5 Gray Man Secrets I Learned As A Surveillance Operative…(Must Read!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
By Paul Martin


This article has been generously contributed by Graywolf, a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

One of the questions I get fairly often is “what is the gray man,” and rightly so. It’s a concept that most people have a vague idea about, if any idea at all, since pretty much all they’ve been exposed to is maybe reading The US Army’s book on Human Intelligence Collector Operations – or what they’ve seen in movies (which is pretty terrible).

Luckily, this just happens to be something I’m very familiar with, having both been involved in real-world operations on source operations and surveillance teams as well as teaching agents in both classroom and field exercises (not to mention the crap ton of training I did, compliments of the government), so I’ll break down the basics for you as far as I understand the concept. If you really want to dig deeper into it, here’s a list of books that you might want to consider.

What is the Gray Man concept?

The gray man concept is the theory behind the tactics, techniques, and procedures of reducing an adversary’s awareness of your presence or actions, allowing you to operate in a semi-permissive environment.

In simpler terms, it means doing things in a way that any others either don’t pay attention to you or dismisses you from being a target while you go about your business. Essentially, it comes down to how to hide in plain sight.

It’s not just trying to be invisible or avoiding detection because it’s usually impossible to operate within those constraints. The gray man concept is basically an extension of OPSEC (Operational Security). It can be as simple as trying to not be picked to answer a question in class or as complicated as safely and effectively meeting a source to clandestinely collect intelligence without giving away your relationship or purpose for the meeting.

What the Gray Man concept is not

Due to the fact that most people’s idea of operating in a clandestine or covert (they’re different and require different mission preparations but that’s entirely out of the scope of an unclassified discussion) is what they see in movies, most people – and even way too many trained agents – have the wrong idea of what the gray man idea is all about.

The gray man concept isn’t necessarily about just hiding and not being noticed – doing that is quite easy in comparison. These guys were obviously noticed with how they used orange vests to leverage people’s expectations of where they were allowed to go but one could argue that they used elements of being gray men because they were allowed to proceed into areas without anyone paying undue attention to them – and they were certainly not dressed to not be noticed in the general sense, but were dressed in a way that they were dismissed.

1 – The gray man concept is psychology-driven
In a true disaster situation, your primary objective will be to move yourself and your loved ones as quickly as possible to a safe place – be that your home or bug-out location.

Everyone around you will have the same goal – get somewhere safe – but the majority will not have a sound plan in place, leading to frantic behavior and desperate attempts for survival.

In this situation, disappearing into the crowd and not drawing attention to yourself or your state of preparedness can greatly increase your chances of survival.

As most around you will be unprepared for disaster, you will no doubt feel the urge to help those in need. However, your number one priority needs to be your own survival and you should only help others if you can do so without endangering yourself.

What you wear can certainly have an effect on how gray you are but you have to go a bit deeper than that. Regardless of what you’re trying to do and how you’re able to do it, it all comes down to psychology – in particular, the psychology of your adversary.

It’s not always good to just walk around with a gray hoodie (although they do have their place and I have one I’ve used on surveillance) or to not carry something or act in a way that draws attention to yourself. It’s the attention that we’re trying to avoid.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS)

The Rest…HERE

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