© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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What's Really Going On?

By that evening, I had calmed down and I was thinking about the day's events. I was now absolutely sure that I was being followed, and I was absolutely sure it involved one of our intelligence agencies...probably the FBI (because I thought they were responsible for domestic intelligence). I couldn't figure out how the FBI was connected with Iridium, but I thought that they must somehow be related. I thought they had begun using psychological warfare against me-with the goal of making me more psychologically unstable. Why would they want to do that? This was different from simply protecting their interests. After all, I might become psychologically unstable at Iridium, and cause problems for them. Why would they take that risk? Perhaps they weren't intentionally trying to make me unstable, perhaps they were just testing my psychological limits? But still there would be the possibility that I could become unstable. They were putting me under stress. Obviously, they needed to know whether I could become unstable or not. This information was more important to them than my position at Iridium was. They were testing my limits.

The guy at Dave's computer shop had suggested I might be up for a promotion of some kind. Perhaps they were considering me for a job that required me to withstand a lot of stress. Maybe the guy in my van with the knife was sent by THEM. I thought I handled that stress quite well. On the other hand, when Bob yelled at me just a few days earlier, I didn't handle the stress very well. Perhaps they knew about both these events. Perhaps they arranged both of these events. Perhaps they were perplexed why I handled one stressful situation well and not the other one. Perhaps all these situations were part of some kind of evaluation. They are putting me under different types of stress to see how I would react. Perhaps they need to know how I function under different types of stress. Maybe they are going to offer me a job that requires me to operate under a lot of stress!

I thought about Brian from the Home Depot and his recent call asking me if I was interested in working at the FBI or the CIA. At the time, I thought he was wondering if I would be a maintenance man of some sort. But perhaps that was just a cover story. Maybe he was really interested in what I would say about working there. Maybe he just wanted to know if I would be interested in working for the CIA. Maybe he really had another job in mind for me. Certainly a maintenance man would not need to operate under a lot of stress. They want me for a different job. Yes, that's it. They've been testing me to see if I was a suitable candidate for this other job. But what kind of job was it? Maybe they were evaluating me for several jobs all at once. Depending on which tests I pass, they will recommend me for different positions. Maybe I'm under surveillance all this time and they are playing these games because they are evaluating me for some super important job. I thought, they are putting a lot of effort and taking a lot of risk to evaluate me. These jobs must be some of the most important jobs they have. Maybe the jobs are so super secret that they need to be absolutely sure I can handle them, and not break down psychologically. Maybe these jobs are so important that they can't do a normal security clearance where they talk to your friends and family. Instead, they put you under very high level surveillance for months. This is some type of job that no one else will ever know about except me and THEM. I thought, it must be a job for the CIA. Nothing else would come close. Nothing else would require such extreme measures. Perhaps the FBI is the agency that clears people for these jobs. After all, the FBI is in charge of domestic intelligence, not the CIA. That would explain why the FBI was monitoring me. But what is the connection with Iridium?

I started to think back to what Bruce, the former CIA employee, told me at the bar. They recruited him because he knew people who worked at the CIA, and they recommended him. They sought him, not the other way around. I thought, maybe I know someone who is in the CIA. Maybe Bob is with the CIA. But then I thought, "Bob showed up after I thought the surveillance had already started. Bob could be a CIA agent that was assigned to me. But the person who knows me very well must be someone else. Someone else I know works for the CIA, that must be the truth. Who was it? When would I find out? It must be someone I know very well. Someone I've known for years. The CIA would never recruit someone they didn't know very well. It must be someone I am close to."

I couldn't decide what connection there was with Iridium, but I decided there had to be one--after all, I thought the surveillance had started with them. I thought, with all these ideas in my head, I am not going to be able to work effectively at Iridium anymore. I would be too distracted and unproductive. I have to cancel my contract. If I was being considered for another job, THEY would be contacting me soon enough. I also thought, "If they really are considering me for a secret job, then all this surveillance must be reasonable and necessary!". I decided that I no longer needed to know what kind of spyware was on my computer. I was going to assume cyber surveillance was part of the evaluation process. Perhaps the evaluation process needed to be stricter for me because my neighbor was a Russian national. But, perhaps I was wrong. Maybe they were conducting surveillance for some other reason. Perhaps I should still preserve the evidence on my computer. Perhaps. Perhaps this, perhaps that. Perhaps.

On Thursday, August 5, 1999, I was scheduled to work at Iridium. I called Bob in the morning and told him, "Bob, I want you to schedule a meeting for me with Matt, the director of Iridum, you and me. I have some issues I need to discuss with them." He said, "Kurt, I'm not going to arrange any meeting like that. If you have something to discuss, you're going to discuss it with me, just you and I." I said, "I have to cancel my contract. I can't work at Iridium any more." He said, "Why not?" I said, "I have a conflict of interest." He said, "Ok. Do you want to come pick up your stuff?" I said, "Yeah. I'll be there at 1pm". He said, "Ok, I'll be ready for you." I was surprised that he didn't ask me any other questions.

I then called Woody and found out that he was at his home near Annapolis for a few days. I had confided in him many times before and valued his opinion greatly. Even though I had some suspicion that he might somehow be involved with the surveillance, I trusted him, and I thought he would always act in my best interest. I wanted his opinion about my decision to stop working at Iridium. I asked him if he would meet with me. He agreed to meet me. I went over to his house, and we had a discussion that lasted for twenty or thirty minutes. I told him that I thought my computer might have been hacked and I thought Iridium was involved in some way. He agreed with me that if I was not comfortable working there...I should quit. Towards the end of our conversation, he said, "Just be aware of what assumptions you're making."

I had asked my dad to go with me to Iridium to get my tools and materials. On the way, we stopped in Washington DC at the Center for Democracy and Technology. I asked them to return the packet of information I had left there earlier in the week. They had not yet looked at anything in the packet. We then continued on to Iridium.

When we arrived at Iridium, Bob met me at the main entrance. He said, "Kurt, I don't know what assumptions you are making, but if you ever want to come back here, just call me...you can come back anytime." I then asked Bob, "I know I am canceling my contract without notice. Will I have any problem collecting my final bill?" He said, "No. You won't have any problem. Don't worry about it." I got my things together and we left. I started to think, Bob mentioned that word, 'assumptions'. So did Woody. What assumptions was I making? I was assuming I was under surveillance. I was assuming Iridium was involved. What else was I assuming? Did they know something I didn't?

On the way home, my dad and I decided to stop and hit some golf balls at a driving range. I was starting to experience more symptoms of psychosis. I sat down outside the clubhouse while my dad waited in line to purchase a few buckets of balls. I sat right behind a line of golfers driving balls. In front of me, there was a young man, probably 15 or 16 years old, also driving balls. There was an older man in the stall next to him giving him instruction. For some reason, I thought this kid looked familiar. I wondered if I had seen him before. I started to wonder whether he was part of the surveillance crew. I thought, would they recruit someone that young? I heard the older man giving him pointers. I wondered, if he's with the surveillance crew, why would he be hitting golf balls? I thought, "Because they have to look natural. Yeah, If they just stood around watching you, you would know they were watching you, so these guys have to act like they aren't watching you. They have to act like they're hitting golf balls like everyone else." I listened to the instructions given by the older man. I thought, "This kid must be a new recruit. This older guy is just telling him how to look natural. Yeah, that must be the truth."

Sitting nearby at a picnic table was a group of other people talking amongst themselves. I started to listen intently to their conversation. Part of it went something like this:

"What was he afraid of?"

"I don't know, "

"What happened?"

"Nothing"

"On Saturday, Jeff told me to increase staffing. He told me to start working on the new projects. He also told me to find something we could use on the web."

"Like what?"

"He said whatever, just use whatever you can find."

"Don't you think he overreacted?"

"I don't know, we didn't do anything serious. Nothing we haven't done before."

"We're starting on the new projects tomorrow."

"Are you going to increase the staffing like Jeff wanted?"

"Yes"

"Just don't go overboard. We're already losing money on this project."

"By the way, don't stress him out...I think he could lose it".

I wondered whether they were talking about me, or about the events that happened to me over the past week. They must be with the surveillance team, I thought. This was a mild symptom of a thought disorder I call personalization. Personalization is when you perceive that random impersonal events in the real world have some personal connection with yourself. In this instance, this personalization also coincided with another common thought in the paranoid spectrum-the belief that people are talking about you. I wondered why these people would be talking about me where I could hear their conversation. Were they playing some kind of mind game with me? Maybe they were trying to send a message to me somehow. Maybe they are trying to warn me that the surveillance project is going to expand. Maybe they are warning me about a future increase in activity.

While I was sitting there, a very large flying insect fluttered by. It was a very strange looking insect. I suddenly thought about insects being called 'bugs', and about covert microphones being called 'bugs'. I wondered whether the CIA had bugs that looked like bugs! Could the engineers develop microphones that flew and behaved like real insects? I partially began to believe that the insect I was looking at was actually a microphone of some sort. I say I partially believed it because I did not think it was a fact, but I did not entirely disbelieve it--I did not recognize that the thought came from my imagination. I believed the thought was a perception of the real world.

My dad came out with our buckets of golf balls and we started to hit them. I played horribly. Virtually every ball I hit veered off to the left or right, and less than 5% went farther than 100 yards. It was just about the worst golf I had ever played. I wondered if the people at the picnic table were taking notes about my performance.

© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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