How to Do Countersurveillance in the Blink of an Eye & Assange’s Election Bid

In the process of defending Assange, an Australian Wikileaks Party activist gives an excellent case study in spotting surveillance by looking for subtle body cues. In particular, she picks out the surveillance operator essentially by instinct — “Something about him was curious, he seemed out of place.”

Granted, the guy isn’t trying THAT hard to be discreet. He takes out a camera and photographs the diner under the assumption he arrived before they did, a move which I wouldn’t expect in a serious counterintelligence surveillance effort. (They’d use hidden cameras.)

But this right here is excellent:

“Still I watched Mr Brown Overcoat. His posture subtly shifted. Bingo. It registered. Those two women meeting just now, later than they said they would. They are here. One was here all along. For just a second, he stared, stared at Chloe. She was oblivious. I hid the fact that I was watching him, that I cared.”

Also interesting, her comments on Assange’s de facto betrayal by a group of Wikileaks Party insiders in the run up to the election. Yes, they could have been planted in the party by a hostile outside organization, sure. On the other hand, she makes an excellent observation about human nature:

“But, shockingly, rivals in the activist sector do not want to see Julian Assange succeed politically. They would rather keep him as a bleeding heart symbol of a cause célèbre than allow him to have a position of leadership, and thus genuine legitimacy. He was theirs. How dare he change.”

Common particularly in Australia is ‘Tall Poppy syndrome,’ go look it up, but this effect crops up everywhere people change themselves for the better while remaining in the same social circle. (It’s one of the reasons staying in the same social circle for your whole life will keep you from growing as a person — and I wonder if there aren’t subtler implications to moving around, given how much the US government wanted to stop Assange doing exactly that.)

Now combine this with some of the less charismatic (and probably spy-psychology influenced) aspects of Assange’s personality, and infiltration isn’t necessarily necessary. Though I admit “well, now we know who the moles are” was the first thought that went through my mind when I heard about the Wikileaks party resignations-and-attack business.

What she gets wrong — yes, O’Hagan’s long article on Assange’s dirty laundry was incorrect or biased against him in places. (Yes, the Swedish business was almost certainly a trap.) I am however not convinced that O’Hagan deliberately lied or meant to betray Assange. Rather, his article presents his particular perspective.

One of the things everyone should learn to do is understand that these sorts of pieces present a given angle on the truth, not the “raw unvarnished truth.” The latter is impossible, even for the most objective journalist — it’s just a limitation of how we communicate.

On the other hand, if you look at what you take in as presenting a given perspective and, from there, mentally reverse-engineer out what the underlying truth probably is… well, now you’re thinking with portals.

https://medium.com/wikileaks-snowden-and-transparency/657466d3dc9

“What is not widely known though, is how a small group of previous supporters turned on Julian Assange, at a time when their support was crucial. They joined with political opponents and successfully ensured he was not elected to the Australian Senate in 2013..[…]

There were, and are, many who do not want to see the Wikileaks Party succeed. First and foremost — the western alliance led by the United States government. This military and political alliance was the one most challenged by Wikileaks releases. But, shockingly, rivals in the activist sector do not want to see Julian Assange succeed politically. They would rather keep him as a bleeding heart symbol of a cause célèbre than allow him to have a position of leadership, and thus genuine legitimacy. He was theirs. How dare he change.[…]

She’d be late. She always was. I settled myself in for the wait, ordered, and a little bored, gazed at the other people. As I was watching, an older man in an overcoat came in. He quietly sat at a table, and looked around. I pretended to read my magazine whilst I watched him. Something about him was curious, he seemed out of place. All the others in the cafe were clearly office workers, all in groups of three or more. He relaxed a bit and then to my surprise, pulled out a camera, and started taking photos. Weird, I thought. Why would someone do that?

He casually, quickly, fairly unobtrusively, took photos of every angle, then put his camera away, and pulled out a newspaper from his briefcase. Each time someone new came in, he’d look at them, seemingly making mental notes. I’d been in one of his quick shots, acting as though I was unaware of what he was doing, just a woman with a coffee reading Vogue Magazine. Then it dawned on me, hell, Chloe was forever banging on about surveillance of activists — could this be some guy from ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) waiting until we arrived?

We always made arrangements to meet via text or online. He looked like he was waiting. I knew enough to know that I wasn’t being overly fanciful. Chloe and I had been active enough, for long enough, to register on Government radars around the world. She and I both knew that.

Finally she walked in off the windswept street, unwrapping her scarf. I didn’t say anything. Paranoia is contagious. It can also be slightly ridiculous. So what. I had jumped into supporting a cause in which any serious, effective, supporters would no doubt be monitored. Still I watched Mr Brown Overcoat. His posture subtly shifted. Bingo. It registered. Those two women meeting just now, later than they said they would. They are here. One was here all along. For just a second, he stared, stared at Chloe. She was oblivious. I hid the fact that I was watching him, that I cared. I hid that, internally, a mixture of wtf? shall I tell her? is this the real world? & ASIO y u so lame! swirled around in my head.

I leaned down and pulled out some notes I’d bought for Chloe. We jumped into conversation mode and I looked up. He was gone.”

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