The alleged espionage network arrested by the US government employed a series of tactics - 'tradecraft' in spy lingo - seemingly consigned to Cold War history.
Papers served in court reveal members of the "illegals" group - whose members were based in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Boston - made use of mundane methods, contacting handlers on cafes, book shops and street corners.
Charged with infiltrating the influential echelons of American life, they adopted false identities - one used a fake British passport - and resorted to digging up money stashed in public parks, using passwords for surreptitious rendevous, exchanging messages in invisible ink, and good old-fashioned bag switches in busy rail terminals.
Indeed, the details laid out by prosecutors would be rejected by any self-respecting thriller author as hoary cliches.
Among the codes used by the members to exhange money and
fake IDs were exchanges such as: "Excuse me, but haven't we met in California last year?" "No, I think it was the Hamptons."
Another loaded question - "Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999? - was to have been directed at someone holding a copy of Time magazine in a specific way.
So too, one agent is said to have carried out a "brush pass" with a Russian government official, with the two men swapping seemingly identical orange bags - one contained money - on a stairway at a rail station in Queens, New York.
On another occasion, an envelope containing $5,000 was passed over in a folded newspaper.
Elsewhere, the court papers acknowledge that more modern technology was employed.
One suspect, Anna Chapman, is said to have set up a private wireless network with her Macbook while in a bookstore, as a Russian official outside the store transferred the data.
Some of the suspects are accused of using steganography - a method of concealing data in an image using special software - to pass information to Moscow Centre - the headquarters of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service - by posting pictures on public websites. The FBI said one image was protected by a 27-character password, which once broken into, contained readable text.
Using data and a 27-character password gained by searching a New Jersey property in 2005, US agents accessed a steganography programme that led them to websites where they found certain images, the court documents say.
Other suspects are accused of using short-wave radios to send and receive radiograms - coded bursts of data - to Moscow Centre, with searches of a Seattle apartment turning up radio equipment, along with spiral notebooks containing apparently random columns of numbers.