Know your mission. This seems to be perfectly self-evident and sensible. Who among our cleared personnel doesn’t know why he’s going overseas? Are you invited to give a presentation at a conference? Are you going to meet with a counterpart whose company expressed an interest in what you do? Are you going to check on your own employees stationed abroad? A host of possible missions exist, but are they well prepared for?

What do you know about the foreign company you plan to visit? What about that man whose non-governmental organization asked you to speak?  Is your spouse really allowed, or expected, to come along? These are not academic questions. Each could be critical to the success of your mission, or even to your personal safety.

1. Who am i going to see?

Safety? Yes. Consider the presentation you might give. If the sponsor of the project which requested you is not cleared, or his organization is not able to be validated, you may be walking into an international incident. The government of the country you plan to visit may take great offense at your presence.

Or what about that company that wants to meet you? Do they exist? This is no small matter, since often “companies” exist only on paper, as fronts for secret backers. They exist only the better to exploit your ignorance and have you reveal secrets to a “potential buyer” or other such bogus title.

What can you do for your employees abroad? Will your visit help, or hinder, their efforts? You, after all, have their interests at heart, but they might be under security surveillance by an adversary intelligence service. Your visit will cause a host of problems they don’t need, yet must prepare for if you are coming to visit.

2. Should I bring My spouse?

And your spouse? Normally, a spouse is specifically invited by the host organization. The unanticipated presence of a spouse could cause not only embarrassment to your host but also a major concern for security arrangements which had not been foreseen. The hosts would be scrambling to secure the spouse’s activities, while the U.S. Embassy would have another American to be concerned about.

Yes, the U.S. Embassy. All pre-overseas travel briefings should now include the very current and helpful U.S. State Department pages to be of value. ( Here you will find out how to register your presence in a country with our embassy. Your spouse, whether participating with you or not, will be listed as well because they are now a concern to the United States Government. They are Americans visiting abroad. If there is a travel advisory, an incident, or other cause to know about, or notify Americans abroad, all who are in a given country must be listed.

3. How do I transport classified information abroad?

So you are to speak on your cleared mission. Who has cleared your presentation for foreign release? How have you delivered the final presentation abroad?  Remember the best ways to send your classified briefing overseas, or even CONUS, is via secure fax or e-mail.  Hand carrying classified poses problems.  Even though it is double wrapped and properly marked, it is subject to inspection by the FAA or TSA. Each may want to open the package. And don’t forget the foreign customs agent who may want to inspect your double wrapped package.  What must you do to keep U.S. security personnel along your route advised of your activities? What can be done to keep you advised of classified information available about your designated country, project, or personnel you intend to visit? Each of these questions must be addressed, and as specifically as possible. If you have no access to such information, contact your supporting Defense Security Service or FBI counterintelligence liaison. They’ll know how to find this information for you.

What you need to know about the mechanics of your trip can seem overwhelming at first. You’ll get used to it. Know how to properly deliver cleared information and materials overseas. Specific, tested ways exist, and you must know them. There is no excuse for not delivering information properly. You must be properly briefed on security measures appropriate to the country you are in. Many lands are simply wonderful to wander around in. In others, you could be kidnapped. Know before you depart, and get appropriate training as well. Did you know there are vehicle driving courses you can take for countries where kidnapping is a major concern? Or for that matter, you might consider such training for your personnel assigned to such countries. How to survive such horrific incidents are available to government personnel, and you should contact your government security point of contact to see what training you can access.

Your trip abroad has many facets. Know them.

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John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.