Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Glad there was never a chance to challenge any speeding fines

While I’ve no argument with the operating principles behind the various speed detection systems and methods used by the authorities to enforce speed limits, I do take issue with the attitude of those various authorities in their near obsessive belief, or perhaps policy, that they are absolute, are completely accurate in all circumstances, and that challenging them is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

While most people with a suitable background will understand that such system are accurate, that accuracy relies on a perfect operating environment, and perfect operators.

Need I say that in the REAL world, NEITHER of those criteria are satisfied in EVERY case.

I used to travel to North Wales regularly. The return trip involved travelling a long downhill road with a 40 mph limit. Then, I had a high profile German sports car that would cruise the Autobahn at 150 mph, and a radar detector because I knew I would be ‘picked on’. Coming down that hill, it revealed that, despite travelling at 40 mph, I would be ‘painted’ by police with a radar gun, regardless of the fact that I was being passed by other cars speeding down the hill.

It’s a pity that devices such as radar guns and speed cameras are administered by people unqualified to understand them technically, as they are seriously misled by the advocates of such devices, and the manufacturers of course, who promote such devices as being completely accurate. Sadly, that’s not the case.

There’s a good example of this mindset revealed in this quote which including West Mercia Police Chief Constable Anthony Bangham’s call for inaccuracy to be ignored:

Most police forces have a tolerance of 10 per cent plus 2mph above the limit before a speed camera ‘flashes’. So on a 30 mph road, a camera wouldn’t normally activate unless a car drove past at 35mph or above. Auto Express warn motorists that car speedometer inaccuracies make it difficult to measure how close to the threshold they are travelling.

However, last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on road policing, Anthony Bangham – who is also chief constable of West Mercia Police which prosecuted Richard – called for the 10 per cent buffer to be scrapped. He also said speed awareness courses were being overused, and believes offenders should get fines and points on their licence instead.

Richard and Tim believe any such move would be deeply unfair given the potential problems with speed camera inaccuracies.

Man, 71, loses £30,000 of his son’s inheritance fighting a £100 speeding fine – but can the camera lie?

As noted in the opening, I’ve never had the need to challenge a speeding charge/fine, and I’m beginning to be glad I’ve been priced off the road., given the apparently growing proliferation and automation of such devices, and the apparent selective myopia of those administering them – ‘They MUST be right, if you were caught, you WERE speeding‘, end of story, no argument, no appeal.

The article referred to in the link is shocking, and confirms the worry I always had about the courts, police, and legal system, brainwashed by the manufacturers and advocates of speed detection systems with their claims of ‘perfection’.

Regardless of presenting a reasonable defence, the courts/authorities simply ignored it (my view as an accredited calibration signatory – I used to approve and sign fiscal calibration certification which could be presented in court as evidence).

The article includes a few examples of how these systems can report erroneous speeds of the subject vehicles, and, worse, how the systems themselves are poorly installed, with, for example, the supposedly ‘calibrated’ lines painted on the road (supposedly as a double-check or verification) not even being spaced accurately.

It’s a shame that we don’t seem to have progressed much further in removing operator error or bias from these systems today, than we were in the days of VASCAR, when systems also depended wholly on correct operating procedure for their accuracy, and careless operation of the switches used to set that system up on a piece of road could lead to it being inaccurate.



This system eventually proved to be so problematic, it was discontinued.

Note also the manufacturer’s accuracy claim (and even lack of Home Office Approval or testing) I referred to above – NOBODY with an interest, especially financial, should be allowed to verify such criteria.

Scotland: Police Halt Use of VASCAR Over Accuracy Concern
Police chiefs in Scotland, UK told not to use VASCAR to issue speeding tickets due to interference and reliability issues.


The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in Scotland issued a memo Tuesday recommending that VASCAR not be used to issue speeding tickets to motorists. Although the “Vehicle Average Speed Computer and Recorder” is a thirty-five-year-old technology and has been replaced in some areas by radar and laser speed guns, it is still commonly used in the UK and the US.

“Until such time that the matter has been fully investigated, a memo has been sent to officers asking them to use alternative speed detection equipment,” Strathclyde Police Chief Inspector Andy Orr told the Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper.

VASCAR estimates speed by calculating the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to pass a given distance. The police officer operating the machine flips a switch when a vehicle passes a given point and then flips it again when the vehicle passes a second point. The machine then displays a speed on a small readout. Because the device appeared to depend more upon the skill of the operator to produce a reliable estimate, UK police authorities never required Home Office Approval or accuracy testing for the device. Instead, the VASCAR manufacturer insisted that the “quartz crystal” performed a self-test allowing the device to establish itself as an accurate instrument for measuring speed.

That did not turn out to be the case for UK officials who recently uncovered reliability problems while working to integrate the speed detector with new digital radios and automated number plate recognition (ANPR) systems. The same officials had already known about the possibility for radio frequency interference. A 2002 ACPO test registered interference any time a radio or cell phone was used within six-and-a-half feet of the VASCAR machine.

“There is a potential risk of interference to Traffic Law Enforcement Devices (TLED) such as VASCAR from Airwave Radios and GSM phones,” a Devon and Cornwall Constabulary memo dated August 19, 2008 explained. “Officers should not operate a TLED from within a vehicle in the presence of a GSM phone or Airwave radio that is switched on, unless a ‘Transmit Inhibit’ system has been enabled. Failure to do so may compromise the integrity of any relevant prosecutions.”

Now Scottish officials fear the possibility that lawyers will seize upon the unreliability of the technology to undermine past prosecutions and force refunds.

Source: Speed-trap device may be faulty, say police (Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland), 2/4/2009)

13/09/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

When polls aren’t conducted using unbiased data – things like Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games win them

I’ve come to realise few people have much of a clue when it comes to understanding the results of polls and votes on subjects where the sampling pool is not formed by a large enough sample to approach statistical neutrality, or simply be unbiased.

These days, the first thing I look at when someone shoves a survey or poll under my nose is the source of the voting.

If it comes from a organisation that can demonstrate the population sample was selected randomly, and was large enough to minimise any potential bias, I’ll consider the result seriously.

However, if it comes from a source where the participants were not random, were self-selected, too few, or suffered some other sort of bias, then I move on, and don’t take the published/claimed result seriously.

With that in mind, I managed to avoid a panic attack when I read a headline proclaiming…

Glasgow 2014 voted greatest moment for tourism in 50 years

It sounds good (or disturbing) until you look close at the voting and the result.

It wasn’t a random sample, only people who were interested voted (meaning those who didn’t like the games didn’t vote  the even down), and ‘the greatest moment’ didn’t poll more than 50% of the votes, but just the largest fraction, only 20%.

People voted Glasgow Commonwealth games as the biggest draw for tourists. Runners up included the release of Braveheart in 1995.

I’m not a great film fan, but I do seem to remember the release of Braveheart – wasn’t it seen as a joke citing Mel Gibson’s attempt at a Scottish accent, and some questionable portrayal of Scottish history?

Looking at some of the results, I don’t think I have to add anything.

To be fair (and I freely admit my bias because of the ‘Games’), but for the weird event at the top of the list, I’d probably not have any issues with this list, or the way it was created.

See the whole fantasy poll here: 50 years of great tourism moments

Greatest Scottish Poll

Greatest Scottish Poll


Let me see…

What cute graphic could I finish this fun with?

Myth Reality

Myth Reality

11/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , , , | Leave a comment

Interesting – Food and drink in Kelvingrove hall is now acceptable

It doesn’t feel that long ago (to me at least) that the very idea of food and/or drink being carried around by visitors to Kelvingrove would have been an unthinkable thought.

And to be fair, if you wander around the galleries you WILL see signs warning visitors that food and drink are NOT welcome in the galleries themselves.

Indeed, while the Coffee Shop was relocated to its temporary home on the first floor (while Dippy the dinosaur was in residence), I noticed orphaned signs on the pillars in the area around its normal home, telling patrons that only food purchased there (the Coffee Shop) could be consumed at its tables.

It’s less than a year since I was wondering if I could enjoy a snack in the general seating area when I spotted a ‘quiet word’ being had with someone who tried that very thing, and I saw another regular visitor carefully managing his sandwich (and even a flask) while staff were looking the other way.

There are at least two areas provided in the basement (why do I STILL want to refer to that as ‘new’ after the 2006 refurb?), with seating and in quiet spots, where visitors are welcome to enjoy their own packed lunch.

However, in this case my interest is in the general appearance of food and drink in the central hall, where I now regularly see people with trays of food and drink wandering, and indulging themselves during the organ recital. They can also be seen wandering around the balcony area too.

I merely find it interesting that something which was once evidently frowned upon has become common.

I’d started collecting odd instances of the inner man (and woman) being catered for, until I realised it was no longer the exception.

No point in wasting the pics, or the thought.

Kelvingrove Recital Food and Drink

Kelvingrove Recital Food and Drink

10/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Surveillance | , , | Leave a comment

Gnomes of Hillhead… watching…

There’s a pic I’ve been hoping to get while wandering through Hillhead -but I’ve failed miserably despite looking for it for months.

It seems that quite a few tenement dwellers in the area have cats, and quite a few those humans have treated their feline overlords to giant cat trees located in the front window bays of their domiciles.

That was the good news – the bad news is that the damned cats never seem to use those trees, at least not when I’m there.


It seems the local neighbourhood watch is aware of my visits, and staring at resident’s windows – and has started watching me.

You feel that creepy feeling on the back of your neck…

You turn around…

And see…

Gnomes of Hillhead

Gnomes of Hillhead


06/08/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

LNT – Slightly weird lucky coincidence

Quite by accident, I managed a lucky coincidence.

I needed a remote camera (or two, or three) and noticed some assorted IP cams on sale in a local emporium. Second hand (of course), specs were available, but sparse.

I eventually decided to take a chance on one, offering both wired and wireless IP connectivity, automatic infra-red illumination, and remote pan/tilt.

None had zoom. Well, one did, but I suspect it was just digital trickery (not optical), as it was actually a baby monitoring cam.

Surprisingly, I seem to have picked the best of the bunch, as revealed when I collected all the part numbers and checked their specs.

1 turned out to be an outdoor camera, but was actually analogue (not IP, and used coax), and needed an external controller to provide signals to operate it down that coax cable. That controller wouldn’t be cheap.

2 turned out to be an extra ‘add-on’ cam for a wireless baby monitor, and seemed to need the matching base unit to control it, or show images, not useable on a network.

3 turned out to be a fairly decent IP cam, also wired/wireless and pan/tilt, but when I looked closer it was not supported, and it seemed nobody that had one could find software to control or connect it.

4 this one disappeared from the shelf before I could get details, but it seemed only operated using a mobile phone as its controller, not a PC, which means it would have been no use to me. It said ‘zoom’ on the label too, but I suspect this would have been digital, not optical. It had a card slot, and seems could be left alone to record for a week. Nice, but not needed.

So, that left the fifth one, the one I grabbed.

Sadly, the company behind it has also evaporated over time, but the good news was that its operating system was onboard, in firmware.

Provided you can sniff it out on your network, you can browse to its IP (DCHP or preset) and it will respond, provided you know the user name and password.

I was a bit confused by the IR control. Although it has manual control on the browser screen, it only works automatically, switching the illuminators on when it gets dark, and off when it gets light.

Further confusion followed – the pan and tilt seems to run autonomously for a few minutes after power has been applied, and it ignores manual pan/tilt commands, but is fine after that initial period has passed.

It’s surprisingly versatile, as the manual focus (which I’d thought was a problem at first) means it can be set up to remotely things that are inches (sorry, cm) from its nose) all the way to a whole room or garden area.

With my luck (usually not good), I’m still surprised that I picked the only decent, instantly useable one of the five on offer first time, and didn’t end up going back and forth and having to try them all.

(Sorry, no more details – I simply don’t give out any details of anything online.)

However, this was the manual, analogue item I rejected.

It has no pan/tilt, and is set up to point the right way manually, before the dome is secured, to keep it ‘safe’ outdoors.

I found this on the BabyCam.

What you CAN’T see in any of the pics is that the cam doesn’t have a LAN socket, and that the aerial is just a bit of wire – so you’re not going to be doing anything ‘clever’ with it.

That said, the whole thing might not be that bad for some jobs (bought second hand) and I could use it for some setups where I need to see what something is doing in another room. It even measures the room temp – handy when the kit you are setting up is bursting into flames as you work elsewhere 🙂

Cute BabyCam

Cute BabyCam

24/07/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

Ever wondered where George Square’s webcam hides?

Going back a few years, George Square enjoyed having two webcams overlooking its activities.

Both lay behind windows of Glasgow City Chambers, but there’s now only one, roughly in the middle of the top storey. The other was closer to the southern corner, and South Frederick Street.

I was seldom in Glasgow when it was active, and never spotted it.

However, after using the remaining one to check on Glasgow before heading in (sad to say, the reason for doing so was Scotland’s lovely weather, which has recently managed to be soaking wet whenever interesting events were taking place in the Square, so I stayed home, and dry). The weather is better now, so I lined up a few markers as spotted from the webcam view, and decided to try locating it.

Unlike the first try, this effort proved that a little planning makes this a lot easier.

Can you see it?

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcan

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcan

Does this help?

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcam window

Glasgow City Chambers George Square webcam window

Let’s return the favour, and take a REALLY close look.

George Square Webcam

George Square Webcam

Here’s the link, so you can take a look at the view:

George Square Webcam

While the view’s not too bad, it does suffer from being behind that window, so when it rains in the ‘wrong’ direction the image is adversely affected.

There’s not much point in visiting this webcam when its dark either.

One of the square’s spot/floodlight is aimed right down the camera’s throat, and the glare wipes out any chance of seeing anything when it’s dark.

I’ve given up emailing the council, and responding to their request for feedback on the cam page.

Months after finding this problem nobody shinned up the pole and given the offending light a shove.

And when the post was made – surprise surprise, it started raining, in Scotland!

George Square daytime webcam

George Square daytime webcam

And when it gets dark, it looks something like this – great view of the floodlight.

George Square webcam glare

George Square webcam glare

09/07/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

Nineteen Eighty-Four at 70

1984 has come and gone with little in the way of Big Brother (although I suppose that depends on whom you ask), but George Orwell’s novel is still a key component of education and culture.

A point made by this stencilled sign I spotted stapled to a wooden pole not very long ago.



I’m not sure how those I’ll refer to as normal/ordinary people view the novel, but I can’t ignore it as it was one of ‘set texts’ I had to read and study in detail during the years of my secondary education, so it’s inevitably engraved in my memory.

One aspect I remember wondering about was if I would live long enough to see 1984 (which was a bit silly in some respects, as it wasn’t that far in my future, but kids don’t have much perception of time).

Another was my growing knowledge of electronics around the same time, when I concluded (rightly at the time, wrongly in the future) that the level of surveillance was, if not impossible, at least not practical. While I suppose a wholly dystopian state could have ordered and implemented it, the technology of the time would have seen the world immersed in a sea of connection wires (for all the cameras and microphones).

If you’re unfamiliar with communication wiring of the past (something almost invisible today), just look at this telephone wiring (and this is only 5,000 lines):

5000 telephone lines in Stockholm

5000 telephone lines in Stockholm

See more examples like this in the source: Photos from the Days When Thousands of Cables Crowded the Skies

They’re still there today, but in a different form since they are more likely to be carrying many (digital) signals: Bucharest: Cables

There would have been another problem – the power needed to run all that hardware, which would have been huge using the technology of the time (mostly valve based, transistors were still to become widely used). There would have been so many power station, and all coal powered, that we’d have been immersed in constant smog – and climate change would have arrived with a vengeance.

In fact, there would probably have been such a great demand for manufacturing the hardware, building power stations, installing the wiring, and mining the coal, that the wars described in the novel couldn’t have happened as everyone would have been too busy installing the surveillance system.

Of course, the arrival of the transistor, the death of the valve, and birth of the Internet around 1970 (but spawned just after the novel was published) meant that the technology to permit billions of point-to-point connections could be made was available, and just needed some software, and hardware, to be developed.

This seems to be the first British edition cover I found online.

nineteen eighty-four First British Edition Secker and Warburg 1949

nineteen eighty-four First British Edition Secker and Warburg 1949

It’s a bit of a long read, but this article saves me from rambling on further, as its consideration of the novel as a warning, rather than the more usual prophecy, makes a lot more sense.

Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House in January 2017 created, among other things, a golden opportunity for enterprising protesters. One designer created a version of the Trump campaign’s red baseball cap, replacing his slogan “Make America Great Again” with “Make Orwell Fiction Again”.

It’s a good, dark joke but it raises the question of whether Nineteen Eighty-Four, which turns 70 this weekend, was really fiction in the first place.

George Orwell first outlined his idea for a novel about the future, originally called “The Last Man in Europe”, around the end of 1943, and it would be another five years before he typed the final words. In the intervening period, he road-tested many of the book’s most important ideas, images and phrases in hundreds of articles for magazines and newspapers.

In fact, virtually everything he wrote as a journalist during that time had some relevance to his novel. By 1948, he was so determined to finish the book that he refused to retreat to a sanatorium to seek sorely needed treatment for his tuberculosis, a decision which probably doomed his chances of recovery.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on 8 June 1949, to instant acclaim and alarm. Its author died less than eight months later at the age of 46. For Orwell, the book was nothing less than an obsession.

Orwell would not have gone to such punishing lengths to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four if it had been merely fiction. From the very start, it was his way of making sense of the totalitarian regimes that were tormenting Europe: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

How did these tyrannies take root and could something similar – or even worse – emerge elsewhere, in countries that assumed their institutions and liberties were safe?

It was the first dystopian novel written with the full knowledge that dystopia was real. The phrases that Orwell invented were brilliantly, unforgettably new – Big Brother, doublethink, Newspeak, the Thought Police – but they were all satirical exaggerations of existing totalitarianism.

Readers behind the Iron Curtain – where the book was banned and possession of a smuggled copy could lead to a prison sentence – certainly didn’t categorise it as fiction. They found that Orwell’s concepts were all too relevant to their own restricted lives.

Nineteen Eighty-Four at 70: Orwell’s novel wasn’t a prophecy, it was a warning and a reminder

Interestingly, in 1984…

Apple advertised what they didn’t want to become, but they did.

Since the above didn’t actually include the full Apple commercial…

NOTE: the Apple 1984 piece starts at 0:09 – we wanted to show it in context of Super Bowl XVIII. This video was recorded on our CEO’s parents’ VCR on January 22, 1984, the 30th anniversary of Apple’s iconic MacIntosh 1984 ad, directed by Ridley Scott, and aired during Super Bowl XVIII. Midway through the 3rd quarter, the broadcast cut to a commercial, the screen momentarily went dark, and what aired next became part of marketing and tech history.


More articles appeared later, and I liked this short review of how the novel has different relevancies at different times.

Why 1984 still matters

I’ll include the embedded video link from the BBC, but WordPress is now unreliable as regards playing embeds. Some days it like them, some days it doesn’t.

If there’s no embedded video below, then you can assume it was there when I wrote and reviewed this update, but then disappeared when I hit the ‘Publish’ button – in which case, Thanks a Lot, WordPress!

06/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War, photography, Surveillance, World War II | , , | Leave a comment

Guess I’m not going to get into the US

While I’m not likely to try to go there, or have ever even been there, it looks as if I’d better not even think about visiting the US.

Now that it’s become ever more like ‘Orange Moron Land’, it seems as if he of the single brain cell (or less) has come up with a new idea to make himself popular, with some.

Nearly all applicants for US visas will have to submit their social media details under newly adopted rules.

The State Department regulations say people will have to submit social media names and five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers.

When proposed last year, authorities estimated the proposal would affect 14.7 million people annually.

Certain diplomatic and official visa applicants will be exempt from the stringent new measures.

However, people travelling to the US to work or to study will have to hand over their information.

US demands social media details from visa applicants

I’m actually impressed by the idea that people will be able to provide the five years’ worth of detailed being demanded, given most seem to be unable to manage to remember decent passwords, or even change them.

I wonder how many will provide genuine addresses and numbers, and how many will just be made up to fill in the forms.

Could be fun if the State Department actually checks them – lots of people could be refused visas, or end up in US jails if their stuff doesn’t check out.

After visa check

After visa check

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance, Transport | , | Leave a comment

The atomic secret of Nanda Devi

Nanda Devi is unfortunately being featuring in the news at the moment…

Nanda Devi: Hopes fading for eight missing climbers

But there was a time when the location was relatively unknown, yet was the subject of a story that would have probably have made even more headlines back around 1965 than it is making today.

NEW DELHI: Even as the world celebrated the golden jubilee of the human conquest of Mount Everest, a legendary Indian mountaineer and a CIA expert have come out with an authoritative chronology of how nuclear devices were planted atop high Himalayan peaks to monitor Chinese nuclear tests in the 1960s.

In an explosive book ”Spies in the Himalayas”, the mountaineer, Capt Mohan Singh Kohli, who had led these expeditions to Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and other summits between 1965 and 1968, and CIA expert Kenneth Conboy chronicle the planting of nuclear-powered monitoring devices by the CIA with the help of intrepid climbers from India and the US.

That was the time when there were no satellites to monitor such developments from the sky.

One of the devices, which could not be planted atop Nanda Devi summit due to bad weather and was left cached on the mountain for the next expedition, went missing.

This caused serious concern about possible radioactive contamination of the environment and, in particular, the River Ganges.

Repeated searches could not retrieve the device which still remains missing, the book, published by Harper Collins, and said, adding that tests done subsequently at different spots indicated there was no cause for alarm.

The highly sophisticated and top-secret mission was kept under wraps for 38 long years, barring a “partial and inaccurate leak” made to a US magazine in 1978, which rocked the Indian Parliament at that time.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Foreign Minister, declared in London on April 30, 1978, India would recover the nuclear device. To pacify agitated MPs, Vajpayee also made statements in Parliament.

A high-powered committee of scientists, including Dr Atma Ram, H N Sethna, M G K Menon, Raja Ramanna and Dr Saha, was set up to study and assess the risk of the missing device on Nanda Devi, the book said.

While CIA refused to comment on the news, US Congressmen asked then President Jimmy Carter to conduct an investigation.

Kohli also participated in the famous sailing expedition ”Ocean to Sky” in 1977 on the Ganga against the currents. The expedition, led by Sir

Edmund Hillary, was among other things reportedly intended to monitor radioactive contamination on the river as a fallout of the missing nuclear device atop Nanda Devi.

The book also mentions several interesting developments in that period, relating to these expeditions and the plans to install the nuclear monitoring devices.

These included unauthorised climbing of Nanda Devi twice, capture of an Indian Special Frontier Force commando by the Chinese in Tibet, the appearance of an American spy plane U-2 in India on a secret mission, use of the world famous Huskie aircraft for high altitude search up to 22,500 feet and Kohli”s seven close brushes with death.

The legendary Indian mountaineer, along with co-author Conboy, also recalls the involvement of leading intelligence officials, nuclear scientists and dare devil pilots of US and India and the CIA experts who participated in this unusual expedition.

CIA nuclear device atop Himalayas

Another article from the same source…

NEW DELHI: Soon after China detonated its first atom bomb in 1964, CIA tried to plant a nuclear-powered surveillance device atop Nanda Devi to spy on the communist nation.

Though the secret mission failed and the device was lost there, it created ripples in the Indian establishment 12 years later.

The espionage mission remained top secret till April 1978 when a news report published in a US magazine “Outside” claimed that the US intelligence agency had sent a team to set up a remote sensing device atop 25,645-foot mountain in the Himalayas in 1965.

But bad weather halted them 2,000-feet short of the summit and forced them to abandon the 125-pound device containing plutonium 238 that can remain radioactive for about 500 years. When the team returned to the site a year later, the device could not be located.

After a short-term “feckless effort”, the US government gave up its search for the device. Instead, the CIA covertly placed a second snap generator on another mountain, Nanda Kot, in 1967. After serving the agency’s purposes, it was also abandoned a year later, the report had claimed.

The revelations sparked a huge uproar in the country and even forced then foreign minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to say the episode might damage the “recently improving” ties between the two countries, according to recently declassified external affairs ministry documents.

The documents, available with National Archives, show how the Indian embassies abroad, especially in the US, had become active and kept on sending notes explaining how the issue was being played up by the media there.

At the time of this discloser, foreign ministry officials here were apparently unaware of the fact that the Nanda Devi mission was actually a joint collaboration between India and the US, according to the declassified documents.

CIA tried to plant surveillance device atop Nanda Devi

I’ve gone with somewhat longer than usual quotes from the source since I note that nearly all the other accounts I have bookmarked since coming across this story about 10 or so years ago have largely evaporated from the net.

Nanda Devi uncredited image

Nanda Devi uncredited image

The image came this info:

In addition to being the 23rd highest independent peak in the world, Nanda Devi is also notable for its large, steep rise above local terrain. It rises over 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) above its immediate southwestern base on the Dakkhni Nanda Devi Glacier in about 4.2 kilometres (2.6 mi), and its rise above the glaciers to the north is similar. This makes it among the steepest peaks in the world at this scale, closely comparable, for example, to the local profile of K2. Nanda Devi is also impressive when considering terrain that is a bit further away, as it is surrounded by relatively deep valleys. For example, it rises over 6,500 metres (21,300 ft) above the valley of the Ghoriganga in only 50 km (30 mi).

No wonder they thought of installing a surveillance device powered by similar technology to a space probe there!

The only surprising aspect I note is placing something in that environment, and expecting it to stay there.

I’ve also seen other stories claiming contamination (but none with real evidence), which seems rather unlikely given the construction of such devices. But then again, this was ‘new’ technology in those days, so it’s reasonable to assume the hardware may not have been built in the robust manner seen today.

It may even have just been cobbled together.

I wonder if it might have been copied from a Soviet design?

The Russians were always less squeamish about using nuclear power for remote applications, and used nuclear generators to power remote lighthouses, and have nuclear-powered ice breakers sailing in freezing waters to this day.

02/06/2019 Posted by | Cold War, Lost, Surveillance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh dear – even the BBC sometimes just repeats myths

I wondered if the recent tale of a ‘spy’ in the form of a ‘beluga whale’, kitted out with a GoPro and reportedly trained to approach vessels for food, would be picked up by any media sources, and it seems our very own BBC was the one lured in by this ‘honey trap’.

First rule of spying – don’t look like a spy.

The beluga whale – if that’s really its name – found in Norway’s waters can certainly tick that box.

But it appears to have committed an absolutely basic rookie sleuthing error.

The reason it’s causing suspicion among Norwegian fishermen and scientists is that it was wearing a harness and a label saying it was from St Petersburg in Russia.

Russia has denied any wrongdoing – and so far the beluga is refusing to talk.

Can’t or won’t?

Regardless of the truth, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time undercover animals have been used to spy.

It goes on to recount the tale of the now fairly well-known CIA’s ‘Acoustic Kitty’.

If there’s one thing we know about cats, it’s that they do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Admittedly, they’re inscrutable and impossible to second guess, so that’s possibly why the CIA thought they’d make excellent field operatives.

In the 1960s, it’s estimated $14m (£10.7m) was spent on a project to fit listening devices inside cats. The idea was for them to prowl around picking up vital Russian intelligence.

But it ended in failure on day one – when the cat was run over by a car outside the Soviet embassy in Washington.

Spying whales and other undercover animals

Sad to say, while that account is probably not wholly inaccurate, it’s probably also a bit of a myth.

There’s no disputing the creation and existence of Acoustic Kitty, and the chances are you can search online and find most of the story, and maybe even X-Rays of the cat showing the wiring and microphone.

And it’s probably also true to say it was a complete and utter failure, since the chances of convincing a free-roaming cat to follow instruction are at best, slim to nil.

However, I’m going to call ‘FAKE’ on the usual conclusion to the story, as given in the BBC article quoted above.

A few years ago a CIA officer published his memoirs, and these were quoted at length online, by the sort of web site that likes that sort of thing.

Acoustic Kitty came up in story.

The officer noted the project’s failure, but gave a completely different (and for its worth, far more believable account than that of the cat just happening to be “run over by a car outside the Soviet embassy in Washington.” Seriously, try working out the odds of that happening.

The officer’s account of the conclusion to Acoustic Kitty’s career was that, after the handlers found it impossible to control the cat once it was released (it went for a wander where it wanted to), they ‘recovered’ their asset, removed the radio/wiring/microphone (apparently fitted into the cat’s ear canal), and then retired it, after which it went on to live out its life somewhere more comfortable than a city.

I really wish I noted the web address of every article I read, which would make it easy to go find such items years later, but I do keep watching for this one, and if I do come across it, I WILL make a note.

Incidentally, to give you an idea of the credibility of the tale of  the cat being run over the first time it was released, I might add that the stories about this project report a cost to the CIA ranging from less than $10 million to over $120 million before it was cancelled.

Some say…

The Soviets were preparing countermeasures.

Serious Cat

30/04/2019 Posted by | Cold War, Lost, Surveillance | , , | Leave a comment

Chapel webcam back at last

After more than a week of absence, this one has come back to life.

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel webcam

Glasgow University Memorial Chapel Interior

Memorial Chapel Interior

30/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance | , | Leave a comment

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