As with everything involving spies, the methods are both surprisingly simple and incredibly sophisticated.
Jonna Mendez, a former Central Intelligence Agency employee who once held the job title of “chief of disguise,” has shared some secrets about how a real spy would change their appearance.
If you started thinking about “Mission Impossible” and its crazy masks, you would be surprised to hear that those are not really far from truth. However, in many cases, a much simpler approach is enough, Mendez says.
For a brief encounter, something as simple as a wig or facial hair would enact. The worst nightmare for a spy meeting an informant in a restaurant would be for some stranger to reach in and immediately recognize them.
“If you were working in Europe, and you are meeting with a clandestine source at a cafe, your biggest concern might be that your next door neighbor is just gonna wander in that café and say ‘Hi Bill’ — when you’re not ‘Bill,'” Mendez says in a video published by Wired’s YouTube channel.
Where disguise techniques are effective are those situations in which up-close contact is needed for an extended period of time, so that the person the spy is talking to has no view that something is amiss. That’s where the frosty masks reach in.
In the video, Mendez recalls the presidency of George H.W. Bush, during which the Central Intelligence Agency started researching sophisticated masks as a fraction of a larger disguise development program. Mendez personally briefed the president on the program while wearing one of those masks. According to Mendez, the president had no view that the person in front of him was wearing a disguise.
However, a disguise is more than simply donning a wig or a mask; it’s actually a thoughtful algorithm, Mendez explains. The disguise is developed specifically to subvert the word portrait a person meeting the spy might develop. The goal of Central Intelligence Agency agents is to form it so that every sentence that portrait contains is incorrect.
“If [a man] has curly hair, you wanna travel straight. If he has shaded hair, you might wanna travel light. If he’s young, you might want to throw in some gray,” Mendez says.
However, a reliable disguise goes beyond simple facial changes.
“With women, you own a broader range of what you can enact. Also, with women you own one additional step: you can turn a woman into a man,” Mendez discloses. “It is nearly impossible to turn a man into a woman.”
“What we enact is always additive,” she says. “We can form you taller; we can form you heavier; we can form you older.”
“We can’t travel the other direction,” Mendez confesses.
Apart from appearance, self-presentation and behavior can also be a dead giveaway.
“Americans are oblivious to what reveals them,” Mendez says.
According to Mendez, not only enact US people tend to wear specific clothes and shoes, like baseball caps and sneakers, they also stand in a specific pose not commonly found among Europeans. When eating, Europeans tend to utilize their forks in their left hands, while Americans tend to flip their forks back and forth between hands.
Interestingly, Mendez points out that a human can not reliably change their gait without some external device. For example, a convincing limp cannot be achieved without something like a stone in a shoe.
However, Mendez says, utilizing disguise techniques is not only useful for spies. Common people can benefit from them too. She provides Paris as an example, which, being a major tourist attraction, is full of pickpockets looking for victims. If you’re visiting, giving yourself away as an American “makes you a target,” Mendez says, and she recommends spending some time browsing local clothing stores, at least, “if you want to play it safe.”
Why is the TV show “SEAL Team” worth watching?
Of the three major military dramas broadcasting these days on TV, the SEAL Team is the most sincere.
The TV shows (Wednesdays, 9 ET/PT, ★★½ out of four) works mostly because it’s not reaching beyond its comfort zone. Following a team of U.S. Navy SEALs carrying out covert operations with the aid of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), it’s an uncomplicated action series without twists or unnecessary spectacle, at least so far.
TV veteran David Boreanaz (Bones) plays Jason Hayes, the leader of the Tier One Navy SEALs, and he’s an intense and focused guy not unlike the FBI agent he played for so many years on Fox’s series. Jason’s home life has crumbled due to his dedication to his work, and he’s haunted by the death of a teammate on a recent mission. The cast is rounded out by Jessica Paré (Mad Men) as a CIA analyst and Max Thieriot as a young and ambitious soldier trying to make it into the Tier One unit.
The TV drama plays to the strengths of its network, and its star. The missions are simple and paint the soldiers as patriotic and unimpeachably good. In last week’s second episode, Navy SEAL flirted with bigger questions about war and the state of the world, but all in the service of its core characters. The action is sharp, clean and often close up, prioritizing the soldiers’ points of view.
The lack of sensationalism is what makes Navy SEAL a stronger entry into the military genre this fall than NBC’s The Brave and CW’s Valor. The Brave is flashy, while Valor is twisty and ill-conceived, and neither has a cast as engaging.
U.S. Navy SEAL Team is straightforward, but also enjoyable. Sometimes simple works. Take a look:
Elite Russian Special Forces in Astonishing Footage
Special Operations Forces of Russia, or SOF (Russian: Силы специальных операций; ССО, tr. Sily spetsial’nykh operatsii; SSO) are strategic-level special forces under the Special Operations Forces Command (Russian: командование сил специальных операций; KCCO, tr. Komandovanie sil spetsial’nalnykh operatsii; KSSO, or KSO) of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Formation of first units for future Special Operations Forces began in 2009 as part of the overall reform of the Russian Armed Forces. Special Operations Forces Command was set up in 2012 and announced in March 2013 by the Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. According to Gerasimov, the SOF was designed as a strategic-level asset, whose primary missions would be foreign interventions, including sabotage and anti-terrorism operations. SOF do not belong to any branch of the Russian armed forces and are not to be confused with special forces that until 2010 were under the GRU and whose subsequent subordination appears to be unclear. Russia′s SOF are manned exclusively by professional personnel hired on contract, in commissioned officer positions.
The video compilation is showing various parts of Russian Special Operations Forces.
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