The Red Balloon

By William Eardley, IV

***** The Red Balloon. Produced by; published by Pinpoint Productions, Inc.; available at 214/324-2299 (phone), (Web); two-hour DVD; $99.

This is a two-hour training video on the rather abstruse topic of eavesdropping, but it is refreshingly vibrant and engaging. And in terms of substance, the video/DVD is on par with the most thorough texts.

Charles Taylor, a noted expert in espionage, sought a way to keep in touch with the field after he retired, and he has clearly worked on conveying his hard-won wisdom in as palatable a manner as possible. The Red Balloon is the result.

The easy-to-follow format features twelve sections, each dealing with a separate topic, from phone taps and bug sweeps to selecting a TSCM provider. The DVD can be viewed all at once, or individual sections can be meted out as discrete training units.

Though sometimes technical, the video mostly operates at a level accessible to rank-and-file staff. It covers commonsense issues such as locking up papers, using shredders, and identifying potential adversaries. Other information might be news even to security professionals. For example, Taylor explains that many spying devices are not illegal to own but are illegal to use.

When the material does get technical, Taylor explains information clearly and adds a dose of dry wit to keep viewers’ attention. He provides just enough information to be useful, changing topics before viewers can get bored.

Reviewer: William Eardley, IV, has 19 years of experience in security and corrections. He is a member of ASIS.



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