The rules are associated with Moscow because the city developed a reputation as being a particularly harsh locale for clandestine operatives who were exposed. The list may never have existed as written.
Agent Tony Mendez wrote:
Although no one had written them down, they were the precepts we all understood for conducting operations in the most difficult of operating environments: the Soviet capital. By the time they got to Moscow, everyone knew these rules. They were dead simple and full of common sense.
- Assume nothing.
- Never go against your gut.
- Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
- Do not look back; you are never completely alone.
- Go with the flow, blend in.
- Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
- Lull them into a sense of complacency.
- Do not harass the opposition.
- Pick the time and place for action.
- Keep your options open.
Other rules which have been circulated around the Internet and used in fiction include:
- Murphy is right. (i.e., “What can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment.”)
- Any operation can be aborted. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
- Maintain a natural pace.
- Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly.
- There is no limit to a human being’s ability to rationalize the truth.
- Technology will always let you down.
- Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an enemy action. (Taken from Ian Fleming‘s novel Goldfinger)
- Do not attract attention, even by being overly careful.