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Writing letters

[Paper & Envelopes] [Computers] [Printers] [Photocopiers]

You have the right to privacy, and even writing letters can get you in trouble these days, especially when companies and the like can afford their own DIY dna-testing kits and the like. There are quite a number of things you can do, all legal, which will help maintain your privacy. Here are two people’s accounts of how they get ready to write letters. Not everything they do is necessary - play it to your own needs and situation.

freeBEAGLES would like to point out that writing letters is not a crime in itself. It is the contents that can amount to an offense (for more information see the companion article on "sending letters & emails") and , and we do not encourage you to break the law.


Writing letters at home

Preparation is everything. It comes in two stages: acquiring the materials, and preparing the writing room.

I tend to purchase my material out of town from well-known shops, buying the most popular brands, in particular generic shop brands. Nothing fancy. Make sure everything is in plastic wrappers so you don’t touch them. When you get home, keep them separate and burn the receipt.

At home, I set one room aside for the purpose and give it a thorough clean to remove as much stray hair, dandruff, skin cells, etc. The table is washed down and disinfected (cheap vodka or white spirits will do); the floors hovered and the walls dusted. Any animals are kept out.

I then have a shower, and put on freshly washed clothes. Wear long sleeves, and give you hair a good brush, tying it back if necessary.

When writing, I put on a new pair of washing up gloves before I do anything else, such as opening the pens and paper. All wrappers are kept in the shopping bag for disposal of later. Paper is very good at catching fingerprints, so you want to keep your skin away from the paper

When writing, don’t lean over the paper, breathing on it. Form the letters carefully taking your time over them if necessary. The faster you write the more likely it will look like your natural handwriting. Watch out for examples in your letters that act as tell tale markers, like how you form your G's.

Don’t be afraid to start over again. If you sneeze or cough, scrap the letter and wipe the table down again, as it will spray the area with your DNA. Don’t forget to burn the discarded letter later.

Likewise when addressing the envelopes. For sealing them, many envelopes nowadays are self-seal. If not, then use a wet tissue to glue the envelope shut. Put the envelopes into a clean plastic bag for posting, as soon as you have finished them (so if you sneeze or do something like that, then these will not have to be scrapped). As with envelopes, use self-adhesive stamps, buying a new lot in book form.

Post out of town, trying to use a different postbox each time, preferably ones not in town centres where there are CCTV cameras. Countryside ones are good. To avoid getting fingerprints on the envelopes as you post them, use the plastic bag to dump them in the post box (doesn't look as obvious as gloves in warm weather).


Note on using computers & printers

There are a few things to watch out on if going for the printed text option.

Computers

On the computer, use simple text editors such as NotePad on Windows, SimpleText on Macs or Emacs/vi on Linux. Big programmes such as Microsoft Word, Lotus, etc often store backups of your text, and have a variety of issues that you would probably want to avoid, as if your computer should be stolen, others may find it easier to locate the letters you have created. In fact, we would recommend that you avoid Micro$oft Word altogether.

Where possible, do not save the file; some systems will allow you to print off a file without saving it first. With the simple text editors this means that you can avoid leaving traces on the computer, as the text will only be held in the working memory.

If you do save the file, never simply delete it as this does not actually remove it from your computer. Instead use a dedicated wipe programme such as PGP Wipe or Clean Disk Security to remove it fully from the hard drive. Better still, if saving it, do so to a floppy disk that can be burnt if necessary. Make sure that the number of wipes is set to at least 8 or 9 goes. For more information on this, visit http://www.privacybasics.info/

Finally, if writing something particularly sensitive, then use the free space wipe option on the mentioned software to be on the safe side.

Alternatively, if the environment is safe enough, then use a university or library computer, so there is no connection to your own computer

Printing

Printer and especially typewriters have their own fingerprints. This means if they suspect you wrote a letter and they get hold of your printer/typewriter forensics can match the two up.

There are several ways around this. One is to use a printer shared by a large number of people. These are much harder to trace and then far harder to connect you with them. You can type the letter up at home, and bring it in on a floppy disk.

Some problems with this, are people looking over your shoulder so check out your situation. It is good to have several windows open on your screen, so you can quickly bring another to the front, hiding what you have been typing.

Secondly, when you are printing out you do not want to touch the actual letter or have others see it. To avoid the obvious wearing of gloves, if the printer is relatively quite, what you should do is do a print run of a couple of things at the same time with your letter in the middle of it. This means there are pages above and below it that you can catch it in between with, so you can avoid actually touching the letter itself.

Alternatively, if the printer is busy, put in a page or two of garbage text at the beginning and end of your letter to achieve the same effect.

Photocopiers

Finally, once you have your letter printed off, a very good technique to adopt is to photocopy it. This will help avoid telltale printer marks by obscuring them with the photocopier’s own fingerprints. To enhance this, put the page on the printer at a slight angle, alter the contrast a little and maybe put the photocopied version through again to increased the blurring effect even further. Remember to burn the originals when you are finished with them (do not simply put them in the nearest bin). If possible, go to a neighbouring town to do the printing and photocopying.


Best of luck. Remember, we live in a state more oppressive than most people realise, so it is important to exercise your right to privacy or else you lose it. Naturally, we do not encourage anyone to write letters to commit crimes, but you do have the right to anonymity. Nothing in this articles are illegal in themselves – there is no law saying that you cannot do them, tailoring them to your needs. It is the contents and intention of the letters which can land you in trouble, so think about what you are writing.


This article is for information purposes only; its aim is to let people to know their full rights under UK law. Nothing on these pages is absolute as the law is always changing; if in doubt contact a trusted solicitor for further advice. We do not encourage you to break the law.

Please feel free to copy and distribute these articles to fellow activists, but do not alter the text in any way. These articles are anti-copyright for non-commercial purposes. Please visit www.freebeagles.org for the latest version of our articles and to learn about the freeBEAGLES Ethical Open Document License under which this document is distributed.

If you see any errors, or we have missed any changes to the legal situation please contact us as soon as possible, at info@freebeagles.org, as wrong information can prove costly to people's freedom.

© Copyright freeB.E.A.G.L.E.S.; last updated: Oct 2003.


This article is for information purposes only; its aim is to let people to know their full rights under UK law. Nothing on these pages is absolute as the law is always changing; if in doubt contact a trusted solicitor for further advice. We do not encourage you to break the law.

Please feel free to copy and distribute these articles to fellow activists, but do not alter the text in any way. These articles are anti-copyright for non-commercial purposes. Please visit www.freebeagles.org for the latest version of our articles and to learn about the freeBEAGLES Ethical Open Document License under which this document is distributed.

If you see any errors, or we have missed any changes to the legal situation please contact us as soon as possible, at info@freebeagles.org, as wrong information can prove costly to people's freedom.

© Copyright freeB.E.A.G.L.E.S.; last updated: October 2003