If you thought every time you picked up the telephone and spoke to your sister, mom or best friend, it was your business; or that every time you called to book an appointment or searched for something of interest in Google it was private: think again. Telephone surveillance and the use of spy equipment has increased dramatically according to watchdogs and human rights groups. The reason for the increased use of spy equipment has been blamed on anti-terror laws that are being stretched beyond the remit they were intended for. Telephone surveillance and internet use is being monitored by councils, police and other officials. Figures state that in 2007 there were 519,260 requests from such bodies to communication providers to access information. The Daily Mail reports that our private data is being monitored, with 1,400 ‘spying operations’ being launched every day.
Telephone Surveillance: A Question of National Security?
Telephone surveillance isn’t just in the form of phone tapping and using high tech spy equipment to bug telephone conversations – in fact this kind of telephone surveillance tends to be restricted to police or intelligence services. But telephone surveillance in the form of our phone bills being raked over or the websites we visit being monitored is part of the low level intrusion UK residents now seem victim to. And it isn’t terrorism plots, drug rings, gun smuggling or international spying that’s triggered the step up in telephone surveillance and use of spy equipment – it’s issues such as dog fouling and fly-tipping. One couple was profiled in the Mail saying they were spied on for weeks by their council to check they were living in the right school catchment area.
Telephone Surveillance by Local Councils Raises Privacy Fears
It’s thought this high level of spying and intrusion is happening due to councils ‘abusing’ anti-terror laws. Telephone surveillance and internet monitoring can feel like a huge intrusion and infringement on human rights – especially if the spy equipment and investigation is not pertaining to any terrorism fears, but relatively minor offenses. Although many people may justify spying or intercept requests such as telephone surveillance from bodies such as the police or security services as a matter of national security, over 1,700 intercept requests were made by local councils in 2007.
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According to a report in the Telegraph, the CIA decided to think outside the box when hostilities with Russia were at their peak during the Cold War in the 1960’s. CIA operatives decided to use cats fitted with bugging devices in order to try and uncover the deepest and darkest secrets of the Kremlin and to prevent espionage against them. The Telegraph relies upon recently declassified documents to bring to light the CIA’s unusual approach of feline bugging devices.
Bugging Devices – Kremlin Cat Flap
In what was a fairly unprecedented move in spy circles, the CIA decided to implement the use of cats as a form of eavesdropping device during the height of the Cold War in the 1960’s. According to the report in the Telegraph, the CIA believed that the cats deemed worthy of being fitted with bugging devices, could be used to listen to secret conversations from park benches, window sills and dustbins. The crude technological ability of bugging devices at the time was not good news for the cats that were chosen for the top secret missions. Speaking to the Telegraph, former CIA officer, Victor Marchetti, states “They slit the cat open, put batteries in him and wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that.” So, understandably, cats weren’t lining up round the block to be fitted with the bugging devices.
Bugging Devices – Accident Waiting To Happen
Unfortunately, the CIA’s decision to fit cats with bugging devices was a fairly unmitigated disaster and can scarcely have got off to a worse start. The first trial run of the spy cat was a financial faux pas to say the least. Speaking to the Telegraph, Victor Marchetti stated, “They took it out to a park and put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead.” Bugging devices have come a long way since the Cold War as technologically capabilities have improved dramatically which, no doubt, will come as a relief to members of the feline community.