During the Cold War, NATO pilots received, in addition to their survival training, some additional lessons on what to do behind enemy lines, how not to draw attention, pass unnoticed and return to their own lines safely. One of the most important components of that training was related to the use of money.
Dollars, Euros, British Pounds and Swiss Francs are usually very nice to have at hand; a credit card with a very high purchasing power is a nice addition to any consumer’s arsenal too; but under urban survival circumstances, and especially in places controlled by political authorities too keen on knowing what everybody is doing, having that kind of money can easily draw unwanted attention.
Inside the communist bloc, having foreign money was a crime for the common citizens and was strictly controlled and limited to foreigners and party officials; for these, having foreign money was not a sin, of course. Today there are very few countries where having foreign currency may be dangerous: North Korea, Cuba – to some extent – and a few others, but the risk comes from the power that technology and the way in which we all depend from it has given to any mildly competent intelligence pundit.
Most people depend on ATMs, credit cards, cell phones and other gadgets that we now take for granted and are indeed very handy, but they are also a double-edged sword of sorts, for they also allow for constant and almost total monitoring of our activities even beyond the wildest and sweetest dreams of any Gestapo enthusiast. Your government as well as any marketing agency can get details of your private life, your tastes and so on either thorough direct and “legal” eavesdropping, or thorough interpretation and inferences.
So the way to survive and thrive undetected in this modern society – if it comes to that for any reason –seems to avoid using any of those gadgets and modern payment forms. Mr. Ben Laden seems to be so difficult to find because he doesn’t use e-mail, credit cards or a simple phone. He seems to rely on traditional couriers and verbal orders, and so he has defeated the intelligence establishment of a superpower, with thousands of millions of dollars in at its disposal.
There are indeed ways to use a thing like an ATM legally but remaining undetected, but it seems that for modern day urban survival, gold and local currencies seem to be the best choice for financial operations. But one good thing of all this can be deduced from what is happening: no matter how sophisticated the intelligence gathering gets, it cannot work without our collaboration.