Sunday, June 5, 2011
If the government is after you, then there’s no place to hide
This classic example comes from the back in the Cold War days, when the Stasi ruled East Germany with an iron fist. The president, Walter Ulbricht, received a picture of himself in the mail. It was clipped from East Germany’s major communist newspaper. Written across Ulbricht’s picture were the words “BIG FAT PIG.”
From then on, almost every time his picture appeared in the newspaper, Ulbricht received a copy of the picture with the same words, “BIG FAT PIG.” The only clue to the location of the sender was that the letters were all postmarked from Dresden.
Ulbricht ordered the Stasi to track the culprit down. But think for a minute. How could the Stasi track down a man who just mailed newspaper clippings from various locations in a large city? To the sender, it seemed impossible but the Stasi went to work.
1. An article was planted on the front page of the party’s newspaper with Ulbricht’s picture featured prominently.
2. Then the entire shipment of newspapers destined for Dresden was trapped by printing a unique number, in invisible ink, on the reverse side of Ulbricht’s picture. Each number was then linked in a database to an individual recipient assigned to receive that specific paper.
3. When the next “BIG FAT PIG” clipping arrived, it was turned over to the Stasi.
4. When the secret ink was developed, the number was matched to the address of the local secretary of the communist party in Dresden—and one of Ulbricht’s political rivals.
So before you start mailing clippings of Obama to Washington, or of Bush to Texas, remember Ulbricht. If the government decides to get you, you will be found.
[The above account is from page 49 of The Spy’s Guide: Office Espionage, by Keith Melton and Craig Piligian— Quirk Books, 2003.]