Classified Advice from the CIA Leaked on How to Travel Like a Spy (Hint: Don’t Fly United)

The latest Wikileaks release includes a document filled with travel advice. The most recent leaked version appears to be from a year ago, with the only comment on it from January 2016.

It’s clearly not an official management-driven document. Instead it’s a document produced by one officer to provide helpful advice to others in the agency, specifically for travel to Germany (Frankfurt).

Hence the suggestion to drink alcohol (“Booze is free so enjoy”) and to avoid United but if you have to at least it helps towards elite status (“My condolences, but at least you are earning a United leg towards a status increase.”) On United, of course, only house beer and wine are complimentary in economy. And of course flying Lufthansa does earn credit towards United status too.

They suggest letting your personal credit card company know you’re traveling, make sure you know your PIN if you want to use it to get cash from an ATM, and beware that grocery stores are closed on Sundays. And try to dispose of Euros before returning home, apparently the ‘record low’ amount of leftover cash reported to the CIA was 52 euro cents.

This isn’t the first CIA travel guide that’s been leaked, in 2014 Wikileaks dumped a more official September 2011 guide to making it through secondary screening at airports around the world and a January 2012 guide to infiltrating European Schengen borders.

The ‘official’ advice from the earlier leak included,

Manifests for Czech Airlines flights departing Prague airport are scrutinised for “ticket purchase anomalies” such as buying one-way tickets in cash just before travel. Across the border in Hungary, officials of the Special Service for National Security look for “carelessly packed baggage” belong to passengers purportedly travelling on business.

Langley’s travel advisers warn against inappropriate dress, citing the example of a scruffy CIA spy picked up for secondary screening while changing planes at an unnamed European airport: “Overly casual dress inconsistent with being a diplomatic passport holder may have prompted the referral.”

CIA officers (excuse me, ‘State Department employees’) were advised that Amsterdam border officials spend only 10 seconds on average per person but that undercover officers in Bahrain scan the arrivals area for nervous passengers and Bulgaria’s border police watch travelers from the back of the passport line for suspicious behavior.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Looks like they don’t know about converting leftover Euros and putting them on your Starbucks card. Opps. I’ve said too much already. 😉

  2. @William Reading – MIND. BLOWN. Here I am, not using my starbucks app when I travel, thinking it’s only good in USD. Love it!

  3. From a DEA directive, ’note you cannot convert your Thailand leftover money via Starbucks card, Thailand Starbucks cards are only good in Thailand……..

    Also a dozen other countries have the same SC restriction.

  4. “Starbucks has a single giftcard system for everywhere and will automatically do forex for you.”

    This is untrue. It only applies to a highly limited number of countries, none of which are on the Euro, as far as I know:

    Per Starbucks T&Cs: “Starbucks Cards purchased in the United States may also be used in Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Australia, Macau and Hong Kong.”

    Also, I do know that my US Starbucks card failed to work anywhere in China in November 2017.

  5. @Logan

    Some valuable information, but your speculation was inaccurate. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro.

  6. P. S. Should any member of your team be caught and beaten while flying United, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This memo will self destruct in five seconds.

  7. When I was a “spook,” we only flew Lufthansa, as only a naive would fly any of the US3, unless the real good ol’days when TWA and Pan Am flew.. And by the 1980s, Business Class was the place to be, if tolerated by your spy master. Obviously, the Ruskies persisted trying to fake it by flying KLM.

    Once, i almost gave myself away when flying my beloved Lufthansa first class between Frankfurt-Tel Aviv, when I blew my Orthodox Hassidic disguise and requested the FAs to set-up their champagne and caviar unused by the real religious travelers on the 747 upper deck. Oy, my kingdom for champagne and caviar, which clearly separated Mossad from CIA and MI6.

    Now, a new chapter in the “Spy Wo Came in from the Cold” who continues with Lufthansa, just in respect to the good ol’ day’s.

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