We have all seen the intriguing spy movies that feature a good looking, well dressed covert agent of the United States or Great Britain dashing around the world doing more in a week than most real-life intelligence operatives do in a lifetime. What is most intriguing about the glamourized version of the life of a covert operator though? Well, I think it’s the field craft. Whether it’s picking locks, making contact with a source, or bugging a phone – it all tugs at the imagination!

One aspect of field craft is being able to identify someone or be identified without drawing attention to one’s self. This is one of those skills that actually have application outside of being a covert intelligence professional. Being able to make contact with someone you may have never met before in a non-permissive environment is a skill that has wide application in survival/conflict situations that the READYMAN might find him or herself in. So, here are a few ways to do it according to The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.

The Chrysanthemum in the buttonhole. This is a signal for medium to long-range identification, and oh yeah – it doesn’t have to be a Chrysanthemum. Any easily identified flower that is of sufficient size and a unique color will do. Although this originated in the 50’s when it was more common for men to wear boutonnieres outside of prom and weddings, it can still be used in any major city thanks to the hipster revolution we are currently experiencing.

The incorrect necktie. This signal is best used for close to medium-range identification. You can use a regular necktie or a bow tie; just make sure you tie the knot like someone who doesn’t know how and is obviously wrong. This is easily explained if anyone questions you, and it’s easy for your contact to spot. For extra security, use a unique tie that isn’t out of place with the rest of your outfit.


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