Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Makes a Good Spy?

One of my favorite new shows this fall was The Americans. Set in the Cold War period in the 1980s, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two Soviet KGB officers posing as an American married couple in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

It wasn’t that long ago that Robert Hanssen, a FBI agent was exposed as spying for the Soviet Union for 22 years from 1979 to 2001. Currently, he is serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado. His story has been covered in several mediums including a documentary called “Superspy: The Man Who Betrayed the West”  and a film starring Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe called "Breach."

I have been toying with writing a spy story for a long time—i.e. the standalone book that I dream I can write inbetween my two mystery series and my argh-groan-sigh BUT glad I’m employed … full-time job. 

So what makes a good spy? I can’t imagine ever betraying my country and anyway, I’d make a rubbish spy because I am a wimp when it comes to any form of torture. The dentist is enough for me.

I was lucky enough to listen to Colonel (Ret.) Jill Morgenthaler's fascinating presentation called “If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Not Paying Attention.” Check out her website. As an inspirational, motivational speaker, she’s amazing and her bio is staggeringly impressive. One of Jill's roles in military intelligence was that of recruiting spies.
This is what she shared:

What makes a good spy?
A lust for adventure

What are the signs of a spy?
Too good to be true
Start with little stuff
Makes promises (all lies)
Doesn't hear no

T is for Traitor—What makes a good target?
Personnel with access and placement
Personality type—narcissistic
Personal vulnerabilities—loners
Criminal activity i.e. if dirty in one area they will be dirty in another
Family/close friends in foreign countries

Persuasion Nuggets
Sex- honey pot ravens; swans and swallows
Political asylum
Career opportunities

B is for blackmail—coercion
Booze (and drugs)

The Telltale Signs of a Spy (i.e are you living with one?)
Unexplained Wealth
Taking work home
Excessive use of copier
Working late for no reason
Constant foreign travel
Requesting access with no real need to know
Corresponding with foreigners/businesses
Repeated security violations

And if you’re curious as to whether you would make a good spy … try taking Wolfgang Lotz’s quiz from his “Handbook For Spies.” Just remember to—

Act like you belong
Behave purposefully
Blend in gray man or woman
Always assess the players and situations
Trust your instincts
Don't second guess (analyze later)
Always be aware of your surroundings


Toe Hallock said...

Ms. Dennison: a "true" spy or counter-spy doesn't give a damn about anyone but themselves. They are all sociopaths. Or psychopaths if you prefer. Makes for good fiction. But that's about it. Am I being too cynical? Anyway, your post is a fun reminder of why we are still fond of James Bond. Yours truly, Toe.

Hannah Dennison said...

Thanks for stopping by Toe ...I totally agree with your comment!! I love James Bond ... for me Sean Connery still reigns supreme.