Real Secret Agents

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

If you read the real dossiers of secret agents used by Soviet military intelligence, you would likely be disappointed:

A portrait of an ideal agent for spetsnaz emerges something like this: a man of between fifty-five and sixty-five years of age who has never served in the army, never had access to secret documents, does not carry or own a weapon, knows nothing about hand-to-hand fighting, does not possess any secret equipment and doesn’t support the Comunists, does not read the newspapers, was never in the Soviet Union and has never met any Soviet citizens, leads a lonely, introspective life, far from other people, and is by profession a forester, fisherman, lighthouse-keeper, security guard or railwayman. In many cases such an agent will be a physical invalid. Spetsnaz is also on the lookout for women with roughly the same characteristics.

If spetsnaz has such a person in its network, that means: a. that he is certainly not under any suspicion on the part of the local police or security services; b. that in the event of any enquiries being made he will be the last person to be suspected; c. that there is practically nothing by which any suspicions could be confirmed, which in turn means that in peacetime the agent is almost totally guaranteed against the danger of failure or arrest; d. that in the event of war he will remain in the same place as he was in peacetime and not be taken into the army or the public service under the wartime mobilisation.

The principal task of such agents is to prepare a safe hiding place in advance, long before the commandos arrive in the country:

These are some examples of hiding places prepared by spetsnaz agents. With GRU money a pensioner who is actually a spetsnaz agent buys a house on the outskirts of a town, and close to a big forest. In the house he builds, quite legally, a nuclear shelter with electric light, drains, water supply and a store of food. He then buys a car of a semi-military or military type, a Land Rover for example, which is kept permanently in the garage of the house along with a good store of petrol. With that the agent’s work is done. He lives quietly, makes use of his country house and car, and in addition is paid for his services. He knows that at any moment he may have ‘guests’ in his house. But that doesn’t frighten him. In case of arrest he can say that the commando troops seized him as a hostage and made use of his house, his shelter and car.

Or, the owner of a car dump takes an old, rusty railway container and drops it among the hundreds of scrap cars and a few motorcycles. For the benefit of the few visitors to the scrapyard who come in search of spare parts, the owner opens a little shop selling Coca-Cola, hot dogs, coffee and sandwiches. He always keeps a stock of bottled mineral water, tinned fish, meat and vegetables. The little shop also stocks comprehensive medical supplies.

Or perhaps the owner of a small firm buys a large, though old yacht. He tells his friends that he dreams of making a long journey under sail, which is why the yacht always has a lot of stores aboard. But he has no time to make the trip; what’s more, the yacht is in need of repair which requires both time and money. So for the moment the old yacht lies there in a deserted bay among dozens of other abandoned yachts with peeling paint.

Large numbers of such places of refuge have been arranged. Places that can be used as shelters include caves, abandoned (or in some cases working) mines, abandoned industrial plants, city sewers, cemeteries (especially if they have family vaults), old boats, railway carriages and wagons, and so forth. Any place can be adapted as a shelter for the use of spetsnaz terrorists. But the place must be very well studied and prepared in advance. That is what the agents are recruited for.

These agents aren’t told that the spetsnaz commandos will destroy all traces of their work, including any witnesses.

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