We have a special treat for subscribers today: early access to Hidden Worlds, a documentary series we're developing.
Here's the back story:
When I was at the Wall Street Journal reporting on international financial crime and business intrigue, I ran afoul of a few deep-pocketed bad guys who hired private surveillance operatives to follow me around. (Tom and I have had our fair share of weird run-ins over the years, whether it's the Chinese state negotiating with Malaysia to hack all of Tom's computers and bug his house or Jho Low hiring Black Cube to surveil us at one point.)
When I found out I'd been followed and photographed surreptitiously, I felt a bit vulnerable and also annoyed. So I asked a good friend of mine to introduce me to someone who does physical surveillance in London. That man introduced me to an amazing woman, who I can't refer to by name (but you'll see her in the first episode of Hidden Worlds as Oscar Zero).
Oscar Zero and I had a really fun day together. First she invited me to meet her in a room where she showed me all the different kinds of technology used for surveillance in London. She pulled out the super discreet ear pieces that are often used as well as hidden microphones of all kinds that could be used to capture your conversation over coffee in a hotel lobby.
Then we set out on the town to practice some anti-surveillance techniques – in other words, how to lose a tail or at least make their lives miserable. At one point, we even started following a random person around London just to help me visualize how operatives move around.
Perhaps the most fun part was hearing stories from the field. Oscar Zero learned the trade in the government before setting out on her own. She also has a booming "pentesting" business, where companies hire her to try to break into their buildings. Reminded me of my all-time favorite film, Sneakers.
When Tom and I started Project Brazen, we wanted to find a way to take all these private experiences of journalists, spies and other interesting professions, and make them accessible to everyone. Knowing about physical surveillance is incredibly important for business people, for instance. Anyone should know about these tactics because they are part of an arsenal of tools used to suppress the truth. Journalists, activists and others are targeted all the time, not to mention the odd spouse of an oligarch.
For our first episode, we recruited Oscar Zero to follow me across London. Using 14 different cameras, we capture what physical surveillance looks like and some of the techniques you might use to fight back.