4. Precautions

    4.1 Identification

    Identification of the perpetrators of eco-sabotage should be a matter of accident. It will happen when you unwittingly stroll into the view of a CCTV camera, or when an uninvited policeman joins you when you least expect.

    Identification is calculable risk - and like any other risk it can be reduce or eliminated by proper planning.

    When considering the feasibility of your hit, unless you wish to be a martyr and get caught, you should always consider the risk of identification. This risk is involves mainly...

    • The risk of being seen by somebody on adjacent premises (see 'eyewitnesses');
    • The risk of being seen/caught by someone on site;
    • The risk of being recorded on a security camera;
    • The risk of being caught by police/security patrols.

    By carrying out proper reconnaissance, and noting the position of security systems, nearby premises and the hours of occupation on the site you should be able to minimise the risk. In practice it is never possible to eliminate the risk because of the unexpected - mainly the fact that your work will attract the attention of the police or security personnel.

    When carrying out the hit you should consider means of avoiding visual detection. Camouflage is a good way to avoid distant detection, but this must be selected carefully. Think about the situation you are working under...

    • Even in the dead of night, especially in/near urban areas, it is rarely truly black, so black clothing is not appropriate. Dark shades of blue and grey are better - even in dim light black will always stand out against a light coloured background;
    • In day time it may be better to dress to mislead, ie, dress as if you belong to avoid being spotted as something 'abnormal' - for example dressing up as an average workman in jeans, check-shirt and yellow hard hat;
    • If working in countryside areas, or building sites on the edge of the countryside, khaki and camouflage jackets give the best protection. If working in the dusk/dark you should also consider wearing a balaclava, or blacking out your face - you would be surprised how well white faces stand out in torchlight!
    • Sometimes the backdrop is important. If you are working under floodlights against a pale or white background (the yellow cabs of construction equipment for example), by wearing black you will stand out. It may be necessary to take some sort of cape or cloak made of different coloured material to avoid detection. This may seem extreme, but many CCTV cameras have a specific focus field - if you remain some distance away, and present little colour contrast to the background (especially with black and white cameras) you may be able to sneak past without the camera getting any clear image of you.

    An alternative, if identification is likely, is to disguise. As noted above, by dressing as if you 'belong' to the scenario - e.g. by dressing as a workman carrying out 'routine maintenance' to the earth moving equipment detection can be avoided. You can also change your appearance using wigs, by padding your coat to make you look bigger, or by masking your features using a hat or hood.

    4.2 Paper trails

    Modern electrical systems and banking systems make life very easy. You can travel anywhere in the world using your credit card, pay for products by cheque, or use your cards/personal documents (e.g., passport/driving licence) as a means of identification to join clubs. In practice, this leaves a trail of 'paper' - little pieces of information that show you have been there.

    Credit card transactions are logged on computer - as are some cheque payments. By cross-referencing purchases of certain equipment with card numbers, certain individuals who, for example bought bolt-cutters in London during May 1995, can be traced. Then, taking these numbers, cross-references can be made to your other purchases.

    Likewise, whenever you take money from a bank machine, the time, date and location are stored on a the bank's computer. If you are suspected of a crime, the police may apply to obtain this information to prove your whereabouts.

    When purchasing equipment you should always use cash - used bank notes if possible. Using cheques or credit cards generates paper trails. Also, never use a cheque or credit/debit card when you are 'in transit' to or from the hit - it will generate a paper trail locating you to a time and place, and will conflict with any alibi you invent.

    4.3 Eyewitnesses

    Sometime, somewhere, you are going to be seen. With careful planning this risk can be minimised on the site of the hit. The problem is often getting to or from the site without being 'noticed'. Being seen is one thing - getting 'noticed' as something out of the ordinary is the problem.

    If possible, access the site using a route not directly associated with the site. Given the choice of a country lane leading to the site, or a five mile cross-country hike, I would choose the five mile hike. On the other hand there is safety in numbers - if you can work your way in and out of a crowd the weight of numbers prevents people or CCTV cameras from clearly identifying one individual.

    Another problem is disguising your transport. Lone cars in country lay-bys get noticed. Police cars passing unoccupied vehicles will quite often log the registration to check if the car is stolen - this registration will then stay in the policeman's note book for future reference.

    As a general rule you must always plan to avoid looking out of place, strange, or unexpected. As far as is possible, try to look normal. If you cannot look normal, disguise yourself by hiding your features, especially hair, beards, colour of eyes, scars or birthmarks, and most certainly your voice or accent.

    4.4 Fingerprints

    Fingerprints, in any classic crime film, are the primary means of identifying the suspect without doubt. It is because of the accuracy of fingerprint identification, and the use of modern computing techniques to identify a single print from thousands of records, that you must always guard against touching any object without some form of hand covering.

    All your tools must be cleaned before the hit to remove any accidental fingerprints that might be on them from their last use. Then, even when you put them back in your stash, you must never handle them without gloves.

    When on the site, for whatever reason, never take your gloves off. For obvious reasons this means that your gloves must be comfortable so that you can wear them for a long period of time.

    I tend to put my gloves on when entering the site, and take them off when leaving. Gloves in public, unless it is very cold weather, look suspicious.

    Finally, before going to the hit, remove all identifying objects such as coins, wallets, keys, jewellery, etc., from your body, and stash them. In fact, unless you will need money on the journey, it is not a good idea to take any object on the hit with you. Not only do such objects carry fingerprints, but if you drop them they will also identify you.

    4.5 Biological tracing

    Once fingerprints were the only problem. Even blood would only identify a blood group - which unless it was rare could only indicate one of a few hundred suspects when correlated with other evidence.

    Today, 'genetic fingerprinting' can identify you as an individual with a probability of mis-identification of about one in one million. Also, rather than just blood, it is possible to take genetic fingerprints from all bodily tissues such as skin and hair. For this reason you must be extra careful when working.

    If you scratch yourself you should carry plasters to stop the blood flow immediately. You should also try and clean the implement which injured you because it will have traces of blood or skin on it. If you seriously cut yourself you should stop the bleeding as best as possible and leave the site immediately. If you have long hair - that is anything more than a skin head - you should also wear a hat or balaclava to stop it falling out, or getting caught on fences or machinery.

    Your clothing, even in everyday wear, will pick up minute quantities of skin and hair which will identify you if it is found. As advised earlier, it is a good idea to keep your tool stash and your other equipment/clothing stash separate. At least then if your clothing is found, there will be no incriminating tools with it to tie you to any one particular site.

    4.6 Forensics

    Forensic science is truly awe-inspiring. For example, when you cut something traces of the metal which the implement was made of will be left on the object. From these small traces the 'quality' of the tool can be determined, so narrowing down the possibilities if tools are found. Likewise, if tools pick up hydraulic fluid, fuel or lubricating oil whilst being used, the additives and contaminants in these products can then identify the tool as being used at a particular site.

    'Soft' objects, such as clothes, also pick up contaminants from their surroundings. This works in two ways. The clothes worn on the site can pick up traces or dirt and other material that will remain in the weave of the fabric, sometimes even after you wash them. This can tie you to the site. Also, if you expose the clothes to pollutants before you get there - such as the dust or grime in your home workshop, then any torn fragments of cloth left behind will identify the places it had been before it was ripped from the person's body. A good example of forensics are blown safes. Many safes have a jacket of sawdust to insulate them in fires. If a criminal blows the safe the sawdust is spread all over their body. The ratio of different wood types and the grain size can then match the criminal's clothes to the blown safe.

    Another possibility is that you may have prepared some equipment at home - for example transferring grinding powder from the containers in which they were purchased to plastic bags. If forensics hoover your house - and believe me if you are a strong suspect they will - then they will find traces of the grinding power. Analysis of the powder and its grain size will then tie that found in your home to that found in the sump of the destroyed earth-mover. Yet another good reason to, as much as possible, work at your stash and not in your home.

    You should be aware that it is impossible to eliminate the risk of detection by forensics, but by using common sense precautions you can reduce the risk.

    4.7 Records/information

    As well as indirectly generating paper trails by paying for things, keeping receipts or invoices will also provide evidence against you. When you buy things dispose of the receipt immediately. Also, never dispose of receipts/invoices in your rubbish at home - a quick sort through by someone will reveal them.

    Another problem is getting information on equipment or a site. Never borrow a library book relating to a specific site or piece of machinery you wish to hit - a record of the loan may be kept.

    If you regularly use public documents to get information on the site you want to hit, such as planning permissions, avoid giving your name to the staff at the office concerned. If possible, get someone unrelated to the hit to get the information.

    If you must get something and there is no alternative, never use a false or assumed identity. At some point you can be assured that you will be found out. You will just have to use your own name, and then try and invent a plausible excuse for you being there and buying or looking at the information concerned.

    Finally, never phone the premises you want to hit from home - the call may be logged by the organisations tapping your phone, and the call will be logged on your billing account.

    4.8 Tip-offs and cold-calls

    As 'deep-throat' said in the X-Files, "trust no one". If you are told one evening that 'X is about to move a crate of veal calves for export', unless the person is well known to you take precautions - it may be a set up.

    Agent provocateurs have been used for centuries as a way of setting up groups or individuals for capture. Suspect anyone whom you know little about, even if they seem to be a keen sabber. There are plenty of anti-fascists who have taken part in racial attacks in order to get the information on the fascist organisations. Eco-saboteur groups, in terms of the approach taken by the security services, pose not dissimilar problems.

    Another problem is people calling you up out of the blue and asking you questions over the phone. Normally they say they are some journalist or TV producer, and they want information on 'X'. Never tell them anything that is not already common public knowledge. Better still, if you can reasonably get away with it, plead ignorance. If someone cold-calls, always try and get a name, address and phone number from them. I usually say that, "I don't know, but I know a man who does - what's your address?". Also, when they ring off, immediately dial 1471 to see if their number is left in the system. Later you can phone back - perhaps at lunchtime when someone else may answer the phone - and see if they are who they said they were.

    Never reveal any information about your activities to anyone who questions you directly. However, at some point, you will want to talk to someone about it - it's human nature. If you work with others this presents little problem. If you work alone, you must find someone to confide in. It is important that you get all your thoughts, fears and excitations about eco-sabbing off your chest. If someone cold-calls you then any residual fear or boast may accidentally fall out.

    4.9 Hit planning and modus operandi

    By using a computer to check the usage of words in this report, the range of the vocabulary, and any particular 'mannerisms' in the way I write, the security services could make a pretty good 'psychological profile' about me. What is worse, if they had other items of my work on file they could cross-check and discover my identity. Such distinguishing features are very difficult to obscure.

    Likewise, the way you plan a hit and carry it out - your 'modus operandi' - will give you away. For this reason it is important to vary your working methods. It won't stop you getting caught, but it might prevent them from pinning so many cases on you.

    Always try and vary the subject of you target. Don't just hit sites with nature conservation implications for example - go for factories as well. Never use the same techniques from one hit to the next - for example use a drill on the hydraulic lines of a digger on one hit, and a saw the next.

    By varying your ways of working on the subject of the hit, and your means of access and exit, you confuse the opposition. By confusing them you will evade detection and capture for longer, and more importantly, they may not be able to pin every job you've ever done on you.

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