The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics That Helped America Win the Cold War

The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics That Helped America Win the Cold War

From the spymaster and inspiration for the movie Argo: how a group of brilliant but under-supported CIA operatives developed breakthrough spy tactics that helped turn the tide of the Cold WarAntonio Mendez arrived in Moscow in 1976, at one of the most dangerous moments in the Cold War. Soviets kept files on all foreigners, studied their patterns, tapped their phones, and e...

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Title:The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics That Helped America Win the Cold War
Author:Antonio J. Méndez
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The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics That Helped America Win the Cold War Reviews

  • Jolene Grace

    ‘Moscow Rules‘ by Tony Mendez and Jonna Mendez is out today and I have to say I couldn’t be happier. The book is a thrill ride for spy nerds such as myself who simply wish to read and learn about everything spy related. The book offers an intimate look of how the CIA ran agents and collected information behind the lines of one of the most secretive cities in the world – Moscow. Every page of this book spills secrets.

    Tony Mendez was a spy and an American hero, who with a group of his colleagues d

    ‘Moscow Rules‘ by Tony Mendez and Jonna Mendez is out today and I have to say I couldn’t be happier. The book is a thrill ride for spy nerds such as myself who simply wish to read and learn about everything spy related. The book offers an intimate look of how the CIA ran agents and collected information behind the lines of one of the most secretive cities in the world – Moscow. Every page of this book spills secrets.

    Tony Mendez was a spy and an American hero, who with a group of his colleagues developed tactics to help CIA agents operate undetected in Moscow. At the height of the Cold War the U.S. was on the losing end, with intelligence gathering operations barely functioning in Moscow as a result of the FSB (the Russian equivalent of the CIA) keeping tabs on all foreigners who were in Moscow. Tony, Jonna, and other brave men and women studied the FSB patterns, perfecting the Spycraft and ultimately turning the tide in favor of the U.S.

    ‘Moscow Rules’ takes the reader on a journey offering a deeper look into the extreme lengths spies went through to obtain intel on the Russians. In the business of smoke and mirrors, such tactics ensured the safety of the agents. But most importantly, these tactics prevented a clash between the two countries.

    More so today than ever before when Russian is taking an aggressive approach to undermine our democracy, books such as ‘Moscow Rule’ are imperative to our society. We mush remember that even today there are heroic men and women who operate in the shadow behind the enemy line.

    It’s a splendid read. It’s informative and engaging. Moscow Rules is by far my favorite nonfiction of the year thus far.

  • Sarah

    So great - filled with stories of spy tradecraft from the best in the biz.

  • Julie

    At the height of the Cold War, the CIA developed tactics to use against the KGB known as The Moscow Rules. Author Tony Mendez used his unique skills to help agents in Moscow lose KGB tails, meet with spies, and collect sensitive information. He often used illusionist’s methods to outwit KGB surveillance including slight-of-hand, misdirection, and disguises. It’s the history of how these techniques were used in the 70’s and 80’s by CIA agents stationed in Moscow that Mendez presents here.

    I found

    At the height of the Cold War, the CIA developed tactics to use against the KGB known as The Moscow Rules. Author Tony Mendez used his unique skills to help agents in Moscow lose KGB tails, meet with spies, and collect sensitive information. He often used illusionist’s methods to outwit KGB surveillance including slight-of-hand, misdirection, and disguises. It’s the history of how these techniques were used in the 70’s and 80’s by CIA agents stationed in Moscow that Mendez presents here.

    I found it shocking that despite their best tactics and careful maneuverings, so many of the CIA’s Russian agents were discovered and executed by the KGB. Yes, the U.S. gained priceless intelligence from their spies, but at a cost. Mendez and company had to constantly rethink how to make contact with Russians willing to spy against their country without compromising them, which was never simple or straightforward. This was spy against spy in a ruthless and dangerous environment, and Mendez presents his involvement in an engaging (if somewhat acronym-heavy) way.

    I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

  • Eric

    is an excellent addition to the history of Cold War espionage. Recommended.

    In tales of espionage, the tension of whether the protagonist gets found out and captured drives the narrative. With one chance, does the agent succeed and save the world or fail and let democracy die? In reality, that agent had hundreds of hours of training and support before venturing onto the front lines to exhibit the bravery and skill needed to succe

    is an excellent addition to the history of Cold War espionage. Recommended.

    In tales of espionage, the tension of whether the protagonist gets found out and captured drives the narrative. With one chance, does the agent succeed and save the world or fail and let democracy die? In reality, that agent had hundreds of hours of training and support before venturing onto the front lines to exhibit the bravery and skill needed to succeed. But skill acquisition and practice do not rise to the same level of tension that the actual act of spying achieves. In films, these moments get summarized in a montage (hopefully one with a 80s ballad playing over the top). The professionals who protect this nation – whether they’re the military, the police, the FBI, or CIA operatives – know that practice and dedication to honing one’s craft provides the best odds of not only mission success but survival. The ones on the front lines will be rightly glorified by history, but an expansive look away from those front lines shows large organizations of support. These organizations usually get overlooked until one gets back to the command tent and the person making the decisions. However, the truth is that the support personnel play important roles as well. The trainers, the equipment makers, the engineers, the strategists, cooks, cleaners, planners, quartermasters, all play an important role in keeping the people on the front lines free to do their job. Bringing the role of a support organization was firmly in Antonio and Jonna Mendez’s mind when they wrote "

    ." These two former CIA agents recount the formation of the so-called Moscow Rules in a book filled with history and insight into one of the U.S.’s most secretive institutions.

    I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts are mine alone.

    opens with the loss of one of the CIA’s Soviet informants, Oleg Penkovsky. Then, the authors start a journey through their productive career telling the tale of how the CIA rose from this failure. Moscow, at this time in the Cold War, was sealed up tight by Soviet intelligence units. Surveillance made contacting assets nearly impossible, and internal CIA paranoia stopped operations in the Soviet capital. But soon, an opportunity arose that the CIA could not afford to pass up. Operations needed new methods to free agents from surveillance, and this book describes the process of discovery for those methods.

    Along the way, readers learn of the successes and failures that Antonio and Jonna witnessed during their time working for the CIA. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s no more present than in this history. The authors recount their methods of escaping into “the black,” their jargon for losing all surveillance tails. It’s all here from maneuvers, to masks, to pop-up decoys. It would all seem a bit silly if the authors didn’t soon remind the reader of the stakes. For the Soviets who betrayed their country, a happy ending of defection to the west was rare. While this book lists a number of successes, it also documents the Americans who betrayed their nation and the harm these traitors caused.

    In the Bond movies, James always visited Q for some lovely gadgets to complete the mission. Imagine if Q wrote a book, but instead of cars with oil slicks, the spy equipment were masks, decoys, and sleight of hand. That is "

    ." It’s a book about the craft of shaking surveillance, of information retrieval. The gadgets in this book were infinitely more fascinating because of their practicality. The authors demonstrate that Cold War spies had more in common with stage magicians than action heroes. It’s fascinating to see the evolution of their craft to operate in one of the most dangerous peacetime environments.

    There’s an excellent meditation on what causes people to resort to spying, and the authors differentiate the causes that drove Americans and Soviets to spy. These four motives each have an example to go with them, and it drives home how bad decisions and emotional reactions are ripe for exploitation. Attempting to discern motivations remains one of the difficulties of spying, and throughout, the agency worries about whether the Russians who contact them are real or “dangles” meant to draw out American agents in Moscow.

    This book comes at an important time in the US. The current president and his political party attack members of the Intelligence Community (IC) for political gain, and this book reminds readers that the IC serves the US as well. Antonio and Jonna put names and faces to agents that put their safety on the line to protect this nation. They tell of the Soviets who turned traitor and their fates.

    doesn’t spare the reader from the consequences of betraying one’s nation.

    It’s also a timely reminder that Russia and the man who leads it, despite the current Republican party’s feelings, aren’t the US’s friends. From Lenin to Stalin to Putin, Russia views the United States, in particular, and democracy, in general, as existential threats. Reading

    one can’t help but be nostalgic for a time when the nation had a foreign policy that reflected an understanding of Russia’s threat. Republicans should read this book and remember.

    read more like a conversation. It reminds of an older co-worker on a long digression about their career. This book is told in a stream-of-conscious manner with digressions into the future or the past. It took time to adjust, but it was worth it. This stream-of-conscious style moves back and forth through time in a way that made the book feel unorganized and rushed. This is unfortunately the pairs last book as Antonio passed away in January of 2019. The urgency to get the book done and published pervades the text. With all the stories, one can’t help but wonder what tales we’re missing out on with Antonio’s passing (may he rest in peace).

    Jargon, like “in the black,” and technical devices that the authors are intimately familiar with pepper the book but receive little explanation. The reader is thrown in and expected to keep up. It can be daunting but it ultimately worth it.

    In the US, people thank military personnel for their service. But many, many people serve the country in one form or another. Both Antonio and Jonna served the US in their support roles, and the general public may never know just how much their contributions to the CIA helped protect this nation. So, to both of them, thank you. And ultimately that’s what this book is. It’s a thank you to the Office of Technical Services and their colleagues. Throughout the authors concern and care for their fellow agents is apparent, and by the end, one knows they both loved their work at the CIA.

    Antonio and Jonna Mendez’s

    recounts a career serving the United States of America’s intelligence service. From the early 60s to the 90s, the Cold Warriors that ran assets in Moscow get their recognition here. Read it for the craft of spying; enjoy it for the tales of spies stalking the Moscow streets.

    Available 5/21/2019 from Public Affairs Books.

  • Proforma

    I had no idea. The first hundred Bond movies were before my time, when the Cold War (the first one, the second, current one is unofficial) was still definitely on and the Moscow Rules were essential to mental and physical survival.

    I grew up in the Jason Bourne era of spy movies, less magic more technology. I cannot fully comprehend the terror of going into a hostile environment without a cell phone, a laptop, Google earth and a host of other gadgets.

    When the Mendez's start their stories of disgu

    I had no idea. The first hundred Bond movies were before my time, when the Cold War (the first one, the second, current one is unofficial) was still definitely on and the Moscow Rules were essential to mental and physical survival.

    I grew up in the Jason Bourne era of spy movies, less magic more technology. I cannot fully comprehend the terror of going into a hostile environment without a cell phone, a laptop, Google earth and a host of other gadgets.

    When the Mendez's start their stories of disguise, not only was I hooked but I foresaw a terrible outcome for their agents. Not even the Russians would buy that. But I was wrong (too much Bourne) and the disguises worked beautifully. The eye sees what it wants to and readily excludes everything it is not looking for. I learned that from a Bourne movie.

    As with my previous blog post, as you may have noticed this is also a spy book and good things seem to come in two's.

    Best of Enemies warmed me up to the human aspect involved, and The Moscow Rules solidified those feelings. I took an objective view on what is a spy/traitor/asset last time.

    Things have evolved, now that I know how much effort went in to get these guys and gals Moscow ready, not just losing tails but an entire trick bag of other skills and tools, all done by shadow people and shadow departments who are never the flag in the operation, yet always deployed forward and never recognized, I take the treason of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen personally.

    Fine, if you must be a traitor give them the blueprints to a missile or something, but don't sell out your colleagues or your operational blueprints. I am offended, I wish their mail wasn't monitored because I'd like to explain to them how I am going to (deleted classified). That's what I'd like to do to them.

    Thank you to the authors for this insightful and entertaining book. It came at the right time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I rate this book 4 stars with a strong recommendation to read for all espionage aficionados.

    P.S. Again, Putin comes out smelling like a bad guy... Because maybe he IS a bad guy. Time and Russian dash cams will tell.

  • David Solis

    This book was high up on my list of books I wanted to read. The topic of Cold War espionage has always been fascinating to me and while the book addressed techniques and the atmosphere of what it was like, I’m really disappointed it felt like an autobiography. This isn’t to take away from the author’s stories; they were fascinating and crucial to understanding how pieces fit during those violent 3 decades. The problem was the book listed what were called ‘Moscow Rules’, yet felt each chapter was

    This book was high up on my list of books I wanted to read. The topic of Cold War espionage has always been fascinating to me and while the book addressed techniques and the atmosphere of what it was like, I’m really disappointed it felt like an autobiography. This isn’t to take away from the author’s stories; they were fascinating and crucial to understanding how pieces fit during those violent 3 decades. The problem was the book listed what were called ‘Moscow Rules’, yet felt each chapter was more of a self-glorified recollection of life events of what brought him to the CIA. I wouldn’t recommend this book, but I can value the input.

  • Vheissu

    This book will appeal to those interested in spycraft, U.S.-Soviet relations, and the Cold War. It may also appeal to fans of

    and

    , but I cannot otherwise recommend it to the casual reader. For specialists in the field, the book is a strong argument in favor of human--as opposed to electronic--intelligence operations.

    First, a couple of clarifications. Human intelligence (HUMINT) means information derived from a foreign "agent" and provided to an intelligence "case office

    This book will appeal to those interested in spycraft, U.S.-Soviet relations, and the Cold War. It may also appeal to fans of

    and

    , but I cannot otherwise recommend it to the casual reader. For specialists in the field, the book is a strong argument in favor of human--as opposed to electronic--intelligence operations.

    First, a couple of clarifications. Human intelligence (HUMINT) means information derived from a foreign "agent" and provided to an intelligence "case officer." CIA employees are "officers" and foreign sources are "agents." The agents are essentially traitors and are motivated by four things: money, ideology, compromise, and ego (pp. 97-100). American traitors are mostly interested in the money, although many traitors during and after World War II shared an ideological affinity for communism. Compromise, e.g., blackmail, is less common but not unknown (the case of U.S. Embassy-based Marine Clayton Lonetree). Soviet agents, by comparison, were singularly motivated by ego, which is to say, workplace disgruntlement, revenge, disappointment, anger, frustration, or alienation from the Soviet system.

    Signals intelligence (SIGINT) means information derived from spy satellites, electronic eavesdropping, cryptography, and the like. A great many U.S. agencies engage in signals intelligence but only CIA practices human intelligence. The authors, long-time CIA officers, make the case here for HUMINT, arguing that human sources can provide things like schematics of enemy weapons systems and insights into the motivation of our enemies, whereas SIGNIT can do neither of these things.

    The book's title refers to a set of practices and devices that the authors and others developed exclusively for use in the CIA Moscow Station, including ID transfer, street disguises, surveillance detection runs, the SRR-100 radio monitors [counter-surveillance devices], the JIB [or Jack-in-the-Box popup dummies], subminiature cameras, working in the gap [momentary evasion techniques], and deep-cover case officers" (p. 212). Astonishingly, many of these devices were developed with the aid of Hollywood magicians and film-industry special effects and make-up artists!

    CIA's Moscow Station achieved startling successes using human intelligence during the period covered here but there were also disastrous failures. Some of those failures can be attributed to treachery in the U.S. intelligence community itself (Clayton Lonetree, Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, Edward Lee Howard) and the irresponsible actions of a few journalists (

    ). As Director of Central Intelligence, Admiral Stansfield Turner's hostile attitudes toward human intelligence set back HUMINT activities in Moscow for years and cost 820 loyal and competent officers their jobs (pp. 108-09). A suspicious fire almost destroyed the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1977 and similarly complicated the work of Agency case officers.

    Notwithstanding these setbacks, the authors claim that human intelligence--and the Moscow Rules in particular--played a large role in the victory of the United States in the Cold War. It is difficult to refute this claim. Which brings me to the harassment and interference by the current U.S. administration toward America's law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Simply put, if foreign agents come to feel that the United States is unwilling or unable to protect their secrets, they will just stop talking to us. Human intelligence becomes more difficult if possible at all. That leaves the United States with signals intelligence as our only line of defense against foreign adversaries. That is not only frightening, it is a self-inflicted injury. As the authors note, "We are wading into a new and dangerous territory" (p. 214). Dangerous, indeed.

  • Bonnie

    This was far less excited than I had hoped. There were some great examples of disguising oneself to lose KGB followers, but the author(s) were overly interested in providing details for the relationships and bureaucracy among organizations which ought to have been collaborating. It also appeared that no one went for a final proof-reading and both author's told some of the same stories and the latter version still used the result as a surprise, even though we already knew the outcome.

  • Hannah

    I listened to the audiobook version, and it was easy listening - mainly because there is no depth whatsoever. At least it's short.

    I assume this book is coming out now because some random piece of content has hit a 30-year automatic declassification, but it doesn't

    like there's anything groundbreaking in here. Essentially, it's an overview of the basic "

    " for the behaviour of American CIA agents conducting Cold War espionage told through anecdotes.

    There are some interesting tidb

    I listened to the audiobook version, and it was easy listening - mainly because there is no depth whatsoever. At least it's short.

    I assume this book is coming out now because some random piece of content has hit a 30-year automatic declassification, but it doesn't

    like there's anything groundbreaking in here. Essentially, it's an overview of the basic "

    " for the behaviour of American CIA agents conducting Cold War espionage told through anecdotes.

    There are some interesting tidbits tossed in, specifically about how chemists (lateral thinkers), artists (attention to detail - capable of recreating things without access to cameras or photocopiers), and magicians (sleight of hand, understanding of human attention and perspective) were heavily recruited, but the majority of the book was devoted to the most clichéd "spy moves" from Hollywood movies. More authoritative resources would say that most spycraft is really, really boring and the vast majority of intelligence-gathering activities aren't as clandestine as you'd think: more like moving in the same circles as folks and/or desk work.

    middle graders looking for their First Grownup Nonfiction Book, people who want confirmation that espionage is exactly like what they see in the movies and aren't willing to consider otherwise, those entertaining dreams of being a professional magician.

  • Johnny Williams

    First if you think your are going to enter into a world of intrigue and plots … put it down.

    Moscow rules is a limited documentary with some insight into old spy craft and some outdated technologies. It is shallow in its story telling and jumps around with scarce detail. There is considerable name dropping in an effort to gain some legitimacy.

    There is some entertainment in the short stories of how magicians helped invent some of the devices and some ( albeit limited ) in accounts of how our own

    First if you think your are going to enter into a world of intrigue and plots … put it down.

    Moscow rules is a limited documentary with some insight into old spy craft and some outdated technologies. It is shallow in its story telling and jumps around with scarce detail. There is considerable name dropping in an effort to gain some legitimacy.

    There is some entertainment in the short stories of how magicians helped invent some of the devices and some ( albeit limited ) in accounts of how our own officers turned to spy and ended in the loss of lives of both our officers and our Russian informants.

    I know that the CIA requires its former officers to submit their manuscripts for approval if writing books and articles so don't expect much to be disclosed here.

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