What happens when one of the biggest media groups in the world sets up its own private security force? What happens when part of this operation goes rogue? Fairfax reporter Neil Chenoweth’s new book, Murdoch’s Pirates, investigates News Corporation’s links to worldwide piracy. Here is an extract from the book.
Toronto, 24 October 1997
Toronto is a mean town when you're looking for a bolthole. The operation was blown, and the agent was running. No ordered retreat here — this was panicked flight, strung out on adrenaline. Far beyond the threshold of fear and desperation, it is when the quarry knows his pursuers are close and all he wants in life is a place to go to ground.
Any halfway serious intelligence operation has an emergency plan. It's Spy Stuff 101 - in the world of John le Carré, a little in-house tradecraft. That means fallback options, safe houses, collateral assets to call on, a whole range of contingencies, a long way before you get round to explaining the really neat pension scheme. But it was long past any of that. Alex couldn't go back to the hotel, the telephone call had made that clear. It was the first place the police would look for him, after the Stop and Detain alert went out to the airports.
The order was to arrest him on probable cause. There were $25,000 in money orders in his hotel room and some expensive computer equipment, but Alex had to walk away from it all. This too was a measure of his distress, for he wasn't the sort of man who walked away from money easily.
Instead he was now heading across town to find another anonymous hotel room, all the time feeling his panic building. He cursed himself for using a credit card that might be traced, flung out of the new lodging and was back on the street. Toronto in late October had the chill of late Fall; a towering blonde German, he was trying to look inconspicuous. He managed to find another hotel, this one cheap and anonymous; he was jumpy as a cat, ready to flee if any police car cruised past. By morning he was in his fourth hotel. It seemed only a matter of time before his luck ran out.
In London, his controller was trying to work out where the operation had gone wrong. Ray Adams had made the travel arrangements himself. In a previous life he had been a Commander at Scotland Yard, running its intelligence division, S11. Now he ran a network of seventeen agents in Europe for Rupert Murdoch. He knew how to do this stuff. He had put Alex on a business class ticket on Lufthansa flight LH 474 at 5pm October 21 out of Frankfurt, to arrive in Toronto at 7.20 that same Tuesday evening. The return flight was a week later.
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