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Spies!

Spying is one of the three oldest professions: agents of the state who snoop on citizens or on the activities of other states.

But since the early 1960s, there's been an accelerating trend away from HUMINT towards ELINT (and other less-well-recognized forms of intelligence through analysis of observational data collected from non-human sources).

We're now well into the age of biometric monitoring, and this is raising huge obstacles in the face of traditional spycraft; if your spy travels on a biometric passport, then simply replacing their passport with a new one won't hide their identity from the border authorities of the nation they're visiting. Indeed, the zealous attempts of anti-terrorist security agencies to make it difficult or impossible to disguise your identity may cause extensive blowback on HUMINT operations by their governments' intelligence agencies. What does it imply about the future of espionage if a given agent can only operate in a given target nation under one identity?

Does the second oldest profession have a future in the 21st century?

414 Comments

1:

I reckon so. If what I've read is correct, you don't really get much in the way of travelling James Bond types - the spies you do get are generally pretty well embedded in their particular target and probably useless elsewhere.
The other end of it is in staff attached to embassies, who can pass fairly freely unless declared PNG. Not only that, as Fleming had it in From Russia With Love, having a front office with someone known to be working for a particular intelligence agency can actually help generate business on that front, plus takes attention away from those doing shadier work in the background.

2:

If HUMINT is valuable enough, ways to fool the monitors or even alter those biological features will eventually emerge (GATTACA?). "Attacks only get better" as the cryptographers say.

3:

Another thought occurred to me - a good number of places of interest aren't yet set up for biometric passports. Even then, if you're being that clandestine, you'd probably cross the border somewhere a little less obvious than the airports.
I suppose an excellent target for intelligence agencies these days would be to recruit people who either work for, or who can apply for, positions in that targets country's passport database organisation. Then you can fake up passports from that country and insert the details into the database, adding a new identity each time one gets burned.

4:

Most agents won't be able to choose even a single false identity. They'll be identifiable and identified through all the data they've publicly posted about themselves years before anybody even thought of having them enter the profession.

5:

No more of this "take a plane, go through immigration" nonsense.

Now we'll have more insertions with submarines. This is truely a step forward for the 21st century.

6:

Didn't I see something about a contact lens that could be used to fake out a retina scan recently? Fake fingerprints are old hat. I think this is a non-issue, at least until they start doing genome sequencing at the borders, and even that can probably be faked out if it's done using skin cells.

7:

Could be tricky for some territories. Particularly Lichtenstein, whose wet border is actually pretty shallow.

(On the other hand, you can walk in from Switzerland, shop and have lunch, and walk out without ever encountering any officials. No need to get your feet wet wading the Rhine. The Vatican is a similar smaller example.)

8:

Perhaps something along the lines of employing citizens of a country as spies would become more widespread. With the rise of globalisation both in the form of travel and temporary immigration it's not hard to imagine that any given country could have a plethora of suitable residents willing to move back and spy on their country of origin.

You may get less career spies that move from country to country (though I'm not sure how widespread that is anyway) and more long term placed assets.

Of course electronic intelligence/spying will increase as well with the more covert of snooping on foreign hard drives and more obvious of data mining social networks et al.

9:

My passport has my height off by 3cm, and my eye colour wrong. In over 25 years, I've never had a problem at any border (granted, I haven't been to the US for the last 10 years, but I've flown a fair amount elsewhere), despite also often sporting a range of hair colours and styles wildly different from my passport picture.

Add that to the fact that iris patterns change over time, and fingerprints are notoriously difficult to check accurately in a hurry, and I don't think spies will have too much of a problem. Minor details in their official documents will change and still be accurate enough to pass muster.

10:
Add that to the fact that iris patterns change over time, and fingerprints are notoriously difficult to check accurately in a hurry,...

Biometrics aren't limited to fingerprints or iris scans. Non-intrusive biometrics are of specific interest for border checks, where the majority of the "interesting cases" are people returning who aren't supposed to return. It's much more difficult to change you skull shape and other details, which sensors are going to be able to measure and compare with increasing accuracy.

(non-intrusive biometrics can be set with a relatively high false positive threshold; the objective being to move quickly the people who are certainly not on a no-entry list, and focus on those who might be)

11:

That's interesting.
Wikipedia is down. Check charlie's links on HUMINT and ELINT. Don't like information posted about you? Bring down the data repository

12:

Two failure modes that mean its a humint golden era far from being shut down.

Aren't you assuming the computer is never wrong? In fact, because the border agents know that 99.9999% of the time the computer is never wrong, they will just trust the biometrics are completely suitable. A giant worldwide accessible database with perhaps a employees having RW access, naaah not one of those million or so clerks could be bent, nope.

I'm sure my local beat cop and corporate security guard do not have biometric scanners, at least nothing like the airport has. All you need is one civilian patriot with a clean record willing to go through the entire documented legal "process" and a highly trained humint agent standing on the other side of the completely open and undefended physical border who looks more or less similar to the civilian, at least close enough for a casual glance at drivers license and passport. They swap positions and trade wallets. Civilian patriot goes home with a heck of a story to tell the grandkids someday, while the agent is free to do whatever he wants with full "real" legal documentation. Whats the phrase something like "crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside"

13:

... or even done using blood samples. It's one of the plot points of GATTACA that DNA tests can be fooled.

(Points to spindrift for mentioning that film in this thread - it is truly one of the most thoughtful SF films out there.)

14:

A couple of points to note.

1. Passports aren't the only form of biometric ID; in the UK, we're being issued with driving licenses that also incorporate biometrics. Sooner or later I expect NFC payment cards to show up that incorporate biometrics rather than a PIN to identify their holder.

2. Fingerprints/retinas aren't the only form of biometric measurement. Bone structure is really hard to conceal, and fairly easy for image recognition software to crunch. (Try varying the distance between your pupils, for example, if you don't have a squint.)

3. I understand that agencies issuing ID in the UK -- including both the passport office and the folks issuing driving licenses -- suddenly got zealous about background checks on employees a couple of years ago. I wonder why?

4. Remember that any loophole a spy can exploit is also available for drug smugglers, terrorists, political dissidents, etc. So governments will be actively hunting down and closing such loopholes.

15:

It's much more difficult to change you skull shape

Unless you use a wig?

The human body and face changes over time. This means a high amount of variance, which computers are not yet able to sufficiently compensate for. The most sophisticated and highly tuned recognition system at our disposal, the human mind, can be fooled with disguises and posture. It'll be a while yet before automatic systems catch up.

16:

The human body and face changes over time. This means a high amount of variance, which computers are not yet able to sufficiently compensate for.

That's why passports expire after 10 years, give or take. And why passport issuing agencies take care over the audit trail of ID when you get your passport renewed.

17:

Well, fingerprints and retina prints are easily modifiable with sufficiently advanced biotech. The real bugger is DNA testing. But there's a worse enemy for the spy than biometrics: google.

Real people have a history on the Internet. Background checks are going to drop from days to weeks of effort down to a few clicks of a mouse. Spy agencies are going to learn to use search engines to find out someone's history on the Net and whether the history looks real or planted. Not to mention searching through the Net for matching photographs and the like.

Of course this isn't the death of spying, but it is going to be a real bugger for professional human spies. Computer hacking, drones of all sizes, not to mention bribery and blackmail of established assets, along with useful idiots are the wave of the future.

18:

That's why passports expire after 10 years, give or take. And why passport issuing agencies take care over the audit trail of ID when you get your passport renewed.

Aren't we talking about individuals whose masters have control over these audit trails and no compunction about falsifying them? I do not have the first clue on how exactly agencies go about creating false identities/identifications, but would be extremely surprised if e.g. the US did not regularly receive a number of fake UK passports from their intelligence counterparts.

19:

It strikes me that until we get a strong AI that does the whole lot without human interaction except as the 'subject' for the testing, the answer is no. It may change the spy craft needs, but if there are humans in the loop things like bribery and blackmail will remain options. The system flags an alert and the patsy interacts and says "no, it's OK, false alarm" in whatever method you choose.

Changing inter-pupillary distance is fairly hard. But one measure is pretty useless - binoculars effectively measure it and there's a range of a few mm on most binoculars to cope with all humans. I'm sure if you're huge or tiny you're outside that range but you're probably not a good agent for injecting into a foreign country anyway. Some of the other things are tricky to fake - although padded shoulders, splints in the shoes, fat suits worn under clothes and the like can all change enough of them to cause problems I'm sure.

According to Wikipedia and AFIS search for criminal records currently takes an average of 27 minutes. Until that becomes a lot faster it's going to be hard to use centralised tracking to check if someone has been in under a different identity before - and even if they have, mistakes happen. And that only becomes of interest if you have a central database of every visitor to your country and their biometric records to which you compare each new visitor. Until then, if my passport has my details and I match them, bang, approved. If I'm a spy travelling on a UK passport, the fact that the details on my current passport match the details on a passport issued in the name of Ethel Pierpoint is less important than the fact that they match to me when I'm carrying it.

I don't know how often spies do things where they will need internal ID to another country with correct biometrics, but again the system will suffer with bribery. And maybe hacking to make a back-story.

20:

How will foreign border patrol verify the contents of the biometric chip? If they're relying on signed data from a trusted authority (e.g. the US passport control relies on UK signed data) then what's to stop the UK signing agency from issuing new credentials for a British spy, on order from the Home Office?

I can't see how this makes passport and other ID card biometrics anything other than pretty irrelevant for authorised spies.

Potentially of more concern are the databases that each country can build up itself. That might stop repeat visits under different IDs ("person with attributes X,Y,Z entered country with passport identifying Fred Bloggs on 2012/01/05; person with same attributes now attempting to enter with passport identifying John Smith"), but I can't see this stopping first-time and undetected spies from operating.

Am I missing something?

21:

Almost completely off-topic

The Apocalypse Codex has a 5* review in SFX this month, and is endorsed as "Recommendation of the Month" too.
Congrats.

22:

How will foreign border patrol verify the contents of the biometric chip? If they're relying on signed data from a trusted authority (e.g. the US passport control relies on UK signed data) then what's to stop the UK signing agency from issuing new credentials for a British spy, on order from the Home Office?

Nothing at all.

On the other hand, MI5 will find it increasingly hard, by and by, to fake up cover identifying one of their agents as a Chinese citizen, for example. (See also REAMDE by Neal Stephenson for a fictionalized version of this problem.)

23:

Then again, as per Halting State, maybe the trick will be just discarding career spies altogether, and relying on unwitting players of games instead. Instead of having one person carry out the operation from go to whoa, you have a group of people each doing little bits of it, nothing sinister or significant in any of them individually, but the final coordination effort is done in an air-conditioned office in the Dustbin, or in the middle of the NRA's Secret City, or in an ASIO office in Canbrrra, or wherever. The Great Game still carries on, but instead of the players playing for patriotism or even enlightened self-interest, they're doing it for achievements and points in a computer-mediated RPG.

If the borders aren't permeable to regular spies, the spymasters will use irregular ones. If the borders aren't permeable to irregular spies, they'll use rebels inside the country. None of this is exactly new for the craft - it's stuff which has been happening for a long time, over many centuries. The major difference now is that there's a greater speed of data transmission.

It's also worth noting - there are very few countries where cast-iron border control along 100% of the border is possible or economically feasible. Fences can be scaled, or undermined. Rivers can be swum across, as can lakes. Boats exist, as do cars and buses. Decoys are always feasible (make a lot of noise and fuss that looks like a botched clandestine insertion at point A; meanwhile, Mr Bond sneaks in at point B with the aid of a set of bolt cutters and a good pair of running shoes). I don't think the clandestine intelligence industry is likely to be falling over any time soon.

24:

If that's truly the case we'll probably see, or not see rather because it will be done in secret, a rise in the bribery of people who create such records along with an increase in hacking to back-stop the identity in the right places. I'd also predict a rise in embassy-based spies recruiting local agents who already have all the necessary IDs and the 'messy enough' back story.

But, we're supposed to believe in Hitler's Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist and modern China people faked IDs, bribed people and so on. The things they will need to fake might change but with the human element involved it's still all doable.

25:

I thought a lot of spying was about recruiting people who would give you the information you needed. That doesn't require a clandestine "spy person" anymore that law enforcement requires clandestine cops to recruit informants.

The game will change as it adapts to new technologies and conditions.

26:

This was pretty much my thoughts also. The only place for entry under false credentials would be one off covert operation where a one time use on the identity and even the agent would be acceptable.

How feasible to use drones as couriers to check dead drops etc, making bringing couriers though border controls completely redundant.

27:

From what I understand (from what I have read of the British SIS* model, anyway) Intelligence is managed by 'Officers' who are usually attached to embassies or travel under their own identities (though perhaps with a cover reason for travel) These officers recruit and manage local assets who are the actual 'Agents' and are natives of the target country.

There is also, I believe, a team drawn from special forces attached to the service that SIS can deploy for particularly hands-on stuff involving guns and explosions. I don't imagine these types generally bother with niceties like passports and border control.

28:

I recently read a book called The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez (Muddy River Link). Mendez started in the graphics bullpen (where he forged passports) and rose ultimately to be the head of the CIA's Office of Technical Services. He was very good a number of things, including disguise.

Based on what Mendez wrote, I suspect there's, oh, a bit of misinformation out there, if not disinformation. The CIA has been working with Hollywood makeup artists since the 1970s on disguise, and by 1989, they were demonstrating techniques that aren't that different from the Mission Impossible tricks. Since Mendez wrote about this in 2000, I think it's safe to assume that they've progressed a bit since then. They've also had insider access to US biometrics (and likely others, since even in the 60s, Mendez spent a lot of time reverse engineering immigration protocols from other countries), so I suspect that they can get into quite a lot of places if they want to.

Unfortunately the problem isn't getting spies into and out of countries. If you've listened carefully, the CIA has been reported in Syria repeatedly, by reporters who somehow also smuggled themselves in.

Instead the problem is intelligence itself. While I agree it's useful, and we'll never know how many wars spies prevented, I'd also say that intelligence often fails (witness especially the CIA on fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11, WMDs in Iraq, but also the entire US intelligence establishment), and even when it succeeds, it doesn't help the society stay healthy (see the KGB, and arguably British Imperial intelligence). There isn't a technological fix to this, either.

The other thing that truly bugs me about the spy business is what use The Street makes of their techniques and technology after the spies have moved on. For example, we've got shortwave number stations springing up that use Spanish, and people guess that these are drug gangs, using one-time pads to communicate. Those same drug gangs also seem to be using tactics straight out of the CIA's paramilitary training courses. I could go on, but you get the point. Ultimately, clandestine services seem to be toxic waste generators, except that their toxic output is political chaos, terrorists, and more efficient criminals.

29:

Oh yeah, I had an asterisk there in my previous comment... SIS is the proper name of MI6. They have a website and everything!

30:

Most HUMINT is gathered by means of officially credited people under their own identities arranging for other people already there to tell them things. I don't see that changing because of extra biometrics at borders.

What I do see making a difference would be biometric surveillance everywhere else. If the accredited trade delegation from Jibrovia can't quietly walk out of the back door of the consulate and go for a drink in a bar under a different name, because the panopticon clocks his gait as soon as he passes a lamp-post, then spies will be in trouble.

Where biometric passports and things will really make the spying game more difficult will be in sneaking defectors out through commercial channels. It would also make black ops activities more difficult to set up. Border controls geared to stopping terrorists from moving from place to place so that cells and operations are more difficult to set up, will also mitigate against sending a platoon of SBS into an area under cover through commercial channels. HUMINT controllers, not so much.

31:

Shipowners have long used flags of convenience. Perhaps future spies will be carrying biometric-free Liberian passports for the same reasons.

Other than that, the major problem with biometry in general is that there are so many people clustered around the average in most traits. We could imagine a future where, to be considered as a clandestine agent, it was necessary to be very close to average height, say 170 to 175 cm for a man, brown haired and brown eyed, average weight, etc.

Digital fingerprint analysis has false positives; the data seems to be stored as a set of relative locations of major fingerprint features. It shouldn't be too hard to throw off with microsurgery and a stitch or two. As a narratively convenient bonus, that sort of thing isn't likely to fool a trained human, so once the file gets flagged for scrutiny the fact that the prints have been modified is a major clue.

Properly designed contacts might be able to fool retinal scanners.

The number of people who opt out of social networking and similar data trails, although relatively small, will probably continue to be much larger than the number of covert operatives.

Of course, this is all fiction-type James Bond spycraft, rather than the more realistic type where a clerk with a boring government job hands off some information to a handler every few months.

32:

I've got to disagree, Elaine. It would be easier to slip a GPS tag into someone's clothes.

The thing about gaits is that they change. Tom Brown Jr (Link to his school) is famous for being able to tell all sorts of things about someone's physical and mental states simply from the tracks they leave behind, and he teaches the techniques to his advanced students. Some cops have learned how to spot whether someone's carrying a gun based on how they walk. I changed my own gait (to ameliorate chronic knee problems) by switching to very thin-soled shoes, which quickly taught me how to stop banging my heel down with each stride, and thereby cured the pain that the heel shocks were causing.

None of this is magic. It may sound supernatural that Brown can tell whether someone needs to pee based on their walk, but all he did was to create a print box, wait till his bladder was full, and compare that with his gait when his bladder was empty. If you've ever tried to hold it in as you waddled to the WC, you know what that does to your stride, and he simply spotted the difference in weight distributions recorded in his print box. Cops spot guns in gaits because the weight of the gun in the pocket, plus the consciousness that you *really* don't want to fire it in your pocket, all change how you move.

There are a lot of tricks that can alter gaits. Women can wear shoes with different heels, pinching or loose toes, and so forth. You can tape a penny or two in your shoe to fake a limp. You can stoop and shuffle, stride confidently, or whatever. If you're worried about a computer picking up your leg length, wear loose clothes and walk with slightly bent knees. All of these are going to make it harder for a computer to ID you based on silhouette.

Now, if they figure out how to put a bloodhound on a chip, then spies will really have trouble. Of course, that means that they have to come up with a whole way to database human odors.

33:

There are people with a sparse internet footprint, or none at all - Amish, etc, plus the members of various underclasses.

So if, in the future, you see someone in Moscow with a distinctive beard and anachronistic clothing, well don't blow their cover.

"Pay attention, Bond. Now this looks like an ordinary horse and carriage, but if you give the horse these oats, it'll run at almost 40mph!"

34:

Shipowners have long used flags of convenience. Perhaps future spies will be carrying biometric-free Liberian passports for the same reasons.

Right.

And it's so easy to move unobtrusively in the USA or the EU if you carry a Libyan or Afghan passport today, isn't it?

("Flag of convenience" passports will tend to become useless very rapidly -- if anything they'll be seen as a flag: "this person is hiding something".)

35:


Info on passports is not a problem - they don't currently store anything that is not sufficiently modifiable to fool a machine / bored border guard.

Iris scans might be difficult to beat, but, sufficiently high stakes and equipment built down to a cost will probably make them unreliable enough to fool.

The whole unmodifiable body stats thing will come down to whether or not the technology is good enough - If your eyes are 73mm +/- 0.5mm apart, well, there's another 20 people in the queue behind you that got off the same plane that are also a match, and 10 million people that match have been through the airport in the last X years. I wouldn't bet against contact lenses that couldn't change the apparent distance between your pupils by +/- 0.25mm if you can measure to that accuracy.

Surgical implants will be able to move your cheek bones, chin width, ear size, and so on, enough to mean that automated systems will either not match, or generate too many false positives.

Much of this would fall foul of really tight security, but we're talking about mass transit here, where they'll examine your shoes in minute detail but ignore the hat you're wearing...

36:

@markg

Yes its fairly well known that the SIS use SAS/SBS as muscle as oposed to the CIA who have their own operators.

One example is the recent suituation in Libia where pair of SIS guys plus a sas brick got into trouble with the rebels - 6 man team same size as an ODA - so it looks like we are mirroring the US team setup.

So where do I find 20mm laundry figures so I can get dual use out of my Force on Force Minis.

37:

IIRC it's the Counter Revolutionary Warfare wing of 22 SAS that's attached to SIS. Apart from that, the vast majority of "spies" sit at desks and never actually "do" spying.

38:

For general "Being a nosy son-or-daughter-of-a-gun" shenanigans, the obvious solution is to establish a cover which justifies lots of investigation and poking-of-nose into places where you dont really belong... So, I kind of expect to see minor news sources with budgets that dont really make sense if you go through their books. Or heck, overtly public news services suddenly finding that their staff is a bit bigger than it used to be and that their funding is now a holy cow that is never touched.

39:

the Amish secret service.....

40:

No matter how much ELINT, the data still has to be analysed by someone, eventually.
Even with software filtering and monitoring the mountains of data collected.
This what made the Soviet, & esp the E-German system creak to the point of collapse.
Changes in degree, yes, but not in kind.
However, there may / will be other considerations.
See also Megpie’s comments @ 23.

Such as:
Most of the data you want on a country will be available off the nets anyway, or can be gained for satellite photos.
Even China is having difficulty keeping info quiet any more.
The only way to avoid this is the (current) Syrian or N-Korean routes, and most guvmints, even authoritarian ones, don’t want to go down that route, as it cramps their own freedom of operation and even the ruling clique’s prosperity.
There is, of course, a glaring exception to this rule …
A theocracy.
Such as the aforementioned N Korea, or the sort of thing Hick Sanatorium & his mates want for the USSA – in which case all bets are off.

“Biometrics” generally …
REALLY quick DNA-ID testing – should be available within 5 years.
Then what?
Also the aforementioned Terahertz laser scanner, reading chemical emissions, and body-shapes. Um. Heteromeles @ 32 – the scanner should / will (?) will be able to detect those vapours and body-emissions.
I wonder if eating a really pongy curry (yum!) might fool’em, or lots of garlic?

@ 5
“Insertion via submarine” – with false papers that will REALLY pass modern state-run ID checks?
Try again?

Ryan @ 8
Yes, always the safest route, there are always traitors or “patriots” according to one’s pov.
People like Vidkun Quisling on one hand, or Albert Einstein on the other, for instance ….


41:

Because you record all incoming data. Our agent may be able to enter under a false identity once but after that point he's stuck with it. If you try to insert a new ID with iodentical biometrics lots of red flashing lights and klaxons go off.

42:

The name's Beard, James Beard.

43:

Borders? What borders? I can walk into Portugal or France if I want to, no borders here, mang.

44:

The biggest obstacle to subversion is going to be the networking of independent systems (and also a focus on always tracking everyone, as opposed to giving unfettered access to the authorised and no access to the unauthorised, but that's a separate issue). It's possible to break one system, but it is much, much more difficult to break multiple parallel systems simultaneously and in identical ways.

45:

For evidence of this: the team that assasssinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is burned forever, and it was known that this would be the case when they were sent in.

And those talking about "false-flag" passports: that team went in under British, Irish, French, German and Australian false passports. There were several Israeli diplomatic staff expelled from Great Britain, Australia, and Ireland, and Germany started extradition proceedings against an Israeli agent arrested in Poland in the aftermath.
Screw with a country's documents, and you tend to trigger diplomatic Bad Stuff.

46:

As for human quick DNA ID testing--who knows? In any case, I can (if I'm not too squeamish) get enough DNA from all sorts of sources to make that harder to gather. The simple defense at Immigration, when your DNA is unreadably cluttered, is, "oh dear, I had such a huge party sending me off, they all shook my hand and, you know, I never washed it..." Or something similar with mouth swabs: I heard of a high school biology lab where students were looking at mouth swabs, and one girl had a sperm cell on her slide. You get the picture.

I pointed to odors, because bloodhounds can reliably and rapidly distinguish between identical twins (presumably because they have different microbial ecosystems on their skin), but since we don't know all of what the bloodhounds are detecting, the big problems there are a) figuring out how to turn scents into data, and b) figuring out how to profile someone based on their odors. What constitutes a unique odor fingerprint? This can be done theoretically, but it needs a lot of R&D first.

As for biometrics and ID, as I agree wholeheartedly: if you can't spot warnings in the data, the data are useless. So far, the CIA and other organizations have been batting close to zero on this. One effective tactic I've read about from them to date is to put the pressure on, then let their target's inherent paranoia cause the group to implode in a wave of pogroms, as they try to eliminate all their leaks.

47:

The STASI managed that very effectively, using low-tech kit like sweat-absorbing pads in chairs stored in bell jars. They had a substantial percentile of the East German population's smells on record byt the end of the Cold War.

48:

"One effective tactic I've read about from them to date is to put the pressure on, then let their target's inherent paranoia cause the group to implode in a wave of pogroms, as they try to eliminate all their leaks."

An unreliable source I read but can't recall (was it a Dan Brown novel? Surely not.) claims that Abu Nidal killed more of his own people than any outside agency, in a series of mole hunts.

49:

Greg Tingey:
“Insertion via submarine” – with false papers that will REALLY pass modern state-run ID checks?
Try again?

All the papers I need to go anywhere around the US are a drivers license and an ATM or Credit card. The only biometrics are a photo and listing of my height, weight, and eye color, which are also on magstripe on the back.

It's not trivial but not impossible to set up fake identities for people from other countries, with real US drivers licenses.

Until a couple of years ago I could go to Mexico or Canada with those IDs - now requires a passport. But I can still travel anywhere in the US without additional ID.

I need a social security number and card if I want to get a job (legally) but those are no more difficult to get than anything else.

50:

Frankly, after Halting State, what else could anyone come up with. You should ally youself with a small scale computer game manufacturer and sell the idea to various countries. I'm sure if handled correctly it could get you lots of cash.

How much does it matter that your agent can only be known under one name in one or a number of countries anyway? How often do they use false names these days? (Apart from Israeli assassination teams that is) After all it may not be as big a problem as you think.

Or another fashionable response - outsource it. A multinational corporation responsible for spying in a number of countries wouldn't have quite the same issues to worry about.

51:

Oddly enough, I just read that citation about Abu Nidal this morning. The source is Duane Clarridge's autobiography A Spy for All Seasons. Clarridge was the first head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, and was also forced out over Iran-Contra. According to this story (and note, it's an autobiography, and therefore, ahem, highly objective) They couldn't infiltrate Abu Nidal for various reasons, but they were able to get lots of intelligence on where he was getting money and arms. When they couldn't get other countries to act on that intelligence, they finally published it all in The Abu Nidal Handbook. Abu Nidal started killing everyone who reported even being approached by an intelligence agency, along with their families and associates. At that point, he alienated his trusted lieutenants, and things reportedly went down from there.

Yes, I'm researching the CIA for a project. It's certainly more dashing than, say, reading about the siting for new toxic waste dumps, but sometimes the morality seems about the same.

52:

Nah, it'll be management consultants. Emit some bullshit, get access to all areas. Also fits with the idea that the target of espionage won't be the government or military itself, but the people to whom essential functions are outsourced.

53:

The following image link is classified SECRET GOLD JULY BOOJUM.

http://chzscience.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/funny-science-news-experiments-memes-magnetic-putty.gif

Slightly off-topic but too good to pass up.

54:

Nidal was referenced in the Fuller Memorandum.

It's hard to say how much "official history" is the truth or remarkably persistent propaganda. We still can't get a good answer on Hitler's vegetarianism. The versions are:

1. Yes, he was a vegetarian for health reasons.
2. Yes and no, he was a vegetarian by early 20th century standards which meant he limited meat consumption, not eliminated it
3. No, it was a BS story cooked up by his propagandists to make him seem like a religious ascetic which tested well with focus groups.

As near as I can tell, we still can't get an answer on this.

I have to say, the Nidal story on the surface sounds like the premise of a hilarious Monty Python bit, kind of like the Dave Chappelle bit with the blind racist who doesn't know he's actually black. It only stops being funny when you actually think about it seriously. The massive body count, oh crap.

It sounds like henching for the Joker is safer than with this guy. Once I get over the horror of the tale, I start questioning the plausibility. It's hard to imagine people staying in an organization like that with such intensive purges. Then again, we do have documented evidence of people staying with abusive cults, even to the point of mass suicide.

55:

The CIA got some things stunningly wrong -- the exploding cigars and thallium-laced boot polish with which they attempted to kill Fidel Castro, not to mention the LSD experiments (the elephant!), Operation Acoustic Kitty, and all sorts of other stuff ... but I'm pretty sure there was some thousand monkey syndrome at work there, because they also had some striking successes. If they were really responsible for gaslighting Abu Nidal into his internal purges, that would probably qualify as a major win. (Abu Nidal was not a nice piece of work.)

56:

I thought biometrics weren't unique enough for this game. You're biometrics won't pass for a random person's, but you can't assume that two people with the same biometric set are actually the same person.

So, it probably doesn't matter much. Just issue him with a new (British) passport. I doubt they really know who's in the country and who isn't.

57:

The real magic is in the signal to noise ratio. The US has an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants running around. That's a population the size of Greece, and in better financial shape. If you can't blend in with the legitimate, blend in with the harmlessly illegitimate.

Then buy the same sorts of fake ID that the other illegals buy. If you attract scrutiny, it's better to be deported as an illegal than arrested as a spy. Hiding secrets behind secrets usually works; people usually stop digging when they figure out what you're hiding, if it's something that you have an obvious reason to hide.

Anyway, anywhere there are millions of people with a vested interest in evading government scrutiny, a covert agent should be able to move freely. And when there are governments that share that interest (Mexico, maybe Turkey), biometric data may not be collected in the first place.

58:

Ah, conditional probability, one of the most important concepts I teach my finite statistics students. This one has actually popped up as an exam question.

Suppose you have some process or technique - doesn't matter the tech level - that is 99.9% accurate in identifying terrorists/spies/what have you. For the sake of simplicity, we'll assume our test is also 99.9% accurate in identifying non-terrorists or what have you (those two figures are seldom the same, obviously). The question is, given that your scanners have fingered someone as a possible terrorist, what is the probability that they actually are a terrorist?

To answer this question, you need one more number, the incidence of terrorists amongst the general population. So say it's one in a million (it's actually less, but go with me on this one). With that last figure, we can then answer: Given that passenger has been fingered as a terrorist by a test that's 99.9% accurate, the probability that they actually are a terrorist is . . . 0.01%.

This is a completely general analysis, btw, so fooling around with the tech isn't really a solution. The only way to up that last figure is to have a test which is 99.999...9% accurate (where adding each additional decimal place is ten times as hard as the previous one and ten times as expensive), or to have the general incidence of terrorists/spies/etc. go way up. And if you have a situation where one person in a hundred is a terrorist or a spy, well, let's just say that border security is not your biggest problem ;-)

59:

They are still (allegedly) using animals in that way ie the Iranian capture of a CIA squirrel.

60:

Yes, true on all of that. The only reason I'm skeptical about Duane Clarridge's account is that I don't personally have another source that verifies what he says. There's no reason to think he was wrong about Abu Nidal, except for the fact that he was on the wrong side of the Iran-Contra affair and claims that it wasn't quite as stinking as Congress made it out to be. That may be true too, but it comes down to whether you believe an autobiography or not.

As for causing Abu Nidal to eat itself from within, I'm totally cool with that.

My general grumble about the CIA is that it doesn't seem to be particularly good at its core function (providing top-of-the-line intelligence to the President), and it has caused all sorts of other problems that have disturbingly long half-lives (as noted above). It's not Operation Acoustic Kitty so much as the widespread dissemination of guerrilla and espionage tactics that really concerns me.

The only good news, based on what I've seen in the martial arts community, is that after a few generations, most of the stuff the CIA taught will be watered down to uselessness in most cases. This is not a bad thing.

61:

Spies were locals with their real identities. Biometrics won't change that.

The foreign spymasters managing them stayed a long time in the target country under a cover profession (seems to swing between military attache to cultural attache and back over the generations) but with a real passport. Biometrics won't change that either.

On the other hand, it's curtains for secret agents.

62:

Jollyreaper:
I have to say, the Nidal story on the surface sounds like the premise of a hilarious Monty Python bit, kind of like the Dave Chappelle bit with the blind racist who doesn't know he's actually black. It only stops being funny when you actually think about it seriously. The massive body count, oh crap.

Nobody would ever be crazy enough to assassinate a third-world country's leading presidential candidate by handing two Uzis, plane tickets, and a pile of cash to a pair of 16 year old wannabe gangsters and telling them to machinegun him on the flight. Except for Carlos Pizarro Leongómez.

You can't write some of this stuff as fiction, nobody will believe it.

63:

Riffing on the theme of conditional probability, I think the real question here is what sort of false positives are you willing to tolerate? Because it's simply not enough to handwave new tech and declare it's 99% accurate, or 99.9% accurate, or even 99.99% accurate (you can do Magic Engineering, Niven style, and simply say for the sake of the story that it's 99.99999% accurate, but that's a different story.)

So when are high false positives tolerated? Well, the vast majority of instances where proof of identity is required is with financial transactions. What happens there? Well, in every case I've had personal experience with, the onus is on you to prove the charges on your credit card were actually someone else's, or that the person withdrawing money from your account at the ATM wasn't actually you. Iow, for most false positives, the misidentified person has to simply grin and bear it. And really, in the grand scheme of things the absolute bad consequences in this setup aren't really all that bad.

What about more serious cases, situations where there is criminal intent or - as posited here - spying? The answer, I'm afraid, is that in most cases, high failure rates are still tolerated. I suspect that this is the real reason why people who are obviously identified as Muslim are deliberated targeted by security theater: What can they do about it if they are falsely identified as a result of deliberate profiling? The answer seems to be - very little.

It would be a different story, of course, if people of Northern European extraction were deliberately targeted (and it would hardly effect the rates of correct identification if they were). There would be, ah, significant blowback in that case, and Something Would be Done About it.

It strikes me that Charlie's scenario seems to fall more into the latter category than the former, but maybe I'm not following his thought processes accurately. Then again, in the 21st century maybe random white fe/males of Northern European extraction can now be accused of being spies and treated accordingly with complete impunity for the agencies doing so. Even if, er, regretable mistakes were made.

64:

I've been seeing that "Nobody would believe it as fiction" thing for a long time, and you know what, I think it's mince.
For instance, I just finished a really bad novel written to cash in on the Da Vinci code stuff. Two paper thin characters run around the world listening to talking heads tell them stuff that has been cribbed straight from Charles Hapgood or Rand Flem-Ath, before ending up with the very top of the great Pyramid of Giza.
Oh, and there's a Corporation trying to take over the world, an evil member of which is a fundie trying to trigger armageddon, but it's okay, he gets taken out in his stealth plane unintentionally by the secondary baddy who has mistaken how Pyramid power works.

Frankly it makes far less sense than giving guns to teenagers.

65:

I think you might be guilty of being a bit parochial in your POV. Yes, certainly from what I've read of US airport security they profile Muslims and if you're Middle Eastern and innocent... well tough.

Although there are more and more instances of really bad profiling and white folks of all kinds speaking out that it might change soon.

But if you go to Iraq say, swanning in as a random white person... if they think you're a spy being white certainly won't help your case. You can add China, some parts of Africa and the like to the list. I suspect having an American accent in Pakistan might really hurt you case. If you go to Turkey being white might be OK, but blonde... they think you're German and that's not good. (This is based on several years worth of reports from friends travelling there and the blondes - male or female - had a much harder time of it until they flashed British passports, but from 15 years ago now so it might have changed.)

66:

My guess is outsorcing: The really dirty work (like hiering someone to disclose info they really aren't allowd to) is paid work for criminals, as are activities like murdering people or sabotaging something.

67:

guthrie:
I've been seeing that "Nobody would believe it as fiction" thing for a long time, and you know what, I think it's mince.
For instance, I just finished a really bad novel written to cash in on the Da Vinci code stuff. Two paper thin characters run around the world listening to talking heads tell them stuff that has been cribbed straight from Charles Hapgood or Rand Flem-Ath, before ending up with the very top of the great Pyramid of Giza.
Oh, and there's a Corporation trying to take over the world, an evil member of which is a fundie trying to trigger armageddon, but it's okay, he gets taken out in his stealth plane unintentionally by the secondary baddy who has mistaken how Pyramid power works.

Frankly it makes far less sense than giving guns to teenagers.

The print-on-demand and ebook revolution has freed Shub-Slushpile from its place of slumber and losed it among the peoples of the world.

Not that this wasn't to some degree true before, but moreso now.

That said... How well did the title you're describing sell? Well enough that it's a disproof of what I said, or poorly enough that it proves my point... ?

68:

Er, sorry, goofed by one line in the quoting there. "Frankly it makes far less sense than giving guns to teenagers" was Guthrie's last line, not my first one.

69:

Actually, the publisher was Pan, in 2007, as an imprint of Pan Macmillan...

Amazon.com have it ranked as #443,603, and it has an average of a 2.5 star review. Although it clearly was for sale long before Amazon got hold of it, the numbers appear to be for the reprint paperback.
The author's next book gest 1.5 star rating, which is still a bit more than I would give this one.

Hmm, that makes me think, what before the da Vinci code was far out and totally unbelievable. Foucoults Pendulum? Books by edgar Wallace? I recall one where the baddies end up trying to escape by stealing a torpedo boat destroyer after gassing the crew.

70:

Nidal was referenced in the Fuller Memorandum.

Oh, God Charlie, I'm so sorry to have mistaken you for Dan Brown. Please don't ban me.

In future I will check references much more carefully.

71:

As a general rule, I think of three types of spies.

1) Local assets, who have sensitive jobs for the espionage target, and have legitimate access to secrets (which they, as spies, are betraying). Better ID doesn't change their position much, although cell phone records, security cameras, and such can make it easier to establish their whereabouts.

2) Foreign agents under official cover. One country (say, the UK) sends an agent (say, Bob) to another country (US) as a minor embassy or military official with diplomatic immunity. If caught for espionage, the OC spy may be sent home, but it's considered bad form to prosecute him, and very bad form to cut off his fingers until he gets loquacious. The target country already knows who he is, although tracking technologies may cause the same problems. This is the preferred type of cover for career spies, who are attached to their fingers (literally).

3) Foreign agents under non-official cover (NOC). This cover does not provide diplomatic immunity, so if caught these spies face prosecution or worse. If the host country has strong ID but continues to have a significant undocumented underclass, then cover identities move downscale. The ability to convincingly imitate a Mexican or Turkish illegal immigrant becomes useful. Entering the target country involves fewer airplanes and more hiking. It seems doable, if difficult.

72:

Now to trawl that Wikipedia article's revision history to find out who inserted the phrase "pet project"...

Guthrie @ 50: see Stratfor.

And guthrie again @ 69: the Illuminatus! trilogy. The answer to "most ridiculous" questions is always the Illuminatus! trilogy, if it isn't about combat. If it is, the answer is proably something by Simon R. Green. (",)

73:
I think you might be guilty of being a bit parochial in your POV. Yes, certainly from what I've read of US airport security they profile Muslims and if you're Middle Eastern and innocent... well tough.

I'm not sure about what you mean by parochial here. I've chosen a specific example that most of the people reading this blog can relate to, nothing more.

Otherwise ... I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying, which is an all-too-common misunderstanding about how this sort of testing works. The accuracy of a test, generally speaking, doesn't have a whole lot to do with the correctness with which the trait being tested for is identified in a specific person. The same applies for the test not detecting the trait in a specific person. And the correctness of the test is overwhelmingly dominated by the proportion of the population having the trait when that proportion is very small (or very large). Doesn't matter whether the test is 99%, 99.9%, or 99.99% accurate; most of the time it will incorrectly identify the presence (or alternatively, the absence) of the trait in the population being screened.

That's just simple mathematics, and trying to handwave this by appealing to advanced technology is about as effective as handwaving an optical arrangement that can image hot spots brighter than the surface of the Sun. Oh, you can by fiat say that your testing is 99.999999% accurate. But that's Smithian Magic Tech (which he actually needed, because if his power plants were only 99.99% efficient, the ship and crew would have been instantly vaporized by the waste heat), not plausible near-future cutting edge stuff.

74:

It's naivete to think this isn't an arms race and that the defense side is going to permanently possess measures that the offense side won't develop counter-strategies to deal with. Forex --

'Reverse-Engineered Irises Look So Real, They Fool Eye-Scanners'

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/07/reverse-engineering-iris-scans/

'New research being released this week at the Black Hat security conference by academics in Spain and the U.S....to recreate iris images that match digital iris codes that are stored in databases and used by iris-recognition systems to identify people... and could help someone thwart identification at border crossings or gain entry to secure facilities protected by biometric systems.

'The work goes a step beyond previous work on iris-recognition systems. Previously, researchers have been able to create wholly synthetic iris images that had all of the characteristics of real iris images — but weren’t connected to real people ....

'The idea is to generate the iris image, and once you have the image you can actually print it and show it to the recognition system, and it will say ‘okay, this is the [right] guy,’” says Javier Galbally, who conducted the research with colleagues at the Biometric Recognition Group-ATVS, at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, and researchers at West Virginia University.

75:
Better ID doesn't change their position much, although cell phone records, security cameras, and such can make it easier to establish their whereabouts.

I suspect that this is the up-and-coming tech for catching spies: increasingly sophisticated traffic analysis performed on large databases. Doesn't matter if the probability of any one person being a spy is small; the probability that none of the suspects is a spy becomes correspondingly smaller. And if they're all talking to each other ...

76:
'Reverse-Engineered Irises Look So Real, They Fool Eye-Scanners'

Obvious (bleah) sf: "Barb Wire".

77:

'Obvious (bleah) sf: "Barb Wire".'

So here's a link to the original presentation --

https://www.blackhat.com/html/bh-us-12/bh-us-12-briefings.html#Galbally

78:

Any spy who carries a cell phone to a felony espionage job deserves to be caught. Leave that charging on the nightstand at home. If anyone asks, you forgot it that day (plenty of people do) and you were going about your normal routine.

It's still possible, if you have a set of crimes that you think were done by the same person, to get a list of people whose cell phones didn't move that day and see if any names stand out. But it's harder, and one wrongly attributed crime in the set will probably take the real spy off the list.

Better yet, leave it in your home country.

As for security cameras: hats, umbrellas, double-sided jackets, and the like should keep the problem manageable.

79:

Jay:
Any spy who carries a cell phone to a felony espionage job deserves to be caught.

The phrase "burner phone" springs to mind...

And if you first think of Burning Man when I say that you are in the wrong field 8-)

80:
It's still possible, if you have a set of crimes that you think were done by the same person, to get a list of people whose cell phones didn't move that day and see if any names stand out. But it's harder, and one wrongly attributed crime in the set will probably take the real spy off the list.

But that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about; not spies caught out being dumb.

Yes, traffic analysis of this sort is hard, in fact, very hard. But there's all sorts of incentives to develop the theory, and not just to catch spies. This is, in fact, what modern data science is all about. And where all that abstract math junk like Betti numbers and homological algebra starts to have practical applications (basically,looking at the persistence of 'holes' in the data across a huge range of dimensions.)

Hmmm ... are we looking at the beginnings of Bene Gesserit spycraft?

81:

I've often thought the best approach would be a combination of hypnotism/drugs on an individual already on the inside of whatever organisation you were interested in. Something of a triple win:

1) You work them over with drugs and particularly hypnotism techniques, probably when they are already out of it from a night on the town. You quiz them on what they know, etc.

2) You plant commands to control them into retrieving specific further info, doing particular things you want done.

3) Before they can be caught and quized/tested themselves, you arrange for them to have an 'accident'/commit suicide - removing the risk to you and reducing the effectiveness of the organisation in question.

There do seem to be quite a few government civil servants / defence contractors that commit suicide in suspicious circumstances...

All you need is technology in the hypnotism arena that is slightly more effective and resilient than that which your average stage hypnotist can achieve - much easier than faking DNA.

82:

Don't we also have to take into account, not just the technical feasibility of certain options, but the preferences and institutional pressures at play among the people who will be using them as well?

Part of the reason intelligence agencies moved so heavily to ELINT is because humans make shitty sources. People lie. People make things up to impress you, or to tell you what they think you want to hear. For money. They can be turned. They require information to pass physically from person to person. They demand meet-ups, exposing your personnel to risk. They might eventually demand to be extracted.

A phone intercept or a satellite photo won't do any of those things, and you can manage those things from the comfort of an office.

(I sort of feel like Charlie is riffing on this with the Laundry's Black Chamber. The CIA is notorious for being deeply in love with ELINT, especially after their ability to do HUMINT was degraded by some of their own spectacular fuckups. Being able to puppet people from Langley? No independent operators, no unreliable sources, you run everything with analysts and a handful of control operators? They'd be all over that.)

But my larger point is that intelligence organizations may simply shrug their shoulders and accept (and in some cases welcome) a much lower-impact, lower-intensity, less useful class of real-life spies who operate under severe restrictions, and get on with the business of hacking the growing panopticon for their own benefit, gathering intel that way. They might even be right.

83:

Manchurian candidate? No thanks, there's no evidence that trick has worked particularly well. Probably a better use of that idea are all the back-doors that everyone seems to be building into hardware and software these days. We may get Wired War 2 when everyone tries all their Day zero exploits at once...

84:


I've been seeing that "Nobody would believe it as fiction" thing for a long time, and you know what, I think it's mince.

I think writers need to be careful when invoking this. "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." Mark Twain.

This is a great rant talking about how WWII would make for a lousy TV show.
http://squid314.livejournal.com/275614.html

Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there's no way to take the Japanese home islands because they're invincible...and then they realize they totally can't have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they've never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was "classified". In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone's ever seen before - drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn't it?

...and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin' unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you're starting to wonder if any of the show's writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

Long story short, whether something seems like brilliant writing or hackery is all in the approach. You really have to stick to plausibility or else the audience will accuse you of melodrama. Telling a sports story? If it's fictionalized then you really can't get away with bottom of the 9th, tie score, bases loaded, and the champ wins the game. Then again, subversions of that very thing have been done too often, too. All sports stories are cliche.

85:

The fancy mind control crap is squarely in Laundry territory (evil magick) or at least 50 years in the future (scifi magic) because there's nothing like that in the here and now that will work.

I am curious as to what happened with Patrick. Control murdered his wife. Sure, she wasn't long for this world but doing that kind of thing can't keep the troops happy. And then his corpse was there for the teleseance. I'm not sure if it was just decoration or if Patrick was still in there. The Black Chamber seems to be big on the needless, unconstructive cruelty thing.

86:

"Rand Flem-Ath"

Whoa, a blast from the path. I worked with him at the Greater Victoria Public Library for several years, during which time he married and changed name to the above. He was a really nice guy and great to work with.

But every once in awhile he would tell me of his "theories", which even then were, er, unorthodox.

I am sure, from knowing him, that he is, or was then, perfectly sincere. Combine the research skills of a Librarian with the zeal of a pseudo-scientist and you have the makings of a successful pitcher of woo.

I don't remember exactly when he left Our Fair Library but it's interesting to see he has achieved a measure of fame (or infamy) because when I knew him I thought he had the makings of some kind of new, though probably minor Velikovsky.

On the other hand if your name is used with disdain on Charlie's you have made the grade in some way.

I wonder how his books sell?


87:

I suspect people are overthinking this. Yes, it will become much more difficult to slip people in to another country. You will probably still be able to arrange things so you can, but the cost and difficulty of doing so is going to mean you save it for when you really need it.

The obvious solution is just to suborn others rather than sending your own in. Paying them off will still be possible. Barring the kind of change in human behavior that would mean we don't need to spy, we can assume most divisions will still exist. So while the proles may be watched everywhere, the ruling class is still going to want to be able to slip away from their spouse to meet with their lover, hide their money from being taxed/seized in divorce, and go to a "think tank conference" where lobbyists, prostitutes, and narcotics will be in abundance, without having to justify themselves to the proles or deal with the same hassles the poor do. So there will still be ways to pay them off the turned assets.

The problem with turned assets is that they are always harder to find/create than it is to insert your own people, but here the defense works for the offense. The massive data collection apparatus that makes it hard for you to get your people in also gets you and out-sized return when your turncoat delivers.

So basically, it will get more expensive, but everything will still play out.

88:

But if you go to Iraq say, swanning in as a random white person... if they think you're a spy being white certainly won't help your case. ... China ... Africa ... I suspect having an American accent in Pakistan might really hurt you case. ... Turkey ... but blonde... they think you're German and that's not good ....

When I spent a lot of time in Toronto back in the early 80s many of the "locals" talked about adopting a Texas twang when in Montreal as many of the locals there would become deaf to the English language if it had any hint of a British origin. This was back in the days of talk of Quebec separating from Canada.

89:

If it's fictionalized then you really can't get away with bottom of the 9th, tie score, bases loaded, and the champ wins the game.

And (with apologies to the non US folks reading this) the Reds will never come back from being down 0-3 to the Yankees and win the pennant and then the series. Who would believe such a nonsensical story line?

90:

When I spent a lot of time in Toronto back in the early 80s many of the "locals" talked about adopting a Texas twang when in Montreal as many of the locals there would become deaf to the English language if it had any hint of a British origin.

It was a bit more complex than that. I've had multiple French Canadians of various ages boil it down to me thusly: they didn't/don't expect Americans, or even actual British people, to speak French, because why should they? And most tourists would go to the effort of making a good-faith attempt to either muddle through or at least be polite about it.

But many of them were SUPREMELY honked off that their own countrymen, anyone living south or west of Ottawa, hit the double-whammy of not speaking French where they'd gone to the trouble of learning English (and in many cases had been told that being bilingual was a necessity), AND not even making the attempt to be sensitive about it. In particular there was a stereotype that Torontonians were both ignorant of the language and proud of it. Pretending not to understand english was a way of getting their own back, sort of a 'Fuck you, anglais'.

91:

Guthrie @ 50
A multinational corporation responsible for spying in a number of countries wouldn't have quite the same issues to worry about.
You what?
You then have the “chinese walls” problem of dealing in and selling stuff to competitors in the same business, like an accountancy or solicitors’ practice handling both sides of a company sale / purchase.
With a nations’ “security” supposedly at stake, life then becomes interesting.
This, of course, is (one of the reasons) why mercenary armies eventually became not the done thing.

Heteromeles @ 51
“The Abu Nidal Handbook” sounds like that other classic: “The Nigerians’ guide to British Social Services” – which actually exists in samizdat …….

Jolly Reaper @ 54
“Abusive Cults” … they are called RELIGIONS, actually.
Ahem.

Eloise @ 65
Yes, and the moronic USSAians can’t tell the difference between muslims and Sikhs, for instance ……

As for “most ridiculous” the recently-late & totally-unlamented Michael Crichton must be a top contender?

SoV @ 73
“Magic Tech” – which reminds me, guvmints, including the Brit one, have just bought another round of tech that DOES NOT WORK, namely, erm, “Lie Detectors” which certain offenders (Sex, of course) will have to submit to, even though we know that all these toys “detect” (sometimes) are the secondary effects of stress.
Question:
We all know its complete bollocks, so why do they keep on falling for this snake-oil?

Ian Smith @ 82
Like David Kelley, quietly murdered by the CIA/NSA, you mean?
And corruptly covered up by nice little christian Blair’s minions?
Right.

Which leads directly to Phil @ 88 …
…just to suborn others … like the delightful “church” round the corner from here, founded, and maybe still controlled by someone in Arizona. Some of whose children are being sent to indoctrination, summer camps, etc.
Only too easy to use fuckwits like that who will do it (whatever it is) “for the Lord”.
Deus vult indeed.

92:

I thought about various RPG ranges, and discarded them for mostly being 25mm.

You could try model railway shops; the biggest problem is likely to be finding an adult female with a violin case.

93:

The big issue, which they completely ignored, being that Quebecois bears a similar relationship to French as Texan does to Doric!

94:

Apocalypse Codex Moments: I knew the navigation-distorting fence in the Lake District sounded familiar. And then I remembered this:

http://www.lamrt.org.uk/news/important-information-about-navigating-crinkle-crags

95:

There is (or used to be) a place on Bleaklow (Peak District) where a crashed WWII USAAF baober had come down in bad conditions.
The engines and a lot of stuff were never recovered, and it's sunk into the black peat.
Trying to navigate by compass here, in fog/mist/cloud/whiteout will give confusing results, as well.

96:

Someone further up the thread mentioned the possibility of using a presumably non-biometric Liberian passport as a way of getting around biometric controls.

I can't speak for Liberia, but when I was in Ghana last year, the immigration control people at the airport were already equipped to take people's biometric data.

The Ghanaian banking system has also rolled out an e-banking system based on biometric data.

It may take a while for similar systems to catch on elsewhere in West Africa, but then again it may not: look at how mobile phones took off over night throughout the continent, for example.

97:

Any spy who carries a cell phone to a felony espionage job deserves to be caught.

It's my understanding that if you have a job that involves working somewhere like Crypto City or the Doughnut, the nearest your cellphone or ipod gets to the office is the car park -- or, if you're lucky, a personal locker outside the security perimeter.

I wouldn't be surprised to see wrist-watches, pens, ear-rings and other jewellery (including rings) added to the list of "forbidden stuff" -- you can buy video cameras or USB sticks disguised as pens or watches.

I expect that if smart dust is feasible, entering such secure locations will in due course resemble entering a clean room -- boot barrier, sterile overalls, showers, scrub-up, and all. The goal being to ensure that only as much data can be smuggled out as a spy can memorize.

98:

Speaking of traffic analysis, I was having a lengthy chat with a police intelligence analyst the other weekend: her speciality was cellphone logs and drug dealers. Most of the dealers she was tracking changed phones on a monthly basis. But they had to phone their friends to tell them the new phone number. Once she'd pinned down their regular contacts, she just went through the call logs looking for the new number that had pinged everybody ...

Pen, paper, and a burner phone that is used just once and then discarded: that's going to be a lot harder to pin down. Better still: buy a cheap burner phone with pre-paid access, loan it to a teen-ager, "borrow" it back to make a single call, then let them keep it.

99:

That only works if your first target is susceptible to drugs and hypnosis. (The efficiency of which are grossly over-rated by outsiders.)

It would be embarrassing to have your penetration attempt uncovered by the counter-espionage group noticing the trail of dead bodies leading to their office door ...

100:

You missed Control causing Patrick to blow half his head off?

Death doesn't release you from the Black Chamber. It just puts you deeper under their power.

101:

Movie spies: When they find a bug they invariable smash it. In real life finding a bug is hitting the misinformation jackpot - you leave it in place.

102:

Dirk @ 101
Even more so with actual real physical spies.
Why do you think so few Nazi spies were shot by the Brits in WWII?
Whereas the Nazis, and then the Soviets did make this mistake - they caught a spy tortured him/her, then wasted them - emphasis on "wasted".
Idiots.

103:

Talking of radio Messaging
... sad news just in.
Sir Bernard Lovell has just died, aged 98.
A truly great man - I had the privelige of meeting him, twice, and also hearing him speak.

104:

Assuming that they find some value in maintaining a phone number for a period of time (and that a month gives the best trade off between that value and whatever lack of traceability that they're striving for) why wouldn't they just buy two phones every month?

Use the first to call their contacts and give them the number of the second, then ditch the first and switch on the second.

105:

Criminals aren't great at paranoid thinking? It's serious effort to keep up, and you inevitably forget something - you just do everything in your power to make that something inconsequential and covered by a backup.

106:

Couple of thoughts about bypassing more invasive identity checks... follicle transplants, blood transfusion, bone marrow transfusions. Beware anyone coming into the country with immune suppressants!

The popularity of ELINT over HUMINT is what gets us foolishness like the Brit who was turned back from the US having tweeted that he was going to dig up Marilyn Monroe... being a big, powerful, paranoid country means never having to say sorry to the false positives.

107:

I think you may have just solved the problem of how to fund the news industry in the 21st century.

108:

So much of fiction requires characters not having ubiquitous information and communication.

I don't see the trends reversing. Governments will try very hard to not have their people knowing what they do - which may contribute to other governments not knowing - but trends are towards everything being recorded and computer analyzed.

109:

I suspect that the future of spycraft is more NSA-style ELINT and OSINT: math nerds working out of offices trying to make more effective use of publicly accessible information. Spycraft has historically been more OSINT than one would expect, but OSINT has until recently involved quite a bit of footwork.

110:

So much of fiction requires characters not having ubiquitous...communication.

I'd say this is mainly due to the majority of writers (be they of novels or TV/film scripts) relying heavily on established plot devices. Mobile telephony only been around for 10-20 years and mobile social networking 5-10. I can think of few stories set in the modern or future world that adequately include these things (OGH and the BBC Sherlock series spring to mind). Most just rely on troupes like forgetting one's phone or running out of battery/signal in order to tell a 20th century story in the 21st century.

Overtime this outdated trend will buck but only as better stories are written, more of the demographic that grew up with telecoms find the plots flawed and more of the writing demographic have grown up with telecoms.

111:

Spies need a cover, some ostensibly-innocent reason to be there. Increased biometrics technology might increase the cost of cover for humans, reducing use of humans.

That might push the spying business toward software "spies". Any covert organization could relatively easily operate a software business (at a loss if necessary), selling software that might transmits information back to the authors. Crash reports are routinely sent back to authors, and software updates are routinely sent out, so there's two way communcation, even before you get to applications like spam filters, where continuous two-way communication with a central location is crucial for its functionality. The Underhanded C contest illustrates that it doesn't even need to be closed-source software or proprietary file formats.

A first-world organization that exports computer hardware might even find it feasible to sell hardware containing back doors triggered by wall-banging a key. Then someone (like most of us) who both buys hardware they don't completely understand and needs to use software from a wide variety of sources may not be able to say "I run everything inside a virtual machine that I wrote/audited/trust, and so I have the upper hand."

112:

One of the best intelligence assets the British had in WW2 was the German spy network in this country. Every single agent had been identified and then turned. Every new agent sent over was, of course, known about before they arrived, and when they did arrive, they were also turned.

This is pretty much the ultimate nightmare for any spymaster.

If you own an entire network, then you feed whatever information you want back through it. You have to be careful not to send misinformation that can be seen to be false by other means (such as aerial surveillance), but you can use it to confirm fake armies near Dover while you prepare to invade Normandy from a totally different set of ports.

If you can read the enemy communications via the Enigma, well, it's one hell of an advantage.

113:

You missed Control causing Patrick to blow half his head off?

Death doesn't release you from the Black Chamber. It just puts you deeper under their power.

Oh, yes, that part I saw and was duly squicked. I'm just curious as to what they're going to do with headless Patrick. "Deeper under their power?" Yes, but I wonder at the implication. His corpse was at the meeting but it was not clear at this point if it was just being used as a theatrical prop or if Patrick is still in there. I take it he is, then.

As near as I understand the Laundry's use of Human Resources, the souls that once inhabited those bodies are about as present as the original buck in a mounted trophy. The zombies are animate furniture, the original soul is truly departed. Doesn't much matter what happens to your body when you're dead so long as you're not conscious and present to experience it. I mean it's not very pleasant to think about but neither is decay and getting eaten by worms.

But if I'm reading between the lines correctly, if you are a postmortem thrall of the Black Chamber your consciousness is still along for the ride. So what use can they put him to at this point? Will he be a zombie? A shade? A revenant? A snack for a Chamber soul eater? Does he have a role to play in a future novel? If Patrick is still in there, will he find out his wife is dead? Will he learn it was done by his own hand, an unnecessary bit of cruelty by Control? And then I wonder how Laundry metaphysics work. Modern neuroscience believes consciousness is an emergent function of the meat computer that is the human brain, it begins and ends there, and there is no soul. I'm not sure if it's ever been made clear what the Laundry's take on mind-body dualism is and how a soul is defined for our purposes here. Most fictional worlds that include souls also include an afterlife. In a Lovecraftian world with souls but no afterlife, is a soul nothing more than Cthulhu kibble, the next step in the food chain? Plants convert solar energy to something an herbivore can eat who converts vegetative matter into something a carnivore can eat and a conscious, sapient apex predator like humans can convert that meat into a soul which is what a psychovore eats? And it would be a human conceit to imagine that there's any more significance in having a soul than being din-dins for Daoloth, yum-yums for Y'golonac, a nosh for Nodens?

I'm sure there will be answers in due time. Whenever there's an open-ended statement like "death is no release," I always wonder at the specifics. What I like about your approach is you don't adhere to the MST3K mantra, you actually think these things through. I don't have to remind myself it's just a show and I should really just relax.

114:

Given that most nations seem to have fairly porous boundaries, once biometric technology advances to the point of reliable identification, (30 sec gene arrays sampled from several locations would do it...), I expect that spy insertion will be on little boats/the bottom of truckbeds/or hanggliders for the more glamorous.

--Erwin

115:

Actually what you do is smash the bug. You probably have made enough noise, disturbance etc. discovering the bug in the first place that the bug in question is considered "burned" by the folks who planted it. What you can then do is pretend that the location the bug was found in is now clean and proceed to dump false information into the five other bugs in the same locale which you haven't discovered but which it is safe to assume are there. After all someone who can get a single bug into a secure location will almost certainly plant a few more there since it's covered by the same cost of possible discovery during the insertion.

Of course the Other Side will assume that's what you're doing and discount or reverse-engineer the false information you're trying to stovepipe to them...

116:

Concerning the lack of modern tech in much storytelling...

The problem is that focusing too much on new tech has a potential of seriously dating your story. For example, if you ran with pager technology you could have a capo directing his soldiers in the street via pagers and number codes, them checking back in with him via payphones. Even if the cops could work a deal with the pager company to direct the pages to them wiretap-style, the codes themselves might not mean anything to them unless they get a codebook.

But you're talking a very narrow window of time when people with a need for instant access didn't just get cellphones instead. You make the tech too much the fous and you run the risk of dating your story like a disco soundtrack. The original Star Wars still feels timeless while something like the Buck Rogers TV show is so retro it should be deorbiting.

117:

You could scratch build a violin case I supose - and i am sure there probaly some strange german model train sites where one can get a suitible figure for Mo.

A few of years back at Essen they had a display of a model trainset including figures depicing a "raid on a brothel " and "police rounding up Muslim immigrants"

Did consider using my 28MM 70's Unit figures and some of the 7TV figures and doing a retro laundy game.

"Chap with the tenticles - 5 rounds rapid" - actulay i suspect that some might prefere the FAL to the M4

118:

Mostly, it's much easier than this.

You get them drunk, set them up with a couple of prostitutes/a teenage boy/a donkey * and take pictures, then tell them you really need them to provide copies of those special secret files on demand or else....

* select as appropriate

or...

You pay them lots of money via circuitous and untraceable means, and they provide copies of those special secret files because they want to retire somewhere nice and their civil service pension will never pay for that.

or...

You make friends with them at university where they are clearly and actively involved with radical politics that align with your particular country, encourage these leanings and convince them that they will forward the cause by getting a job in the target country's secret service and wait until they are ideally placed to make copies of those special secret files which they will happily do, because it's the 'right thing'.

No drug/hypnotism malarky required.

119:

I worked at US Army research labs for a few years. At first they prohibited cell phones with cameras. That became tougher, so they prohibited cell phones entirely. I accidentally carried mine in a few times. The general consensus was that instituting a pat-down would make the entire female staff quit, so it was pretty much honor system.

Most secure installations have an enormous amount of traffic in and out, with employees, contractors, repairmen, etc. Employees generally have a finite amount of patience with security regulations, and after a few days or weeks will stop accompanying the uncleared to the bathroom and such. The sheer boredom of constant vigilance is a spy's biggest asset.

A friend of mine from those days used to joke that our Big Secret was that we didn't have any Big Secrets.

120:

why wouldn't they just buy two phones every month?

As the police I know have said over and over. Their job would be very much harder if the crooks were not mostly so stupid.

121:

That's why you search *quietly* - not ransack the place. And if you actually unscrew handsets (can that be done these days?) you do it very carefully.

122:

I don't think I've seen a handset (USA) in the last decade or more than can be unscrewed. And carbon mics have been gone for a very long time.

123:

If you're going 28mm, there are figure for "Call of Cthulhu", "Roaring 20s" RPGs, and various Cyberpunky games that might apply. You might even get one of Mo c/w violin case.
More generally, I think a lineup of Bob, Pinky, Brains, Mo sans violin, "BASHFUL INCENDIARY" and a bunch of my colleagues would cause anyone trying to select a specific Laundry character rather than a random programmer or electronics tech problems. (this is a good thing Charlie; they should be hard to pick out of a lineup IMO)

124:

Murc@82: Part of the reason intelligence agencies moved so heavily to ELINT is because humans make shitty sources.

Another big part of the reason is that spies make an uneasy part of a security bureaucracy. The main reason we have so few Arabic linguists is that our security apparatus can't bring itself to grant clearance to anyone with ties to the Middle East (except Israel, but including vacationers). When a spy goes out to meet with a foreigner, how does the bureaucracy make sure of who's playing who?

Data mining is bureaucratically safer, but (so far as we know) mainly ineffective. The needle to hay ratio is just too low, and too many "normal" people act a little flaky. For example, after 9-11 the government hypothesized that terrorist cells would come to the country with a chunk of cash, then spend it in small drabs. They asked banks to look for that pattern, but about 1/4 of the bank's customers have a similar pattern. Eschalon has been trying to put the pieces together for about a decade now, and if they had any successes to publicize I don't doubt that they would.

125:

The era of bugs that can be discovered by looking under a table or behind a picture frame is long gone. So unless you have picked the meeting place at random at the last minute assume you are being bugged.

126:

I just looked at the handset on this desk.

Its shell has two halves, a screw holding them together.

129:

Then again, in the 21st century maybe random white fe/males of Northern European extraction can now be accused of being spies and treated accordingly with complete impunity for the agencies doing so. Even if, er, regretable mistakes were made.>

That seems to be how Homeland Security works, and they're getting away with it. As long as the WASPy chap they arrest/beat up isn't well-connected, they get away with it.

130:

So much of fiction requires characters not having ubiquitous...communication.

I'd say this is mainly due to the majority of writers (be they of novels or TV/film scripts) relying heavily on established plot devices.

Actually, no: it's because the majority of working fiction writers don't get started until their twenties and don't get to sell novels until they're in the mid-thirties or older. It's a middle-aged or elderly profession, because it takes decades to get enough of a handle on both human nature and the dynamics of storytelling to do a good job of it. However, old folks are also less flexible at picking up new skills -- such as dealing with new technology. So most fiction is written by the people least able to come up with new plot twists that rely on new technology.

It's getting better these days; most authors under 50 have mobile phones or smartphones and are getting more clueful about how they're used in everyday life. But I think there's a sharp cut-off: authors who were over 40 in 1995 are unlikely to ever "get" the internet properly unless they were among the very small number of early adopters who were on it earlier, for example. (Internet in 1990: about 2-5 million people. Internet in 1995: about 20-50 million. Internet today: billions.)

131:

Actually, no: it's because the majority of working fiction writers don't get started until their twenties and don't get to sell novels until they're in the mid-thirties or older

I loosely touched on this in the latter part of my post about the demographic of writers but you've put it far more succinctly.

Also makes me wonder what the next thing to be inappropriately absent from media will be...

132:

There is also the problem that writing a bang up to date spy thriller with all the real tech used would likely get it stuck on the SF shelves.

133:

Back in the 70s I was at a lecture in W Germany given by some major from their (IIRC) Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, and up came a picture of some guy from E Germany they'd just caught and were planning to turn. The irony was that the next lecture was by some policeman begging us to turn over people we caught because they were actually breaking the law by being spies. He probably wondered what the smiles were all about. Law enforcement came second, and probably still does.

134:

A show that gets it right: Gossip Girl. Ignore the "rich white kids with private jets" angle: structurally, it's a limited-information-and-misunderstandings bedroom farce in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Sharing an illicit kiss with someone who isn't your SO? Someone with a smartphone and a grudge will capture the moment and post it to Facebook (or rather, the titular Gossip Girl website). The cleverness is in coming up with reasons why the kids don't take the obvious way out and just call each other to ask what the real story is behind the compromising photos. Injured pride is a major theme.

135:

The biometric check at the border is only as good as the database it's checking against. So the spying country needs to subvert that database before sending in the spy. It's harder, but it's not impossible.

Given the visible, public sophistication of spooks' intrusion tech (Stuxnet, Flame) it's safe to assume that they have at least considered this possibility and made contingency plans in that direction.

(The other point about border entry - alluded to in previous comments - is that in practice it is close to 'only as good as the person checking the database', which offers another route to subversion. It's hard if the target is worried about such attacks, though.)

136:

"...if your spy travels on a biometric passport, then simply replacing their passport with a new one won't hide their identity from the border authorities of the nation they're visiting."

Unless you've also compromised their biometric database and can support your new passport with matching data. Or, better still, swap the data of your spy with one of their chaps so that he gets burned and your guy can waltz into secured areas. Even if the switch is discovered in a matter of hours, that's enough time to do what needs doing.

137:

Michael, this is the part where my kids would say: Jinx! You owe me a soda.

138:

I think that was the basis of the take-down of Abu Nidal. Too much paranoia is not a good thing, and feeding your target's paranoia is a reasonable, if slow, tactic for taking them down.

I don't know if the DEA is doing that with drug gangs, but they really should.

139:

I meant "paranoid" as in "defensive" - OPSEC and operations discipline, that kind of thing. I should have chosen my words better.
Being in that mindset isn't too hard, but maintaining it is, and planning defence in depth for what you may have missed involves thinking about the things you haven't thought of yet, which is mental judo at a black belt level.

And feeding drug-gang paranoia is explicitly not what law enforcement should be doing; they've a "public safety" mandate, no? Paranoia leading to disintegration results in death, and lots of it, for target gang members, rival gang members, civilians suspected of snitching...

140:

Or, like in the regional airport I fly in and out of on a regular basis, the biometric reader booth is closed because there aren't enough staff to shepherd people into them during off-peak times, or because the readers are broken again, so we get to pass our passports to human border control, who have decide if the 5 year old picture of me when I was 20Kg heavier and with a rather different hair style popping up on their screen when they read the passport RFID is still the me stood in front of them.

141:

You don't need to compromise a central biometrics database or associated public key infrastructure if you can compromise one or more terminals which do the actual checking.

You can have a passport with biometric data that is blatantly fraudulent, but a compromised terminal will simply not verify the signature.

In fact, you might not even have to go that far; plenty of terminals don't do anything more than the most basic checks at present, because the underlying infrastructure needed for the full checks is not yet in place.

142:

Of course there will be spy's just like 007. But the good stuff comes from other means. Coded messages showed there were thousands of citizen spy's in the US and England in the Cold War. Hardly any were proved and that fed the rise of the Far Right in America. They were true believers. But just money works. In the 70s it was found that every thing about the US Army in Germany and about NATO was known from paying money to long time Army NCO paper workers. Now in America, people are being busted for selling industrial secrets to China. Years ago countries from the S.U. were buying parts of American companies and getting controlled secrets they then owned. Gee, you think that's still going on, just by others?

143:

I just looked at the handset on this desk.
Its shell has two halves, a screw holding them together.

Interesting. How old and what brand. Most all phone handsets and similar cost so little that repairs are not economical. So the cost of putting that screw into the design is usually not worth it. All I've seen for years are a snap together setup where disassemble without marking the case is hard. My 20 year old panasonic that I don't use works this way.

But I'm betting some low end consumer handsets have the screw(s) as the labor to assemble them was less than the design of the snap together well case.

144:
Once she'd pinned down their regular contacts, she just went through the call logs looking for the new number that had pinged everybody
I read an interesting article a few months back about a guy whose trade was freelance "comms consultant" to organised crime. He would provide burner phones in packs of (say) 20, and each one had its contacts list preprogrammed with the numbers for the other 19 devices.

After 2 weeks or a month, his customers would switch, en masse, to a new set. As long as Customer A always got the first burner of a pack, Customer B always got the second one etc, and provided they switched on time, their comms network would be seamless, uninterrupted and yet with no links from the old network to the new one.

145:

Of course there will be spy's just like 007.

Don't be silly.

007 is a photographic negative of the qualities the UK's SIS looks for in an employee: he's flashy, gambles and drinks to excess, is hard to ignore, and so on.

(Nor is he a spy; go back to the original source material -- the novels by Ian Fleming -- and he's basically a state executioner: M points him at a target, pulls the trigger, and the target dies. He's also drinking and smoking himself to death; men in his line of work last an average of 18-24 months.)

146:

It's a Toshiba, at least 10 years old. On the other hand, this is (a) a device with no moving parts, and (b) it fulfils a function as well as it ever has, so there's no need to throw it away and replace it.

As and when it does get replaced, it's likely to be with a Skype phone or similar VOIP item.

147:

One of my clients that I'll see in a day or two has Toshiba electronic sets. I'll look closely at them but I think they are snap together. And this is a 10 year old design.

Back to the spy theme. Things not meant take apart are always better at keeping secrets.

148:

I'm fairly certain that spies will become more important, not less as technology advances. It is easy, so very easy to drown in data yet very difficult indeed to reliably and effectively sort through it. People are uniquely able to sort through all the crap and work out the one thing that actually matters.

I'd say that automated data analysis - well, effective automatic data analysis - is still a pipedream. As has already been pointed out such systems live or die on the false alarm rate and rely on being able to define all possible future threats properly to plug into the search engine. Good luck with both of those.

And then we have the fact that what matters isn't necessarily what is easy to measure. Read every tweet you like, for instance, but if country X has 1% penetration by said social media then it's not going to tell you much. The collapse of the Soviet Union was missed by practically everyone, including the Politburo. Being on the distribution for their meeting minutes would have been useless; a thorough political and economic review from first principles would probably have spotted it.

Another wrinkle, certainly in the UK, is the crappy wages paid to government intelligence analysts. I'm sure they work hard, but look at the pay scales offered when they advertise and you're hardly going head to head with Google for the best brains.

This also leads to an increased risk of attracting - how to put this politely - strange people to the job. Hence the risks of finding your staff writing books they shouldn't following a fairly minor HR problem or ending up in a sports bag go way, way up. This isn't exactly a vote of confidence in your security arrangements or an indication of a productive organisation.

149:

Hah yeah the guy in the bag. Did they ever figure out what happened there? A real Rule34 Athena style murder/suicide there.

150:


> Another wrinkle, certainly in the UK, is the crappy wages paid to government intelligence analysts.

At least in the major national agencies in the US, an intelligence analyst's career can be expected to roughly parallel a military officer's and earn, again roughly, about as much. I.e., enter as a Lieutenant-equivalent and retire as a Colonel-equivalent, with a decent retirement and ok medical. Some go on to the Senior Intelligence Service, like general officers in the military.


151:

AIUI, Fleming based Bond on the members of 30 Assault Unit (a unit of intelligence-gathering commandos which he formed and led in WW2) rather than on more conventional spies.

Interestingly, it appears that the US Joint Special Operations Command is increasingly being used in an intelligence-gathering role, 30AU-stylee.

152:

It also matters who you're spying on, of course. America has a huge bureaucratic security apparatus, so forged clearance cards and such might be effective. Russians tend to have a more social approach (I'm told); the people who work together know each other and are suspicious of outsiders. People of every imaginable ethnicity and religion live and work in Manhattan, but in Pyongyang you'd damn well better look Korean, not too tall, not fat, and you need to speak the correct dialect (South Koreans use a lot of English and Japanese loanwords).

The biggest difference is probably paranoia level. Some societies require that a spy be identified, charged with a specific crime, and found guilty without a reasonable doubt (in a good decade, America is like this). Some governments would simply round up everyone suspicious and kill them all (the USSR in a bad decade). Most are somewhere in between.

153:

The best way was always to find a disaffected native, train him up, and set him to work. The problem was finding that native.

Now, that's *much* easier...

154:

It's getting better these days; most authors under 50 have mobile phones or smartphones and are getting more clueful about how they're used in everyday life.

I think this is your perspective, but... I'd imagine that the older authors you mention with respect to the internet would have said the same thing when they were in their 40's.

The truth, I think, is that some of us keep up some, and some don't, but none of really know where our kids are.

Regards,

Hans

155:

The truth, I think, is that some of us keep up some, and some don't, but none of really know where our kids are.

Put in a router where you can look at the logs.

156:

Can't help thinking with all the talk of inflitrating countries that what's been missed is that probably the main barrier to spies will be infiltrating organisations.

And the people it will hit hardest are authorities trying to infiltrate domestic terror and criminal groups.

Once decent image matching, processing power and bandwidth are available to such groups, an undercover cop or security officer is going to get burned pretty quickly if he/she has any internet trail at all - and that'll include graduation photographs and the like.

Pretty massive intelligence gathering and sifting capabilities are going to be in the hands of ALF or even the EDL and their ilk.

Quite what the consequences of that are likely to be I'm not sure.

157:

Oh yes, automated image recognition and Facebook friends tagging photos is going to be a major bummer for undercover operatives ...

158:

Oh, there are the old fashioned approaches sure, but for when the mark you are interested in isn't into young boys (or doesn't care who knows), there are advantages to being able to create compliance. The lack of obvious advances in hypnotism, despite its manifest effectiveness, has always suggested that there is more going on than is apparent, IMHO.

Far from being some cloak and dagger operative, your best cover role for the local sky handler would seem to be landlord of the pub closest to organisation of choice. Plenty of opportunity to bug conversations to catch snippets of info, access to disaffected individuals off their guard, and the ability to slip something in the drink of anyone you want.

Do they security vet the landlords of the pubs closest the doughnut?

159:

So what's the legal status of tagging EU citizens who want to be forgotten?

160:

One of the best ways for spying on organizations is through the office cleaning staff.

161:

I could see a subcultural split. Older spies might be accustomed to travel by jet, going through immigration with false papers, and blending in with the office drones. They'd be older, whiter, and of declining effectiveness compared to newer spies who hike or boat across borders, take buses between cities, and blend in with the janitorial staff.

162:

I'm currently enjoying Old Boys (2004) by Charles McCarry.
"Now in his early 70's but still remarkably fit, Paul Christopher suddenly disappears. When some months later his ashes are turned over by Chinese officials, his old friends refuse to believe he is dead and start digging into his life and possible death."
http://www.spyguysandgals.com/sgShowChar.asp?ScanName=Christopher_Paul

163:

All kinds of dirty business--spying, sabotage, bribery--will survive for centuries to come. Governments or sufficiently powerful businesses will always want to be able to work "off the books" with recourse to the above activities as needed or desired.

If any system of detection or law enforcement is ever in danger of approaching 100% (unlikely), exceptions will be made, back doors created, and/or spoofing will occur. Other, nongovernmental clandestine entities (and hobbyists) will also make use of the gaps.

And of course the whole thing will be contracted out, with backhanders all around, to some public/private partnership selected for present and future political advantage rather than expertise, guaranteeing it will be full of holes.

164:

My mouth is umpty-three millimeters wide unless I think about how laughably poor security really is on this planet. Then it gets several mm wider.

Is the imaging even good enough to figure out someone has simply painted their mouth bigger or smaller with lipstick?

Maybe we could get a stem-cell lip balm stick that would actually grow facial features bigger in a matter of hours or days? Biometrics are a joke until we get to DNA level.

I'm pretty sure a judicious application of make-up grade collagen could match many of my biometric data to any bloke on the planet.

165:

However that is not unlike some actual spies, it might not be what you look for but it can be what you get. Guy Burgess, who actually was a soviet double agent, was a flamboyant heavy drinking openly gay man (it was illegal at the time, but he didn't make any real attempt to keep it secret). He and Donald Maclean defected when Kim Philby realised that Mclean was about to be exposed as a traitor by the Venona decrypts. Burgess himself hadn't fallen under suspicion. Sometimes being really obvious is useful in a spy, as it simply never occurs to anyone that you could be a spy.

166:

"One of the best ways for spying on organizations is through the office cleaning staff."

Alas neither the Animal Liberation Front nor the English Defence League I mentioned are likely to employ cleaning staff!

I was referring to the more diffuse terrorist or criminal groups rather than the ones with offices (like banks).

We had a few high profile cases fairly recently where undercover officers were either acting as agent provocateurs or in one case "went native". Such operatives are used far more often than one might think and can be the authorities main intelligence source on such groups.

These operatives will have a very hard time of it when the target groups have the capability of running quite deep background checks on prospective members. To some extent they already have this capability , but not yet with the face-recognition capabilites which will be the real killer app.

167:

Charlie,
IIRC, there are reconstructive surgeries now, where screws are inserted into the bones and can be turned to change the shape of the bones. Or at least the spacing. What is to prevent that from being used in these cases?

168:

You can put in saline filled bags under the skin to change facial shape. But there are things that don't usually change much - height from teeth to eye level, distance between eyes (pupils usually), if the eyes are level or one is higher than the other, total head size, total body size and weight (though you can add a bit of size and a lot of weight in a hurry, either by eating or by using (again) implanted saline bags.

The cheap easy way to do detection is just facial geometry, which is tweakable a bit in some ways, but not entirely. Moving your eyes closer or further apart, not gonna happen. Same with eye/mouth height and whether they're level.

169:

@110:
Mobile telephony only been around for 10-20 years
---
Richard S. Prather's playboy-PI Shell Scott had a car phone in his Cadillac convertible in the early 1950s. The phone (and his answering service) were used in many of the novels and short stories.

A friend of mine had a cellular phone in 1986 that I know of. He might have got it a couple of years earlier. It was a large handbag with a telephone handset in it and cost a small fortune for the service contract.

Sometimes things are around for years or decades before they build momentum and jump to the mass market.

170:

Those car phones up till real cell phones showed up were hideously expensive and very limited. I think in most cities no more than 80 or so could be in use at any one time. Maybe a lot less. And it was AM or FM radio. No secrets allowed.

171:

You remember those low-power low cost sensors you mentioned in the other post?

Think about them in rural areas, low density rural areas next to large-sized borders.

Well, they'll be making life very hard for many spy controllers running spies from the country next door.

Things won't change in countries with open borders between each other or in countries with short easily-defended borders. But in countries like Canada, or Mexico, or those Euro countries out East with long borders, suddenly you won't be able to find "holes" in which well prepared locals can cross easily, to meet their controllers.

It used to be that the USSR embassy in Ottawa was huge, filled with an abnormally high number of "diplomats". Same thing in Mexico city. They were managing US locals (citizens and other more or less legal residents) who were spying for them and coming over the border to report, now and then.

This kind of thing won't be so easy with networked low power low cost sensors strung out all over those long formerly-impossible to police borders.

172:

The initial mobile phone tech was analog, wide open to radio scanners, and seems to have come on-line in the UK in 1985. Similar systems were already in use in other countries. Coverage was patchy.

173:

Ian Smith @ 158
your best cover role for the local sky handler would seem to be landlord of the pub closest to organisation of choice.
Err ... Sherlock Holmes instructed Watson on this, some time in the 1890's I believe!

Andy W @ 166
Careful about the use of the phrase "killer appss" when referring to the ALF - they are truly dangerously insane nasties.

Generally, people don't seem to realise just how much detailed information could & still can be gathered by simple analysis of printed material and records.
The classic example of this were the Naval Intelligence Handbooks issued during WWII to Brit civil servants etc.
They are amazingly comprehensive - I have my Fathers 4-volume set on Germany.
( Note: he was drafted to be a civil servant in 1941 - as opposed to the military - since he was a professional Organic Chemist. He went on to volunteer for CivMilGov in 1944, and spent nearly three years in Germany, starting June/July '45 )
Reading such volumes also make one realise, that, even after the war was over, the "authorities" quite deliberately lied to the people. The classic example being the supposed "war guilt" of ALL Germans, which was complete bollocks. They knew, quite clearly, the measures being used to keep control uinder the Nazis, and chose not to mention it.

174:

A point further brought out by Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale"; if reading the books and/or watching an entire 2 hour film is too much effort, the relevant stuff is all in the first 30 minutes of the film.

#151 - I couldn't quote section numbers etc, but it's certainly true that the the Bond novels were based on Fleming's own WW2 experiences.

175:

Unfortunately I can't remember the real names so I'll call them exec1 and exec2.

Dateline 1970s.
Industry sector - Television.

Exec1 has just shown exec2 his new car-phone.

Exec2 decides that he has to have one of these so as not to be upstaged by exec1, and applies for one.

Some months later, the great day arrives and the equipment is fitted to exec2's car and enabled.

Exec2 promptly calls exec1, and asks the secretary to tell exec1 that it's exec2 calling from his car. The secretary responds "I'm sorry sir, exec1 is busy on the other line just now!"

176:

It was quite surprising to me, in the Eighties, how much information there was available on the armed forces of the 1980s, openly published. I was wargaming in those days, and I found a picture of an SP artillery battery on parade: every vehicle you would see on the battlefield.

I got carried away, buying enough 1/300 scale models to field a whole Soviet tank regiment. It wasn't that many models, though the infantry figures were tricky. I was young, I was maybe silly, I painted camouflage uniforms in that scale.

And all this detail from open sources, published in Britain. I didn't have to read a foreign language. Could I trust those sources, any more than I could trust a manufacturer's brochure. Well, I came across a few official, or at least plausibly backed, summaries. There were US Army training manuals available, which I suppose would have been automatically classified "Restricted! in the UK.

The US Army TM for an electric guitar was officially more secret thn the TM for a tank platoon.

What I found was that, against a typical wargamer, even the Soviet style of attack could work. It's the old principle: even a bad plan, promptly executed, can be effective. Did I know what I was doing? I wouldn't expect to do as well in a real war.

Thing is, wargaming isn't quite the same as reading a book about a battle. You're opposed by a real, thinking, human. It's still not real, but it's more real than James Bond or George Smliey can ever be. Though the good authors can fake it better.

177:

Do they security vet the landlords of the pubs closest the doughnut?

I am led to believe that the nearest real ale pub to the doughnut is inside the doughnut (which is difficult enough to get into that it has food/drink/shopping facilities inside, so staff don't have to leave during working hours -- and so an unblinking eye can be kept on them).

Back before 9/11, were the shops in the mall beneath the Pentagon by any chance monitored or vetted for security purposes?

178:

Charlie,
In the late '70s, possibly the early '80s, I can remember taking a bus from downtown Washington to the Navy Annex, which drove under the Pentagon and had one or two stops there to let off and take on passengers. I have no idea if the buses still go under the Pentagon, but I would be surprised if they did.

Enjoy!

Frank.

179:

Friends tagging you in Facebook isn't as likely to be an issue; it just comes down to being sensible about how you appear online - there are plenty of people with only a thin on-line presence. Even for the e-present, although I'm tagged twice in other people's photos from my days in the UOTC, there are none from my days in the TA. This is not uncommon for the more security-sensible Soldier, even though it's only going to avoid a superficial study.

It's not as if your covert intelligence officer is going to leave location services enabled for their Facebook app, and then accidentally check in at Vauxhall Cross, is it? I rather suspect that the kind of person who has the attitudes required to join such is not the person to have a page dedicated to "OMG LOL my dream job is spy" at age 15, or to tell all their friends...

It strikes me that the bulk of intelligence work is analysis, primarily of open-source information. That isn't sensitive to biometrics. It also strikes me that as far as HUMINT handlers go, anonymity is the key, not multiple identities. Once you're compromised, your usefulness is reduced. That could be a problem, because the Intelligence Service isn't very big...

It's not just the correct identification of an intelligence officer that's the issue; it's the misidentification of innocents. At university, I met a Theology student who had taken a course break after first year, deciding that he should see a bit of the world before taking up his Ministry. So he joined the police, specifically the RUC. And ended up in one of its mobile support units. And after five or six years, he left the police and went back to continue his Theology degree - at Queen's University Belfast. His story was that PIRA reckoned that the career profile for "leaves HMSU and police before retirement, becomes civilian" was a cover story for an intelligence officer, and he had to leave town rapidly.

So perhaps the answer is that the intelligence "community" works harder at widening it's pool of talent, by using comparable skills from within the police, customs, and armed forces. One of Gerald Seymour's most recent books dealt with that one (and "The Journeyman Tailor" was another well-written book on a similar subject). That way, you can use clean hands when you have to. Perhaps you extend it by keeping people uncompromised during the first stage of their careers, and then employing them somewhere other that the Diplomatic Service; somehow I think that journalists would be too obvious... I can't see NGOs being too happy at being used as stalking horses, either.

I'd heard the story about Fleming and 30AU before; at a dinner in Glasgow, I once listened to Patrick Dalzel-Job, who served with it ("Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy"). Interesting book. Seeing as Charlie is well aware of SOE, perhaps it's worth mentioning the Auxiliary Units (and the ability to train with a high level of security while holding down a normal job); and perhaps the last section of Ken Connor's "Ghost Force". Add James Rennie's "The Operators", and Mark Urban's "Big Boys Rules". I'm not sure how improved biometrics would affect them.

A final thought riffs on another of OGH's posts - whether credentialism has struck at the Intelligence Services. Do they use or trust those that they haven't trained? What would be the necessary credentials? Would having more and more of the workforce with those credentials change the character of the organisation over time?

180:

"Careful about the use of the phrase "killer appss" when referring to the ALF - they are truly dangerously insane nasties."

Actually, I have known such people and they are quite decent and quite rational. Even if they catch a spy they are not going to be cutting his head off on YouTube.

181:

("Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy"). Interesting book.

Ordered - thanks! It appears there was also a recent film about 30AU which I somehow completely missed.

182:

As with all such political movements, there is a spectrum from sane people who simply draw the circle of "deserving of the right not to be treated with cruelty" wider than the majority of people, all the way through to a tiny minority who think the best way to deal with cruelty is to eliminate humanity. Guess which faction gets all the press coverage? (And, presumably,the negative marketing budget from the Milk Marketing Board and fellow-travellers.)

This also brings up the Combat 18/Mark Kennedy/Al Qaeda/Hammas problem, wherein the use of infiltrators/informats/angents-provocateur (from, respectively, MI5 and Special Branch, the Association of Chief Police Officer's forward intelligence unit, the CIA, and Mossad) may have actually contributed to the nucleation and radicalization of the groups they were supposed to be keeping an eye on.

(Police/intelligence agents being, fairly obviously, well-trained in the tradecraft of underground operations and needing to burnish their credentials in order to be successful infiltrators may have actually given the groups they infiltrated valuable lessons in how to do the job more efficiently ... or a lead towards increasing radicalization.)

183:

Oooh. They'd be sensible to live on site during the week.

184:

OTOH, I cannot recall of the ALF actually killing anyone anywhere although I may be wrong. In a way, this makes them *more* dangerous in the eyes of the authorities because they do not alienate a lot of people with random murder like (say) Al Quaeda. Which is why some try to obfuscate by adding in people like the Unabomber to their membership.

185:

ROBOT SPIES!

I mean, what does a meat-pod spy actually do?* Surely surveillance is the major thing, and satellites, drones and account keeping (how much uranium flows into country codename PERSIA) do most of the foot-work that would have occupied spies in the past.

Is a modern Bond just a low-level diplomat who tries to get their host counter-parts drunk enough that some useful candid information might let slip? (And, as others have mentioned, conscript locals to do the street-level snooping?)

*I ask this as someone who never read spy novels as a teenager. Enemy of the State is about the limit of my knowledge of modern spycraft.

186:

ROBOT SPIES!

ROBINT? Drones seem set to seep into many significant aspects of our lives over the next few decades. Ant sized bots dropped by bird sized (and disguised) bots that can crawl into a filing cabinet and labouriously read every page (or walk into a comupter port and upload spyware) or even literal fly-on-the-wall surveillance might be the order of the day.

187:

"I cannot recall of the ALF actually killing anyone anywhere.."

On the other hand SHAC et-al have come pretty damned close on more than on occasion (between the pick axe handle beatings, IEDs, and incendiary devices), routinely used the threat of death or serious injury (often against family members, partners, and associates), and regard grave robbing as a legitimate tactic. Given that ALF operates on the AQ (or Anonymous) model of " if you share our aims, values, and ideology you're one of us" rather than having an official membership register it's kind of hard to draw a distinction when prominent, self declared ALF supporters are prepared to put their names to positions supporting violence...

188:

By "supporting violence" I assume you mean issuing threads and destroying property. I'm sure that if they actually wanted to kill people they could do it just as easily as "regular" terrorists.

189:

(Nor is he a spy; go back to the original source material -- the novels by Ian Fleming -- and he's basically a state executioner:

There's great precedent for this sort of role in organized crime. Not many people are psychologically capable of committing premeditated murder. In the heat of the moment when the blood is up? Some can. But to have the nerve to plot it out, do the deed, not let nerves get the best of you? Rare talent.

While a proper hired killer still keeps a low profile and doesn't draw attention to himself, the basic MO of getting sent to different places to do a job like that is well-established in the criminal record. One organization loans someone to another, he's not known in the area, he's out of town after the hit so it's harder for the police to put the story together, etc.

I do find spy to be precisely the wrong kind of word for what Bond is portrayed as doing since there's absolutely nothing covert about anything he does.

Murder's a funny sort of thing. Hollywood would have you believe that any wealthy guy would know a guy who knows a guy to get a hit put out when required. In some countries that's actually how things are done. In the west, though, that sort of thing is too risky and lawyers are better at taking care of trouble. Then again, there's the kinds of killings you would want to look like an accident and the kinds of killings where you want to send a message, i.e. using $50k of radioactive material to poison someone.

Reporters don't get whacked in the US. If they don't play ball they get blackballed and that takes care of that. In formerly Soviet Russia, scoop gets reporter! And in Mexico right now things are even worse than your typical Hollywood mob movie.

190:

Back before 9/11, were the shops in the mall beneath the Pentagon by any chance monitored or vetted for security purposes?

I suspect yes. Back in 73 I got a summer job working at a nuclear fuel processing plant. Yellow cake from natural up to something like 1% or 3%. I and the other college students had to get full scale security clearances. (Which was why they hired kids of employees. It made the clearances much easier.) But this plant had food services, a small infirmary, etc... Everyone and every shipment had to go through a gate and be inspected. Now I doubt they opened up pickle jars but there was an inspection. If the regular truck drivers or delivery folks were sick or whatever it was a really big deal as the replacements had to get escorted by a couple guys with guns.

And I'm not really sure what they were protecting as 99.9999% of the stuff in this plant wasn't usable unless you showed up with a huge tractor/trailer and used the special high capacity cranes to load it up. Which just might have gotten you noticed. But anything government and nuclear was secret from WWII until maybe still now

191:

I'll adjust my thought a bit. It depends on where the perimeter was set.

192:

The problem is likely to be false positives and response times. If the nearest RCMP post is two hours away, if the three-man detachment happens to be in, and the intruders can reach a highway in an hour, then they can still cross the border and get away. Drug prohibition has the interesting side effect of committing a lot of money to keeping the Canada-US and US-Mexico borders porous, and spooks can use the same routes that crooks use.

193:

I've drunk in a pub where intelligence matters were discussed fairly freely (but not in my presence) but that's a special case- a pub on an island where everyone has been vetted months in advance, which has a Victoria Cross on the wall and there's a 400 foot cliff to climb if Pi squadron don't give you a lift. Incidentally they have a few Laundry books in the pub library.

The sort of place where everything is prefixed by "The" as in The Pub, The Shop, The Barn etc.

194:

The best way to shut someone up is to threaten to sue them, if you are rich. Unless they too are rich it almost always works.

195:

Since it's an island and you are not being blown up regularly, I assume its not Imber!

196:

It's a bit more open to tourists now since they mended the landing beach and cliff access so there's no harm in saying it was Lundy. Great place for a quiet get together.

197:

Suspect there may be another camp on Skye then - even the OS maps have "Inaccessible Peak" on them .

198:

The insane logic of that course of reasoning leads to the conclusion that people who are not only not trying to kill anybody, but not even carrying out acts demonstrative of political dissent, and indeed denying their dissatisfaction with the status quo, are the most dangerous of all!

199:

That's what I was getting at. Like if we had a case of some reporter getting too close to the scoop, he's not going to get a hitman on his butt like in a Dan Brown novel. His boss will have a heart to heart with him with a possible threat of a lawsuit hung over him. He'll be derided as a crank and his name will be preceded by "discredited former journalist." If he has any sense of self-preservation, he'll go along with it.

A coward is a hero with a wife, kids, and a mortgage. ~Marvin Kitman

200:

Not quite that far, but I am fairly sure that The Establishment (to use an old term) fears Occupy more than AQ.

202:

If you want to read the fascinating story of a mob hit Google: Roger Wheeler Telex.

Wheeler was a successful businessman, pillar of the community and was shot in the face in broad daylight at Southern Hills country club after he had finished a round of golf. Took 22 years before an arrest was made.

My mother pushed her little patient, in a stroller, through that parking lot within 15 minutes of when it happened. Neither she nor a lot of other people noticed anything.

203:

Are you not just describing the leaders of the Conservative party?

204:

I've been up the Inaccessible Pinnacle, and didn't notice any Laundry spooks. Then again, if they'd been more than 15m away I wouldn't have seen them through the cloud. And my compass was doing weird things...

205:

The black Cuillins are well known for having magnetic rocks that affect compasses. Anyone who doesn't know that is asking for trouble, especially given the tendency to poor visibility up there.

206:

Just about everyone with a phone now has GPS

207:

"Does the second oldest profession have a future in the 21st century?"
I suspect that question depends on the type of spy:
1. Acquired "Asset" (i.e. traitor) : due to the ease of information flow. It would be fairly easy to find the "fulcrums" need to turn an "asset"
(family issues, sex life, white/blue collar crime, etc..)
2. Moles: nearly impossible to do on the long term without a very thorough "background" generation and some-high level genetic masking.
3. free-lance agent: runs the same gauntlet of issues as with the mole. Compounded by a lack of a solid organization.
4. Smart Mob/Spy Ring : due to the fluidity and relative individual low-risk in ring/smartmobs. The Talented Amateurs and "Useful Idiots" are the future of Humit .

208:

No, reaalllyyy?

In turn, are you aware that the black Cuillins are very wet and made up of sharp black rocks that will damage anything that touches them with more than a small amount of force?

209:


> people who are not only not trying to kill anybody, but not even carrying out acts demonstrative of political dissent, and indeed denying their dissatisfaction with the status quo, are the most dangerous of all!

Yes, of course. "Flying beneath the radar" is what it's called. Which I think is your point, no?

210:

Which will destroy all phones instantly.
A very quiet island.

211:

You did know we'd moved from islands off Cornwall and Devon to the isle of Skye?
And that the Black Cuillins certainly don't cover all of it. And that relying solely upon an electronic device for navigation is generally frowned upon? And that map and compass are useful fallbacks when your electronic stuff is broken/ gets wet/ runs out of batteries? And that your comment re. phones with GPS kind of ignores all the subtleties of the situation?

Oh and Greg #91 - yes, eventually someone realises mercenaries are a bad idea, but are we not (well, okay the USA) still hiring plenty of them and thus not yet reached a state of realisation that mercenaries are bad?

212:

I was interested to see an article on the use of covert entry and search by Scottish police forces; primarily in drugs-related cases. It seems that it's possible to get rather useful intelligence by turning up with a locksmith and specialist search team, and then leaving having put everything back

The report of the surveillance commissioner gives some quite detailed statistics...

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1213/hc04/0498/0498.pdf

213:

So this might be of interest. Strangely, most people don't know something like this exists:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKwFWiwR51E

214:

If I recall right, it's mentioned in the MIT Lock-Picking Manual

215:

I'm sure I saw a lock pick gun in either one of my dads magazines or some police stuff, 20 years ago.
Carrying one in the UK without being a genunine lock smith should lead straight to a charge of going prepared.

Which makes me wonder, how does a spy get hold of the fancy hi tech equipment they need to eavesdrop on someone? Buying it from the local technical toys supplier would leave a credit card trail which means you'd have to have lots of cards, and if they monitor who buys what it might lead to your spy getting identified.
Or getting it from the embassy nanotech assembler thingy would be another, except of course that you'd need some cut outs because the country would want to observe who came and went from the embassy.
Then there's smuggling it in with drugs. That would probably work quite well, maybe we'll see an increase in intelligence organisations hook ups with drug lords. Wait, haven't we seen this before?

217:

This is the sort of thinking that has led to some epic-grade failures of the intelligence community. It's easy to see the attraction of drones, or satellites, or whatever new gadget you have access to as a surveillance tool - they're more reliable than humans, for one thing. The problem is that surveillance of this type may tell you what is being done in the area, but it probably won't tell you what it MEANS - you might get the 'what' and 'where', but not 'why' or 'how'. This is the sort of subtle distinction that gets lost on people quite easily, but analysis depends on more than a checklist of observable activities. ELINT or SIGINT aren't really substitutes for human factors, and I'm sure we're all aware of the obvious possibilities for taking advantage of an enemy's reliance on such methods.

218:

See the successful deception by the allies of armies in south East England before and after D-day. And the Germans achieving suprise in the Ardennes partly because they made sure not to leak any signals at all.

219:
"Does the second oldest profession have a future in the 21st century?" I suspect that question depends on the type of spy:

The flip side is what kind of secrets are worth ferreting out by national powers?

I suspect the low-hanging fruit has long since been picked; there are no more "nuclear crown jewels" - to use one malapropism - to steal. Troop movements? submarine locations? That's just soooo 20th Cen ... and increasingly irrelevant in this the new milennium.

A case might be made multinationals spying on multinationals, but let's be honest; most of those type of secrets are of the new Coke rollout variety, what's going to be demonstrated at the annual cool new consumer electronics fair, that sort of thing. Table-top aneutronic nuclear fusion is extremely likely to be on the list.

And in any event, the multinationals (still) don't have access to that biometric data, nor do they (yet) have much of a say as far as who's turned back at the border.

220:

I heard once that Soviet satellite traffic analysis had seen a huge number of people going into and out of a particular building near the Pentagon, and had decided that it must be the entrance to an enormous underground complex.

It was a Starbucks.

Good HUMINT lets you ask questions, rather than just look for patterns and guess at the answers.

221:

Ah well. It was a notion.

222:

Sorry, that should be "Table-top aneutronic nuclear fusion is extremely unlikely to be on the list."

Sorry, about the laziness; I've been busy the last week or so whipping the house in general and the upstairs in particular into shape. The daughter's mother wants to sublet to - dear God! - college students to help defray the cost of our own offspring's higher education.

Which reminds me - to David L, since you seem to be handier at these sorts of things than I: How do you replace a mortise-and-tenon door lock? Is it worth my while (and my pride) to dig it out myself, or should I just bite the bullet and hire a locksmith?

223:

Fascinating. That's what serious connections can accomplish. And this is why the powerful consider media consolidation a Good Thing(tm). This is also why the Internet bothers the hell out of them. Becomes far more difficult to control the story when the rubes can talk to each other.

224:

Whoops, sorry for the extra posts. Got 500 errors when posting. Thank you, spammers.

225:

How do you replace a mortise-and-tenon door lock? Is it worth my while (and my pride) to dig it out myself, or should I just bite the bullet and hire a locksmith?

Haven't actually done one of these myself but from what I remember from them you have to remove the knobs and shaft. Then somewhere will be a screw or two that hold it in. I'd first look on the jamb. The jamb plate should be longer than the mechanism by an inch or more on each end and that's where I suspect the screws that hold to the door are located. But there might be something you can release from the hole through the door for the shaft.

I'll ask an architect/builder friend who is into appreciating older items such as this. We trade stories and ideas. My house is only 51 years old. His is about double that an on his second total overhaul.

226:

or should I just bite the bullet and hire a locksmith?

In case I made a wrong assumption in my other post.

Are you looking to take it of a door and put another in? Or put it in another door? Or clean up the door and put it back in?

For any of these you'd want a finish carpenter rather than a locksmith. A lock smith would repair the unit itself but I doubt most would have the skills to set these properly.

I'd really not want to make the opening for one without buying a plunge router with a door jig. Doing it the old way with a brace and bit and drilling out 4 to 6 1" holes perfectly straight down into the jamb is not my idea of fun.

227:

So I'd heard, but I was surprised by the size of the effect: we saw sixty-degree swings between points a metre apart.

Of course, "magnetic rocks" would be an excellent cover story for the thaumic flux given off by a Laundry research lab :-)

228:

Spies get ther stuff from their equivelent of Q Branch for taps etc talk nicly to the Secret Squirles in the phone company.

229:

If you had seen the the hordes of people you queuing to get on the inaccessible pinnacle you might rethink that.

230:

People who spend most of their time in civilisation never seem to understand the limits of GPS in mountain environments. I reckon dirk has a point in that you would be negligent not to carry one these days but leaving the compass behind would be even worse.

And don't get me started on people who think they can get away with purely electronic mapping. Their sort are the bane of MRTs everywhere.

231:

ScentOfViolets. To remove a mortice lock first lock the deadbolt out with the door open. Then remove the handle or knob and the shaft they connect through the door by (if a sash mortice type ie has a sprung bolt as well as a dead bolt). Then undo the screws on the faceplate of the lock on the edge of the door stile (modern locks have a separate face plate with short machine screws that hide the actual fixing screws). You should then be able to pull the lock out by gripping the deadbolt. If it's tight try using a medium to large screwdriver in the keyhole or handle shaft hole to lever it. If that doesn't work you will have to risk minor damage to the stile by driving the screwdriver under the plate on the at the top or bottom to lever it out.
If you are changing the lock measure from the center of the key hole to the face of the lock to get the correct size. It will either be a 64mm (2 1/2") or a 76mm (3"). Height of the mortice will be the same but if you are increasing the security rating ie number of levers, then you may need to widen the mortice.

232:

#225 in reply to SoV:-

Concur with para 1; pretty much any M&T lock with handles you prceed by removing the handles and shaft, then removing a couple of small screws in the jar (not the jamb; that's the end with the hinges). If it doesn't have handles, hoefully the differences are obvious.

Your new lock may fit straight in; if it needs a larger mortice, a bit of work with wood chisels might suffice, but yes you can need drill work.

What you do about the key hole depends on whether the new key hole is a similar distance from the jar or not.

233:

Yes, if yuo have a GPS you should take it with you, but you shouldn't just rely on it, or even worse, on your phone which happens to have a GPS in it. Since they took the scrambling off, it is much better nowadays. Before they took the scrambling off GPS walkers were advised not to use it on the summit of Ben Nevis in zero visibility because it was too inaccurate and you'd end up falling off the side.

Not having a hillwalking GPS I don't actually know what the limitations are beyond those I already listed. Have you any suggestions?
(I was once on Kinder SCout in winter with cloud. Met some fools reading a GPS off onto a 1:25,000 map they had unfolded and were struggling to hold still. I'd come across the top on a compass bearing and knew roughly where I was, especially when I could see a distinctive feature through a gap in the clouds. Then one of them came over to me and asked where we were. I'm not sure if my answer of "around here" was good enough for him, but given Kinder scout has a steep slope on one side and bog on the other it's pretty much impossible to get lost)

234:

Oh yes, automated image recognition and Facebook friends tagging photos is going to be a major bummer for undercover operatives ...

At times like this, its worth remembering that Facebook is a commercial organisation. One of its most saleable features (in the future? ) is that it becomes the Site of Record, but alternative histories are on sale to appropriate investors ...

235:

@ 233
It is however, possible to SINK on Kinder .....
Been in complete whiteout, some miles South of there - not funny.

Mortice locks.
Easy, if you are just replacing like-with-like - follow instructions, as above.

Having had to fit new from scratch a couple of times (like hollowing-out the reception cavity, just changing them isn't difficult.
As always, make sure you have good tools.
Trying to do a good job with crap tools ia a real mistake, and far too many people make it.

Which leads us back to the topic.
Your INT, whether HU or EL is useless, unless it is properly analysed, and the conditions under which it is gathered are carefully factored in to the analysis - see the "Starbucks-by-the-Pentagon" story, above.

236:

Well, I have a fairly basic outdoor gps. My current model is about 2 years old so a reasonably recent chipset.

Why you should have a GPS:

If you have a good view of the sky you will get a decent location fix. Starting from cold it takes about 30 seconds for a vague location, maybe 45 seconds for something accurate. This goes to effectively instant if you leave it switched on.

That's a lot quicker than fixing my position from first principles and just the thing for your snow covered plateau in the fog.

Why you still need a backup:

Well, the obvious limitation of all electronic kit is battery life. It's not as bad as it used to be but the crapness of batteries when it's below about -5 shouldn't be underestimated.

Getting a location fix is great, but it doesn't tell you where to go next. You can get an estimate of which way you are moving, but it gets a lot less accurate the slower you are and is honestly pretty useless if you are standing still or moving carefully because of hazardous terrain. Once you have your location you use the compass to take bearings to identify features or slog off through the fog while trying to avoid the cornice that you know is somewhere to your left but you can't see...

A GPS won't tell you which of two features in the distance you should be walking towards.

A lot of GPS units get upset if you are under trees. The situation is improving here, but expect your quality of navigation to decrease significantly in thick forest.

Proximity to cliffs is another problem. I suppose it's analogous to city centres with lots of tall buildings. You have half the sky blocked out and lots of reflections. Accuracy goes to hell exactly when you need it.

V inaccurate altitude. You need to see a lot of satellites to get a decent altitude fix, and if you are in a position where altitude matters then you are probably running into the "proximity to cliffs" problem above. Some GPS units have built in altimeters.

To Summarise:

I always carry a paper map in a waterproof case and a compass somewhere accessible. GPS lives in the lid of my bag where I can get it, but is rarely used as it really isn't necessary in good visibility. Sometimes I also carry an altimeter, but generally not in the UK.

237:

Seconded - I could explain why heading accuracy is an inverse function of speed, but it would take me a couple of hours; Google "Kalman filtering", using the quotes if you really really want to know.

It's more to the point to observe that GPS accuracy, particularly in height, degrades as latitude increases.

238:

Spies get ther stuff from their equivelent of Q Branch for taps etc talk nicly to the Secret Squirles in the phone company

The way it actually works in the UK at least, is that phone companies are obliged by the terms of their operating licence to provide an eavesdropping facility to the government. In the situation I'm familiar with this consists of a secure room within the switch-site.

However use of these facilities is available only on production of a warrant signed by the Home Secretary.

More general intelligence such as which cell-sites a given number has used, at which times, who they've been calling or texting, and who has been calling and texting them, is shared more openly with intelligence gathering officers from various constabularies, when they are actively targeting a suspect.

Knowing the complexities involved in eavesdropping on mobile comms, I still believe that whole Echelon listening and reading everything we text or say is just so much propaganda.

239:

I carry a rather old Garnin eTrek Legend GPS - the same model the Royal Marines used to prove they weren't in Iranian waters (or which led them astray), but of course I carry a well-folded map, a Silva compass, have familiarised myself with a map at home, and where applicable I have the relevant Wainwright.

It might be a fault with my specific iPhone but I haven't found the gps to be very accurate - and without Memory Map's OS scans, the available maps are v poor. OpenMap or whatever isn't much good in places few people go, which is specifically when I'd want it.

Tl;dr Have good map, compass, gps designed for the outdoors.

240:

Well, the obvious limitation of all electronic kit is battery life. It's not as bad as it used to be but the crapness of batteries when it's below about -5 shouldn't be underestimated.

Oh god yes. The sheer number of batteries you need on a lengthy spell climbing above the snowline surprises the hell out of new climbers. And that's just your torches, let alone your nav gear.

The lithium based ones hold up better and are much nicer weight wise, but boy do you pay a price premium for them.

Best birthday present ever was the development of decent LED lights to shave a good kilo off my walk in weight on a long trip.

241:

The bit about GPS inaccuracies and latitude is something the Galileo constellation is supposed to address. The NAVSTAR (aka GPS) constellation has lots of satellites orbiting close to the equator to cover areas of particular interest to the US military. Europe and points north are less-well served by the few satellites which have more angled orbits. The Galileo orbit plan involves more coverage of European latitudes for higher accuracy at "home". I'm not sure what the Soviet/Russian GLONASS constellation's orbits are with their current refresh cycle or the Chinese COMPASS system although it is still in very early stages of development.

242:

And just as a point of information, the big supermarkets like Tesco will share your purchasing habits with the Inland Revenue upon request - no court order needed.

243:

Indeed it is - spent 5 days there about 8 years ago with some friends . Stayed in The Castle and actually had some decent weather. Its funny that you mention The Shop and The Pub , you neglected to say that for Lighthouses you had to ask "Which one?" ;it has 3, 2 working and an old disued one in the middle of the island. Its a regular haunt for bird watchers.

244:

Oh its no surprise - was in Skye in May and there were plenty of walkers about. I'm not much of a scrambler or terribly well equipped for the Cuillins but wandered round the edges. Beautiful place. Next time Harris and Lewis.

245:

I've stayed in the Old Light, The Barn, and one year had the Blue Bung all to myself for a couple of weeks. My favourite place in the whole world. Devil's Slide is a fun climb.

246:

To the extent that I didn't get a successful fix for days with the GPS on my phone when heading round the North Cape of Norway.

(It then fell back on trying to identify its position using whatever WiFi networks were visible, and was pretty sure it was still at the Hurtigruten terminal in Bergen, some days sailing away. Shipboard WiFi networks are where that idea falls down, they're a little more mobile than most.)

To be fair, the number of people that far north is pretty low, so there's not much point making a phone GPS receiver that much better.

247:

> The NAVSTAR (aka GPS) constellation has lots of satellites orbiting close to the equator to cover areas of particular interest to the US military. Europe and points north are less-well served by the few satellites which have more angled orbits.

Orbital inclinations:

GPS: 55 degrees

Galileo: 56 degrees

GLONASS: 64.8 degrees

Beidou includes a mix of geosynchronous satellites with ones in GPS-like orbits at ~56 degrees.

248:

A lot of aircraft fly northerly routes, especially across the Atlantic Bridge. They do have the advantage of a big horizon and no canyon effect from tall buildings or canopy trees (unless something has gone seriously wrong...). Same applies to shipping, fishing boats etc. but again they can carry decent-sized antennas that can pick up a horizon-bearing satellite out of the crud.

My GPS-equipped PDA has a hard job getting a lock in central Edinburgh but attaching an active antenna to it, even with ony 3dB of boost it achieves much faster locks.

249:

Harris is great. Lewis is probably great, but I didn't get to much of of it because the weather decided visibility was going to be about 20m that day.

250:

My guess is outsorcing: The really dirty work (like hiering someone to disclose info they really aren't allowd to) is paid work for criminals, as are activities like murdering people or sabotaging something.

Shrug. This has been happening for years. Look at the way MI6 (allegedly) hired Mossad to kill Gerald Bull. Or the way the British and French used mercenaries in post colonial Africa in the 60s and 70s as deniable fronts for their more reprehensible foreign policy adventures. But yes, it's a growth industry. Forget Stratfor, they're amateurs, but look at what Blackwater (or whatever they're called this week) and their contemporary PMCs, you can bet the intelligence community is already making extensive use if their services. The big advantages to outsourcing being deniability and a lack of accountability, extremely useful especially in democratic countries where you don't want those pesky democratic types demanding transparency and control over your more uh, morally flexible activities. You especially don't want another disaster like the Church Committee in the mid 70s and they have a very long institutional memory at Langley these days. So yes, expect to see a lot more outsourcing from govt spooks.
While I remember, people mentioned the way in which the German WW2 networks were turned my MI5. It's worth remembering that most of the agents they employed were just that: hired freelancers. Their agents were mainly in it for
the money - it's a living I guess - and had no ideological or patriotic motivation. Hence they were relatively easy to turn; faced with a choice of the hangman's noose or working for the British most if not all chose the latter.
(I don't have any actual stats to hand so I could be mistaken on how many chose life over death)


251:

70N is quite northerly. Yes, Virgin flies LHR - NRT roughly through that area, and there are airports up there, so it's not that GPS is impossible, just harder.

(I'm not sure just how low to the horizon a GPS satellite at its most northerly point will be if you're at the North Pole but, at ~20 Mm altitude, it will be above it.)

252:

Phil, note that the Church committee sat in the mid-1970s, at a point when the CIA was roughly 25-30 years old (it didn't really get started until around 1948, out of the bones of the old WW2 OSS). The CIA has been around for more time since the Church committee hearings than before them. And we're getting dangerously close to the "one working lifetime" interval -- about 40 years -- since the hearings, after which nobody employed by the agency was around during or prior to them.

253:

May and June are usually the best months for walking weather (and breeding bird species) in the NW Highlands and the Hebrides.

254:

then removing a couple of small screws in the jar (not the jamb; that's the end with the hinges)

Is "jar" a European thing? I've never heard it here in the US in over 50 years of being around construction. And Googling turns up nothing.

And yes I should have said edge instead of jamb.

255:

True. Although, I wonder what work's been done on institutional memory and how long it persists? And is there a difference depending on the nature of the organisation? Just to give one example, I was at a conference last year and got talking to some serving mid ranking naval officers who were able to very effectively articulate the RN's memory of the MoD infighting that led to the cancellation of the CVA-01 fleet carrier in 1965. That's a memory of events 46 years on. The event was especially traumatic for the RN which, I suspect, is why it's still so well remembered. I wonder if the same applies in the CIA re the Church hearings?

256:

'jar' meaning the moving edge of a door? I've never heard it either, and I'm English. It's not listed in the Chambers dictionary I have to hand either.

257:

Q: "When is a door not a door?"
A: "When it's ajar."

258:

The higher in the sky a satellite can be seen the better the signal reception as there is less airpath in the way to absorb the radiated energy and GPS satellites have very low transmitting power levels to start with -- about 50W as I recall. At high (and low) latitudes there are also fewer satellites visible at any given time though even they are in high 12-hour orbits. There's also an accuracy problem with low-angle GPS as skip and bounce can extend the reception path introducing timing delays and hence location errors.

I was misremembering and confusing the Galileo satellite orbits with GLONASS; the Soviet/Russian system has the higher-angle constellation as a lot of its land area of interest is quite far north compared to Western Europe or the CONUS. I found it interesting to note that the Chinese COMPASS system uses geostationary satellites as well as lower-orbit units; I wonder if the geostationary DBS operators would be interested in a deal to piggyback a GPS subsystem for Galileo or NAVSTAR onto their monster commercial birds?

259:

Institutional knowledge also depends on the nature of the organization. The RN, like all serious navies, is big on tradition and memory -- because if you fuck up in the middle of the ocean, everyone probably dies. That's a strong incentive to remember ...

Software corporations are positively demented, in contrast: I once went in search of a product we'd been selling as recently as three years earlier inside a large software company, only to find that nobody had a copy of the as-sold software, and the source tree was either lost or on a backup tape in a warehouse somewhere!

I don't know, in contrast, how intelligence agency memory works. And that worries me.

260:

I'm an English joiner. The vertical components of a door frame are called jambs, the top horizontal is a head, the bottom a threshold or cill, the vertical outer components of a door are called stiles, the horizontal components are called rails. Muntins are vertical components of a door that run between rails. Never heard of jar in reference to any aspect of my job other than something to keep odds and ends in, but then there is an entire dictionary of terms used in joinery that runs to several hundred pages that I've seen but do not possess so anything is possible, especially when you take in localisms.

261:

GPS is a way for a ICBM to find its target. A inaccuracy WAS built in to the signal that was corrected by the guidance system to stop a enemy from using it.
Nobody ever wrote on Howard Hughes. His lawyers would call and say the he was working on his biography and what you were trying to print was covered by his his copyright. Nobody wanted to try and prove otherwise.
"replace a mortise-and-tenon door lock?" Err, have you looked in the library for a book? I wonder if this and some other posts here show a sign of the times?
“just like 007" Humm, Not much humor over there CS! When I was a kid I read Dr No. It was too dumb for me so I can't claim to know much about Bond. But he would have started out at the bottom with just looking around, mail drops and the like. Right? I did once read Fleming was a desk jock in WW-2. >BR>I just saw this years spies in England were using using WI-FI. With the right antennas or boosters much of the commo things used by spies seem to be obsolete. In the past they were the best prof that someone was a spy. So spies in the West, where small computers or even smart phones are everywhere, are a lot harder to track. Or even find? Maybe not to convict in court if you find them.
I don't have any use for the way things are run. But if it were like some say it is in the West, it seems to me that union leader Jack Jones and a lot of others would have died a long time ago. What they were would matter less than what the Power believed they were. If you don't mind waiting there are slow poisons that always kill and can only be suspected at best.

262:

GPS is a way for a ICBM to find its target.

I really don't think so. Maybe to locate the starting point but after that I'm fairly sure it was inertial systems.

263:

GPS is a way for a ICBM to find its target.

Arrant nonsense.

GPS is utterly useless for ICBMs, because in event of an ICBM exchange pretty much the first thing either side would want to do is to take down the opposition's communication, monitoring, and navigation satellites -- for which purpose, a single H-bomb detonated a couple of hundred miles up would work wonderfully.(Think in terms of EMP.)

GPS was developed originally as an aid to navigation at sea, for use by the US navy (indeed, one of the first ships to make use of it was the Hughes Glomar Explorer -- for positioning purposes while retrieving a certain sunken Soviet submarine). Subsequently the kit shrank and became an indispensible aid to all military forces, and then the general public. But it'll almost certainly die messily within minutes of a nuclear shooting war starting.

264:

The first launches of GPS Satellites were in 1978, which is a few years too late for Glomar Explorer. It took a couple of years to get a usable constellation in orbit.

There were earlier navigation systems which made use of satellites but they couldn't provide the continuous positioning data that GPS does. Glomar Exploerer did have the dynamic positioning system that had been around for over a decade. The Project Mohole effort in 1961 had worked at over 3500m deep, maintaining position to 180m precision.

Perhaps Glomar Explorer used such things as sonar beacons?

265:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System# Military "Missile and projectile guidance: GPS allows accurate targeting of various military weapons including ICBMs, cruise missiles, precision-guided munitions and Artillery projectiles." Ok,there were systems before GPS that were not as good. But they would not have come up with the cash for GPS just so ships would not get lost. Subs with ICBMs maybe. Now I will sit and be still.

266:

> I don't know, in contrast, how intelligence agency memory works. And that worries me.

I do know how it works, at least in the US, and you should be worried. Mostly it depends on old guys with the equivalent of their personal card files, which get tossed when they retire. The characteristic time for forgetting is surprisingly short in the absence of a relevant old guy -- ten years or so.

It's not just intelligence agencies: I had a few years of interacting with DARPA, and it was amazing how often they reinvented one wheel or another because nobody remembered the previous iteration.

P.S.: The CIA does, to its credit, have an in-house journal called "Studies in Intelligence" that tries to capture experience, but a lot just evaporates.

267:

" .. and indeed denying their dissatisfaction with the status quo, are the most dangerous of all! "

Absolutely Right ..and wonderfully appealing to the Political Right too.

The most dangerous of Agents of The Others must be people who eagerly volunteer to join the Conservative /Republican/ Tory political factions at University and even at school - Private /Public School of the Eton/Harrow kind and their US of A and Euro equivalents of course - just consider these neo Con Men/persons ...


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19167590

and pick the likely winners as deep covert agents of destruction.

Now of course the Tories and their 'useful idiots ' in the UKs coalition government are likely to be booted out next election ..but in the mean time the Tories have the opportunity to do as much damage to the UKS welfare state as ever they can for the next couple of years. Not bad as sabotage goes - and certainly better than anything Bond and his fellow club land heros could do - but it could be done better.

Look how well agent Boris ( Johnson ) is doing! Oh, all right, I could have picked a better example.


We may be thinking too narrowly on this subject. Certainly there are the dissatisfied and the despairing members of the legion of the resentful .. ' why not ME I deserve better, and anyway I hate those smug bastards ' variety that produce the Cambridge Spys and even the bent FBI agents or. the Police Agents of the London Met ..

" Operation Countryman was a wide-ranging investigation into police corruption within the Metropolitan Police Service in London from 1978-1984.[1] After being initially established to investigate allegations of corruption in the City of London Police, the main investigation was soon shifted to Metropolitan Police. More than 400 police officers lost their jobs but none were charged with any criminal offences.[2] "

or here from a recent edition of the Graniad..

" Scotland Yard is investigating allegations that detectives working for its anti-corruption unit have been paid thousands of pounds by a firm of private investigators.

A parliamentary inquiry was told today that invoices, also seen by the Guardian, purport to show how a firm of private investigators made payments in return for information about the Metropolitan police investigation into James Ibori, a notorious Nigerian fraudster. "

The trouble is that if you place poorly paid public servants in the vicinity of extremely rich criminals - and, or, vastly wealthy governments - and then bombard the wrenched public servants with a steady stream of contempt and freeze their pay then corruption will creep in. The spy's are already in place and will tend to seek out buyers for their wares on the open market. The only thing that will stop subversion of this kind is the fear of detection and punishment. Always supposing that the low to mid level spys in place are capable of believing that the Great ' I Am and I Deserve BETTER ' that is themselves could ever be caught.

But that's at a standard Police/ Intelligence PC plod level, and Crime is ever so different to Espionage - except that espionage is a crime - whilst of course that noble Body of Men, Women and other Creatures who staff the Donut are incorruptible since they are SO well paid ?


Oh well, let's suppose that all of the employees of State Security are totally reliable and positively vetted for incorruptibility at any level, and each is sealed into 'need to Know ' cells ' with limited access across the organisation ..or perhaps not ..

" In the past, the boffins lived in their own secretive world, emerging only to shout eureka when they solved a puzzle. Then, says a GCHQ brochure, the agency was "strongly hierarchical, heavily compartmented and [a] relatively introverted organisation which had coped successfully with the monolithic cold war target".

Now, new threats - in particular those posed by international terrorist networks less predictable than the Soviet bloc - require different ways of working, senior GCHQ officials say. The new emphasis is on "knowledge-sharing", flexibility, and the need to set up a quick multi-disciplinary response team at a moment's notice.

"No one will be more than five minutes away from any other colleague", says Ann Black, GCHQ's chief spokesman.

What GCHQ brochures describe as "the journey change" - from introverts working in huts to individuals working in a largely open space the size of 17 football pitches - will be a huge culture shock.

Even the GCHQ's new director, David Pepper, and his senior colleagues, will be visible to the rest of the staff who will share what GCHQ officials call a "common desktop" and will be encouraged to ask questions. "


Well that's all right then eh? What can possibly go wrong?


http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/jun/10/terrorism.Whitehall


In reality just how do you stop the product getting Out of the building or stop infected software being smuggled IN inside employees? Employees must surely be searched/ screened/scanned down to every nook of every body cavity - and these days I suppose allowance has to be made for concealment in artificial joints and other surgical implants? Gods but the screening process must be time consuming! How do they get any work done in between being screened in and out of the establishment?

I just don't see how the Doughnut can work if its operational structures are as they have been described. No doubt they have A Cunning Plan and its not all political flim flam and hand waving and a colossal waste of money.

Still I am inclined to wonder what the Donut is really being used for and where all the money is going?

268:


P.P.S. to my 266:

I was speaking about substantive/operational knowledge.

There are other kinds of memory, which might more properly go under the name of lore and legend, that get passed around as stories and are much more persistent because they engage institutional interests and identity. Like Biblical stories, they may not have a lot of grounding in reality, but they do have great resonance and effect.

269:

The story I know of institutional memory is about somewhere I worked 10 years ago. The idiotic management were getting rid of people, including pushing old maintenance guys into retirement.
Come winter, mobody knew where all the valves and stopcocks were on site. They had to bribe a retiree to show them where they all were.

Ahh, British industry, frequently 20 years behind everywhere else.

Now re. ICBM's and GPS, Dbrowns wikipedia link doesn't have a reference for the ICBM use of GPS. It has one for howitzers firing GPS guided stuff, but not for ICBM's using GPS. That is a classic example of why you should be careful with wikipedia.

270:

d brown:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System# Military "Missile and projectile guidance: GPS allows accurate targeting of various military weapons including ICBMs, cruise missiles, precision-guided munitions and Artillery projectiles." Ok,there were systems before GPS that were not as good. But they would not have come up with the cash for GPS just so ships would not get lost. Subs with ICBMs maybe. Now I will sit and be still.

That statement is 3/4 true and 1/4 incorrect. Cruise missiles, PGMs, and artillery using GPS guidance exist. I am unable to find an ICBM that does (or SLBM). The Minuteman III MGS upgrade (MS-50A computer) does not include a GPS unit; they use a stabilized big ring laser gyro, same unit they've used for decades. MX was equivalent. Trident II (D5) uses a similar inertial unit plus starsighting systems in flight for a bit more precision. UK uses US leased Trident D5 missiles. France uses M45 (Inertial) and M51 (inertial plus starsighting system). China I don't know, Russia I don't know for sure, but I can't see either of those putting a US run system anywhere near their flight control systems.

I will correct Wikipedia.

271:

It might be correct if GPS is used in mobile systems to get accurate launch site positioning. Does anyone have mobile ICBMs?

272:

You mean, other than the submarine mounted ones? And the ones paraded through Red Square?

273:

Why bother with live GPS? Just make sure you use pre-surveyed launch sites. If it's good enough for normal artillery...

And IIRC, some of the Soviet systems were fully mobile (big wheeled units, used to appear on Red Square each year). ISTR that railway mounting was a considered MX basing method, albeit underground... Not sure that the US ever considered road-based systems seriously.

274:

Does the second oldest profession have a future in the 21st century?

The perverse part of me wants to compare and contrast this with how the oldest profession might cope with the 21st century.

275:

The trouble is that if you place poorly paid public servants in the vicinity of extremely rich criminals - and, or, vastly wealthy governments - and then bombard the wrenched public servants with a steady stream of contempt and freeze their pay then corruption will creep in.

Sometimes corruption doesn't creep in, it swaggers in.

In Mexico, the government sent a bunch of commando teams against the drug cartels. The commandos quickly figured out that the drug cartels paid better than the Mexican government. It was good for the cartels until 2010, when the commandos (knows as Zetas) decided they'd rather be running things. Police need huevos grandes to even think about screwing with Zetas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zetas_(Mexico)

276:

No american road-based ballistic missiles?

Somehow I think the US might have had an easier time if it hadn't created the Pershing II and stationed them at Greenham Common. Sending them out on practice drills called attention to themselves.

Don't think GPS was even used for launch location determination, and certainly not for inflight usage (for a bunch of reasons).

277:

Right. Subs surely use GPS (but have inertial and star-sensor systems, because one cannot assume the GPS is still working). But their missiles don't.

No US / FR/ UK road-mobile ICBMs, no.

The Jericho ... shorter range, and probably uses presurveyed locations.

USSR will use GLONASS for TOPOL and TOPOL-M. Because, it's a strategic system, and because they have GLONASS. And can probably presurvey locations.

China... I think they're not road-mobile.

278:

Good Lord! There's probably a potboiler in just the final section, with Anonymous and all.

279:

I took a tour of a trident nuclear missile submarine in high school (1992 or so, so gps was useful but not complete I believe). The tour guide (some officer of the submarine) said that they had several navigation methods available, but that their newer inertial navigation system was good enough that they didn't use the others on patrol.

Wikipedia says their active patrols were 70-90 days. I believe that they would stay deep and silent for that entire time, unless something went wrong.

But I suppose they really just need to avoid running into islands :) Before launching they would be able to fix their position again using the several other methods.

280:

"The problem is likely to be false positives and response times. If the nearest RCMP post is two hours away, if the three-man detachment happens to be in, and the intruders can reach a highway in an hour, then they can still cross the border and get away. Drug prohibition has the interesting side effect of committing a lot of money to keeping the Canada-US and US-Mexico borders porous, and spooks can use the same routes that crooks use."

By the time extremely low-power low cost networked sensors would be available small, quiet drones would also be available. They would be sent to follow the border-crossers from afar, not to intercept them but to gather intelligence on them. The most interesting ones would be tagged for a continuing tail (human or drone), outside the border zone. The RCMP would never be in the loop. Spies would get burned as moths going to a flame. Eventually they would keep away from the borders. Changes in spycraft would ensue.

281:

ARCHY @267
Everyome in one gian open-pkan office?
Well there's the productivity shot by 70% stright off.
Open-plan offices are the modern equivalent of the Victorian set of slopes.
Talk about re-inventing stupidity.
Even cubicle farms are better.To THINK you nedd privacy, but you also need interactions....

@ 271 et al
Mobile ICBM's
Well, the VERY FIRST was mobile, actually. You trollied your Radwagen-set to a level concrete patch, jacked the missile to vertical, topped off the fuel & lit the blue touchpaper!
Its' name?
Vergeltungswaffe II

[ Note: Vergeltungswaffen I was, of course, the first (highly inaccurate) cruise missile. ]

282:

#254 and #256 - It's not actually defined in my Collins either beyond "Jar (n) slightly open", but yes I was always taught that the swinging end of the door is the jar.

283:

261 Para 1, 262, 263 and 265:-

A 100m Circular Error Probable really doesn't matter to a strategic warhead, unless you're using it to bust a really big (think Cheyenne Mountain big) bunker, so you probably wouldn't use GPS as a targetting system for long-range ballistic missiles.

In contrast, military grade GPS certainly is helpful to cruise and guided bomb systems like Tomahawk and Paveway 3 where you can decide exactly which window of an office block you want to put the weapon through.

284:

If you think that the V2 - range ~200 miles - was an ICBM, then you have a weird idea of the definition of the term 'Inter Continental'.

285:

I also think that the "V-2" should be called the "A-4" (because that was its name). ;-) I'd agree that 200 miles is not "inter-continental (unless you're in the extreme South or East of Europe firing into North Africa or West Asia, or in one of them and shooting back ;-) ) although the flight path was definitely ballistic, but there was a proposed multi-stage deveopment of the A-4 which would have had the range to hit the Eastern seaboard of North America from launch sites in France.

286:

Back to the thing about 007 not being a spy... A friend of mine has a theory that explains all the different bond actors and personality changes nicely.

James Bond is a psychopath. He is wheeled out when there is a conspiracy and HMG wants every member of it dead. There is no way someone that dangerous could function in society, so the obvious explanation is that he doesn't.

The idea is that the government go down to Broadmoor or some other hospital for the criminally insane, pick out someone with the right combination of physical fitness and batshit insanity and put them through an intensive brainwashing/training course until they think they are James Bond.

Point the new JB at the conspiracy, pull the trigger and watch all the bad guys die. If JB gets killed then there's no problem - just wheel the next one out and tell him the bastards just killed 009...

287:

Nice. That explains so many continuity issues, up to and including his inability to age.

(There I was, thinking they were just too cheap to pay for the regeneration scenes.)

288:

but there was a proposed multi-stage deveopment of the A-4 which would have had the range to hit the Eastern seaboard of North America from launch sites in France.

The Aggregate series had plans for multistage rockets designed to hit the US and even enter LEO!

289:

Or possibly more sociopathic than psychopathic, which is pretty much how Daniel Craig and Sean Connery both played the role (particularly marked in Casino Royale).

290:

Going back to the original subject....

How many suppliers (in how many countries) are there for biometric ID systems, passport readers, and the associated back-end processing stuff?

Is it possible that intelligence agencies might be able to slip back doors into this system such that agents could be issued with passports which have a "these aren't the droids you're looking for..." flag encoded into their biometric data?.

If border security becomes dependent on technology could that technology be subverted to actually make it *easier* to sneak state sponsored (or tacitly approved) covert operators across borders?

291:

>>>for which purpose, a single H-bomb detonated a couple of hundred miles up would work wonderfully.(Think in terms of EMP.)

And I'm sure the people who design military satellite navigation systems never thought of this possibility...

292:

It did occur to me that most of the countries deploying these systems are likely to be buying the kit from one of a handful of large corporations who are probably based in the US, EU or China.

Maybe each country will have a list of other countries it can operate in with impunity.

You want to operate in country X? fine. Country Y? We have to see if it important enough to risk begging a favour from the chinese.

293:

They thought of it, but there is no way to defend against it. If it happens there will be far worse military problems to deal with besides loss of GPS. On the civilians side, having all electronics wiped out across a continent will also present its own, more immediate, problems.

294:

Look how well agent Boris ( Johnson ) is doing! Oh, all right, I could have picked a better example.

Indeed you could: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uinaCdzlg8k

On institutional memory: here's a lovely piece on the difficulty retiree-consultants can face smuggling lost knowledge back into an organisation.

295:

And I'm sure the people who design military satellite navigation systems never thought of this possibility...

My working assumption is that there's a spare GPS cluster squirrelled away aboard an Ohio-class boomer, or a couple of Peacemaker ICBMs, ready to launch after the initial fireworks have died down. And there is (or was) a similar GLONASS cluster ready to go.

But trying to harden an on-orbit cluster of navsats to survive the hot phase of a first strike is a losing game; the other side simply have to up the pulse from their anti-satellite EMP bombs by a bit, and a peak USA/USSR nuke exchange in the 1980s would have involved so many bombs that ... well, I gather by the time they got serious about the START treaty negotiations, the USAF was targeting individual post-offices in the Greater Moscow area with H-bombs: they had nukes to spare (and the Soviets had even more).

296:

One targeting plan for Moscow was a 6x6 grid with a 3 mile spacing.

297:

Warning - potential spoiler for Merchant Picnes series below!
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I'm pretty sure Charlie already knows that; evidence in Merchant Princes V6.

298:

>>>But trying to harden an on-orbit cluster of navsats to survive the hot phase of a first strike is a losing game; the other side simply have to up the pulse from their anti-satellite EMP bombs by a bit

Do we know that? Starfish Prime test happened in 1962. That gives us 50 years of advances in radiation hardening.

299:

Well according to one james bond film, they've perfected radiation proof microchips...

300:

Actually, I did the calculation myself from a textbook on the effects of nuclear weapons, the title/author of which currently escape me (annoyingly). But, in principle, yes, that'd do it: nothing in the open would survive without its surface hitting ignition temperature for waterlogged organic material.

301:

Grid is a bit crude though. A poisson disk distribution is more the kind of thing you want. Easier on the eye too :)

302:

Glasstone and Dolan-The Effects of Nuclear Weapons by any chance?

303:

> I gather by the time they got serious about the START treaty negotiations, the USAF was targeting individual post-offices in the Greater Moscow area with H-bombs: they had nukes to spare (and the Soviets had even more).

I once had an interesting chat with a USAF officer who'd worked on the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff in Omaha in, I guess, the mid or late 1970s. According to him, they'd had 78 targets (Designated Ground Zeros in the jargon) in the Moscow area. Some of those, due to importance and/or hardness were programmed for several weapons.

304:

Yup, that's the one.

305:

My (admittedly fairly cursory) experience of working on GPS projects is that the difficult bits of running the system are handled by the Ground Segment. Without that SVs on their own are useless. After all, I'd find it odd indeed if any attack that made GPS SVs drop like flies would miss out the relatively few in number ground installations.

So I would expect any stack of spare SVs to be accompanied by spare kit for the ground role.

Then all you have to do is wait until the new system is calibrated, a distinctly non-trivial and time consuming task.

To me the interesting move in GNSS "hardening" is the Chinese move to geostationary birds for some of their constellation. That makes hitting them much harder - with GPS all you need to do is wait until they pass overhead.

306:

BTW, I thought that the kill mechanism of nukes in space against satellites was not EMP but high energy radiation, esp charged particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field.

307:

GPS birds are almost all in orbits with periods of between 12 and 14 hours, that is 19 to 23 thousand kilometres ASL (nearly two Earth diameters).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Comparison_satellite_navigation_orbits.svg

A Starfish Prime shot (or twenty) in LEO would have no real effect on them although it would kill Iridium and other low-orbit birds like the British military's Skynet. Sending hunter-killers up to knock out GPS birds individually would also be a major task; nothing that fits in a SSBN silo will reach and the ball-of-yarn orbits mean it would need one h-k launch per bird, pretty much, to knock them down that way.

A really powerful ground-based laser could do the job, probably. Something that could deliver a megawatt-second pulse over a five-metre diameter circle at 20,000 km through the atmosphere would fry the solar cell panels if nothing else. I've not heard of anyone building such a ground-based anti-satellite facility although it could be distributed, with ten or twenty low-powered telescope units concentrating on a single target to kill it that way.

Knocking out the ground control stations will degrade the accuracy of GPS but only over days or weeks as their on-board ephemeris ages and positional and time errors accumulate. They are built to be self-sufficient though and they won't return bad data for quite some time after losing touch with Mother.

308:

One account I read suggested that there were long lists of potential targets, and several different targeting plans, but no way was it possible to attack every target. Some targets were worth multiple attacks, to be sure of their destruction. Others might just be a convenient landmark for an area that you just might want to attack, so you had the coordinates in a file.

309:

Ah,

But how sure are we that it wasn't a Starbucks that was also an entrance to an enormous underground complex ?

My guess is that if you had an enormous underground complex that lots of people were going to enter and leave... then disguising the entrance as a Starbucks is probably a reasonably shrewd cover.

310:

Not unreasonable, but, consider 007 as being a British - possibly/probably Scottish - boy whose parents are of the British Officer Class and who are stationed in one of the outposts of Empire and who leave their Only Child to the British Public School System .. which would tell you lots about their character.

Of course there are the Equivalents of Bond in Europe. And certainly there are family and clan links to the English Speaking Peoples of the US of A, hence the Bond/Ian Fleming fondness for the CIA.

Imagine a very lonely little boy who is good at games and who learned all sorts of ODD Stuff - Languages ! - when he was an infant. A boy whose only family is SCHOOL and the Officer Training Core. Of course most such kids will become Civil Servants or ..the phrase used to be " Eton, Oxford and The Brigade of Guards "unless Bond was singled out, on account of his background, for " Special Services "

Though Bond was Commander Bond - his father was Royal Navy ? - wasn't he and thus not The Brigade of Guards ?

In Bond and his ilks History there would be a Rudyard Kipling esque " Kim " like selection when he was very, Very, Young.

It is reasonable to suppose that Commander Bond - in his various persona's and legends, and more than one Life - isn't a natural psychopath but rather that the poor sod is a Directed, Trained and Engineered Socio-path and that he is in effect an Instrument of State ..a public Executioner. He knows nothing else and has far more in common with his adversaries than he has with ordinary people.The Others were selected and trained in much the same that he was, though their label might that of a Servent of The Soviet State rather than as an Agent of The Crown.

Bond and his creator are very 1950s, early 1960s, but the ethos hasn't gone away ...


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/30/public-schools-anthony-seldon


The more things change the more they stay the same.

Jingoism will never die.


311:

Also worth noting wrt. James Bond: Fleming began writing the books in the very early 1950s. Commander is a relatively senior rank in the Navy, roughly equivalent to an Army major: might well be in charge of a small vessel, at least back in the 1940s when the RN was vastly larger than it is today. But promotion would have been, shall we say, rather rapid circa 1939-45, for an energetic young man with the right aptitude. So post-1945 there'd have been a surplus of men of that sort of rank, aged under 30, kicking around restlessly in peacetime ...

312:

Interesting. How old and what brand. Most all phone handsets and similar cost so little that repairs are not economical.

The handset of my office phone is also held together by two screws. It's a one-year old Mitel 5330 IP phone.

313:

that lots of people were going to enter and leave... then disguising the entrance as a Starbucks is probably a reasonably shrewd cover.

Or an Apple store. Last Fri/Sat/Sun was state sale tax free here in NC. Just under 8%. I happened to be in the mall and wanted to go look at something in the store Sat afternoon late. Was told I'd have to get in the Queue. About 60 people at the time. Likely was 300 or more Friday AM.

A few months ago I was in the Pentagon City Mall in Alexandria VA. Needed to get an iPhone repaired. The Apple store is next to a Sony store. Apple store was about 1/3 the size and literally wall to wall people. Less than 10 people in the Sony store. This was a Sunday afternoon.

314:

"No American road-based ballistic missiles" I was around when the first ICBMs come and I knew what they used for guidance. I guess I read so much about GPS that I picked up the wrong thing about them in ICBMs?
We thought about making road-based ICBMs, but who wanted one parked down the road. The old S.U. had lots of empty land. That's why we went to subs so much. That moved a lot of the targets away from people. I think(?)you all were the only ones in danger from the short range S.U. road-based ballistic missiles? We were going to be hit with the big ones anyway.
But GPS was for military use only and was inaccurate on purpose to keep a enemy from using them. I think I read they gave that up so people could make more money out of them.
The Pershing II was put in Europe because your leaders were fearful that we would not go to war and be killed over you. They must not of out talked some one or did not hard sell it. Any way, we got the heat, not them With the Pershing s in place we would have had a war whether we wanted it at time or not. It looks to me like "Commander Bond" is a good soldier. They do things others would rather not.

315:

Pershing was a first strike weapon given its location. It was destabilizing.

316:

If I'm reading the history right, the major missiles of the Cold War used inertial guidance, not GPS. If one believes Wikipedia, GPS really got going in the 1980s (first satellites went up in 1978), and the first Gulf War was when they really got their military test.

As for the original question, I still keep spinning around a few basic issues:

One is that any online database can be hacked to some degree, so huge files of biometric data aren't necessarily a good thing. We've already seen this with TSA's no fly list, and how easy it is to screw that up. If nothing else, the CIA can simply hire a bunch of Mormons named John Smith and cause trouble that way.

The other thing is that there's such a muck of botnets and spam on the internets these days that there's room for all sorts of spy operations down there. Come to think of it, spam might be one equivalent of a dead letter drop, with a malformed SQL statement encoding sensitive data. Five years ago, it was steganographic porn. Now? Who knows. Maybe Cheezburger is a CIA front.

317:
So post-1945 there'd have been a surplus of men of that sort of rank, aged under 30, kicking around restlessly in peacetime ...

This also explains a point (post-Sean) that has long troubled me. Bond doesn't have high-class taste. In fact his sensibilities are atrocious (Yeah, it's true, I am a farm boy. Sue me.) What he has is the sort of tastes some dim-witted and lower-class people would think of as "high class".

I believe the book-Bond and movie-Bond was at least partially reconciled in the first Craig film where Dench tells him that while he's made the grade, he's still got some rough edges that need polishing. For all we know, Bond's favorite dish is the English equivalent of our American fish sticks with Mac-&-Cheese :-)

318:

The name's Bond - Jimmie Bond.
I'll have a pint of Red Bull please, with an umbrella in it and a cherry on a stick.

319:

I think you either misunderstand "first strike" (it requires the ability to destroy your enemy's ability to mount a credible retaliation, as a minimum), or you are mistaken about the range of Pershing 2.

The Soviets had started deploying SS-20 into East Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1976, such that NATO forces in Europe (not to mention NATO civilians in Europe) were within range of a road-mobile, solid fuelled (i.e. short notice launch) IRBM. By contrast, Pershing 2 hardly had the range to reach the USSR, never Moscow, and certainly never the Strategic Rocket Forces; it only had one-third of the range of SS-20.

Pershing and GLCM were a response, not a provocation. The decision to deploy was taken in 1979, and they were operational in 1983. Pershing was very definitely a theatre weapon system; it could only be considered strategic if you were a Warsaw Pact buffer state. Draw an 1100 mile arc from anywhere west of the Rhine, see how far you get into Russia proper.

Now, if you argued that the accuracy of Trident D5 and M-X made them credible first-strike weapons, I might be more inclined to believe you...

320:

All the Pershings were installed in W Germany and designed to take earth penetrating nuclear weapons, presumably for decapitation strikes at C3I bunkers as far as Moscow.

321:

Commander is more senior than you think - it's actually NATO OF-4, equivalent to Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, or Wing Commander in the RAF.

You'll find a Commander RN in charge of fairly large ships; in fact, the current Commanding Officers of the UK strategic missile submarines are all Commander RN, and mostly younger than you or me...

322:

@263:
GPS was developed originally as an aid to navigation at sea, for use by the US navy
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My brother-in-law helped lay out the testing protocols, then hand-wired the first GPS transmitters, which were flown around in aircraft while the ground receivers were tested. He was working for a contractor for the United States Air Force.

He said there were several orbital radio navigation systems proposed by different contractors, and the infighting between them was extremely political. According to him, the system we have now is a descendant of the USAF one he worked on, not one of the others.

I've been pushing him to write a monograph or something about his experiences in the early days of GPS, but he doesn't think anyone would be interested.

323:

Per the Wikipedia entrie the earth penetrating war heads were canceled before deployment.

324:

I hope they told the Russians!

325:

I remember seeing IRBMs on the launch pad when I was a child. Liquid fuelled. Used Liquid Oxygen. This was not a test range.

I didn't know then what that meant.

326:

If one believes Wikipedia, GPS really got going in the 1980s (first satellites went up in 1978), and the first Gulf War was when they really got their military test.

You missed the ancestor technologies. GPS is [at least] a third-generation radio navigation system. Before the GPS cluster was launched there were earlier US Navy navigation satellite pilot projects going back to the late 60's/early 70's. These in turn were intended to replace LORAN, which is much less accurate and rather useless over ocean (due to its reliance on ground-based transmitters). Finally, if we go all the way back, the original large scale deployment of radio navigation was probably the Luftwaffe's Lorentz system (for guiding bombers towards British cities during the night period of the Battle of Britain).

327:

Another GPS ancestor technology was Decca Navigator - also operating on similar basic princioles to Lorentz.
Wherever you flew or sailed, you should be able to "see" at leat three fixed transmitters, which gave you an instant fix for lat/long, & a slightly less accurate one for altitude (if you were in an aircraft).

Lots more information HERE
Original idea as early as 1938, first deployed & tested 1943-4, finally closed down 2000.

I'm suprised no-one else has mentioned it.

328:

One of the Brosnan films had Bond in a Naval uniform at one point. Good marks to the costume department, they managed to put a set of SBS wings onto them (the reboot made a similar point about ex-SF types with fancy watches and opportunities for product placement... Doesn't look like North Face or Rab pay enough...)

On that note, one of the HAC pikemen on duty at the Jubilee celebration was wearing similar...

329:

It occurs to me that the character of Marty in the recent movie _The Cabin In The Woods_ had something to say about this topic. I won't spoil his solution, which Bob Howard presumably wouldn't use anyway.

Anyone interested in the Laundry novels would probably be interested in that movie. It's rated 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it's generally regarded as good.

330:

As far as the Laundry Files goes, the GCHQ Doughnut is clearly bait in an oversized mousetrap (for sufficiently large and interdimensional values of "mouse"). All those supercomputers crunching away at all that data must send a very strong signal pinging across the multiverse, and the shape just shouts containment grid. I hope they've got a good evacuation plan for when the walls between dimensions thin out enough.

331:

Sorry, Dirk, but that's just incorrect. Pershing 2 couldn't even get close to Moscow, so it's incapable of doing any decapitation. It might make life interesting for the GSFG HQ bunker in Zossen-Wunsdorf, though.

It's also incapable of carrying both warhead and decoy package; you should consider that Moscow had an ABM system (the credibility of the UK strategic deterrent is measured by its ability to attack Moscow successfully; consider Chevaline).

In other words, while a well-meaning CND may have said that GLCM and Pershing were destabilising, the converse was true; their presence actually gave NATO something to negotiate away in the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987.

332:

"Sorry, Dirk, but that's just incorrect. Pershing 2 couldn't even get close to Moscow"

The Persing 2 range is 1100 miles, which means Moscow is well in range if fired from close to the inner German border eg Luchow or even Luneburg. It could even reach Moscow if shot from the outskirts of Hamburg.

333:

True, I forgot about Loran. Thing is, a couple of family members worked on inertial guidance systems for missiles back in the 60s, so that's what I tend to think of when I think about 60s missile tech.

334:

So what would that make RAF Chicksands and its FLR-9 Antenna (now dismantled) :-)


335:

I note that the Thor IRBM launch sites in Lincolnshire are marginal for hitting Moscow. Ludford Magnam the nearest, is 1510 miles from Red Square.

The original specification was for a range of 1750 miles, but the figure given for Thor IRBMs is 1500 miles. If somebody had mistakenly misread nautical miles for statute miles, that would explain most of the discrepancy


336:

I hope they told the Russians!

The cancellation of an entire warhead program wasn't all that big a secret even then. It was likely part of a big Congressional debate. But my memory of that time was 80 hour weeks for no where near enough pay. (He realized in hindsight.) And since the US and USSR was in negotiations about all of this at the time I'm sure it was brought up.

337:

Of course once a fictional character becomes an archetype he/she becomes fair game on biography but this following looks to be reasonably convincing ....


" After the death of his parents, he goes to live with his aunt, Miss Charmian Bond, in Pett Bottom village, where he completes his early education. Later, he briefly attends Eton College at "12 or thereabouts" (13 in Young Bond), but is removed after four halves because of girl trouble with a maid. He reminisces about losing his virginity at sixteen, on a first visit to Paris, in the short story "From a View to a Kill". Bond is removed from Eton and sent to Fettes College in Edinburgh, Scotland, his father's school. Per Pearson's James Bond: The Authorised Biography and an allusion in From Russia, with Love, Bond briefly attended the University of Geneva. Some of Bond's education is based on Fleming's own, both having attended Eton, and the University of Geneva.

World War II service with the Royal Navy

In 1941, Bond lies about his age in order to enter the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during World War II, from which he emerges a Commander. He retains that rank while in the British Secret Service of Fleming's novels, John Gardner's continuation novels, and the films. Continuation novelist John Gardner promoted Bond to Captain in Win, Lose or Die. Since Raymond Benson's novels are a reboot, Bond is a Commander, and a member of the RNVSR (Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve), an association of war veteran officers. After joining the RNVR, Bond is mentioned travelling in the U.S., Hong Kong, and Jamaica, and that he joined another organisation, such as the SOE or the 00-Section of the SIS or as leader of a Royal Marine unit on secret mission behind enemy lines in the war or in (Fleming's) "Red Indians" 30 Commando Assault Unit (30 AU). One supporting fact is Bond in the Ardennes firing a bazooka in 1944. The 30 AU were the only British small unit attached to the US Army in Europe. In Bond's obituary, his commanding officer, M, alludes to the rank as cover: "To serve the confidential nature of his duties, he was accorded the rank of lieutenant in the Special Branch of the R.N.V.R., and it is a measure of the satisfaction his services gave to his superiors that he ended the war with the rank of Commander." You Only Live Twice, chapter 21: "Obit" "


http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0000007/bio


From all that I've heard and read the British upper classes were not famous for gourmet dining and Public School food is reputed to have been ghastly and so Bond may well have considered fish and chips washed down with Iron Bru to have been a gourmet delight.This following may well have been nearer to reality though ..


" Anyway, in this article Florence White interviews the servants of the great and the good of 1930s Britain to find out what kind of food the rulers of the Empire liked to eat. She found that there was a resounding inclination towards simple, good food; plain English cookery well made from excellent local produce and nicely cooked. Prime Ministers, Lords, Bishops, MPs and captains of industry all preferred roast beef, steak, chops, roast potatoes, a good vegetables to any Escoffier-like confection. At tea they enjoyed ham sandwiches, plain fruit cake and good quality tea, they eschewed the fancy. She came to the conclusion that they enjoyed this kind of food because they were brought up on vast, self-sufficient country estates, where the food was plain because it was the very best and needed no cream sauce or aspic to make it any better. "


http://breadandroses123.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/posh-food.html

338:

One thing to consider — and I'm sure that the relevant intelligence services have considered it — is that whatever your system for keeping track of citizens and visitors, internal underworld elements will attempt to, and probably succeed in, subverting it.

Rather than breaking into a foreign system yourself, it might involve less effort to buy into whatever exploit criminals have set up.

339:

I note that IRON HORSE was a NATO-wide programme, with AN/FLR-9s all over Europe. If they weren't for the stated purpose — and I'll pause to note that the Doughnut has a circular antenna array on its roof — then possibly an aborted attempt to set up a Europe-wide wormhole portal network?

340:

This CV for Mr.Bond was sufficiently detailed to provoke a letter from Goldeneyes Productions suggesting that it should not be published in a magazine.
http://www.magicdragon.com/SherlockHolmes/resumes/Bond.html

341:

Reset back to the question Charlie posed...

We have two cases, intelligence and direct action. Direct action is likely to be willing to use non-legal border crossings.

For intelligence... Motivations for spies are often simplified as MICE. Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego.

In a modern hyperconnected world, Ego and Ideology will come to you. As will some Money. If you are looking for candidates, you can do worse than hanging out of web forums and mailing lists looking for grumpy people. I did a troll through my Facebook and LinkedIn contacts a while ago thinking about this, found lots and lots of exploitable angles.

Compromise suggests active intervention, but can be done more remotely now. Why send a PI to photograph guy (or girl) with the wrong (girl / guy / kid / animal / toy) when you can take over their cellphone cam and have them take their own blackmail video for you...

Once you have agents, pervasive networks and smart apps make back channel comms pretty easy. Spookwriter-like edits to your outgoing email and tweets and facebook updates. Your twitpic or youtube or whatever photos/videos, etc.

One-way dead drops with USB thumb drives full of porn with embedded messages, etc.

342:

I foresee the range of blackmail material to narrow considerably, already for celebrities sex videos are more of an oops than anything really damaging and I expect this probably to extend to politicians gradually. Already in the 90s in Ireland of all places a politician's career survived being outed as a gay man having an assignment in phoenix park.

It of course varies culturally, in Japan or China film stars and celebrities can still get in trouble while Berlusconi proved he'd probably get away with almost anything.

343:

I foresee the range of blackmail material to narrow considerably

That's a really important point and I think I'm going to start a blog discussion on that subject because ... major future-shock nexus!

344:

Side-Effect: potential blackmail material becomes much more overtly illegal, which is a reversion to the 1950s in some ways. Things such as the decriminalisation of gay sex knocked a big hole in the blackmail options in the UK. One might wonder what motives really lie behind such things as the "extreme porn" law. And, if that spy in the sports bag hadn't died, would there have been enough to fire him under some illegal sexual activity clause? (See also "Operation Spanner")

I would not be surprised if some of the regular readers could speak with more authority on such things, if they chose. I know of weird my own fantasies are.

ObOrwell: Only the Thought Police mattered.

345:

Talking of the thought police,
they arresed a man last week, for not obviously enjoying the olympics

No, you really could not make it up, could you?

A blatant case of illegal arrest & unlawful imprisionment, but, hey, its' the olympics, and we've passed a (temporary) enabling law.

346:

HOllywood sex videos are sometimes so much less than an oops that the more cynical Hollywood types think they are deliberately released to raise a startlet's profile (cf: Paris Hilton, Kim Khardashian). The women in the tapes are, of course, shocked, shocked, that some scumbag somehow stole their recording, but no one stops and asks why someone so dedicated to privacy would even make such a record in the first place. One should especially question such claims of outrage if the starlets in question subsequently show little or no modesty afterwards, and the alleged perps aren't prosecuted afterwards.

Yes, women do have naked pictures released to the web by ex-boyfriends, voyeurs, and so forth, and they do suffer quite a lot. What I'm specifically talking about is celebrity sex tapes here.

347:

I was hoping that someone who knew a lot more about WI-FI than I would write about it as a spy tool.

348:

These days in somewhere like Britain it is *very* difficult to access the Net anonymously - if the security services decide to spend a lot of time either keeping an eye on you or what you are accessing. You might think something like a public wifi spot would be ideal, except for surveillance cameras which can be searched for people in proximity. The most secure access is by finding someone's unsecured domestic wifi and using that (or cracking their WEP). While being careful not to do it in an area monitored by cameras, eg suburbia or low crime housing estates. Do not take your car. Use TOR. Have whatever you want to do scripted so its a one click project and your laptop/tablet is not obvious.

349:

Dirk: Lots of wifi directional antenna demos and kit out there.

A little harder if its one sided, but you can still extend one sided range a lot, 10x or more with inconspicuous antennas.

350:

Nestor:
I foresee the range of blackmail material to narrow considerably
Charlie:
That's a really important point and I think I'm going to start a blog discussion on that subject because ... major future-shock nexus!

I think it's worth differentiating personal vs professional vs criminal blackmail.

Also culture and location differences. Iranian student in the UK or US versus Tehran, etc.

In the west...

Excepting fundamentalist conservatives turning up hardcore S&M gay sex drug users (cough)...

Cheating on spouse dropped down to just personal, and many people just either openly or privately negotiate open relationships. Celebrities who cheat and are blackmailed now routinely call the FBI and admit it to the spouse rather than pay. You get medical leave and paid detox for drug dependency. Going to Burning Man is normal and nobody pesters you about nudity or drugs.

Actual ongoing criminal activity is the only clear winner for blackmail anymore. And blackmailing criminals (even by intelligence agencies) can badly backfire.

351:

The fun bit there is that they admit they basically arrested someone because they thought he might commit a crime in the future. This is classic police state behaviour, but I'm sure it has been happening for a while.
On the other hand, since they're screwing the police and ambulances over, there simple won't be enough officers to arrest you unless you are outside Downing street at the time.

352:

Burglars are not deterred by a steel door with a fancy lock, if it's embedded in an ordinary exterior wall. Break out the chainsaws (or a comparably-effective but quieter tool) and cut through the wall. In.

All the fancy controls in the world at a country's airports and train stations and border-crossing highways make no difference if people can get across the border without passing through those controlled access points. Drugs get in somehow, after all.

353:

Criminal behavior will be easier to come by as the panoptican improves. Too damned much is criminal now.

That does somewhat rely on it being your own government blackmailing you though, the government isn't going to prosecute you for giving a fake name on the internet or something equally ludicrous unless you piss them off or they want something from you.

354:

As others, Bond was indeed RN (References in books, and at least 2 of the films: In "You Only Live Twice" he is buried at sea in a naval commander's uniform, with full honours I think).

I'm a bit of a wine buff, and in the books Bond's choices of wine are enough to impress me.

355:

The cultural differences in building methods on either side of the Atlantic rear their head again: your analogy doesn't stand when your "easy access" example is to chainsaw through breeze blocks...

356:

...or two courses of bricks, or 18" or so of stone :-)

357:

Three films: You Only Live Twice (Connery), The Spy Who Loved Me (Moore), and Die Another Day (Brosnan).

Fleming's career gave him the rank of Commander with remarkable speed, but you can see it as given for what might be called political/social reasons. As Personal Assistant to Rear Admiral Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Fleming needed a high enough rank to have sufficient status.

I'm not sure that Bond's rank, using the book timeline, really holds up. He doesn't have the position in the organisation that Fleming did, so he'd be a step or two down.

358:

Side-Effect: potential blackmail material becomes much more overtly illegal, which is a reversion to the 1950s in some ways. Things such as the decriminalisation of gay sex knocked a big hole in the blackmail options in the UK. One might wonder what motives really lie behind such things as the "extreme porn" law. And, if that spy in the sports bag hadn't died, would there have been enough to fire him under some illegal sexual activity clause? (See also "Operation Spanner")

The solution (from a counter-intelligence point of view) is to encourage people to view the vetting agency as utterly trustworthy; namely, when you are being vetted for an increased security clearance, that you are utterly honest with the vetting team. The chain of command never, ever, sees inside that particular Chinese wall; and you staff the vetting agency with realists with some experience of the world, not Puritans.

This appears to work within UK circles; it's an approach similar to the aviation no-fault reporting system, in that once you have told the team about the things that you might not want made public, you shouldn't be as vulnerable for them. You might not tell your new boss, but you tell all when interviewed periodically as art of your developed vetting (what used to be "positive vetting").

It seems more pragmatic a system than a more puritanical approach; at least under the UK system, if you have an affair, you might lose your partner; but you don't lose your job, security clearance, etc, etc.

359:

Bond is a Frogman, from Scotland. So in the Laundry universe, is he a Deep One? It would explain his rapid advancement.

360:

Talking of the thought police...

That's a somewhat cynical spin on the story. The arrested person was close to a group of protestors, and was mistaken by the police as being associated with them. We've had a numpty screw up the boat race, there's some failed priest who makes a speciality of interrupting sporting events (he destroyed one athlete's chance of winning the 2004 Olympic Marathon)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics_2004/athletics/3610598.stm

He understood why he got lifted (he even wrote them a letter to say so), they apologised, it sounds like he just wants to dot the i's and cross the t's about both sides regarding this as a total cockup and no blame attached (i.e. he has a letter to show someone in the future if they ever ask "why were you arrested at the Olympics?").

361:

In a modern hyperconnected world, Ego and Ideology will come to you.

And where you can't find them, there are always False Flag operations.

There are people out there thinking that they are spying on behalf of (purely an example here) a Silicon Valley competitor firm, or an inside trader, when in fact they are working for a foreign intelligence service; or trying to help defend the plucky little country of their forefathers (tm) when in fact they are working for its evil totalitarian neighbour.

362:

If I understand properly, the CIA tried that protocol for years. Every case officer and field officer was routinely polygraphed, allegedly by skilled operators, as was every spy and potential spy. They admitted that a polygraph could not determine which statement was a lie and which was the truth, but they believed that the polygraph, in the hands of an experienced and skilled operator, could be used to find "patterns of deception" in a subject's response. This part dates back to the 1950s, and it appears to make sense. While no one argues that a polygraph is a lie detector, it may help someone who is used to dealing with liars figure out whether someone is lying, especially if they are of the same culture. Polygraphing someone across cultures is apparently difficult, because people of different societies are socialized about deception differently. In some places, a social white lie is expected, and telling an uncomfortable truth may be stressful.

I should also point out that the CIA ethic was honesty among agency employees, and loyalty both to superiors and to subordinates. The degree to which this was *practiced* is another matter entirely, but on the surface, this all looks good.

Nonetheless, there were problems, and it didn't work so well in practice. The CIA failed to catch moles like Kim Philby early on, and they also failed to see how often they were lied to by their sources, starting in the Korean War and continuing to this day.

But it also got worse. Especially after Nixon, the CIA was repeatedly raked over the coals. Many experienced agents were let go (downsizing after Vietnam and the Cold War), forced out (around Iran-Contra), or quit (the current pattern), meaning that all those polygraphs were run by inexperienced new agents, and especially were run by socially conservative new agents with little real-world or multicultural experience. Polygraph problems soared in the 80s. They became pretty good at finding adulterers, closet homosexuals, and other people with social problems who tried to conceal them, but the noise from people protesting their polygraph results was such that real traitors, like Aldrich Ames, were able to sail right through. In the chaos and lack of experience, Ames' polygraph failures looked normal, and he certainly was having social problems.

Ultimately, that's the problem: cultures of total honesty aren't, finding dishonesty takes painfully-won experience, and agencies who are responsible for both will always go through massive political shakeups due both to their internal failings and to external political issues over which they have no control at all.

Finally, the CIA has the peculiar issue that not many Americans go abroad routinely. As I understand it, they hire a lot of Mormons, probably because the Mormons have to proselytize, sometimes in a foreign country, to become elders in their Church. When your most worldly recruits are devout Mormons, things can get interesting.

363:

If I understand properly, the CIA tried that protocol for years.

Not quite. The CIA system from a position of ignorance appears to be more adversarial; AIUI, the UK never got into polygraphs (and has never really trusted them as a tool for truth). Definitions of "reliability" can be somewhat subjective...

Certainly, there have been some real failures in UK counter-intelligence (Burgess, Philby, Maclean were the most famous). I'm sure it was fingertrouble when you suggested that Philby was a CIA failure.

...I smiled when I heard the urban legend that an old and grizzled Intelligence Corps type was conducting routine vetting interviews of operators at an Army-run listening station on Cyprus in the 1980s. He's standing with his back to a young signaller pouring a cup of tea, and decides to add some levity by asking "so; how long have you been spying for the Syrians?". He turns round to find a white-faced young soldier asking "how did you know?". That ring was money and hookers, apparently.

364:

Ah, well ..it does happen over here too ...


" Gone in 60 seconds: £2m Chinese takeaway of museum treasures

The crack team of burglars were under cover of darkness as they spent 40 minutes cutting the 2ft by 3ft gap in the brickwork "


http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/durham-museum-theft-raiders-took-786733

Moreover some of the domestic housing of the past few years is so flimsy that you could probably knock a hole through a wall with a sledge hammer - hell some of 'em you could probably break into through their walls using simple garden tools.

There came a time, a few years ago, in the building extension of my modest 1930s semi detached house house when the builder had to 'knock through ' the old exterior wall to the new extension and he used nothing more complicated then hammers and chisels - the builders created huge mess and unbelievable amounts of dust but not enormous volumes of noise.

Criminal break-ins are more problematical of course, but It could be done relatively quietly if the target is sufficiently valuable or the thief sufficiently desperate. And then there's the classic break-in to the flat/shop below from a flat/apartment above the target.

365:

Brick or blockwork just takes more *time* to get through, pretty much no matter what.
Going vertical is cheating in the context of the exercise: our ceilings are built much like their walls... (",)

366:

A lot of the British SF contingent posting here will know someone who went from corporal to colonel in fell swoop. Fair's fair, it did take him a few years... He left the Army a corporal, went to university and studied psychology and eventually got a teaching post at Sandhurst where for hierarchical purposes he was awarded the honorary rank of colonel.

367:

re: Philby, as I understand it, things got complicated. The CIA relied on Philby too, as a British liaison. When Philby was revealed, he caused shockwaves throughout the CIA, because he had been based in Washington. One of the biggest problems Philby caused was with James Angleton, head of counterintelligence and friend of Philby. After Philby, Angleton became overly paranoid about Soviet moles in the CIA, fostering an atmosphere of compartmentalization and operational independence that was probably more effective at maintaining ineffective and illegal operations than it was at finding or preventing Soviet penetration.

To be fair to Angleton, he reportedly suspected Philby was a double agent, but he could neither prove it nor get his superiors to believe him.

368:

probably because the Mormons have to proselytize, sometimes in a foreign country, to become elders in their Church.

All Mormons are expected to spend 2 years in the field after high school or there bouts.

And there could be other reasons. It was likely thought (and may have been / be true) that their family situations were more stable.

369:

I wonder if one of the reasons Philby lasted so long was that the CIA had being saying for years he needed to be investigated as a spy and the Old Boys Club would not stand being attacked? As for the way the CIA flailed so much, remember Philby was the expert on spying on the S.U. And he had been sent to us by the English to show us how to be modern spies. President Carter did a audit of the CIA Soviet human intelligence and compared it to what happen. They were almost always wrong. It was a system going back to Philby.
The CIA and its admirers worked hard to defeat Carter next election and our R/W still rants about how the Democrats ruined the human part of the CIA. The fact they were proved wrong all most all the time is of no importance.
Philby was the one who talked first the OSS then the CIA into saving so many war criminals. He said they knew so much about the S.U. Never mind they hated us too and would not minded any conflict with the Americans and the S.U. Real history shows they did their best to make as much as they could with phony intell..

370:

Moreover some of the domestic housing of the past few years is so flimsy that you could probably knock a hole through a wall with a sledge hammer - hell some of 'em you could probably break into through their walls using simple garden tools.

After we were broken into about 20 years ago the police told us the best way to keep the burlers out was a loud dog. Especially if it sounded big. We've had such for the last 15 or so years.

371:

Probably right. Reagan gets a lot of credit (and blame) for CIA operations that actually originated under Carter. I still think the extreme put-down was when Clinton preferred CNN to the CIA, because they were faster and more accurate, especially on things like Rwanda.

In the interest of equal-opportunity tarring, I should point out that the CIA gets something less than 15% of the US overall spending on intelligence, and most of the rest goes to the military. It's always worth remembering how US military intelligence performed on Grenada.

The one I find interesting is the State Department Intelligence Service. Yes, it exists, and supposedly they cream off the best CIA agents when they can. Wonder what they do with them, especially under Hillary Clinton?

372:

Bond is a Frogman, from Scotland. So in the Laundry universe, is he a Deep One? It would explain his rapid advancement.

That makes me look twice at his family motto. The world is not enough, indeed.

373:

So which was the bigger intelligence feat? Controlling all the German spies in the UK (when at least some of them started out wanting to fool the Germans), or having a Soviet Agent teaching the CIA how to spy on the Soviet Union?

374:

Today I was running by a historical building and avoiding running into people's frames as they photographed the area, as one does in such places, and I had a bit of a brainwave... photosynth type software combined with near future ubiquity of cloud upload for photos could give intelligence agencies with access to said cloud a kind of realtime syncopated surveillance capability through civilian cameras. Add something like google's specs becoming commonplace and you have almost universal coverage, with historical backtracking capabilities.

375:

Not sure about that "honorary rank of Colonel" thing. There are civilian staff who teach at Sandhurst; John Keegan was one, Richard Holmes another (although Richard Holmes was in the TA). No rank is required, although there is an equivalence for Civil Service grades used when working out accommodation entitlements.

An Honorary Colonel is a different concept altogether; it's an official position, for historical reasons, not to be confused with the Colonel-in-Chief, nor the Colonel of the Regiment, still less the Lieutenant Colonel who actually commands the Battalion concerned. It's normally used for Territorial Army units who may also have Regular Army affiliations (and hence already have a Colonel-in-Chief).

I'm still unsure who you mean, though...

376:

ARCHAEOPTERYX:
Moreover some of the domestic housing of the past few years is so flimsy that you could probably knock a hole through a wall with a sledge hammer - hell some of 'em you could probably break into through their walls using simple garden tools.

Yes, and this is not news. Your body will do, though tools are recommended.

I was once asked by a fireman what I'd do if there was a fire outside the door. I told him go through a window. He told me there is no window, despite me pointing to the one that was there. What he was trying to get at was call for help and do the towel-seal-door trick (which I know) but what I told him was "go through the outside wall, there".

He said "Sure, right.". And then dared me to demonstrate. On his building.

I told him as it wasn't a real fire, I was going to go slow and use a tool rather than my foot, and picked up the table and tapped the wall to find the studs, and was about to batter the drywall down between the studs when he said "Ok, stop". Point made.

I have done it with a foot before, but not in a "live building" (used drywall and some 2x4s to build a fake wall).

Enough steel or cement in the walls and it goes from hand tools to power tools, and enough of the right steel and it requires really good drills or power saws and unless you're a bank or diamond dealer people stop trying that hard. But nobody does that, except banks...

377:

I don't know who the original poster meant either, but I believe that there are civilian jobs at the MOD that convey some sort of military rank, at least for administrative purposes? There is at least one scientific position at the MOD where the holder in theory has the right to order pretty much any member of the armed service to do pretty much anything, providing they can justify the order. I've always believed that job came with quite a senior rank, but I might be wrong. If I'm right then one person has gone from ccf cadet straight to Lt Colonel or higher. If I'm wrong then he just acts like he has..

378:

heteromeles @ 373
SDIS?
I would have thought that was onbvious ... the Black Chamber, of course!

Civilian equivalent rank.
My father gaot civilian-drafted in early 1941 (March/April I think) to ... the Civil Service, as his PhD in Chemisty was too valuable to be shot at - so they sent him to the largest explosives factory in Europe (Ardeer in Ayrshire)
About April 1944 (yes, 2 months before D-day) various people, inculding him, were asked: "Would you like to be part of the forthcoming CivMilGov of Germany?
And he said "Yes" ....
Although a civilian, he was given the equivalent-rank of (Army) captain, and issued with a hand-gun (a service Webley, I think) ... and off he went, to Bielefeld....

379:

Nope, this isn't Tsarist Russia (see "The Inspector-General"). UK Civil Servants have no military rank whatsoever. There is merely a ready-reckoner that was used purely to determine what type of accommodation was used; i.e. an EO gets put up in the rooms you'd use for a Captain. Most commonly found with teachers employed in Services schools in BAOR - the single teachers could live in an Annexe of the Officers' Mess.

This has frequently caused much grinding of teeth when some Deputy Headmaster posted to Germany announces to all their friends that they were "equivalent to a Major", having completely missed the point.

Sounds like your friend doesn't quite understand the difference between rank and appointment... (Note. Some MoD Retired Officer grades of Civil Servant miss the point in the same way - they no longer have any rank, any such terms of address are purely courtesy regarding their former rank. I've met some very scary ex-doorkicker types who insisted on being called Mr, and heard of the occasional buffoon who insisted on being addressed as Colonel).

As for "appointment", there is the apocryphal tale of the (relatively) young thruster posted to MoD Main Building where all of the military staff wear suits. He's around at the tea-making area muttering that he's just been sent out of the meeting to make the tea, mutter, last job he commanded 100 men on operations, mutter, and he looks at the older bloke next to him doing the same thing. "So, what was your last job?"
..."Captain of HMS Ark Royal" comes the reply...

380:

Don't try that in Europe...

Looking around our twelve-year-old house, you won't manage it on any exterior wall; as others have pointed out, typical method is brick exterior, concrete block inner layer, then plasterboard (drywall), and about half of the downstairs separating walls are load bearing (and made of brick). The windows are double-glazed in wooden frames bolted to the brickwork; breaking through them would be hard work. You can't go out underneath, because all of the houses around here sit on a foot-thick concrete raft (the Lothians are riddled with mine works).

Go to mainland Europe (say, Germany or Holland), and the standard of modern construction is typically higher, and concrete is used even more. Go to the Mediterranean, and look at the number of poured concrete structures - even the interior walls (it makes a nice heat sink).

Where population densities are higher, and land is more difficult to get hold of, you have to build for the long term - otherwise people will tend not to buy the houses you build, due to the worry that they won't be able to sell them afterwards (AIUI it's harder to escape a house mortgage in the UK than the US).

381:

You missed his point - that it can be done with as little as a sledgehammer. When you start talking about studs and 2x4 and the like, why then you're talking about how you can lift a bicycle, when the conversation had been about the fact one might be able to lift one end of a light car.

382:

Which has to make retrofitting for the more modern world a lot harder. Or is surface conduit / raceways more acceptable in EU homes?

383:

Let's put it this way: I know of houses that have bathrooms in a very small extension bolted on the back, because it was a privy down the bottom of the garden when the house was built.
For running services, unconverted attics and drywall-lined walls are a blessing.

384:

Backing up anonemouse, the primary problems are with plumbing (either sanitation or heating); running a power cable through a wall is comparatively easy, and you can always lift the skirting boards and hide cables that way. Speaker cables can be run around the edges of a room under the carpet.

Running visible conduit is allowed by building regulations, but screams "installation on the cheap", and is the sign of the amateur DIY or the office conversion...

Domestic electrical installation seems (to my eye) to be of a higher standard in the EU than the US; the DIN / TuV / British Standard / EC markers have done their bit over the last half-century, such that I'm always unimpressed by the flimsiness of US light switches, sockets, etc.

Modern building techniques are geared to improve the productivity of the builder; the tools and parts may be more expensive, but they pay for themselves in time saved (e.g. the nailgun; predrilled joining plates for supporting wooden frames; metal joining plates for butting new brickwork onto an old wall).

Our problem is that the plasterboard is joined to our walls using a spot-and-dab technique (slap some large blobs of plaster onto the inner concrete block wall, then push the plasterboard sheets against the blobs until they are aligned). Trying to use a cable routing rod behind the stuff is nearly impossible, as the blobs are unevenly placed and a right b*(&^er to work around. My dream of running CAT5 via the attic, with a few vertical runs down to the required rooms, evaporated on that discovery.

385:

#384 Para 5 - By contrast, when I moved out here (UK), I was staying in a guesthouse, who's owners had just decided to supply broadcast Tv in all the 6 or 7 guest rooms over 2 floors. The base construction was exterior cavity wall (one layer of bricks, 6 inch air gap, layer of breezeblock (US cinder block?), air gap before plasterboard (drywall) room liner. Interior walls were similar except replacing the breezeblock with plasterboard for supporting walls or the brick with plasterboard for partition walls.

They had no issues with dropping aerial lead down all the cavities except for catching it to fit it to the aerial sockets in the rooms.

386:

We amuse people when we tell them what our interior walls are made of.

The downstairs ones are breeze-block, which is unremarkable.

The upstairs ones are straw. Seriously: rather than use 2x4 with plasterboard, they're made of solid, highly compressed straw with a plaster skim on top.

It's actually quite a nice material: very good insulation of both sound and heat, and come a fire, the straw chars rather than burns. And it's much nicer for screwing things to, as it's more like going into wood. (And much nicer than those downstairs ones.)

The downside it that it's lousy for trying to put stuff inside. We excavated a hole for a new double socket and ended up with a bucketful of expanded straw.

387:

Stone is used when there is no wood. Concrete is cheaper than stone. US homes are made to keep out the weather and be affordable, not withstand bombings. Not that long ago I rewired our old 1800s farm house. I cut groves in the old style side boards and ran the wires and part of the outlets in them.
I know next to nothing about PCs. But from what I just read it would not be that big a thing to network with other PCs or even new smart phones. Using boosters and antennas the range would be far up. Using a directional antenna would cut back on the danger of detection. It looks to me that most of the old time means of spy commo are obsolete. I read once that the old Russian Military Intelligence had a low power transmitter that clipped to wire fences and worked like a phone over long distances. Old time farmers in the US dry west used crank phones on wire fences as a party line system, passing along messages far.

388:

The base construction was exterior cavity wall (one layer of bricks, 6 inch air gap, layer of breezeblock (US cinder block?), air gap before plasterboard (drywall) room liner.

6 inches?!?! Why so big? In the US this is typically less than an inch so it can be tied back to the main wall. Which can be sheathed wood studs, block, or concrete. (We're talking residential and under 3 stories here.)

Do you not insulate exterior walls? Is this what the 6 inch gap is supposed to do?

389:

Do you not insulate exterior walls? Is this what the 6 inch gap is supposed to do?

Give that man a prize.

These days, with decent insulation materials, there'll be rock wool in that gap. Older properties are retro-insulated by injecting foam into that gap. But originally, it was just the gap.

390:

OK. Over here (US) we insulate the main bearing wall or inside it if concrete. Typically. Mostly. Not the gap. The gap is used to channel out water and allow moisture to evaporate out weep holes in the brick or whatever siding you have. I suspect this has something to do with our more extreme temp ranges.

And yes my house built in 61 did not come with insulation in the walls. I've added it to the bed rooms when I remodeled those. Makes a huge difference. And the brick block of my lower section does much better than the studs with air with brick veneer. I'm beginning to think that electricity and natural gas was free in the 50s and early 60s.

391:

Insulate with what, how? Here the usual method after the fact is expanding foam pumped into the cavity. Places I have stayed in that don't have the gap often suffer from condensation and are more expensive to heat.

As for the '50's , houses in Britain were still being built with coal grates, which necessitated increased ventilation. Many more were being built with only gas and electricity of course. Various clean air acts got rid of coal fires, but the houses were left with rather large ventilation bricks and the like.

392:

" Do you not insulate exterior walls? Is this what the 6 inch gap is supposed to do? "

It does depend on what you mean when you say .... " insulate "

Insulation for HEAT or lack of the same ? Or perchance insulation for SOUND ..that is to say un-desirable SOUND aka Noise ? The Two are quite different.

I've often used this following linked site as an intro to sound insulation and the problems thereof to people who solicit my advice about noisy neighbours - and how best to kill them - the possibility of cheap sound insulation of party walls ...

http://www.soundproofingcompany.com/soundproofing101/flanking/


When I had my 'umble home extended part of the Big Job .. that became necessary after it became necessary to re-cycle a substantial part of my pension Investment Portfolio when, a few years ago, it became bloody obvious that we were all in the shit, economically speaking. The latest Grate est Depression of 2007 ish was pretty damn obviously under way even before someone, who should have known better, phoned me to say that he had had it recommended that Norhtern Rock Bank was a really GOOD investment.

Don't laff ..as we say over here in Good Old Blight y .. but I suggested ever so gently that this was fucking MAD and that this Ex Building Society had the craziest Bank Business Model that I'd ever heard of and ..heres the Laughter bit ..if he really wanted to buy shares in a Bank then that Good Old Stable - and much criticised for being UN-adventurous high street bank Lloyds was the best bet.

Hey Ho! And Lack a Day!


I then proceeded to liquidate all of my shares that were outside of my self invest stock share ISA - which is a kind of UK tax exemption wrapper - and some of the shares in the ISA as well as all of the spare cash and since I couldn't move from the North East of England to the south on account of the Property Boom down there ..plus at least £20,000 in various costs just to move.. I decided to follow the good old UK tried and true method of improvement of ones pretty solidly constructed 1930s semi by extension.Planning Regs for house extensions in the UK are pretty damn ferocious and the building process is strictly inspected. Guess who pays for said inspections?

I am still having trouble accepting the concept that US of A vians houses aren't really HOUSES as we over here in the UK understand them but that, whilst they are large, they are often strangely flimsy ...also that in some parts of the US of A houses are prone to being Eaten by Insects! I mean, Bloody Hell!! I've had problems with Giant Mutant Spanish Slugs eating my Garden Plants but they aren't likely to start in on my house any day soon...unless they are Strangely Affected by all of those French Nuclear Power Plants that are cooled by Our English Channel.

All this not withstanding my modest homes extension involved the local Planning Departmentt. and objections to planning permission by an neighbour who spends most of her time in Cambridge but who deeply objects to any alteration in the neighbourhood as she once knew it - she even dislikes modern street lights - and so automatically objects to all planning permissions. The Objections to my plans meant that I missed the schedule for one kind of Modern Glazing System and that it was mandatory that I had installed the newer more expensive replacement glazing .

The new glazing has an identification number on every panel that is tied to date of installation and installers who try to fit the older system risk heavy fines. Planning regs are that tight in the UK and thanks to my eccentric neighbours objection to another extension buildings planning permission as my build was underway my home was inspected on the basis that, since the inspectors were hereabouts anyway, my House might as well receive a visit from the strangely cheerful building inspectors ... who for all I knew might have secretly been looking for giant alien house eating insects to club to death with their clip boards.

Beyond that, whilst there are large stretches of strangely alien and unnaturally empty land in the UK ..known as The Countryside .. most of us live in city/urban type environment and there is no shortage of Builders who desire to acquire cheapish land - that was once some ones garden - in the leafy and desirable middle class suburbs and then build on the same .. " Garden Developments " they are called .. this has been warded off by people who don't see that living in houses the size of Ikea wardrobes as a GOOD Thing no matter how desirable the post code might be. It's complicated over here but at least though we don't usually get tornadoes that require storm shelters.


Mind you it is true that large areas of our cities were once levelled by that Rude Mr Hitler s - ever so modern for the time - pre Brutalist architecture urban redevelopment scheme. I once lived next door to a woman who did really terrific apple pies with apples grown from the tree that she had planted in the levelled remains of her Anderson air raid shelter. My only claim to local archetectural fame would be that I had to have the whole of my old kitchen block extension to the original house demolished before the new block could be built. The Old kitchen block had been built just after the war - 1948 I think - and it didn't actually have a foundation. Its amazing what you could get away with way back then just after World War 2.

These days the deep concrete raft of the new extension is DEEP and I had a hard time keeping track of the amount of heating insulation that vanished into walls roof and even the floor! All of this insulation is an absolute legal requirement in the UK for all new builds. The old original 1938 ish house still has pounded earth a few feet down below the floorboards of the sitting room.... and for all I know Giant Mutant Insects are even now burrowing up to eat my Plasma TV.


I have, in the spirit of scientific enquiry, visited newly build estates of the flimsy kind and it seemed to me that they were designed to suit the needs of a strange race of incontinent dwarves in as much as they had lots of tiny Ikea wardrobe sized bedrooms that all had tiny on-suit bathroom/toilets ... you were never more than a hop skip and a short jump away from a toilet no-matter where you might be in the house. Not only could you have knocked a fair sized hole in the exterior brick and block wall of those houses with a sledge hammer but if you were sufficiently desperate for the loo you could probably have carved your way through any given outside wall with a swiss army knife.

393:

In the colder areas you typically have NOW for exterior walls.
- Brick veneer or siding of some sort. And if done right there's a air gap so water can't get suck behind it. Condensation, leaks, or whatever.
- Sheathed bearing wall. This is where insulation mostly goes. Spray on foam or fiberglass. 6" thick mostly these days if you have a decent building code.
- Then wall board to be painted or plastered over.
- Electrical, pluming, and such goes in the walls between the studs with insulation around things.

There are variations including house wraps which add a water/wind barrier but on which side of the insulation becomes and issue for those of us in the middle as you want it predominately on the cold side of the insulation. Which changes every 6 months for some of us. And Florida with it's termites tends to dominate the concrete block on a slap for building methods.

Now there are some trends which some of us think are going be be long term fails. First is the use of OSB for sheathing, roofing substrate, etc... This is basically well glued chips of wood in 4' x 8' sheets. Great for some things but a disaster if it ever gets wet. Which makes these high end houses with the faux stone veneer attached via morter to a wire mesh stapled to OSB. I can't wait to see the faux stone falling off as water gets behind the wall for some reason. When I reside my house there will be plywood under the new siding.

394:

also that in some parts of the US of A houses are prone to being Eaten by Insects!

So you don't have termites in the UK? They exist in much of the US. Around here in North Carolina I've read estimates that there are about 1 million per acre underground. Thrown down an untreated board on some dirt and it will be infested with 1000s in a few months. If not eaten entirely.

And building with concrete, stone, brick, etc... isn't the answer. I just had to deal with some in my concrete slab lower level with brick interior and exterior walls sandwiching concrete block. They came in through an crack that has developed over 50 years between the foundation and slab and ate up my wood wall base trim.

395:

Not only could you have knocked a fair sized hole in the exterior brick and block wall of those houses with a sledge hammer but if you were sufficiently desperate for the loo you could probably have carved your way through any given outside wall with a swiss army knife.

In the US we don't have a cultural history of needing to defend the castle. And we didn't every completely deforest our land and when we got close we made deals with Canada.

If all you have is dirt and rock you make houses of dirt and rock.

As to flimsy. If it will stand up to 100 mile an hour rain and wind for a few hours what more do you need. I doubt your houses would deal well with major tornadoes. And as news worthy as they are the vast majority of people in the US will never be within 5 miles of one, much less have their house hit by one. I've hid from them for years and only a few times had them get within 10 miles. Some of those were outbreaks that are in the worst ever listings. Right in the middle. Building a house for a tornado is like walking around in a Faraday cage in case of lighting strikes.

But living in a trailer park is not for me. :)

396:

Bringing this back to spies, an episode of Burn Notice suggested that the best place to hide things, if you expected your house to be searched by pros, is behind the drywall. It's a pain to put it there, but it's tough to find (usually requiring ultrasound or something similar) and, in a pinch, you can retrieve it in seconds. It helps to keep a hammer handy.

397:

I was thinking about spies and housing construction.

If what was described above is typical of UK homes then you have very little leakage of wifi types of signals compared to most US single family housing stock.

398:

So you don't have termites in the UK?

Nope.

(No more than we have rattlesnakes or eagles. Exotics, in other words.)

But our standard building materials are brick or stone, antway.

399:

Even with that over here you have to watch for them coming in and finding wood in furniture and trim. They leave little tunnels when they have to travel in the "light" and this is the biggest warning sign. Other than your chair you don't ever move collapsing with you in it one day.

400:

It is still somewhere around: a WW2 pamphlet, probably about 1939, entitled something like "Your Home as an Air-Raid Shelter". What I recall was that about 18 inches of brick would stop a bullet. No breeze blocks in those days, so most walls were about 9 inches of brick. Given that, you found somewhere in the middle of the house, possibly a hallway (narrow and less likely to collapse).

In some ways it was optimistic. As with warship design and armoured decks, the bombs soon got bigger than the designers expected.

401:

Charlie @ 398
But we DO have Eagles!
Aquila chrysaetos and, in Scotland, the re-introduced .. Haliaeetus albicilla

We do have BUZZARDS as well ... they have been spreading ... I also never thought that, as a child, that the Red Kite (down to under 100 pairs in Wales) would be sucessfully re-introduced ... they are now really common in the Chilterns - sitting in the garden of the "Fox & Hounds", Christmas Common, watching ten or more of them circling - I've even seen them from the fast London-Reading trains.
As for Buzzards, they can now be seen flying in sight of the intersection of the M11 & M25 roads (i.e. less than 26km = 16.25 miles in a direct line from Charing Cross [the London/Englsnd zero-point])
LOTS of tasty rabbits!

402:

You're forgetting the windows. But I expect it all makes a difference.

I don't pick up my neighbours at the back of the house, which is where my wifi is. At the front, three brick walls away and with big windows, I sometimes get a stronger signal from neighbours than from my own gear. I am on a different channel, so it's only occasionally awkward when I log in, and have to pick the right network.

My main machine uses a wired connection.

403:

General note on home insulation, be it high expansion foam, rockwool or expanded polystyrene panels - The thicker the insulation layer, the better it works. Also, trapped air (which means trapped; too much ventilation and this doesn't apply) is a reasonable insulator itself.

#402 - We most assuredly do have eagles (both cited species) in the UK; I sometimes see them out the office windows. Similarly, seeing buzzards out the said windows is almost a daily occurance. And there are at least 2 clusters of red kites in Scotland.

404:

Here, we just don't allow moisture into the gap in the first place. That's the thing about brick - done properly it's waterproof and it stays waterproof.

And no, no termites. Or coyotes. Or rattlesnakes. Or raccoons. A handful of eagles in the wilder places, with reintroduction of wild pig, beavers, wolves and bears at different stages of debate or implementation.

(BTW: 'dirt'? Bricks are made from clay, which isn't 'dirt', it's a soft material that's excavated from the ground the same as rock is. It's also used for making those plates you eat your food off.)

There's one other very good reason for brick, though. We have dense housing in much of the UK and the rest of Europe. Houses next to each other, often with common walls. If you build from wood in those conditions, you will lose large chunks of your town or city to fire every few decades. For an example of what a densely-built wooden city can suffer, go look at the third paragraph of the history section of the Wikipedia page on Bergen

Yeah, so wood? In our setup? No.

405:

On the smartphone type GPS navigation in the hills thing: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=67348

406:

Bellignhman ...
Not to mention the Great Fire of London, 1666.

407:

My friend, Colonel X, is not a civil servant nor is he employed by the MoD. He is employed by the British Army in a role which requires him to be able to give legal orders to subordinates to carry out his duties. That rank does not give him the right to order an invasion of Poland, just to order his students who can also include captains and majors taking refresher courses as well as cadets to complete coursework such as essays or attend classes with the threat of disciplinary sanctions if they fail to do so.

The British Army employs other civilians but most of them are not, in the course of their duties, expected to give lawful orders to serving Army officers or enlisted personnel. The few that do are given an honorary but substantial rank for that reason.

408:

AFAIK in the US civilian instructor as used all the time at the academies and various internal colleges. It is my understanding that the troops are told something like "for the purposes of this class Mr./Ms. so and so is in charge." End of conversation.

Must be a different cultural perspective.

409:

I've been looking through a book called "Spycraft," which includes the obsolete spy tech that the CIA has chosen to declassify.

One thing I'm starting to wonder about is whether we'll see a resurgence of using forms of invisible writing sent through the mail or similar services.

This could be microdots, but it could just as easily be using steganography to code messages into high resolution letters printed with an ink jet.

Here's the point: much of the expertise of finding invisible inks and doing "flaps and folds" attacks on mailed messages seems to be falling by the wayside (and there are also envelopes that cannot be opened without detection, especially ones using thin papers and strong glues), and indeed the US Post Office is trying to pull itself out of a death spiral as we speak.

If one is trying to send a really secret and not terribly long message, hiding it in a business letter isn't a bad way to go. It's slow, but (importantly) the infrastructure for finding that message seems to be being systematically dismantled. That's good news, if you want to use a quiet back channel.

Heck, if you don't mind having the equipment to produce a microdot on hand, you could hide a microdot pretty easily in some of these sparkly inks they produce. Just have one "girl" write a sparkly note to her BFF, and you could hide all sorts of information in microdots amongst the sparkles and dots.

410:
The downstairs ones are breeze-block, which is unremarkable.

The upstairs ones are straw.

Presumably the floor joists in between were the second little pig's responsibility.

411:

Actually happend during the cold war. (US).

Can't tell you more, would have to kill you.

412:

WikiLeaks recruited an (alleged/indicted) agent (Bradley Manning) who was working where others had already subverted the process.

Any system is only as good as it's personnel selection and TRAINING.

413:

Actually had a (test item) cell phone in the car I drove as the Chauffer to the CEO of a regional departement store in Chicago in 1980; Billed $1 a minute. As long as the Admin Assittant liked me, I could make the odd call on it, but that was before we had to be in constant contact.

No idea how many were in circulation, but the greater metro area was pretty well covered, didn't loose the signal until we reached Gary or Rockford (See a map).

414:

IIRC, "Commander" is (US) 0-5/ Leutenant Colonel; Leutenant Commander (Not introduced into the RN until 1913?) was/is the 0-4/Major equivalent.

(And what are the RAF/New USAF equivalents?)

Fleming was (I think) direct commisioned to the Reserves in WW II; Right sort of chap and all that.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 6, 2012 2:07 PM.

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