Tradecraft used in Movie
6 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent movie. Very complex. And without the simple "signals" many movies use to lead along the viewer. It's difficult to understand how truthful it is. Secrets are secrets. This comment is just to make a note of the tradecraft and other espionage activities found in the movie.

1/ Encrypted communications. There is use of (a) secure phones, and (b) telex machines (for communications).

2/ Token Passing. A U.S. dollar bill from which the serial number has been recorded is passed from Wilson to a Russian counterpart. When there is a need to make contact, even years later, the bill is passed back. Presumably such bills could be issued to many different persons forming a type of "latent" network.

4/ Operation Paperclip. It is not mentioned in the movie, but this was an operation designed to round up Nazi scientists and bring them to the U.S. in the immediate post-war period. Werner Von Braun from the Pnenumunde V2 rocket project was brought in to head up our rocket efforts.

5/ Wireless eaves dropping. (a) The book of Ulysses included an electronic bug of Wilson's office. To be such a long-lasting "bug", it would need to be "passive", using power only when needed. Seems a little bit unrealistic. (b) Hearing aid on German interpreter. This was a fake hearing aid that was sending a copy of all interviews (of defectors and others) to the Russians.

6/ Use of "Honey Trap" and Sex Blackmail. Wilson's son is seduced by a Russian agent, their sex is videotaped, under low resolution, and it reveals she pried from him the name of the landing point for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

7/ Technical Services. Much work in analysis of the blackmail tape. Included (a) refinement of resolution on film. (b) linking of clock time to background sound of aircraft taking off, (c) identification of type of overhead room fan, (d) sound of church bells and timing, (e) accent of honey trap woman, (f) noise filtering and frequency scanning/blocking to clarify what is said, (g) identification of surrounding trees (type of vegetation) from shadows on wall. All of these elements together helped determine the location of the honey trap.

8/ Cryptology & Cryptanalysis. Nothing much in the movie.

9/ Betrayal. Plenty of this. (a) English traitor has Wilson's tutor killed. (b) Wilson betrays his tutor, not knowing tutor himself is under cover attempting to expose Nazi organization efforts in the U.S., (c) Wilson turns in Dulles by revealing copies of Swiss bank statements. (d) Wilson saves son by having honey trap wife killed, but without telling him.

10/ Blackmail. By compromising Wilson's son, Russian KGB/GRU? operative attempts to compromise Wilson.

11/ Use of "legend". Russian double-agent is a fake defector using a name of someone else. Provides "useful" information for years, before being found out.

12/ Interrogation techniques: (a) beating, (b) true-enhancing drugs, here LSD used, (c) water-boarding (but without the board).

13/ Use of Cover. (a) Wilson as "trade attache", (b) Wilson's agent in central America is advised to stop wearing a class ring, does not take it off, is identified, and killed. (evidence of poor training on the US side).

14/ Coordination with FBI. (a) Exchange of information by leaking of CIA information to FBI in order to discredit enemy or traitor, (b) FBI used to arrest double agents operating in US.

15/ Radio communications. Some use of shortwave radio to coordinate operations.

Other notes: (a) No computer technology used! (b) All documents were paper files, and kept in filing cabinets with combination locks.

If anyone noticed something else, I'd love to hear about it.

Interesting Twists:

1/ Wilson seems to like girls who have a disability (a) his love who is deaf, and (b) the German interpreter who pretends to be deaf.

2/ Does anyone know if the Skull and Bones rituals were/are really like that? If so, this group of people are certified nuts (or at least they are made out to be in the movie). I mean, grown men, including Senators dressing up in drag and performing in front of their mates and wives?

3/ To me, the most convincing persons in the movie were (a) Pesci playing the Miami mobster, and (b) the Russian counterpart.
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