Once upon a time CIA agents communicated through a series of hidden messages based only on the way they tied their shoelaces!
While nobody can know for sure all of the secrets the CIA agents know, a few years ago a fascinating trick from the old agents’ repertoire was revealed.
A former CIA recruit named Robert Wallace and a historian named H. Keith Melton wrote a book, entitled The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception. One of the tricks explained in the book was how old agents communicated with each other during the Cold War without even speaking a word out loud, making a head motion or a hand gesture. The communication technique is known as shoelace communication. So, what does that mean exactly? Well, instead of saying things like “Come with me” or “I have some crucial information you need to hear” agents “spoke” to each other through the way they tied their shoelaces. For example, there were three ways they could tangle up the laces and the three patterns meant “I have information”, “Follow me” and “I have brought another person”. This way the agents were able to communicate amongst each other without raising any suspicion.
The book is based on a couple of manuals written by a stage illusionist named John Mulholland. He was hired by the CIA during the time of the Cold War in order to help them develop hand tricks and signals that wouldn’t raise suspicion amongst other agents, civilians or any enemies. Apart from the shoelace communication techniques, the magician also taught the agents how to master the art of secret signals and trickery – by acting completely calm and natural. In other words, the perfect agents were nothing like James Bond – they were bland, boring and average-looking. Which is exactly what made them perfect for the agency!