SPYMASS™: Spy gift suggestions for the holiday season

It’s Spymass™!

Well it is here at the brand new “Dry CleanerCast” website.

Anyway

The holiday season has crept up upon us once again. 

NORAD will track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. However Santa needs something to deliver to those of you who have been good and to those who have been bad but avoided getting caught due to good tradecraft. 

So the golden question is, what does every spy buff need? Well that’s a good question and I am here to help you with a few suggestions.

SPY BOOKS

Next Stop Execution – Oleg Gordievsky

Now this is the book that really started it all for me. It's the autobiography of Oleg Gordivesky, who was MI6's mole deep inside the KGB. Oleg was eventually discovered after being betrayed by an American double agent working for the KGB and he had to escape Russia or face execution by a firing squad. This book tells the amazing story of Oleg's escape and gives us an overview of his career in the KGB. It also has lots of interesting tips on spy tradecraft, making it a must for any spy buff or future spy!

Fun fact, Oleg used to be one of my regular customers when I worked part time at my local supermarket 20 years ago.

The Black Banners – Ali Soufan

Ali Soufan was on of the FBI’s top counterterrorism agents who investigated Al Qaeda before and after the 9/11 attacks. This book gives a fascinating insight into the complexity of counterterror investigations. For me this one of the best books on 9/11, its causes and understanding how Al Qaeda operates.

Agent Storm: A spy inside Al Qaeda - Morten Storm

This book is a fascinating account of a western spy deep within Al Qaeda, a man named Morten Storm. Morten worked for MI5, MI6 the CIA and PET. The book is co-written by journalists Mark Cruickshank and Tim Lister. 

The book is currently in development as a movie with Director Paul Greengrass (of Bourne film fame). So read it before the movie comes out!

The Plot to Hack America – Malcolm Nance

Malcolm was a guest on the podcast and he was writing about the "Russia Hack" before it became a fashionable topic.

Despite coming out in September 2016 this book is still a brilliant account of all the details of who the key players are and their motives. In many ways this book is a modern classic as some of the things mentioned when it was written were totally ignored by the press during the 2016 election. Now much of the book is headline news! 

Well done Malcolm for being hot on the money with this one!

Deception – Edward Lucas

I first read this book in late 2013 and it was a real game changer for my understanding of contemporary Russian geo-political aims. The book goes into detail about how Russia uses its vast intelligence network to achieve those aims. If you need a crash course into the background as to why Russia would use, what is known as "active measures" to influence public opinion, you could not go far wrong with this book.

MOVIES & TV

Alongside being a huge spy-buff, I am equally a film-buff and TV Nerd.

Here are some suggestions for spy related holiday viewing that does not involve James Bond, Jason Bourne or John Le Carre (Though I am a big fan of them all).

Spy Game– 2001

I love this movie! It’s a fun film that really gives the viewer an idea of the double crossing and game of wits that espionage really is.

CIA veteran Nathan Muir, has to go up against the CIA top brass to rescue his protégé Tom Bishop, who faces certain death in a Chinese prison.

Spy Game stars Robert Redford as Muir and Brad Pitt as Bishop. The film was directed by the late and great Tony Scott (Director of Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State and True Romance, to name a few)

The Sandbaggers – 1978-1980

This is a classic British TV drama that is centered on SIS’s (MI6) special operations division, which is nicked named “The Sandbaggers”.

This show has been called the best and most accurate spy drama to be ever made, and John Le Carre is nowhere to be seen. In fact there is speculation as to whether its creator Ian Mackintosh was once connected to SIS (MI6) himself.

Sadly during the third and what would be final series of the show, creator Ian Mackintosh disappeared under mysterious circumstances on a plane trip over the Gulf of Alaska. Due to the nature of the show and his knowledge of the world of intelligence, many have speculated as to whether he died or defected. 

Code Name Kyril -1987

In keeping with our double crossing theme, it is the holiday season after all, and one has to keep their wits about them!

I suggest getting a copy of this late 1980’s British Spy Mini-Series starring Edward Woodward (of “The Equalizer” and “Callan” fame)

The show focuses on a KGB agent who has been tasked with an “off book” mission to try and flush out a double agent deep within the KGB.  Needless to say this mission does become quite complex. Do keep with it as it has some very satisfying twists and turns. (Someone on YouTube created a flow chart to keep track of the plot)

You thought Bill Hayden was a tricky devil, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Black Sunday – 1978

This film involves three of my favourite topics; espionage, terrorism and blimps! Yep, since seeing “A View to A Kill” in 1987 I have had bit of a blimp fascination.

Anyway, blimps aside this film is based on a book by Thomas Harris (creator of Hannibal Lector) and is directed by the late and great John Frankenheimer, (The Manchurian Candidate, The Train, Ronin and many more!)

The story follows a MOSSAD agent played by Robert Shaw (Jaws, From Russia with Love) as he tracks a terrorist from the "Black September" group to the United States. MOSSAD and the FBI have to find this terrorist before "Black September" can action their plan. The film is an action thriller as well as a character drama. You can see how it has influenced films such as "The Sum of All Fears" as well as the first series of "Homeland".

Fun game, see if you can spot the scene that inspired a character in Kill Bill

And

Blimps!

Carlos – The Mini Series or The Movie (your choice)

Now if you have six hours to kill over the holiday period and you want to find out more about terrorism in the late 1970s through to the early 1990’s, then may I suggest to you “Carlos: The mini-series”.

If you only have three hours spare then I suggest you watch “Carlos: The Movie”. Which is a cut down version of the TV series.

"Carlos" is a French made portrait of one of the world's first celebrity terrorists “Carlos the Jackal” AKA Illich Ramirez Sanchez. The film follows his career of terror from its beginnings in Paris, then it focuses on the infamous OPEC hostage situation (which arguably put Carlos on the map) through to the end of his career in the 1990s.

THE MINI SERIES

THE MOVIE

SPY GADGETS

Well I’ve had a look at a few and these stood out.

*DISCLAIMER: I have not used the following Gadgets and Toys. And unless you are a professional spy, then I suggest you use the following items under strict adult supervision or in the presence of a professional as you don’t want to get your self into trouble. In other words, Kids do not spy on strangers!!

Okay, my lawyers can breath again.

Spy Net: Snake Cam

This looks like a very low budget version of the camera the SAS famously used during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980. It looks like a lot of fun. The snake cam connects to a video watch and enables you to watch things from awkward angles* (Please refer to disclaimer before use)

EACHINE E10C Mini Quadcopter Drone with HD Camera

Okay who watched “Eye in the Sky” and saw that cool little mini drone that snuck into the terrorist house and thought “I want one”?

Well I did!

Anyway, this appears to be the closest thing to that mini drone before you become a member of the intelligence services. Enjoy responsibly* (Please refer to disclaimer before use)

Mengshen: Mini Spy Microphone

Want to find out what your parents or loved ones are plotting for Christmas? Then look no further.

With the Mengshen Mini Spy Microphone you can evesdrop on conversations in the other room* (Please refer to disclaimer before use)

One Man Mini Sub

If your personal spy budget is on par with the CIA and you enjoy swimming, may I suggest to you the one man mini sub? 

Sadly the one man mini sub is not a mini “Red October”, however it is a submersible scooter which looks like something out of “Thunderball” or “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

So I would say it is a must for James Bond Fans.

For espionage activities, I'm not sure how effective it would be as its painted bright yellow! Though I am sure if you spoke with your local mini-sub dealer they could organise a camouflage paint job for you.

one-man-mini-sub-640x533.jpg

https://www.spycatcheronline.co.uk/one-man-mini-sub.html?___SID=U

Armored Mercedes

If you are looking to pimp your ride in the new year, or you happen to live in a less than desirable neighborhood, then this car could be for you! 

Priced at a whopping £65,000 ($86,000 approx.), it disappointingly only comes with a CD player. Come on, its 2017, surely an MP3 player wouldn't be too hard to fit!

Though it does boast “B7-level protection" that can reportedly withstand a hand grenade detonation! Now that's pretty cool. 

I am not sure what resistance it has for supermarket carparks, but you would think if it could handle a grenade, it could handle a ding or two, wouldn't you? 

So maybe it's worth thinking of this car as an investment. Think of the money you could save on painting over scratches and dents.

merchero-1_1.jpg

https://www.spycatcheronline.co.uk/armoured-mercedes-s600.html

 

THATS ALL FOLKS

Well I hope my suggestions were helpful.

I would like to just take a moment to wish you a safe and happy Spymass ™ holiday break!

Thank you for supporting the podcast.

Until next time…….

 

All the best

Chris