Photo Analysis -what’s in a picture?

Its Neils unenviable task to teach rudimentary photo analysis to field agents. According to Neil this is as pointless as teaching your dog Spanish, although he does concede that this would probably be more fun and has possible if not limited potential.

We routinely photograph…well everything really….but mainly foreign embassies and persons of interest. Ever wondered why there are so many CCTV cameras in and around London? Ever wondered where they all are, and who owns them? There’s a reason mobile phone masts tend to be situated on the tallest buildings, the views are fantastic.

“Look at this series of photographs and tell me what you see?”

“They appear to be of….a man sat at a desk. They were taken over a number of days?”

“Are you asking or telling me?”


“If you are not sure, say. Guesses cost lives. Look again, notice anything else?”

“No….nothing else.”

“Is that so……look at the clock in the background and the desk calendar. That may help you confirm the date and time stamp of the photographs. But…if they’re different, think why? It could mean the battery is running down….or it could relate to a time zone. That’s why we ask for background checks on all persons of interest, the more information you have on people the better.

The Agent does what they all do when they feel out of their depth.

“… the neighbours love you…?”

Neil stares blankly at the agent and begins to regret asking to be placed on the training roster.

 “If the angle was better we’d be able to seen his computer screen. He positioned the desk to observe anyone entering the room. Stops them getting a crafty look at anything on the desk or computer; luckily he’s focused on internal security, not external. I’ll have that camera moved a little to the left. Lesson number 1, never sit with your back to a window.”

Neil picks up a magnifying glass and moves slowly from one photo to the next. 

“If you check the bookshelf, you’ll see one book moves more than any other, roughly the same time everyday.” He pauses in thought. “It’s a copy of ‘Winnie the poo.’ What’s the assistant to the ambassador doing reading ‘Winnie the poo.’ everyday?”

“…er …..well….”

“That was a rhetorical question, we’ll check with G.C.H.Q. , see if there are any number stations broadcasting for that timeframe.”

“…number stations…?”

“It’s old school but they are still used. They broadcast a seemingly random stream of numbers, some however relate to chapter, page and line of any given book. All the agent has to do is look up the word or phrase to receive their instructions, any idiot could do it.

“Sounds over complicated to me.”

“Like I said…anyone could do….never mind,… would seem we’ve not only found the book, but potentially a mole as well.”

With a smile Neil picks up the phone and puts a call though to head of section.

“ what now?” The agent is a little in awe by Neils processes. 

“ It’s not our embassy so my concern is waining. But if I had my guess, Section will probably apply pressure and turn him. It’s always useful to have a double agent under your belt. Time to put the kettle on and have a biscuit…i think we’ve earned it.”

Espionage has its own rewards, more often than not it’s Hobnobs.

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