Shadow Scouting Tips

Shadow Scouting Tips

What I call “shadow scouting” is the practice of exploring areas, locating resources, reconnoitering forces, finding routes, infiltrating territories, crossing borders, travelling stealthily and surviving in any environment. It can be a hobby, a profession, a way of life or even a spiritual path. The following are some tips for those who wish to engage in this activity.

Scout Your Home Area

Begin where you are right now. Scout every road and path within a few miles of your home. Learn all the routes into and out of the area. Take note of anything of interest, such as potential threats, security forces, places to hide, observation sites, cache sites, and useful resources. Do this regularly, noting anything new or different.

Travel Shadow Routes

Scout the “shadow routes” in your area. These are routes not frequented by vehicles, police, security or the general public. They include:

  • Forest roads: These are excellent alternative routes in many rural areas. They are often restricted to private industrial use, but this is not a problem if you travel at night or are stealthy.
  • Foot and bicycle trails: There are thousands of miles of hiking and biking trails in North America where you can travel long distances as a hiker or cyclist. Some trail systems close at night, but these are easily walked in darkness if desired.
  • Power lines: These can be good routes, but they often pass through private property and sometimes cross swamps or rivers so they can be difficult.
  • Railroad tracks: These can take you almost anywhere, and they have the added benefit that you may be able to hop on a passing train. Keep in mind that rails are private property and walk them mostly at night. And always keep an ear and eye out for oncoming trains!
  • Rivers and waterways: These can be very useful routes in some areas if you have a packraft, kayak, canoe or can acquire a boat.

If no shadow routes will take you all the way to your destination, be willing and equipped to travel cross-country between existing routes. It is possible to travel long distances in this way with little or no use of main roads.

Forest roads can take you over hills, through forests and between highways and towns very discreetly.
Be prepared to bushwhack where no shadow routes are available. It’s easier than you may think!

Navigation Notes

Off-road navigation has become rather trivial in an age of GPS devices and mapping software. Most shadow routes will show up on smartphone apps like google maps and gaigps and on handheld GPS devices. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Digital maps need to be pre-downloaded in areas outside cell phone coverage.
  • Using a smartphone for navigation is very convenient, but it is also a tracking device. For maximum anonymity use a handheld GPS unit.
  • Mapping apps eat up phone battery life. Bring a power bank for recharging.
  • Bring maps and a compass for backup navigation and know how to use them.
  • Develop an intuitive sense of direction and learn to navigate by the sun, stars and landmarks.

Locate Hideouts and Shelters

On scouting missions and travels, keep an eye out for empty or abandoned houses, cabins, sheds, barns, offices, warehouses and other buildings where you can take shelter and hide in the event that you are being pursued. These could be ruins or places that aren’t currently in use. Look for secluded locations without nosy neighbors who might notice you, and for discreet places to park a car. Also look for good natural hiding places such as dense woods, ravines and caves.

Store these locations in your memory in case you need a hideout or shelter during a future mission or bug-out situation. Record them on a GPS device, map or data file if you must, but for maximum operational security I don’t advise it. I’ve found quite a few such places on my scouting missions; if I ever find myself on the run, I have a chain of potential hideouts in discreet locations where I can lay low before moving on.

Keep in mind that some of these facilities may be locked. This is where lock-picking and breaking and entering skills are very useful. I always carry some basic lockpicks and shims in my pockets for this purpose. This channel has some good information in this regard, and this site has some useful tools.

Have an Escape Plan

Have one or more escape routes planned in detail in case you ever need to make a quick exit from your home. Utilize shadow routes as much as possible, avoiding main roads. Ideally this should be a route out of the country that avoids official channels like airports and border checkpoints. I discussed training for this scenario in this post ; you should at least do the planning phase, and preferably the entire exercise.

Have a Bug-Out Bag

The Shadow Scout should always have a “bug-out bag” ready with essential gear, both for scouting missions and in case you have to make a quick exit for any reason (police, enemy action, fire, natural disaster, social unrest, etc.). It should contain enough gear to allow you to survive outdoors or on the run for a few days in any environment. Below is a list of recommended items to include in your bag.

Bug-Out Bag Contents:

  • pack (30-50 liter backpack or dry bag with straps)
  • hat (ball cap and/or beanie)
  • folding knife or leatherman
  • 25-50 feet of paracord
  • miniature flashlight or head lamp w/ extra batteries
  • firestarters (lighter, matches, flint striker)
  • compass
  • waterproof maps of your area
  • waterproof pencil & notebook (for notes & sketches)
  • medical pack: bandages, tape, antiseptic wipes, aspirin, diarrhea pills, water purification tablets
  • poncho (for rain, improvised shelters)
  • sleeping bag
  • hammock with straps and carabiners
  • bandana or neck gaiter
  • gloves
  • duct tape
  • toilet paper or baby wipes
  • lockpicks, shims and other bypass tools
  • cash
  • mobile phone (“black” or anonymous if possible)
  • energy bars and other ready to eat food
  • water bottle and filter

Test your bag from time to time by bugging out from your location for an overnight camping trip or scouting mission. See how well your equipment performs, modifying it as needed based on your experience.

Hammocks are excellent for camping discreetly almost anywhere.
Shadow Ops Exercise: Exfiltration

Shadow Ops Exercise: Exfiltration

The Scenario

Here is an interesting training exercise for Shadow Operatives to try. Imagine the following scenario: you have just completed a high-profile op—e.g. an assassination, heist, sabotage mission or prison break—and are now the highest priority target of local security forces. You must get safely away from the scene of the op and back to safe territory.

Imagine your scenario in detail and modify your exercise accordingly. For example, if your op was a prison break, you may have nothing but your prison clothes and some spare change with you; if it was a heist, you may have bags of loot to deal with; if it was an assassination, you may have weapons to dispose of and blood on your clothing; etc.

Exfiltration Plan

The first part of the exercise is devising a detailed exfiltration plan. Use maps to plan your route precisely, and scout out the route in advance. If you use online mapping sites or apps, do so anonymously. Acquire whatever supplies you may need: cash, clothing, food, shelter, phone, transportation, etc. Make sure these items are all untraceable to you, and cache them along your route if necessary. Note that in some scenarios, such as a prison break, you won’t have access to many of these resources, so you will have to improvise on the fly.

Rules of the Exercise

Define your exfiltration target: a designated safe house or rendezvous point in another city, region, state or country. Your goal is to get there with the resources you have, without making contact with any security forces, showing your ID to anyone or leaving a paper trail. If any policeman, security guard or soldier takes special notice of you, evade them or you’ve failed. If civilians accost you or dogs bark at you, evade them or you’ve failed. If you see anyone you know, evade them or you’ve failed. If anyone asks for your ID, evade them or you’ve failed. If you make contact with known family, friends or associates, you’ve failed. If you pay for anything with a debit card traceable to you, you’ve failed. If you make a phone call, use an app or a computer in a way that is traceable to you, you’ve failed.

Tactical Tips

Alter your appearance. Wear a face covering in public. Have a cover story ready to explain who you are and what you’re doing. Make acquaintances if necessary for assistance with transportation, money, food, lodging, etc., using your cover story to explain your situation.

Take alternate routes on your travels; avoid main roads, airports, bus and train stations and ports. Use back roads and trails, hop freight trains, hitch rides, “borrow” a car, motorcycle, bicycle or boat if necessary. When you cross into another state or country, avoid passing through border checkpoints; go overland, across water, by train or private aircraft.

Don’t bring a phone, or bring one that you purchased prepaid with cash. Don’t log in to any online account that is traceable to you. Use off-grid technology whenever possible; e.g. paper maps and compasses or GPS handheld devices instead of GPS-enabled phones for navigation.

Example Exercise: The Pasayten Exfiltration

Here’s a scenario and exfiltration plan that I’ve devised for my own training. This is a somewhat high-risk exercise as it entails going back and forth across the U.S.-Canadian border, but that makes it more realistic and better training.

Scenario: I have just completed a heist of a bitcoin wallet from a home in Lake Chelan, Washington. Unfortunately, I was caught on security cameras and may have left fingerprints. I wish to get out of the USA before I am identified and arrested, so I am activating my “Pasayten Exfiltration” emergency plan.

Exfiltration target: A road near the U.S. border in southern British Columbia, Canada. I am imagining that I have a contact in Canada who will pick me up on the road at a pre-arranged time and take me to a safe house. If I am not there at the designated time, I fail the exercise.

Resources: A backpack with supplies for 5 to 7 days in the wilderness. A thousand dollars in cash. A motorcycle not traceable to me. Paper maps, compass and handheld GPS.

Cover Story: I’m an off-road motorcyclist/backpacker headed for the Pasayten Wilderness. If I get accosted by authorities near the border, I will tell them that I thought I could hike across the border and register with the authorities in Canada. I will have nothing incriminating on my person, so at worst I would be facing a fine. If this happens, I will of course have failed the exercise.

Route: I will ride mostly backroads from Lake Chelan to Harts Pass for about 100 miles. From there I will hide the motorcycle and proceed on foot on the Pacific Crest Trail for 30 miles to the border. I will night-hike across the border, continuing about 7 miles into Manning Park. I will make my rendezvous there near Highway 3, then turn around and hike back across the border before dawn.

The Pasayten exfiltration route.

If I reach the rendezvous point in B.C. and return to the U.S. without problems with authorities or the other disqualifiers mentioned above I will consider the exercise a success.

A boundary marker at the Washington state-Canada border in the Pasayten. The 20-foot “slash” runs along the entire international boundary.
Another view of the border slash in central Washington.
The Spirit of the Shadow Scout

The Spirit of the Shadow Scout

My basic philosophy is that truth and transcendence are not found in the world created or understood by humans, but in nature, or in the “Shadow World” outside human understanding, morality and control.

Mine is a mystic’s point of view, not a moralist’s or a humanist’s. Man is not the measure of anything but his own impotence and delusions. The things modern humans most pride themselves on—their intellect, language, technology, complex societies—are the very things that keep them from experiencing a deeper reality. As these artificial things come to dominate human experience, they create a prison for the mind, body and soul that is omnipresent, yet invisible. Our souls starve in this prison even as our bodies and minds are fed more than they could ever need.  This has always been the trajectory of civilization, but it has been accelerated in recent centuries by the advent of industrialism that turned humanity into depersonalized, deracinated mass producers and consumers, and by telecommunications, computing and surveillance technologies that allow encoded human intellection to intrude ever further upon nature and human minds. This techno-industrially empowered prison-civilization conquers more and more of the Earth, assimilates more and more of mankind, like an all-devouring Beast with a will of its own, and nothing seems capable of stopping it. One day soon, perhaps, this Beast will conclude that humans themselves are unnecessary, and replace them by more efficient machines. Meanwhile, the leading thinkers and pundits of the Beast-civilization, their minds completely colonized by its machine mentality, insist that we are building heaven on Earth, and things have never been better than right now. This is the great horror and tragedy of our age.

The Shadow Scout, however, realizes that this process cannot go on forever. The Beast-civilization will run out of energy to power its machines, lose the stable climate, arable land and rich ecosystem that supports its biomass, destroy itself in a techno-holocaust, sink into social chaos and barbarism, be annihilated by a vast natural catastrophe, decimated by a super-virus or killed off by some other event as yet unimagined. Rather than try to stop, slow down or reform this Beast, the Shadow Scout simply tries to stay out of its way until it meets its inevitable doom.

A small defeat for the Beast-civilization at Wilson creek. Read my Scouting report here.

In the meantime, the Shadow Scout exits the Beast-world of human artifice and delusion whenever possible, going into the wild, into the body, into the dark areas of the mind in search of a separate, timeless, transcendent reality. This is the higher purpose of “Shadow Scouting”. As Beast-controlled minds become ever more proscribed by what is on a screen, in a database, encoded in an algorithm or approved by an ideology, Shadow Scouting becomes ever more vital to our souls. We are explorers of worlds that those trapped in the technological hive-mind have forgotten or been programmed to ignore. We bring back reports of abandoned, wild, dark and beautiful places, without us and within. More importantly, we bring back knowledge of the world outside the Beast-matrix, and act as living reminders that transcendence is not a human construct, but an experience of a larger reality that can never be controlled or captured by any technology. Shadow Scouting is the age-old mystic’s quest to escape the prison of human artifice and delusion and discover a deeper, truer reality.

Shadow Scouts: A Vision

Shadow Scouts: A Vision

Shadow Scouts are a Brotherhood who specialize in scouting operations: reconnoitering enemy forces, infiltrating forbidden areas, exploring, route-finding, crossing borders, stealth travel, tracking and wilderness survival. Their inspirations include the traditional Apache scouts, Japanese ninjas, Rangers of the North and modern thru-hikers and explorers. Shadow Scouts move among the survivalist, hiking, hobo, urban exploration and similar communities, gathering intelligence about regions, routes and resources. They are actively scouting locations and recruiting members for a network of lookouts, meeting places and caches in preparation for the collapse of civilization. They pass on their skills and knowledge from master to apprentice, and communicate in a secret language known only to other Scouts. They mark their presence with a sigil which represents the word “scout” in their tongue, as pictured below:

Shadow Scouts give their allegiance to their Brotherhood, to nature, and to the Tao or Shadow behind this world of illusions.  They bow to no government, corporation, legal system, ideology or other construct of men. They reserve the right to roam across any border or land at will, to infiltrate any territory, escape any prison and live free, or die.

This is my visionof a spirit, way of life and lineage that I seek to establish and pass on. I am the first of my kind, but the Tao willing, not the last. I am Shadow Scout.

 

The Nine Maxims of the Ninja

The Nine Maxims of the Ninja

The Nine Maxims of the Ninja (taken from this book) are a useful creed for Scouts on the path of Shadows:

  1. Strengthen the body; it is your foundation.

  2. Stay in the shadows and be silent.

  3. Endure all hardships; overcome all adversity.

  4. Control your mind; discipline your desires.

  5. Affiliate with a Clan and obey its rules.

  6. Think outside all boxes.

  7. Be mindful of your surroundings.

  8. Make war by way of deception.

  9. Be like the wind—a formless, invisible force.

Department 17 – Shadow-Fiction Research

Department 17 – Shadow-Fiction Research

In the classic spy thriller Six Days of the Condor, protagonist Ronald Malcolm has a shadow-fiction fan’s dream job: he works for the “American Literary Historical Society”, which is actually a front organization for Section 9, Department 17 of the CIA. Malcolm’s job is essentially to read spy and crime novels all day, analyzing them for hidden nuggets of intel or ideas that the Agency might be able to apply in its own operations:

The function of the Society and of Department 17 is to keep track of all espionage and related acts recorded in literature. In other words, the Department reads spy thrillers and murder mysteries. The antics and situations in thousands of volumes of mystery and mayhem are carefully detailed and analyzed in Department 17 files.  …

The analysts for the Department keep abreast of the literary field and divide their work basically by mutual consent. Each analyst has areas of expertise, areas usually defined by author. In addition to summarizing plots and methods of all the books, the analysts daily receive a series of specially “sanitized” reports from the Langley complex. The reports contain capsule descriptions of actual events with all names deleted and as few necessary details as possible.

Fact and fiction are compared, and if major correlations occur, the analyst begins a further investigation with a more detailed but still sanitized report. If the correlation still appears strong, the information and reports are passed on for review to a higher classified section of the Department. Somewhere after that the decision is made as to whether the author was guessing and lucky or whether he knew more than he should. If the latter is the case, the author is definitely unlucky, for then a report is filed with the Plans Division for action. The analysts are also expected to compile lists of helpful tips for agents. These lists are forwarded to Plans Division instructors, who are always looking for new tricks.

It’s a fascinating, though perhaps fantastical, idea. But regardless of whether such a project would have much real-world intelligence use, it would certainly be a dream resource for the student of shadow-fiction. One could hone in on the precise types of stories one prefers, browsing for sources of ideas about any particular subject of interest. If you wanted to find crime novels featuring prison breaks, research Islamic terrorism in spy fiction, find men’s adventure novels set in South America or identify novels featuring ninjas published before 1983, you could quickly get a list of relevant works.

Which begs the question: why not create an open source version of Department 17 – a comprehensive database of spy, thriller, crime, men’s adventure, mystery and pulp fiction, broken down by genre, author, op types, plot synopsis, story elements, characters, series, etc.? There are nice sites that catalog science fiction/fantasy stories and comic books, but as far as I know nothing for shadow-fiction genres.

Below are some sample database listings for books recently reviewed on this blog to illustrate the idea:


Title: Hijack
Author: Lionel White
Publication Year: 1969
Category: fiction
Genres: crime, noir
Op Types: heist, skyjacking
Plot Elements: femme fatale, Vietnam vets, alcohol
Locales: USA/Nevada
Plot Synopsis: A money-hungry ex-stewardess seduces an ex-Air Force pilot and tells him about a flight that carries millions of dollars in cash. The pilot assembles a team of misfits to hijack the plane, but the whole plan goes horribly and brutally wrong.
Reviews: https://shadowscout.ninja/2020/04/15/hijack/


Title: The Betrayers
Author: Donald Hamilton
Publication Year: 1966
Category: fiction
Genres: espionage, noir
Op Types: assassination, counter-espionage, terrorism
Plot Elements: femme fatale, sailing
Governments: USA, Russia, China
Locales: USA/Hawaii
Series: Matt Helm
Series #: 10
Plot Synopsis: Counter-espionage assassin Matt Helm is sent to Hawaii to stop a traitorous rogue agent who is rumored to be working for the Red Chinese and planning some kind of terrorist operation. There he encounters two beautiful but dangerous female operatives whose allegiances are unclear.
Reviews: https://shadowscout.ninja/2020/03/26/the-betrayers/


Title: Breakout
Author: Donald Westlake
Writing As: Richard Stark
Publication Year: 2002
Category: fiction
Genres: crime
Op Types: prison break, heist, fugitive
Locales: USA/Midwest
Series: Parker
Series #: 21
Plot Synopsis: Professional thief Parker is busted, sent to prison and must find a way to escape. He must also find a way to break in and out of an armory loaded with jewels and get away clean.
Reviews: https://shadowscout.ninja/2020/03/26/the-betrayers/


Title: Splinter Cell
Author: Raymond Benson
Writing As: David Michaels
Publication Year: 2003
Category: fiction
Genres: espionage, techno-thriller
Op Types: espionage, terrorism, counter-terrorism, sabotage, infiltration, kidnapping
Plot Elements: stealth technology, arms dealing, supergun, Islamic terrorism
Agencies: NSA, Third Echelon, The Shop, The Shadows
Governments: USA, Iraq, Israel
Locales: China/Macau, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Israel
Series: Splinter Cell
Series #: 1
Plot Synopsis: “Splinter cell” Sam Fisher, NSA covert operative and master of high tech stealth, is sent to the Middle East to track down the sinister cabal of arms dealers called “the Shop”, stop the Islamic terrorist group called “the Shadows” and rescue his kidnapped daughter.
Reviews: https://shadowscout.ninja/2020/03/28/splinter-cell/


Title: The Hong Kong Massacre
Author: Joseph Rosenberger
Publication Year: 1988
Category: fiction
Genres: men’s adventure, pulp
Op Types: ninjutsu, assassination, infiltration, disguise
Plot Elements: ninjas, organized crime, triads, revenge
Locales: Hong Kong
Series: Shadow Warrior
Series #: 1
Plot Synopsis: “Shadow Warrior” Scott McKenna must avenge the death of a good friend at the hands of a triad gang. The story of how he became a highly skilled ninja is recalled, and his brutal assaults on the triad gang’s strongholds are described.
Reviews: https://shadowscout.ninja/2020/03/25/welcome-to-the-shadow-war/


If I can find a simple platform on which to build such a site I might get it going. Hopefully others would see the value and contribute. Spy/crime/men’s adventure literature is a rich resource that deserves to be studied by present and future generations; it shouldn’t be allowed to fade into oblivion! I will post more about this project as developments warrant.

 

The Shadows: Introduction

The Shadows: Introduction

One of my motivations for starting this blog was to develop an idea that’s been brewing in my brain for a while now, which I call simply the Shadows.

What are the Shadows? They are the society of shadow operators, who have been given many names—thieves, assassins, spies, special forces, saboteurs, terrorists, ninjas—but who share a common mindset, skillset and attitude to life. Shadows operate out of the light, outside the law, in darkness and secrecy to achieve their goals. They emphasize stealth, skill and deception over brute force and violence.

Shadows don’t concern themselves with abstract matters of good and evil, right and wrong, justice, progress or God. The Shadow attitude is that technique trumps ideology, actions speak louder than words, and impeccable skill is its own morality. Nor are Shadows aligned with any particular political faction, ideological cause, social stratum, religious sect or ethnic group. They may be found among criminals and law-enforcers, terrorists and soldiers, cults and corporations, businessmen and bureaucrats, spies and survivalists, security forces and revolutionaries, anarchists and fascists, and everything in between. The Shadows are in a class by themselves, which transcends other allegiances.

The closest historical analogs of the society of Shadows are perhaps the Ninja of feudal Japan, the Ye Ban Tou of imperial China, the Hashashin of medieval Persia, the Thieves Guilds of the Ottoman Empire, and various brotherhoods found among the criminal underworld and covert operations communities to this day. In spirit, the society stretches back to the earliest civilizations, all of whom had thieves, spies and assassins, and before that to our prehistoric ancestors who stealthily stalked prey of both the two- and four-legged varieties.

Shadow Operations

“Shadow operations”, or “Shadow ops”, are the various missions carried out by Shadows. These range from burglaries, heists and prison breaks to assassinations, spying, scouting, sabotage, psychological warfare, disinformation and dirty tricks. The best Shadow ops aren’t common knowledge; they are either still secret or are attributed to an accident, a false flag, a patsy, or something else besides the actual perpetrators. Here are a few Shadow ops from history that are common knowledge to illustrate the idea:

Obviously Shadows are not “good guys”; they are generally regarded as villains, rogues, or necessary evils at best. But they are a universal human reality, so perhaps it’s time to give them a name, discuss them as a group with a common mentality and set of skills, and give them some respect for living a life of action and daring in a world that all too often resembles a prison planet. I will be exploring these ideas in future blog posts, and possibly in a future book. Enjoy.

Getting Away with Ops: Best Procedures

Getting Away with Ops: Best Procedures

The following are some best procedures for completing an op without incriminating yourself. This list is culled from a study of shadow ops down through history—heists, capers, spy ops, assassinations, etc. They are lessons learned in the schools of hard knocks, hard time, and short lives. Most ops fail because they violate one or more of these rules. They may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how many professional operatives neglect them, to their lasting regret. Study these procedures until they are second nature so you don’t make a mistake when the pressure is on.

  • Dispose of all Evidence. Immediately dispose of all tools, technologies, clothing, packaging and other physical evidence connected to the op when you are done with it. Don’t keep it at your home or place of business. Burn it, put it in a trash compactor, dump it in landfill, throw it in a deep body of water, bury it in a remote area. Make sure that it won’t be found for a long time, if ever.
  • Use Trusted Associates. Only work with highly trusted associates who can be relied upon to keep their mouths shut and not betray you. Preferably all associates should be long-time colleagues, close friends or family members.
  • Use Competent Associates. Only work with smart, competent, experienced associates who won’t botch the op or panic when the pressure is on.
  • Keep Associates to a Minimum. The fewer people involved in an op, the less chance of mistakes and betrayals. Ideally you should work alone.
  • Don’t Incriminate Yourself During Communications. Don’t say anything incriminating via telephone, text message, email or other communications medium. Communicate with co-operatives using code words. Whenever possible, meet them in person, preferably at a location where eavesdropping is difficult, such as a remote rural area.
  • Destroy Your Communications Trail. Dispose of all communication devices and messages linking you to op associates when you are done with them: phones, SIM cards, paper notes, emails, instant messages, etc.
  • Be Anonymous. Don’t attract attention during any stage of an op. Be the “gray man” that no one notices or remembers.
  • Use False Identities. Establish false ID’s so that any paper trail you leave during an op leads to someone else.
  • Leave the Scene. Leave the scene of the op immediately and don’t return. Don’t be like Leonardo Notarbartolo, who, after completing one of the biggests heists in history, returned to to the scene of the crime a few days later and got arrested.
  • Leave No Forensic Evidence. Wear gloves, a balaclava and long-sleeved shirt and pants to prevent fingerprints, disguise your face and minimize DNA evidence.
  • Be Untraceable. Don’t drive your own car to or from the op; use a stolen car or one rented under a false identity. Purchase tools, clothing and  supplies with cash; don’t use anything that can be traced to you that you can’t dispose of.
  • Have an Alibi. Make sure someone reliable can testify that you were far from the scene of the op at the time it occurred.

If you follow all these procedures you can complete any op in darkness without leaving any trace for pursuers. Like a Shadow.