WikiLeaks has released two documents allegedly belonging to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), advising undercover agents on how to maintain their cover while using false documents as they cross international borders.
The documents, released on Sunday, December 22, were classified under the top secret “NONFORN” label, meaning they were not to be shared even with allied intelligence services. Dated September 2011 and January 2012, they provide operatives with a series of strategies to avoid secondary screenings at airports and borders, including in US-allied countries in Europe.
Some suggestions may seem obvious, such as the suggestion to avoid buying a one-way ticket with cash the day before flying. Others tell agents how to maintain a credible cover story, recommending they avoid looking unkempt while traveling on a diplomatic passport.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 21, 2014
In once case cited by the document, an agent was selected for a secondary screening at an European airport. Migration officials swabbed his bag for explosives, which tested positive. Despite rigorous questioning, the agent stuck to his cover — that he had been involved in anti-terrorism training in the United States — and was cleared to continue his journey.
According to one of the CIA documents, a “consistent, well-rehearsed, and plausible cover is important for avoiding secondary selection and critical for surviving it.”
The case studies mentioned in the document incurred several criticisms from WikiLeaks. The above example, for instance, raised the question: “what was a CIA officer really doing passing through [a European Union] airport with traces of explosives on him, and why was he allowed to continue?,” according to a statement by the whistleblowing organization founded by Julian Assange in 2007.
“The CIA has carried out kidnappings from European Union states, including Italy and Sweden, during the Bush administration. These manuals show that under the Obama administration the CIA is still intent on infiltrating European Union borders and conducting clandestine operations in EU member states,” Assange wrote.
The documents also recommend that agents cultivate a consistent online presence for their operating alibi to avoid suspicion. Agents are also advised to carry luggage matching their journey itinerary and identity profile.
Assange has spent the past two years living in Ecuador’s UK embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces charges for sexual offenses allegedly committed in August 2010.
The one-time hacker and programmer has claimed that he would face proceedings, but to do so would risk extradition to the United States for his role in leaking national security documents. The Ecuadorian government has argued that he would then face mistreatment at the hands of US authorities.