Burn Notice has stolen Macgyver’s shoes and is walking more than a mile in them. Michael Westen uses Macgyver’s clever hacks and concern for others, but also uses psychology and experience to outwit, outmaneuver, and out invent his adversaries. Continuing in the footsteps of the Macgyver Marathon I’ve summarized what the modernized version, Michael Westen, has been up to. Hacks listed should be helpful for aspiring spies and everyday heros! A special thanks to: http://burnnoticestreaming.blogspot.com who helped me catch up from the beginning!
Episode 1: Pilot
If you’re surrounded by hostile aspiring warlords when you get abandoned by the CIA do anything to remove yourself from being surrounded to even the odds a bit. If you get in a fight be careful not to hurt your hand: elbows are effective and bathrooms with lots of hard surfaces also help. A dirt bike is a good choice for an escape vehicle. Wearing a bathing suit eliminates some suspicions because hiding a gun in a bathing suit doesn’t work so well. A room far from the elevators, close to the exits and without windows is preferable for a spy. When being watched, find a background that will make surveillance stand out, for example stay in a collegiate party. Know how to get a cover ID: it’s as easy as looking up locations that sell uniforms in a phone book. Bribing some kids to tell a bike cop that the feds who are following you tried to make them sit on their lap may very well get the feds off your tail. A messenger outfit from a uniform store will help you get past a security desk. Dealing with people with lots of money can get complicated fast. Get multiple opinions from people who may have been involved to catch a thief. Figure out if a car is tailing you by driving like an idiot, signaling one way and turning the other, slowing down or speeding up (hopefully without your mom in the car!). Losing a tail is not about driving fast, just drive like an idiot (ex: last second turns) until they make a mistake. Make a fake bomb out of some scrap pipes and wires to get someone’s attention fast. For an art heist, finding the buyer (maybe meeting them) is the best way to start. A good money launderer is the closest person to the yellow pages for criminals. Art is somewhat tracked these days, but stamps not so much. A money launderer will take a call regardless of who you are. Know your art well if you really hope to get into the business. Try to look like someone exploring innocently until the last minute (ie no ski masks). Cracking an old school safe is difficult, but if you get lucky and someone didn’t wipe their fingerprint off the scanner, bingo, you’re in! Blackmailing powerful people can help or be dangerous, so it’s best to keep an ear on the situation. Make a bug with a crappy phone that has a mic that picks up everything with batteries and circuits from two higher end phones. Once someone sends a guy with a gun after you, things will only get worse. A wallboard saw, gloves, stud sensor, duct tape, work bag and bandages help get rid of a next door drug dealer. Duct tape makes you smart (guns make you stupid). Mark the studs next to a bullet proof door and bang on it. When he comes to open it, shooting him in the knee through the wall with a metal can held in your gloved hand as a silencer works wonders. A bad childhood is the perfect background for covert ops b/c you don’t trust anyone, you’re used to getting smacked around and never get homesick. Hit the car of a guy in a car with airbags with a large car without airbags to knock him out. Break the window with a screwdriver and glove to get in the door and zip tie the knocked out guy to the steering wheel to take him out of commission for a bit. Take out the leader of a bullying group to protect yourself from harassment. Fall down to pretend like you are scared, then huddle to protect yourself as they hit you. Stand up fast and hit your head on the guys chin as he leans over you. This will daze him, then make a fist and turn out the lights. Prepare the ground when waiting for bad guys. Mirrors to see around corners, beds to block window views, loaded guns in random places. Want to frame someone? Prints on a gun can be explained, but prints on the inside of a trigger assembly? Not so much. 357 magnum loaded with blanks duct taped to a flare makes some great simulated gunfire. Someone who wants to send a message might leave photos of you and the FBI guys following you on your doorstep.
Episode 2: Identity
Surveillance takes time: you have to scout the area for a place to see the target, a place to go to the bathroom. Be patient; there are lots of ways to get seen. You can’t choose your informants. Bugs wired to the house power with a transmitter are longer term and may indicate how far away your listener is. Empty houses should be considered suspicious locations to house listeners. A timer may start a triggered blaze of the information that listener doesn’t want you to find out. Formal embossing is specialty work, don’t trust a newbie. If you set things in action by asking questions, amateurs will panic but pros know better. To catch a con artist, be a better liar than he is. Build your credibility with a criminal by fleeing from a cop. A good cover identity will give your target the illusion of control (ex: you talk or drink too much). Seeding distrust is hard when people don’t trust you. They will test you to see if you are trustworthy. Club girls are a good source of information wherever you are. Buy them alcohol. Everyone is always looking for a good hit man. All you need is a name and ID to drain a bank account. Calling an unknown number back to find out who it is is not a bad idea, but make sure you need to know because there may retaliation!
Episode 3: Fight or Flight
International conferences attract spies and businessmen since you can do business and drink for free. It’s important to disappear before people ask any questions. You may be able to end a chase by doing something another person isn’t willing to do…like jumping off a building. Buildings with hallways and a good service basement should provide help as you’re running.
Episode 4: Old Friends
Starting a fight is a quick way to make a distraction. Keep a booby trapped home easy to setup and disable (ie simple). In a knife fight you should control the knife hand and strike with everything you have. If there are two knives, tactical retreat is recommended. Make the body count unacceptable to ensure your own safety. Poker players can read tells like none other. Good operatives don’t leave anything behind. A book, receipt, drink or charges on an account are clues though. Getting out a bullet: make a small incision just above the wound with a blade disinfected in alcohol after running the fire from a lighter over the edge of the blade.
Episode 5: Family Business
Things to notice about the place your target is staying and your target themself: a top level alarm system, if the target does a perimeter scan every time they walk outside, well placed cameras without blind spots, paying attention to strangers in the area. For a cheap version of an alarm system, work in a low traffic area. Anyone around that you don’t know is then suspect. Fighting should be avoided: once you fight someone, they know your face. Two pipes for stick fighting work ok. Faking being a drunk makes a good distraction. If you want someone to betray the people they love, you have to get to know them. Know their frustrations and how they spends their money, know their hopes and dreams. Dried cake icing makes good fake C4. Spackle, petroleum jelley and some other stuff makes homemade C4 (DUH: no specifics provided). Ever met someone and you like the same things and “just click”? They might be a great new friend, a very determined lady, or a spy tracking you down. What is the mark of a pro arm dealer? A blow and burn in case the deal goes bad. Deal with a blown cover by stalling for time. Just stay alive long enough. If you are facing an unknown enemy who could take you down, often your only option is to get out of town.
Episode 6: Unpaid Debts
Sprinkle a mixture of flour and dayglo powder on your floor to see intruders footsteps. There are two kinds of government surveillance. The kind that is just there to look for something, and the kind that’s there to make your life difficult. As long as a bugged phone line is open, they are supposed to keep listening: you can use this to tie up their resources. Spies don’t like dealing with cops since covert ops, by definition, are illegal. Sometimes cops can prevent you from getting yourself shot, so don’t be afraid to give them an anonymous tip. Going to a meeting with someone you don’t know? Notice every detail and map out escape routes and never ever show up as yourself. Also look out for people who are overly upset that things changed even if they shouldn’t matter much. You can turn a TV into an oscilliscope with $150 worth of hardware (though it may electrocute you if you’re not careful). It makes a good bug detector. Take an infrared filter off of a camera to reveal an optical detector’s beam hitting a window. Supply your own vibrations on the window to defeat them. Put a large electromagnet into a deskside lamp to turn a spiffy encrypted laptop into an expensive paper weight. Doctors make the worst patients and former special ops are the worst to try to protect: both don’t think they need your help. A woman needs a little danger. Getting information from someone is all about getting them emotionally off balance: fear and anger work well. Sometimes picking someone’s pocket is way better than other high tech techniques of intelligence.
Episode 7: Broken Rules
The longer you run from police the more certain it is you will get caught. Find someplace secluded fast and bail out. The more they want you, the harder it will be. Organized crime? Scare the hell out of them to convince them a neighborhood isn’t worth their trouble. You only get one chance to make a first impression with a new employer. In the new job there will always be friction with the coworkers as they wonder if the boss likes the new guy better. Military firebombs are white phosphorous or chlorine trifloride, but that’s unstable and lethally toxic; styrofoam forms the base for a guerilla operative’s version. Sometimes you have to get used to the idea of bad people doing things for good reasons.
Episode 8: Wanted Man
In a relationship, most want more than the other is willing to give. Being a fence is all about having discretion: being the kind of person who NEVER shares the numbers in their little black book. The refrigerator is one of the most common stashes to hide jewelery. Ladies like attention. If you are giving up 5 inches and 100 pounds to a well trained opponent you better hope you know the terrain better than he does. Mixing romance and work is a bad idea. Act security conscious to convince someone else they don’t need to be. Make other people come to you. Convince the opposition you are stronger than you are to play on people’s fear. Covert meetings offer the fear of death, but a spy is used to that, the bag over his head however often is nasty. It’s tough to compromise a well thought out security system, but if you make someone think you can it is much easier. The larger the security team, the easier it is to compromise it. Deliver some vague threats and some money to one guard who, if honest, will tell his boss, who will wonder who wasn’t so honest. Psychological warfare can send a man into paranoia which may be useful or deadly. The key to good security is constistency, but that system makes you predictable: hide valuables in bank, go when is somewhat empty. If you know someone is going to be at a bank at a certain time, it’s pretty easy to make them look like they are robbing it. Shoot out a few video cameras and block the road with a stolen car to “prep an escape route” and fire up a spark gap transmitter to kill the banks communication lines to show they really know what they’re doing. Don’t forget to give your girlfriend a snow globe or you’ll still be in trouble!
Episode 9: Hard Bargain
Be careful: get the police to arrest someone and see if they act like a spy or a burecrat. Burecrat’s live for respect. In the east that means a bribe, in the west it’s more showing them they are in charge. About 40% of kidnapped victims are returned successfully, depending on the nationality of the kidnapper, age of victim and if a hostage negotiator is employeed. The odds go down sharply if you don’t have any money. When a kidnapper finds out something’s up he will probably try to call his accomplices to get them to kill the hostage. At that point you can kill him or take a hostage of your own; just make sure you have real leverage. It’s easier to turn someone who works for a ruthless criminal gang. Work on their fear that disloyalty will be “rewarded”. A corrupt employee is a decent cover ID since you’re worth a lot to a bad guy: you can become the fall guy as well as get inside information. GPS tracking devices are becoming more common these days; use them! JB weld or epoxy one into a shoe, cure it with a butane torch and you’ve got a bug. Go into a hostage rescue with a gun and the hostage will probably be the first one dead. Ingredients from a local pharmacy mixed with some aluminum foil in a coffee grinder will make a flash grenade that will stun anyone within 20 feet. Thermite will make pretty short work of most locks also (get some magnesium and rust powder). Someone you might underestimate is the perfect person to send to try to kill you, so watch your back!
Episode 10: False Flag
A fake ID is called a false flag, but you need a pro to make it since now they have magnetic strips, holograms and infrared watermarks. Sometimes a tactical retreat is your best option. It helps to have a partner. Corporations need spies (ie security consultants) as well. There’s an art to giving people useless information. In training you are taught to avoid missions that strike too close to home (ex: abusive father). Facts help create a new ID: it is harder to create history than it is to alter it. Check for bills when searching a house to pick up a trail. Just b/c there are no windows or doors doesn’t mean there are no exits. Try the A/C unit. Basic rule of covert ops: let someone else do your dirty work (like let them find the guy you want to kill). Duct tape, an aerosol can and butane tank make an interesting explosion when you shoot the aerosol can after previously lighting the duct tape on fire. Assassinations are 1% shooting and 99% the preparation of finding sources and locations. Taking an armed escort on an unpredictable route with backup in a trail car will help, but ultimately if an assassin knows where you’re going, they have the upper hand.
Episode 11-12: Dead Drop and Loose Ends
A cutout is used by a truly paranoid individual to deliver a message. They usually have a sign that is innocuous but hard to miss. Double blackmail is a classic: pose as a fellow victim of your own blackmail scheme so you’ll always know what the victims are up to. If want to bug a cell phone wirelessly you’ll need a lot of fancy equipment to deal with the hack and the encryption. Bugging a duplicate phone and switching out the sim card gives the same thing (usually). Having a gun to your head is all about timing, picking the right time to make your move. Best to snap the trigger finger first. Covert ops in the real world involves a LOT of waiting, but you’d better stay alert b/c it can get real real fast. A car’s floormat will probably be enough to get you over a barbed wire fence. There are two ways to blow up a car: use the gas in the tank or provide your own explosives. They use two ends of the car and are disarmed differently. Some prefer explosives on the gas tank, but it’s less reliable, though it tends to look more like an accident. Others prefer plastic explosive on the battery which is more reliable. Being skinny enough to fit under a car is a plus if you need to figure out what’s going on. Using code is difficult b/c you assume the other guy is smart enough to figure it out; if it’s too simple it will get broken, too complex and you’re talking to yourself. Covert communication is essential: chalk marks, misarranged objects or anything that stands out from the background will work. The walls of a warehouse are not reinforced and the walls under windows don’t have low bearing beams, making them perfect to ram into. Machine shops are good sources of fun stuff: if they have polyester thermoset resins they should have benzyl peroxide (read about safety). A good trap doesn’t scare people; it makes them curious. Spies stash guns like squirrels stash acorns. In response to seeing Fiona’s stash Michael stated: “if we need more than this we’re doing something very wrong”. One of my favorite lines yet. Choosing a cover ID on the fly is difficult. When there’s no time to think, it’s best to go with something simple that keeps your options open: like “being in the same business you’re in”. Freon is available in most computer stores: turn a spray cleaner can upside down and you have it in liquid form, which will freeze a lock quite nicely. Surveillance is a two way street: they will go to where they think you are, so you can probably see them. Who drives armored cars? Those expecting gunfire. When you can’t win in a fight, you have to make sure that if you lose, everyone loses. Tile adhesive makes a good sticky bomb: it’s portable, stick and waterproof. If you call a tapped phone from an untapped phone you can still be located. A commando is often considered a super elite soldier and the solution to every problem, but rather it’s just that he is trained to fight when there are more bad guys than good guys and when surprise is the only advantage you have. When it works, they seem unstoppable. When it doesn’t they get killed too. When it comes right down to it, being in intelligence comes down to putting your tail on the line to learn something. Are you willing to do that?
Episode 1: Breaking and Entering
You get to spend a lot of time alone as a spy. You are trained to make the most of it: go over your next move or your current intel, review your training and rebuild your gun. Airbags save lives, but they make some evasive maneuvers much tougher. You can drive backwards in most cars though. Great line “Mom? What are you doing, put the shotgun down.” Every thief knows the best way to scout a target is to pose as a customer: get a view of the vault at the local bank if you’re a rich guy with something to protect or get to view the security team if you are a guy who wants to start his own war. Get someone on the defensive by accusing him of bad locks to show you his security spread. Count steps to memorize a floorplan. Get specs on cameras etc to know any security holes and get it down on paper ASAP. Bad surveillance (that you notice) can mean a lot: some people can’t pay for good surveillance and some just want you to know they’re watching. Put a sign on a van and you’re a fake businessman without the troublesome work of starting a company: congratulations! Get into a secure facility by giving yourself a good reason to be there. A typical floor is concrete pan with steel trusses 30 inches apart; be careful of wires so you don’t electrocute yourself and/or start a fire. A concrete saw will cut the floor like butter. Don’t forget to anchor the slab. Drop into a blind spot for the security system, usually behind an interior wall. Motion detectors bounce sound off walls and may monitor changes in thermal profiles. A wool blanket and moving slow enough when combined with a thermal blanket will defeat both motion and thermal sensors. Quadrangle buckshot will take out the inside of anything fragile for you. For hardened military glass: use frag 12, an explosive projectile. While cops generally triangulate a phone’s position, then organize, which can take 10 minutes, a private security team can go much faster.
Episode 2: Turn and Burn
Check fraud is about technique more than high tech equipment: some old checks, a roll of scotch tape, some nail polish remover (or acetone) and you’re in business. Dissolve everything but the signature and you’ve washed your first check. If you want to make a friend, solve a problem for them; if they don’t have a problem, create it. People trust you when they have something on you. Make them feel secure. People don’t trust information they get for free. Inexperienced operatives abandon their cover ID’s when they are compromised, experienced ones play them harder. Distractions of beautiful women make guys want to keep the lady around, but obnoxious guys they just want to get rid of. Most assassinations are single bullet jobs, but to sell an attempt use multiple bullets and an explosion or two.
Episode 3: Trust Me
In intelligence, a good adversary lets you think you know what’s going on since the best attack is the one you don’t see coming. If you can’t breathe, it might be because you can’t catch your breath, or b/c nitrogen’s being pumped into the room: use a bar stool to get out. Consulates are a great place to renew your passport and find foreign spies working under diplomatic cover. Consulate employees live in fear of a pissed off journalist. Most people working there are just drones, but the head of security is almost always a spy. Steal a few files, no matter how boring and you’ve got leverage. The key to hand to hand combat is to be able to close the distance between you and them without putting them on edge. Put a cell on mute connected to another phone to make a quick bug: connect it to an unused USB port to provide some juice since it will run out fast. The best way to show you’re willing to walk away is to walk away.
Episode 4: Comrades
Jobs in agriculture are a good cover. You can find out a lot about a tail by seeing how they follow you: pros will be on the lookout for bailouts and won’t run into silly stuff. Tatoo tutorial: a spade means a convict is a thief, a tiger means he’s an enforcer while skulls means he’s a murderer. Making connections usually requires some wine and dine; the more someone knows, the more they feel entitled to a little special treatment. Smart operatives know how to steer a conversation towards the information they need. Smart assets know how to keep the wine and dine coming before they give up what you need. Using a stun gun on someone touching you will stun yourself as well. Want to interrogate someone? Look for a condemned building with no one around. Don’t grab a bat or gun. Torture doesn’t work and makes a mess. Getting useful information is about creating a new reality with no hope of freedom: control where they eat, sleep and when it’s day or night. Keep them disoriented when you ask them questions, wondering what you might do to them. Make them understand that their entire future is based on talking. If your cover requires you to have been beaten, you have to have been; no make up will stand close up scrutiny. A fight is one of the fastest ways to blow your cover; if you say you’re Russian but don’t fight like one, it’s over. A thermal camera is a great tool for scouting: it shows you bodies and rooms that are thermally shielded. Whatever your hostage is holding onto in the outside world, you must take it away, while tempting him with glimpses of the outside. Convince him that his precious information is useless. To fight looking like you want to kill someone without hurting them is difficult: open your fist just before a strike or kick a shoulder for a showy option. To be a spy you must know how to get people to betray their own. Some do it for money, others for spite, but the best is to get a guy to turn on his people b/c he thinks he’s being loyal.
Episode 5: Scatter Point
The best way to stop a job is to throw some kinks in the well oiled machine. You can’t stop a smoke alarm from going off, but you might be able to explain it with a few cigarette butts left outside. A webcam and wireless signal booster from your local electronics store makes some good surveillance. Staying current with safe cracking is nearly a full time job; it definitely requires practice. A criminal cover ID is not just about the ID, but about capabilities and fitting in with the hierarchy. Bank robbers are the rock stars, con artists are the snobs, car thieves are the blue collar workers and safe crackers are the artists. Be careful about making job recommendations. Great quote: “Do you love her? She could be the one. Then say yes. But it’s complicated. Then say no. You’re a true friend Mikey.” Sending a note in the middle of an operation is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Sometimes you just have to make a drop and hope your team is paying attention. When a leader plans everything to the last detail and then something bad happens, your associates will all think it was part of the plan.
Episode 6: Unpaid Debts
When meeting another spy there will often be a test to see how far each of you is willing to go. You can triangulate someone’s position with a cell phone, but you’ll have problems when they go out of range. Use an enhanced GPS though and you’re good to track their position in real time. Pulling a fire alarm doesn’t get much of a response these days, while making a bomb threat on the building next to the one you’re interested in will possibly evacuate the entire block. Most bomb squads have RF jammers to prevent people from detonating bombs by remote control. It will block cell phones and security cameras. Do not trust interior locks nor padlocks. Someone who can actually pick locks can do either easily. Air ducts in modern offices are 18 inches wide, so if you’re an adult they won’t work for an exit. You can however use a subceiling to get to a closet and make your way out from there. When your ID is compromised, sometimes the best defense is good offense. Deny everything, admit nothing. Knowing what someone wants tells you a lot about who they are. To see inside a wooden crate, try making your trunk a makeshift X-ray machine. The tube from an old TV set is a start. Pump 100,000 volts from a tazer through the tube to get the basic idea. Criminals are generally self-serving and careful so you can’t be too helpful, but generally the other guy will push back, which may help. A major difficulty: using information you’re not supposed to have.
Episode 7: Rough Seas
If you are being chased by an off road vehicle and you don’t have one, you need to get on the road fast. Chases are less about speed and more about maneuverability. Put yourself in a position you can do something they can’t. For certain criminals, partying during the off hours allows the boss to watch and to keep everyone spending money so they are hungry for the next score. Convince people they can dominate you and they’ll let down their guard. Shooting a gas tank by itself won’t do much, but shoot a gas tank and acetone peroxide and you’ve got one heck of an explosion.
Episode 8: Double Booked
Liquid (laundry) bluing covers over trash and stains anyone who went through it. If there’s a bad job offer you have two options: take it and make sure the op gets blown or pass it by and watch it get done anyway. When a pro plans an ambush, he uses suprise and attacks aggressively. An ameteur takes a defensive position, so they end up in a place of weakness. Use this in your games of Humans vs Zombies or Assassins on campus or in real life. Cell phone jammers are really helpful sometimes. Every vehicle has 3 vulnerabilities: the driver, the engine and the tires. If you force the front wheels off the road, you drastically reduce it’s maneuverability, so it can’t swerve. Atripene sprayed on a fork gives someone a heart attack. Fake a death by calling your people first (in an ambulance to whisk you away), then calling 911.
Episode 9: Good Soldier
Need information about an enemy position? Observe outside (slow and safe), or go in for a peek (fast but potentially fatal). Hiding places offer tradeoffs between security and accessibility. The best hiding places (slips) are easy to get to but tough to find. If selling yourself as a traitor, don”t be too eager. If you’re running an asset you have to be tough enough to keep them in line, but supportive enough to keep them stable. A spy never knows for sure if they are in control or being played, but if you’ve been doing it long enough, you learn to trust your instincts. Motorcycle security measures aren’t too tough if you’re in a pinch, break the steering lock. Turn off the Electronic Stability Control when you need to slide, turn it on when you don’t want to. Hit the back corner of someone’s car to spin them. A trailer has about 4 feet of clearance. Slide under it on a motorcycle very carefully.
Episode 10: Do Not Harm
When hunted, paranoia is inevitable, but if you don’t know what to do with it, it turns into aimless fear. With training it turns into hyper awareness. Most medical scammers will fight turf wars to keep their customers, just like drug dealers. As a spy, the best thing to do is become a target’s friend. Try an empty commercial building for interrogation: soundproof and isolated. A determined captive can bite through plasterboard, but cannot get through steel bars or ply screws out with his fingers. Make a captive ask questions, not scream. Make him imagine what his captor will do to him if he’s willing to cut himself with a knife. Brushes with death are always unique and just as cold. Two person interrogation you can kick one guy out the window and the other guy will usually start talking: all you need is the first guy’s screams, not his death. Meeting someone and want to make sure they aren’t a security threat? Try a pool party, where it’s nearly impossible to hide a bug. Use an ambulance and cell phone hooked up to an amplifier with a computer that can analyze the sound. Recovering from something? Give yourself some sort of purpose in life, don’t just take a relaxing vacation.
Episode 11: Hot Spot
Program your computer to call all the lines in an office building to give yourself a few seconds to get out. You can run out without being suspicious, but you might need to cover ground fast! City clothes keep the suspicion off someone snooping around. Great quote from mom to Michael: “Sometimes I forget how complicated your life is”. Uniforms suggest organization, power and numbers. Though they make you stand out, they inspire fear, one of your most important weapons. Target selection isn’t glamorous, but it is one of the most important parts of an operation: take out the guy the boss’s organization depends on and you’re well on your way. Your job isn’t to kill people, it’s about undermining your enemy’s will to fight. No plan survives the battlefield. You need a spy to handle the new friends, though soldiers can handle the enemies. The hard part about running a car theft organization isn’t stealing the car, rather it is selling it afterward. Best way: start with the information on a clean car from out of state, then match it up. That means new VIN tags and a new registration. In case someone’s looking closely, some HCl on the old VIN number will make it impossible to read. How to armor a car: 60k of Titanium siding would work, or you could use a bunch of yellow pages and commercially available foam sealants inserted into the tire keep you rolling long enough to get out of danger. Use dual layer high density plexiglass for the windows. Make a fire trap by putting a contact plate under the floor and a bit of accelerant on the walls to trap someone in a quickly burning building.
Episode 12: Seek and Destroy
Make sure you isolate the circuit on a bug to a phone line, otherwise the person will hear feedback and get suspicious. To protect someone without blowing their cover you have to come up with a story that explains what they’re doing, explains what you’re doing and gets everyone out in one piece. A bug is a microphone attached to a transmitter, so it’s easy to detect with a frequency scanner. A more subtle device is a keystroke logger. More spies get caught changing batteries and wires than any other activity. To make a magnet strong enough to wipe a security tape you need a strong power supply connected to a cylinder wrapped with a wire many times around. A wall outlet would work, but if you need something more portable a car battery will work (just make sure you use heavy enough gage wire or you’ll end up with battery acid all over you). If you are playing the role of spy hunter when you are the spy, you can guide the evidence trail. No cover ID can create more paranoia than a skilled spy hunter. For female operatives: picking up a guy at a bar is harder than it might seem. Most men get suspicious if it is too easy, too hard and they move on. Once she gets the guy up to a room, she then needs backup to make sure things don’t go too far. Chloral hydrate is a mild sedative perfect to help out, but if the guy doesn’t want to drink, you may have to induce unconsciousness another way (ex: hard bottle to temple). A thief can take what he wants and run, but a spy has to act like nothing happened. Start searching for hiding places where your target has easiest access. Smart targets don’t hide things where there is easy access. So you look for signs of moved furniture, scuffs on the walls or anything out of place. If something’s too easy it very well may be a trap. Get a box of paper, some duct tape and extension cord: tape the cell phone to the box and run the wire around it. Put the box in the gallery. When playing the spy hunter your goal is to get the target to trust you completely; convince him he’s on the brink of disaster and he’ll tell you whatever you want.
Episode 13: Bad Break
To take over a building you can keep the hostages on the floor or gather them together. How do you deal with the place’s security measures and how do you cut the lines of communication to the outside? Whatever way you do it, it’s all about maintaining dominance. A wounded hostage is a good measure of how far a criminal is willing to go. Keeping people alive in a hostage situation doesn’t mean grabbing a gun, rather fighting like a spy. For example: make acts of men seem like acts of God and make antagonistic measures seem helpful. Cut through a wall with scissors by starting at an electrical outlet. You can get through a cell phone jammer with a stronger signal that can be created with say a data server. Mixxing an upper and downer medication is a very bad idea (why alcohol+energy drinks don’t work). Anxiety and allergy meds together make a scary combination. People trust doctors as long as they act calm and in charge, making a great cover ID in some situations. Liquid nitrogen can cauterize a wound and freeze the barrel of a gun. Transfer objects quickly behind your back to shield them from eyes. Elevators are really easy to sabatoge. Disable any part (ie the the door by jamming something into it) and the system shuts down. Find the frequency of the communication devices to hear bad guys thoughts. In low doses hilocarpene cures dry mouth; in higher doses it has the same effect as a serin gas attack. In a weakened state you don’t want your main arteries in your neck blocked: otherwise you’ll be blacked out in 4 seconds. The coating on tablets gives you a bit of time to take a pill and then get it out of your system by gagging yourself. Many criminals want to kill anyone who’s seen their face. If you have 1 bullet to take down 3 guys in close quarters you are betting your life on some lucky breaks, so try not to let it happen.
Episode 14: Truth and Reconciliation
If someone is asking questions, you better make sure he is who he says he is. A lot of the mass murderers and jerks in the world are just spoiled rich kids who populate many of the same type of bars and drink the same types of champagne. Sometimes blinding someone and hiding behind the lights (of a car) is a valid strategy. Keep someone at a private house, NOT a motel. Great quote: “What could be more important than taking me (mom) to the store Michael? I’m helping a man find justice for his murdered daughter. Well if you need any help with that Michael…” Most people won’t completely throw away their past. It takes about 5 seconds to draw a gun and line up a shot. Whether that’s a good thing or not still depends. When abducting someone transportation isn’t usually an issue, but getting them into the truck is. Walk them in, drag them in or drop them in and let gravity do the work for you. Spend a lot of time with corrupt 3rd world leaders and you’ll hear a lot of self pity. Killers by and large are whiny losers, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Most over the counter anti-allergy medicines contain anti-sedatives. In the right dosage they might cause a bit of drowsiness, but in the wrong dosage, they cause dizziness, hallucinations and unconciousness. A hotel just above your target’s is very helpful. If you suspect you’re walking into an ambush, searching for where the bad guys are will probably get you killed. If you can manage it, the best move is to make it impossible to hide. In a footchase where you are in pursuit, your goal is to keep visual contact until they tire out.
Episode 15: Sins of Omission
For a spy, compartmentalizing your professional and personal life and everything actually is second nature. In your professional life this keeps you safe, but in your personal life it can be dangerous. Great quote: “Oh come on, I thought this was a get to know the ex lunch, now it’s a 17 government agencies are chasing me lunch?” The site of a deal can tell you who you’re dealing with: if private, they value control, if public they want to get in and out anonymously; if they have both they really know their stuff. Look for how many exits there are as well. Standard transaction sequence is to show the money, then inspect the goods. Sometimes if you can’t impress someone enough, the truth is where you want to go. Security consultants constantly tout new material and technology but the basic techniques haven’t changed in 4000 years: get a better view of your opposition, make your walls sturdier, and arm yourself well to fend off attacks. Past a certain point in a secure facility you stop seeing cameras since lowly security guards don’t have the clearance to monitor them. High security is built to deal with small disturbances. Trip one sensor and you’re toast, trip 100 sensors and no one knows what to do. Make a taser by exposing the leads the the flash on a disposable camera. Would you trade another man’s life for your freedom? You don’t know til you have to answer the question. Spies are supposed to travel without any ID, but most keep something since they find it helps remind them why they do what they do. With a high caliber gun you may be able to penetrate the radiator or the firewall behind it, but shooting under a car or at the windshield is a better option if you have a low caliber gun. Radiator fluid (ie polyethylene glycol) won’t burn fast enough to do much unless mixed with chlorine dioxide and other stuff. Gun powder and non-dairy creamer works well if you want to make an explosion that will make people think you are bigger than you are. A fake utility box is a pretty good hiding place since people don’t usually touch things labeled high voltage. One of the most common cover ID’s for a spy is service personnel. Capsasin (pepper spray), mixed with alcohol and oil and then pressurized with CO2 makes a nice firebomb. In intelligence work, your most important asset, more than any combat training or technical skill is your ability to twist the facts of the situation to your own advantage. When your career consists of making enemies it is dangerous to be alone; no man is an island so don’t let this happen to you!
Season 3 Burn Notice
Episode 1: Friends and Family
Michael has just given the finger to “management” and is now out on his own. He swims 5 miles to the beach and instantly has to be alert for cars that slow down, glances that are too long, cops that are slightly too interested in you. Grab a pink t-shirt and sunglasses to impersonate a tourist. A fire extinguisher will get you through a locked door to the phone system to make an untraceable call in a hotel. It’s easier to dodge questions than bullets; claim memory loss, no ID, no bank account. Expect to be behind bars occassionally; just keep working. A key is probably not the only thing you are going to need to get to someone who doesn’t want to be gotten to; assume there are other systems in play. Don’t claim to be a big shot; claim to be a big shot’s errand boy as a cover ID. Act like you don’t want to be there and people will trust you even more. Even let them injure you not to blow your cover. Armed extractions require planning and rehersals. Any ambush requires you to know where and when the target will be there. For close space combat, a knife is often more effective than a gun. It’s easier to hide and handle. A rolling meeting with a security detail becomes a fortress on wheels. To take it on, bring an army and try to slow it down. Large land deals under the radar mean that judges will have to be bribed and people killed. Principles of a snatch and grap: separate target from security, then keep the security occupied. The right bullet will take out ANY glass. Trying to hide underwater? Fire is your friend since it turns the surface into a mirror. Find a place to surface where fire isn’t consuming all the oxygen. Give up the idea of a fair fight. Spies are trained to win. Find some friends you can rely on without question or you are in trouble. Period.
Episode 2: Questioning
Calm down irrational people by getting them to visualize a story. Villians try to tell if someone is under surveillance by beating you up a bit (since this normally flushes cops). There are better ways to get reliable information than torture (usually?). To avoid a police stakeout, look out for parked cars/vans, workers unusually preoccupied, and kids (who like cops). It is easier to impersonate a bad cop since then you can break some rules. Do something illegal to gain a criminal’s trust (like snorting lactose). Interrogation professionals don’t ask you questions directly; they hide what they do or don’t know. People desperate for information start filling in the blanks on their own. Don’t watch TV if you’re a guard. Make a back door with a water saw (quieter) if you really need it.
Episode 3: End Run
When dealing with police: keep place free of damning evidence, keep your alibi’s straight, and be ready for surprise visits. Nobody goes it alone. First priority when you’re captured is to make it clear your captor isn’t getting you for free. He gets what he wants if you get what you want. Build a fairly good antenna with a coat hanger, some washers, and a pringles can (called a “cantenna“, used in wardriving or for helping your cell phone reception, more details). A USB connection transmits the information to a computer for a Bluetooth hack. Act as if you are hurt, drunk, and have a low income just covering child support to get away with something. Adrenaline can shut down your ability to see details, but they are still important. A tire iron can help you get a new car: break a window, pry open the steering column to expose the ignition leads. Pull them out and connect them and you’re good to go (basically: here’s more detail on how to hot wire a car). Blackmail at the end gets harder to use as an incentive. An urban parking structure might be a good place for urban warfare. You can use alarms to draw out opposition, control visibility, and provide cover for an ambush. A choke hold helps knock a guy out without injuring him.
Episode 4: Fearless Leader
Set a plan and settle disagreements prior. For many operations 2 person teams are great: there is a simple command structure, it’s easy to delegate responsibility, and there is little confusion. Disadvantage: little room for error! Having police around is a big problem for criminals, but also for detectives on a stake out. Get information out of people when they are desperate for you to do something…like leave them alone. Flirtation and romance can help you achieve your objectives. Finding a way into a criminal organization is about observing social dynamics. Find the right person to approach-the inner circle is usually too tough to go after. The powerful are cautious. Drivers and bodyguards are easier targets but don’t have power. Find someone with some power, desperate for more. Prison tatoos tell where, why and with who you did time to an educated eye. What’s the secret to fitting in (new school, as a spy or otherwise)? Do what everyone else does (not that I’m recommending that). Change your wardrobe and behavior and mirror well. Know how to follow well…how hard to laugh at the boss’s jokes (not this type of following). If you are going to deceive you must go all the way. And don’t get audited. If you hit a cash register drawer hard enough the other way it breaks. Placing a bug on someone is hard unless they carry something around consistently that you can reproduce: phone, watch, pack of cigarettes… Use superglue, layed on thick and dried quickly with canned air to seal a door.
Episode 5: Signals and Codes
Planes without clearances probably belong to undercover or bad guys. If you get cornered you have to learn to control the adrenaline rush and consider how to get out. If someone figures out who you are, the best approach is usually denial. Money laundering people usually hang out with rich people. The most dangerous ones in an op are those on your side; if they crack, you end up in a grave. Spies used to pose as lepers so they could sneak around; now being an IT guy is almost the same. This helps you linger without being bothered and gives you a pretext to talk with almost anyone. Subjective prices on ancient antiquities make money laundering easy. Doing something in broad daylight? Better be willing to entertain!
Episode 6: The Hunter
Generally avoid cold meetings; it’s better to ease into relationships over time. Flash bang grenades will impair sight and hearing making escape difficult. Try taking a picture and sending a help call to an associate instead of fighting back. In a hostage situation, the same things that get you killed will extend your life: If you have money, you’ll live til you pay, if you have information, you’ll live til you talk. Set your jaw if you have to jump out of a moving vehicle. Turn advantages like bullet proof vests to weaknesses by sending assassins on a chase through hot Florida swamps. Protocol dicates that if someone’s close, soldiers fan out. Take out the leader by taking out his knee, shoes and weapons to even the odds. Deal with a rival by dealing at the top directly. Dehydration, exhaustion and nerves can be worse threats than those after you. Improvisation is necessary in battle. Delay tactics allow someone to prepare the ground ahead, which often win battles. When faced with a more powerful enemy, spies get out of the way and stay on the move. The goal of a retreat is to find a place to marshal your resources and make a stand. Surprise is helpful in taking on a larger force.
Episode 7: Shot in the Dark
Spies generally avoid clubs since you can’t hear well and are surrounded by strangers you have to constantly monitor. Training a spy costs a lot of time and money. That training is very valuable on the open market. Spies hate suprise visits; they require lots of paperwork and questions. Recognize the signs of a break in early. If someone is cornered, the best strategy is to force them into a choke point with 2 options: surrender or get killed. Awesome quote by Michaels mom: “For two little boys who are being knocked around by their father, Michael would take on the Chinese army honey”. Turn a cell phone into a bug. How do you learn to do this? Sort of “special” school. So you really think you can make a guy run? You better know you can. If the operation demands that you be the targets best friend, you do it, no matter what your emotions are feeling. Control a person’s behavior by controlling the environment. That means: making their car not start and jamming their cell phone ($100 jammers work well). Accessing the circuit breaker to a light pole is a lot better than having to access the pole itself. A quick call to a cell phone will short out the circuit. To generate fear, start simply: fear of the dark, fear of being alone, and fear of the unknown. A network analyzer can tell you how much information someone is accessing and how encoded it is. A bottle cap packed with some plastic explosive can create the appearance of someone getting shot. When a plan goes wrong you have two options: accept failure and abort (best if have resources and time to remove people from the field), salvage the situation. Make a loyal operative look like a traitor and if you’re lucky your enemies will take him out for you. Better yet, make him look insane; bringing back the dead helps here. As a spy you often have to do things you are uncomfortable with for people you don’t trust; decide if you are willing to now.
Episode 8: Friends Like These
Most field ops are between 22 when they finish training and 55 when they retire so someone outside these ranges is rarely suspected. Drill through a glass door pane and use a coat hanger to get the door handle to avoid fingerprints. In a pre-furnished house, once you look in all the obvious places you’re done unless you are going to start ripping out the drywall. Torture just gets you the answer that will make pain stop the fastest. Fear often fails as an interrogation method. Most suspects are already scared. What they need is a friend. An ignition safe with CO2 pumped in is safe to open. Spies don’t keep a lot of prisoners. Keep them and you can only find out so much, let them go and you can find out a lot more. Pros can catch a tail by watching for someone who comes too close or runs too many yellow lights or uses a car they know about. Therefore to beat a pro you need a team of tailers. It’s best to start a tail after a bit to relax the person. Pass someone to avoid suspicion. When you find someone you can trust absolutely, you want them on every operation you do.
Episode 9: Long Way Back
Spies must remember every cover ID they’ve ever worn in case they have to put it back on. Become an arms dealer to people who need arms, even if it means cozying up to your worst enemies. Bring backup to a meet, even if they are long distance snipers. Bomb makers have a signature print. If you can duplicate it, you can leave that fingerprint wherever you want. Rat poison in a bomb encourages hemorhagging and spreads fear. Sometimes you have to make the final decision about your future with someone and give up your career dreams in a split second. If you realize an operation is compromised you have to do what you can to try to contain the damage. Knowing nothing is not good. The enemy you see doesn’t get you so often, rather it’s the one you don’t.
Episode 10: A Dark Road
Doing your own field medicine has the benefit of avoiding pesky questions and a close doctor-patient relationship. Getting information out of hotels is difficult-convince them that you need help. First contact for spies makes a big impression. Go to county records office ready to do some smooth talking to get insurance records. Working an asset requires you to know what buttons to press and has a lot to do with who you are, not just what you say. Don’t make a friend with an asset if possible. Precision driving is a great way to make an impression. Insurance scammers must be taken out since they run an entire system. The best place for a bug is in something people keep with them. Many car remotes now have enough room. If you are blackmailing someone you have to be cruel; make them feel they have no choice whatsoever. People get tunnel vision in a fight so it can be a good distraction if you need one.
Episode 11: Friendly Fire
An invitation to meet at a hotel pool from a spy is an olive branch: multiple exits, a crowd to mix in with and the near certainty that they won’t be wearing a weapon or wire if they are in a bathing suit…unless he’s a sniper, so it’s still good to bring backup. Some neighborhoods especially in the inner city have cop detecting kids, and when they see something, illegal activity shuts down fast. Prove you’re not a cop to keep the bad guy’s around for long enough to lure them in by doing something illegal. In an army, key events initiate a chain reaction: hacking a high level computer, assassination of a high ranking officer, you get the idea. Learn what someone wants if you want to get something out of them. Warehouses have relatively weak roofs; usually they are made of just plywood and asfault tiles. Attach a hole saw bit to a silenced drill to bore through the roof without attracting attention. Dominance isn’t always about being lethal-sometimes leaving those around intact to spread the word is alright. Rubber suppressed bullets won’t kill, just sting a lot. The best defense isn’t always force; keep an asset in the dark as to what you are capable of and he has to assume the worst. To extract a heavily guarded target, choose a good entry point: guards watch windows and doors, so coming in through the wall will give you the surprise advantage. Camoflague is just as important in urban settings. Ice cream carts packed with explosives and barriers lined with rubber tires will provide projection in case of a firefight. Polystyrene links and a listening device in your hostages handcuffs makes a convincing show.
Episode 12: Enemies Closer
Meet a spy in a hot tub if you want to meet in privacy. To store a body, lots of duct tape and plastic sheet are your friends. Avoid heat, light and water. Sometimes a naturally blocked security camera will give you your best approach. Stealing a feed may be as easy as stealing pay per view. Need to jump out of a 4 story building in to a pool? Better throw a mattress down first to distribute your weight. Want to make it look like a dead man stole money and then skipped town? Find their distinguishing marks, find a look alike, then take them out and make grand gestures to ensure witnesses saw them. Use each criminals fears against them; a car that won’t start is like acid to those in a cartel. To turn an asset, make sure you cut them off from everyone so you are the only voice in their ear. Make sure you don’t get turned on your own friends-answer their calls!
Episode 13: Partners in Crime
You must work hard to judge how to turn an asset. Be too forward and you can get yourself in trouble. Just make sure you have backup and you’ll probably be fine. The combination of money and a cause will generally help turn the odds of turning that asset a good bit higher. Trained operatives will leave you searching hundreds of places for documents, but for desk jockeys, check behind the cabinet, in the bookshelf or under the desk and you’ll usually find what you want. Train yourself to keep track of multiple conversations; if you are scoping someone out at a party you’ll need to engage in a “cover” conversation to avoid suspicion. To get 2 people over a wall taller than 1 guy could get over: 1st guy boosts 2nd up, then 1st guy wraps jacket around wrist and other end to 2nd guy. 1st guy falls on other side of the wall, pulling 2nd guy up. Don’t look for signs of a guilty conscience in a pathological liar: true deceivers enjoy the lie, so instead of looking for them to make eye contact, look for a slight smile as they think of all the people they are deceiving. Choose a role that puts you in the center of the action and explains why no one has ever heard of you before. Throw around some names and dates to confuse them, show some account books to convince them you’re legit and make the figures big enough to play to their greed. Contact microphones will allow you to hear through walls, allowing you to eavesdrop on conversations-just watch out for speakers which will magnify the wireless signals and tip off your targets! A lead detective cover will get you full access, but will also get you caught with 1 call to the station. A “lowly” crime scene investigator might be more appropriate. If you are handing a bad guy a gun sabotaging the trigger assembly with acid and liquid nitrogen to break under pressure is a good start.
Episode 14: Good Intentions
A deserted location for a meet gives the other guy control of the situation and the chance to bring a sniper to the party. So it’s a good idea to bring your own…although they won’t be able to cover a moving car. Fighting 2 against 1? Jam them into a corner to even the odds. Use anything at your disposal. Altering a modern passport is virtually impossible. If the pages are full, it’s better just to swap out the pages entirely. Its as easy as pulling out the stitching on a t-shirt and putting it back together. Regardless, having good friends who are informed enough to back you up is essential. Behind locked doors you may find out what your target is obsessed with and what your target loves, even if you don’t find what you are looking for. Have a signal for your friends, be observant and remember you can’t follow a car that is skidding around corners without getting noticed and you might get out alive. The hardest thing to do when an operation goes bad is to do nothing. But if it’s the only way to give a team member a chance at living again, then that is what you have to do. Anyone who knows the trade knows spilling a drink on yourself is a diversion, so to convince a pro its an accident, you have to hit someone else without looking. A cover ID as an inspector will get you in and grease will start a kitchen fire to start a diversion, but don’t stick around afterwards! Rig all the evidence that could go against you to go up in flames if someone goes where they shouldn’t. When creating an explosion to keep people back you cannot go half way. You have to let them know you mean business; but don’t blow everyone to kingdom come. A small block of C4 should do nicely.
Episode 15: Devil You Know
As a spy, you are mostly a criminal working for a good cause. Sometimes you’ll end up in a manhunt. A hot wired jet ski will help you ensure that you get out of the way and hope everyone’s in a forgiving mood. If it turns out they aren’t, commuter parking lots will help you buy some time. Add a rock to get through a car window and you’ve got a new set of clothes or cell phone. Spies love places people avoid: sewage plants, toxic dumps, condemned buildings and motels. Here you can store supplies without worrying about them. Good operatives don’t believe in coincidences like a burning food stand; pay attention! As a spy try to work with people who you can predict; you’re worst nightmare is a lone crazy person. When entering potential combat, try to get surprise on your side. No matter who your enemy is, there’s a chance you’ll need them tomorrow. If a trained team is advancing on your position, sneaking away is usually impossible; instead, give them something else to worry about: like some C4. Bomb makers like liquid nitrogen to help make or diffuse a bomb. Forget about cutting wires; a good bomb maker will make sure they are impossible to reach. Freeze the detonator and usually you can remove it from the explosive material. To be a spy you need a lot of things, but a hard one to swallow is to look someone who ruined your life in the eye and say let’s work together. A garbage chute might help you get down from a building quickly without killing yourself. An ambulance makes an ok getaway vehicle, except that it is a bit conspicuous. How to create a cliffhanger? See for yourself!
Congratulations, you’ve passed Spy Training 101! Remember that there’s a lot more to know and knowing is only half the battle. Please choose to use this information wisely for the good of others in addition to empowering yourself! This post will be updated with Season 4 after it airs this summer!
Here’s a goody while we are all waiting for Season 4 updates: