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.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
▪ 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.