Wigs and map in alleged US spy kit

2013-05-15 22:11
FBI agents . (The Charlotte Observer, Robert Lahser/ AP)

FBI agents . (The Charlotte Observer, Robert Lahser/ AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Moscow - A couple of wigs, sunglasses and a compass? Really?

Some of the items Russian authorities say they seized from a US diplomat who they accuse of spying look like they came from Austin Powers' arsenal rather than James Bond's.

But while the old-fashioned items might seem clownish or reminiscent of Cold War intrigues, they could in some ways be more useful than many modern gadgets, experts say.

Bob Ayers, a former US intelligence officer, said disguises and cash drops have long been staples of the spy world, but cautioned that even an old mobile phone could undo an effort to get off the grid using a compass and map. He added: "You can't assume that every agent always acts in a rational way."

Here is a look at the items that Russia's Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, proudly displayed as trophies after grabbing the American:


A blond one and another equally fluffy dark one, the wigs offer a quick and efficient disguise. But there is one small problem: While they might help you get lost in a marijuana-loving crowd in Amsterdam, they would instantly draw attention to you on the streets of Moscow, where most men sport crew cuts. That said, Ayers noted that even a bad wig can make it tough to follow someone via CCTV cameras.


Another tried but true way to quickly change appearance. One of the three pairs, the one in dark plastic, appears to have transparent or only slightly tinted lenses. An attempt at a professorial look?


A generous advance to encourage a would-be agent. The currency is euros, which most Russians these days prefer as an illicit cash reward or a bribe.


Contains detailed instructions for a would-be agent about secure communications and future meetings. Also promises a $100 000 advance and a $1 million annual reward for "long-term co-operation." The mention of dollars as the currency of payment in the letter curiously differs from the euros in the actual cash.


A conservative means of finding your way in the age of Google maps. But think about it: using a digital map application on your cellphone could make you more vulnerable to anyone shadowing you.


The essential complement to the map.


A must for those who love to lurk in dark corners. It also could help protect you from falling into a pit on one of those badly paved and poorly lit Moscow streets.


An old but reliable Nokia model that boasts good battery life. Equipped with a hands-free cord. Ayers cautioned that the user would need to remove the battery when they wanted to avoid being tracked.

Sim cards

There are two, each belonging to a different Russian mobile phone operator. SIM cards are exchangeable identity chips used in cellphones, and they can be obtained anonymously in Russia.

Pocket knife

Helpful if you live a life of adventure. Or even if you don't.

Pepper gas

May offer some degree of protection in the Russian capital, especially against the stray dogs.


Conveniently has a smaller pocket knife, a small flashlight and what could be a radio scanner attached.


A couple of ordinary looking batteries — or something disguised as such?


Contains some scribbled handwritten notes.

Rfid shield

A protective sleeve that prevents anyone from reading private information from credit cards and other items.


Maybe it's just a lighter.

Read more on:    us  |  russia  |  espionage

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.