We were thinking about going overseas, worrying about the usual stuff travelers from Washington fret about — a weak dollar, suntan lotion, visa requirements, shots and inadvertently disclosing secret information.
Fortunately, we recalled some instructions we got a while back from the National Security Agency — the super-secret cryptography operation at Fort Meade that monitors international communications — explaining the do’s and don’ts of “defensive travel.”
The agency reminds super-spooks that even “if you plan to travel . . . for vacation,” you’ve got to submit a “UFT” or Unofficial Foreign Travel request, which is Form K2579.
Once you’ve gotten approval and are off on vacation, you’re advised to “vary your routine as much as possible. Predictability equals vulnerability!” After all, “If an adversary doesn’t know your next move — it makes their job much tougher!”
“Try to avoid crowds and demonstrations,” we’re told. That means forget going to Tahrir Square in Cairo and most any city in Syria until they finally kick Assad out.
Finally, “internationalize your appearance.” No paisley burkas, for example. Or, when running with the bulls in Pamplona, don’t forget it’s white pants and shirts with a red scarf.
Most of all, remember that “reporting contact with foreign nationals is a requirement you agreed to when you were indoctrinated.”
So you’ve got to “report the following,” we’re told. That includes:
* “Close and continuing association with non-U.S. citizens;
* “Contact with an employee or representative of a foreign government . . .
* “Sexual contact with a non-U.S. citizen.”
Not clear who you should report this last one to — your spouse or your control officer. We suggest that the latter, since he likely already monitored it, probably would be safer.
Some might suggest such contact is not going to be a significant problem for the NSA. As our colleague Dana Priest noted in her book “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State,” the running joke amongst spooks at other agencies is: “How can you tell the extrovert at NSA?”
Answer: “He’s the one looking at someone else’s shoes.”