Saturday, October 18, 2008

Finished: Odyssey of an Eavesdropper by Martin L. Kaiser III

Finished: Odyssey of an Eavesdropper: my life in electronic countermeasures and my battle agains the FBI by Martin L. Kaiser III, 2005, 0786715464.

Very interesting. I caught Kaiser on C-SPAN's BookTV one weekend. I only heard the tail end of his talk but the stuff he was discussing was fascinating.

Kaiser has an innate ability to work with electronics. But, with a reading disability he ended up dropping out of college in 1957 and getting a job with an electronics lab. After different gigs working for different companies he started his own electronic repair business. His repair work would take him to all sorts of places. Driving around Baltimore in Fall of '66 he drove past a sign saying U.S. Military Intelligence, Fort Holabird. Thinking they had to have something that needed fixing he drove on in. He ended up in the office of an intelligence officer who had him repair some surveillance equipment. Kaiser easily fixed the stuff and told the Intel guy that he could make better equipment at a cheaper price.

Soon Kaiser's business was almost solely electronic countermeasure and bug building work. He produced equipment that sold to federal, local and military customers and had a staff of seven technicians. Black Bag jobs by the FBI and other government agencies were still going on all the time. When the FBI started buying equipment they did so through a middleman to conceal all the stuff they were getting. Kaiser distrusted this method and although he billed the middleman he would deliver the equipment direct to the FBI.

In 1975 Kaiser testified to a House committee and really pissed off the FBI. His information about the bugging devices, dual invoices through the middleman, and other shenanigans embarrassed the FBI greatly. All sales to the FBI and most other LE agencies ceased. Kaiser had to lay off his employees and started suffering from stress and depression. Fortunately for him he had a fall back specialty in bomb detection and bomb disruption equipment and loyal bomb detection/disposal customers who stood by him.

Kaiser places a lot of blame on the FBI for failed business and character assassination. But, you only read Kaiser's side of the story so I'm not convinced of all that he says. I am inclined to believe him though. Kaiser sounds like a real honest guy and Hoover's FBI could be particularly nasty in the '60s and '70s.

Kaiser added a forty page appendix at the end discussing modern eavesdropping and countermeasures. In the appendix intro Kaiser writes how he simplified everything in the appendix for laymen to understand. But, I still got lost.

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