This is almost as bad as when a fugitive falls for the old, “You won a radio contest gag,” which, by the way, I am proud to say I pulled off in the far distant past. But that’s another story for probably never so moving on.
When we look at this story there are a couple of things that stand out. The first being complacency. Complacency is a real concern for anyone working in an operational capacity. Whether undercover protecting an alias, a diplomat working abroad, or even yes, a drug dealer.
Operational Security is the same regardless of what side of the game board you’re on. If you’re on the side of government, law enforcement or intelligence, OPSEC is drilled into your thick skull almost before the ink is dry on your appointment letter.
I guess if you’re a dealer you don’t get that kind of formal education, more of an on-the-job training situation. The story here shows Mr. Stewart, that’s the guy, was wise enough to keep his comms out of the public air, via an encrypted chat service, but became so comfortable in the digital shadows that he thought casually discussing his favorite cheeses on the platform wouldn’t put him at risk. That’s where complacency lies, when things get a little too comfortable. Complacency kills, as the saying goes, or at least in this case it costs you, a lot…like a decade of your life lot.
My question in this whole thing isn’t how the authorities got his prints off the photo. That’s been done. A couple of photo filters, adjust the gradient, sprinkle in a little contrast, and BAM! Forensics. My question is context. This was not a solitary, random post about a cheese no one has ever heard of (or maybe I’m not enough of a connoisseur). This strikes me as the secret squirrel equivalent of taking food selfies. Or maybe he was hosting an underworld dinner party that night and wanted to check with Ecstasy Erica, his MDMA source, to make sure she wasn’t averse to the Mature Blue Stilton. Perhaps he had already had so much trouble with Heroin Karen over her gluten allergy that he was sick of it and decided to run the menu by everyone- menu mystery be damned! Problem was Erica had no idea what the Blue Stilton was and when overwhelmed with frustration he sent her a photo.
“Here!” he could be heard bellowing through the grocery, “It’s a God-Damned cheese! Uncultured heathens…I swear!”
That’s probably not how it happened. But the story seemed more fun this way.