Last week as you know the plot thickened in the All Blacks "spygate" fracas. Steve Hansen described the arrest of their 51-year-old security consultant as "bizarre" and "unbelievable".

Maybe it was, but one thing's for sure - it's not nearly as bizarre and unbelievable as the great bugging stories of history. New Zealand Rugby may want to start studying some of these lessons from the past because while it looks like no foreign operatives were involved this time, next time there might be. So let's get paranoid.

In 1945 the Soviet equivalent of Boy Scouts gifted the US Ambassador to Moscow a large carved wooden plaque of the Great Seal of the United States. The group of boys presented it as a gesture of goodwill between the nations. The Ambassador gave the beautiful work pride of place on the wall of the US embassy, where it hung for seven years, transmitting audio to Russian agents.

Turns out the wooden plaque concealed a very clever listening device.


The "Thing", as it came to be known, used groundbreaking frequency resonance tech to send US secrets to the Russians with no need of a power source.

The lesson for NZ Rugby is clear. Bugs can be put anywhere. Is it time to crack open the trophy cabinet and smash the Ranfurly Shield? Could the Ruskies be bugging Canterbury Rugby as we speak? Better to be safe than sorry.

During the Cold War, the CIA hit back against Russian bugging ingenuity with a $20 million programme called Operation Kitty.

US technicians surgically and painlessly implanted listening devices into a cute little cat and sent him out to befriend Russian officials.

They believed a fluffy "bugged" cat would be able to go where no human could and maybe even get a cuddle from an enemy agent.

Unfortunately on its first mission, before meeting any Russians, the cat was run over crossing a road. Tragically he died and with him Operation Kitty. A massive setback for The Central Intelligence Agency at the time.

Lesson for New Zealand Rugby: no pets on tour.

During World War II the British would place captured German generals in stately mansions, then serve them wine and fancy food until they started talking.

The Nazis loved it. They'd drink for days gossiping about how stupid the British were. Some even wrote to friends saying how much fun they were having and how great it was to be in an English prison.

If history has taught us anything, anyone can be bugged at any time by anyone and it's only going to get worse.


Of course the British had bugged the entire place and recorded hundreds of hours of valuable German military secrets, helping the Allied effort immensely.

The lesson? Touring All Blacks should stay away from all free accommodation, food, drinks, clothes, shoes and other luxuries. If it's free it's more than likely a trap.

The history of bugging is exciting but covert surveillance is set to become even more so in coming years. Soon there will be tiny flying insect-shaped drones with microphones. Bug bugs crawling under doors, flying through open windows, hovering overhead during team meetings.

How easy would it be to send one of these tech insects into a changing shed, conference centre or bedroom? Listening to players chatting on the bus or in the showers will be as easy as driving a remote control car.

Which is scary or exciting depending on your point of view.

In 2017 we already have great bugging devices in all of our pockets. The smartphone. If you're interested in amateur surveillance try the old phone on the table trick. Invite friends to a restaurant for a meal. When the time is right simply and secretly leave your phone face down on the table recording and nip off to the bathrooms. Give them 10 minutes to chat and return.

Later when you get home, fire up your phone and learn what your mates really think of you.

There's no doubt the All Blacks "spygate" bugging story has had some twists and turns. It's been exciting, intriguing and sinister. Bugging stories often are.

Hopefully we have all learned from it. If history has taught us anything, anyone can be bugged at any time by anyone and it's only going to get worse. So best spend your days feeling really, really paranoid about it. Someone's probably listening to you now.