The Moscow Rules

The Moscow Rules

My rules set in motion a huge number of messages and emails asking about the reasons for them, the theory behind them and others questions.

I compiled the Original 12 Rules as a way to list the most common things I needed to remember during my work, my time in the military and while doing things I like, alpine climbing for example. The main idea was taken from the Moscow Rules. The Moscow Rules is the name for rules said to have been developed by the CIA during the Cold War to be used by spies, mainly in Europe. Apparently there were 40, however they were never written down, at least not officially.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. lists the following (a short version)

  • Assume nothing.
  • Never go against your gut.
  • Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  • Don’t look back; you are never completely alone.
  • Go with the flow, blend in.
  • Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
  • Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  • Don’t harass the opposition.
  • Pick the time and place for action.
  • Keep your options open.

These rules above are really simple and make a lot of sense if you think about it. They help to keep the operators safe.

ITS Tactical has a list of the 40:

  • Assume nothing.
  • Technology will always let you down.
  • Murphy is right.
  • Never go against your gut.
  • Always listen to your gut; it is your operational antennae.
  • Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
  • Don’t look back; you are never completely alone. Use your gut.
  • Go with the flow; use the terrain.
  • Take the natural break of traffic.
  • Maintain a natural pace.
  • Establish a distinctive and dynamic profile and pattern.
  • Stay consistent over time.
  • Vary your pattern and stay within your profile.
  • Be non threatening: keep them relaxed; mesmerize!
  • Lull them into a sense of complacency.
  • Know the opposition and their terrain intimately.
  • Build in opportunity but use it sparingly.
  • Don’t harass the opposition.
  • Make sure they can anticipate your destination.
  • Pick the time and place for action.
  • Any operation can be aborted; if it feels wrong, then it is wrong.
  • Keep your options open.
  • If your gut says to act, overwhelm their senses.
  • Use misdirection, illusion, and deception.
  • Hide small operative motions in larger non threatening motions.
  • Float like a butterfly; sting like bee.
  • When free, In Obscura, immediately change direction and leave the area.
  • Break your trail and blend into the local scene.
  • Execute a surveillance detection run designed to draw them out over time.
  • Once is an accident; twice is a coincidence; three times is an enemy action.
  • Avoid static lookouts; stay away from chokepoints where they can reacquire you.
  • Select a meeting site so you can overlook the scene.
  • Keep any asset separated from you by time and distance until it is time.
  • If the asset has surveillance, then the operation has gone bad.
  • Only approach the site when you are sure it is clean.
  • After the meeting or act is done, “close the loop” at a logical cover destination.
  • Be aware of surveillance’s time tolerance so they aren’t forced to raise an alert.
  • If an alert is issued, they must pay a price and so must you.
  • Let them believe they lost you; act innocent.
  • There is no limit to a human being’s ability to rationalize the truth.

The short list is included in these 40. The rest also make sense, however some seem to be redundant. I knew about the short list (ten rules) and created my 12 for the same reason, although for different uses.

They make sense to me, they don’t have to make sense to you. I hope, however, you can use them.

Presence, Persistence, and Pivoting