Coverts Covet Spy Supplies

By Abrahms, Doug | Insight on the News, December 25, 1995 | Go to article overview

Coverts Covet Spy Supplies


Abrahms, Doug, Insight on the News


Espionage isn't simply for governments any more. Businesses, families and a growing number of amateur gumshoes are joining the game.

Neckties hiding miniature cameras no longer are the sole province of James Bond. Secret Santas have a new store to browse in: the Counter Spy Shop of Mayfair, London, with outlets in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, which offers an array of low-and high-tech toys.

The store sells bulletproof vests, books with hollow centers, shaving-cream cans with false bottoms, pens that spray pepper gas and an ordinary-looking outdoor thermometer with a place to hide spare keys, along with cellular-phone scrambling devices and tape recorders that can pick up whispers. A pager-sized bug detector vibrates to alert the wearer of eavesdroppers.

With industrial espionage on the rise, spy merchandise is hot, says Bill Kelly, manager of the Washington store, which opened in October just blocks from the White House. The chain maintains its other stores on Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive, the better to attract embassy, corporate and wealthy clients.

Even though the price of spy merchandise has fallen within reach of consumers, the business is driven by companies' efforts to guard against employee theft of property and confidential information. Insurance companies and even a federal workers' compensation office have bought voicestress analyzers to monitor people filing claims. A Texas cattle baron flew to Washington to buy night-vision goggles to stop rustlers back home, says Keny

And, of course, there is diplomatic spying - as in the case of to U.S. government bugging business-class seats on Air France, according to U. …

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