Nobody has yet published “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Spy.” But a newly released CIA database of declassified documents includes plenty of helpful hints about how to get ahead in the intelligence biz without really trying.
▪ Never leave home without a full supply of invisible ink. The ink should be mixed according to the CIA’s own recipe — nitrate of soda mixed in water with starch. If you don’t want to carry a big bottle of the stuff in your pocket, just dip your shirt in a big tub of it and iron; then, drop the shirt back in water when you’re ready to write.
▪ Read your neighbors’ mail using this undetectable technique. The CIA’s so-secret-we’d-have-to-kill-you-if-we-told-you approach: “Examine [the envelope] through powerful beam of light directed on surface at different angles.” Or, in civilian lingo, hold the envelope up to the sun. For geeks longing for a high-tech approach, soak the envelope in a solution of copper acetol arsenate, acetone and amyl alcohol. The only drawback is that if you breathe while you’re mixing it up, you’ll die.
▪ Keep an eye on that shifty-looking pineapple! “Examine fruit leaves, palmettos, etc., for writings cut with knife or other sharp objects.”
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▪ Stay abreast of new technology. To help, the CIA has finally declassified its instructions on how to use the office Thermofax machine, the Neanderthal ancestor of the Xerox machine.
▪ Whatever you do, don’t bitch about the cost of your office parking pass. Ominously, the CIA classified and filed a 1979 Washington Post story about President Jimmy Carter imposing parking fees on government employees.
▪ And remember, the CIA hates junk phone calls as much as the rest of us. A 1969 memo, in an injured tone, reports that an outfit called Let Freedom Ring had unleashed a telemarketing campaign in which recipients were told the CIA is “dangerous and subversive.” And they could get a booklet explaining why by sending 35 cents to “CIA, Box 123, McLean, Virginia.” Though the price may have gone up by now.