Spy Tips on Abandoned Facilities, Collateral Damage, Extraction, and more…
In espionage, you often deal with people who are working undercover – some legitimately, because their identity needs to remain a secret, and some illegitimately, because they’re betraying the country they’ve sworn to protect. Either way, they go to great lengths to keep their regular life separate from their covert lives, keeping their secrets far from view. Which is why there’s nothing quite so unsettling as seeing one of those secrets show up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Abandoned facilities are often used to cover up covert activity. Set up in a crumbling building covered in graffiti, and no one takes much notice. There are ways of figuring out if a facility is truly abandoned, however, like the power draw. If a building’s using electricity, chances are someone’s home.
In a heavily populated and high-traffic environment, a covert op has to leave a small footprint and create as little disturbance as possible. An urban snatch-and-grab with a small team requires good intelligence. That begins with identifying and tracking the target. It’s not enough knowing he’ll be in town. You need to know when his flight arrives, what vehicle he’s driving, every detail down to where he’s gonna make a left turn.
Once your target is tracked, the next task is to stop his vehicle. In an urban environment, this is usually done with another vehicle in a precisely timed collision.
Finally, you need a team in place to go in before the smoke clears and do the actual extraction. Do it right, and you’re in and out before anyone has time to fire a shot.
With some planning, you can stop a large vehicle with a much smaller one. It’s a matter of calculating the physics involved and very precise timing. Unfortunately, when timing is that precise, any obstacle whatsoever can cause a very large problem.
Getting the attention of someone who recruits traitors for a living is an art. You can’t exactly run around a security conference, yelling, “I want to betray my country.” You have to be subtle. Just make it known you’re desperate enough to do something stupid and let the bad guy find you.
The key to breaching a building is getting inside quickly and dealing with the occupants before they have time to respond. When you can’t use explosives, sometimes you have to get creative. If you can find utility equipment that is built into the wall, you just need a couple thousand foot-pounds of torque to make yourself a door.
One of the most useful tools in domestic-intelligence operations is local government. One call from the CIA, and most federal and state agencies will help out if they can.
In any operation, one of the toughest parts is dealing with collateral damage. When you’re alone in the field, you have to decide whether to take actions that could hurt innocent people, weighing the consequences against what happens if you do nothing. And when you act – when you take that step you know that whatever your reasons, whatever the costs or benefits, you have done something terrible. And when it’s done, all you can do then is carry on with the operation, knowing that it’s your job to repair the hurt you’re about to cause and the damage you’re about to do — or die trying.
When an operation goes bad, you don’t get much time to decide what to do. It’s just a matter of facing the consequences of immediate failure or the risks of trying to save the operation on the fly.