Friday, November 27, 2009

The ultimate inf-ing

When I was in high school, I really enjoyed urban exploration. I made it to the otherworldly areas of Union Station, a few abandoned factories and some interesting places in the Toronto subway. Eventually I stopped because the people I met were really strange and the July 7, 2005 London subway bombings made it strange for someone of Pakistani descent to be hanging around places he shouldn't be.

Sites of interest on the Urban Exploration Resource website were catalogued by difficulty and what's worth seeing inside. Getting in, or infiltrating (a lot of the people doing this really just pretend to be spies), is commonly known as "infing". There have been some great infiltrations in history, going back to the Greeks at Troy, and the latest achievement in this field came from a Virginia couple with the dirty, dirty Arab name Salahi.

Not only did the Salahis make into a dinner party for Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh with 300 guests, but the Secret Service didn't even realize it. They only realized their lapse when they boasted about their feat online, which alerted the media, who asked the appropriate questions. In security terms, it's a non-issue because according to the article, the Salahis went through the same security check as everybody else there.

What makes it amazing, of course, is that they managed to get into a dinner party at the White House with some very famous people (Katie Couric, as well as Joe Biden and Barack Obama), presumably without no more reason to be there than you or me. There's a possibility that someone let them in, which also undid the Great Wall of China, but the possibility of a payoff is very low at the White House in comparison to the Great Wall. It's also the sort of thing that happens in 24: in the last season, terrorists infiltrated the White House and took the president hostage, entering from the basement, where a bookshelf hid a giant hole in the wall.

The key to these situations is to always act like you belong. Of course, it helps to look the part by dressing appropriately and inconspicuously. I found that a sullen look, the kind that expressed dismay at having to go to my office at Union Station on a Saturday after already having worked Monday to Friday, carried me around its interior without any problems. A good back story, white skin and pretending not to speak English are also helpful. I had two of those three.

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