The ultimate American security: A big tent
You might not be prepared for this; after all James Bond always employs far more sinister gadgets in his bids to evade detection by the enemy. But when the President of the United States needs to talk in absolute secrecy he relies on technology as old as man himself – a tent.
OK, that’s only part of the story. This isn’t a tent you could buy from an army surplus store, it’s a world away from rainy weekends on the seafront in fact. You won’t often see it set up outside even; it can be erected inside hotel rooms and often is to provide a safe haven for the president and senior staff.
Opaque at the sides to prevent prying eyes looking in, it also comes with noise-making devices inside. So if Barack Obama can’t read an official memo without speaking the words out loud, nobody will hear him outside. In fact all top ranking officials have to go into the tent, even on official visits, as there’s always a chance to host nation could have a plethora of listening devices aimed at the top man. After all, the US is hardly an innocent party in all of this.
The National Security Agency came under fire for snooping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently and the general assumption is that every nation does it.
In fact counter-surveillance techniques are par for the course, even in senior officials’ own homes. An interior room, preferably with no windows, is lined with sound proofing and foil to bounce invading signals back at the eavesdroppers.
On their travels, American officials are told to assume that every word is monitored and the President himself famously carries an encrypted Blackberry to prevent anybody cracking his phone calls back home. The US security experts pretty much assume that foreign hotel rooms will have listening devices built into the walls, even though these days eavesdropping has gone higher tech and generally happens from afar.
Some more junior members of staff don’t even get the tent, they are forced to use smaller structures that look like a telephone box. In some countries the security is even more draconian. Official American visitors to Russia and China are warned not to retrieve or send any sensitive information outside of the Embassy, where security can be close to guaranteed and prying eyes can be kept out with the help of a big tent.