Prologue – My Unconventional Background

The following article is taken from Chapter 2 of my book Surveillance Zone.
The book gives you an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look into the mysterious world of private-sector espionage, surveillance detection and covert protective operations.

Protection Circle_avater_due i Ikon

Before I get into the real meat of the book, I thought I’d take a little time to let you in on my background.

One of the strange and interesting things that happened to me while writing this book is that I realized how certain aspects of surveillance, surveillance detection and covert operations can be traced back to how I was raised and where my unconventional life has led me. For those of you who just want to get on with the main content of the book, feel free to skip over this chapter. But if you want to find out a bit more about me, and understand how someone like me wound up where I am, please read on.

Early days

Let’s start from the beginning: I was born and raised on a small kibbutz (a communal farm) on the northwest tip of Israel—just three miles south of the Lebanese border. Because my father had immigrated to Israel from the United States and my mother from Canada, I grew up speaking both Hebrew and English. I never thought much of this, since many of my friends had the exact same background and upbringing.

splintered identity 1
Childhood on the kibbutz

In retrospect, however, I think that being bilingual played a significant part in getting me to where I am now. Language is much more than words and sentences; it represents a complete way of thinking and expressing yourself. Being bilingual doesn’t just mean you can fluently speak two languages; it means you can think in two different ways. I’m virtually a different person in Hebrew than I am in English, and the ability to slip in and out of different personalities is a skill I’ve made good use of over the years.

Another advantage of being bilingual, especially in such different languages as Hebrew and English, is that it made it easier to learn additional languages (and therefore think in even more different ways). It took me quite a few years to realize I had a knack for languages because I wasn’t a very good student in school. I was such a bad and rowdy student during seventh grade Arabic classes that my teacher actually hit me over the head with a heavy book and threatened to kill me. By the time I got to the eighth grade, I was officially kicked out of Arabic class, and to this day I’m embarrassed I don’t speak the language.

It was only after graduating from high school that I discovered my affinity for learning new languages. This realization came in the form of a Swedish girlfriend who spent a few months on my kibbutz as part of the Volunteer working holiday program. Though her English was close to perfect, I wanted to impress her and her friends by throwing around a few words and sentences in Swedish. By asking questions and writing down sentences on pieces of scrap paper, I was carrying on simple conversations in Swedish after only a few weeks. It got to point where it wasn’t even about impressing my girlfriend anymore; I just really wanted to become as proficient as I could in Swedish. In fact, I got even better at it after she went back to Sweden.

It was around that time (age 17–18) that I fell deeply in love with martial arts and started training and sparring with whomever I could find. I went through karate, kung-fu, Krav Maga, tae-kwon-do, ninjutsu and whatever techniques the ex-special forces guys I knew could teach me.

Slowly but surely, I came up with the dream of going to Japan to study Aikido. This dream was a pretty unlikely one as is, and no one I knew actually took me seriously. But standing in the way was an even bigger problem—a time-consuming and potentially dangerous one—mandatory military service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

IDF

For various reasons, I’m not going to give many details about my military service. It’s impossible to summarize or adequately convey what an IDF service is like. I can tell you that during my service, I become a tank commander and then a staff sergeant, and got to experience quite a few things in quite a few places. My service took me from lush, green mountainous terrain to desolate, desert flatlands and from large, comfortable bases with amenities, swimming pools, and female instructors to small, dangerous outposts in Southern Lebanon, where we came under fire on a daily basis.

My military service was, for the most part, not all that bad by mid 1990s standards. That said, I came under fire enough times, escaped some really close calls and lost enough friends to make me truly grateful I got out in one piece. All those mortar rounds in Lebanon managed to miss me. All those anti-tank missiles were shot at tanks I wasn’t in. All those machine gun bullets that accidentally hit my tank during training (as my head was sticking out of the tank) didn’t hit me. The hand grenade that sprayed my tank with shrapnel only caught one of my fingers that was sticking out (I yanked out the piece of “frag” from my finger myself). And all those times I came really close to getting my head crushed or having a limb snapped off in the tank were somehow narrowly avoided. As I walked out of the discharge office in the end of my service, I ceremonially patted myself down to take inventory: two legs, two arms, two balls and a fully functional head on my shoulders. All in all, not too bad—too many people I knew didn’t make it out as well as that.

I’ve subsequently written another article about my IDF service which you can find here.

Though pretty much everyone I knew had told me that by the time I got out of the army my Japan dream would have faded from memory, it only got stronger as time progressed. It took me about a year after the army to sort out all the details, finances, and various other issues, but in September of 1998 I finally landed in Tokyo.

The next stage of my life had begun.

Japan-US-Canada-Japan

I had originally entered Japan on a tourist visa, which gave me three months to be in the country. I booked a three-month stay at the closest hostel I could find to my aikido dojo and put every ounce of my energy into training.

This was no ordinary dojo. In my mind, nothing but the best would do, so I went straight to the top—to the international headquarters of aikido—the founder’s school—known as the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. I entered the dojo as a complete beginner, having never even set foot on an aikido mat before. As hard as it was, I insisted on taking every single beginner’s class on the schedule, which amounted to three classes a day.

Sometime during my three-month stay, I began to understand I had a major problem on my hands. Before departing to Japan, I was in a serious relationship and even living with my then-girlfriend. We had desperately tried to square my martial arts dreams with our desire to be together, which was why I only went to Japan for three months. We had one of those classic tear-soaked airport goodbyes during which we kept reminding ourselves that it would only be for three months.

But now that I was finally living my childhood dream, could I just give it all up after three months and go back to Israel? It felt like torture—being pulled in two opposite directions. But half-way through my stay, my girlfriend decided to rid me of this dilemma and dumped me.

The experience was devastating. Not only was I dumped on the phone (standing in a dank Shinjuku public phone booth), but adding to my shattered heart was the fact that in my absence, I had been effectively evicted from our shared apartment. My now ex-girlfriend had packed up everything I owned and mailed it to my parents’ house in cardboard boxes.

I had no home to go back to, and my visa was going to expire in a few weeks. I decided I would stay in Japan, but this meant I had to sort out my visa issue. The idea of going in and out of the country on tourist visas every three months didn’t appeal to me, so I began to look for a long-term solution.

Having an American father and a Canadian mother means that in addition to my Israeli citizenship, I also have both American and Canadian citizenships. (I have three passports.) Searching for a good, long-term setup to extend my stay in Japan, I came across the Canadian Working Holiday Visa. There was just one problem—this visa could only be obtained from a Japanese embassy or consulate in Canada.

At that point, I already had to exit Japan before my tourist visa expired, so I accepted the offer of relatives to stay with them in Los Angeles until I sorted out my next steps. This took a bit longer than I expected, but eight weeks later, off to Canada I went (in February, of all times).

It’s a curious thing to enter a country you’ve never been to before as a full citizen. It almost felt like cheating, the way the Canadian customs officer barely glanced at my unused Canadian passport, and welcomed me “back home” without even stamping the thing.

In Canada, things proved to be trickier than I had expected. Working my way through the long visa application process necessitated, how shall I say, a bit of creativity. The Canadian-Japanese Working Holiday Visa is available only to Canadian residents, and the application forms included having to detail where I lived and worked in Canada, where I grew up in Canada, and even which Canadian high school I graduated from. And all this was to be followed by an in-person interview at the Japanese consulate.

In retrospect, this was one of the turning points of my life. I could either back down from the idea, which meant I would probably have to go back to Israel (to stay at my parents’ house), or I could invent a new Canadian identity for myself and keep going. I decided on the latter.

In order to pull this off, I would need to create an elaborate cover story. Not only did I have to put the invented details of my Canadian life on paper, I had to also commit them to memory for my interview at the consulate. What I discovered (and have subsequently made good use of professionally) is that a good cover story shouldn’t include any interesting details. If you just make it boring enough, no one is tempted to dig too deeply into it.

My identity was of a 23-year-old Canadian from Waterloo, Ontario—a boring town about an hour south of Toronto, and where I was actually staying. My mother was from Montreal (which was true), and I was born in Israel (a fact I couldn’t cover up, since it appeared on my passport). The rest of my Canadian identity was completely invented however. I was basically unemployed since graduating from some unimportant high school in Waterloo and had never been to Japan before (this only appeared on my American passport). All my papers were in order, and the Japanese interviewer at the consulate practically yawned himself through my interview.

A few weeks later I was on a flight from Toronto to Tokyo—Working Holiday Visa in hand. I had left Israel as an Israeli, entered Japan and the U.S. as an American, and after a few weeks in Ontario, was on my way back to Japan as a Canadian.

Aikido

Aikido falls in the category of “soft” martial arts. This means that rather than using “hard” strikes and blocks, aikido techniques redirect the opponent’s energy and use it against him. Many people can’t quite see beyond aikido’s joint manipulations and flashy throws, but aikido takes you very deeply into the mechanics, psychology, and even spirituality of body mechanics, power, movement and flow. The key to most aikido techniques is to find various unconventional, oftentimes surprising ways to redirect and unbalance your opponent. Once this is achieved, you can throw him, lock him up, or subdue him.

splintered identity 2
Getting started at the dojo, 1998. 

Though I had, by the time I arrived in Japan, established a solid, hard martial arts basis, I always thought that aikido more suited my flexible and unconventional mindset. This proved to be very much the case, and aikido further deepened my flexibility and adaptability.

After returning to Japan, I again threw myself hard and deep into my martial arts training, and even added an ancient stick-fighting art to my aikido studies. As committed as I had been to martial arts up till that point, this is when I became an outright fanatic.

As overdramatic as it sounds now, at the time it felt like I lost everything I had in pursuit of my dream. Martial arts training not only became the only thing I wanted to do; it felt like the only thing that gave my life any meaning.

It might sound like a pretty dark place to be in, but there’s something intoxicating, even addictive, about living a completely pure and focused life—one with no nuances, confusions or strings attached. Though I later became weary of most types of fanaticism, having personally experienced a very potent form of it, I definitely understand its romantic allure. It makes me laugh a bit to recall this, but I remember feeling like I was starring in my own action-adventure movie. I was the hero who had lost everything, and was now on some desperate do-or-die martial arts quest in a faraway land.

I do believe there are many benefits to pushing yourself beyond your natural limits, as I did at the time, but in retrospect, I can’t endorse the unhealthy level to which my fanaticism took me. Every ache or injury I sustained on the training mat was met by nothing less than my pounding it out till it relented and went away. It got to a point where my right shoulder would sometimes dislocate on the mat, and I would pop it back in myself, then continue training after a short break.

Nevertheless, maintaining this level of intensity not only earned me two first degree black belts after only two years, it completely altered the way I walk, move and think. Far beyond mere physicality, aikido is an entire philosophy—teaching you how to flow, adapt, and surreptitiously unbalance and undermine opponents. It teaches you a great deal about yourself and about other people, and I have subsequently made good use of the habits it has instilled in me.

splintered identity 3
With friends at the dojo 2002.

Learning Japanese

Another undertaking I invested myself in was learning the Japanese language. I had neither the time nor the money for any formal education, so I applied my previously discovered penchant for languages to learning Japanese. To pull this off, I bought a few textbooks and dictionaries and sought out any opportunity to practice words and phrases with the people around me. Within about three months, I was able to carry out simple (and even some not so simple) conversations. And within six months, I was freaking out a few of my friends with my conversation abilities.

The beauty of learning a new language is that it’s so much more than just acquiring a mechanism for communication. It introduces you to a whole new world. I already knew a bit of this, having grown up bilingual and picking up Swedish, but that didn’t come close to what I experienced when I learned Japanese.

After you spend a bit of time in a foreign country, let alone a country as unique as Japan, you get used to being surrounded by the sounds of an alien culture and people (in point of fact, it’s actually you who is the alien). But when you learn the language (especially as quickly as I did), the notion of “far-away exotic land” gets quickly replaced with familiarity and even a strange sense of belonging. I would catch myself, say, eating lunch at a ramen shop or sitting on a train, and realize I understood everyone’s conversations around me. It seemed like five minutes earlier I had been surrounded by “strange sounds in an exotic Asian locale”, now it was just people talking about their work, a kid asking his mom for a treat, a young woman asking her boyfriend to call her when he got back from his weekend trip, and so on.

Lest you think I’m complaining about my “exotic Asian wonderland” being suddenly replaced by normal mundane life, let me assure you that It was just the opposite. I can’t tell you how exciting it was (albeit in a different way) to suddenly understand people. It so brilliantly reaffirmed the fact that we’re all the same, that everyone in the world is essentially dealing with the same kind of stuff. Of course, any thinking person already knows this on one level or another, but it really does make a difference when you experience it in such an intense way. To me, this is when I stopped being a tourist and firmly became a resident of Japan. And this is why till this day, Japan still feels like home to me.

I had somewhat of a similar experience when I taught myself to read and write. The Japanese language has three different writing systems that are blended together: Kanji (漢字) are Chinese characters, or ideograms (numbering in the thousands). Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ) are two simpler systems of phonetic letters.

My learning process started with my closing myself off in my tiny room for an entire weekend of cramming both Hiragana and Katakana into my head. Learning so quickly how to read a new language (or at least a small portion of it) once again had quite a freaky effect. I remember emerging from my tiny room on Monday morning to go to aikido practice, walking down the same familiar streets on the way to the dojo, and suddenly being able to read many of the familiar signs I had gotten used to seeing. All those exotic, cryptic Asian symbols suddenly just told me things like “ramen shop,” “laundromat” and “fruit store” (where, by the way, “apples are on sale”).

Creating a false identity

Learning how to create false identities and cover stories is something people usually associate with trainees who’ve been recruited into intelligence agencies. My own self-taught introduction to this field wasn’t nearly as important or dramatic as that, but it was certainly extensive. It began when I had to convince the Japanese consulate in Toronto that I was a born and bred Canadian, but it really reached its peak when I had to invent yet another identity in Tokyo, and maintain it for years.

Finding work in Tokyo was a real challenge for me when I first started out. Most English speakers simply went for the job of English language teacher. So I started answering job ads, and was invited to a few interviews. It became very apparent however that I had a big problem. The demand in the adult learning market was primarily for Americans who could give their pupils a fun experience of learning from, and conversing with, an all-American guy. I, on the other hand, was an Israeli (just out of the IDF) who also had American citizenship but who was living in Japan on a Canadian visa. Pretty much everyone who interviewed me thought that was “very interesting,” but I would get no job offer in the end.

Since I was seriously running out of money at that stage, I realized that I had to take a different approach. It once again hit me that I didn’t really have anywhere to go back to, and that I had lost everything just to be where I was. I had left Japan to go all the way to Canada via the U.S. to get a work visa. I was finally living my martial arts dream, and now it was all about to go down the toilet because I couldn’t get a fucking job to afford staying there. It was just too much to take. If an all-American guy was what people wanted, and if that was the only thing that could keep me in Japan, then by god that’s what I’d give ‘em.

The person I invented for this role was Michael Toben, an LA native whose mother was from Canada (hence the visa), and who could—and did—talk at length about what life was like in LA, what he liked doing there for fun, and even, if necessary, which LA high school he had graduated from (John Marshall High School).

I based much of this identity on my father’s (who was born and raised in Los Angeles) and on what I knew, having spent a good amount of time there myself. People loved it. By the end of that year I was teaching at two vocational schools and one after-school children’s center and had lots of private lessons I was teaching all around town. It got to where I had to turn down offers because work was taking over too much training time.

Many people who achieve a level of expertise in a certain field only get to that level because they have no other choice. In my case, I would either become an expert at maintaining a false identity or go hungry and be forced to leave everything I had worked so hard to achieve. I opted for the former and got so good at maintaining my false identity that it became a natural part of me. Michael Toben had an entire professional and social life that was comprised of dozens of people who employed me, worked with me, took my classes, befriended me, went out with me, and even invited me to their homes to meet their families.

Maintaining a false identity for such a long period of time tends to produce some, how shall I put it, “interesting” situations—especially when multiple people in the same city knew either one identity or the other (or, in some cases, both). Talking on the phone was sometimes a challenge. I would by default answer the phone in English, and in some situations (when I was with someone who knew me as Michael) would have to continue talking in English even though the person on the other end of the line was an Israeli friend talking to me in Hebrew. (My Israeli friends knew what was going on and would often tease me about it.)

One place where this “situation” came to a head was my favorite bar in the Shinjuku district. I spent a good amount of time there with my Israeli friends who were living in town and became quite friendly with the bartender. One evening, one of my longtime students wanted to take me out for drinks after her private lesson. She insisted on taking me to one of her favorite bars in Shinjuku, which, as you can already guess, turned out to be the same bar I frequented. She, it turned out, had also become friendly with the bartender, and after insisting on our sitting at the bar, promptly introduced me to him as Michael.

Most good bartenders (especially Japanese ones) adhere to the unwritten code of discretion that their profession entails. But I was both grateful for, and impressed by, how naturally he played along as he pretended to meet “Michael” for the first time. The next time I went there for a drink (carefully checking to see that my client wasn’t there), I thanked him for his impeccable performance, and we both had a good laugh about it.

It was only a decade later, when I was getting into the surveillance detection field, that I realized how useful my Tokyo experience had become. In fact, there have been undercover situations in Israel and in the United States when I brought Michael Toben out of retirement. I still do it from time to time, and it feels good to slip back into his familiar identity. It’s like putting on an old favorite jacket you keep in your closet, or reliving some nostalgic memory.

Coming to America

During my fourth year in Japan, I was beginning to realize that as much as I loved it there, I was outgrowing my small life of training and teaching English. Having met many Americans in Tokyo over the years, it became apparent to me that an American university degree tended to swing academic and professional doors wide open, and seemed to be a common denominator of a larger, more interesting life in Japan. It didn’t even seem to matter what the degree was in as long as it was from a reputable university. Many of my acquaintances had degrees in Asian Studies or Japanese, which suited me just fine.

The fact that I had barely managed to graduate from high school in Israel didn’t deter me (not after all I’d been through), and I came up with a plan to temporarily move to the U.S., go to a top university, and then return to Japan—diploma in hand—ready to advance myself to the next level.

The first part of the plan worked quite well. I wanted to stay on the West Coast of the United States (in order to be closer to Japan) and find a reputable university in a city that also had a well-connected aikido dojo. I found this exact combination in Berkeley, California. Upon my arrival, I quickly joined the Berkeley Aikikai dojo (which is owned by the famous Ichiro Shibata sensei) and enrolled in a junior college in order to acquire enough credits to transfer to the University of California, Berkeley. It took a bit longer than I originally planned, but I eventually managed to achieve my goal—graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in Japanese language and literature.

The second part of the plan—the one that had me returning to Japan with my diploma—didn’t quite work out. But this seemingly disappointing outcome is responsible for the most important things in my life now: the family I have in San Francisco, my professional career, and this very book you’re reading right now.

My life in security

By 2004, I’d been living in California for a couple of years and found my interests in politics (especially Middle Eastern politics) reigniting. I had been almost completely oblivious to any and all political affairs during my time in Japan. But living in Berkeley gave me a front-row seat from which to observe the upheaval surrounding the Iraq war and the ultra-violent second intifada (uprising) that was raging in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

An Israeli friend of mine had told me when I first arrived that living in Berkeley would test my left wing, liberal leanings (which I got from my upbringing), and he was correct. What I experienced during those early years in the Bay Area would forever change my political views.

I would see banners and stickers with the Star of David being equated to a swastika. I would encounter blood-dripping Israeli flags and anti-Semitic caricatures (featuring fanged, big-nosed, murderous Jews). I would have people tell me—to my face—that my family in Israel should “Go back to Poland,” and that if they didn’t, they deserved to be blown to shreds by Palestinian suicide bombers.

splintered identity 8
One of the many San Francisco protests before the Iraq War. 

Though I wasn’t living in the Middle East at the time, the San Francisco Bay Area was the perfect place to see how the leftist anti-war and anti-Israel movements (which had been largely nonviolent) were being co-opted by local, and even some international, elements with extremist agendas. Much of this would later be dubbed the “Regressive Left,” and watching its formation was truly alarming.

I would see well-meaning but empty-headed members of organizations like Code Pink and Jewish Voice For Peace standing right next to young Islamists in ski masks and Kafiya face covers, yelling and chanting profanities in Arabic. Though I don’t consider myself an Arabic speaker, my Arabic was good enough to understand their shouts to “kill the Jews” and the chants that “Jews are our dogs,” which the monolingual hippies and hipsters who were standing next to them (many of whom were Jewish themselves) were too ignorant to understand.

It’s a bizarre thing to see liberals and pacifists protest in favor of ruthless dictatorships (like that of Saddam Hussein) and support violent theocratic organizations (like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah). I still had very vivid memories of running into our safe-room and putting on my gas mask as Saddam Hussein’s missiles were exploding in Israel back during the first Gulf War. I had friends and family members who very narrowly avoided being killed by the suicide bombers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And I had lived most of my life being shot at by the Hezbollah organization, which was lobbing rockets into my kibbutz, and which had killed army friends of mine in Lebanon. Experiencing all of this, along with my increasing interest in intelligence and counterterrorism, is what ultimately led me to the high-end security industry. I was tired of seeing what was going on from my front-row seat and decided to trade it in for a frontline position.

As an Israeli with military experience, getting into the security industry wasn’t much of a stretch, and I was proud to start working for an Israeli-run company that provided high-end terrorist activity prevention services to Jewish and Israeli clients. While my security work also served as a convenient college job, my dedication to it was quickly noticed, and before long, I was rising up in the ranks of what turned out to be a rapidly growing security company. By 2008, I had acquired quite a bit of field experience and had worked for or alongside many political organizations, Fortune 500 corporations, the Israeli government, wealthy Silicon Valley executives, Jewish organizations, multiple foreign governments, and every single law enforcement and federal agency in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Four years of work experience at this level caused me to believe that I had a solid grasp on high-end protective services. I had developed a highly effective hostile activity prevention program and had helped take the company’s field operations, training, and supervision departments to a higher level. But all of this was about to change when in the summer of 2008, I was sent to Israel to receive surveillance detection training.

Down the Rabbit Hole of Surveillance Detection

Having never formally trained in surveillance detection before, I wrongly assumed that the course I was entering would largely cover the type of work I had spent four years becoming proficient at. I therefore expected my skills in terrorist activity prevention to help me succeed in the course and entered it with quite a bit of confidence. As it turned out, nothing could have knocked that false sense of confidence out of me faster than the Israeli surveillance detection course I took.

For me, the most earth-shattering thing about that course was how it undermined my notion of reality. I could say that it changed the way I would forever look at the field of security, but that would be a gross understatement. The course taught me how to look at everything and everyone in a completely different way, and I couldn’t turn it off—even when I wanted to. I tried hard to go back to the comfortable ignorance I had been living in, but it was almost impossible to ignore what I now knew. Like getting yanked out of the Matrix, once your eyes are opened, there’s really no going back.

To summarize what the course taught me, it began with how to conduct hostile surveillance, gain crucial information, and penetrate secured locations on a level that would be invisible even to experienced security professionals. It then went to an even deeper level, teaching me how to detect such surveillance activities and how to do so without the covert surveillant knowing about it.

The course was almost exclusively conducted in the field and ranged (quite wildly) from the Tel-Aviv beachfront to the ancient, bustling markets of Jerusalem’s Old City. Incorporated into the field exercises were trainers and hostile surveillance role-players who had real-world government sector experience in these types of things. There was nothing theoretical about it, and my trainers were introducing me to a hidden yet very real dimension of life that existed all around me (and around everyone else for that matter).

Ami DS photo 3
Trying (not all that successfully) to maintain a cover of a tourist in Jerusalem’s Old City.

I would have loved to boast about how I used my earlier training and experience to detect these individuals, but the little that I did manage (right at the end) was pretty much due to their purposely allowing me to detect them so I could experience at least a modicum of success. To say that this was a humbling experience would be yet another understatement.

It turned out that in addition to my inability to detect the hostile surveillance activities they were role-playing for me, these experienced professionals had also been covertly following and keeping tabs on me pretty much the entire time I was out in the field. I was even shown photographic proof of this. When I met some of them after my final exercise, they gave me a rundown of what I needed to improve on. The list was quite long. They were nice enough to put a positive and even encouraging face on it, but the fact of the matter was that it really cut me down to size. It was by far the most humbling experience I’ve had in my professional career, but it subsequently propelled me to a much higher level.

After returning to the U.S., I realized that the lasting effects of this course were going to be a challenge. It hit me that what had previously seemed like well-secured facilities now looked completely naked and vulnerable. Telling my boss as much (and wording it far more strongly than I should have) made him understandably upset with me. After all, it was he who had sent me to this course so I could bring back the knowledge of how to enhance our protective capabilities. And now here I was telling him that it was pointless, that we would need to turn the entire company upside down to even get close. Every security professional now seemed clueless and vulnerable, and I contemplated leaving the company, and the industry, altogether. It just seemed pointless.

It took me a little while to realize that as much as I had learned about the world, I would also need to learn how to balance it out—or more exactly, balance myself out. To a certain extent, every place is vulnerable to people with the set of skills I had learned—especially to those who are way more skilled and experienced than me. But there’s not much use in dwelling in fear.

In the years since I’ve taken the course, my skills have largely improved precisely because I learned how to calm down and relax during field operations. No one goes through life without accepting a certain amount of risk. Those of us who work in high-level security aren’t any different—we just know much more about the risks and therefore have much more to accept.

I’m going to end this little autobiography here since much of what I’ve been up to since my surveillance detection training will be revealed throughout the book. The purpose of this chapter was to give you a glimpse into my unconventional life, and to explain how I ended up where I am today.

Now, let’s get things going.

In the following chapters, I’ll let you in on the secrets of the trade, tell you some true stories from the field, and reveal the largely unknown world of surveillance, surveillance detection and unconventional protective operations.

Protection Circle_avater_due i Ikon

Get my book, Surveillance Zone now!
Go behind the scenes of corporate surveillance detection & covert special operations. Get a first-person account of actual covert operations I’ve participated in. Learn the secrets of the trade and discover a hidden world that’s all around you.

SZ_banner-2.3_web

One thought on “Prologue – My Unconventional Background

  1. I have a friend who got to talk to the founder of aikido who was putting on a demonstration at a us military base in japan. He put his hands behind his back and walked between two rows of MPs who were unable to grab or strike him. He could also break a roofing shingle in the middle of a bundle, without breaking the ones on top. My friend asked him how he did it, the reply was People think I break I it with my hand, but I really break it with my mind.

Leave a Reply