Monday, June 21, 2010

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

Sometimes, Dear Reader, things do not go according to plan. In fact, I believe it was Helmuth von Moltke the Elder who stated "no plan ever survives contact with the enemy."

Moltke should have been backing me up the other day.

It started out routinely enough: it was a basic mobile follow from the target's home address to see if he was going to where he told his wife he would be. (The precursor to this story can be found here.)

Nothing particularly complex about this. Or so I thought at the time.

We were two-up (ie there were two of us in the vehicle) waiting at a location that overlooked an area the target would have to pass in order to exit the neighbourhood where he lives. He would not directly pass us, but we would be in position behind him once he made it to the main road. Supposedly he was going straight to a friend's house just to the west of the city and, from there, to a rural town some 100km away for a weekend of hunting so we had an idea as to direction and route of travel if this were in fact true.

Surveillance, as I have said before, is mostly dull and comprises a lot of waiting. We had been in position for almost 2 hours when I get a text from the client. Her husband had just left the house.

Standby, standby.

1215hrs - We have eyeball on target as he passes trigger location. We initiate follow.

1216hrs - Target turns right onto main road. Now travelling away from supposed intended route although could still turn left at major intersection to head West out of town.

1219hrs - Target stopped at lights. Turning right - now heading East into city and definitely not to where he said he was going.We change lanes so as not to be directly behind him - 'mirroring' (ie following target's movements exactly) is something that tends to get you noticed.

1221hrs - Target suddenly turns down side street and we are unable to immediately follow because of traffic. Eyeball lost. We change lanes and take next street thinking that the target was probably taking one of two major roads through this industrial part of town. We take next left to get back onto same street as target should be on when...

1223hrs - Unexpectedly regain eyeball on target who is driving towards us! WTF? He passes us and we wait until he is out of sight around corner before turning 180 degrees and resuming follow. However, when we turn corner, target has pulled off on side of road and when we pass, pulls back out into traffic. He is now following us with a car between us.

1224hrs - We turn left, now heading westwards on State Highway. Target follows. We then take next right, heading northwards in a residential area. Target also turns right and is still following.

Now, at this stage, there are a number of thoughts going through my mind. Firstly, and the most obvious, is that we've been burned and the subject is aware of our surveillance. In fact he's even been taking basic anti-surveillance countermeasures. Secondly, we may not have been actually burned and this may all be a coincidence. Maybe.

1225hrs - We turn right into a residential side-street. Target continues straight, still heading northwards.

It appears that perhaps the second may be true, we weren't burned. Or perhaps he just didn't see us take the right turn.

I decided to abort anyway since I called the client and she'd informed us that she had earlier told her husband about the anonymous texter. This meant he was somewhat surveillance  'aware' and was probably actively looking out for someone following him - whether or not he'd actually identified us. However, given that we'd used up several 'lives' it was probably prudent to call it quits rather than gamely continuing and definitely being burned.

In any case, the target definitely was not going to where he said he was but not a satisfying conclusion, nonetheless.


  1. Do you often find that when a target has been tipped off that their behaviour has been compromised that they continue to pursue their activities regardless?

    You'd think that having been made aware by the wife that she was aware something was up he'd have actually of smartened up - though seldom do these events take rational turns as Moltke the Elder could attest to and the challenge of eluding any watching eyes may well actually make the entire escapade even more fun for the husband.

  2. Yes, to a degree, although they may end up being more 'aware' while continuing those particular activities as they may be expecting to be surveilled, even if they aren't.

    Supposedly, when the wife informed him about the anonymous texter, he became indignant and denied everything, which is to be expected.

    Perhaps most people might take it as a sign that they've been compromised and should maybe call it quits (even if only for a while), others might become emboldened and continue with their activities thinking that either they'll never get caught or that their partner etc bought their story.

    People are strange creatures. They never do what you think they will.