Tips for Surviving Surveillance: Detecting clandestine interrogation

The short version:

Listen for the stand-out question that seems forced, prepared or otherwise out of place. It will come from someone who presents as a friend, colleague or co-worker.

The long version:

When chatting with someone who presents as a friend, colleague or co-worker, take note of any questions that strike you as peculiarly probing. Time has a habit of revealing clandestine interrogators and their masters’ intentions.

Here’s a fresh example for you. Please understand that I’m not clutching at straws here. Episodes like this have occurred in my life MANY times in the past 6 years or so.

Recently, someone I hardly know felt compelled to ask me whether I was interested in a particular defense facility. The question, and the conversation for that matter, seemed to come out of the blue, so it stayed with me. Today, I discovered that a a new book on that very facility’s history is approaching publication.

Governments, politicians and intelligence agencies are all WAY too concerned about what commentators or journalists might say on any given topic as the news cycle rolls along. They call this “media risk” and yes, they even worry about tiny little voices like mine. I struggled to believe this at first, but after years of analyzing and reflecting on scores of anomalies in my life, my doubt has been reduced to trace levels only.

This, dear friends, is what the gathering of so-called “forward intelligence” looks like. In this case, I assume the forward intelligence seekers wanted to know my opinion on the subject and gauge my level of interest ahead of the book’s launch. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “beating the news” and data inputs appear to include personal and population scales (data mining) techniques.

Interrogators feign compassion and interest in you in order to tease out answers to the specific questions that in all probability, they have been ordered to ask by their superiors. They deceive you into trusting them, then they abuse that trust to do their master’s bidding. The askers are often impatient though, so they almost invariably blurt out their stupid question at some inopportune juncture. It might come right at the start of the conversation if they are nervous, or it might be the last thing asked before wrapping up the chat.

Their objectives are thinly veiled, and their interrogation technique, at least in my experience, is detectable.

So should I just brush this off? No. Because this is just a tiny slice of the whole putrid pie. Since 2016, when the surveillance reached unmistakably intimidating heights (when people were regularly stalking me in my own street) I have worked hard to try and establish distance from people whom I perceive as pawns or probable pawns of institutions that treat me as a target or prey. I have done this not because I have something to hide, but for my own peace of mind. I have been psychologically damaged by the Surveillance State. I am a victim of a kind of institutional abuse that just a decade ago, I was blissfully ignorant of. This soft interrogation stuff is just one tiny example of the regular intrusion and misguided harassment that I experience as I simply attempt to live my life with curiosity and endeavor to understand the world in which I live, peacefully and lawfully.

As it has gradually revealed itself to me, I have grown to resent the Surveillance State in its current form, direction and intensity, on account of its relentless, perverse interest in my life, my opinion and my daily personal and professional affairs.

This post, like all previous posts I’ve made on this topic, should read as a warning to others. Noone should have to endure trauma of this kind on an ongoing basis without the parties responsible being required to justify their efforts. I feel as if I am captive in what feels like a “free range prison”… a novel manifestation of the panopticon prison design in which a single watch tower in the centre of a ring of inward-facing cells could maintain an entire prison cohort in a heightened state of anxiety, under the apparent perpetual gaze of the wardens.

Think “Oh, I’m not interested in defence, or nuclear industry so this couldn’t be happening to me”?

Guess again.

I’ve had similar episodes with people asking me about everything from the management of certain fisheries, to the possibility of standing for election, to drilling for oil in certain sensitive areas. A more bread and butter ask is to inquire what I’m going to do next (as in immediately) which usually comes as a meeting or scheduled occasion draws to a close. I’m sure Surveillance State wardens resent those of us with the formidable combination of a flexible schedule and sharpened powers of perception.

To anticipate these approaches and identify potential clandestine operatives, a target (yes, it could be you) must learn to think like the Surveillance State. How have you been categorised? What are your known interests? How might a Department of Paranoia imagine those interests might evolve over time, or lead you to other, related interests or activities? Do you have an audience? Are you a person with some cultural influence through your work? What threat might a paranoid administrator conceive that you present to their authority or (gulp) to National Security?


Surveillance and covert manipulation in Australia: Time for external oversight and accountability

Duplicity is more commonplace than I ever imagined, growing up as a young idealist.

Sadly, it isn’t the sole domain of people seeking immediate, personal advantage. It has also been institutionalised and weaponised. Some of these charlatans have been provided with, I believe, a distorted sense of moral superiority by their clandestine employers and are simply carrying out their masters’ orders. The remainder are just liars, manipulative people and/or psychopaths, best quarantined and treated for their psychological disorders.

I expect this problem is most pronounced for people like me who work in controversial areas: environment, politics, social justice… and even the arts (due to its potential to influence public discourse).

A world of possibilities opens up when the following simple questions are posed. Try asking yourself: might I be subjected to surveillance and/or covert manipulation? And if so, by whom and for what purpose(s)?

If you can imagine a “business case” for a watching/control brief on you, in this day and age, chances are, one exists. The more I have sought evidence to estimate the potential reach of this phenomenon, through reading publicly available literature and through personal experimentation and observation, the more shocked and sure of this I have become.

In my experience, bad actors (that’s what they are, regardless of who they are working for) will try and get as close to you as you will allow. They rely on your naivety to carry out their work. They can enter your workplace, social life and in some cases, even romantic partnerships (some high profile examples of these coming to light exist in the USA and UK).

Once you have identified one or more potential business cases for you to be targeted (ranging from your political opinions, political and not-for-profit associations, published works, interactions with government/industry, public profile and social contacts through to your personal net worth), it pays to be a little cautious of people who appear to help you, or want to help you. Be especially skeptical of those who claim to be there to help, but serially under-perform, or make small but significant mistakes at critical moments.

They may actually be there for other reasons- to report on your activities, to psychologically profile you and/or to quietly undermine your personal and professional efforts/work/best interests. In the first, an infiltrator seeks to establish, then maintain access, with options open thereafter. If trust is won, they hold the potential to redirect your energy, effort, influence your schedule and social movements and even sabotage your goals or prospects.

These physical and psychological violations, when combined with further physical surveillance by strangers (used while a person is in transit or in public space alone), is in my view, a form of torture. Outwardly, similarities exist to placing a tracking device on the body of an ex-convict out on parole or good behavior. In the case of a political target however, no crime needs be committed to attract such treatment. I consider this to be a heinous abuse and violation of human rights and strips the subject of their humanity and dignity. This is where critical reform is needed, because presently, Parliamentary or any other external oversight of intelligence agencies’ activities is non-existent in this country.

Surveillance, infiltration and manipulation are not new phenomena… they have existed for millennia. But the information age has made targeting, profiling and manipulating people on an individual basis more remotely manageable, technically feasible and commercially/politically attractive than ever… so a wider net is cast.

Do we have a firm moral, ethical and legal framework for the management of surveillance and covert manipulation in Australia? I would argue that we have none of these. Yet intelligence agencies and their private sector partners have incredibly intrusive tools are their fingertips, and appear to have unchecked reign over their application.

So how do we function in this age of surveillance, live profiling and personal and mass-scale political manipulation?

For the citizen, critical thinking, analysis and skepticism are, in my opinion, essential survival skills.

We need to continue to trust one another, but also we need to be prepared to withdraw that trust when evidence and intuition tell us that we’re being played.

Finally, we need strong, independent oversight of the Australian Intelligence Community and its international partners, to ensure that its resources are being used responsibly, and not to target non-criminal persons, directly or indirectly cause psychological harm or to discriminate in order to politically or commercially advantage some third party or minority interest. There is a legitimate case for some surveillance for genuine National Security reasons, but overreach happens.

We also need pathways for victims of oppressive surveillance and covert manipulation to seek justice and compensation for psychological harm caused by human rights violators (applicable to individuals, institutions and other entities).


A glossary of neologisms related to politics, espionage and surveillance

Below is a list of neologisms I have penned over the past year, drawing from my observations, reading and direct experiences as a target of surveillance. Fauxcialist, Foecialist and Shamarchist have all been proven to exist during the Undercover Policing Inquiry in the UK. Field testing of others is ongoing. These were first penned and published during 2018-2019 and the list is a work in progress.

Badvice (n.)
Advice presented in bad faith with intent to misdirect the recipient’s attention or effort. Opportunistically dispensed by infiltrators who have gained the trust of their target individual or group.

Blockupation (n.)
A job belonging to a person intent on slowing or halting organisational function rather than supporting it. If directed by a third party, a person who blockupies may be considered a sloboteur. Also used to describe a position held long beyond the usefulness or relevance of the employee.

Camophilia (n.)
A psychological condition common to persons associated with military service. The afflicted person demonstrates a strong preference for camouflage-patterned apparel and wears such items in contexts where they serve no practical benefit. Sufferers may also exhibit symptoms of the closely related condition, khakiphilia.

Dutifool (n.)
A person who follows orders without considering their moral, ethical or legal implications.

Fauxcialist (n.)
A person who appears to advocate or practise socialism, while acting as a covert agent for Capital. When a fauxcialist’s actions exceed those of observing and reporting, he or she may be considered a foecialist.

Flopportunity (n.)
A false opportunity secretly designed to fail or divert a target’s attention. A ruse in which a time or set of circumstances is created for the purpose of appearing attractive to a target individual or group of people. The objective of a flopportunity is to consume a target’s time and effort and ultimately deliver project failure or a poor return on time and effort invested.

Fluddite (n.)
A newcomer to a new communication platform (for example a Facebook group) who proceeds to overshare mediocre, banal or distracting content. Covert fluddites may be weaponised for the purpose of gaining military or political advantage by burying more meaningful or controversial content, or by boring or annoying group members such that they change their habits and either ignore or abandon that forum or platform.

Foecialist (n.)
A person who appears to advocate or practise socialism, while acting as a hostile covert agent for Capital. Deliberate actions undertaken by foecialists may include: disruption of group cohesion, sabotage of group events and undertakings, mismanagement of funds etc.

Khakiphilia (n.)
A psychological condition common to persons associated with military service. The afflicted person demonstrates a strong colour preference for shades of apparel ranging from khaki (dust-coloured) through to army green. This manifests in wardrobe choices made when mixing with civilians. Sufferers may also exhibit symptoms of the related condition, camophilia.

Respycle (v.)
To redeploy a spy to covertly watch a former target, sometimes within a matter of hours. Respycling is a low cost, but high-risk practise symptomatic of organisational over-confidence and limited available human resources.

Shamarchist (n.)
A person who appears to believe in or try to bring about anarchy, while acting as a covert agent for imperial or any other authoritarian 3rd party. The shamarchist’s actions can be similar to those of a fauxcialist or foecialist and may include: disruption of group cohesion, sabotage or slobotage of group events and undertakings, mismanagement of funds etc. Shamarchists may bear dated visual signatures and wardrobe items such as dreadlocks and jackets bearing embroidered patches.

Slobotage (v.)
To deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct something, especially for political or military advantage, whilst appearing to under-perform or otherwise act with negligence in the provision of a service or fulfilment of a role (see also: blockupation).

Sloboteur (n.)
A person who uses negligence as a subterfuge whilst engaging in an act of sabotage. A sloboteur may also hold a blockupation within a target group or organisation.

Snooper-hero (n.)
A spy with delusions of their own moral superiority, proficiency and invisibility. Sometimes seen wearing fan-boy shirts featuring Superman or Batman logos or James Bond film posters.

Spyld (n.)
A spy who is a child in the eyes of the law. May be as young as 14 years of age. Younger subjects are most likely the offspring of mid-career, adult spies.

Spyority (n.)
A person, task or any other thing that is regarded as more important than others by a spy or associated entity. A spyority may be set or determined by an agent, private investigator, client or controlling organisation.

Spysolate (v. )
To cause (a person or place) to be or remain alone or apart from others while maintaining the subject’s illusion of connectedness.

Spysolation (n.)
A state achieved after covert agents successfully “crowd out” or “flood” a target’s social and professional networks for the purposes of monitoring and limiting the subject’s sphere of social, professional and political influence.

Strategic incompetence (n.)
The design and use of phony ineptitude in a clandestine campaign to gain overall or long-term military, political or commercial advantage. Used to hobble, subvert, manage or otherwise control or limit an organisation, group or its dependents (see also: slobotage).

Thespionage (n.)
The practice of using professionally trained actors as spies. Employed by governments or corporations for the purpose of obtaining political, commercial and/or military information.