This page collect terms and information related to spy tradecraft that you might find in the Red Sparrow books.


SRAC (Short-range agent communications)

Short range agent communications (SRAC) are one-way or two-way short-range wireless communications used for intelligence purposes. This communications technology became possible with the arrival of the transistor and small scale integrated circuits. In the late 2000s computer WiFi technology and USB Flash Drives had evolved into technologies that ordinary people can buy -- yet can be used in a similar way to SRAC systems.[1]

Glossary of terms

This glossary was part of the Simons & Schuster promotion for the Red Sparrow books in March, 2018. It was posted on a hotsite that was taken down after the promotional period ended. [2]

Click in "Expand" to read each section below.


  • Agent / Asset
A person unofficially employed by an intelligence service, often as a source of information.


  • Babysitter

A bodyguard.

  • Bagman

An agent who pays spies and bribes authorities.

  • Black Bag Job

Secret entry into a home or office to steal or copy materials.

  • Black Operations

Covert operations that are not attributable to the organization performing them.

  • Blown

Discovery of an agent’s true identity or a clandestine activity’s real purpose.

  • Blue-stripe intelligence

The most sensitive and perishable secret intelligence.

  • Bona Fides

Proof of a person’s claimed identity.

  • Breaking the Dishes

Being able to solve unstable, delicate foreign crises wherever they develop.

  • Brush Pass

A brief encounter where something is passed between case officer and agent.

  • Burned
When a case officer or agent is compromised.


  • Case Officer

A staff officer who manages agents and runs operations.

  • Chief of Station (COS)

The officer in charge at a CIA station, usually in a foreign capital.

  • CIA

Central Intelligence Agency; U.S.’s foreign intelligence gathering service.

For more information: read CIA.

  • Cipher

A system for disguising a message by replacing its letters with other letters or numbers or by shuffling them.

  • Clandestine Operation

An intelligence operation designed to remain secret.

  • Clean

Unknown to enemy intelligence.

  • Cobbler / Code

A spy who creates false passports, visas, diplomas and other documents.

  • Codebook

A list of plain language words opposite their codeword or codenumber.

  • Compromised

When an operation, asset, or agent is uncovered and cannot remain secret.

  • Controller

Officer in charge of agents (a handler).

  • Counter-intelligence

The business of thwarting the efforts of foreign intelligence agencies.

  • Cover

The purported occupation or purpose of an agent; it must be consistent with the agent’s background and presence in the target area.

  • Covert Action Operation

An operation designed to affect foreign affairs; may be lethal or non-lethal.

  • Cryptology
The science of secret writing in all its forms.


  • Dangle

A person sent by his or her own country who approaches an intelligence agency in the hope of being recruited as a spy so as to allow a double agent operation for the purpose of intelligence collection or disinformation.

  • Dead Drop

A secret location where: materials can be left for another party to retrieve.

  • Double Agent

A spy who pretends to be working against one country but who is in fact working for that country’s opponent; often a conduit for disinformation.

  • Dry Clean
Actions agents take to determine if they are under surveillance.


  • Escort

The operations officer assigned to lead a defector along an escape route.


  • Flaps and Seals

The tradecraft involved when making surreptitious openings and closings of envelopes, seals, and secure pouches.

  • Floater

A person used one time, occasionally, or even unknowingly for an intelligence operation.


  • Handler

A case officer who is responsible for handling agents in operations.

  • Honey Trap

Slang for use of men or women in sexual situations to intimidate or snare others.

  • Hospital

Russian slang for prison.


  • Infiltration

The secret movement of an operative into a target area with the intent that his or her presence will go undetected.


  • KGB

The Soviet Union’s all-powerful intelligence and security service during the Cold War.

For more information: read KGB.


  • Leaving the bread in the oven

Letting a target or agent consider something overnight.

  • Legend

A spy’s claimed background or biography, usually supported by documents and memorized details.

  • Lizard's Tail

An operative who is jettisoned and sacrificed to protect larger equities.


  • Mole

An agent of one organization sent to penetrate a specific intelligence agency by gaining employment.


  • Naked

A spy operating without cover or backup.


  • Paroles

Passwords to identify intelligence personnel to each other.

  • Pattern

The behavior and daily routine of an operative that makes his or her identity unique.

  • Pig

Russian intelligence term for traitor.

  • Plaintext

The original message before encryption.

  • Playback

To provide false information to the enemy while gaining accurate information from him or her.

  • Pocket Litter

Items in a spy’s pocket (receipts, coins, theater tickets, etc.) that add authenticity to his or her identity.

  • Printing

When the outline of a gun is visible through clothing even though the gun is covered.

  • Provocateur

An operative sent to incite a target group to action for purposes of entrapping or embarrassing them.


  • Raven

A male agent employed to seduce people for intelligence purposes.

  • Rolled-up

When an operation goes bad and an agent is arrested.


  • Sanitize

To delete specific material or revise a report or other document to prevent the identification of intelligence sources and collection methods.

  • Shoe

A false passport or visa.

  • Sleeper

Agent living as an ordinary citizen in a foreign country; acts only when a hostile situation develops. Spymaster The leader of espionage activities, and an agent handler extraordinaire.

  • Station

Post from where espionage is conducted. Steganography Techniques for concealing the very existence of a message.

  • Swallow

A female agent employed to seduce people for intelligence purposes.

Synonymous of Sparrow, to understand read: Sparrow School.


  • Taking Scalps

Recruiting human sources of intelligence.

  • The Company

An unofficial term for the CIA.

  • The Take

Information gathered by intelligence collection operations.

  • Throwaway

An agent considered expendable.

  • Timed Drop

A dead drop that will be retrieved by a recipient after a set time period.

  • Tradecraft

The methods developed by intelligence operatives to conduct their operations.

  • Traffic Analysis

Methods for gaining intelligence from the patterns and volumes of messages of communications intercepts.


  • Uncle

Headquarters of any espionage service.


  • Walk-in

A defector who declares his or her intentions by walking into an official installation and asking for political asylum or volunteering to work in-place.

  • Wet Work

Work involving bloodshed, often murder or assassination.

  • Window Dressing
Ancillary materials that are included in a cover story or deception operation to help convince the opposition or other casual observers that what they are observing is genuine.


  1. Wikipedia: Short-range agent communications
  2. The Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews