Guilt by Association

When searching for media articles, we are reporting more often about the tricks editors use to create guilt by association. It is important for the Investigator to recognise and report the  most common tricks used by editors to promote their social or political agendas. Bias in a news media article is as important as the content of the article.

The most common sly trick we see is the ways in which photo captions are used to support the editor’s social or political agenda after reporters have turned in an otherwise objective article.

The most common guilt by association Web trick is to run a news story immediately before, and with a link to, a story that supports the editor’s agenda.

Reporting on these editorial tricks is an important part of evaluating the data in the article.


The Cost of Investigative Internet Research

Why does it cost so much just to look on the Internet?”

I get this question a lot, and too often from “professionals” who should know better. I will list a few of the reasons here.

To begin with, I never know how the research results will be used in the future. That means that the results must be properly documented so that it would be reproducible if someone else with similar skill did the searches at the same time as I did.

If at some future date what I find becomes important evidence, then how it was found, where it was found, when it was found, and what it actually looked like becomes very important. My report and the supporting material may be the only proof of the existence of the material being entered into evidence.

The computers must be free of malicious code (S. 31 Canada Evidence Act). We often set aside a computer for this purpose after doing some Spring-Cleaning.

The logic of the research process must be clear and easy to explain to anyone. This logic must be explained in the report. Search statements must be recorded. The project directory and file naming and structures must be logical and properly documented. The evidence must have a clear and documented chain of custody.

Providing this evidence requires skill, training, experience, software, computers, office space, support staff, and time.  Finally, did you know it takes at least twice as long to do the report as it does to do the research?


The RICE Method of Analysis

Use the RICE method to decide how to respond to information or intelligence:

R for reliability. The basic truthfulness or accuracy of the information you are evaluating.

I  for the importance of the data based upon its releveance

C  for the cost of your possible reactions or actions relating to the information

E  for the effectiveness of your  actions based upon this information. Would actions based upon this information solve the problems you face?

This format is useful for summarizing collected data and for analyzing how you might apply the data in a broad range of situations.


Just remember, as the old pessimist philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer stated, “The truth will set you free . . . but first it will make you miserable.”

Three Dimensions of Note-taking

I have written previously on taking notes using audio, images, and handwritten notes. Now I am contemplating taking video notes using a simple camcorder called the FlipUltra. This seems like a briefcase-friendly device for this purpose. The problem with the alternatives is the size and weight of the device.  This simple plug-and-play device is good for conducting interviews, taking street scenes, and other recordings that use-up less than 60 minutes of recording time. Using the FlipUltra should be a lot easier and give better results than using my point-and-shoot Lumix camera and of course, longer recording time.

Disappearing & Invisible Ink


This writes like a normal pen, but if you heat the paper the written words disappear. Putting the paper in the freezer makes the words reappear.


This pen features a special gel ink developed by real KGB scientists during the Cold War (and made in Russia), that disappears completely. Because it is a gel pen, you don’t need to press hard which prevents paper indenting.

UV Sensitive INK PEN

I guess every good spy needs to have his missives disappear, but I  need to secretly mark documents for later reference.

Pens like this have been  around for quite some time.  The Fisher Space Pen was at one time offered with UV Sensitive Ink refills. I occasionally use UV sensitive ink to mark important documents for security purposes.

Quantity Over Quality

In the past US security clearance investigations were falsified. Now we learn that they have too many background checks to do, and not enough time to do them and the solution is to produce factually correct but incomplete reports. We also see that this job is a “shredder, and agents are grist for the mill,”.

 “This job is a shredder, and agents are grist for the mill,” said K.C. Smith, an OPM investigator in Austin, Texas, with 23 years of experience. “There are people who are getting sick, under a lot of stress, their family life is suffering. They are just beat down.”

Investigators say it is common practice to spend nights, weekends and holidays writing up reports, and some don’t report the overtime they work for fear it will be held against them in their performance evaluations.

 Investigators say it is common practice to spend nights, weekends and holidays writing up reports, and some don’t report the overtime they work for fear it will be held against them in their performance evaluations.

Some say their superiors have made it clear that the priority is to close cases, and they say they have felt pressure to turn in even incomplete cases that lack crucial interviews or records if it will help them keep their numbers up. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that the Defense Department’s security clearance process is plagued by such incomplete cases: 87 percent of the 3,500 initial top-secret security clearance cases Defense approved last year were missing at least one interview or important record.

Investigators are rewarded for investigation reports, not for doing proper investigations.

Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing

Poor writing is not a recent problem. In 1946, George Orwell wrote his essay, Politics and the English Language, about his five rules of writing effectively.  Orwell concluded that if you follow his five rules, then you would distinguish yourself by clearly communicating your ideas.

Orwell’s Rules

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech seen in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.


Texter saves you countless keystrokes by replacing abbreviations with commonly used phrases that you define. It runs in the Windows system tray and works with applications you’re typing in. It can also set return-to markers for your cursor and insert clipboard contents into your replacement text, in addition to more advanced keyboard macros.

How did I ever live without this?

Fact Checking

Every writer, reporter, and investigator should read the article entitled Checkpoint by award-winning author John McPhee in the Feb. 9-16, 2009 issue of New Yorker Magazine . The abstract is available, but you must be a subscriber to read the full article online. Of course, you could go to the library and read the article, or just buy the magazine.

Open Channel D

The Pen Communicator from the Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series would connect agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin with U.N.C.L.E. headquarters in New York City if they said the phrase “Open Channel D”.  It also included amnesia inducer and electronic scanner functions.

Now we have the Pulse smartpen that records conversations and indexes them to what you write using special notebook paper. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of ways one might use this during investigations.

Secret Laser Printer ID Codes

This is not a new issue. A 2004 PC World article described the technology. In February, 2008, I wrote about the EU concerns that these secret printer ID codes may break EU Privacy laws. The EFF has a list of the printers that print these secret codes used by the US government to match a document to the laser printer that produced it.

Another article about this appeared in USA Today a few days ago.

Printer dots raise privacy concerns

The dots, invisible to the naked eye, can be seen using a blue LED light and are used by authorities such as the Secret Service to investigate counterfeit bills made with laser printers…

Privacy advocates worry that the little-known technology could ensnare political dissidents, whistle-blowers or anyone who prints materials that authorities want to track.

The dots are produced only on laser devices and not ink-jet printers, which are most commonly used at home…

As an investigator, this might present an opportunity if the dot pattern is consistent enough to be matched to a particular printer or printer type without being able to decode the dots. If this were the case, then you might not need the ability to decode the dots in some instances. For example, at a company with many different types of laser printers. The process of elimination might indicate which printer(s) could have created a document.