The most recent WikiLeaks dump revealed a full list of CIA-backed tips on avoiding secondary screening—a chummy memo clearly written by the youngest bro in the office. In execution, it reads a bit like the email someone in PR would send telling you how to get into some branded party at a secret venue. But tucked away is some solid travel advice, especially for those headed out on business. The following nuggets can get you through the airport as smoothly as James Bond. Bon voyage!
Many airports single out drug smugglers by looking for “baggage or contents inconsistent with the passenger’s appearance, profession or ticket class.”
1. Avoid secondary screening by memorizing two answers. “The most effective prevention of secondary is to have simple and plausible answers to the two most frequently asked questions: ‘Why are you here?’ and ‘Where are you staying?’” This one is so easy but plenty of us would fail this test just by not memorizing the hotel’s exact name.
2. Make sure your documents match your story. “When you arrive… breeze through [foreign] customs,” the memo reads, “because you have your cover-for-action story down pat, and all they did was stamp your passport.” Open-ended plans look suspect, or they might want you to prove you can pay your way and afford a ticket home.
3. Skip the money laundering, go for the ATM. “NOT a travellex (sic) machine.” Most big banks have arrangements with other big banks to keep the currency exchange favorable. As long as your home currency is strong (the dollar currently is), you can just use the ATM to take advantage of those rates and hopefully avoid some hefty fees.
4. Getting singled out of security is all according to local custom. Have you ever been traveling and known, without asking, who the other Americans were? Spend a moment trying to blend in.
5. When in doubt: Go Dutch. The official CIA document backs this one up: “EU norms stipulate that passport checks take no longer than 20 seconds per traveler. Dutch Royal Military Police (KMAR) officers at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam are under instruction to spend no more than 10 seconds evaluating each passport.”
6. Beware of national stipulations. Singapore officials can detain you if their facial recognition software says you look like someone who was once expelled “to identify immigration offenders who attempt to re-enter Singapore using different identities.” If that sounds bad: Canada won’t let you in if you’ve been charged with a DUI in the past five years.
7. Keep your cool. “Foreign airports use cameras and undercover officers to identify passengers displaying unusually nervous behavior. Physiological signs of nervousness include shaking or trembling hands, rapid breathing for no apparent reason, cold sweats, pulsating carotid arteries, a flushed face and avoidance of eye contact.”
8. Dress for your ticket class. Did you go backpacking in Thailand between passing the bar and starting your first job as a lawyer? Many airports single out drug smugglers by looking for “baggage or contents inconsistent with the passenger’s appearance, profession or ticket class.”
9. It’s important to chill, even when you think they’re not looking. Many airports keep undercover officers in the arrivals hall before screening. In Cote d’Ivoire, officials detained a man for switching lines to avoid going to a certain counter. “Officers of the National Security Service (NSS) in Mauritius use video cameras to observe arriving passengers as they exit the aircraft and retrieve their baggage, zooming on individuals’ faces to study their expressions.”
10. Just let them see your Instagram. Some officials use your online footprint to prove you are who you claim to be. “Foursquare and LinkedIn are business equivalents to the Facebook social network. Security officials might also expect a sales or marketing traveler to have a Twitter account. The absence of such business-related web accounts probably would raise a business traveler’s profile with officials.”
11. Leave the money; take the Scotch. This is a fun and mostly guilt-free way to kill time at the airport. “Leave with as few Euros in your pocket as possible. Current record is held by [Agent ID] #524297 at 0.52€!” our chummy operative says. “Buy something in Duty Free, because you’re awesome and you deserve it! (Might I recommend a travelers’ edition single malt whisky?)”
Featured Photo: iStock/baona
Secondary Photo: iStock/MariusLtu