Burn Notice Spy Tips Season 1 Episode 9

Spy Tips on Bureaucrats, Dealing with Kidnappers, and more

Work around spies for a while, and you learn to be careful when it looks like you’re getting what you want. That’s when you tend to let your guard down, get careless. Calling the cops on someone can teach you a lot. A foreign agent would run. So might an armed assassin. A bureaucrat’s going to… act like a bureaucrat.

Bureaucrats live for respect. East of the Balkans, that means a bribe. In the West, it’s more about showing you know they’re in charge.

About forty percent of kidnapping victims are released safely. These statistics are affected by a number of factors, including the nationality of the kidnappers, the age of the victim, and whether a hostage negotiator is employed. The odds go down sharply if no one has any money to pay the ransom.  

A kidnapping is a business deal. The bad guys have negotiating power since they’re selling the life of a loved one. But, then again, they have a market of one, so they have to work with you.

Working with untrained amateurs introduces an element of risk. It’s a risk you have to live with in a lot of operations, although you often find yourself wishing everyone went through Green Beret training in high school.

Once a kidnapper knows you’re on to him, he’ll try to contact his partners to have the hostage killed. At that point, you have a choice. You can start choosing wreaths for the hostage’s funeral or take a hostage of your own.

The art of turning someone into a double agent is delicate. The target has to be put into a fragile psychological state.

It’s always easier to turn someone who works for a criminal gang into a double agent. The more secretive and ruthless their side is, the better. You work on their fear that any hint of disloyalty will get them killed by their own people.

From Karachi to Bogota, every kidnapper’s favorite resource is a corrupt employee. An employee can handle alarms, police. You can get financial information, bank accounts. You’ve even got a fall guy if anything goes wrong. To a professional kidnapper, a good man on the inside is worth a lot. And a bad man on the inside is worth even more.

GPS devices are becoming more and more common these days. Mostly they’re for nervous parents tracking children. But they’re perfectly good for other uses.

Rescuing a hostage isn’t about battering rams and guns. Charge through a door with a gun, and chances are the person you’re trying to save will be the first person lying on the floor dying of acute lead poisoning. So you come up with alternatives. Ingredients from the local pharmacy mixed with aluminum foil powdered in a coffee grinder will make a serviceable flash grenade that will stun anyone for a good twenty feet.

Thermite is another handy tool. With a surface temperature of one thousand degrees, it’s used to weld together railroad ties. It will make pretty short work of most locks, too.

If you can’t get through a door without attracting attention, the next best thing is to attract a lot of attention. Once everyone’s looking at the door, wondering what’s going on, you can pop in a flash grenade, and they won’t see anything for a while.

The longer you’ve been in the game, the more you have to be careful about underestimating an opponent. Say you don’t think much of bureaucrats, don’t feel they’re worth your time or attention. Then a bureaucrat is the perfect person to send to kill you.

There’s no way to anticipate every danger. You need a backup plan for when things go wrong. That’s why home-court advantage is so important.

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