Dead Drop Spike
A dead drop spike is one of several types of equipment for concealing, and protecting from the elements, materials left at a dead drop. The latter term refers to the site at which an intelligence agent leaves materials—documents, film, etc.—for a handler or intelligence agent to retrieve at a later time. The handler may in turn leave money or other items for the agent to subsequently retrive. Obviously, it is important to both parties, as well as the agency sponsoring their activity, that these materials be safe from detection, theft, or harm by the elements or animals. Hence the need for the spike and similar devices.
Used since the late 1960s, a dead drop spike typically looks like a large, fat pencil. The blunt, "eraser" end has a lid that can be unscrewed, so as to insert materials and close them up in an air- and water-tight chamber. The pointed end, or spike, makes the device easy to stick into the ground—safe from detection by interlopers, but easy enough for the agent or handler to retrieve.
Another device for making a dead drop is a wallet-like waterproof pouch. Sewn into the lining are ball bearings, which ensure that the pouch will sink to the bottom of a stream or ditch rather than float away. A "clam" dead drop is a tiny metal chamber attached to a magnet, such that it can be attached to an inconspicuous place on a car or any other large object with metallic parts.
█ FURTHER READING:
Melton, H. Keith. The Ultimate Spy Book. New York: DK Publishing, 1996.
Dead Drop Spike. Central Intelligence Agency. < http://www.cia.gov/cia/information/artifacts/dead.htm > (February 1, 2003).