Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RULE # 12

Early in my career, I had the good fortune to be tutored by Maurice Buckmaster, who ran the French section of the SOE during World War II.

He emphasized and reemphasized:  Always play the skeptic.

Play the skeptic with sources to determine their motivation.  

(It is almost always money or revenge—ideology and conviction are like rubber bands)

You’ve got an authoritative source in front of you.

You believe everything he says because it fits with what you already know to be true.

Don’t show it.

Instead, pooh-pooh it.  Be doubtful.  Push for the source to fully explain how he got the information and why he believes it to be true.

Shake your head and say, “It makes no sense to me.”  

Make him convince you.

People like to be believed.  If the source is holding something back, he will, under such pressure, come out with it.

There are only two motivations for betraying secrets:  money and revenge.

As Johnny Staccato, a fictional creation of jazz critic Mike Zwerin, used to say, “Reality is money.”

Everyone needs it.  If the price is high enough, and the risk diminished, people will sell.

Revenge is another story.  If a person is mistreated, it is natural for him to want to strike back.

Monaco’s spymaster recruited a former Palace insider who refused to be paid; he wanted only to settle a score with another person inside the Palace who caused his expulsion.

People think they have conviction.  But they allow it to be stretched when they need money or revenge.

(I treasure my autographed copy.)

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