My job is to read Wikipedia articles and I work in a team. Every day we are given a series of articles to read, and if we find something unusual about them, we analyse their word content. My team mates and I work for a governmental agency that doesn’t exist officially.
Some time ago, someone at our training Academy wrote an internal research paper. It was called The Wikipedia Code because its writer maintained that members of criminal and terrorist organisations were using Wikipedia to communicate to each other.
Since then, our agency has scores of teams sift through Wikipedia articles. I cannot say what we have found, but all I can say is that we started with five teams two years ago, and now we have thirty-two teams. Numerous organisations are currently spied by our agency. We track what they write to each other and monitor their activities.
The information is usually spread over a number of articles, often unrelated, so one of the activities that the team carries out is to analyse article-reading behaviour. Let’s say, I read an article about Fidel Castro, and then I read one about Che Guevara, this would not appear in any way strange. However, let’s say that I read an article about an obscure medieval Persian poet, and immediately after that, one about Britain's Milk Marketing Board, then our tools would give an assessment of how suspicious this “leap” is.
Once a "leap" is deemed sufficiently suspicious, we employ supercomputers to analyse all text in both articles, and try to understand how passages of one could fit with passages of another in what could be defined as possible “scenarios”. In some cases, there are Code articles, which provide the equivalent of a book code that is, they indicate the line and word number (counting from the left) inside other articles that, when put together form a message.
Today, I decrypted a bit of a message, and when I sent it to The Forum, it sparked a huge response, and I realised it was something big. I used to feel proud when such events took place because I imagined my job was useful, and that it may save lives. But I no longer believe this.
A few of us have started to take our work home with us. We have set up a team of teams. We have one person from each team, who contributes their part of the message, and we try to put the bits of messages together, as if it were a gigantic puzzle.
Tonight, we have deciphered a message, probably our last. The message is a complete list of the number plate of each one of our cars followed by TWEP – Terminate With Extreme Prejudice followed by the address of where we are meeting and today’s date.
We are now sitting around a conference table in an off-season seaside hotel. Nobody is talking; we know that it is only a matter of minutes before we will hear the sirens and the police will take us away.
There’s a knock on the door and nobody moves. I am closest to the door, so I go to open it. Someone tries to stop me, but I brush him off saying “What’s the point? It’s over.”
There are two young men at the door. They are holding some pizza cartons and step inside, closing the door behind them. The taller one takes his cap off and clears his throat.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please if you will.” His voice is strong and clear.
“We are not pizza delivery men and you have exactly two minutes to drop your stuff and follow us down the fire escape to the back of the hotel where a bus is waiting for you. Do not try to go to your room or to your car or to anywhere else for that matter. Law enforcement agencies are already here, and they are waiting for you.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we believe you could be more useful outside jail than inside. Before you ask, we are not a criminal or terrorist organisation. We communicate through Wikipedia because it’s free and because we see it as a way of promoting and exporting free speech out of countries that don’t have it. Now, follow us and shut up.”
Something is not right. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s there. And then I see it. Both men have the same watch and the same shoes.
We are on the first floor, and the bus is parked directly below our window. As the two men turn towards the fire escape, I turn and run. I lift myself over the window sill and drop onto the roof of the bus. I climb down, holding onto the side mirror. I hit the ground hard, but I don’t feel a thing. I don’t see anybody. I don’t hear anything. I run. And I don’t look back.