Five unsettling FBI surveillance tips from the '40s

Five unsettling FBI surveillance tips from the ‘40s

Why ladies’ gloves were an invaluable tool in an agent’s arsenal

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Edited by Beryl Lipton

We’ve written before about the FBI’s 1947 guide to investigatory techniques, and their heavy reliance on period-authentic casual racism. Today, we’ll be looking at the section on surveillance under false pretenses, which manages the perfect blend between adorably dated and downright creepy.

1. Impersonate a child photographer to take pictures of the mother

While plenty skeevy, this also serves as a reminder that there was a period in America where taking photos of a stranger’s child would have granted you entrance to their home rather than mace in the face.

2. Become a pornographer

No luck cracking that pornography trafficking case? Why not beat them at their own game and just traffic in pornography? Brilliant!

3. Carry men and women’s gloves on you at all times

While undoubtedly clever, this tip doesn’t properly prepare an agent for what to do when he or she is asked why they’re carrying around multiple pairs of gloves that are not theirs.

4. Impersonate a plainclothes policeman and accuse people of crimes they didn’t commit

As gross as this is, at least the FBI learned its lesson and stopped intimidating minorities.

5. Pretend to be a Harvard freshman

While this one starts out with a whimsical 22 Jump Street vibe, there’s a pretty hard turn in there where the agent 1) actually becomes friends with the subject and 2) roots around in their stuff when they’re not around. Imagine coming home to find out the college student you’ve been chatting about Intro to Psych with over breakfast was a fed trying to nick your address book. That sort of thing causes trust issues.

More Adorable Than Unsettling Bonus: Be a caricature of a journalist

Hard to get too mad at this one, as it implies that the only syndicated columnist that the Bureau was familiar with was Jimmy Breslin.

Read the full list of tips embedded below, or on the request page.

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