Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Martini Olive Bug, or who was Hal Lipset?

He was a private investigator in San Francisco, and chief investigator for Sam Dash on the Senate Watergate Committee...

Francis Ford Coppola considered the implications of the professional eavesdropper when he made The Conversation... It should come as no surprise that Hal Lipset was hired as technical consultant for the picture.

Lipset spoke in Congress using the famous "bug in the martini olive" and other secret surveillance devices that he and his staff pioneered...

In 1964, Time Magazine wrote, "Hal Lipset, a seasoned San Francisco private eye, maintains a laboratory behind a false warehouse from where his eavesdropping ‘genius,' Ralph Bertsche, works out new gimmicks such as a high-powered bug that fits into a pack of filter-tip cigarettes..."

His first chance to go public on the national scene occurred the previous year when he was invited to testify before the Senate Constitutional Rights Subcommittee... "First I thought I’d dazzle them with an array of miniature devices they had never seen before; then I would surprise them by playing back my own testimony from a recorder I had hidden before the hearing."

The great idea worked too well. Lipset’s appearance was seen as a clever but ominous sign of   snooping running amok.
... the next time he was invited to Washington to speak before a Senate subcommittee - this one in 1965 to hear testimony specifically on eavesdropping - he renewed his efforts...

"We came up with the "bug in the martini olive" idea, it didn’t seem all that unusual. The martini glass was simply another example of how ingenious these devices could be."

The glass held a facsimile of an olive, which could hold a tiny transmitter, the pimento inside the olive, in which we could embed the microphone, and a toothpick, which could house a copper wire as an antenna. No gin was used - that could cause a short.

It was the bug in the martini olive that made Lipset "the real star of the day," as UPI reported. Hardly an ominous indication of private snoopers taking over the world, this little olive with its toothpick antenna became a "playful" and charming toy.
This is the very condensed version of his story. The full story is here,  as excerpted from his biography, "The Bug in the Martini Olive," by Patricia Holt, Little Brown, 1991 ~Kevin