Sunday, June 02, 2019

Record Breaking Heat

Hundreds of Birds Died During Test of a 5G Antenna In The Netherlands USVegan (furzy). Not a great source, but readers in the Netherlands might be able to track this down.
How To Make Your Own AirPods for $4 Motherboard

Prisoner’s dilemma shows exploitation is a basic property of human society MIT Technology Review 

Hospital or Cemetery ... How Charlotte Lindstrom wanted two men put in cemetery

True Crime: Inside the secret world of the NSW undercover branch

Inside the secret world of the NSW Undercover Branch

Josh Harris does a very good impression of a hitman. His ex-colleague Rob makes a great drug dealer, and Mark’s impersonation of an addict is flawless. All have pretended to be — and befriended — paedophiles. They have coaxed confessions from killers, swapped cash for cocaine, and become best pals with embittered civilians who want someone killed.

They are shapeshifters, great pretenders, actors with a gift for playing all kinds of sinners.
“Do you want them in the hospital or the cemetery?” became one agent’s signature line, delivered dead-eyed and cold and just above a whisper, so his hidden microphone would pick it up.
Many undercovers even look like hitmen, if that helps conjure an image — but that is all that can be said about physicality, because these officers’ true identity and any descriptions of them remain court-ordered secrets.
Each morning, they get out of bed and put on a mask. They call themselves “Jeff” or “George” or “Rick”. They might live in Balmain and Parramatta or Randwick. They are married and they are single. They carry three or four phones. They are the state’s finest crime-solving assets, unicorns in the world of law enforcement — full-time operatives with the NSW Undercover Branch.

Former undercover Andrew Curran working as a “bikie” during his career as an operative.

To hear any operative speak is rare but the undercovers who are interviewed for this story have an incredible set of adventures to recount. One brought down the Lin family murderer, Robert Xie, by eliciting damning admissions about one of the worst mass
homicides in NSW history.
Another recorded Charlotte Lindstrom, a beguiling Swedish model, asking him to execute two Crown witnesses.
A third gleaned a vital tip off that led to the arrest of 1980s serial killer Lindsey Robert Rose, a former ambulance officer who quit to work as a private eye, then descended into violent robberies and murder.
Three of the former undercovers interviewed for this investigation chose to speak on the record and gave permission for the use of their real names: Andrew Curran, Andy MacFarlane and Michael Drury, perhaps the most famous undercover cop in NSW history.
These are stories that have never been told before, and some police would have preferred it to stay that way, because the Undercover Branch prides itself on absolute secrecy — not just to the public but within the police force itself. Even to serving cops this unit is mysterious and misunderstood, as foreign as ASIO and just as invisible.
When operatives do step out of the shadows, perhaps on the day of a bust, or in a closed court giving evidence, they appear wraithlike to the average cop; protected and cloistered, surrounded by minders.
“People get caught up in how important you are,” a former operative said. “You’re on a pedestal,” said another.
One undercover, Adam, spent seven months infiltrating a network of paedophiles across NSW, from Sydney to Port Macquarie to Coonabarabran to a sad, rundown caravan park in the regional city of Orange. To do this, he had to all but become a paedophile. He had to absorb the terrible images and memorise the names of each child, the “collections” to which they belonged. He had to study the videos — watch them over and over — so he could dissect them with his targets and pretend he loved every second.
“It was a true test of craft,” Adam said, showing me a Commissioner’s Unit Citation he received for his role, which has never been publicised. The Citation is the highest accolade available to a NSW police officer.
“It was a good test of my undercover skills because I went in cold. I had nothing to offer them — no money, no drugs.”
Because of this work and because Australia’s criminal population is so concentrated, no undercover feels even remotely at ease when they step outside their front door. There is only a slight risk he or she will run into someone they’ve fooled, but it does happen. Once, while buying clothes in a shopping centre, Josh bumped into a woman who, months earlier, had asked him to rob the business where she used to work.
Another time, at an airport carpark, Rob locked eyes with a man who had just been released from prison. They recognised each other immediately — Rob had met the man numerous times at an inner city cafe, bought obscene amounts of cocaine from him, and assured him repeatedly that he wasn’t a cop.

The most famous undercover cop in NSW, former detective Michael Drury, who survived two assassination attempts.

Inherently dangerous and life-threatening at times, it’s somewhat contradictory this daring, exacting career path remains attractive to people.

A 1986 study of 82 serving and non-serving undercover officers working for the Honolulu Police Department found the job steeply increased feelings of guilt, anxiety, loneliness, and put pressure on marriages.
There has been little scientific examination of the profession since, especially in NSW, where operatives undergo mandatory psychological assessments and are restricted to fixed terms, after which they have to return to mainstream policing, an enormous anticlimax and struggle in itself.
One of the only Australian studies into undercover policing — a 2003 PhD dissertation by Dr Nicole French, a psychologist who surveyed operatives nationwide — found this transition period often seals the deal on an operative’s career, leaving them deflated, unappreciated, and stigmatised by their uniformed colleagues, many of whom, due to the secrecy, have no idea what the work involves.
“Regular police think you are drug f**ked,” an operative told the study. A second said, “They think we are nothing but drug smoking hippies.”
A third remarked, “I thought about leaving but I have no other skills.”
This “reintegration” process — the return to rosters and logbooks and a uniform — is the inevitable comedown off the wild ride of deep-cover work, a career that offers zero public glory or recognition and, for all its hardships, pays roughly the same salary as that of a beat cop, a junior detective, or a shelf-stacker at Woolworths.

Put simply, there are safer ways to make a living, and yet there is never a shortage of applicants wanting to step through its hidden doorway.
“It’s a great feeling when you pull a big job,” said Andy MacFarlane, a decorated operative who spent nine years working undercover.
“It’s the thrill of the chase. The great unknown,” he said.
“It was one of those units that people lathered up to try get to, because they were fascinated by it, but not always willing to step through the looking glass.”

One undercover, Rob, can attest to this. He wore many hats while working undercover but donned many others before joining the cops. He was a barista, a gardener, a driver for an electrician’s business and a childcare worker before finally enlisting to become a police officer. In the early 2000s he graduated from the academy and was posted to Western Sydney, then a hotbed of Middle Eastern criminal activity, his first year whirling by in a torrent of mundane traffic accidents, domestic disputes and point duty. He considered quitting but his boss talked him into a transfer to a plainclothes unit.
One day, some colleagues asked him to manage surveillance on a small-time dealer selling $20 “sticks” of pot from a house in Riverwood. Through a camera lens, Rob watched as “pool undercovers” — fully trained agents who work part-time — bluffed their way inside and walked out with little bags of evidence. He was awed. “It was exciting,” he said. “It was sexy. I thought, ‘That’s what I want to be doing’.”
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller did not participate in this story, apart from offering this comment: “The NSW Police Undercover Branch is right up there with the best in the world and I am incredibly proud of the work they do. Only recently I met with very senior police from across Europe who were out here to see how we do it. I was an undercover supervisor myself back in the late ’90s so I have a great understanding of the craft and absolute admiration for these officers.”


A point so obvious that it’s almost not worth mentioning is you need to be a good liar if you want to be an undercover cop. There are, of course, many other prerequisites, like resilience and grit and life experience and nous and an ability to read people. But underpinning it all is the ability to spin a yarn, to extricate oneself from a jam if necessary — and it will become necessary, the training itself makes this clear. Exercises are designed to mess with recruits’ heads. They’re recorded and played back to highlight a lack of ease with a drug deal, or bad eye contact, or the slightest hesitation at a tough question.
People have frozen up under the pressure of this grilling, or crumpled into tears when asked about their drug history, which isn’t necessarily frowned upon in this area of policing. Operatives are marked down if they’re too stiff, too straight.
   This selection panel is just the final stage of the gauntlet. First, there’s a live-in course, a psychometric assessment, a medical, and hours and hours of role-playing scenarios where recruits are tested on how well they deflect a line of cocaine, or the allegation that they’re actually a cop.
The Sunday Telegraph pieced together a general picture of this training through civil court documents, methods used overseas, and interviews with former operatives, supervisors, trainers, and other police officials who agreed to speak on-the-record and anonymously.
It all starts with a one-week Street Level Operatives course where students are taught the basics of buying drugs. Some of these cops have never used a bong before, or seen an ice pipe. They have to memorise the slang dictionary, learn the difference between an “8-ball” and an ounce, and are given a rundown on prices so they don’t overpay for a gram of coke.
They discover that their first assignments, at the bottom levels of the drug world, will probably be “cold”, meaning they’ll arrive on the dealer’s doorstep without the benefit of an introduction.
Later, they can apply for the live-in training course. Held at a covert location, the trainees develop longer-term cover identities and undergo testing for up to 18 hours a day.
“They increase the pressure of each scenario and teach techniques along the way,” a former operative said.
Instructors playing drug dealers will attempt to pat down the trainees, move the ‘deal’ to a less secure location, or throw random curve ball questions to push recruits off balance (“Why was there a vacant lot at the address listed on your driver’s licence?”)
Passing these tests elevates the trainee from a Street-Level Operative to a ‘Pool Undercover’, a part-time position which involves more distinguished targets: mid-level dealers and syndicate bosses, guys who call themselves ‘businessmen’ but don’t touch the drugs they sell.
  Some will drive a Camry and dress like they need the money, but the less savvy will don the usual gangster finery — a hefty gold chain, a chunky necklace.
But this work and these targets are still dangerous. Police rarely die in the line of duty but when it happens the circumstances tend to be surprisingly routine — a vehicle stop, a neighbourhood dispute, an unforeseen danger lurking within the banality of day-to-day drudge work. Pool undercovers, therefore, never really know what they’re walking into when they’re deployed to a house, or told to meet someone in a carpark. They won’t know if their target is high, or paranoid, or armed with a weapon and setting an ambush.
“If the crook thinks you’re an easy target, you can get knocked over and even killed,” said Michael Drury, a renowned former operative who went on to write the training manual for undercover policing in Australia.
“Occupationally, you are very isolated. You have to meet some of the most undesirable people in our community and tell them you’re their friend, let’s do crime together — sell drugs, child pornography, whatever the case may be. They’re not nice people, morally speaking, and it does have an emotional impact.”
Reaching the Undercover Branch provides slightly more certainty, but only because the targets have been analysed and surveilled ahead of time by the detectives asking for help. At the Branch the jobs also go wider than drug work.
There are ‘hitman’ jobs, ‘decoy’ jobs, ‘paedophile’ jobs and ‘cell’ jobs. There are also ‘homicide’ jobs, where the goal is to elicit a full confession from the target, someone whose secret is buried in a bush grave, or at the bottom of a mine shaft — a secret they were hoping would die along with them.

AU NSW: Court Releases CCTV Footage Used as Evidence in Robert Xie Murder Trial May 07

The NSW Supreme Court released CCTV footage that played a crucial role in the conviction of mur...

Inside the secret world of the NSW Undercover Branch