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WikiLeaks Reveals Some of the CIA's Tips for Spies


"Consistent, well-rehearsed, and plausible cover is important."

Image source: Getty Images/Saul Loeb/AFP

WikiLeaks has released a classified CIA manual featuring guidelines on how U.S. intelligence operatives can maintain their covers while traveling abroad.

The manual, "Surviving Secondary," provides tips on how to remain undercover during airport "secondary screenings" — in-depth searches or questioning to try to detect criminals, illegal immigrants or foreign operatives.

CIA Saul Loeb/Getty Images/AFP

"The CIA identifies secondary screening as a threat in maintaining cover due to the breadth and depth of the searches, including detailed questioning, searches of personal belongings and electronic databases and collection of biometrics 'all of which focus significant scrutiny on an operational traveler," WikiLeaks said in a release.

The CIA manual emphasizes that "consistent, well-rehearsed, and plausible cover is important" for not raising such a level of suspicion so as to prompt additional screening, and gives advice for how to attract as little attention as possible.

Among the ways the CIA says travelers are most likely to raise suspicion:

  • Unusual nervousness or anxiety by the passengers
  • Lack of apparent ties with accompanying passengers
  • Body gestures or certain words which might suggest the passenger is either lying or withholding information
  • Lack of familiarity with passport entries
  • Passport stamps or visas from a country known to sponsor terrorism
  • Inability of the passengers to speak the language of the country that issued them the passport
  • Unusual itinerary
  • Passengers purchase tickets using an usual method to the country that issued them the passport
  • Purchase or itinerary change within 24 hours of the passengers' scheduled flight
  • Bags or items inside bags that are inconsistent with the passenger’s appearance, profession or ticket class
  • Contents that are inconsistent with the passenger’s description of those contents
  • Amount of luggage or carry-ons unusual for the duration of the ticketed itinerary


A second CIA manual published by WikiLeaks expresses concern over the European Commission's consideration of whether to require travelers to the Schengen area — the 26 European countries that don't require passports for travel between them — to provide biometric data instead.

Such a system "would increase the identity threat level for all U.S. travelers," thereby making it more difficult for CIA operatives to travel on falsified documents.

WikiLeaks said this is the second time it has released CIA documents and vowed to release more in 2015.

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