how espionage worked in the field
John le Carre.
I’m reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Soldier Spy for the third time, the first was over forty years ago and it’s taken me this long to say I can follow the story with any confidence.
But you’ll never know until you read it, and until you read it you will never know the subtle intricacies of movement and recognition used by Russian and English field agents during the cold war.
Both sides had rules, and one of these was the Rule of Action in the Case of Premature Disengagement. The Americans called the manoeuvre the Dump and Run.
Two men had arranged to meet at a certain place at a certain time; if one of them failed to show there was a fallback meeting routine in say one hours time and somewhere else. As arranged.
If fallback 2 didn’t work then fallback 3 was used using the same time and remote rules. As arranged.
Unsafe times you see, watchers all around, skilled watchers, trained in their art.
One train ticket. One bus ticket. Both for the same day. Found on a body.
A recognition system was necessary in the initial stages of the meeting as neither man knew each other, they just shared a purpose. One man might be bareheaded and wearing an unseasonal pullover under his coat. That sort of thing.
Then the more intimate exchange, the real bona-fides: half a raggedly torn postcard say, one piece each, a missing page from a book, that sort of thing.
One slip of paper torn from a book. Found on the body.
Then there is the procedure that’s used when everything goes pear-shaped and all thought of the meeting has to be abandoned. And everything you have brought to it has to be immediately discarded because with one man seen to be fatally compromised the enemy must be very close indeed.
A man was seen standing above the steps, looking down at the body on the beach for about five minutes.
A book with a tear that matched the slip was found in the back footwell of a car parked nearby.
For the Dude.
Spies may also need to hot-wire cars from time to time.