I Spy

Tom Marcus | 22 mins



My lungs were burning, the taste of copper in my mouth as my body screamed for more oxygen to feed my muscles or for me to stop. I can’t stop. No choice but to keep pushing up the side of this mountain no matter what.

The terrorist training camp was around 600 metres away from me, but I needed a higher vantage point to get clear imagery.

From the quick map study I’d done in the car I knew there would be a good position further up ahead and now, as my soaking wet boots desperately tried to keep enough traction to stop me falling, I could just make out the natural dip in the side of this steep Welsh mountain. From there I’d be able to look directly down on the camp and hopefully have enough cover to enable me to hide.

My eyesight had quickly adjusted to the darkness when I set out but the rocks and bushes around me were becoming clearer now. First light was only minutes away and I had to be in place before all the targets got up for morning prayers.

We’d been investigating them for a year but this was the first time we’d had this entire cell together in one place. It was a perfect opportunity to get some video footage that would quite probably be used at a later date in court.

Come on, keep pushing! Can’t let the team down. I’d been running as hard as I could for a good thirty minutes, leaving the car a couple of miles away and using another valley as cover before starting to run vertically up the mountain.

Fifty metres to go. I stumbled, somehow found my footing again and kept running. Finally at the dip, I dropped down on the dew-covered grass and unzipped my camera bag, which was basically a normal hiker’s rucksack that fitted the environment perfectly. I took the long-lens camera out first; this would be my decoy if anyone did see me tucked away here. The actual camera I was interested in was my video camera. I connected the lead to a screen which stayed in my rucksack to prevent it giving away my position in the low light.

My heart was still racing as my body fought to get the lactic acid out of my muscles. Taking a breath and holding it for a second, I slowed myself down, then tucked the video camera on the other side of the bush, angling it roughly in the direction of the three tents below. The targets wouldn’t be able to see me at this distance or elevation, but I still had to be careful.

My cover story was really simple and effective. If I did get any interest from ramblers or anyone related to our targets, I was birdspotting after hearing from my mates that this was a good place to photograph hawks and other winged things. Taking a few photographs on my digital SLR, adjusting the settings for low level light conditions, I aimed to dispel any doubt about what I was actually here for. I knew I had to be fairly quiet though; even at this distance sound carries. I was banking on the fact these particular targets weren’t that in tune with their surroundings, plus the natural dip I was in and the thick bushes I was hiding behind would dissipate any sound.

We usually found ourselves operating on crime-ridden city streets so being in the Welsh countryside made a nice change of pace, even though a rock was digging into my hip and now I’d stopped sprinting I was cold, my sweat-drenched clothes only making things worse.

Using the touch screen in my rucksack, I zoomed the focus of the digital video camera nice and tight on the tents.

‘Team leader from Zero Six . . .’ I was still gasping for air and had been motoring up there at full tilt for so long that I was nearly sick. No time for that now though. Snatching a breath, I continued to send my message on my covert radio. ‘I have control of the site, can give constant commentary.’

Roger that,’ Graeme, our team leader replied. ‘Will you be able to ID them quickly?

‘Yes yes. I’ll get them face-on while they do morning prayer.’

I knew they would be facing south-east to pray, the direction of Mecca, and my position was chosen to be near perfect for facial recognition. Watching the video screen, I realized I’d made it just in time.

‘From Zero Six, we have movement at the tents, will give targets when I see them properly.’ First prayers, like clockwork – these guys were predictable if nothing else.

Roger that, Zero Six. If you can control them within that little area we’ll keep the team out of the valley, ready for a vehicle move.

Keeping the team away would make the targets feel comfortable.

‘Understood, and that’s a STAND BY STAND BY, we have GREEN ATLANTIC, WHITE KESTREL out of the most northern tent, both dark trousers, dark tops, carrying prayer mats.’

Staying nice and quiet, I continued to whisper into my radio, burying my mouth into the neck of my wet jacket. Everything we do as operators is with our cover in mind. I couldn’t see anyone else around here apart from the tents and two of our targets rolling their prayer mats out, but just because I couldn’t see anyone, that didn’t mean I couldn’t be seen.

As GREEN ATLANTIC and WHITE KESTREL washed their hands and feet prior to prayer, I saw the rest of the cell.

‘And stations that’s RED HARRIER, PACIFIC LION, BLUE TONGA and COLD SAHARA all out in the open now, all dressed in dark clothing top and bottom, carrying prayer mats.’

Roger that, Zero Six, thanks.’ The team leader was straight on the net to reply, his voice comforting given that I was alone and isolated.

‘Team leader from Zero Six, while they are praying I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum. Base, this is all recording for your information.’

Team Leader, understood.

Base, roger.

The operations officer back at Thames House was seeing the live feed I was recording so they could analyse it in real time. These officers are highly experienced men and women who feed information to the team leaders, liaise with police and coordinate the teams taking over shifts

The targets hadn’t been here long. This training camp was designed to replicate camps normally seen in Syria or Afghanistan in which recruits would be taught weapons handling, how to strip and fire automatic rifles, run over arduous terrain, build home-made bombs and form a bond with each other. The sort of brotherhood seen in the military, except these guys were hell-bent on blowing themselves up if we let them.

All highly educated with degrees, they were out of their comfort zone roughing it miles from anywhere, but it’s the type of environment that enhances and cements a certain amount of resilience. The problem we’ve got is we just can’t have resilient suicide bombers.

They finished cleansing themselves and, just as planned, faced directly towards me to pray. Sitting down with my digital camera on my lap, I pretended to rummage around in my rucksack. I needed to zoom slightly tighter in on the targets. This was 100 per cent the whole cell. All in one place, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded and in their eyes protected by the rugged terrain.

It was a strange situation to be in, to see these guys praying together, calmly, almost with a gentleness that suited the early morning of the Welsh mountains. It was intimate and humbling to watch them like this. We’d been on this group for a long time, and were well aware of their desire to kill, but as I watched them on my tiny screen I became a little hypnotized by their softer side.

Time for a quick update to my team.

‘Stations from Zero Six, that’s the entire group now finishing their prayers and into the tents.’

Team leader, roger.

Shit! I was straight back on to the radio,

‘All Stations, GREEN ATLANTIC has just given BLUE TONGA a shotgun and a large hunting knife. Ops if you have the live feed can you confirm? I’m not tight enough to be completely sure but it looks like double barrel, wooden stock.’

Base roger, and we’ve seen, thanks Zero Six.

The team leader made sure everyone acknowledged my last transmission. We knew these guys were willing to kill and now we’d confirmed they had the means. The threat to life, immediate to us and imminent to the public, was increased.

Things like this don’t scare us; if anything they make us stronger. This might seem arrogant to some, but think about it. When determined, would-be mass-murdering terrorists are coming to kill you, your family, everyone you care about, who do you want standing in their way? Someone who isn’t entirely confident in their ability to protect you, or people like us?

We’re not superheroes, and we are far from perfect. But right here, right now, there is no one better equipped, both physically and mentally. This whole country is ours, and we protect it day and night.

I was the only operator close to these targets. I was still 600 metres away from them, but in this environment, with the lack of other people around, it was close as I’d dare get. I knew that we’d be calling in the arrest of these guys soon but we couldn’t blow the operation now by making them nervous. Letting them think they were completely unstoppable was the perfect play right now. Plus, my team was at best twenty to thirty minutes away from me.

If I was too close to them and they found me, I’d have no chance against six blokes. I’d be dead in minutes.

I was expecting all six targets to prepare breakfast and then either do some sort of training where they were or move onto the hills. With previous training camps we’ve seen, they nearly always try to fit some sort of hill walk in, probably because they have seen programmes about the special forces doing their selection course in Wales. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing but had to prepare the team anyway.

‘Stations from Zero Six, just be aware they might be packing up their camp.’

The team leader reacted instantly. ‘Roger that Zero Six, keep commentary coming please. Stations close in now, ready for a vehicle move.

As I lifted my eyes from the screen hidden inside my bag to take a quick look up at the ridgeline in front of me, the radio transmissions sped up.

From Charlie Eight Eight, a grey Toyota Previa drove towards the main [road] about five minutes ago, roughly in the area of the break in the treeline the cell used to walk to their campsite.

Any details?’ The team leader was keen to find out if the car was connected to this group or not. Thankfully, Charlie Eight Eight was in our team camper van, a gleaming VW complete with side awning and bikes on the back. It had everything you’d need for a weekend getaway in the countryside and was the perfect cover for us. No one in their right mind would think it was an MI5 surveillance vehicle. It was no secret everyone in the team wanted to use it in places like this.

Negative,’ Charlie Eight Eight replied. ‘Came in from the east, not sure if the west position spotted it leaving?

West, negative.

Fuck. These guys were about to be picked up. I knew it. We had everyone in place to control them to their next destination but we didn’t know, yet, who the driver of the Toyota people carrier was or where they were going.

The camera made the faintest of whines as I zoomed in to bring the campsite closer to my screen. I needed to let the team know what was happening so they were ready.

‘From Zero Six, that’s all three tents being packed up now.’

Base, roger that. Team Leader go to channel nine please.

The team leader being asked to go to another channel by the operations officer back in Thames House told us there was an update to this operation coming, probably based around this vehicle showing up in the area and our targets packing up.

We’d gathered enough intelligence over the months to take the cell out: preparations of weapons and explosives, incitement, belonging to a banned terrorist organization, the list was endless.

It was important to let the team and the team leader know what I would and would not be able to do when these guys moved away from the campsite, so I got straight on to the radio again. The chatter between every member of the team was constant now.

‘For information, from Zero Six I can control them from here if they do go to the main road to the south.’

Charlie Eight Eight, roger that mate.

Zero Six from Team Leader, what’s the latest?

‘No change, still packing their tents away. Happening fairly quick, won’t be long before they have packed up the site.’

Great, thanks. Permission for a quick update on Operation UNDERTONE, Zero Six?

Every operation has its own specific code name. It’s chosen at random and no operation shares the same name, ever. Targets within the operation are given two-word names: GREEN ATLANTIC, BLUE TONGA, for example. We always ask for permission to talk on the net from the person who is in control of the target, as their commentary is an absolute priority.

‘Zero Six go ahead.’

Thanks. Stations, as you can gather from Base’s message to me a minute ago, the desk have made the decision to put in an arrest on this group. We want them in a vehicle to prevent any chance of them running into the hills. Zero Six so far?

Sometimes, when we were transmitting a long message, we’d break it with the words ‘so far’ to check we were still being heard, or to give someone else a chance to cut in if needed.

‘So far,’ I confirmed.

The image of these guys running around the mountain with armed police chasing them Benny Hill style was making me smile, but it made perfect sense for the strike team to hit them while in the confines of a vehicle, when they would be easier to control. (MI5 operators don’t have powers of arrest, which is one of the reasons the police are brought in if targets need to be apprehended.)

To that end, if Zero Six tracks them towards the main, we’ll have Charlie Eight Eight confirm them into the vehicle. Bravo Six will take the vehicle on, guiding the Executive Action team in at the T-junction to put the hard stop in.

‘Bravo’ is part of the code name for each of our bikers, while ‘Charlie’ is used for anyone in a vehicle. ‘Zero’ means the operative is on foot. My job was now relatively simple: watch, wait and report. I would give constant commentary as the group walked towards the main road out of this valley, hopefully towards a vehicle, so the rest of the team knew what was happening and could take over.

Charlie Eight Eight, roger.

Bravo Six, roger.

‘Zero Six, roger the last. For information all the tents are now packed away. GREEN ATLANTIC looks like he’s lost something.’

I could see GREEN ATLANTIC checking his pockets and bags before asking the other targets something, and was thinking to myself it’d be funny if he had lost his house keys, because home was the last place he was going.

Normally we only give a ‘stand by’ over the radios to wake everyone up to the fact the target has been seen; it stands out from the other type of commentary we give on the net as something important. We don’t usually give a stand by when we already have control of the targets but given how important the next half hour was going to be, I didn’t want to take any chances.

‘STAND BY STAND BY. That’s all six targets now leaving the campsite, walking SOUTH SOUTH towards the main. Each has a backpack with a grey roll mat on the top, Zero Six has control.’

Staying in position, nice and still, I zoomed the camera right out using the screen in the bottom of my rucksack. If I started moving now it would show I was reacting to the targets’ movement, a clear sign that I was interested in them. Controlling them as much as I could through the video camera would allow me to keep hidden.

Charlie Eight Eight roger.

Base roger and the Executive Action team is in the area now waiting to be guided in.’

‘Roger, they are three zero zero metres away from the main now continuing south.’

GREEN ATLANTIC was still patting his pockets down and glancing back towards the site of their camp. The way they were leaving obviously meant this was pre-planned, especially if the Toyota people carrier that came into the area was for them, and I couldn’t help but question why, if he had lost something, he didn’t have time to search properly for it.

The six targets were walking quickly through the valley, five of them with their heads down, typical of people who aren’t used to waking up early in rough wet terrain. BLUE TONGA’s head wasn’t watching his feet like the rest; he was looking up at the ridgelines, every so often scanning past my general area.

I stayed still so I didn’t give away my position. With the sun rising fast it felt like a searchlight was being cast onto this mountainside, and the only thing hiding me was a large gorse bush and the evaporating dew, which looked like dry ice as it rose off the grass.

The group was now virtually adjacent to me, about 300 metres away. GREEN ATLANTIC had finally stopped fidgeting.

‘Stations, targets still towards the main,’ I said, lowering my voice even further. ‘Base and Team Leader be aware that BLUE TONGA is still the one with the shotgun and knife in his large bag, red in colour. BLUE TONGA is extremely aware of his surroundings.’

Charlie Eight Eight roger.’ In the background you could hear Chris cooking some food in the back of the VW, living his cover perfectly. Lucky bastard; I was out here freezing and he was in pure luxury in a nice, dry spanking-new camper!

Base roger that. Zero Six, confirm weapon is in BLUE TONGA’s rucksack, and that the colour is red?

‘Yes yes, red, it’s the only red rucksack within the group. All targets dressed in dark clothing, but BLUE TONGA definitely has the red bag with weapons inside. I’ll zoom in tighter now so you can see the feed your end.’

I waited a few seconds for Base to analyse the feed as I zoomed in on the back of BLUE TONGA’s red bag.

It didn’t take the operations officer long to get straight back on to the net. ‘Base, have seen, thank you. Passing that on now.

Watching the group head towards the natural break in the trees that gave them access to the road, I started to give the team a countdown so they could move into position ready to take control from me.

‘From Zero Six, that’s now five zero metres away from the main, I’ll lose control of them just before they hit the main road.’

Even with the camera zoom, I could only just see the targets.

‘Charlie Eight Eight, that’s out of sight to Zero Six, all yours.’

Charlie Eight Eight, have seen, I have control. That’s all six targets towards this grey Toyota Previa – VRN is Mike one six one Tango Golf Kilo. Can’t ID the driver. BLUE TONGA and PACIFIC LION have opened the boot and they are loading the backpacks. Base, BLUE TONGA has placed the red bag carefully into the boot of the Toyota, RED BAG INTO THE BOOT. The other targets have placed their bags at the rear of the vehicle and entered.

Base would be passing Chris’s information about the bag of weapons straight on to the Executive Action strike team. No one was concerned about his proximity to these targets as the underlying noise of a pan sizzling meant he was still well disguised as a camper. I could almost visualize the full English fry-up. My stomach rumbled.

Bravo Six roger, and ready to take them on when you give them away.

Paul popped up on the net on his motorbike, ready to take control of the Toyota when it moved. Constantly handing over control between team members means targets never see or suspect they are being followed.

Charlie Eight Eight, roger. Boot closed and BLUE TONGA and PACIFIC LION are now complete in the vehicle too, that’s all six targets into vehicle and lights are on. Team leader, I’ve got good imagery of this.

Roger, thank you. Bravo Six, the arrest team is being guided by Base as soon as you have control.

I’d have to wait until the police arrest team had secured the vehicle and targets before I could leave this position. While listening to the commentary I continued my cover as a bird watcher, adjusting the camera settings and taking some sample shots of the local scenery. Living your cover story allows operators like us to keep working. We have a saying in our MI5 surveillance teams: a covert operator operates for life.

Bravo Six from Charlie Eight Eight, that’s target vehicle now driving off away WEST, WEST all yours.

Bravo Six roger and have seen, I have control. Base for information speed is already four zero, five zero miles per hour.

Roger, keep control. When they approach the T-junction can you give count down please?

Bravo Six roger that, speed now six zero, six five miles per hour, one mile from T-junction.

Paul would have studied the map as soon as he knew he was responsible for guiding the police arrest team in. The fact the vehicle was speeding out of the area meant it was obviously a good time for us to put the stop in on them.

From Bravo Six, vehicle is now half a mile from the T-junction. Base acknowledge?

Base roger. EXECUTIVE ACTION NOW! EXECUTIVE ACTION NOW! Bravo Six you have a marked SO19 vehicle approaching from the rear, let them through then hold back. They also have teams ahead at the T-junction. For your information this will be a hard stop. HARD STOP.

The operations officer back in the ops room in Thames House was cool as ice, but repeating and emphasizing key words like this makes everyone on the ground that much more aware. It’s needed when things go loud. A ‘hard stop’ is a term the police and special forces use when they are arresting a target or targets with armed force and are expecting to face resistance. SO19 is the shorthand used for specialist police firearms units, who are deployed on operations like this as Executive Action teams.

Executive Action teams are fully armed, and over the years the police teams used for these hard arrests have become incredibly skilled. The speed and controlled aggression they use is highly effective, but it’s having the discipline to know when to pull the trigger and when not to that makes our police teams the best.

Bravo Six roger, and have seen police team, handing over to them now.’ Paul’s motorbike engine was just audible under the sound of his calm transmissions. Even though the game was stepping up and shots were potentially about to be fired in front of him, Paul’s speech and commentary remained consistent and clear.

Staying still, I was expecting to hear some sort of gunfire or small explosion. With the vehicle moving at speed the team were likely to force it to a stop by using blocking vehicles in front while the armed police of SO19 pulled in behind, blowing the back tyres out.

It didn’t take long for the sound of carnage to echo its way across the valley. I counted two clear shots within the rapid echoes and one smaller bang which sounded like a vehicle crash.

For information from Bravo Six, the Executive Action team have shot the rear tyres out of the vehicle at the T-junction. All targets and driver being pulled out now.

The team leader was instantly on the radio.

Team Leader roger that. All stations cease and withdraw. Head back to the briefing room, grab some food on the way, it’s a long drive back. Acknowledge down the list.

As soon as the police teams have control like this we melt away. We don’t want anyone to see us, local passers-by, targets, not even police teams.

As all the vehicle call signs responded to the team leader, I started packing up the cameras. My legs were completely soaked so I was more than happy we’d arrested these guys – I could now get the fuck out of here.

‘Zero Six roger, I’ll give you a shout when I get back to my vehicle.’

Thanks Zero Six.

I had a couple of miles to cover to get to my car, but there was no rush now. GREEN ATLANTIC’s body language earlier was still bugging me. Was I right that he’d lost something? Whenever you doubt something, there is no doubt – there’s just an explanation you can’t see yet. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a need to know what lies behind people’s behaviour. I remember walking into my dad’s bedroom when I was about six, to tell him there was someone at the door. I caught him quickly stuffing something into the pocket of a jacket hanging in his wardrobe. As soon as he’d left the room I was in the wardrobe snooping. I found a full bottle of vodka (not that I realized what it was) and empty bottles hidden away in his other jackets. People are always hiding something.

Given that the cell had been arrested and I had a bit of time, I could afford to go and walk through their campsite. It would add more distance on my route back but if I carried on along the ridgeline and dropped down onto the area of their site I could check it then carry on walking back towards my car without having to double back on myself.

Slinging the rucksack onto my back, I tightened the straps. The radio was now completely silent apart from one last update from the operations officer back at base.

Stations Operation UNDERTONE update, SO19 put in a hard stop on all seven occupants of the Grey Toyota and they are all now in custody. Good job, I’ll see you all back at the debrief once you get here. If you’re still moving out of the area be mindful of uniformed police cars and a recovery truck moving in to take the Toyota back for forensics. Base out.

Job done, all arrested. Hopefully we’d get a fair amount of intelligence from the arrests to bolt onto the massive amount we’d already achieved.

The sun had broken over the horizon and it was officially morning in this part of Wales. I love it here. The harshness of the weather and the terrain, the resilience of the people, makes me think of what life should be like. Simple, co-existing with nature. The reality though is that in this timeless landscape I’d just been watching one of the most current threats to our nation preparing for war.

I’d spotted a natural path about twenty metres lower than the ridgeline that would allow me to drop down into the valley below and walk the route back towards my car via the campsite. It was pretty unlikely I’d find anything there but spending a minute or two searching would put my mind at rest before I had to drive the four to five hours back to Thames House for debrief.

Moving across the mountainside like any other early morning rambler, I kept a close eye on the location of the campsite so I stayed locked into the area. Lighting and perspective can change so quickly in the hills that you could lose your positioning instantly by making a simple mistake like not looking where you’re going. Sounds obvious, but it happens all the time. Just keeping your head up fixes these potential problems.

I had to resist the urge to break into a run coming downhill as I made my way down to the valley floor. Terrain like this always reminds me of my military training, especially the Special Operations side of things. Being used to surviving environments where you’re already cold and wet and fairly isolated gives you reserves to draw on when you suddenly find yourself switching from inner-city operations surrounded by noise, speed and people to the middle of nowhere playing a game of hide and seek with armed terrorists.

It was easy to spot the campsite. Although there weren’t many obvious visual markers, like large trees or a half-broken wall to lock on to, the grass was still trampled from where the tents had been pitched and the scorched earth showed that they had obviously had a fire at some point too.

Putting my rucksack on the grass, I got my water bottle out as if to take a rest. The chances I was being watched by a counter-surveillance team or anyone hostile were extremely remote, but we live our cover until we get back to base. As I took a drink I played back the actions of the targets this morning – where they moved, how they packed up their gear, where they washed their feet and hands before praying. Visualizing it and trying to relive it, I muttered, ‘Come on, you fucker, what did you lose?’

Strolling around the site slowly I moved towards the spot where GREEN ATLANTIC’s tent had stood. How the fuck did he miss this? Clear as day, right there, sunk into the grass and covered in water droplets. A phone. Fuck. I needed to get onto my radio.

‘Team Leader and Base, do you read Zero Six?’

Go ahead.

‘Just walked through the site where the targets had their tents on my way back to my car and found a phone in the grass. Could be what GREEN ATLANTIC was looking for.’

Roger that, bring it back for the techs to look at.

‘Base roger, thanks Zero Six.’

Zero Six, do you read Charlie Eight?’ It was Helen, one of the team.

‘Go ahead, mate.’

Tom, if that’s my camera bag you have, then right at the bottom there is a black waterproof pouch filled with dry rice. I store the memory cards from the cameras in there sometimes if it pisses down. Whack the phone in it.

Helen had likely given me the opportunity to save whatever data might be on this phone from being destroyed by the wet conditions. God knows how long it had been out in the elements.

‘Legend, thanks Helen!’

Pretending to adjust my laces, I took a knee next to the phone, grabbed it quickly and stuffed it up the cuff of my jacket, using the velcro strap to hold it in place. It was soaking wet so I was hoping Helen’s rice trick worked. Walking back over to my rucksack and placing my water bottle inside, I found the small waterproof black bag of rice. I slid the phone out of my jacket straight into the little bag, which I sealed and shook slightly to ensure the rice surrounded the mobile, giving it the best chance to soak up the moisture. With a bit of luck the techs would be able to pull everything off it. I was just praying it was the thing GREEN ATLANTIC had lost.

Eventually making it back to the car, I started the engine and let the interior warm up before setting off. My trousers were still soaking wet and, given there was no massive rush to get to debrief, I knew I could afford the time. The drive back to London was straightforward and using my cover credit card, issued to all operators, I bought a shitload of junk food, so the journey went quickly as I ate my body weight in burgers, chips and onion rings.

In Thames House, the anonymous grey building on Millbank that is the headquarters of MI5, I took the lift up to the briefing room, sharing it with two women from HR. They knew I was an operator from the way I was dressed, the complete polar opposite to their smart office wear.

Leaving the lift on my floor, I walked straight into the briefing room and was surprised to see only the operations officer and my team leader. It looked like they’d been there a while.

‘We’ve sent everyone home, mate,’ Graeme said. He was keen to look after the team and give us time with our families, especially with the amount of hours we’d been doing lately. ‘We’ll give a full update tomorrow but so far it looks a solid arrest. We’ve got snippets of intelligence coming through already that they were going to hit a busy cathedral in the city. Have you got that phone you picked up?’

‘Yeah, it’s still in Helen’s bag of dry rice. Hopefully techs can pull something off it. I’m not sure if it is GREEN ATLANTIC’s or not, but worth a shot. The cameras are in there too. Video is time stamped in case you need that for evidence.’

‘Thanks, Tom. See you tomorrow morning. So far we are back here at half six.’

By the time I got back to my house I’d have roughly eight hours before I had to set off again.

‘No dramas, catch you later. I’m on my phone if you need me.’

The video footage I’d recorded of the targets praying outside their tents would likely be used in their prosecution, but all of that wouldn’t involve operators like us. Most of the time we are kept away from court cases to allow us to do our jobs on the ground, but right then I didn’t give a fuck about the terrorist cell we’d stopped earlier in that remote area of Wales, I just wanted to get home to see my wife.