Read the article on 11 Terms Used by Spies on How Stuff Works, Culture.

The Last Goodnight by Howard BlumOf these, #8 is the one you’ll find in The Last Goodnight.

8. Honeypot

A honeypot is a trap that uses sex to lure an enemy agent into disclosing classified information or, in some cases, to capture or kill them. In the classic Hitchcock film North by Northwest, Eva Marie Saint’s character was both a honeypot and a double agent. In real life, in 1961, U.S. diplomat Irvin Scarbeck was blackmailed into providing secrets after he was lured by a female Polish agent and photographed in a compromising position.


Spies have their own secret language to keep from being discovered. By spying on these spies, we’ve managed to uncover the meaning of some of their terms.

1. Black Bag Job

A black bag job, or black bag operation, is a covert entry into a building to plant surveillance equipment or find and copy documents, computer data, or cryptographic keys. The name is derived from the black bags spies used to carry the equipment for such operations. In 1972, the Supreme Court declared black bag jobs unconstitutional, but are bags of different colors okay?

2. Brush Contact

A brush contact is a brief and public meeting in which two spies discreetly exchange documents, funds, or information without speaking to each other, except perhaps to utter “Excuse me” or other pleasantries. To the average person, the interaction would seem like an accidental encounter between two strangers.

3. L-Pill

An L-pill is a lethal pill carried by spies to prevent them from revealing secrets if captured and tortured. During World War II, some L-pills contained a lethal dose of cyanide encased in a glass capsule that could be concealed in a fake tooth and released by the agent’s tongue. If he bit into the capsule and broke the glass, he would die almost immediately. But if the pill came loose and was swallowed accidentally while the agent was sleeping or chewing gum, it would pass through his system without causing any harm, as long as it didn’t break and release the poison.

4. Window Dressing

The best spies are able to blend into any situation. To accomplish this, they use window dressing — the cover story and accessories they use to convince the authorities and casual observers that they are everyday people and not spies. For example, if a spy is disguised as a construction worker to cover the fact that he is planting a listening device, his window dressing might include official-looking work orders, tools, and knowledge of the people who would have authorized his presence.

Find the other 7 terms used by spies.


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