TSCM and Eavesdropping Detection Services
New York area headquarters
Services available worldwide

800-635-0811
+1-908-832-7900


Information Protection and Privacy Assurance
for Business, Government
and at-risk Individuals


Home

     •
Introduction

     • FAQs

     • Estimate Worksheet

     • Contact

About Us

     • Qualifications

     • Instrumentation

     • Subcontracting

     • Innovations

     • Staff

     • Client Reviews

     • Comparison Chart

     • Operating Policy

General Information

     • Downloads

     • Insider Tips

     • Ask questions

     • 100+ Spybuster Tips

     • One Minute TSCM Quiz

     • MoviesCartoons

     • Books

     • Eavesdropping History

Spy News from New York
Kevin's Security Scrapbook


This appears if user doesn't have JavaScript enabled, or doesn't have the required Flash Player version.




Eavesdropping Detection and Counterespionage Consulting enquiries are invited from corporate, government and professional security entities.

TSCM Eavesdropping Detection and TSCM Services US FlagFor federal procurement purposes, U.S. Government regulations classify Murray Associates Counterespionage as a Small Business, Professional Consulting Firm.

Registered Vendor:
• National Security Agency (NSA ARC)
• DoD - CCR
• Exostar SourcePass
• Jones Lang LaSalle
• ISNetworld
• Ariba

Spybusters, LLC dba
Murray Associates
PO Box 668
Oldwick, NJ 08858
(USA)




Certified Protection Professional CPP TSCM


Certified Information Security Manager - CISM TSCM


Certified Fraud Examiner CFE TSCM


International Association of Professional Security Consultants - IAPSC TSCM


American Society for Industrial Security ASIS TSCM


HTCIA logo


InfraGard Logo


Use of this site indicates acceptance of Terms of Use, Linking, and Privacy Statements.

Copyright 1996-2014, Spybusters, LLC (140209)


1965
The
Bug in the Martini Olive

From the book
The Bug in the Martini Olive
by Patricia Holt
Little Brown, 1991

"For Kevin Murray, from another New Jersey boy. I hope you enjoy these stories." - Hal Lipset (book dedication)

"I look forward to hearing about the kind of work you handle as perhaps we can work together on some cases." - Very truly yours, Harold K. Lipset, October 8, 1991 (Our first correspondence.)

Harold Lipset - d. December, 1997

Who is Hal Lipset?

He (was) the most respected - yet seemingly also the sleaziest - private detective in America.

- He was chief investigator for Sam Dash on the Senate Watergate Committee - and private detective to Jim Jones of the People’s Temple.

- He was defense investigator for such clients as Angela Davis, the Soledad Brothers, and the United Farm Workers - yet he built his practice on chasing ambulances and photographing illicit couples in bed.

- Lipset has spoken out against cops, courts, and Congress to defend his clients' rights of privacy, using demonstrations of the famous "bug in the martini olive" and other secret surveillance devices that he and his staff pioneered. Yet he has been widely condemned (and arrested) for invasion of those rights after bugging hotel rooms, eavesdropping on private conversations, and "wiring" witnesses and clients.

To investigate these seeming contradictions, literary critic Patricia Holt offers an interpretive biography that challenges the ethics and morality (if any) of America’s preeminent private eye. Holt follows Hal and his wife, Lynn, as they open a "new" kind of detective agency in 1947 with no money, no contacts and "a lot of gall." In one amusing early case, a woman attempting to frame Hal for rape is foiled by Lynn’s walking in with tape recorder in hand to suggest coolly, "May I help you undress, dearie?"

The power of law enforcement quickly becomes an issue when Larry, the Lipsets’ adopted child, is almost taken away because Hal refuses to cooperate with corrupt prosecutors. As she traces the expansion of Lipset Service from one operative (Hal) to dozens of detectives accepting "any case that walks in the door," Holt begins to decipher a moral code not unlike that of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe - and a Nick and Nora Charles - like humor floating in the background.

As Hal chases jewel thieves across Europe, solves a family’s murder by accusing one of its own, and uncovers his own "Deep Throat" during Watergate (none other than reporter Bob Woodward), Holt draws more uncanny parallels between fact and fiction. Hal, she finds, is the kind of private eye we have seen before - a cynic who is really an idealist; a deductive reasoner; a former copy who is wary of the system; a longer who works outside the law.

Yet he’s also a rare breed of detective - a family man who hates guns; a salesman from the old school; a protester who testifies in Washington; an emotional, vulnerable, tough, angry entrepreneur who says he’s "in it for the money" but stands for just the opposite, the concept of free will in an increasingly conforming society.

Hal sees no difference between aspects of sleaze and prestige in his work. In explaining why this is, Holt shows what a modern private eye can teach us about fundamental freedoms in American democracy.


Chapter Two "May I Help You Undress, Dearie?"

Listening in offered an intoxicating power that made voyeurs of everyone - readers and participants alike - except those who made a living at it. For professional private eyes such as Lipset and his engineer, Ralph Bertsche, pioneering advances in the science and the commerce of hidden recorders made every impossible assignment a billable challenge. Thus the quality of the recording - more than the meaning of the conversation - soon became the central focus of electronic surveillance.

Francis Ford Coppola considered the implications of the professional eavesdropper a dozen years later when he made The Conversation, a motion picture in which private investigator/recording expert Harry Caul says of his technician, "I don’t care what they’re talking about. All I want is a nice, fat recording." It should come as no surprise that Hal Lipset was hired as technical consultant for the picture.

I told Francis I’d oversee the technical aspects as long as we used state-of-the-art equipment - no James Bond stuff - and tried to show how a real surveillance might work. What you see in that movie is the best of the field at the time with only one fib - the pocket tape recorder does not have a playback function - and one exaggeration: the parabolic mike is too large to use secretly. I tried it once, looked through a telephoto lens, and saw my subject thumbing his nose at me.

Perhaps most important, The Conversation is one grand, timeless metaphor of the act of conversation and the impulse to listen in, with or without "mechanical aids." As Hal has put it, you can elect never to enter into a conversation and so never have to bear the responsibility for what you say or hear. But once you hear something, even if you’re an eavesdropper like Caul, you’ve heard it. You know it. Now what are you going to do with it?


Chapter Three "The Bug in the Martini Olive"

By 1964, Time magazine estimated that the transistor had "virtually transformed...scientific snooping" and estimated that the federal government was spending about $20 million on bugging gear a year. Even more was spent "by the bug-infested CIA, which likes to shop through dummy agencies." Nevertheless, the more significant progress in research and development was taking place in the private sector.

"To advance the art," Time wrote, "Hal Lipset, a seasoned San Francisco private eye, maintains a laboratory behind a false warehouse from where his eavesdropping ‘genius,' Ralph Bertsche, works out new gimmicks such as a high-powered bug that fits into a pack of filter-tip cigarettes. It is padded to feel soft and shows the ends of real cigarettes to reassure a suspicious businessman or divorce-prone spouse..."

These were heady years at Lipset Service. Bertsche could hide his transmitters in anything - hatbands, ballpoint pens, briefcases, tie clasps, wristwatches, the snap clasps of purses - and just about anywhere: in telephones, dashboards, air ducts, floral arrangements, kitchen sinks, electrical outlets.

Spike mikes, sugar-lump transmitters, floating rooms, miniature spy cameras, and infinity transmitters were all part of the exotica Bertsche fiddled with in his "laboratory," which is fact was a storefront on Bush Street he had made into a shop. Talk about fiction in the making: The words "genius" and "laboratory" in the Time article made Bertsche sound like a mad scientist plotting maniacally to destroy the world with miniature recorders. Hal loved the idea and the image.

Hal made his views clear to the scholarly legal community by contributing an article, "The Wiretapping-Eavesdropping Problem," to the Minnesota Law review in 1960. But his first chance to go public on the national scene occurred the previous year when he was invited to testify before the Senate Constitutional Rights Subcommittee, chaired by Missouri Democrat Thomas C. Hennings. "I had what I thought was a great idea," he remembers. "First I thought I’d dazzle them with an array of miniature devices they had never seen before; then I would surprise them by playing back my own testimony from a recorder I had hidden before the hearing."

The great idea worked too well. Lipset’s appearance was seen as a clever but ominous sign of electronic snooping running amok. SECRET MIKES IRK SENATORS ran the understated headline of an Associated Press story, which stated that after viewing Lipset’s demonstration, the senators were aghast at the "rampant" use of eavesdropping gadgetry and ordered an immediate investigation of "how many pocket-sized recorders Government agencies have bought and what use is being made of them."

Look, Lipset said, federal law had already made wiretapping without anybody’s consent an illegal act, so it didn’t matter how rampant the gadgetry was. What mattered was a proper understanding of one-party consent. using a secret recorder was not an invasion of privacy, Hal insisted; it was a protection of privacy.

The committee was not impressed. Irked at having their questions taped without their knowledge, the senators were made to feel like fools in front of reporters and decided Lipset was exploiting the hearings for his own profit. So did the press, apparently, as a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial indicated a few days later: "Mr. Lipset...should know that eavesdropping is a furtive, dirty business against which honorable men instinctively revolt. No doubt there is money is stealing other people’s secrets - and listening to perhaps thousands of personal conversations to do so - but it is not nice money, nor is it legal money."

Again and again, Lipset warned: These bugs are coming. Use them for your own protection, or the government will use them for you - and against you.

It all seemed so clear to Hal that the next time he was invited to Washington to speak before a Senate subcommittee - this one in 1965 to hear testimony specifically on eavesdropping - he renewed his efforts to convince the world of the value of hidden tape recorders.

The way these hearings worked, at least at that time, was that the chief counsel for the committee chairman - in this case, Bud Fensterwald - did a lot of preliminary work with witnesses because he was the one who opened the hearings and asked the first questions. Then he brought the senators in to do the probing, because it was their show and not his. He was like the producer of the show. It was all worked out beforehand so there wouldn’t be any surprises and they’d know just how much advantage they could take of the press.

Fensterwald came out to San Francisco and told us that while the press always dropped in at these hearings, unless ours was exciting enough and caught their fancy, they might hear only the first ten or fifteen minutes and then drift off to other hearings. People in Washington were always worried about which hearing would get more coverage because, of course, every senator wanted as much coverage as possible.

So Fensterwald wanted to know what kind of clever ideas we were going to come up with to make the conference exciting. We got out the pack of cigarettes and the bugged lighter and the recorder in the book, which he thought were cute, and nice but not quite eye-catching enough. He left us to come up with something better, and we sat around drinking coffee, whiskey, and lemonade for three days inventing new schemes.

One was to plant a bug on the chairman, Senator Edward Long of Missouri, but I thought we might get in trouble. Another was to put a bug inside some doggy-turds that we’d get from my dog, Lady, and take to Washington. No one would think of examining dog excrement for transmitters, but when it came to explaining to the committee what this dog shit was doing on the exhibit table, we were stumped. Somebody thought that maybe one of us could appear to be blind and we’d bring in this big seeing-eye dog...but that was getting too elaborate.

When we came up with the "bug in the martini olive" idea, it didn’t seem all that unusual. We used a large bulletin board with all sorts of gadgets stapled or drawn or pasted onto it., and the martini glass was simply another example of how ingenious these devices could be. The glass held a facsimile of an olive, which could hold a tiny transmitter, the pimento inside the olive, in which we could embed the microphone, and a toothpick, which could house a copper wire as an antenna. No gin was used - that could cause a short.



Our point was that a host could wander through his own party, having drunk his own martini, and pick up the conversations that were directed at him, or leave his glass near a conversation he could then monitor in secret. We wanted to show the vast proliferation of this equipment, and the bug in the martini olive was one very feasible example of many.

When we got to Washington I told the security people that Ralph and I had to see the room in which this hearing would take place because we were having "acoustical problems," which meant Ralph had to get in there to plant the mikes. He did that relatively quickly and we got to bed relatively early - one AM. Washington time - when Fensterwald called to say the room had been changed.

"We’re going to the main caucus room instead - there’s going to be more press than we thought, so we have to accommodate the TV and radio crews," he said.

"The main caucus room? What’s that?" I asked.

"Well, it’s larger than the one you saw."

I said that would be no problem if we could get in and hour earlier to fix our "acoustical problems" again. Fensterwald said he’d make the arrangements.

The hearings were scheduled to start at ten A.M. When we walked in at nine, I went into shock. The main caucus room was palatial by most standards, easily as big as a football field, with batteries of microphones down where I’d be speaking, and an armory of microphones up where the senators would sit. Ralph had to restructure his eavesdropping equipment, and I was just putting the roses back in place when everybody came streaming into the room to begin the hearing at precisely ten A.M.

"Nothing was sacred in the Senate Caucus room yesterday," wrote the Washington Post. "Even Long’s opening statement was bugged. . . {by} a tiny microphone concealed under a rose petal… Long, an obliging straight man…"

Hal: Long was terrific. He had been briefed beforehand about my testimony and was happy to feign surprise at some of our tricks. When Ralph walked out in the corridor and had a conversation with a capitol policeman, I played it on a loudspeaker so the senators could hear it. "You can imagine what would happen if I wanted to monitor a conversation you are having in your office," I explained. "I could be sitting in my car outside the building picking it up in this way."

Hal’s testimony made it clear that he was on the side of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, man and his castle, and the right of every American to personal privacy - including the use of hidden recorders to protect that right. Once a conversation occurs, he said, people have their memories as witnesses - and they may, if they want to protect themselves, have a little backup in any of the dozens of devices pinned to a bulletin board to which Lipset directed the senators’ attention with his handy wooden point. At one point, Senator Long leaned over and picked up the vase of roses that had been sitting in front of the dais all morning.

"Why, Mr. Lipset," he exclaimed, "did someone send me flowers?"

"That they did, Mr. Chairman," Lipset responded. "If you lift the large petal on the upper right, you’ll see how I came by this recording." At that, Ralph began playing back Long’s opening statement, while senators, reporters, cameramen, and photographers crowded around to peer at and photograph the hidden microphone.

But it was the bug in the martini olive hat made Lipset "the real star of the day," as UPI reported. Hardly an ominous indication of private snoopers taking over the world, this little olive with its toothpick antenna became a "playful" and charming toy through which Lipset finally convinced his listeners that electronic eavesdropping in the private sector was both charming and patriotic.

The senators kept asking about the martini glass. I had the pointer on it, then I’d move it away, and a question from yet another senator would bring me back. This was an actual martini glass? they would ask. Oh, yes, with an olive as a microphone and the toothpick as the antenna, I would answer. And would it work with gin actually in the glass, they’d ask, or with an onion, say, in a Gibson martini, or a lemon peel . . .

They were so entranced with the idea that I couldn’t help romanticize it a little. A Gibson, a lemon peel, sure; gin would not work but maybe vodka . . . things got very congenial all at once, and then when the reporters and photographers rushed up to get a photo, we were all laughing at how funny it was. I felt I had introduced a new toy, like a play-chew for a dog. They couldn’t stop gnawing at it.

Nor, for months afterward, could the media. Headline stories about "The Tattler Martini" and "The Pry Martini" dominated newspapers around the country. One cartoon depicted two executives staring in horror at the martinis set before than in a men’s club ("Before we talk," one says to the other, "check for antennas").

Another showed a senator on his hands and knees looking up at a dozen microphones taped to the underside of a conference table while another senator overhead asks, "Perhaps you could tell this committee how widespread is the practice of "bugging" in this country...




Return to
Murray's
Eavesdropping History
Emporium

SSL Certificates