Surveillance is a Carnival

A friend sent the following to me the other day.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him not to cancel his Home Security Plan. 

For a few Texas friends and others………….
Well, we took down our ol’ Rebel Flag (which isn’t sold on Ebay anymore) and peeled the NRA stickers off the front door and both pickups

Next, we disconnected our home alarm system and quit the Neighborhood Watch program.

Next, we bought two Pakistani flags and put one at each corner of the front yard.

We purchased the black flag of ISIS (which you can now buy on Ebay) and planted it in the front yard.

As a result, local police, the sheriff’s department, FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security and Secret Service are watching our place 24/7.

We’ve never felt safer and we are saving $69.95 per month.

Is this a great country or what!

I may have mentioned  once or twice that I worked as a narcotics investigator in a former life.  I can measure the time spent on surveillance by months rather than hours. When conducting a surveillance investigators spend long hours watching nothing happen.  In some surveillance operations when something finally happens that is the triggering event which sets off a response which ends in an arrest. From trigger to crooks on the ground its over in a minute. Other surveillance operations just go on and on, the payoff months away.

I have done surveillance from a stationary point, in the front seat, back seat and no seat at all. I have sat in a house, under a house and on top of a house.  I have done surveillance in an airplane and a helicopter. I have surveilled from a river bank and from an inner tube floating along the river bank.

I have peered through binoculars and spotting scopes to see what is hidden.  I have used Night Vision Goggles (NVG), Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) handheld, vehicle mounted and from the air. I have used cameras that can read license plates at a mile, while others would fit in a pair of eyeglasses. With all that technology and good intents I sometimes still managed to miss what I was looking for.

I know that it is possible to stare intently at a car for hours and in the time it takes to sneeze, have the car disappear.  On the other hand I have pointed a video camera in the general direction of people, at an otherwise unoccupied space and had a crook position himself within that space, perfectly centered and in focus and proceed to smoke marijuana and share it with two associates.

I have conducted listening surveillance where you can’t see the target but can monitor the conversation between the undercover and the target.  More times that I can count I have listened to banal conversations only to have the “wire” stop functioning just prior to the bust signal.  Numerous times undercover officers and crooks, all perfectly fluent in English, decided, in mid sentence, to conduct their drug transaction in Spanish. Of course the only Spanish speaker was the undercover, who for obvious reasons was unavailable to translate. Did you know that the undercover listening devices, when they work, can pick up a mouse fart, but have a noise canceling capability the does not transmit gunshots?

This isn’t a phenomena that is limited to the local yokels, surveillance gremlins afflict the Feds also, maybe more so. I worked joint surveillance operations that included FBI, DEA, DPS Narcotics, Task Force and other local police departments.  Nobody has a radio system that is compatible with another.

The Feds believe that they are all driving Romulan battle cruisers that have cloaking devices. Towards that end they have perfected such clandestine tactics as the “DEA bumperlock” where the the DEA follows the target vehicle close enough to make a tailgater nervous. Another DEA tactic is to back into parking spaces, sometimes three abreast so that they can watch a target. Backing in is to ensure that they don’t get a crick in their neck from looking over their shoulder.  Parking three abreast enhances their ability to communicate, as they bitch and moan about being on a stupid surveillance.  It is entirely individual initiative for all occupants to stare at the target through binoculars.  Flipping the visor down, without first removing the red and blue emergency flasher attached to it is not considered a screwup, see cloaking device.They say that FBI and DEA have special surveillance groups who have all the latest equipment and techniques.  They must be good because I’ve never seen them.

Don’t get me wrong we still managed to accomplish some pretty cool stuff.  We followed an eighteen wheeler loaded with marijuana from San Antonio, to McAllen to Atlanta, Ga twice and only lost the truck once for an hour.  We started the surveillance in San Antonio on a Thursday and maintained it until Saturday night Sunday morning when the truck arrived in Atlanta. Then DEA Atlanta took over.

The truck stopped at a truck stop in Louisiana, we had him surrounded with eight units.  He left without us.  To be fair, one unit was supposed to be watching while the other seven got gas, hit the bathroom, took GI baths in the sink, scarfed down junk food and re-upped coffee and cigarettes.

What followed was a high speed pursuit where the target didn’t know he was being pursued.  We ran code three, lights and siren across three states, the remainder of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  No we weren’t driving marked cars but two DEA cars had sirens along with Kojak Lights. Kojak lights look like gum ball machines  that have a magnetic base.

It was an early Saturday morning on IH 10, traffic was heavy and we ran 90 mph half on the left paved shoulder and half on the median.  We discovered that Kojack lights do not stick at speeds exceeding 70 mph.  The cord on a Kojak light is pretty tough and will stretch long enough that when it bounces off the pavement it will beat the rear quarter of not only your car but the car beside you.  It is also tough enough to continue doing that until it is reeled in, still flashing. With the aid of a crusty Mississippi State Police Trooper, who spotted our wayward truck and delayed him with a safety inspection to allow us to catch up we continued our mission.

Strange things happen during surveillances.  One of our guys nicknamed Blutto was watching a house in a upper middle class neighborhood.  Blutto got hungry, a constant state. He looked around, grabbed the address for the house he was sitting in front of and called in a pizza order.  Before the pizza arrived Blutto followed a car away from his target location in order to obtain a license number.  He returned to his parking spot ten minutes later.  A couple minutes after that the homeowner came out of his house carrying a pizza and a Coke. He walked up an said you owe $9.95.  Blutto paid the man and pointed out he didn’t order a coke.  The guy replied you’ve been out here three hours, figured you could use it.

In our epic surveillance from San Antonio to Atlanta, my partner and I found ourselves in a truck stop in Edinburg, Texas.  Our target was conked out in his sleeper without a care in the world.  We were hunkered down in a sedan watching, just in case he woke up and decided to move.  There isn’t a whole lot going on in a truck stop at four in the morning.  We watched a hooker work her way from the truck parking area, past the restaurant and out to the highway.  This girl was very pregnant and from her movements tired from a long night.  She started walking along the highway in our direction, hoping that a passing car would be one more john or failing that a ride home.  As she came abreast of our g-ride she altered direction and approached the car.  She offered to do us both for forty bucks.  Since she was leaning in the window, she couldn’t help but notice not one but three walkie talkies (Radio frequency incompatibility).  I thanked her for her kind offer and turned her down saying you don’t know who you’re talking to.  To which she replied, “You’re DEA, you don’t work vice.” They may have more interesting surveillances in Edinburg than we are used to in the big city.

All an all I think my friend would be better off paying for the security service. I’m not sure he could stand up to the wear and tear and drama that a full government surveillance would entail.