Spy School: How to Plan and Perform a Brush Contact

Listen to True Spies podcast | The Spycatcher


When American spies Kendall Myers and his wife Gwen were supplying US State Department secrets to their Cuban handler, they passed intelligence right under the nose of the American surveillance team led by spy hunter Robert Booth.

The elderly duo compromised the US government’s diplomatic initiatives with Cuba for two decades - not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars worth of technical operations. How were they doing it?

They employed a ‘brush contact’, sometimes also called a brush pass or brush past. Initially, a Cuban intelligence officer would enter a grocery store and Gwen Myers would separately enter the same store. They'd both have carts containing a chicken, a carton of eggs, and a loaf of bread. As they passed each other in an aisle, they'd quickly swap carts, allowing Gwen to pass classified information such as microfilm without attracting attention.

Spy School: How to Plan and Perform a Brush Pass
Discover how a US spycatcher brought down the Myers in SPYSCAPE’s True Spies podcast

As the years passed, their brush passes became more sophisticated. Intelligence would be transferred electronically on laptops and in internet cafés - which is incredibly difficult to catch, Booth told SPYSCAPE’s True Spies podcast.

“There was very little physical passing, very little face-to-face meeting in the United States,” Booth recalled, adding that before long the couple weren’t even meeting face-to-face in South America where the Myers normally met their Cuban handlers once every six months.

Find out how the US spycatcher finally brought down the Myers in SPYSCAPE’s thrilling True Spies podcast.

Spy School: How to Plan and Perform a Brush Contact

SPYSCAPE
Share
Share to Facebook
Share with email
Listen to True Spies podcast | The Spycatcher


When American spies Kendall Myers and his wife Gwen were supplying US State Department secrets to their Cuban handler, they passed intelligence right under the nose of the American surveillance team led by spy hunter Robert Booth.

The elderly duo compromised the US government’s diplomatic initiatives with Cuba for two decades - not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars worth of technical operations. How were they doing it?

They employed a ‘brush contact’, sometimes also called a brush pass or brush past. Initially, a Cuban intelligence officer would enter a grocery store and Gwen Myers would separately enter the same store. They'd both have carts containing a chicken, a carton of eggs, and a loaf of bread. As they passed each other in an aisle, they'd quickly swap carts, allowing Gwen to pass classified information such as microfilm without attracting attention.

Spy School: How to Plan and Perform a Brush Pass
Discover how a US spycatcher brought down the Myers in SPYSCAPE’s True Spies podcast

As the years passed, their brush passes became more sophisticated. Intelligence would be transferred electronically on laptops and in internet cafés - which is incredibly difficult to catch, Booth told SPYSCAPE’s True Spies podcast.

“There was very little physical passing, very little face-to-face meeting in the United States,” Booth recalled, adding that before long the couple weren’t even meeting face-to-face in South America where the Myers normally met their Cuban handlers once every six months.

Find out how the US spycatcher finally brought down the Myers in SPYSCAPE’s thrilling True Spies podcast.

Article Ad
Article Ad
Article Ad


Performing a brush contact

Here’s how you too can plan and perform a traditional brush contact: 

What is it? A brush contact - sometimes called a lightning contact - is used to exchange items with an unknown contact or handler, without having to stop, talk to them, or be seen with them.

How do I start? Plan separate walking routes for you and your contact. The routes should meet - very briefly - out of sight of surveillance. Brush contacts take place at these ‘convergence points’.

Spy School: How to Plan and Perform a Brush Pass
A flight of stairs offers opportunities for a discreet brush contact

Such as? Maybe a dog-leg in a walled passageway; or a flight of stairs that doubles back on itself. Just make sure the convergence point is open at the right time!

How does it work? You will wait somewhere natural just before the time of the brush contact. Park benches or bus stops are good options. As your contact passes, follow them to the convergence point and overtake them, performing the pass as you do so.

Spy School: How to Plan and Perform a Brush Pass

How will my contact know who I am? Exchange recognition signals as your contact approaches. This might be tying a shoelace, or reading and folding a newspaper. Come up with your own ideas, but they must be distinctive.

And then? After the exchange, it’s important you move away from the convergence point in different directions.

Anything else? Make sure you both have a cover story for being there.

Read mORE

RELATED aRTICLES

This story is part of our weekly briefing. Sign up to receive the FREE briefing to your inbox.

Gadgets & Gifts

Put your spy skills to work with these fabulous choices from secret notepads & invisible inks to Hacker hoodies & high-tech handbags. We also have an exceptional range of rare spy books, including many signed first editions.

Shop Now

Your Spy SKILLS

We all have valuable spy skills - your mission is to discover yours. See if you have what it takes to be a secret agent, with our authentic spy skills evaluation* developed by a former Head of Training at British Intelligence. It's FREE so share & compare with friends now!

dISCOVER Your Spy SKILLS

* Find more information about the scientific methods behind the evaluation here.