"But why did we not breakfast at the Parpaillot?"
"Because we have very important matters to communicate to one another, and it was impossible to talk five minutes in that inn without being annoyed by all those importunate fellows, who keep coming in, saluting you, and addressing you. Here at least," said Athos, pointing to the bastion, "they will not come and disturb us."
"It appears to me," said d'Artagnan, with that prudence which allied itself in him so naturally with excessive bravery, "that we could have found some retired place on the downs or the seashore."
"Where we should have been seen all four conferring together, so that at the end of a quarter of an hour the cardinal would have been informed by his spies that we were holding a council."
"Yes," said Aramis, "Athos is right: animadvertuntur in desertis."
"A desert would not have been amiss," said Porthos; "but it behooved us to find it."
"There is no desert where a bird cannot pass over one's head, where a fish cannot leap out of the water, where a rabbit cannot come out of its burrow, and I believe that bird, fish, and rabbit each becomes a spy of the cardinal. [...]"
It may sometimes be possible to be a whistleblower without physically meeting a journalist or blogger or anonymous source. Often this is unavoidable, if the story is to be made public.
- If you decide to meet with an alleged "journalist" or blogger (who may not always be who they claim to be), or if a journalist or blogger decides to meet with an "anonymous source" (who also might not be who they claim to be), then you should switch off your mobile phones, since the proximity of two mobile phones in the same approximate area, at the same time, is something which can be data mined from the Call Data Records, even if no phone conversations have taken place. Typically a mobile phone will handshake with the strongest Cell Base Station transmitter every 6 to 10 minutes, and this all gets logged, all of the time.
- Similarly choosing a suitable location for a meeting needs some care. Nipping down to a local pub near to to the Marsham Street Home Office complex may be convenient, but your presence and that of the journalist etc. is likely to be noted by some of your work colleagues.
- There are now vast numbers of CCTV camera in UK cities, especially in London, none of which are of much use in preventing or deterring crimes, and very few of which are monitored by humans in real time. However, the sheer numbers of cameras and recording equipment does pose a threat to whistleblower anonymity.
Luckily, the vague 1980's planning rules apply, which treat CCTV cameras like external advertising signs etc. on buildings, into which, inevitably, people could bang their heads, so almost all CCTV cameras are mounted more than 2.5 metres above the ground. They therefore rarely get a clear picture of anyone's face, if they are wearing a hat or a hoodie. or a scarf etc. .
- If you travel by public transport in London, to get to your physical meeting with whistleblowers, journalists, campaign activists or bloggers etc.bear in mind the tracking capabilities of the Transport for London Oyster SmartCard. This stores the pttern of your last 20 or so journeys on the Card itself, with a 6 month history at least , being kept on the central computer system. If you have registered the card or have paid for it with a credit card etc., then it could easily betray your identity, especially if your use of it on the tube or Bus is also caught on CCTV camera.
- If you drive a vehicle in London, remember that there is the City of London "ring of steel", the Central Congestion Charge Zone, the Westward Expansion Congestion Charge Zone and the wider London Low Emissions Zone, all of which are enforced using Automatic Number Plate recognition CCTV cameras. Apart from the City of London cameras, the rest are all linked to Transport for London central control rooms. Since July 2007, all of this CCTV camera and the Automatic Number Plate Recognition, and lookups to the DVLA, and mobile phone / credit card payments are all being slurped, "in Bulk, in Real Time" to some secret Data Warehousing project run by the Metropolitan Police Service, supposedly for "national security", all of which has been made exempt from the Data Protection Act, by Ministerial fiat. If you are in a vehicle, it is certainly worth trying to avoid crossing any of the ANPR Zone boundaries on your way to or from the meeting
This vast amount of data,on millions of innocent people and powerful computer analytical tools could easily be turned away from its supposed task of hunting for suspicious terrorist movement patterns, and could be asked to help to track down potential Government whistleblowers and their journalistic or other contacts, since "national security" can easily be invoked, even when the only secrets being leaked are political coverups, incompetence or corruption.
- Remember the Cold War Moscow Rules from espionage fiction.
- Some idea of the precautions necessary for making sure that you have not been followed to clandestine physical meetings, on foot or by car, can be gleaned from this re-print of advice and techniques given to ANC / Communist activists under the South African apartheid regime in the 1980's - How to Master Secret Work . This is even more difficult now with CCTV cameras, Automatic Number Plate Recognition and mobile phones. The common use of mobile phone and MP3 music players means that people wearing earpieces and apparently talking to themselves in the street is no longer as suspicious as it used to be.
- The more up to date A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages ), by experienced UK direct action political activists (www.activistsecurity.org). is full of practical advice, on many of the topics in this blog, including physical meetings, surveillance and mobile phones.
- See also the section on Covert Channel Signals for Meetings or Dead Letter Drops for some ideas about Covert Channel Signals, which might also be useful for arranging an urgent secret physical meeting between a whistleblower source and their journalist or activist or other contacts, without arousing suspicion.