05 November 2009

How not to be a secret agent

In 1985 French secret service agents planted bombs on board the Greenpeace protest vessel Rainbow Warrior, which was moored in downtown Auckland and was shortly to protest against France's nuclear test programme in French Polynesia. One crew member of the ship was killed in the blast. Some of the agents responsible for the attack were later caught by the New Zealand authorities, in part due to the number of mistakes the agents made during their mission:

- Arousing suspicions of locals by sailing Ouvea [their yacht] into the hazardous Parengarenga Harbour
- Crew of Ouvea arousing interest of customs inspector by the spotlessness of the yacht (which didn't appear to have sailed the South Pacific), by having three new, uncreased and unmarked passports, by not fitting yachting stereotypes, by having no cameras aboard despite one crew member being a photographer
- Driving on the wrong side of the road and almost causing an accident, thus alerting a bystander who noted the vehicle's registration number
- Not understanding that internal New Zealand toll calls are traceable
- Using and abandoning a Zodiac, an expensive rubber dinghy, that was noticed because of its rarity and desirability in New Zealand
- Dumping two oxygen cylinders with French markings, which were so conspicuous they were reported to police and could be traced to a Nice manufacturer of special equipment for French armed forces
- Acting so suspiciously on Tamaki Drive, Auckland, that their van registration number was noted and the police called
- Returning rental van to Auckland airport and demanding a $130 refund, instead of leaving the van in airport car park
- Inconsistencies in Turenges' stories
- Turenges both having Swiss passports issued in Paris on the same day with wildly different serial numbers
- Turenges keeping file of receipts on their 'honeymoon'
- Turenges speaking French in front of a New Zealand police officer who was French-speaking
- Being conspicuous for being rude wherever they went
- Being such bad actors
- Phoning numbers in Paris traceable to the French security services
- Getting caught

Source: Mary Trewby, Beachcomber: A New Zealand & Pacific Miscellany, Auckland, 2004

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