Monday, March 30, 2015

Swiftshadow, Book 3 of the Spies Lie series by DS Kane hits Amazon's BESTSELLER List

From March 19 through March 21, Swiftshadow, Book 3 of the Spies Lie series by DS Kane was on Amazon's BESTSELLER List, as high as number 10 in Technothrillers and number 17 in Espionage.

During that three day span, Swiftshadow's positon exceeded that of other popular thriller authors, including:

  • B, V. Larson (Techworld, #21, Dust World #29, #69, Extinction #31, Swarm #33, #56, Annihilation #46, The Dead Sun #47, Conquest #36, Exile #41, #53, Rebellion #42, Storm Assault #50, Conquest #51, Tech World #19, #21, #49, Battle Station #61, Empire #62, Army of One #77, Starfire #85)

  • James Patterson (Private Vegas #16, #25)

  • Dale Brown (Starfire #36)

  • William Gibson (The Peripheral #45, #68, 95)

  • Bob Mayer (The Gate #41)

  • Tom Clancy (Rainbow Six #54, #70, Threat Vector #52, #55, Locked On #65, 80 Cardinal of the Kremlin #67, Debt of Honor #76, Red Storm Rising #90, Clear and Present Danger #93)

  • J. A. Konrath (The List #75)

  • Michael Crichton (State of Fear #86)

  • Mark Greaney (Back Blast #72)

  • Chuck Palahniuk (Beautiful You #81)

  • Daniel Suarez (Daemon #81)

  • Dan Brown (Digital Fortress #93)

Thanks Rebecca Berus of, my marketing guru. And thanks, to everyone who bought a copy. Thanks to all who read and reviewed it.

All my reviews for Swiftshadow are five-star!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Intelligence Services Are Organized To Cause Tension Through Competition

Analysts are arranged by country desks. They may or may not receive regional intelligence monitored by competing country desks, and when they do, it may not be as current as it needs to be to understand emerging events. Intelligence collected by country desk analysts often comes from in-country covert operatives who either run networks of collaborator assets, or are themselves espionage operatives with backstopped legends and under deep cover.

Black teams are a different thing altogether. Each team has members with different special skills, and there are skills overlaps across the team. Each skill fits a particular situation the team is likely to face, for example: sniper shooting, explosives, handguns, bladed weapons, safecracking, interrogation, and extreme driving. Their language skills would be a fit to the region where they work. Within a team, there is some amount of competition for team leader, should the current commander be unable to continue in that role. Across teams within a region, there is heavy competition for the best assignments. There is also competition across regions for budget money.

The tensions resulting from these competitive situations across highly skilled and naturally competitive people tends to cause communications problems. And, even more importantly, there is competition across the agencies and services for their own funding. The result is that sometimes, an agency may not communicate a serious situation to another agency that could deal with it if they only knew. Think: The precursor events to 911.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Weapons and Technology Spies Use

Most high tech equipment that used to be available only to spies through their handler organizations is now available in large degree to everyone. Some isn’t yet, but commercial versions of those are either on-the-way or being used only by those who can afford them. Here’s a shopping list of carrying items for any covert operative travelling a dangerous foreign country. Make sure each of these is in your mission bag:

  • A ceramic handgun (undetectable at an airport) and at least 50 rounds of ceramic ammunition;
  • A ceramic switchblade;
  • A cell phone with a removable battery, a high definition camera and multiple micro SD cards; and,

  • A complete makeup kit.

And, others, (which are found in my fiction) if you can get them:

  • Clothing treated with STF (stress thickening fluid), to make it bullet-resistant and knife-proof. This one is very real and is being used by the US Army. Versions are being used in the garment industry, for clothing sold to the very rich (and the very paranoid);

  • A “fly” (under ¼ inch electromechanical drone that looks like a fly, carries a set of stereoscopic cams and a microphone to transmit back what it sees and hears, a transmitter to send and receive, wings to take the “fly” where it needs to go, legs that are treated to “stick” to where it lands, and a small compartment to house either explosive or gas to render those in a room either dead or unconscious); and,
  • Tiny zip-lok bags each one carrying a “Bug-Lok” (also called the DeathByte) nano-device that is designed to be either ingested or injected, and latches to a neural bundle in the medulla oblongata, where it collects neural transmissions from the optic and aural nerves, and transmits what the subject sees and hears by using its molecular transmitter to hack  into any local area network, and from there, transmits the data on to the subject’s handler. Such a device can also be “fitted” with a tiny compartment containing a concentrated fast-acting poison to permanently “render” the subject).

Who Can A Spy Trust? Who Can Anyone Trust

The first, the most important of the Moscow Rules, which is the spy’s basic instruction set, is: Trust no one. Failure to obey this mantra is the primary reason a spy’s covers gets blown and often reason for an untimely demise.

One of my friends, who is one of the original cypherpunks (along with Julian Assange), told me that organizations which purport to support individual privacy are often fronts for the intelligence services that want to end individual privacy. Nothing is really what it appears to be. The historical precedents for this abound. One good example should suffice: In the early 1920’s, many of the anti-Bolshevik groups in London were actually sponsored and funded by the Checka’s successor organization, the OGPU (KGB’s predecessor organization). They encouraged dissidents to return to Moscow where they would be received as counter-revolutionary soldiers to fight the Bolsheviks. When they arrived, the Bolsheviks were waiting, and they arrested, tried and executed the na├»ve counter-revolutionaries.

Hackers have claimed the NSA sponsors many right-to-privacy groups using this time-honored tactic. Once they know you are “dangerous,” they have all your data and easily can surveil you, hoping your own contacts will provide a trove of additional potential dissidents.

I was active in undercover operations for a decade. I lived my cover, I never told my first wife, and was happy about the lie of omission when we divorced. If not, she’d have had a big negotiating chip. Then I remarried. It was nearly twenty years after my second marriage before I had to tell my second wife, when I had a problem with my former handler. When I did, at first she didn’t believe me. I guess I’d done a better job of obfuscation than I’d thought.

Divulging your cover is the one truth better left unsaid. And now, I’ve disclosed it to the world. Doing that is the only good alternative from keeping it secret from everyone.

Once again: trust no one.

Whether Spies Focus Mostly on Enemies or Also on American Allies

As longtime friend and NY Times bestselling thriller author Barry Eisler says, “The CIA is the post office with spies." My own little addition would be, "The business of spying is concealing truths and spreading lies.” Which raises the question: Is there any difference in how we treat our allies and how we treat our enemies?
At the CIA, for example, there are “country desks” where specialists who understand a country’s language and culture are grouped. These desks aren’t peopled with spies, they’re analysts. And, yes, we have country desks for every important country.
In similar fashion, every spy is trained to understand the turf they are sent to spy within. Every intelligence service on the planet uses a similar organization. The weakness in such an approach is that at some point, the same faces in the same places tend to get recognized.

Every country spies on every other country. Ally or enemy, doesn’t matter. Yesterday’s enemy may become tomorrow’s friend, and visa versa.
One other point: Moles, doubles, triples and whistle blowers. Every country has those nested within their intelligence services, and every other country tries to leverage these. It matters not whether the country being ripped off is a friend or an enemy. In spycraft affairs, there are no rules of behavior.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How Spies are Affected by Current Events

A spy’s life is almost entirely run by the news cycle. We assist in political plans that become the next day’s news cycle. We react to events that were yesterdays’ news cycle. We often are part of the events that are the current news cycle. Remember the mantra: Spies lie. We conceal secrets and tell lies. Many of the things politicians say as “truth” are nothing more than the lies told them by their country’s intelligence services. In effect, history is manufactured through espionage.

In “peace time,” when there are no looming crises, governments are often tempted to slash the budgets for their intelligence services. In the early 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet Union, for example, in the United States there was discussion of closing down the CIA and mothballing our navy. Indeed, we closed many of our domestic military bases, including Fort Ord, nearby where I live. This behavior is anathema to intelligence services, and they fight hard to keep our new eneies forefront in the minds of our politicians. No wonder they lie. Remember “Weapons of mass destruction?”

How Spies Curate Information

The days of cold-war micro-cameras are over.

Everyone carries a cell phone that can do the job. The cell will have a USB connection for recharging, and that very port can also connect the cell phone to a large-scale storage device or even a computer. It can also store locally on a micro SD card, and the card can easily be exchanged and handed off to a courier. Keeping the card within the cell phone for the shortest possible time means less possibility of detection by an intelligence agency with technical snooping capabilities. Once the micro SD is out of the cell phone, no detection is possible. Your only problem is finding a safe place to make a switch of the micro SD with the target intelligence for a fresh one.

For those with better technology in their spy services, even air-gapped computers aren’t safe from snooping. The Israelis have “smart dust,” which looks like real dust, but can grab the data off a computer and then pirate onto any network and send the information back to the handlers somewhere far away. And, if it’s possible to get to the physical location of the computer, just a few seconds is enough to embed a sniffer into it. This tiny piece of tech copies the hard drive and all the data received or keyed, and transmits it out.

The only question is whether the folks being pilfered have the tech to detect they’ve been buggered. And, that’s why tech keeps changing: it’s a war of constant updates.

Dead drops (a safe place to store the micro SD card until a partner can retrieve it, sometimes referred to as a “slick”) have been replaced by uploads to the draft folder of a web site, or placement into the actual code of an MMORG computer game. Or placement within a .jpg photograph which the spy then uploads onto a Facebook page or sends out via a tweet.

A brave new world of continuous technological change.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Day in a Spy’s Actual Life

I’ve heard that old line about life in the military: Long periods of boredom separated by short periods of sheer terror. This also applies to the life of a spy. The punishment for being caught is death (at worst) or at least prison until a trade can be arranged, which can take decades. The rewards for success are almost totally nonexistent.

When you wake in the morning, your “to do” list is similar to that of any white collar or blue collar worker. Get ready for work, commute, do your normal job (live your cover) and wait for an opportunity to seek and find valuable intelligence that can help your side. Sound boring? Sound routine? Well, it is. And when the opportunity to strike gold emerges, the sheer terror begins. Everyone lives with some level of fear. But, spies live with an unimaginable adrenaline rush. We all get used to it. Some, a very few, get addicted to the rush, and they take chances a rational human being would never consider. Are spies rational? Hard to say. After a decade of prowling around in darker corners of the world, I can’t claim I was. As a reformed spy, I guess I wasn’t very sensible in those days. It cost me a lot more than was advertised.

I spent hours being briefed, days undercover acting like what I was: a graduate business school faculty member and management consultant in some foreign country gathering information to write a report for my in-country client, and possibly an hour in some off-limits locations copying who-knows-what to bring home for my intelligence service. Then travel back home and debrief. Ten years. Some of my work was pure boredom. A bit of it was death defying. Glad it’s over

What does a spy do when their cover is blown and they’re discovered? RUN! Run as fast as you can, disappear, and find your way out of that country using one of your alternate legends. Get to somewhere safer. Then you must decide whether it’s safe enough to return back to your cover life at home, or to your real life, pretending nothing bad has happened, or a new legend somewhere far away. Very likely, you’re finished as a spy, and you should flee somewhere no one knows you. If you had a family, well, too bad

Status Report: Polished draft of Baksheesh, Book 5 of the Spies Lie series, Swiftshadow on sale for $0.99 next week, Spies Lie Blof posts coming next week

Baksheesh, Book 5 of the Spies Lie series will be on its way to my copyeditor soon. This one was difficult to finish. So many loose ends to connect. But it brings to a conclusion the story of Cassandra Sashakovich. and at the end of the saga... well, no, I can't tell you since I don't want to offer a spoiler.

I expect the book to be released sometime at the beginning of this summer. Like many of my protagonists, Cassandra is in many of the books, but she isn't the protagonist of this book, although she s the principal character. The role of protagonist is Ann Silbey, Cassandra's adopted daughter. Ann develops into a prodigal hacker in Baksheesh.

You'll also discover how the unintended consequences of the original Bloodridge plot sends more bad news throughout the fictional world where spies behave like the Wizard of Oz.

I hope when it's out, you'll read Baksheesh.

Next week, starting Thursday, Swiftshadow, Book 3 of the Spies Lie series will be on sale for $0.99 for a few days only. If you've read the first two books in the series, I promise you this one will excite you even more, with a female hero who defies your expectations. And, at $0.99, how can you not buy it?

Oh, and I will be blogging all about what a spy's life is like. First blog entry right now...