There Are Spies Among Us. But They’re Not Who You Think They Are!

I was reading an article about the concern the Indian government was having about Chinese spying. So, as I started to delve into it, my mind wandered a bit. I began to think about how easy it can be to spy on someone.

For example, every cell phone conceivably can spy on you. Perhaps you’ve had people over to your house and asked Alexa or Siri to check something out for you and gotten a comment along these lines:

“You keep that active all the time?”

“Yes, I like to be able to ask it something as it’s quicker than me looking it up.”

“Don’t you know you should turn that off when you’re not using it? It can track all your conversations?”

“Well, good for them because my conversations range from dull to inconsequential to pretty damn exciting, back to being dull. So whoever is listening in, I hope they enjoy the conversation.”

When these conversations take place, I find myself wondering what the hell the person is thinking. Do they believe Alexa or Siri will report the conversation to Colossus, the computer in the movie The Forbin Project? Or maybe Big Brother of George Orwell’s 1984, but given the rash of book banning, I could see a version of Montag from Fahrenheit 451 knocking on my door demanding to see my library collection.

After all, I have some horrifying stuff that screams spy throughout the pages written by Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and W. E. B. Du Bois, not to mention Frank Herbert, Ayn Rand, Benjamin Franklin, and others. Montag would indeed have a wonderful day.

But I don’t worry about that despite the warnings from nervous people on what they have to say about Siri and Alexa. I frankly don’t care if these paired-down AI functions are collecting information. What they would get from me would be tedious and confusing at best.

The only persons I can think of who would care about my eclectic library might be Ron DeSantis and Christopher Rufo, primarily if they found out about the catalog of books on DE&I.

Siri and Alexa could provide such information to those who cared about such things. But I have to say these systems don’t come close to what is happening in Mumbai, India. With a population of 22 million, there must be all sorts of secrets, conspiracies, plots, illicit activities, and outright subversion of the highest order, which people would like to know about.

Espionage is a lucrative and dangerous business. For some countries, it’s how they make technological advances, crush their citizens, and, in a way, play the James Bond and Ethan Hunt spy game we love to see in Bond and Mission Impossible movies.

Fortunes are made and lost, as well as wars, through this practice, and an excellent, effective spy is worth their weight in gold. But it’s dangerous and, if found, could lead to death or thrown into prison, forgotten by one’s country unless traded for something or someone of value. Overall, spying is a dangerous game that can lead to loss of life or a lifetime in prison.

So, why write about espionage? Well, let’s begin with a quote from this article:

“China’s government is probably behind an anonymous group that has been cyber-spying on Indian companies and officials for close to [a] decade now, American security experts say.”—Quartz April 13, 2015

Also, consider the following quote:

 Two officials at Pakistan’s high commission have been expelled for “espionage activities,” India’s foreign ministry said late on Sunday, allegations its nuclear-armed rival called “baseless.”

The ministry said: “The government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission.”

The pair had to leave the country within 24 hours, and Pakistan’s charge d’affaires was issued with a “strong protest” over their alleged activities, the ministry said. –The Guardian May 31, 2020

Okay, take a moment and consider these two spy cases and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How are these two cases similar?
  • What happened to the individuals caught engaging in espionage for their respective countries?
  • How long were they detained?

Now that you have some insight, check out the headline from this HuffPost Story: Pigeon Suspected Of Being Chinese Spy, Cleared By Indian Police.

Yes, that’s right, the police in Mumbi held a pigeon in captivity for eight months. Why? Because they thought it was a spy pigeon. I know there are carrier pigeons and racing pigeons. But spy pigeons? I suppose it’s possible. But I have questions.

What gave the pigeon away to the authorities?

How did they catch this spy pigeon?

Have you ever tried to catch a pigeon when you were a kid? It’s not that easy.

What was the clue that this particular pigeon was a spy?

Was it cooing in Mandarin or Cantonese?

How could they tell?

Here is the most critical question: where did the spy pigeon hide its Walther PPK?

Oh wait, this was a Chinese spy pigeon. It wouldn’t have a Walther PPK but an M77B, but the question still stands: where did the spy pigeon hide it? And how does it point and shoot?

But, for the moment, let’s not focus on weapons and capture; consider the following:

“The pigeon’s ordeal began in May when it was captured near a port in Mumbai with two rings tied to its legs, carrying words that looked like Chinese. Police suspected it was involved in espionage.”

What was the purpose of keeping the pigeon for eight months? Did they think it would become a stool pigeon?

Okay, I know that was bad, but don’t lie; you were thinking it.

“Eventually, it turned out the pigeon was an open-water racing bird from Taiwan that had escaped and made its way to India. With police permission, the bird was transferred to the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, whose doctors set it free on Tuesday.”

Okay, now, we can say the spy pigeon did fly the coop.

So, while people rail against the evils of Alexa and Siri spying on me and recording everything I say or don’t say, hell, it may be listening to my typing and using an AI-generated algorithm to figure out what I’m writing about and preparing a death ray to shoot out from my phone when I decided on the music I want to play. Or worse, replace my Bony James selection for the Sax and replace it with Kenny G, who I can’t stand.

When and if Alexa does that, is when I will worry about this limited AI tool. But for the moment, I have no problem leaving it active. As I said, I sometimes ask Alexa to provide some information instead of typing on my keyboard because she is faster than me.

But after having read the HuffPost article on the Chinese Spy Pigeon, the next time I see one, I will pay more attention because you will never know if it’s just a plain ole regular pigeon or one with secret recording devices.

Funny, I’ve always thought pigeons were shifty, but now, I know it’s true.