Operative research is the process of learning how things work in a particular area. As an investigator, I often have to learn how something works or the nature of the skills used in a certain area of human endeavour.
I sometimes start by interviewing people who are in the field, but more often, I do a literature search of the topic before conducting interviews. That leaves me with the task of locating relevant published material that will give me an overview of the topic and allow me to formulate a list of questions to ask during interviews.
The first task in this is to understand how the subject matter is indexed. That means understanding who might have a use for this material. For example, many military topics are also useful to engineers, construction companies, outdoorsmen, miners, sailors, and many more individuals and organisations. Another example would be the topic of physical security.
Once you know who might collect and catalog the subject material that interest you, learn what terms they might use to describe the material. Now add the words “library” and “subject guide” to your search. What you are looking for is a targeted collection of material. Once you find such a collection search the site using the site: operator.
Using the above search strategy in a recent search for information on evacuation of urban areas, I found urbansruvivalsite.com and its library of ebooks. While searching for data on electrical wiring led me to the Pole Shift Survival Information site and its library of publications about wire where I found tables of wire-gauge sizes. When trying to decipher old shorthand notes in a deceased lawyer’s file I found a library of publications about shorthand.
The focus of each of these ‘library’ sites is far removed from my interests, however, the people who created these sites had their own use for the information and that made my job easier.
The excellent book The Dark Side Of Man reports that David Luckenbill studied all of the murderers in a California county over a 10-year period and asked them why they killed their victims. All the death row inmates interviewed listed one of only two reasons for killing:
- 34% said they killed because the victim challenged the killer’s authority
- 66% said they killed because the victim insulted them in some way
What matters is the criminal’s perception. If he perceives a challenge or an insult, he is more likely to kill you.
This information provides a basis for planning a strategy for dealing with criminal violence.
Understand that the criminal is not operating under the same moral imperatives as his victim. A large proportion of violent criminals are psychopaths without any empathy for their victims. Never think, “He won’t shoot me because I wouldn’t shoot him in the same situation.” You would be wrong and this will cost you your life.
False bravado will also get you killed. Criminals learn to quickly judge people and use that judgement to manipulate them. Your bluff will be transparent and you will experience a violent response to your challenge.
Never insult an attacker. There is a big difference between screaming “GET AWAY FROM ME!” and screaming “GET AWAY FROM ME YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” Insulting an armed criminal will not yield positive results.
Be especially cautious during the times when the criminal is under the most stress and be chose your words carefully, especially at the early and end stages of the attack.
Develop a verbal response for the most likely scenarios you may face rather than thinking on the fly, just say exactly what you have practiced. Your script should avoid any challenging language or insults. Deliver your script in a calm monotone even if you are planning violent resistance. Surprise is a very potent weapon in your arsenal.
If you are in an environment that exposes you or your staff to the risk of criminal attack, then The Dark Side Of Man is a book you must read.
Know your enemy and plan to prevail.
The use of an unmanned aircraft (UAV) or drone to conduct surveillance is contentious public issue when government does it. When the private sector does it, it is particularly contentious.
As a speaker at a training event in Toronto, Ontario, I was asked about using UAVs for surveillance. This surprised me, as these were experienced private investigators. What follows was my answer to these questions.
If a private investigator intrudes into an area where the subject has a reasonable expectation of privacy and takes pictures and video, then that material is likely to be excluded by any court in Canada. The investigator must respect the Criminal Code as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws regarding trespassing and privacy. The investigator may also face criminal charges or civil suit. A civil suit will name everybody even remotely associated with the sordid affair. These consequences pale in the face of what will happen next.
When a UAV is used for work done for hire and reward, as in a private investigation, a Special Operation Flight Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada is required. Aeronautics Act defines hire and reward as “any payment, consideration, gratuity or benefit, directly or indirectly charged, demanded, received or collected by any person for the use of an aircraft.”
The Canadian Air Regulations (CAR) Section 602.41 states that no person shall operate an unmanned air vehicle in flight except in accordance with a Special Flight Operation Certificate. Any violation of the CAR may result in substantial penalties: up to $5000 for an individual and $25,000 for a corporation. The UAV operator bears civil liability if property damage or injury occurs. If the video or image evidence was gathered in contravention of CAR do you think any court would allow the material in evidence? If the court did allow it, would the rest of your evidence be credible?
It takes 20 days to get a SFOC for each flight. Do you think the Transport Canada would even consider giving a private investigator such a permit? Can you plan your surveillance 20 days in advance?
In the U.S.A., commercial operation of a UAV it is still illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering allowing commercial UAV use in 2015.
My book, Sources and Methods for Investigative Internet Research, is now available at a reduced price of $19.95 at our online store until Friday, 7 November 2014. For a description of the book or to buy it go to our Publications page.
The ePub edition is only available from our store.
To be a successful private investigator follow my three rules.
- Spend 95% of your workday doing billable tasks.
- Be incredibly organized, and maintain a fastidious filing system.
- Don’t get distracted by things that aren’t billable hours.
I have begun a reading list for those who wish to improve their investigative skills and knowledge. You can get to my list by clicking on the Reading List tab in the blog header.
I will add to the list over the next few weeks. All the books in the list are ones that I have found to be well written and useful.
When you start to investigate a particular Internet site, I suggest you begin with these resources.
Domain Dossier Investigate domains and IP addresses. Get registrant information, DNS records, and more—all in one report.
InterNIC Public Information Regarding Internet Domain Name Registration Services
Network Solutions’ Whois
DomainSearch.com Search multiple top level domains at once to see if the domain name is in use. I use it to find the domain name in other top level domains.
Convert Host/Domain Name to IP Address and vice versa Find the IP of a host machine (convert host to IP) or domain name (convert domain name to ip address) or find the name of one of the hosts at an IP address (convert ip address).
Using Traceroute Learn how to use and interpret traceroute results.
Additions thanks to Kirby:
hostcabi.net Provides lot of information, but most importantly, it identifies other users of same Google Analytics account and all the sites using that account.
sitedossier.com Sometimes shows older servers, which is useful when website has upgraded to cloud service or CloudFlare.
Date formats are easily misinterpreted. For example, if you write 06-07-07, an American might assume that it represents June 7, 2007 or 1907 and an European might assume that it is 6 July 1907 or 2007. Some might recommend using an unambiguous date system, such as an ISO 8601 European date format, (YYYY-MM-DD) but unless the reader is a government worker they might get the month and date mixed-up.
The best method is to use a 3-letter abbreviation for the month preceded by the day and followed by the full year to avoid any confusion thusly, 6 Jul 2007.
1. Know your client’s motives and intentions.
2. Recognize questions that cannot be answered and those that cannot be answered legally.
3. Do not do anything that you would not do on the steps in front of City Hall.
4. Do not do or say anything you wouldn’t want published in the newspapers or Internet.
5. Do not do anything illegal because it is too inconvenient and difficult to cover your tracks.
6. Do not personate a living person.
7. Do not personate a representative of any existing company (or business) or anything to do with government.
8. Do not cause anybody to be concerned for his or her own safety, or the well being of any person, business, company, or property.
I’ve written about the dangers of believing everything you read and here I go again.
Matti Friedman was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of Associated Press who now exposes a particularly pernicious bias within the established news media. The article is entitled, An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth, and it exposes the news media’s bias against Israel. While I don’t agree with everything Friedman says in the article, my experience tells me that he is right that “the old comfort of parsing the moral failures of Jews, and the feeling of superiority this brings” is alive and well in the news media.
For over 20 years, I have had to sort through bias, prejudice, propaganda, and stupidity from the semblance of fact presented in news articles. Friedman’s article illustrates only one underlying narrative that distorts what passes for news reporting these days. If you must resort to searching for “facts” in news articles, then I urge you to read Friedman’s article.
Here are three simple facts:
- Governments are political.
- Politics is not about the truth–it’s about getting elected at any cost.
- Morally vacuous individuals are attracted to the power inherent in politics and government.
The following is my approach to evaluating the veracity of what government says:
- Record what government or politician(s) said.
- Conduct a detailed comparison of what they said to the data provided by the same government.
- Bureaucrats are political, they champion ideologies, agendas, or politicians that promise them greater power, higher pay or benefits.
- A thorough understanding of statistics and their abuse is required.
- If they continue pushing their agenda in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, then you are witnessing morally vacuous individuals engaged in self-serving propaganda.
My book, Sources and Methods for Investigative Internet Research, is now available at a reduced price of $19.95 at our online store until Saturday, 30 August 2014. For a description of the book go to our Publications page.
The ePub edition is only available from our store.
The mobile phone adaptor USB cable is a combination power-and-data connection that can expose your device to manipulation by some very unsavory characters. This practice is called Juicejacking and I have written about it before.
If you must recharge your mobile devices at a public recharging station then you need to practice safe recharging just like your high school health class recommended.
The USB Condom protects personal and private data stored on your mobile device while recharging. The USB Condoms only transfer power, not your data as it cuts off the data pins in a standard USB cable, preventing any data from transferring in either direction. It sells for $9.99. This is very hygienic.
However, you can abstain entirely and achieve the same results by using a power-only USB cable.