February 24th, 2004
Every year, 70 to 80 thousand people apply to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of these, 900 will be trained as agents ...
Polygrapher: Regarding your suitability for FBI employment, do you intend to lie to me on this test?
Narrator: The Central Intelligence Agency won't give exact numbers, but they do reveal that they've just graduated their largest class of new officers ever. Recruits joining the intelligence community are discovering that the Bureau and Agency are adapting their training -- trying to counter the world's changing threats -- trying to innovate as quickly as their enemies ...
In a world where adversaries are no longer clearly defined, the challenge now is not only to catch them, but to determine who they are in the first place ... For the first time ever, our cameras have been allowed into the FBI Undercover Training School -- where techniques once used to catch spies are now being modified to catch terrorists. From the Cold War to the War on Terror, one thing remains constant: victory is usually claimed by the side with the best ideas, the more original approach, the most creative thinkers ...
Narrator: Tony and Jonna Mendez are retired CIA master spies -- chameleons of the espionage world. During their active careers, Tony and Jonna were each named CIA Chief of Disguise. Today, they draw on their experience as undercover agents eluding the KGB in Russia, to teach counter-intelligence officers how to become spy catchers and terror hunters. Who knows better how to catch a spy than a spy?
Tony and Jonna Mendez: Going up against the KGB in Moscow was every, CIA officer's dream, but very few got to do it. Only the best and the brightest were picked to go there. But the idea is, you're in the belly of the beast. And so in a sense, it's the most lethal counter intelligence service in the world, and if you could prevail, then that was doing something.
Narrator: In the mid 1960's, before Tony was a spy, he worked as a painter.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: I saw an ad in the classified section of the Denver post. It was for an artist to work overseas with the U.S. Navy. So I sent in my resume, and a few weeks later I was in a motel room on the outskirts of Denver with the shades drawn, sitting across the table from this guy who looked like Sam Spade. And he put a bottle of Jim Beam up on the table and said, 'Son, this is not the U.S. Navy."
Narrator: In the days before ever-present scanners and image-altering software, the Central Intelligence Agency hired people like Tony as forgers. Some three decades after he was recruited, after serving the CIA everywhere from Berlin to Bangkok, Vientiane to Tehran, Tony earned the CIA's prestigious Trailblazer Award -- chosen by his peers as one of the top 50 spies in the agency's history. But he is no James Bond.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The ideal spy is a little gray man. You've got to be able to blend in. But the idea that James Bond goes in and steals the secrets and then burns down or blows up the building on the way out is exactly the way we wouldn't want to do it. We would want to go in and come out with the secrets and never have a ripple on the surface of the water. And that way we can go back every week and steal the gold of the enemy's secret vaults.
Narrator: Jonna began her career with the CIA as a secretary. She then became an expert photographer and worked in the office of technical service.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: We were the same office that Q was in the James Bond movies. We were the makers of gadgets. We invented it, we would engineer it, we would create it if we had to.
Narrator: Tony and Jonna co-authored a book called "Spy Dust," about their days in the CIA at the height of the Cold War. It was a time of nuclear concerns ...
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The Cold War was a war of spies. In fact, both sides were prepared to annihilate everybody on the face of the earth if it came to that. So it was all about making sure that you never took that field of battle. So you had this bipolar situation, very dangerous. Because you never knew when some of the other guys were going to push the button.
Narrator: During the early 1970's, Tony Mendez was working as an expert in identity concealment -- a specialist in creative disguise. He didn't know it, but Tony and one of his sources were about to influence world events ... The name of the place where this little-known chapter of history occurred remains classified -- to protect sources still working there for the CIA.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: 1973 I would have been acting in my field officer mode of doing disguise and false documents and that sort of thing. And I got a call from a place that was in my territory -- in the South Asian part of it -- where they was a really high, highly placed source who had decided that, that his environment was getting a little bit too warm. And he decided he was going to hang it up.
Narrator: The source -- code-named "Honor" -- was a national security advisor in his country, with access to secret information from the Soviets. This was one spy the CIA did not want to lose ...
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The idea of my participation was that if I could convince him to use a very sophisticated disguise, a really nicely done disguise that he would feel much more safe.
Narrator: Tony consulted with an Academy Award-winning make-up artist who regularly assisted the CIA. This Hollywood advisor helped him develop an entirely new disguise technology.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The way you need to make the disguise is so somebody could put it on in a few minutes ... and it'll be realistic, it'll be on straight, it will look right, and it won't come off in the humidity or whatever. So what we were able to do is come up with a way of doing that.
Narrator: The design was so innovative, it remains classified to this day. Even now, Tony can't reveal what materials he used or how they were assembled. The disguise was impressive, but Tony still had to convince his source of Soviet intelligence to wear it. Unknown to either of them, the outcome of a war might hang in the balance ... During October of 1973, the U.S.-Soviet Cold War began playing out in the Middle East. The Egyptians and Syrians -- Soviet allies -- launched a surprise attack against Israel -- an American ally -- on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal and quickly overwhelmed the Israelis.
Bernard Reich: There were in excess of 50,000 Egyptian troops crossing to face somewhat around 2,500 Israelis that had been stationed on the eastern shore, and so the numbers facing the attack were very few.
Narrator: In just the first few days of fighting, the Israelis lost hundreds of soldiers. More than 40 of their fighter planes were shot down -- thanks in large part to Soviet-supplied anti-aircraft technology. As the Soviets staunchly supported their Arab allies, Israel turned to America for help. President Nixon authorized what was then one of the largest airlifts in US history. Almost overnight, the tide of the war was reversed.
Bernard Reich: They turned the Syrians back in territory they had re-captured in the Golan Heights, and they began to advance towards Damascus, and by the end of fighting the Israelis controlled both banks of the canal and their troops were moving unopposed toward Cairo.
Narrator: The Yom Kippur war was now going so badly for the Arabs, the US began wondering just how far the Soviets would go to help their allies. At this critical juncture of the Cold War, every bit of information about the Soviet's plans was crucial, so back in Asia, Tony was determined to convince his frightened source that the special disguise would allow him to continue spying in safety. Since it was too dangerous for "Honor" to keep the disguise with him, Tony planned to have him use one of the oldest techniques in espionage: the dead drop -- where a spy hides an object for another spy to pick up.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: So what I wanted to do is figure out a way to dead drop a disguise. Have him find it in the appropriate place and to be able to put it on in the dark. And then be able to go down the street in the evening and pass people who were in close proximity.
Narrator: To reassure "Honor" that the plan could work, Tony decided to retrieve and wear the disguise himself. He arranged for the reluctant source to meet him at the CIA safe site one last time.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The plan was that shortly after I got myself situated in the living room, the American case officer would bring him into the same room that I was in and then leave. And, it was an awkward moment. When all of a sudden you are a guy whose security is in question and there's a stranger in the room you haven't even been introduced to him. And in about five minutes the case officer came back in and said, 'Oh I forgot to introduce you to my friend. I'm sorry.' And as the introduction was being made, I came up and extended my hand to Honor to shake his hand. It was only at that point that he realized that I wasn't a stranger. He recognizes that it's me and he all of a sudden got really impressed and, and said one word, 'Lovely.' He had met me. He knew I was coming, he knew what this was about. But he had been completely fooled.
Narrator: After learning how easily he could apply the disguise -- even in the dark -- "Honor" made the critical decision to continue spying for the Americans. Given the tensions between the Superpowers, this access to Soviet information was a CIA coup. On October 24th, 1973, Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sent Nixon a letter. Brezhnev threatened to insert Soviet troops into the battle -- in order to keep his Arab allies from being overrun.
Bernard Reich: Washington was a very tense place. There was concern that a local conflict could escalate into a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Narrator: Of course, Tony was unaware of these details. He was somewhere in South Asia having a second meeting with "Honor" to fine tune his disguise. During the encounter, "Honor" unexpectedly brought up the Yom Kippur War ... and dropped an intelligence bombshell.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: I was standing adjusting things and what he was saying is that he had heard from one of their pilots who was flying missions in Egypt that, he had seen that the Russians had in fact deployed tactical atomic warheads. My reaction when I heard this- it's kind of like it's you're wondering if you really heard it. That was the real blockbuster.
Narrator: "Honor's" information was corroborated by aerial surveillance, which revealed evidence of Soviet military advisors in the Egyptian desert -- near some suspicious structures. Around the same time, radiation sensors in the Black Sea region detected some disturbing traffic.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: What we know is that Soviet ships that were traversing from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean to go to the Egyptian port of Alexandria were detected passing through the Turkish straits with nuclear material on board -- radioactive material of some sort.
Narrator: The National Security Council met in an emergency session to review all the intelligence. But they met without the president. According to eyewitnesses, Nixon -- engrossed in Watergate woes -- was holed up in his private office. The country was preoccupied, and so, apparently, was its president ...
Early on October 25th, 1973 -- US forces were placed at DEFCON 3 -- a worldwide elevated defense condition. The U.S. National Security Council made this move without Nixon in attendance. Nonetheless, the Strategic Air Command was poised to make retaliatory strikes against Soviet targets if they began to intervene in the Middle East.
Bernard Reich: The 1973 Arab-Israeli War generated a crisis which I think has only one parallel since World War II, and that was the Cuban missile crisis.
Narrator: When Nixon awoke, he heard the news of the heightened alert. The Russians were up earlier -- they knew about DEFCON 3 before the President of the United States. Now aware of the heightened alert and the alarming intelligence reports, Nixon contacted Brezhnev. That morning, the two men agreed to press for a cease-fire -- ending a precarious Superpower standoff.
Tony Mendez: I took a certain amount of pride in the fact that a simple disguise could make an important difference in an operation like that.
Narrator: This was the power of spies in a time when their roles and their enemies were clearly defined. But sixteen years later, the Cold War would finally end -- and so too, would the age of clear threats.
Tony Mendez: Well, during the Cold War, at least you knew what the ground rules were. And the difference between then and today is, no one knows what the ground rules are. And the guys you're up against would just as soon blow up the table rather than come sit down and talk.
Larry Mefford: Often times, I'll hear agents say that they look fondly back to the time of the Cold War where the threat and the enemy was more predictable. The historical fight against communism in the Cold War is significantly different from the war we find ourselves into today, combating international terrorists.
Narrator: In the 1990's, intelligence agencies around the world needed to re-invent themselves to face more ambiguous enemies. But the make-over did not come easily -- as the adversaries were no longer just soldiers and spies, but suicide bombers and terrorists. The signs of the changing threats were there, but they were not fully understood until September 11th, 2001. This was the wake-up call that would finally be heard ...
With the attacks came the awareness that the terrorists were more ruthlessly inventive than American intelligence had imagined. By transforming commercial airliners into weapons of mass destruction, the terrorists showed an ability to use a simple, existing technology to do great harm to their enemies.
A congressional inquiry report in 2003 criticized U.S. Intelligence agencies for failing to allocate enough resources to counter-terrorism, failing to properly train analysts, failing to rise above parochial bureaucratic interests, and, most critically, failing to share information. But in the wake of 9/11, even before the report was released, the FBI and the CIA had begun to make changes -- reorganizing their anti-terror efforts while still remaining true to their own specific missions.
Larry Mefford: Historically and today, the FBI's role is to protect the homeland. The CIA's role is to protect the United States by working overseas. And those basic missions of each agency still prevail today.
Narrator: Despite their different purposes, the intelligence agencies have begun to communicate more effectively. One improvement is the coordination of intelligence about terror threats. Information from the FBI's 56 field offices, the CIA, and 34 other government agencies is all sent here, to the Bureau's Strategic Information Operations Center -- SIOC.
SOT: National Joint Terrorism Task Force, Carol speaking.
Larry Mefford: Well, SIOC is a 24/7 command post that the FBI operates to basically function as a command and control entity, a management entity for all FBI operations worldwide. Within that structure we have something called Counter-Terrorism Watch. We have roughly 80 people that are assigned to staff this. And it goes round the clock and its sole purpose is to collect any threat information in the terrorism world that impacts the US domestically.
Narrator: The FBI has now made protecting the United States from a terrorist attack its number one priority. But prior to 9/11, the Bureau only had about 500 agents working on international terrorism.
Larry Mefford: At any one time in the FBI, if you look at all of our employees that are somehow working counter-terrorism throughout a day, whether it's our language specialists, our analysts, our agents, our lab technicians, any of our specialty jobs that assist us in the war on terrorism, about 7,000 of the 28,000 employees that the FBI has, work counter-terrorism on a daily basis.
Narrator: The Bureau also has its elite and rarely-seen Hostage Rescue Team preparing for what now seems like a likely mission -- saving Americans captured by terrorists. In a time when the FBI has over 10,000 ongoing counter-terror investigations, their training takes on more urgency than ever. If and when hostages are taken in America, this military-style unit of the FBI is a first line of defense.
As the FBI works to protect Americans on US soil, Army Special Ops and CIA paramilitary teams hunt terrorists on foreign ground. The CIA's operations include unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with Hellfire missiles -- Predators that stream real-time video to field command posts and the Pentagon. These robotic reconnaissance and assassination planes keep American pilots out of harm's way ... .Not so their targets ...
In Afghanistan, CIA and military Special Ops teams combine a striking blend of high-tech and low. One story has a CIA officer on horseback placing a satellite call to military command back in the United States.
Tony Mendez: There is a story about one of them out there on a mountaintop, riding this horse with a wooden saddle, and he's talking back to headquarters saying, 'I'm up above the feed line and I can't find any feed for my horse. Could you send me some feed? And by the way, while you're at it, I've got this wooden saddle, and it's gonna kill me if I keep riding on this wooden saddle. Could you get me a proper saddle? And while you're at it, by the way, there's a, there's a target right out here. The coordinates, there's thus and so. So this B-2 flies all the way from Missouri, drops the feed drops the saddle, and drops the bombs. And that's, that's a whole new world. Same old thing, but in a whole new way.
Narrator: The worlds of spies and soldiers often intersect -- the military tradition of the CIA is nothing new. It was born of war, more than six decades ago.
Tony Mendez: The model of the CIA would be the OSS, which is the Office Of Strategic Service, which was created during World War II. And it was a military organization. So the roots of the training of the CIA would be in a military model. The training that they got at OSS was very much like the training that we got in CIA. From the moment of their induction, the identities of the recruits remain a carefully guarded secret, which explains the use of masks in this film.
Narrator: These O-S-S training films were shown to new recruits to prepare them for the military nature of their training, and for their undercover work behind enemy lines.
SOT: Watch your step.
Tony Mendez: The OSS was paramilitary in, in every way that you can think of it. Because the target area was Fortress Europe. It's a denied area, so to speak. The technique for working in that area was not to create a source inside. It was to go in as a secret agent if you will, behind enemy lines and hook up with the Resistance. So it was typically a military commando operation. And then once you're inside there, then you have to revert to a disguise if you will. In those days it wasn't called a disguise. It was called personal effects. When you get your hair cut be sure it's Enemy Area style. Every piece of clothing is examined for the right labels. The right laundry marks. The proper amount of wear and tear. Just as important as your official papers are your casual effects ...
Narrator: Because OSS agents were working behind enemy lines in World War II, they were trained to be aware of every nuance of the local customs and culture. Attention to detail meant the difference between success of the mission or failure, life or death.
OSS Training Video: Details, each one a thread woven into the pattern of your cover story ...
Narrator: But between World War II and 9/11, priorities changed. Gaps in our understanding of the details of other cultures became more and more common. As of 2003, the FBI still had fewer than 21 agents who were proficient in Arabic. To begin correcting this cultural deficiency, they have doubled their number of Arabic translators and added new multi-cultural training to their program. The FBI has also increased efforts to recruit agents and sources from different ethnic communities. But this requires inventive training to help agents navigate a cultural minefield.
SOT: What did you say?
Narrator: The FBI undercover school now uses a specially-developed interactive CD to help agents become more culturally sensitive. The goal is to avoid some of the inadvertent offenses of the past.
SOT: Hello, I'm Sam Craft, Joe Jones' friend. May I come in and talk with you?
SOT: I'm Rashid Abdallah. Mr. Jones told me to expect you. Welcome.
Jock Binnie: The interview simulation that we've developed- the primary point of that is to get people used to working in a culture they're not familiar with. In this case we've, selected the Middle East as a culture that we want our agents to be conversant in.
SOT: We're highly skilled professionals responsible for investigating foreign intelligence activities. You're going to need to give me some information for my files ...
Narrator: The interactive CD features a Help Wizard -- a character who encourages or scolds -- depending on the student's tact ... or lack thereof.
SOT: What kind of information are you looking for exactly?
Narrator: Only the agent in the hot seat is live. Voice-activated by the interviewer, the program is designed to give a variety of responses. The FBI reports that this video game-style instruction, where the players' decisions influence the outcome, is proving to be a useful tool.
SOT: I want to do a good job, but I need to better understand Islamic culture.
Jock Binnie: It's important that the agent build rapport with the person they're interviewing, Rashid, in this instance. If the agent is not successful in doing this the agent won't get good responses.
SOT: What's your immigration status?
SOT: I'm sure you have that information in your files. I am sorry, but I don't want to continue with this conversation. Please accept my apology, but I must ask you to leave.
Narrator: The FBI is producing CD's like these for a number of different cultures. But recruiting culturally-diverse informants is only one part of the effort. To catch spies and terrorists, agents need to learn the intricacies of surveillance. The art of seeing without being seen is as old as spying, but this essential covert skill still needs to be taught.
Jock Binnie: We teach surveillance in our course for many purposes. The first purpose is some of our agents actually think they're invisible. They're used to trailing bank robbers and people that aren't versed in how you defeat surveillance. Now they're working against intelligence officers. We try to show them what an intelligence officer sees, how an intelligence officer can manipulate them to, to see if they're out there.
Narrator: In this surveillance exercise at the FBI's covert training school, three teams of students set out to find and follow an instructor who is playing the part of a foreign intelligence officer -- an enemy spy.
Intelligence Officer: We're going to try to draw 'em out. We're going to go up here and we're gonna make a left hand turn at this light. Hopefully, I'll catch the light and maybe I'll get a "demeanor hit" when they either have to drive past me or they're gonna have to come in right behind me to make a turn.
Narrator: "Demeanor," the way surveillance behaves, can provide a tip-off for an attentive spy. Too close. Too eager. Too evenly spaced. To a foreign intelligence officer, these are all dead giveaways that they are under surveillance -- and these are clues the FBI agents can't afford to give.
Jock Binnie: We feel the best way to work against an intelligence officer is to understand what they do, so we can anticipate what they're going to do.
Narrator: If surveillance is seen, the suspect will call off an operation. But when it's invisible, surveillance works ... As it did in the case of Aldrich Ames, the infamous KGB mole inside the CIA. In his nine years on Moscow's payroll, this CIA officer sold the names of dozens of Russian informants who were spying for the US. Many of these agents were then put to death by the Soviets.
David Wise: We know that ten people were executed as a result of that betrayal. No one betrayed and caused the death of as many people as Aldrich Ames.
Narrator: Ames' treason went unnoticed for years, but in the end, he gave himself away with some rather noticeable spending -- for someone who was officially earning less than $70,000 a year.
David Wise: He bought a Jaguar, expensive Italian suits, and he also bought a house with over half a million dollars in cash. The Soviets and then the Russians paid or promised him a total of 4.6 million dollars, which meant that Aldrich Ames was the highest paid spy in history.
Narrator: Still, it took years for the CIA to realize that their own man was working for the Russians.
David Wise: You know, the CIA is kind of like a club, there would be a tremendous reluctance to think that 'well a member of the club isn't going to do anything like that'. You know, 'He's one of us.'
Narrator: But eventually, the CIA did begin to suspect him. They called in the FBI, and an espionage investigation team was assigned to the case.
David Wise: They had Ames under surveillance, they wire-tapped his home, they were listening in on conversations between Ames and his wife and she was urging him for example, 'Make sure when you go to Bogotá and you get all the money from the Russians, don't check your luggage, put it in a carry-on.' You know, 'Don't be a dope.'
Narrator: The Bureau was able to observe Ames for ten months without raising suspicion, in part, because of their aerial surveillance capabilities. One type of FBI plane, known as a NightStalker, is equipped with infrared cameras. This is never-before-seen footage of NightStalker catching Ames in the act of betraying his country.
The FBI camera recorded Ames driving his Jaguar to the mailbox where he and his KGB handler left signals for meetings ... Although they finally caught him, Ames' treachery compromised several top secret operations -- including some that Jonna Mendez had worked on. Still, when Ames' deceit was uncovered, Jonna was unimpressed with his techniques.
Jonna Mendez: He was a pretty sloppy spy. His, his mailbox was in the middle of a residential neighborhood. There were cul-de-sacs. There was no conceivable reason for him to be there, or for his Russian KGB handlers to be there. For these diplomatic plated cars to be moving through this residential neighborhood, checking daily to see if there was a mark on the-mailbox. It was ridiculous.
Narrator: Ames pled guilty to espionage and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole -- thanks in part to efficient surveillance. Ames, of course, was an American traitor. But for the FBI today, the concern is more about foreign terrorists -- enemies who may be far more difficult to track.
Larry Mefford: We're talking about a worldwide threat, for example in Al Qaeda, that has membership worldwide in the thousands, not the hundreds, that are constantly recruiting, adapting to changing environments, studying our security vulnerabilities, and extremely disciplined and dedicated to their cause. So we've got an opponent today that probably we haven't seen really before, historically.
Narrator: With the possibility of thousands of terrorist sleeper-cell members just waiting for orders to awake and attack, FBI agents work with their colleagues at the CIA to hone their counter-terrorism skills.
Larry Mefford: The CIA, of course is, an intelligence agency. They're very good at what they do. The FBI is a counter intelligence service. We think we're very good at what we do. So what we do actually is train against each other. And we sharpen each other's techniques by doing this.
Narrator: The FBI recently set up a training exercise against retired CIA officers, Tony and Jonna Mendez. In what is called a Hounds and Hares exercise, the Mendez's will act as the Hares -- foreign agents coming to Washington to meet with, and activate a terrorist sleeper cell agent. They will test the skills of the Hounds -- the FBI's Special Surveillance Group -- an elite team of operatives known within the espionage world simply as "the G's." The goal for the Mendez's is to have the meeting without being observed by the G's ... The goal for the G's is to observe the meeting ...
Hacksaw: We know them, but we want to see who they're gonna meet up with that they might be working with against our government.
Jock Binnie: The G's are good. The G's are excellent. We rely on them for our most difficult surveillance work.
SOT: Ten-four, Vader. West bound through 11th.
SOT: Copy Vader. We're here with you.
Jonna Mendez: The G's are going to see if they can stay with us through an afternoon. There's going to be an operational act, and they know that. They don't know quite where. We've given them a broad zone that we're going to be working in.
SOT: Ok, I want to look at the corners as we approach.
Jonna Mendez: The way we're looking at is, if we can elude the G's, then the U.S. government representatives win. And if, if the G's catch us, the U.S. government representatives win. So it's, it's hard to lose this one. But, I mean, there's a little ego on the line here, on both sides.
SOT: Ok, they're pulling over here.
SOT: Thank you very much.
Narrator: For the exercise, each of the G's, as well as Tony and Jonna, wear hidden cameras and microphones.
SOT: Thank you.
SOT: She has a shoulder bag, kind of a dark flowered skirt, dark top, he has that dark jacket on.
Narrator: This is the first time the G's have ever been filmed, but the FBI allowed it with the strict understanding that neither the surveillance team nor their vehicles will be identifiable.
Jock Binnie: SSG personnel are, are covert, or undercover personnel. We need to protect their identities to protect their operations.
SOT: Bubba to Hacksaw, I'm dumping on foot at one seven, and mike.
SOT: Also be aware like we talked about earlier, they may come out different looking than they went in.
SOT: Coming out main entrance.
Narrator: The exercise begins with the G's easily keeping their targets in sight.
SOT: Ok, is she wearing a red skirt?
SOT: Yeah, affirmative. It didn't appear to me that they changed any clothing.
SOT: Did you see that guy back there with the bicycle and the backpack just on the left?
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The idea is not to shake your tail, it's to determine where it is and how they're treating you ... Never try to shake them without making it look innocent. Because then you're gonna make them mad and they're either gonna be in your hip pocket or you're gonna pay some other price.
SOT: We've got 'em passing the Palm Restaurant on one-nine.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: What you want is an equilibrium that makes them feel comfortable that they've got you in sight. But in fact, you've got enough time and distance to do things that you need to do.
Male G: Can somebody relay, the, where they're entering?
Male G: Copy that, Hacksaw, Olsson's Books and Records.
Male G: Is Taz in a position to go ahead in with them?
Female G: Yeah, we're heading in now, we're heading in.
Narrator: As Tony and Jonna stop in a bookstore, they presume they are not alone -- and they are right. Two G's are browsing the stacks. But the Mendez's use this opportunity as part of their Surveillance Detection Run -- or SDR.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: An SDR is one of those old techniques. It's what most CIA case officers around the world do before they go out to do an operational act. The operational act can be meeting the agent, making a phone call, mailing a letter, or putting down a drop, making a signal. Any of those activities need to be done without being observed.
And to make sure that you're not observed it's not unusual to spend three hours on the street, on foot, in your car, doing things that look absolutely innocuous. And you can very quickly tell if anybody is staying with you, if anyone is too interested in you.
SOT: He's going to look that up for you.
SOT: Great, thank you.
Jock Binnie: There are only so many ways to play this game. There are universal principles for intelligence officers and there are universal principles for counter intelligence surveillance. Each has a good idea what the other side is up to. So it's a very interesting game when you're out there on the street.
SOT: Thank you.
SOT: Thank you very much.
SOT: OK, they've exited the bookstore. They're standing out front. He's on a cell phone and they're now heading southbound.
SOT: I copy, they're out and southbound.
SOT: OK, he's got something in his right hand. It looks to be some type of pamphlet.
Narrator: During their years working undercover in the Soviet Union, Tony and Jonna learned exactly how long they could be out of sight to complete a clandestine operation.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: The 45-Minute Rule in Moscow was, uh, the period of time that our surveillance teams could have us out of pocket, before they had to report us. After 45 minutes, they had to call it in to their central control. After they called it in, all kinds of bad things would start happening to our surveillance team. They would have their pay docked. There could be all kinds of demerits applied, for losing your American spy.
SOT: OK. They passed 28th.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: So if you always made sure that you were back 45 minutes later they wouldn't have to report it. If you did it correctly, they would think that- not that you had escaped from them, but that they had lost you. And if you were really good, then they would think that they had found you. And life would go on as it always had been. And they would forgive you. That was the 45- Minute Rule.
SOT: Hey, Grape, if you can, try to maneuver yourself into position to get an eye on that front door.
SOT: OK. Copy that, Hacksaw. The one they went into, right?
SOT: We got a male coming out, male coming out main entrance.
SOT: Copy. Subject coming out main entrance.
Narrator: The G's easily pick up on Tony as he comes out of a hotel that he and Jonna had ducked into.
Male G: Hey, Nevvy, are you with them?
Narrator: But they've lost sight of Jonna.
SOT: Hacksaw to Nevvy. Did you say they came out together or, uh, just the male subject?
SOT: Uh that's affirmative. The male came out by himself.
SOT: Just the male solo.
Jock Binnie: Whether it's in real life, or in Hounds And Hares, the intelligence officer always has the advantage. They know what it is they, they want to do. They have means of, uh, attempting to manipulate the surveillance, to identify it, and then perhaps aborting the mission.
Jonna Mendez: In the end, it's your gut that tells you whether you go and make your meeting, or whether you don't. Surveillance is not nearly as straight forward as it might sound.
"Hacksaw": If they detect our surveillance they're not gonna go to the meet. So, it's, it's a wash for us, we would lose.
SOT: Hey, any luck on your end down there?
SOT: Negative Hacksaw, I'm out, outside ...
Narrator: The G's are in the right place to find Jonna, but they are moments too late.
SOT: Entering the hotel.
SOT: Copy that. Are you in a position to go in?
SOT: Yes, I'll go in.
SOT: Good afternoon, sir.
SOT: Good afternoon. How are you?
SOT: Welcome to the Bistro.
SOT: Thank you, I'm gonna get something quick because I've gotta get to a meeting.
SOT: You got it, Sir. What can I get for you?
SOT: He has exited the lobby.
SOT: Copy that. At this juncture, let's just pay more attention to maybe a change of clothes.
SOT: He's out. He's removed his jacket. He's now wearing a camouflaged baseball cap, sunglasses and he's ...
Narrator: Tony tests the G's to see if they will observe him making several operational moves. He begins with a "dead drop" -- hiding information that can be retrieved quickly by another agent.
Tony Mendez: Information in intelligence operations has to be timely. So not only does it have to be secure, but it's got to be timely. Otherwise it's not intelligence anymore, its history.
SOT: Hey, any luck on your end down there?
SOT: No, we're still searching. I went down about three blocks and then I came back up the tow path, checked that but it was a negative.
Jonna Mendez: Every time you do this it's just a game. It's just an exercise but it gets very real, your heart starts pounding. I mean you really, it's very hard to do this and not really immerse yourself in it. And that's the best kind of training there is. It's as close to reality as you can get.
Tony and Jonna Mendez: So you have a series of signals that you put up for the use of a dead drop. The classic signal is a chalk mark on a telephone pole, or a mailbox. And somebody puts it up, and somebody else drives by or walks by and reads it. If the mark is made on a, on a vertical, maybe that means the drop is loaded. It's on a horizontal, it means the drop has been cleared. And if it's on a diagonal, it might say, simply, danger. Because he's now under surveillance, and he put the mark up because they expected him to, but he's gonna put it up in a way that the other person can read it as a danger signal.
SOT: Hacksaw to Bubba do they still have him in place down there by himself?
SOT: We're down here in the vicinity of K Street looking around for the female.
Narrator: Although Tony has been under surveillance the entire time, the Mendez's successfully have a meeting with the terrorist sleeper cell agent. But it isn't Tony who makes the rendezvous. The G's are just a few blocks away when retired CIA officer Jonna Mendez has her meeting ... undetected.
Tony Mendez: From the G's point of view, this is a very lethal situation. In this case, 'Is this person trying to make a connection with a sleeper, Al Qaeda terrorist?' Somebody who is here under deep cover and has not been activated. So to the G's, this is real.
Jock Binnie: This is a realistic scenario. These are the kinds of things that we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Hacksaw: We take this very seriously because it gives us the opportunity to work against a trained intelligence officer, which will help us do our job better.
Narrator: The FBI currently investigates an average of six to seven new terrorist threats every day, so this is an important training opportunity -- enhanced by the post "Hounds and Hares" tradition of sharing a meal and lessons learned. In this exercise, the FBI succeeded in catching Tony making several "operational" moves.
SOT: Got the chalk mark and obviously as you know, the drop.
Narrator: But crucially, the G's failed to observe the meeting with the terrorist. Jonna takes them through the steps of her evasion.
Jonna Mendez: When I went down the C&O Canal, was anybody with me? Did you guys know where I was?
SOT: After you came out the main entrance, we put two and two together and realized that you had gone down the, the tow path. But by that time it was, uh, we were playing catch-up with you.
Jonna Mendez: I went in a woman's stall ... and ... I took the wig off and put it in, glasses off put it in, blouse off put it in, skirt off put it in. I was taking things off much more than I was putting things on. I was already wearing the second disguise. I just had the first disguise over it. And I thought you'd be looking for a single woman, and so in this exercise I had an accomplice. And when I walked out in my disguise, I grabbed the big standard black poodle, Louie, and we walked off with these dogs. Then, I did a second change and again, it was just some- one more thing I had in my bag. It was Tony's old paint-spattered windbreaker and hat and moustache and a cigar. And that's pretty much it. And walked out of there.
Narrator: The Mendez's also confide one of their best disguise tricks to the G's: Jonna had put pebbles in her shoes -- a technique passed down from an OSS spy.
Tony Mendez: I ran into an OSS guy who was behind the lines in Italy during World War II and he said, a pebble in my shoe and a piece of white greasepaint is what's kept me alive. You know, because if you show up in the area and you're a young man, you're suspect. And, and so he used the pebble to make sure he'd remember to limp and he used the greasepaint to keep his hair white. And that was it.
Narrator: In the end, the exercise demonstrated the challenges faced by the FBI. It reinforced the need for ongoing training and innovative ideas in the face of today's ever more sophisticated enemies. When terrorists have proven that they can hide in our midst, and anyone with a few hundred dollars can pick up the latest spy gear, successful defense will only come from discreet, well-trained operatives with the ability to think creatively.
Jock Binnie: Perhaps the most surprising thing about being an agent that most people don't, don't understand, is the intellectual challenge.
Jonna Mendez: I think there's such a strong pop culture image of what espionage is. And it's just consistently, amazingly consistently wrong.
Tony Mendez: You're not supposed to be flamboyant and attractive and all that. You have to look humble and insignificant.
Narrator: While the best spies and counter-spies go unnoticed, the consequences of their actions do not.
Jonna Mendez: Every once in a while, in the work, you have an opportunity to truly make a difference, to help collect some intelligence that will alter the course of world history.
Narrator: Nothing less than the security of nations and the balance of world power often rest with these invisible warriors. In a time when the quality of intelligence and counter-intelligence is being questioned, it's up to the masters to show the way to a new generation of spies ... and those who would catch them.
Written, Produced and Directed by
CAROL L. FLEISHER
Director of Photography
Processed in FILMLOOK (r)
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
DEFENSE VISUAL INFORMATION CENTER AT MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
F.I.L.M. ARCHIVES, INC.
GENERAL ATOMICS COMPANY
INTERNATIONAL HISTORIC FILMS, INC.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL RECONNAISSANCE OFFICE
UNITED STATES ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE IMAGE CENTER
TONY AND JONNA MENDEZ
FBI ACADEMY, QUANTICO, VIRGINIA
GLENVIEW MANSION AT ROCKVILLE CIVIC CENTER PARK
CAROL HILLIARD & BELLA
HOTEL HELIX - WASHINGTON, DC
H. KEITH MELTON
DAVID WISE, AUTHOR "NIGHTMOVER"
Series Open and Additional Graphics
Series Open and Additional Graphics
Head of Production, Carlton
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN
Executive Producer, Carlton
Executive in Charge
WILLIAM R. GRANT
A fleisherfilm/Carlton Productions LLC production for Thirteen/WNET New York in association with Carlton International
© 2004 Educational Broadcasting Corporation and Carlton International
INNOVATION was produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, which is solely responsible for its content.