Busting Bond: The myths of movie spycraft
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SKYFALL
November 9th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Busting Bond: The myths of movie spycraft

By Suzanne Kelly

The latest James Bond movie, "Skyfall," delves into some tantalizing personal details about the world's favorite British spy, from formative events in his childhood to an up-close look at his relationship with M, the chief of the super-secret British spy service where Bond works.

The new film offers plenty of the heart-thumping chase scenes one expects from a Bond movie, and it also gives glimpses of Bond's well honed art of spycraft. Which begs the question: How realistic is today's Bond?

Some real-life former spies offered to help bust through some of the myths created by the movie:

Bond Myth 1: Spies have super human abilities

In the opening scene, a post-40-year-old Bond manages to survive a particularly wild car chase. He somehow ends up on top of a train, where he ducks through tunnels while engaging in a fist fight with the bad guy, only to be shot and fall to what appears to be his certain death, his body plunging into a lake.

"When you place it in the Hollywood context, his physical abilities don't exist," says Marty Martin, a former senior clandestine operations officer with the CIA, who one source of mine described as "one part" Bond.

"A guy can't take on six guys. He can't jump off bridges and trains. If you do it once, you're lucky, and it will likely blow your knee out, you know what I'm saying?" observed Martin.

And it's not just the physical skills, but add to that all of those other amazing talents that make Bond who he is, and you have just discovered why so many real-life spies admire the guy.

"A lot of people in our business wish we could do things like that," says Robert Richer, a former senior officer in the CIA's Clandestine Service. "He has the skills of a SEAL, He can play baccarat. He can move effortlessly in Monte Carlo, but the reality is it's hard to do all of those things combined."

"There are characteristics," says Martin. "But the whole James Bond, good-looking, suave, has good toys, speaks three or four languages, really?"

Bond Myth 2: Style is a spy's best weapon

Robert Grenier- Former senior CIA official

"Being suave does make a difference," said Robert Grenier, who spent much of his CIA career working undercover in overseas locations, including serving as the CIA's chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 11, 2001. Grenier is described by some of my sources as being the best-dressed (former) spy in the world.

Grenier, of course, chuckled when I shared that piece of intel with him.

"Espionage is a people business, and at its essence is the ability to make people like you and trust you and being able to enter a social world whether it's nuclear scientists or the court of the king of Morocco or whatever it is, those are the sort of social skills that form a composite of Bond."

Bond Myth 3: It's easier to work alone

"I was operating at a time when we did believe in one range and one rider," says Martin, who has since retired from the world of official espionage. "Today, you're way more likely to work in teams."

Marty Martin – a former undercover CIA officer

But, argues Martin, there is still a lot of logic in keeping those teams small. "Because if you only have two people on the operation, there are only two people who can jack it up," says Martin. "If you have 25, the weakest one will do something stupid like call home and blow the whole deal."

"You want to keep the team as small as you can. The fewer points of failure you have, the better," adds Grenier. "The perception of what we do has changed a little bit because we're operating so much in war zones. But one of the things I've always noticed is that if you ever have two case officers in a room with an agent, a source, it's one too many case officers. It's amazing when you see it because right away they start competing with each other."

Bond Myth 4: Breaking the rules makes you bad

One thing Bond doesn't do while carrying out his mission is stop to call the lawyers. According to the real-life guys, the concept of breaking rules isn't all that off-base for operators working in the field, under increasingly stressful pressure, particularly post 9/11.

"Following a deeper set of rules, being devoted to the mission, sometimes means breaking the rules you're supposed to follow," says Grenier, who has had to make some tough calls during the course of his career. "Breaking the rules does happen in real life, but not for very long. Bond never consults lawyers. Right there, you know it's not very realistic."

"Sometimes you need somebody who can go 'downtown bad'," says Martin.

But just how far does "downtown bad" go? Would it ever involve targeted killing of the nondrone variety?
Britain's MI6 has publicly disavowed itself from carrying out assassinations, as has the CIA. In fact, when I asked a certain unidentified spy contact about that, he sent me a copy of Executive Order 12333, which "explicitly prohibits the CIA from engaging, either directly or indirectly, in assassinations."

Of course, in reality, we know that intelligence officers or agents sometimes embark on deadly missions. But in a world in which oversight committees and lawyers are part of the process, how would Bond hold up before an oversight committee?

If I were to wager a bet, my money would be on that being the most exciting congressional hearings I would ever see.

Bond Myth 5: Technology always makes the job easier

In "Skyfall," Bond moves from country to country with relative ease. Could that really happen? Not so much.

This is true in part because technology now allows him to be tracked, either by new border control measures being adopted around the world or by social media sites that account for a lot of today's intelligence gathering.

"Now we have biometrics. You can't just pop in and out of countries. It's getting increasingly hard," says Martin, who spent some of his time moving through countries in the Middle East. "Our world has gotten so much more difficult for espionage. Before, you could create a fake passport and you're off, but now, honestly really the first thing people do is google you, right?"

Author Jeffery Deaver agrees.

He wrote the latest Bond novel, "Carte Blanche," which is part of the continuing Ian Fleming series. In the book, published last year, Deaver writes about a Bond character who can no longer just waltz into any country and provide a credible cover story. In large part, says Deaver, that's because of the Internet.

"Any intelligence agent has more information about him or her out there than one would like," said Deaver on his cell phone from Brazil, where he's touting his latest non-Bond book.

"He (Bond) has to gin up an identity that will stand up to Internet groups, because covers can be blown so easily. It doesn't take very much at all, even for a 13-year-old hacker, to find out that you're not who you say you are."

Bond Myth 6: Sophisticated drinks and theme songs make you cooler

OK, this one is tough to argue with. But while Bond is legendary for unwinding with a martini, shaken, not stirred, it's a bit more gritty in the real world.

"Whiskey," says Martin. "When we were facing some tough times with al Qaeda, it was whiskey and listening to soundtracks from "Gladiator" and "Man on Fire."

But let's face it, in some places, getting a good bottle of whiskey could be tougher than the day job. So what's another, more practical alternative in those locations?

"Most real case officers, the ones doing the counterterrorism work, are beer drinkers or, a lesser number, vodka drinkers." says Richer. "Where we serve, getting a good mixed drink is difficult at best. Finding a beer is always easy. Few of us drink wine. Appreciating wine takes time and attention.

"Those who take on the trappings of being too sophisticated are generally more intel bureaucrats than field officers (which are where most of those of us who drink wine and like taking comfy postings rest). Those doing Yemen, Africa, Afghan, Iraq, Syria, North Africa, take simply joys and run with them."

And age is an important component here, too, because post-9/11, many of those serving in particularly dangerous overseas posts are on the younger side.

"Country music, hard rock are more the themes than soundtracks. Music which pumps the blood up for mission or private pursuits like the gym," adds Richer.

"I don't know of an officer current or former who would define Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift as those they listen to. They do listen to Aerosmith, Coldplay and a lot of independent music artists."

soundoff (634 Responses)
  1. RV Lighting Near Me

    Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've book-marked it for later!


    May 21, 2021 at 8:19 am | Reply
  2. Dodge Sprinter Service


    May 21, 2021 at 5:34 am | Reply
  3. Content Marketing Boutique


    May 20, 2021 at 6:43 am | Reply
  4. dashboard repair shop near me


    May 19, 2021 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  5. progressive body shop near me

    Very nice post. I definitely love this site. Continue the good work!


    May 19, 2021 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  6. rv replacement parts near me

    I'm very pleased to find this page. I need to to thank you for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also have you book marked to look at new things on your web site.


    May 19, 2021 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  7. Pump Windshield Washer Sprinter Repair


    May 19, 2021 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  8. gifts for new dad from mom


    May 19, 2021 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  9. pills for energy


    May 19, 2021 at 9:52 am | Reply
  10. Eye Exam Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 7:48 am | Reply
  11. herbalife energy pills

    I was extremely pleased to discover this site. I wanted to thank you for your time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every part of it and I have you saved as a favorite to check out new information in your web site.


    May 19, 2021 at 7:11 am | Reply
  12. Eyeglass Center Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 3:41 am | Reply
  13. Social Media Marketing Near Me

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly feel this amazing site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!


    May 19, 2021 at 12:49 am | Reply
  14. Maserati Quattroporte 2005


    May 18, 2021 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  15. Maserati Quattroportes

    Saved as a favorite, I love your web site!


    May 18, 2021 at 9:16 pm | Reply
  16. Internet Marketing Specialist


    May 18, 2021 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  17. rv roof repair service near me


    May 18, 2021 at 7:58 am | Reply
  18. Chevy G20 Van Repair

    Having read this I thought it was extremely informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    May 17, 2021 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  19. 3.0 Sprinter Vacuum Pump Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 11:03 am | Reply
  20. Sprinter Van Hard To Repair Van


    May 17, 2021 at 9:14 am | Reply
  21. Maserati Mc20

    I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    May 17, 2021 at 8:06 am | Reply
  22. Sprinter Seat Belt Buckle Repair

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this post! It is the little changes which will make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 17, 2021 at 7:24 am | Reply
  23. Sprinter Van Inside Computer Repair Shop


    May 17, 2021 at 6:09 am | Reply
  24. Mercedes Sprinter Van Repair Motorhome

    When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    May 17, 2021 at 2:53 am | Reply
  25. Prestige Collision Sprinter Repair Mission Viejo


    May 17, 2021 at 2:11 am | Reply
  26. Repair Conversion Van Blinds


    May 16, 2021 at 11:17 pm | Reply
  27. Maserati Ghibli For Sale Near Me

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this website. I really hope to check out the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own blog now 😉


    May 16, 2021 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  28. Maserati Coupe Gt

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely think this site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the info!


    May 16, 2021 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  29. Sprinter Alignent Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  30. Sprinter Van Repair Shop

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I came across this in my search for something relating to this.


    May 16, 2021 at 11:20 am | Reply
  31. aika online private server source

    There is certainly a lot to find out about this topic. I like all of the points you made.


    May 16, 2021 at 10:01 am | Reply
  32. Aika Online

    Aw, this was a really good post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a superb article… but what can I say… I hesitate a lot and don't seem to get anything done.


    May 16, 2021 at 5:21 am | Reply
  33. Internet Marketing Programs

    I love reading through an article that can make people think. Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!


    May 16, 2021 at 5:01 am | Reply
  34. Digital Marketing Firms

    I really like it when folks get together and share opinions. Great site, continue the good work!


    May 16, 2021 at 4:29 am | Reply
  35. Aika Mmo


    May 16, 2021 at 3:12 am | Reply
  36. Video Marketing Services


    May 16, 2021 at 3:07 am | Reply
  37. aika online private server

    Your style is unique in comparison to other folks I've read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this page.


    May 16, 2021 at 3:01 am | Reply
  38. aika online wiki


    May 16, 2021 at 2:11 am | Reply
  39. Maserati Kamsin


    May 15, 2021 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  40. Content Marketing Studios


    May 15, 2021 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  41. Digital Marketing Company


    May 15, 2021 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  42. How Much Is A Maserati Cost


    May 15, 2021 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  43. semi truck paint shops near me


    May 15, 2021 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  44. Maserati Of Nashville

    There's definately a lot to know about this topic. I really like all the points you've made.


    May 15, 2021 at 11:31 am | Reply
  45. Eye Exams Near Me

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article plus the rest of the website is also very good.


    May 15, 2021 at 8:42 am | Reply
  46. Maserati Truck Price


    May 15, 2021 at 8:19 am | Reply
  47. houses for sale twin lakes idaho


    May 15, 2021 at 8:16 am | Reply
  48. Maserati Badge


    May 15, 2021 at 6:25 am | Reply
  49. Prices Maserati

    A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you should write more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but generally folks don't talk about such subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!


    May 15, 2021 at 3:58 am | Reply
  50. orange county awnings


    May 15, 2021 at 2:03 am | Reply
  51. Lasik Eye Surgery Phoenix

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the most significant changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 14, 2021 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  52. rv fiberglass repair shops


    May 14, 2021 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  53. rv generator repair

    This site really has all of the information I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 14, 2021 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  54. semi shop near me


    May 14, 2021 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  55. Sprinter Seat Fabric Repair


    May 14, 2021 at 6:42 am | Reply
  56. rv plumbing repair near me


    May 14, 2021 at 2:59 am | Reply
  57. truck shop orange county california

    After exploring a handful of the blog posts on your web site, I really appreciate your technique of blogging. I added it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website as well and tell me your opinion.


    May 14, 2021 at 2:24 am | Reply
  58. auto paint supplies orange county

    Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to create a superb article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a lot and never manage to get anything done.


    May 14, 2021 at 12:55 am | Reply
  59. painting a horse trailer


    May 13, 2021 at 10:40 pm | Reply
  60. Van Repair Near Me

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Many thanks!


    May 13, 2021 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  61. c and o body shop


    May 13, 2021 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  62. good sam rv repair

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't disappoint me just as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I really believed you would have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you could fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.

    http://radio.cancaonova.com/iframe-loader/?t=Dating Single: No Longer a Mystery – Rádio&ra=&url=https://ocrv.xyz/rv-repair-shop-san-jacinto-california

    May 13, 2021 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  63. RV Lighting Riverside


    May 13, 2021 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  64. Ram Van Frame Repair


    May 13, 2021 at 9:28 am | Reply
  65. orange county ca rv parks


    May 13, 2021 at 6:12 am | Reply
  66. RV Bedroom Near Me

    Aw, this was a very good post. Spending some time and actual effort to generate a superb article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.


    May 13, 2021 at 5:30 am | Reply
  67. rv supply near me


    May 13, 2021 at 3:05 am | Reply
  68. RV Awning Near Me


    May 13, 2021 at 2:43 am | Reply
  69. rv insurance near me

    You made some really good points there. I looked on the net for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.


    May 12, 2021 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  70. semi truck shops near me

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not disappoint me just as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, but I really believed you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you can fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.


    May 12, 2021 at 7:13 pm | Reply
  71. RV Batteries Los Angeles


    May 12, 2021 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  72. RV Fiberglass Los Angeles

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your site is useful. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 12, 2021 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  73. trailer repair shop near me


    May 12, 2021 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  74. rv slide out leak repair

    Can I just say what a comfort to uncover somebody that really understands what they're talking about on the net. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people really need to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you're not more popular since you most certainly have the gift.


    May 12, 2021 at 10:22 am | Reply
  75. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me W Ratings


    May 12, 2021 at 5:00 am | Reply
  76. motorhome repair shop


    May 12, 2021 at 4:56 am | Reply
  77. rv rental orange county


    May 12, 2021 at 4:10 am | Reply
  78. Shizue Mallett

    Wow! This could be one particular of the most useful blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Wonderful. I'm also a specialist in this topic therefore I can understand your effort.


    May 12, 2021 at 4:01 am | Reply
  79. rv fiberglass repair shops


    May 12, 2021 at 3:38 am | Reply
  80. rv furniture san diego


    May 12, 2021 at 12:57 am | Reply
  81. where to buy rv furniture


    May 11, 2021 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  82. Mercedes Sprinter Refrigerator Repair


    May 11, 2021 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  83. windshield replacement lake forest

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Appreciate it!


    May 11, 2021 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  84. Content Marketing Agencies


    May 11, 2021 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  85. Google Marketing Quotes


    May 11, 2021 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  86. Google Marketing Experts


    May 11, 2021 at 8:34 am | Reply
  87. Social Media Marketing Companies Orange County


    May 11, 2021 at 3:53 am | Reply
  88. Digital Marketing Companies Near Me

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this post! It is the little changes that make the most significant changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 11, 2021 at 1:35 am | Reply
  89. Digital Marketing Reviews


    May 10, 2021 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  90. Internet Marketing Company Near Me

    There's certainly a great deal to learn about this issue. I love all of the points you have made.


    May 10, 2021 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  91. Internet Marketing Pros


    May 10, 2021 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  92. Local Marketing Experts


    May 10, 2021 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  93. Internet Marketing Services


    May 9, 2021 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  94. RV Leak California

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but generally people do not discuss such topics. To the next! Best wishes!!


    May 9, 2021 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  95. Local Marketing Companies


    May 9, 2021 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  96. Google Marketing Experts

    Great post. I'm going through some of these issues as well..


    May 9, 2021 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  97. RV Steps Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  98. Social Media Marketing Firm


    May 9, 2021 at 11:28 am | Reply
  99. RV Remodeling Riverside

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am having issues with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 9, 2021 at 8:14 am | Reply
  100. Internet Marketing Cypress


    May 9, 2021 at 7:49 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Leave a Reply to Google Marketing Experts


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.