Spy pro’s take on Bush bulge
Friday, October 29, 2004
The Internet, as it will, has been buzzing for weeks about that mysterious bulge under President Bush’s jacket during his first debate with Sen. John Kerry. Was it an electronic receiver? Was Bush being coached via a hidden earpiece?
The president finally responded to the speculation this week by insisting that the bulge was in no way an electronic device. “e;I’m embarrassed to say it’s a poorly tailored shirt,”e; he told a TV interviewer.
Jason Woodside, owner of San Francisco’s International Spy Shop, the Bay Area’s sole purveyor of espionage and counterespionage gear, could only shake his head when told of Bush’s explanation.
“e;A poorly tailored shirt,”e; he said. “e;It’s possible. But it looks like a wireless induction system. It looks like this.”e;
Woodside held up a picture of a small, rectangular receiver, about the same size as the device Bush is alleged to have worn. It comes with an antenna that’s looped around the neck and a wireless earpiece.
“e;We sold one like this just two weeks ago,”e; Woodside said. “e;It’s easy to set up, fast. Costs about $1,500.”e;
Whether or not the president was actually wearing such a getup — and it’s a theory that’s failed to get much traction beyond the blog squad — Bush’s bulge highlights the nervous nature of Woodside’s business.
In this line of work, companies routinely spy on employees. Husbands and wives spy on philandering spouses. Parents spy on potentially abusive nannies.
Woodside, 30, a former private investigator, inhabits a decidedly paranoid world.
“e;I live in the real world,”e; he retorted.
To prove his point, Woodside opened his laptop computer and called up a map of the region. A small blip could be seen moving at 45 miles per hour along Highway 1 near Santa Cruz.
Woodside explained that a client had instructed him to attach a global- positioning-system transceiver to the family car. The client was suspicious about his wife’s activities while he was at work.
“e;I’ve been following her for a few weeks now,”e; Woodside said as, unbeknownst to the woman behind the wheel, her car’s movements were tracked via satellite. “e;We learned where she goes, the hotels where she stops.”e;
So her husband was right.
“e;He was right,”e; Woodside agreed, adding that it’s now up to the client whether he wants to go the next step and have the International Spy Shop provide photographic evidence confirming his wife’s extracurricular activities.
Woodside, a self-professed “e;gadget guy,”e; started his business in 1999 at a South-of-Market location. As sales steadily increased, he moved last year to a higher-profile venue near Fisherman’s Wharf.
The serious surveillance stuff still accounts for about 80 percent of revenue, Woodside said. But with tourists now coming through the door every day, he’s added a snack bar and T-shirts, and a rack selling spy toys for kids.
Paraphernalia from James Bond movies can be found throughout the store. Soft jazz plays in the background.
Inside the glass cases are exotica such as a picture frame containing a hidden camera that sells for $549, and a motion-activated camera tucked inside a clock radio that goes for $1,500.
There’s a 180,000-volt stun gun masquerading as a cell phone that sells for $150, and a pen-size bug detector going for $259.
“e;Look at this,”e; Woodside said, holding up what appeared to be an ordinary pager. “e;It will vibrate if you get close to a listening device. It’s for executives.”e;
Along these lines, he said the International Spy Shop routinely sends teams to Bay Area companies, hotels and homes to sweep for bugs and other surveillance devices. A sweep of 2,000 square feet or less will cost about $3, 500.
Woodside won’t say how much his business pulls down each year. “e;That’s confidential,”e; he insisted. He will acknowledge, though, that the firm is profitable.
As for Bush’s bulge, conspiracy theorists point to the president’s strange declaration of “e;let me finish”e; in the middle of a debate answer, while he still had plenty of time to speak. Was he in fact responding to a voice in his ear?
Bush had been discussing the quality of intelligence he received on Iraq but got sidetracked with criticism of Kerry’s purported position changes on the war.
I replayed the moment online. It is a little weird how the “e;let me finish”e; line pops out as Bush stammers during his remarks. But he could just as easily have been responding to some distraction at the event.
Meanwhile, Georges de Paris, who has been tailoring suits for every president since Lyndon Johnson, obligingly demonstrated for the Hill newspaper in Washington how the jacket Bush was wearing could have gotten bunched up in the back.
“e;The same thing will happen anytime you cross your arms like Bush did,”e; he was quoted as saying. “e;It causes the back of the jacket to pucker along the seam.”e;
Woodside isn’t so sure. He pointed at a picture from the debate, in which the material of the president’s jacket appears taut and unpuckered.
“e;Here’s the receiver,”e; Woodside said, tracing the outline of the rectangular bulge on Bush’s back. “e;Here’s the antenna,”e; he said, moving his finger along what appears to be a line from the bulge to Bush’s right shoulder.
Woodside nodded to himself. “e;My gut tells me he’s got something on him.”e;
Could it have come from Woodside’s own store?
“e;I sell them,”e; he replied. “e;But I don’t think there’s any relation between what I’ve sold and what the president is wearing.”e;
Woodside smiled enigmatically.
“e;But what do I know?”e; he said.
David Lazarus’ column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He also can be seen regularly on KTVU’s “e;Mornings on 2.”e; Send tips or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org .
This article appeared on pageC – 1of the San Francisco Chronicle