Former Secret CIA Manual Goes On Sale

A CIA manual instructing US agents on the use of magic tricks during the Cold War has gone on sale. It was written in 1953 by magician John Mulholland. It includes deceptions such as spiking drinks, pocketing small objects and tying shoelaces to communicate in code. The CIA ordered copies destroyed in the 1970s, but one survived.

Among several deceptions detailed in the book, it instructs spies on how to tie their shoelaces to signal other spies – “I have information”, “Follow me”, or “I have brought another person”.
It also shows operatives how to conceal a doping pill in a matchbook, and then covertly drop it into a person’s drink while distracting them.

A former CIA agent recalled how this book had saved many a life over the years. “I recall we were in Russia years back and one of our agents had to flee as the NKVD, were after him. He was stranded with his back against the wall. In an instant he had removed a newspaper from his briefcase and with a few snips of his scissors he had created a paper ladder and made his escape. In 1965 we managed to assassinate a double agent when he opened an innocent looking tin of nuts and the toy snake inside shot through his eye and killed him instantly. We were banned from using itching powder after another incident but I cannot go in to the details for fear of what may happen to me.”

The guide was part of a larger CIA programme, called Project MK-Ultra, aimed at countering the Soviet mind-control techniques of the Cold War era.
But Mr McLaughlin says that to the best of his knowledge, the drink-spiking techniques “were never actually used other than at staff parties”.

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