Thursday, February 24, 2011

Agent C

This week I officially became a resident of France and I have a card that proves it. Perhaps the last few weeks were a test of my commitment, will, strength and ultimate patience to truly become a Parisienne. I’m no ordinary resident however, “non, non, Madame ou Monsieur”, I’m an International Woman of Mystery...a Secret Agent if you must, and I have diplomatic privileges!

My day job where all my Secret Agent covert research and training is undertaken is at the Organisation of Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD). The mission of the OECD is to promote the economic and social well-being of people around the world. It does this through research and policy development. Whilst it’s a long and convoluted story of how I came to be here, let’s just say that I’m a double-agent as I still belong to an Australian Federal Government Agency. My cover (job title) at the OECD is Economist / Policy Advisor, however, for all intents and purposes, I am actually quite truthfully internally referred to as an Agent of the OECD.

OECD HQ is in the prestigious 16th district of Paris where a lot of Consulates and Embassies are also housed. It’s also where little Parisian woman in fur coats donned with red lipstick swoon around with their even tinier dogs...mind the dog poop on the footpath!


OECD exterior fence

Gaining access to the OECD HQ is like getting into MI5 in London, I’m sure. The OECD works very closely with the G-20. The Group of 20 (G-20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors bringing together systemically important industrialised and developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy. So the work and information of the OECD is highly protected and quite sensitive.

Walking into work each morning is like the opening sequence of each episode of ‘Get Smart’, the 1960s TV sitcom about an American spy agency called Control, and its nemesis, presumably Eastern European spy agency called Kaos. I have to pass through no less than 3 series of doors, each one having to close behind me before I am able to access the next one. Although, it’s not as simple as being in an airlock chamber, no, I have to stand specifically on a green dot on the floor. If I disobey the strict instructions of standing on the green dot then a French security guard gets onto the PA system and instructs me in stern French to stand on the green dot. What the green dot actually does, I’m not sure. It could perhaps be similar to a full body scan, ala, ‘Total Recall’ perhaps.

The green dot

The security doesn’t stop there. I must wear my Agent badge at all times. This is necessary if I want to access one of two secret tunnels under the building in order to reach the Château across the road. The Chateau is where the offices of the Secretary-General are. The Secretary-General is the head of the OECD and is like  a mythical figure that people fear and respect, that is never seen but sends important communiqués to ‘his people’ that must be followed. I shan’t liken it to one Asian peninsular that is equally mysterious and is closed the outside world.

Secret Tunnel 1


I travel the secret tunnel each day and I have had the privilege of attending one soirée in the Chateau for our Directorate (the secret division I work in) where I had the pleasure of indulging in fine champagne, the most amazing canapés and the biggest table of the most veritable selection of cheeses you’ve ever seen.







The Chateau - view from my office

Working as the OECD means that I am also officially a diplomat – my residency card confirms this! This only makes sense since I’m a Secret Agent of course, and I require diplomatic privileges. Whilst, I don’t have any ‘immunities’, well sort-of, parking fines are not a problem apparently, my privileges are beneficial. I am able to obtain a visa for any country in a matter of days. I have my own bank teller at the branch of my bank and I don’t have to queue ever! I receive preferential treatment by most community service providers, such as the police, and I can also get special diplomatic licence plates should I want to, so that way I can hoon around town not really having any regard to the applicable road laws...or so I’m told. 



My attache for the dead drop

Whilst being a diplomatic Agent for the OECD I am required to go on ‘missions’. Missions are where OECD Agents meet with local agents and their global counterparts at conferences and seminars, to discuss the espionage work of the OECD and other international organisations. The mission may include a ‘dead drop’ where whilst in a secret location materials can be left in concealment for another party to receive. This may require the use of my attaché that I obtained through a counter operative during my Mission to Turkey in late 2009.

My next clandestine mission, which I’ve chosen to accept, is for me to fly out to Amman Jordan this Saturday.

The Eye, in our Reconnaissance (security) Division sent the following communiqué to all Agents travelling on the mission to Jordan.

The advice has not changed although sporadic anti-government demonstrations are likely to continue in the short term.

Last Friday was the seventh consecutive Friday of protests in the country. At least eight people were injured in Amman. Although anti-government demonstrations have been taking place for several weeks, this is the first time that violence has been reported. The development suggests that tensions are rising.

While rallies to date have not been on the scale of those seen recently in Tunisia or Egypt, and opposition groups continue to call for reform rather than the overthrow of the monarchy, these gatherings could grow in size and intensity should the new government appointed on 1 February fail to deliver on its various promises. Protests are likely to be largest following Friday afternoon prayers, and may be held in the capital and other urban centres. A significant police presence and possible traffic restrictions should be expected in the vicinity of any such gatherings.

We continue to monitor the situation and should you require any assistance during your mission please contact us immediately.

The mission to Jordan will also include a ‘cover stop’ (i.e. a stop made whilst under surveillance to provide an ostensibly innocent reason for visiting the said target destination) to Petra – the historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an.

During my mission to Jordan I will go deep undercover so as not be compromised and will need to maintain communication silence.
My residency card

However, on return from my mission I will provide a fully debrief in my Mission Report detailing the operations that I successfully executed.

Til then...

OVA & OUT!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Never Smoothly

Who would’ve thought that a simple weekend outing to IKEA would turn into one of the most arduous, emotionally draining, physically painful, soul destroying experiences of my life…and this is coming from no softy but a triathlete. Not to mention I narrowly avoid death on not one, but two occasions.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Same, same, but different

I’ve moved to a smaller city. That’s right, Paris is smaller than Melbourne.

Paris has a population of 2.2 million people, as compared to Melbourne’s 4 odd million. It also only has an area of 105 km2, and now that I’ve lived here just shy of a month, you actually do feel how small the city is and how accessible everything is. Melbourne on the other hand has an area of 8,806 km2, and therein lies the technicality. The Parisians are very particular about this too!