What are the 40 full "Moscow Rules"?
January 5, 2006 5:25 PM   Subscribe

What are the 40 full "Moscow Rules"? An abridged version of the Moscow Rules has been posted several times. There were apparently 40 original Moscow Rules, a set of guidelines created by the CIA to benefit them in their operations in Russia. Where can I find the full 40 rules?
posted by arimathea to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Interesting, I can't find a primary source for this. All sites mention it use similar language and the number is always 13. Since they were so generalized, I was about to write it off as a urban myth and no such list existed (come on,
how is: Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action, suppose to really help?).

Then I found this link from military.com, "Here is an abbreviated list of the declassified 'Moscow Rules'"

I doubt you'll be able to find all 40.
posted by geoff. at 5:36 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm just transcribing this from geoff's link for posterity... you know how those fickle press stories vanish overnight.
* Assume nothing.
* Murphy is right.
* Never go against your gut; it is your operational antenna.
* Don't look back - you are never completely alone.
* Any operation can be aborted. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
* Maintain a natural pace.
* Lull them into a sense of complacency.
* Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly.
* Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
* Don't harass the opposition.
* There is no limit to a human being's ability to rationalize the truth.
* Technology will always let you down.
* Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:10 PM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just found this on Wikipedia but it is nothing extra... it looks like everyone there is coming up dry, too on the remainder.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:13 PM on January 5, 2006

I was given the "Moscow Rules of Engagement" by someone as a joke before I went to Russia as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2000. I'm pretty sure that what I got was not the abbreviated version as it was several pages long. It seems like the rules might be described in some detail in the book "Master of Disguise" (starting on page 204). According to the book, the first rule is "Assume every Soviet you encounter is connected to a larger surveillance apparatus."

Now, I'm curious. I'll have to go search through my closet to see if I can find the list...

BTW, Peace Corps was "asked to leave" Russia in 2002 because they thought we were all spies. LOL
posted by zharptitsa at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2006

The most insightful - though not complete - exploration of Moscow Rules and their exercise that I have ever seen is in a novel, of all places. Search inside John LeCarre's Smiley's People and you'll find a number of them in action.


* Relying on face-to-face meetings
* Always being in a private setting when handing over items of value
* Whenever carrying items of value (i.e. microfilm) carry them camouflaged for immediate discard. (The dead general was carrying his microfilm in a cigarette packet).
* Use of sign and counter-sign to signal (pins, chalk) that surroundings have been reconnoitered and coast is clear to proceed to rendezvous
* Use of dead letter drops, and other "tradecraft"
* Never traveling directly to a rendezvous, never taking a single taxi to destination

And so on. I could not recommend Smiley's People and the two volumes of the "Karla Trilogy" that came before it (Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy and Honourable Schoolboy) more highly. I read it for entertainment and discovered literature.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2006

Don't miss the Moscow Rules t-shirt.
posted by dhartung at 11:35 PM on January 5, 2006

Another abbreviated list. This one says that a thorough discussion is available in the book A Guidebook for the Beginning Sweeper, by one Glenn H. Whidden. Whidden's e-mail (unknown if active). Book here for $45.
posted by dhartung at 11:44 PM on January 5, 2006

my impression was that "moscow rules" for smiley et al was a generic term for an attitude, not a name for powerpoint presentation. maybe that's just the difference the atlantic makes.

same experience with those books, incidentally. not read his stuff for ages (there was a fascinating autobiography in the london review of books - his father was a con man, very strange childhood), but i think the latest got a good review. might try it.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:55 AM on January 6, 2006

The lists given by sacre_bleu and linked to by dhartung look like they could be real (used by actual professionals). The one transcribed by rolypolyman doesn't pass the bullshit test.
posted by languagehat at 5:49 AM on January 6, 2006

Coming back to this (for reasons of my own), it appears that rolypolyman's list is a jumbled version of a list attributed to retired CIA master of disguise Antonio "Tony" Mendez (who has had a Discovery TV show about his exploits). Thus we come full circle to the military.com article.

In Mendez's own book he says "Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood ... By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense..."

Thus, it appears there may have been no agreed-on canonical list, and it probably changed over time. The Moscow Rules were promulgated ca. 1985 by agent Jack Platt in his six-week training course for agents being newly sent to Moscow (as part of a tactic to keep the KGB on its toes), but it's not clear whether they existed before that point.

Alternatively, some of the 40 alleged rules may remain classified to this day.
posted by dhartung at 3:18 AM on January 17, 2006

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