Editor’s note: Here are more spymaster rules from columnist Robert Eringer, the former head of intelligence for the Principality of Monaco.
20. Welcome crisis. You will identify your true friends.
During any period of crisis or uncertainty, take careful note about who deserted you and who remained loyal — and more especially, those who pretended to remain loyal.
Then go to a good bar, order a dry martini and light up a Cuban Monte
Cristo No. 5.
21. Do not be disappointed; learn.
This is another rule for life in general. You cannot control others so don’t even try. Motivate and hope for the best.
The secret to happiness is low expectations. When something goes wrong, view it as part of your ongoing education.
Prince Albert of Monaco pledged to fight rampant corruption and money laundering in his principality. He hired a spymaster and later a chief of staff to assist him in this endeavor. But when faced with resistance from corrupt influences around him, the prince caved and reneged on promises he made to his spymaster, chief of staff subjects, foreign intelligence services and the world — and became complicit in their corruption.
22: Never take it personally — it’s business.
Sometimes, when vipers surround you it is hard not to take their venom to heart. But it is just business, nothing personal. Same as when you bite back.
23. Do not underestimate the opposition or become complacent.
Your targets may be better informed than you think. They may even have a spy in your camp. You do not know what they know. And it may be that their jobs, their reputations and even their freedom is at stake due to your investigations.
People get desperate when they feel threatened. And desperate people become dangerous.
24. You need formidable enemies to keep you sharp.
This comes from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who said you should choose your enemies with care; that an enemy is valuable to have in your life and that you rarely get on successfully without a few good enemies to spur you on.
Also, this gem from Nietzsche: The best weapon against an enemy is to discover that enemy’s biggest enemy — and get them both whacking away at one another.
25. Don’t complain. Unfairness is the history of mankind from the beginning. Just pick up the torch, and do the right thing.
Do not grow into a victim mentality. We are all victims of something eventually. The key is to rise above whatever curveballs life throws at us.
An old saying: If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.
When the prince got swayed by his criminally minded establishment, I packed up the intelligence service I’d created for him and left town.
And when the prince did not respond to my final invoice, our intelligence files were transformed into an interactive hub of dissent so that, ultimately, truth would prevail.
26. Unlike the insecure personnel of most intelligence services, do not fear the media, courts and elected representatives. Embrace them.
Intelligence services are generally fearful of media enquiries, government oversight and/or being hauled into court by judges who can override confidentiality.
Many intelligence officers are risk-averse for fear of being exposed in the media for involvement in controversial operations. For them, it would be a career killer. They also fear prosecution for having violated some obscure statute of which their superiors were either unaware or ignored.
Intelligence bigwigs strive to avoid being grilled by congressmen looking to enhance their political careers
I never subscribed to such fears, believing it more strategic to solicit the assistance, witting or unwitting, of the fourth estate to meet objectives.
After establishing a relationship between Prince Albert and the CIA, I sought out and secured U.S. government oversight by establishing a relationship with a U.S. senator serving on the Select Intelligence Committee.
As for courts: When you are confident of the facts and everything you report and write can be proven through documents and witness testimony under oath, the courts are your friend, not foe.
27. Better to be safe than sorry. The shredder, the better.
Every spymaster needs a safe — a large one. We kept a large heavy-duty safe in our operational headquarters bolted to a closet floor. We also possessed an industrial-strength shredder (gifted to us by a friendly intelligence service) that slashed documents into confetti.
28. Assume everything said over the phone is overheard. Assume all texts, faxes and email are intercepted.
Most countries possess the technological capability to transform your smartphone into their own open microphone. They can listen not only to phone conversations but also your conversations with people around you, wherever you are.
Switching off your phone does not help.
The only way to ensure you are not overheard is a walk in the park (without your phone): Speak in a whisper and occasionally shield your mouth with your hand (in case lip-readers have been assigned to you).
I was provided a STE (cryptographic telephone) by a “friendly” intelligence service to be used for secure communication between the two services. But I soon discovered that the STE itself was a full-time open microphone. Thus the STE was relegated to a small table adjacent to the toilet.
29: If you are concerned about taking risk, consult an actuary: Odds are you’ll survive. Not forever, but for now you’re good. So be bold (assuming the gain outweighs the risk).
Always assess the risk. If the risk outweighs potential gain, drop it, move on.
The reason CIA spymaster Clair George became legendary among his colleagues was partly because he went to Athens as station chief when no one else at the agency wanted the job. Richard Welch (station chief) had just been assassinated by a Greek terrorist organization, and they needed a new chief to fill the position.
Only Clair was willing.
The agency tried to sweeten the deal. For a start they’d buy a new residence for the new station chief. “Nothing doing,” said Clair. “I’ll live where Mr. Welch lived.”
“OK, we’ll put up 10-foot-high gates,” the agency said.
Clair said, “Nope.” He refused to hide himself. Instead, he enjoyed nightly cocktails on the residence’s front porch, in full public view.
Clair understood odds as well as any actuary.
30. Keep them laughing half the time, scared of you the other half. And always keep them guessing.
This was Clair George’s creed for survival and success in the arenas of espionage and cumbersome government bureaucracies.
Clair had a great sense of humor. But when he was not amused, he knew how to be scary.
And he was the master at keeping everyone guessing.
31. Risus Supra Omni (laughter above all); look for a high L.Q. (laugh quotient) in all you do.
You need a good sense of humor for most things in life and most especially the spy business.
When I first started working with CIA spymaster Clair George, we had this ironclad rule about accepting assignments from billionaires and royalty: If it ain’t funny, we don’t do it.
32: There are no rules.
A few days before his 75th birthday, I took Clair George to lunch in Georgetown. Over bacon-cheeseburgers, I excitedly told him about a new intelligence principle I’d learned with reference to liaison partnerships called “The Third-Party Rule.”
Clair took off his glasses, rubbed his sore eyes and looked at me with amusement. “In this business,” he said, “there are no rules.”
33: “Groghe dani kez.”
This is an ancient Armenian joke and curse that means, “May the scribe take you away.”
In other words, a good writer always has the last word.
Or as Winston Churchill put it, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.