it.

If a tail is discovered, don’t let on that it has been noticed. Shorten the meeting but end it naturally, not cutting off conversation suddenly. The officer should warn the agent but carefully, so as not to frighten him. He can say he doesn’t like the behavior of someone and that the agent should check to see if he is being followed afterwards. If the officer and agent know each other officially, they have a cover and don’t have to try to shake the tail, since doing so would provoke more suspicion. It is categorically forbidden to go from one meeting right to another even if no tail is detected, since both agents then may be compromised.

The officer should train the agent to leave time to get to the meeting, teach him to check for tails, and stipulate what the back-up plan is.

Signals should not attract attention to themselves; use a book, newspaper, glove, cigarette etc. — these can be put on a table in a restaurant, for example. Danger signals can be such things as removing a hat, lighting a cigarette, wiping your eyes, etc. Act natural, and don’t attract attention of counterintelligence. Don’t rely on an agent to detect his own surveillance; check it for him. Have a back-up meeting place, after first establishing eye contact at the first location.

The intelligence officer takes the initiative for all contacts; the agent should not approach the officer before the agreed signal or give the impression he knows him. Make the meeting look like they are between business colleagues or friends — don’t whisper, put on a secretive face, break off conversations as others approach, or look all around you. The behavior should fit the location, i.e. at a tennis court, play tennis, then while resting, have the conversation. Don’t look as if you are impatiently waiting for someone. Don’t talk to service personnel if you don’t know the local language fluently. The intelligence officer should not arrive at the location first.

– Precautionary measures in case of detention

Make sure every meeting has a cover story — a legend has to be created for the circumstances for how the intelligence officer and agent first met; the reasons for their meeting; the nature of the topics discussed. Work out the legend in advance so both officer and agent have it mastered and can testify to it in case of detention. The legend should be simple and clear and correspond to the place of meeting, and the professional and social status of the person met, their personal characteristic (age, inclinations, etc.). It should explain an accidental or long-term acquaintance. If officer and agent know each other through their official work, that can be the legend for the meeting.

The legend should provide an explanation for why either agent or officer has intelligence materials on them, i.e. the intention to work at home or the desire to consult a specialist — the explanation should be based on the agent’s real abilities.

The intelligence office should not carry on his person or have in his home any notes that will reveal his intelligence activity (notebooks with encoded meeting conditions, telephones, assignments to agents, list of questions to ask an agent, etc.). All such materials should be kept at the rezidentura. Any materials received from an agent must be well-hidden at his home, with an eye to how to get rid of them in an emergency.

Officer and agent should keep their stories straight so they do not diverge in case of arrest. If any meeting is to be prolonged, don’t transmit intelligence materials, large sums of money or operational tech to avoid being compromised as intelligence workers. If an agent happens to bring intelligence reports to a meeting, they should be taken but the meeting cut short. Or if the location is not appropriate, agree to meet elsewhere for the transfer.

In the event of arrest, demand a representative from the embassy and do not give any testimony. “During arrest and investigation, you must behave in such a way that the interests of the socialist state are not harmed, that the interests of the intelligence organization are damaged, and also not to expose involvement of the arrested person in intelligence.”

– Security Measures

To keep communications going and prevent disruption, use these types of meetings:

– Regular meeting

This is a planned meeting at a certain time and place; the agent is obliged to show up unless he is sick or has a work excuse or discovered a tail.

– Back-up meeting

This is used in case something goes wrong with the first type to keep communications going — it can be a few hours or a few days after the original scheduled meeting, and should be planned in advance. There can be several options for back-ups. The back-ups should be in different places than the regular meetings.

– Emergency meeting

This must also be planned in advance with an agreed signal. These meetings are used to give warnings of danger or materials suddenly received. The time and place of the regular or back-up meetings can be used, or not as long as the agent can remember it and not get mixed up. The signal can be graphic or by radio, a post card or telegram, or an ad in a newspaper, etc. as long as tradecraft is preserved. Don’t use the location or signal for prolonged meetings which might lead to exposure by the enemy’s counterintelligence.

– Brush meeting

The officer and agent don’t let on that they know each other, don’t talk, but just transmit the secret materials quickly at the right moment, as they are synchronized. Have a back-up plan for another meeting to avoid failures.

– Visual meeting

The officer and agent don’t speak or make contact, but make visual contact and communicate by signals. Examples: “the materials must be transmitted” — hold the newspaper in the right hand; “everything is ok” or “the telegram was received” or “the assignment was understood” — wear a red tie. Signals should be such that they do not attract any attention of any possible surveillance. If properly organized, this is the safest type of meeting. The farther apart the people meeting are, the harder for counterintelligence to detect it.

Visual meetings are held if the agent has to stop his intelligence work for a time due to threats or failures or other reasons; they can also be used to signal danger for a schedule meeting so it can be cancelled.

If a meeting to transfer material is made, visual contact should be made first to determine whether to go to the meeting place.

– Permanent Conditions for Communication

The meetings previously described don’t guarantee us from possible loss of connections with an agent or an illegal. The reasons are varied — an agent mixes something up, an intelligence officer has to go out of the country urgently. Due to lack of inexperience, an agent may make steps to re-establish communications that make things more complicated.

Therefore, permanent communications have to be established with a recurring date and place, i.e. first Friday of every third month; be prepared for another intelligence officer or messenger to meet the agent instead of the original one. Make the time easy to remember. If a cafe or movie theater is closed or under repair, meet at the entrance.

– Identifying marks

This is obligatory, as another person may meeting agent besides the original officer. If, for example, in Germany, most men on work days carry a briefcase, then the agent should have a briefcase of a particular color or a secondary sign of recognition that won’t stand out. Carrying a magazine or newspaper in his hand will stand out, as most Germans put the newspapers inside their briefcases or in their coat or jacket pocket. But in the USA, a newspaper folded in half or magazine carried in the hand will look completely natural and can be used as an identifying mark, and the name of the newspaper or magazine can be specified.

Identifying marks can be not only objects but features of clothing. But they should blend in with local customs and the time of year.

– Password and response

These are pre-arranged phrases or personal items which one person says or show to another to prove he is authorized by intelligence, to be used for the purpose of maintaining espionage tradecraft and security. They should be simple and easy to remember and not arouse suspicion.

An intelligence officer might ask, for example, whether he has ever met the agent before, citing the name of a city, resort, country, firm, the name of a fictitious acquaintance, university etc. Then the agent can say, no, it was another place. Sometimes the officer simply asks for directions in a city, and the agent replies with a route that is unusual but could be supplied by an ordinary passer-by.

To restore communications that have been disrupted, the intelligence officer needs to know exhaustive information about the agent, his exact home and work addresses, his route to the office, his home phone, his home situation, his neighbors, his car, its license plate etc. to be able to look for him.


Several intelligence officers may be involved in scanning a pre-arranged route to see if it is under surveillance. The external surveillance watchers are constantly perfecting methods and means and have the latest technology. The agent who beats the enemy in counter-surveillance has good operational training, great endurance, and cleverness and operational inventiveness.

He has to be able to detect a follower without letting him know it, and to act calmly and naturally. An officer shouldn’t contact any agent if he is not sure he is being followed or not.

Because the target countries have complicated police regimens, an inexperienced officer may not be able to detect a tail. So in legal rezidenturas, counter-surveillance is done by other, experienced officers.

Counter-surveillance on the agent is more difficult but if the route is agreed in advance it can be done but unforeseen circumstances can arise. Sometimes other intelligence officers cannot be told the description of the agent or it is dangerous for an officer alone meeting an agent to conduct the counter-surveillance. Even so, counter-surveillance must be done for security. Agents should be taught how to detect tails and shake them.

III. Non-personal Communications

The chief advantage of non-personal comms is that if they are done correctly, they are more secure, especially at a time of worsening conditions for socialist intelligence in the capitalist countries. These comms have to be prepared just as carefully as personal meetings.

– Near-radio communication and signals

These have begun to be used more frequently in recent times. Information, danger signals, summons to meetings, etc. can be conveyed in this way for distances from several dozen meters to 3-5 kilometers.

The best feature is that near-radio comms are not dependent on the local electricity network, and its compact form enables use from pockets, briefcases, purses, etc.

One-time connection can be arranged with signals to an ordinary radio receiver, and two-way comms can also be made within the radio’s range. Two-way comms within short distances can be arranged with a device that plugs into a regular electrical socket, to have conversations between separate rooms, or even separate buildings a few blocks from each other if both devices are plugged into the same electricity network with the same transformer station.

Signals is an addition to all forms of comms. An ordinary pocket flashlight can be outfitted with an infra-red filter which can give signals to agents within 3-5 km in the dark, if they have a special device to receive them.

– Dead drops

Such secret hiding places are specially-selected or adapted places for clandestine transfer of messages and materials. Photos, microdots, small packages can be passed through these, but also larger items like cameras, samples of new tech, sketches, and models. Some dead drops can contain cash or operational tech. So the type of dead drop used will correspond to its purpose.

In selecting a secret hiding place, take account of the police regimen, the features of the city, the lifestyle and customs of the local population. Great inventiveness must be used, taking into account the special features of each city or country or culture. They can be organized in parks or squares, on the sides of roads, in a foundation or cracks in a stone fence, in ruins, at stadiums or race tracks in public toilets, etc.

Officers must find hiding places that can’t be accidentally discovered by outsiders, but that the agent can easily find. They shouldn’t be near guarded locations, prohibited areas, military installations etc. Approaches must be well visible but the dead drop should be in a place that can’t be seen by external surveillance when used. The place should be a natural location for the agent so as not to arouse suspicion. Time of date and climate should be taken into account. Don’t have a hiding place on the side of the road in winter where the approach may be covered with snow, and where an agent will leave tracks.

A dead drop could be in a park or stadium in the summer, but in the fall, if there are rains, it will seem suspicious. Accessing the place should be simple and not require physical effort or a lot of time, or that may attract counter-surveillance from the enemy or outsiders. The place should not be mobile or accessible by others or picked up by mistake, like a garbage can. It has to have signs to be easily found by the agent. Its description should be short and precise especially if a messenger has to find it who doesn’t know the location.

Here are some descriptions of dead drops used by socialist intelligence agencies that became known to American counter-intelligence:

1) “New York, Manhattan, Riverside and 96th Street, men’s toilet at a children’s playground. Far right stall if you stand facing the stalls. While sitting inside the stall by the left hand, a magnetic container has been attached inside the only pipe there, on which the wall of the stall is mounted. The size of the container is 2x3x10 cm.”

2) “New York, Manhattan, Symphony movie theater on Broadway and 25th Street. Enter the auditorium, go to the left, climb the stairs to the balcony. On the far right seat of the last row of the balcony. While sitting in the seat, with the right hand, the dead drop operation is made — the material is placed under the rug, opposite the seat. The containers are flat.”

When the intelligence officer or agent sits in this seat, they discover that they do not have to bend over for the container; the floor with the rug is at elbow level, the rug is nailed to the floor, but at this spot it is a bit torn away from the floor, so that an insert can be made.

3) “New York, Manhattan, end of Amsterdam Avenue. Go to the sports court; from a position facing toward East River, on the right side of the square, a path leads downward along the park. You must go down this path looking toward three smokestacks on the opposite side of the river, to a large dry stump which will be on the left side of the path. The dead drop is in the roots of this stump. A container can be placed in the roots under the stump from its left side, if sitting on the stump and looking down toward the river.”

The place was surveyed. There was no other stump there.

4) “New York, Central Park, pond with boat station. At its northern part, where a stream falls, there is a small wooden bridge across this stream. While standing on the little bridge facing the lake, and leaning on the railing, a container like a pushpin is placed under the railing strictly at the center of the stream, in the place where the angle is formed between the upper board and the beam of the railing.”

After a dead drop is arranged and adapted for use, it is necessary to check to what extent is guarantees clandestine nature of a communication.

Testing of the dead drop is done by placing in it some object. In doing so, the placement of the object in the hiding place must be well noted. If upon inspection several days later, this object is still in place, then it can be supposed that this dead drop is suitable for putting in action.”

Don’t use objects that may draw attention. In the best case, a passer-by might take the item; in the worst case he might call the police.

Dead drops can be used not only in intelligence agencies but in other illegal organizations; even children can use them in games.

There was a case in New York where an officer found a small bag in a place selected for a dead drop. He tried to take it out of the hiding place while sitting on a bench but it was too heavy. He decided not to take it out but notified the rezidentura. An hour later, when two intelligence officers returned, it was gone. Thus holes in trees, caves in mountains and other natural but obvious repositories visible to passers-by are not suitable for dead drops. They should not attract attention.

If something is to be left in a dead drop no more than an hour, the hiding place does not have to be in a hidden receptacle; it left near some marked place, and the container can be something disposable, suitable for the locality.

Each dead drop should be used only by one agent, and it is strictly forbidden to use the same one for multiple agents. It should look natural. One young illegal made a hiding spot in the forest, using a glass jar with a twist-off cap. He packed the jar into the earth and put a small rock at that place. So it was safe from weather. But it wasn’t a good idea because counter-intelligence would see not only a stone, but a jar underneath it, which would give away the fact of an intelligence operation.

A natural hiding place is good if there are no traces of anything after the materials are removed from it; even if counter-surveillance detects it, it won’t tell anything. This is why it is not a good idea to make containers out of door handles, handles of garbage cans, etc. in public places. Such containers would only be there for the operation, but a dead drop should appear as an ordinary object when it is not being used.

Dead drops are divided into two types: open and concealed hiding places. Concealed are there only for a certain time of the day or night. Open hiding places are outside in parks, forest, on the street etc. There are also compact, large, simple, and magnet dead drops.

The least risk is when a dead drop is used only once. But if systematic information is needed, a dead drop has to be devised for regular use. Yet patterns and templates are dangerous here, too. Multiple dead drops can be devised and numbered, then through signals, certain ones are used.

Visual, radio, graphic, or telephone signals can be used for three operations: 1) placement in the dead drop; item in the dead drop received; closing of the dead drop (if it was detected or anything suspicious is happening).

Graphic signals can be used on an agent’s daily route or on the intelligence officer’s route, and are destroyed after reading. The same checking for tails as in personal meetings are to be applied to dead drops. Some counter-intelligence agencies use trained dogs. Therefore both agent and office should confuse the trail by taking various forms of transport, going into crowds, etc.

Great attention should be paid to masking – an old, empty match box or cigarette pack; a tin can; a piece of crumpled newspaper; a piece of a pencil; a cigarette butt. If the hiding place is in the ground, use a piece of metal tube sharpened at one end to be able to stick it into the ground without difficulty.

Materials concerning the organization of intelligence work should not be put in dead drops, e.g. identifying data and addresses of agents, safe houses, instructions for meetings.

In emergencies, such materials can be sent through a dead drop and even ID for illegals but there must be a set time and the dead drop must be watched by the person who placed the materials there until they are taken. Visiting the location should be explainable in the event of arrest or if accidentally meeting an acquaintance.

A dead drop can link one officer with another or an officer with an agent that shouldn’t be contacted directly. But there is a disadvantage. “The lack of personal contact with an agent with the use of a dead drop deprives the intelligence officer of the opportunity to constantly deserve the agent, follow his moods, have moral and political influence on him in a timely matter, more fully determine his possibilities as an agent, that is, it hinders the operational guidance of the agent’s work, his study and vetting.”

Another disadvantage is that the officer’s materials are let out of his hands, and if discovered by the enemy, disinformation can be planted in their place to damage socialist governments. Or sometimes an ambush is laid near a dead drop to catch an officer and use this for propagandistic purposes. One-time dead drops are increasingly used because of the difficult situation in the capitalist countries. There should be multiple one-time dead drops with a clear system for their use and signals for them.

– Use of the press

The intelligence officer and agent agree to use certain newspapers, magazines or other periodicals for coded messages, i.e. an article on a certain topic or an announcement. Placement of an article naturally allows for a wider message and makes the encoding easier. But this is hard if intelligence doesn’t have an its agent at a periodical. An editor may make changes or cuts that damage the message or make it impossible to decipher.

Ads are much easier to use. Bourgeois newspapers gladly place all kinds of announcements from private persons, organizations or firms.

To use this method, the nature of the paper must be known; the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the [London] Times have many hundreds of want ads for employment, rental of apartments, sale of automobiles and other property. Various countries have their own customs and rules for these ads. Sometimes the ads have to be placed in person; sometimes by post, and will appear the next day or several days later. Normally, no identification has to be presented, and an address doesn’t have to be given; a receipt number can be referenced if needed. Sometimes an address is required, then a third party’s address must be given, or you can say you are just passing through town and don’t have a permanent address.

Keep in mind that counter-intelligence looks for announcements in newspapers that look suspicious. So study the form and content of real ads to copy them, so they don’t stand out. Don’t talk about lost and found items as that may draw the attention of the police; don’t get too original so that police may notice it.

Make it easy for the agent to find it. For example, in the capital of one of the Balkan countries, this ad was placed: “The director of a British trading house will be in our capital for several days…Tomorrow he leaves for Istanbul where he will spend 5 days. Those interested in the assortment of goods traded by this house may find him at this address…” Thus a courier from British intelligence let his agent know that he was coming to town with that ad.

Ads can be used to send signals about the arrival of a courier; a summons to a meeting; a warning about danger; and brief information. Repeated texts can’t be used as they draw suspicion. Such ads are good for reaching agents who are far from the rezidentura or even in another country, since the main newspapers are distributed abroad. Periodicals sent through the mail or put in post boxes can also be used to include cryptograms or by pin-pricking letters in relevant articles.

IV. Mediated Communications

These are comms through trusted agents. Having a third party between an officer and agent is not desirable for security reasons. But if organized skillfully under certain conditions, it can be effective.

Intelligence officers working under cover of official socialist government institutions are usually identified by counter-intelligence after prolonged surveillance, making personal meetings dangerous. If the agent has a prominent professional or civic position sharply contrasting with the legal rezidentura, a third party may be necessary, if he cannot make personal contact or even use impersonal methods. This is particularly true of agents working under tight security or living in remote areas. The third-party agent selected for this task should have convenient professions that enable such interactions, i.e. taxi drivers, librarians, gas station attendants, hair-dressers, theater cashiers, pharmacists, repairmen.

The agent serving as an intermediary has very secret and complicated work, so he must be honest, reliable and devoted and led by ideological and political motives. He must not be compromised in the eyes of local authorities by having progressive views, activities, membership in progressive clubs, etc. and must not draw suspicion for any reason. Agents who are tested by practical work but who had to be retired may be used.

Categories of intermediary agents:

– messengers who maintain clandestine contact between agents in the target country or directly with the Center;

– couriers used with agents in third countries or in the same country but at a distance;

A messenger may be authorized to discuss operational issues verbally with an agent and hear his opinion on various issues; he may make decisions only in concert with the intelligence officer. His function is to give and receive secret mail in closed form, and is not to know anything about the agent contacted. In most cases, he is making impersonal contact through a dead drop. He must know the information about an agent needed for his work; he may know his name and work addresses but the agents’ network shouldn’t know the messenger’s true position, unless he is a personal friend of an agent recommended by the agent.

– owner of a clandestine transfer location, through whom a source agent sends material to his intelligence officer or visa versa

– owner of a safe address who provides cover for correspondence and sending secret mail;

– owner of a safe telephone used to contact an agent;

– resident of a safe apartment used by intelligence.

– Messengers

It’s best if the messenger cloaks his intelligence functions under an official cover that enables him to contact agents for legal and justifiable reasons. Such covers include taxi driver, delivery man, laundry man, mailman, theater cashier, cloakroom attendant, waiter, etc.

If the messenger has to go out of town, he needs a legend for absenting himself from work or family, and having cash for the road. Covers include railroad conductor, ship steward, traveling salesman, bus driver, newspaper correspondent.

The messenger should have a legal reason for visiting out-of-town locations where he will contact an agent or officer. He can meet with the agent personally or use a dead drop or safe phone. He must be given instructions:

– on the setting

– how he is to contact the agent and in what form he is to receive material

– description of agent and terms of meeting

– location of dead drop and how it will be used

– both officer and messenger can together work out a legend about his trip that the messenger should master

– the messenger should be warned to keep the trip secret and avoid accidental acquaintances, patronizing hotels of dubious reputation, getting involved with women, drinking, etc.

– he should be trained to detect a tail.

Instruct the agent how to behave if he is arrested or if material is seized.

Materials should be encrypted or microdots used. They should have nothing on them to indicate their origin in case they wind up with counterintelligence. They should be concealed or masked from outsiders, in a natural way. Agent or courier as well as the transfer location should also be concealed naturally.

Now and then, to test the reliability of the agent, the officer should meet with him himself to determine if he is transmitting items or cash correctly and maintaining proper relations. “The intelligence officer should always have the ability to establish contact with an agent aside from the messenger.”

– Couriers

Couriers are needed for deliveries with large volume of materials, cash, and special technology. It’s best if they have a cover as a plausible profession, or as a relative. Good covers are tradesmen, traveling salesmen, service personnel on a commercial ship, plane crews on international flights, diplomatic couriers, etc. A courier can be put in a delegation going to the target country; he can go there on business; or he can pose as family if there is a good reason. If there isn’t a cover, the courier can be given fake ID, but that has greater risk. Sometimes a courier can cross the border illegally where security is weak.

To organize a courier run successfully, you must have a good legend, the necessary documents, training on how he should behave, and a reasonable means of contact with the agent or officer. Using a dead drop or transfer station are the most prudent means. Materials to be transmitted must be disguised – hidden in a suitcase or a jar with a double bottom; hidden in clothing; written in code; put into goods or everyday items; sent in microdots.

– Transfer center

A good cover for a transfer center is a store, snack bar, library, tobacco kiosk, pharmacy, hair-dresser, watch repairman, private clinic, gas station, car repair shop, etc. where agents can visit it easily with easy-to-explain covers. Larger materials can be sent through a gas station, car repair garage, etc. The agent comes under the cover story, he hands the materials to the owner, who then passes it to the agent. The agent sometimes provides instructions for this.

Both agent and officer cannot give the slightest indication of the nature of the transaction with the owner so as not to attract suspicion. Each visit has to be justified. If it is a book store, a book must be purchased or at least an inquiry made about a book. If other clerks are on duty, the agent must address them. Their behavior must blend in with the real customers.

An agent or officer should visit the cafe, gas station, library etc. not only on the days when they have a hand-off or pick-off but on other days so as to look natural. To avoid too much attention going to the transfer center, the agent or officer should go to similar cafes, gas stations, libraries as well.

– Conspiratorial address

This is an address secretly used to receive mail in which agents’ operational materials are inserted. Agents who are tested and reliable and who have a good reputation, and are not under suspicion by counterintelligence should be used for this role. They should also have some kind of occupation and a circle of relatives or friends they can be in regular and extensive correspondence with. Agents who work as lawyers, merchants, hotel managers etc. may provide such safe addresses.

In some eastern countries, there are streets and lanes with no numbers, and to receive mail, the residents go to the post office or a store to get mail. Such a store owner can be brought into cooperation with intelligence to provide such a pick-up address.

The material sent through such an address should be encrypted but in such a way that it doesn’t differ from an ordinary telegram or letter. Phrases shouldn’t stick out. The text should look natural. A pre-arranged signal can be made through a collection of small items, for example in a perfume shop. Micro-photography is the most convenient way to send materials which can be well concealed in a package.

The sender must know the addressee’s personal details so as to ask about them in a letter, as if to a close relative. The style of the letter should correspond to the level of development, culture and literacy of the person running the safe address as well as his correspondent. If the person maintaining the safe address is a merchant in a stall, an uneducated person with little culture, then the letter should be written with spelling mistakes and the use of folk expressions, since a letter with perfect grammar in a literary style may draw suspicion. Use a typewriter font that fits with the typewriter that the owner has, not known to counter-intelligence as belonging to socialist intelligence agencies.

Since the handwriting of legal officers in the rezidentura may be known to counterintelligence, they must use people whose handwriting isn’t known. Be careful not to leave fingerprints on the letters – use gloves when sealing the envelope, or a paper overlay. Don’t use a fake return address or this will draw attention. In the event no return address is available, use the address of a hotel, pension, firm, office, or as a final resort, a private address if it exists. Don’t use the same type of paper or envelopes for mailings to different addresses. Don’t use the same handwriting for mail to different people. These are clues that counter-intelligence can use. Know the rules for sending mail – how to write an address in the designated country, the cost of stamps, where to put the stamp, the rules for international correspondence. The handler of the safe address should not open the mail. They will be marked as intended for intelligence with a pre-arranged sign.

Safe telephone

This is a telephone secretly used by officer or agent to send signals and encoded operational or intelligence reports. A tested and reliable agent is needed to handle such a phone. It can be at his apartment or work place. An unwitting person’s phone can be used by having a cover story related to his personal or business life, or a request to help an organization he supports.

The best covers are lawyers’ offices, doctors’ offices, watch or auto repair shops, tailors, etc. since they have a lot of clients. If done correctly, the calls shouldn’t attract suspicion.

– The officer and agent shouldn’t have open conversations about intelligence with the holder of the safe telephone.

– The code words should fit, i.e. if a tailor, then words should be used about measurement, fashion, suits, coats, the date of a fitting, etc.

– Codes should be kept as simple as possible so as to be easy to remember, and messages should be kept short.

– Neither agent or officer should not call the phone from their offices or homes. Always use a pay phone.

– The password and response should be simple so as to recognize the agent without mistake.

– Safe Apartment

Such an apartment can be used for meetings of agents or keeping operational technology or materials or to run illegal radio stations or prepare agent materials. If necessary, they can be outfitted with hiding places for materials and the ability to make clandestine photographs. The apartments of reliable agents are used who have lost other intelligence capacity or especially-recruited agents.

The loyalty of the agent (the apartment owner) and the suitability of the apartment itself are the main conditions for its use. The safe apartment can be used to meet only one agent. If it is used to meet several agents, this is a violation of the elementary rules of tradecraft.


“Communication with the agents’ network must function clearly and reliably in any setting.” This is especially true if diplomatic ties have been broken with the target nation or there are the onset of military actions between countries of the imperialist camp or with the socialist community.

If war breaks out, some agents will have to leave; some will be called to military service; and comms may be disrupted. The officer must choose the most tested and valuable agents in the case of such emergencies and decide which of them will be handed over to illegals; which will deal directly with the Center; which will answer to a group head. Comms should be so secure that they can be continued even with a move to another country, by making arrangements ahead of time.

In organizing comms, determine in advance: through what countries lines of communication with the Center will run; forms of comms; means of comms with each agent; where safe houses and addresses are located; transfer stations and dead drops, and terms for their use.

If there are lines of communications, it is necessary to prepare back-ups, reserve channels in case of emergency.

“Under conditions of war, what is required are extreme flexibility, the ability to maneuver, inventiveness and bravery in finding such forms of communication with the agents’ network and means of using them that that will guarantee their secrecy, reliability and timeliness.”