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Mrs. Covert's Spy Lesson #1 :  Listening

Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, said, "One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears - by listening to them."

A spyís most valuable skill is listening. When you are spying on someone, itís important to encourage them to talk. It may take a lot of time to get close enough to listen. I donít mean hiding in the bushes or behind a barrel. I mean having a conversation with the person whose secrets you want to know.

Be a friend. How would a friend respond? What would a friend say?

Remember, you are not in charge. You are there to learn. Ask questions. Be enthusiastic. Make suggestions if you think they are appropriate. Letís say you think one of the students is going to steal the history exam questions. Once you are the suspect's friend, you could try to prevent the crime by offering a group study session. Or if your goal is to get the suspect in trouble, you could suggest ways to steal the questions. Or you could just listen and then ask questions, such as: who will pick the lock? what tools will be used? how will your suspect avoid the custodian? You must never blow your cover and tell your suspect that stealing the questions is bad.

Donít interrupt. Silence can be uncomfortable. People often say more than they intend just to break the silence. Silence is your friend. You can outwait your suspect. Lean forward. Look interested. Focus your mind on the topic. No daydreaming, or planning your next snack. Use a slight smile and nod your head to encourage your suspect once the talking begins.

When you have questions, wait until an appropriate time and then ask them. Donít be in a hurry. Your suspect may answer the questions if you just listen while your suspect talks and be patient during the pauses. If you accept an assignment, repeat your job description to be sure you understand everything. You want to do a good job so your suspect will trust you with more important information.

Donít be a sycophant. Donít give your suspect lots of compliments. Donít agree with your suspect when itís not necessary. Your suspect may suspect you if you say everything is wonderful all the time.

The only way to learn secrets is to be trusted with them. Think about the people you trust. Be honest. Be generous. Donít be careless, or do anything in a hurry. Let your enemy think of you as reliable.

Do your planning before you meet with your suspect. Once you are in the suspectís domain, your goal is to blend in as part of your suspectís team. The only difference between a real member of the suspect team and yourself is that you work overtime Ė against them. Being a spy requires long hours and lots of planning. And when you are on duty, it requires acting ability as well.

Here's a website with letters from Sarah E. Thompson who pretended to be a rebel during the civil war: spy letters  You can see that she was so convincing that a rebel general wanted to marry her to a rebel soldier.

Sneakily,

Mrs. Covert

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Lesson two: Hiding Things