The Key to Successful Travel for Covert CIA Agents is Keeping Their Story Simple

The CIA is renowned for operating covertly as a collective agency and training its agents to do so as well when carrying out assigned missions. One of the ways the agency says that it does that is by telling agents that when they are screened at foreign airports upon arrival, it is best to take a “less is more” approach. That is to say, when presented with the two most frequently asked questions at customs in just about every country on the planet, agents are advised to say as little as possible and to keep their answers simple, short, and succinct. Those two questions are “why are you here?” and “where are you staying?”

An internal CIA document that was recently released through WikiLeaks revealed information about customs procedure used by the major international airports of the world that are utilized most frequently by CIA operatives. The document details techniques that are to be used by agents in order to pass what are known as “secondary screenings” when they are questioned in detail about their travel and lodging plans and personal effects.

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In an almost overstatement of the obvious, the document states that the first and likely most important element of remaining covert and undetected when passing through customs and other security checkpoints at international airports is to “appear calm.” Security officials at airports like Ferihegy Airport in Budapest, for instance, utilize one-way mirrors and closed circuit TVs to screen incoming passengers for indications of nervousness or reserved panic.

Other airport security officials around the world have made a practice of using social media to verify a passenger’s story. They check profiles on LinkedIn and other social media sites to check the validity of someone’s identity against their story. This is one of the most common ways that CIA agents have had their cover blown in recent years and as a result the agency has demanded that its agents maintain a profile consistent with their covert identities on all major social media websites.