Spycraft, Tradecraft, And Questionable “Training”

BECAUSE some of it is definitely related to and relevant for practical self-defense, and because we are conversant with the real methods, we will from time to time go into techniques of clandestine tradecraft that are taught to those involved in secret intelligence and special operations. We are aware, however, that a certain number of highly questionable “courses” administered and taught by persons of highly questionable backgrounds have become popular, and that these may be ripping off an awful lot of people.

Let this be clear: We have no quarrel with programs or instructors who actually are teaching viable and authentic skills for what is popularly referred to now as “urban escape and evasion”. More power to them! However, those programs that are disseminating lukewarm stuff that is not only not taught in either special forces units or in secret intelligence training schools, and that are nowhere near as reliable and dependable as the claims that are made for it would have you believe, are doing a disservice. False confidence in the minds of those who take these courses leaves these people in a fool’s paradise. Should the god-awful need to handle a real situation ever arise, and should the adversaries encountered be even partially sophisticated in the terror trade that they ply, graduates of the less-than-authentic “spycraft” courses are in for a huge disappointment!

Those E&E programs that are popular and that teach enrollees to break free of duct tape, handcuff, or ziplock binds, etc. are not thereby offering “little known special forces or CIA skills”. They are teaching very well and widely known tricks ––– tricks that the bad guys are often very familiar with, also ––– and this builds false confidence. Yes, the skills that are taught have some value, but if anyone thinks that they will enable them to defeat the efforts of professionals, they are sadly misinformed. The weekend course that might go into such escape methods may introduce you for the first time in how to get out of a locked car trunk, etc., but the monsters against whom you are struggling to learn how to defend yourself already know about these tricks. And by themselves ––– as they are taught ––– these skills may be utterly worthless. For example: You’re locked in the truck of a vehicle and you know how to get free. But your captors are driving speedily and with no pauses anywhere for you to get out and get help, to the location where they will be holding you captive ––– or kiling you. What will you do? Open the car trunk (assuming that you have not been bound by wire or rope with your hands behind your back, and gagged) and jump out while the vehicle is going 50 to 60 or more miles per hour through an area with which you have no familiarity? The occupants of the vehicle will know when the trunk has been opened. They will then attack you and probably kill you. Or will you wait until the vehicle arrives at its destination? No worries . . . the occupants will then remove you from the trunk of the car themselves; you won’t need “escape skills”.

What can you do . . . really and seriously . . . in such a situation? There’s only one tactic that works: Feign compliance when ordered into the trunk, and at the last moment resist with lethal force and prevent the abduction! People do not want to hear this in many cases; and in very few instances will a person in the private sector train long and hard enough to actually be able to fool the abductor and kill him.

So, is the car trunk escape trick useless? No. It has some possible use, on some occasions. But it isn’t authentic spycraft (children learn it in child safety courses!) and it is not one-tenth as effective as being able to thwart the abduction attempt in the first place.

Do not believe that the “secrets” you are introduced to during a weekend course will sustain you. Whatever value these skills may have, they must be developed. Merely having been shown them and perhaps applied them a few times in a supportive, relatively stress-free environment is not enough. Like all self-defense measures, these skills must become second nature. And be extra-extra cautious about what courses you pay out your hard-earned money for. Some (read: most) merely instruct in so-so skills that do not address the extreme dangers and the extreme formidability that desperate, violent offenders pose. Your normal, daily life, sprinkled with a smattering of nifty tricks that work with similarly naive practice partners will not, we’re sorry to have to say, prepare you for that which, in real life genuine, active-duty clandestine intelligence operatives and hardened special forces soldiers sometimes cannot handle, themselves!

Finally, please remember this: What accounts for the success of the field service operative (in secret intelligence or in special warfare) is his personal makeup and character. His ability to think and to improvise quickly, under extraordinary pressure and in life-or-death situations. Not everyone is built this way. This is why there is an in-depth examination process that precedes a candidate’s entry into CIA’s Clandestine Services. Fully 90% (and probably closer to 96-8%) of CIA’s employees work in analysis and other strictly cerebral, academic occupations. To a large extent people come to intelligence work or to military special operations units already possessing the right character. Yes, characteristics may be developed ––– or altered. But not in a weekend or after a mere 20 or 30 hours of “training” in a smorgasbord of Walter-Mittyish skills. (We train people all of the time to new attitudes and philosophies . . . over a period of months or years; and we employ hypnosis as an adjunct to such training, for those who need it ––– and many do). And we push lots and lots of physical practice and training. No one learns by brief exposure.

Here are some things to consider before you enroll in some of these “spy schools”:

1. You can break free of amateurish tape and other ties but only if –––
a) The ties really are amateurish (i.e. your hands are bound in front
of you, and are not additionally tied strongly to your feet so as
to immobilize you), b) You are left unguarded (sure, it’s possible
––– but why assume you’ll be up against a moron?), c) You are
in full possession of your mental and physical faculties (don’t you
realize that you may have been knocked unconscious or beaten
severely before being bound?)
P.S. We guarantee that no one could escape our method of tying and binding them! Hint: It goes way beyond the method of “hog
typing” described by Fairbairn and Applegate (i.e. Our teachers, by the way, who, incidentally, really did train spies and counterintelligence operatives!)
2. Escape from a completed act of confinement by rope, tape, wire, etc.
is ––– a) Only one step in the escape process, b) Actually getting the hell away from your captors is the vital step #2, and c) Professionals (i.e. SF and CIA, etc.) are trained to counter any attempt at their captivity right then and there when and where it happens.
Correctly, they are instructed to escape as soon as posssible, not allowing their captor(s) to remove them to any secondary area.
3. “C” above is properly to be concluded by at the very least maiming (and, preferably, killing) your captor. This takes mindset, and
really serious and intense skills training. Frankly, although anyone
who is truly determined to acquire this ability can do so, most
people lack the intestinal fortitude and the fitness and condition to
reconcile this and be ready to do it.
4. For heaven’s sake do not count on an “E&E kit” that you purchase at
a school or anywhere to help you. Sure, if you are taken prisoner or
hostage by someone with an I.Q. of 15 he will likely not search you thoroughly and scrupulously search whatever clothing and gear you may have on you. (We teach that the concealment of a handcuff key, button compass, and small hacksaw blade is some-
times possible. When it is, great! But you must be prepared with
nothing but your wits and your body if you really wish to be pre-