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Handling the everyday risks
of leading a double life...

Copyright ©1998 Lee Adams. All rights reserved.
NOTE – Spy & CounterSpy does not endorse, condone, or encourage any illegal act. The material in this article is presented for information, research, entertainment, and education purposes only. The words "you" and "your" and "I" and "we" are used in this article for ease of readability only.
     The heroes and heroines of the American Revolution held the deep conviction that everyone everywhere has the right to revolt against tyranny and oppression.
     Many Americans today are wondering if they should become active in resisting government tyranny. Some are asking themselves, Do I love my country but fear my government?
     Answer one question and you've answered both.
The element of risk
     Is there risk involved? Yes. Anyone who questions or challenges the status quo is a target for surveillance and repression by the authorities. Anyone who undertakes covert actions must accept an even greater risk.
     Your primary duty as an underground activist is security. You must remain unknown to the adversary's forces – and to the public at large. Simply stated, exposure is the greatest threat you face as an underground activist or as an urban guerrilla. This risk falls into three categories.
Sources of risk
     Commonplace, everyday situations are the main source of risk. Many people are surprised to learn this. The three main causes of exposure are
     first, being in the wrong place at the wrong time (when the police are looking for someone else);
     second, being noticed by the security service (while they're watching someone else); and
     third, being reported to the authorities (by a busybody or a nosy neighbor).
     Reduce or eliminate these three situations and you've removed 98% of the danger in leading a double life.
What you'll learn here
     This article teaches you how to minimize the risk of the double life you must lead. The article contains enough background information to keep you out of the internment camps. Combine it with the other tutorials at our website, and you'll know enough to begin planning and carrying out covert actions.

Threat #1 –
The wrong place at the wrong time...

     The threat involves being inadvertently and innocently swept up in an investigation. You're simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when the police are looking for someone else. When you're this close to them, arouse their interest and you're finished.
     Situations can develop around you unexpectedly. They can get out of control even quicker. They include mundane events like random vehicle stops by police. More serious situations include muggings, holdups, shoplifting, drunk-driver road checks, prowlers, burglaries, retail video cameras, and others. All of these situations will bring the police close by.
     Here's an example.
     Case Study #1.  October 1998 – I was scheduled to meet a clandestine contact. The location was the entrance to a city park just after dark. I arrived ten minutes early in order to give myself time to check for surveillance.
     The park is laid out as a linear trail. It meanders through various neighborhoods in the city. Unknownst to me, just moments earlier a punk had held up a nearby convenience store. He used the trail for his getaway.
     I parked my car, walked to the meeting location, and checked for surveillance. Satisfied that the area was clean, I was walking back to my car. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a large dark sedan pulled out of the shadows. A male got out of the car and crept along the dark side of a building adjacent to the park. He hadn't seen me. I was thinking perhaps it was a prowler, burglar, or drug-related situation.
     A challenge in the dark.  As I approached my car, the suspicious male shone a flashlight on me. He was about 25 yards away. Using a firm voice, I challenged him, "Can I help you with something?"
     "It's the police."
     "Oh, sorry," I called back. "I didn't recognize you."
     I started walking towards him in a nonthreatening way as if I had nothing to hide.
     Sitrep.  I had a number of things going for me. I was well-dressed. I was wearing a sports coat and tie – somewhat overdressed for the park. And I had just reacted in a manner that suggested I was not going to accept being challenged by a stranger in the dark. All these factors may have reduced the cop's suspicions a bit. As he and I approached each other in the dark, he came right out and told me that he was checking the park as a possible getaway route of the robbery suspect.
     I played my cover and began acting worried. "Gee, thanks for the warning. I was just in there."
     Summary.  Picture it in your mind. It's just him and me. On a deserted street. In an industrial area. After dark. He's all pumped up looking for an armed robbery suspect. It wouldn't take much for things to get out of hand.
     His next move.  Following standard police procedure, he now needed to rule me out as a suspect and find out what I was doing. After all, here I am hanging around a park after dark.
     He asked for identification. I showed him my driver's license. Then he asked what I was doing.
     "I'm going down to [name of bar] to sing some Karaoke," I replied, looking at my watch. It was twenty to nine.
     "It doesn't start 'til nine," I continued. "So I'm just killing a little time."
     He smiled. Then he handed back my ID and he said, "Well, you're not 24. Have a good night."
     Home free.  We can safely assume the robbery suspect was described by the convenience store clerk as a 24-year old male.  I'm fortyish.
     The lesson? You simply never know when circumstances are going to overtake you. You cannot predict when you're going to be challenged by the authorities.
     Plausible denial is the best way to ensure that a routine challenge doesn't escalate into a major confrontation. As an underground activist, you must have an innocent explanation for everything you do. In my case, I also had a backstop, which is spy-talk for an actual event that backs up a cover story.
     Tell the cops what they want to hear. Help simplify their job for them. Play your cover for all it's worth. Be a stereotype. Make it easy for them to label you, to pigeon-hole you, to typecast you – and they'll rule you out as a suspect.
     I was just some naiive dandy on his way downtown to sing Karaoke on a Saturday night.
     Yeah, right.
     Give them what they want.  An important component in your plausible denial and your cover is to give the authorities something to "find". Let them discover a personal character weakness or a minor transgression. They'll seldom look further. Intelligence agencies like Britain's MI.6, Germany's BND, France's DGSE, and Russia's KGB (now SVR) have been doing this for decades. It's called layered security.
     The damage? None. I simply rescheduled my rendezvous with my contact, a whistleblower in an alphabet agency.

Threat – Unexpected police challenge.
Defense – Plausible denial. Good cover. Layered security. A backstop.
Implementation – Dress well. Be clean and neat. Be polite. Play out your cover. Become a stereotype. Act nonthreatening.

Threat #2 –
Being noticed by the security service...

     The threat involves being noticed by the security service when they are actually watching someone else. In other words, you inadvertently walk through a surveillance operation.
     During your meetings with various contacts, eventually you'll find yourself talking to someone who is under surveillance. The surveillance team will want to know more about you. The mere fact that you've contacted their target is enough reason for them to place you under surveillance.
     They don't have anything on you yet, but the situation is extremely dangerous for you.
     A common trap.  A situation lke this can easily develop as a result of your routine interaction with other activists, urban guerrillas, cells, networks, couriers, go-betweens, suppliers, informants, whistleblowers, agent-handlers, and so on. Any one of these conctacts might be under surveillance – vehicle, foot, or technical.
     The defense against this threat is to use good tradecraft.
     Use the Blunt-Modin method of arranging secret meetings. Return to our home page and click on Arrange secret meetings for more on this.
     Use DLBs. Return to our home page and click on Use dead-letter boxes for more on this.
     Use anonymous email accounts. Return to our home page and click on Be a whistelblower for more on this.
     Use one-time pads. Return to our home page and click on Use a one-time pad for more on this.
     Learn to recognize the warning signs of surveillance. See various articles at our website, including FBI vehicle surveillance and Beating the FBI. Other articles and tutorials are coming soon.
     Use elliptical conversation. Use diversions and decoys. Use misinformation. All these skills make it possible for you to continue your underground work while under surveillance. Most important, however, is your cover. You want to appear as one of the unthinking sheep. Make yourself uninteresting to the surveillance team.
     Failsafe.  Even if you don't detect the presence of the surveillance team, good tradecraft and a good cover will keep you free. The goons will watch you long enough to satisfy themselves that you're not a suspect – and then they'll move on. The cardinal rule is don't break cover. Ever. Let them hear what they want to hear – a sheep bleating. Let them see what they want to see – a sheep grazing. Help them rule you out as a suspect.
     Here's an example.
     Case Study #2.  July/August 1998. One of my regular contacts was under intermittent police surveillance. That's because she has occasional contact with nasty underworld types. She and I discussed nothing by telephone. We use only random parks and noisy bars for our conversations. Sometimes we used cutouts and go-betweens to pass messages to each other and set up meetings.
     The cover? I was just a naiive dandy who was hopelessly infatuated with a "bad girl".
     Yeah. Right.
     Layered security.  As in the previous risk analysis, it's important to realize that an essential element in your plausible denial and your cover is to give the authorities something to "find". Let them discover a personal character weakness or a minor transgression. They'll seldom look further. Intelligence agencies have been doing this for decades... because it works.

Threat – Noticed by security service.
Defense – Good tradecraft. A credible cover. Layered security.

Threat #3 –
Being reported to the authorities...

     The threat involves being reported to the authorities by a busybody or a nosy neighbor. These so-called anonymous tips happen a lot more often than people realize. The threat is from the passerby, the bystander, the witness, the jilted lover, the jealous coworker.
     This is one of the most dangerous threats to your double life, but it's also one of the easiest threats to neutralize.
     The answer? Good cover and plausible denial. This means looking like you belong – and having an innocent explanation for whatever it is you're doing.
     Your public persona must provide adequate cover for the activities of your underground persona. Of course, this only works if you keep your mouth shut. Don't brag about your activities to friends or lovers. Don't engage in pub talk. Unless you're among cell members, keep your political opinions to yourself.
     Case Study #3.  The research that I undertake during my investigative reporting for the Spy & CounterSpy website provides good cover for the "serious" contacts I need to make. My research activities provide plausible denial while I meet or communicate with informants from alphabet agencies, whistleblowers from government departments, activists in underground organizations, confidential sources in law enfourcement and the media, tipsters, ex-military types, ex-spooks, and so on. What we really talk about is between me and my contacts, of course.
     With a little thought you can exploit or create activities in your lifestyle that provide good cover for the things you'd rather be doing.

Threat – Reported to the authorities.
Defense – Good cover. Be part of the community. Fit in. Be friendly. Be a stereotype. If possible, have a solid backstop.


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