NatGeo program: Secret Service Files -- Frontline New York City

Hooligan

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 15, 2002
Messages
1,150
Location
Clark County, Nevada
#1
Sunday & Monday evenings, the National Geographic Channel aired some new documentaries called "SECRET SERVICE FILES,"obviously about the US Secret Service. Actually, they were mostly new -- I've watched the first two episodes & they shared some footage, plus used some canned footage from other recent NatGeo specials about the USSS, AF1, etc.


Anyway, the second episode Sunday night was titled Secret Service Files -- Frontline New York City
Secret Service Files | Frontline New York City | National Geographic Channel

It focused on the NY/NJ Electronic Crimes Task Force, particularly the USSS NY Field Office's involvement, as well as the Counterfeit Squad. In addition to the usual stuff, it was very nice to see the Technical Operations Squad & some of their specialized equipment & techniques covered. At times, and certainly upon the request of the USSS, certain things were blurred out for security reasons. That's to be expected when an operation employing sensitive techniques, equipment & personnel provides good access to the media, & I appreciate that.

The final segment of this particular episode involved the controlled delivery of a baby photo album that'd been intercepted (apparently via DHL) & found to contain counterfeit US currency. The SS NY Counterfeit Squad re-packaged the evidence & was going to make a controlled delivery with the assistance of the Technical Ops Squad, in order to build a good case against the addressee of the package.

TOS dressed-up the undercover agent as a USPS employee. Actually, to be specific, they put a USPS shirt on the UC agent -- not exactly a complete letter-carrier uniform, and this is all despite the original package apparently being shipped via DHL. TOS wired the UC up with an RF body-wire for audio, and he was also wearing a separate video device, though I'm not sure if the video was fed live via RF or just recorded on the UC's person. Most video bugs capable of live feeds can transmit audio on that same 900MHz spread-spectrum or microwave link, so it's possible they used a separate, audio-only body-bug so that all agents involved in the op could monitor the bug freq & hear the arrest or duress signal directly from the UC.

TOS set up their surveillance van across the street from the door of the commercial business the package was addressed to, and had an arrest team in the vicinity.

The UC banged on the door, the package addressee opened the door & was thankfully too stupid to notice the letter-carrier wasn't in full uniform & had his shirt hanging out (perhaps that's normal for NYC?), didn't have a satchel with any other mail in it, nor had a marked USPS vehicle parked anywhere in view. Upon signing for the package, the UC gave a code-phrase for the arrest which TOS in the surveillance van heard over the body-wire, and the arrest-team moved in, placing the surprised guy in custody.

Every USSS agent is cross-trained in protective ops no matter what their normal job function is, and one of the primary tenets of protective ops is attention to detail -- noticing everything of potential significance no matter how small. Protective intelligence & operational security are also matters that the USSS prides itself as being very cognizant of & good at, so it's a reasonable assumption that the USSS had experts review at least the finished NatGeo product, if not all raw footage, and had the program producers censor or at least disguise (blur-out) certain individuals, locations and other things sensitive to the USSS missions.

So therefore, I guess we can assume that USSS did NOT make a clumsy mistake by not having the radio frequency 165.7875MHz ("Baker" channel") tuned-in on what looked like an Icom R-8500 receiver in the TOS surveillance van blurred-out & easily visible to anyone watching the show in high definition! Best (or worst) of all, you can even see the freq visible in the short promo segment that NatGeo has on their web page:

Secret Service Files | Frontline New York City | National Geographic Channel

An easy assumption is that the Baker channel is what was used by the UC's body-wire, thus monitored by the receiver in the surveillance van. I'm sure USSS has the ability to run RF wires on other frequencies as well, but it's beyond my comprehension why the USSS would not want that freq blurred-out, so that technically-savvy addressees of contraband material investigated by the USSS wouldn't use a scanner to monitor that frequency to thwart USSS controlled-delivery operations as well as general surveillance. In this scenario, it doesn't matter if they're using encryption or not for a savvy bad-guy to burn the operation (the R-8500 can't decode encryption...) -- the RF body bug was probably unencrypted, analog or P-25 audio, & agent surveillance comms would have been secure or non-secure P-25 on one of the usual, well-known USSS VHF radio channels they've been using for many decades.

I've noticed this same sort of thing occasionally happening with state or local PDs depicted doing surveillance with body-wires on 'Cops' & similar TV programs over the years, but I expected better attention to OPSEC detail from the United States Secret Service.
 
Joined
May 5, 2009
Messages
974
#2
Wow. Just wow.... makes you wonder...
Expecially in a place like NYC, you'd think they would focus even more on these details...

Good post though, with some good information. I'm gunna go see if I can find it on demand tonight.
 
Joined
Jul 5, 2004
Messages
43
#4
I remember a few years ago while I was scanning the USSS frequencies from my office in lower Manhattan, I came across an unencrypted transmission from someone obviously being wired for an upcoming operation. I think the guy was ticklish!
 

Hooligan

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 15, 2002
Messages
1,150
Location
Clark County, Nevada
#5
Just FYI, a friend of mine with a "New York state of mind" informed me that:

1. USPS Letter carriers in NYC often dress sloppy.
2. DHL gave-up on trying to compete with UPS & FedEx in NYC, and apparently does rely on USPS as the final carrier to the destination. I doubt USPS re-packages the items, and the USSS program did show the bright yellow & red DHL box the counterfeit currency came in at the USSS FO, but the material was re-packaged in a plain box by the USSS for the controlled-delivery/bust.
 
Joined
Jul 15, 2007
Messages
559
#8
If you watch that scene closely you can also determine the GPS is showing a tracker in Miami that they're playing off as being from NY; so everything you see in that episode may not be exactly as it appears.
 

mike_s104

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Aug 25, 2004
Messages
4,665
Location
Berkeley Co. WV/ Loudoun Co. VA
#9
If you watch that scene closely you can also determine the GPS is showing a tracker in Miami that they're playing off as being from NY; so everything you see in that episode may not be exactly as it appears.
Same as other shows like that. Manhunters does the same thing. We just watched 3 of the 4 episodes and they reuse footage for all from all. Also, a few of those agents needs to work on their concealed carry. A lot have printing that is VERY obvious. I can help them find some better holsters.
 

ericcarlson

Member
Database Admin
Joined
Dec 18, 2002
Messages
1,482
Location
Houston, Texas
#10
If you watch closely on that controlled delivery footage, the production seems a little too clean for me. I can't say for sure but I wouldn't be surprised if that whole exercise was staged. Consider where the TV cameras have to be to get some of those shots. [Tin foil hat off.]
 
Joined
Feb 18, 2009
Messages
361
Location
New England
#11
If you watch closely on that controlled delivery footage, the production seems a little too clean for me. I can't say for sure but I wouldn't be surprised if that whole exercise was staged. Consider where the TV cameras have to be to get some of those shots. [Tin foil hat off.]
You may very well be correct.

When I was in the police academy, one of our instructors was very fond of occasionally showing clips from shows like COPS, etc. We would discuss what we saw as a class after each video. Many times, the instructor would point out that what we had just seen was staged for training, and then would explain what we could have looked/listened for in order to determine that. It became an interesting challenge to try to figure out which scenes were real and which were training videos. One of the easiest giveaways to spot was when a suspect who was a good distance from the officer had perfect audio on camera...because he/she was already wired with a mic or had one hidden in the vehicle, in clothing, etc.
 
Top