what do FBI agents wear

When y’see American FBI agents on TV or in movies, maybe you noticed that they are forever touching their ears? Well, at least one of our readers does and invited me to learn why.

By the ‘Matrix’ movies, Agent Smith and co touched their ears so as to better mimic the behaviour of genuine FBI agents. Therefore it’s obviously a important trait of secret service agents, over in America. It is obviously something they have been doing for quite a while now. Then again, the ‘Agents’ also did it to better receive signals from the machines who ran the Matrix program itself…

In the real world (assuming, naturally, that this IS the real world hmmm….), the reason that FBI agents touch their ears isn’t that dissimilar. Forrest Wickham, of www.slate.com, has the answers:

Are those earpieces uncomfortable? No, it’s just so they can hear better. Pushing in an earpiece makes for a tighter seal, which could mean the difference between hearing or missing a Secret Service codename or another agent’s message about the president’s position while standing in a noisy room. While earpieces are not uncomfortable, they do sometimes come loose, requiring readjustment.

There you could have it, a somewhat absurdly lo-tech answer, FBI guys push their radio earpieces into their ears because that makes the instructions come through louder and clearer. Being an obsessive ‘Spinal Tap’ fan, I can’t help but echo the puzzled query of Marti DiBergi and ask “why just make the earpieces louder?” but that’s obviously an issue for another time.

Back to, Mr. Wickham:

“Earpieces aren’t the only communication devices the Secret Service uses, and not all earpieces have the same design. Some devices, for example, look like iPod ear buds. The one-ear headphone often shown in the movies is standard and comes with a curly wire that runs down under their shirt to a hidden microphone worn in different locations depending on the circumstances of the assignment. One standard spot is just under the shirt sleeve. (That explains why agents are always lifting their wrists to their mouths.) Earpieces also come in different colors, and some agents choose a device that matches their skin or hair”.

So they do not take action to look sinister, or to get instructions from the machine world that secretly runs all our lives. They are doing it as, well, their communications is a little bit crappy, evidently.

Then again, I presume that if you were trying to hear very specific, essential information in a busy and loud environment, then any earpiece you used could be severely challenged. It’s hard to hear everything over the sound of enormous crowds as well.

Mr. Wickham also provides a bonus explanation. At the end of his article post, Wickham tells us why the FBI guys always seem to be wearing sunglasses.

“Why are Secret Service agents always wearing sunglasses? To keep the sun out of their eyes. While the Service has often cultivated a certain mystique, preferring to remain “cloaked in silence and mystery,” spokesmen insist they wear shades merely for their traditional purpose, and not, say, to keep would-be assassins from knowing which way they’re looking. The Secret Service has no set uniform, but agents say that wearing sunglasses on a sunny day helps them to scan a crowd for suspicious behavior”.

Seems adequate to me.