The Spying Game — Is ‘No Rules’ the New Rule? [POLL]

Tom Bishop (Brad Pit) — Ah, Jesus Christ, you just… You don’t just trade these people like they’re baseball cards! It’s not a fucking game!

Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) —  Oh, yes it is. It’s exactly what it is. And it’s no kid’s game either. This is a whole other game. And it’s serious and it’s dangerous. And it’s not one you want to lose.

Spy Game (2001)

“Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood… By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense…”.

Tony Mendez  — The Master of Disguise

 “There was only one rule: to win.”

Oleg Kalugin — Former major general in the KGB

 “We are drifting as a society into what can be fairly described as a post-truth world…where there is no longer a basic understanding of what objective facts are.”

General Michael Hayden — Former CIA and NSA Director

American and Russian intelligence services have long held a gentlemen’s agreement — often referred to as Moscow rules — that limited how they engaged with each other. Under these rules, they agreed not to attack each other physically and not to engage in certain types of activities. In the light of recent events, one can only wonder if the spooks are still playing the game by these rules? Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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This post has been updated. See: The Spying Game — Is ‘No Rules’ the New Rule? [UPDATE: Answers from Former CIA Officers & Agents]

During the Cold War, the spy game was played according to rules, such as the Vienna convention and the Moscow rules.

Today, an old and pardoned spy appears to have been targeted for assassination. US and Canadian diplomats seem to have been the victims of a mysterious and sophisticated attack. What is going on?

According to some observers, the spooks no longer play by these rules. Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, argues that the ‘spy etiquette’ had broken down under Vladimir Putin.

“During the cold war, there was an understanding about what was and what was not acceptable.”

“The FSB works with impunity. They do not know the rules, and if they did, they do not care about them.”

CIA veteran Jack Devine believes that some of the unwritten conventions of spy-craft with Russia no longer apply.

“Russia today seems unconstrained by any norms.”

Others, such as Oleg Kalugin –a former major general in the KGB now living in the US — believe that these rules never existed.

“I am not familiar with any such [spy] etiquette. (…)  There was only one rule: to win.”

Colonel Chris Costa, who until recently was the senior director for counter-terrorism on the White House national security council, is the executive director of the International Spy Museum in Washington DC.

Like Kalugin, he does not recognise the terms spy etiquette or spy rulebook.

“There are examples of people being beaten up, roughed up,” says Costa, who worked in intelligence for 30 years. “It would be very dangerous to make the assumption that there are rules.”

Let us be open minded. Perhaps, we should also consider a third possibility. Current events — such as the Skripals’ case or the Havana attacks — may be misunderstood and/or incorrectly described.

Kalugin says he finds the poisoning attempt in Salisbury puzzling.

“Well, it is a really confusing picture. I do not see it as professional. I do not see a reason why he [Skripal] would be killed. He is not the kind of figure that would be dealt with in that way.”

Former CIA Jack Devine also agrees that the story of the Havana attacks is very sketchy at this point.

” … to my knowledge, it (physical harm) has never been used against CIA personnel or U.S. citizens in general, with the possible exception of the bizarre case of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba. Not enough is known yet about this case.”

INTEL TODAY would like to know what you think!

Spy Game – “The Roof” sequence


Commentary: The brutal new world of espionage and repression — Reuters

Moscow Rules — Spy Museum

Are Cold War Spy-Craft Norms Fading? — CFR


The Spying Game — Is ‘No Rules’ the New Rule?  [POLL]

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1 Response to The Spying Game — Is ‘No Rules’ the New Rule? [POLL]

  1. GeorgeG says:



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