The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception

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9780061725890: The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception

Magic or spycraft? In 1953, against the backdrop of the Cold War, the CIA initiated a top-secret program, code-named MKULTRA, to counter Soviet mind-control and interrogation techniques. Realizing that clandestine officers might need to covertly deploy newly developed pills, potions, and powders against the adversary, the CIA hired America's most famous magician, John Mulholland, to write two manuals on sleight of hand and undercover communication techniques.

In 1973, virtually all documents related to MKULTRA were destroyed. Mulholland's manuals were thought to be among them—until a single surviving copy of each, complete with illustrations, was recently discovered in the agency's archives.

The manuals reprinted in this work represent the only known complete copy of Mulholland's instructions for CIA officers on the magician's art of deception and secret communications.

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Review:

John Mulholland was paid the then princely sum of $3,000 for tips on slipping a pill into the drink of the unsuspecting, tying shoelaces to give uncover signals and on the "surreptitious removal of objects by women". Fortunately for posterity and today's budding spies, the agency's paper shredders were not as thorough in their work. Though it was believed every copy of his report had been destroyed in 1973, one survived and has been turned into a book, The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception. The material, now unclassified, was unearthed, though they haven't said how, by Keith Melton, an espionage historian, and Bob Wallace, an author and former director of the CIA's Office of Technical Services. Mulholland's guidance from the 1950s was part of a larger CIA effort, called MK-ULTRA, developed to counter Soviet mind-control and interrogation techniques. The scheme later involved dosing unsuspecting suspects with LSD, and wilder plots such as dropping depilatory powder into Fidel Castro's boots, or planting an explosive in his cigar. Most of Mulholland's advice involves more prosaic activities. To avoid concealment, agents should put on an anonymous or even slightly dumb face. "The more facial muscles are relaxed and eyes thrown out of focus, the greater the effect. Doing these actions to a mild degree merely shows a lack of alertness or disinterest." He supplies instructions on making and concealing droppers for liquids, how to handle multiple small items before pocketing the vital one, and how to pick up a document with a book by using wads of wax. Former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin writes in a foreword that the drink-spiking techniques "were never actually used", to the best of his knowledge. --www.telegraph.co.uk

About the Author:

H. Keith Melton, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is an intelligence historian and a specialist in clandestine technology and espionage "tradecraft." He is the author of several books, including CIA Special Weapons and Equipment, Clandestine Warfare, and The Ultimate Spy Book.

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