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.

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.


Wigs and map in alleged US spy kit

16 May 2013, 08:39 Paisley Dodds

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.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

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

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Apologise for attack on Auditor G...

Apologise for attack on Auditor General, President Uhuru Kenyatta is told by Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong'o. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Quit if you can't fight corruptio...

An MP has told President Uhuru Kenyatta to quit office if he cannot fight corruption. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Investigate Uhuru, Ruto for corru...

Investigate President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto's offices over corruption, CORD leader Raila Odinga has said. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Its a 1 horse race to State House...

Its a 1 horse race to State House, DP William Ruto has mocked the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Enjoy your time left in power, We...

CORD Co Principal Moses Wetangu'la has told the Jubilee Coalition to enjoy its last few months in power before it is voted out in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Stop hiding in State House and sa...

ODM MP's have called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to release drought aid and to stop sitting on public funds. Read more...