Recent reports out of the UK now can trace Polonium-210 used to poison former KGB officer Litvinenko to not one, but two British Airways 767s that were used recently on the London-Moscow run. The super-spies took the Polonium-210 from London to Moscow, then returned home with the leftovers--and given their trail, they were apparently in a doggie-bag. A few days ago an expert in the field called the spies' tradecraft "really amateur hour." With recent the recent developments, she wrote me back, "This has gone well past the Austin Powers level to Get Smart. And when they finally trace it back to the FSB First Chief Directorate’s offices, it will be a cinch for the Inspector Clousseau Award."
So it seems this new breed of Russian spy could use a few pointers from a former smuggler about how to do it like a pro:
- When you’re going through airport security, make sure you carry a big water bottle. Authorities are on the lookout for those and they’ll be so fixated upon taking it away from you that they won’t notice the clicking Geiger counters.
- Ignore the CIA Italian rendition team’s example and quit collecting frequent flier miles. Keep the boarding passes and send them in later when no one is on the lookout for your trail.
- On the flight to London, whatever you do, don’t lower your window shade for the movie. Turn on your reading light to reduce the chances of anyone noticing your warm afterglow.
- When your hair starts to fall out from radiation poisoning because of your leaking packaging, do not keep running to the airplane lavatory to look in the mirror. Flight attendants are trained to be on the lookout for suspicious activity in the loo and you don’t want them to nab you on suspicion you're mixing a liquid explosives cocktail there.
- If British customs catches you with the Polonium-210, it’s no problem to escape British authorities and get out of the UK. Calmly explain that the Polonium is for the jihad. Before you know it, you’ll be on a CIA rendition flight headed back to a former KGB facility, having cleverly escaped from Great Britain. Cross your fingers your colleagues still have the keys to their old digs.
- If you don’t use all of the Polonium-210, don’t take the extra back to Moscow. Dump it in London. Or better yet, act like a true Russian and sell it on the black market and pocket the money.
- NEVER fly the flag carrier of the country where you’re going to do the op. Did you really think British police wouldn’t have access to the BA planes you flew in on to test them for radiation? Next time use Aeroflot. Sure, the service sucks, but when the British police are hot on your trail, act like your former KGB selves and don’t give them access: crash the planes instead. Then lie about it.
Note to my favorite private spy shop: I'm sensing yet another business opportunity here: training the FSB. But in this case I wouldn't recommend recruiting your staff from their stable. However, I am available for short-term gigs.
UPDATE: The online edition of the British newspaper the Telegraph is now reporting:
The senior government source, who is aware of the discussions of the Cabinet’s emergency committee, Cobra, said the picture of the killers that was emerging was closer to bungling assassins than cool James Bond-type killers.
They also added this fact about the hotel room where Litvinenko was staying:
Clear traces of the radiation were found on the floor of a room, thought to be in the Millennium hotel in central London, the source said, as well as on a light switch in the same room. The traces were so strong that they indicated the actual source of the radiation was present...
Translation: "Whoops! Where's the light switch?"