back to article The Baying of the Hounds

Today marks the publication of Headspace - Reg contributor Amber Marks's exploration of how the state and private sectors are trying to exploit the science of smell to watch and control citizens. Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing exclusive extracts from the book, which is published by Virgin Books and available here …


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  1. Matt Bradley

    Ever read any Helen Fielding

    This is very fine balance of political journalism and tales of ex-boyfriends / men you met in clubs / men you are chasing.

    Kind of a cross between the front page of the Independent and Bridget Jones' diary. I never thought such a mix would be possible, but there you are.

    Jolly well done!

    I'll get me coat, you've pulled...

  2. A J Stiles

    Would she happen to be .....

    ..... *the* Amber Marks?

  3. Matt Bradley
    Thumb Up

    @ AJStiles

    Looking at the style and tone of the writing, I'd have to say I think so! :)

  4. Adam White

    Who's doing the baying?

    So it's not a book about sniffer dogs so much as a book about Amber Marks's interest in sniffer dogs. Yikes.

    Still an interesting subject, so it might be worth reading I suppose.

  5. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Alien Thoughts? ...... Oh Please, let's get Real.

    "So it's not a book about sniffer dogs so much as a book about Amber Marks's interest in sniffer dogs. Yikes." ... By Adam White Posted Friday 28th March 2008 05:07 GMT

    Actually I thought it was much more about the systematic and systemic abuse of the Justice System to support an ever-weakening and increasingly Incompetent Centralised Control around the Perception/Parcelling and Distribution of Banked Wealth, which in fact would be more a critique of a System which has lost Control.

    Please feel free to ignore that if you wish but it is a fact that the Money Machine does need to find a new Champion Model and Champions to Simply Fund, in order to Survive as a Viable Entity in these Changed Times.

    And I say Simply Fund because such Champions will provide everything else with the IntelAIgents that the System is Lacking.

    Light up that Hit and you will be pleasantly surprised at how Mellow and Composed can the Chaos be Beta Organised into a Positively Reinforcing, New World Order Program.

    And if the System doesn't Fund IT, you can fully XXXXpect ITs Counterparts to so do and thus be in AIRightful IT Control.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Not the brightest comments today.

    So think about it.

    1) Dogs cannot read, or even think in any fashion familiar to us. They do not therefore take any moral or legal position on anything they smell. They most certainly do NOT think "that's cannabis/whatever", and this is a bad man.

    2) It follows on from this that training a dog to sniff for "drugs" is not a likely scenario; since they also cannot talk, they cannot discuss the finer points of what they are smelling with their trainer and why it is of interest.

    3) They are very easy to train to sit though. And they like sniffing people, and occasionally, barking at them.

    Voila. Instant reason to search anyone the plod/other agent of the state fancies on whatever pretext they deamed up.

    It's not even a new idea, try googling about it instead of ripping the piss out of someone who is at least attempting to stem the raging tide of sheeple even as we're drowning in it.

    Was going to be a black helicopter, but Paris instead 'cos she's the closest to an icon for utterly clueless.

  7. Stephen


    Between the Police State, the Health Fascists and the Puritan Moralists there is little space left for liberty in the UK. Very depressing.

    As for the "War On Drugs", this must be the most catastrophic and destructive policy ever imposed on the population of the planet. I would guess it is responsible for more deaths than all the wars in the world since WW2. The only (and obvious) solution is to legalise all drugs and deal with the consequences in a legal framework.

  8. John Saunders

    Continuing education for sniffer dogs

    And the dogs, bred and selected for compliance, seeking approval and praise, won't ever pick up on subconcious (or concious) queues from their handlers about the 'correct' persons to finger, er ... nose?

    The observation that the police might be training the dogs to concentrate on black people (or other police outgroup of choice) takes a different meaning if the training is unconcious (to the officer) but obvious to the target.

  9. Charley

    Complete Boll*ocks

    "It's a book about the Stasi."

    "Which is what?"

    Are you serious? A defence lawyer? Then worked for the government? And doesn't know who the Stasi were?

    The Yin and Yang of education and knowledge?

  10. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Quantum Communications Level Underground BetaTest #XXXX

    Amber Marks .....AIdDaughter of Working Class Hero Stock/Universal Class?

    amfm Paying Homage to the Flowers that are Venus and ITs Seeding Sources.

    Have a Nice Day ...... Do Everything Nicely.

    And re: Not the brightest comments today. By Anonymous Coward Posted Friday 28th March 2008 10:06 GMT .......... Think like a dog will please and calm the dog into accepting Sublime Instruction/Confusion?

    And that would be a Hearty Wish to Perform.

  11. Matt Bradley
    Black Helicopters

    Drugs *and* terrorism. A brilliant excuse

    As long as *.gov can state that Police dogs are used to track down dangerous bomb-toting terrorists and those evil drug pushers, society as whole will willingly roll over and accept that they will be used responsibly.

    So it is time to go out an buy one of these for next time I'm on the tube, I reckon:


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Time to spray the entire train in aniseed...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wait in anticipation for orlowski to write a book about himself.

  14. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Waiting.

    For a sufficiently large advance (no less than six figures) I will gladly write a short tome on what I had for breakfast, my views on how to remove mildrew from the shower curtain, etc.

    No one wants to read this, but I'll be out in the Bahamas before any notices, hopefully.

    So: show us the money, then.

  15. Mr Chris

    Re: Waiting

    If he doesn't have a very extensive diary on the go already I'd be surprised.

  16. Smallbrainfield


    I rather enjoyed reading that.

    If you didn't mind being arrested, it would be great fun to walk past sniffer dogs with bags full of bones from the butchers, dog treats and old slippers to see what reaction you get from the dog.

  17. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Re Re: Waiting

    "If he doesn't have a very extensive diary on the go already I'd be surprised." .... By Mr Chris Posted Friday 28th March 2008 16:19 GMT

    A Phisherman's Log, Mr Chris? :-)

  18. trackSuit

    I know a dog... And a machine

    I know a dog who has retired from the Police force. The dog has arthritis and is no longer fit for Police service work. It is a nice dog and very well trained.

    When it finds someone who smells of drugs, it sits down close to them and stares at them. Such behaviour is not especially threatening, though many people find this unnerving.

    Note: if a person smells of drugs it does not indicate that they are in possession of them. Also, it does not indicate that the person is a consumer of drugs. To the dog, it just means that a person smells of drugs. A wise policeman will also know this.

    I also met a machine in London at the Eurostar terminal, a couple of Summers ago. The machine was new and looked like an archway, constructed of brushed stainless steel sheetmetal. (Switching to prose).

    "Good afternoon sir, we're testing our new drugs detection machine. Would you like to help us test it -it's non-comulsory."

    "Yes, OK."

    [In I go]


    [Operator looks at machine]

    "Can you try again, sir?"



    [Supervisor called over.]

    "Good afternoon, sir."

    "Good afternoon."

    "Do you have any drugs on you, sir?"


    "Are you sure, sir?"


    [Worried look on supervisor's face.]

    "Can you wait here a moment, sir?"

    [Fetches another collegue.]

    [More questions: Where have you been?(France). Do you have drugs with you?(No). Have you been using drugs recently?(No).]

    [More worried looks and hushed discussions.]

    "Can you come this way please, sir?"

    [Interview room.]

    [More questions, search of rucksack, empying of pockets, inspection of contents of wallet.]

    "We would like to give you a 'pat-down' search, sir. It is non-invasive but will necessarily involve us feeling close to your groin area. Is that OK?"


    "Will you please sign this paper to say that you consent to this search."

    [Signature given.]

    [Pat pat pat...].

    [Nothing found.]

    "OK, thank you for your cooperation, sir."

    "May I go now?"



    In essence, I volunteered to help them, and was (politely) treated with suspicion.

    Three questions remain unanswered:

    -Who would volunteer to test a drugs detection machine if they were in posession of drugs or had been recently using drugs?

    -How can a drugs detection machine be tested using only people who do not possess drugs?

    -Given the prevalence of drugs in cities, what use is a machine which will give frequent false positives?


    I hope these missives are of interest. A little truth and personal XPerience can be a very Effective Antidote to pedalled paranoia.

  19. g e

    Are police dogs 'officers' ?

    If they are then surely no police officer is allowed to stick their face in your bollocks/snatch?

    Mine's the one full of legal loopholes...

  20. amanfromMars Silver badge

    a dog of a machine

    "-Given the prevalence of drugs in cities, what use is a machine which will give frequent false positives?" ..... By trackSuit Posted Friday 28th March 2008 17:16 GMT

    Probably that is why there are none in Schiphol, trackSuit?

    I wonder, for pete's sake, if false positive is Society norm? :-)

  21. Anonymous Coward


    What happened to that ion track tester , the swab method for people queuing at clubs and the one that tested positive for cannabis for members of the Welsh Assembly.

    The last time I saw it being used was by the Hampshire police, they were stopping drivers at the weekend and swabbing the steering wheel for testing during a drunk drive campaign.

    I just searched and it's being used in Clubs again.

    And schools are letting police swab lockers and bags, while police also set up portable metal detectors at the end of esclators and outside shopping centers. Trying to avoid them is reason for a stop and search on a anti knife campaign.

  22. Misha Gale

    Re: Would she happen to be .....

    The Torygraph interview says that yes, she is. Unless by "the" Amber Marks you don't mean the daughter of Dennis Howard Marks, dope-smuggler/-activist/-writer.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Re: Waiting

    At the very least I'd want to know the title before I opened my wallet.

    My book would be called "Gut Rot", because I have a bad gut.

    "The first time I was sniffed by a dog I was seven. I entered a room full of grown ups and someone's dog headed straight for my crotch, stuck its nose up between my legs and sniffed. I let rip a noxious blast and the dog attacked. That was the first time my stomach got me into strife.

    Smell has historical associations with sin..."

  24. Nick Porter
    Thumb Down

    I weep if Amber is really a govt lawyer...

    How are we supposed to take seriously a book by a presumably educated lawyer and journalist who has never heard of the Stasi? And who goes on to assume her audience hasn't heard of it either?

    The primary target of the passive dogs (usually Labradors) at tube and train stations is explosives, hence the huge increase in deployment since 7/7. The drugs and firearms that they also pick up are considered by the police an added bonus. Active dogs (usually Springer Spaniels) are used for searching trains, aircraft and cargo.

    Training a sniffer dog is EASY. The dog is trained to associate the target smells with a reward (usually a brief play with a ball if he is successful). The passive dogs are trained for different responses such as sit next to a target on a drug mark but lie down on a firearms/explosives mark. There have been attempts to train on knives, but there are too many false positives on tools, bunches of keys etc.

    What's really odd about this article is the seemingly complete ignorance of how dogs behave and are trained. Has Amber never owned a dog or had one as a pet as a child? And as for doubting that a dog can smell the difference between people of different races, this is simply ludicrous - they can easily identify relatives of their owners by smell for example.

    Any dog owner will tell you how well they can distinguish based on smell - my own German Shepherd can easily tell the difference between his otherwise identical red and green ball based entirely on the fact that they smell slightly different - he obviously can't tell the difference on colour (being colour blind), and if both balls are hidden in a pitch black room he will find the one he is asked for with 100% accuracy.

    Oh and Amber, the reason your pothead mate kept getting marked is because he stinks of cannabis - is that really so hard to understand? And as an officer of the court you really shouldn't be associating with habitual drug users.


  25. Reid Malenfant
    Paris Hilton

    Surely your having a laugh?

    Of course dogs can be trained to detect drugs; they are not 100% reliable but no one ever said they were (this is invariably an individual dog thing). They are also very effective at detecting certain explosive compounds; probably far more so than drugs – this is why you will always see breeds like spaniels regularly advancing police officers providing the security umbrella for such events as Military Guard changes (London, Windsor etc) and certain publicised VIP movements.

    No sane officer engaged in an EOD search (explosive ordinance detection) would work without one, it’s the best defence we’ve got; and there are more than a few Soldiers who toured NI who owe their lives to such woofers. Then there are the tactical dogs that work alongside firearms teams; they’re often invaluable in preventing an officer from having to pull the trigger; especially in circumventing the dreaded ‘suicide by marksman’ scenario - a seemingly recent US import – I’ll blame TV (and why do so many people believe CSI is realistic?).

    The vast majority of Police canines are in fact GP dogs (general purpose) and are primarily used to track fleeing suspects (burglaries, decamped stolen vehicles) and vulnerable missing persons (mostly children and OAPs with dementia). They are also worth their weight in gold during public disorder situations. When you’re outnumbered and set upon, they’re often the only thing between you and a severe beating; I know from bitter experience (only all you have to do is find one in time).

    Gruesome though it sounds, cadaver scenting dogs are also gaining a certain favour with Police search units, though these are often ‘borrowed in’ from civilian volunteer SAR teams (Search and Rescue).

    However, the notion of canine racial training is both thigh-slappingly laughable and utterly pointless. There are 42 other Police Forces in the UK who are not the MET (still a law unto themselves – 600 to raid one street????), many, if not all, are now approaching 50% civilian staffing and in the grip of runaway political correctness. The average age of most town centre patrol officers is around 21 years (we call them the 12 year olds). Most Tutor Constables now have less than 2 years service, their Sergeants and Inspectors often less than 6. Its quite frightening to those remaining old ‘uns who haven’t yet left utterly disillusioned or emigrated to Canada, OZ & NZ (they actively recruit us you know – I now spend most evenings skyping around the world).

    I can’t help chuckling at all this talk of a Police State, who the hell are you going to get to run this mythical entity? Not the Police Force I know that’s for sure; it wouldn’t last the week. All anyone can talk about is meeting budgets; thanks to the Home Office and Bramshill that’s become the be all and end all of modern policing. Even the 12 year olds now ask “Who’s going to pay?” when someone suggests an operation – and many of them are so career path orientated that they go to any lengths to avoid a black mark - and I dare not use that phrase in front of most of them for fear of a visit from Professional Standards .

    For every so-called punchy copper, there are at least 2 dozen 12 year olds going out of their way to avoid any form of confrontation, no matter what’s going on; its very depressing and I fear for my old age. We’re paralysed by a growing HO/Govt. dictated bureaucracy, hamstrung by second rate IT which demands that officers work to serve it and not the other way around. Led by inexperienced idealistic muppets (ACPO). Great swathes of the organisation are too inept even to provide adequate support for its own staff let alone the public.

    Whilst you’re all babbling about a Police State we’ve actually slipped into a 2 tier Police Force whilst no-one was looking. PCSO’s are now everywhere bless ‘em; allegedly filling the roles that officers once held – only they have no real power, physical presence or credibility (16 year olds – for god’s sake!). Policing is now all about smoke and mirrors - we’re the band on the Titanic - if you only but knew the credibility gap between paranoia and reality you’d be laughing too.

    Oops, stumbled into rant, sorry about that – still the dog woman’s story gave me a good laugh.

    Paris, because she's dumb enough to believe the Police State fantasy

  26. Long Fei
    IT Angle

    Land of the free.

    Yes, police state alright, I'm glad I live in China, it's much free-er here. :) (No, really).

    BTW, why's this on the Reg? Can anyone advertise their books, 'cos I've got some at:

  27. trackSuit
    Paris Hilton

    Man's best Friend.

    "Probably that is why there are none in Schiphol, trackSuit?"

    There were none there one and a half years ago, though there were some iris scanning machines, which I chose to avoid, as there was a short queue of elderly people who were having some difficulty interacting with the machines.

    Instead, I chose to have my ID checked by the smiling and friendly lady, who was standing nearby to help the people who were having difficulty with the machines. (A sort of Cybernetic safety-valve, Semantically speaking?).

    I beamed back at her and bid her a polite 'Goedemorgen'. I wonder to this day, who would choose the machine option in preference to one of Nature's Finest Gifts (NFG, not FNG) ;-)

    And Reid Malenfant, that was a rant of the finest quality. Thank you for that good gen; assuaging the fears of some and confirming the suspicions of others, as IT did?

  28. Damian Gabriel Moran

    so if the myth is to be believed

    anyone with large denomination bank notes will be sniffed and snarled at

    as the wise Mr Hicks used to say...

    “Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem a little unnatural? To make marijuana against the law is like saying God made a mistake. You know what I mean? It’s like God, on the seventh day, looking down on his creation:

    ‘There it is, my creation, perfect and holy in all ways. Now, I can rest …’

    Oh my me! I left f*cking pot everywhere. I never should have smoked that joint on the third day. Sh*t. That was the day I created possums. If I leave pot everywhere, that’s going to give humans the impression they’re supposed to use it. Now I have to create Republicans!”

  29. amanfromMars Silver badge

    The Law is no Better than an Ass in a Banana Police State?

    "“Why is marijuana against the law?" .... By Damian Gabriel Moran Posted Wednesday 2nd April 2008 21:37 GMT

    Err.... because they daren't tax it and have no hope of controlling it to make them rich, rather than others in the alternate economy/society?

    Err..... didn't they learn any lessons at all about the Social Dangers of Prohibition? Not very bright, are they?

    Anything taken in moderation, if it doesn't disagree with you or make you disagreeable, is hardly likely to be something worth creating a crime over. That would be a Crime and some would probably argue Quite Insane. Some simple education for a reinforcing compassionate peer pressure guidance would be a much better route to take to deal with one of the root problems, too .... Ignorance and Lack of Respect for what it can do ........ and especially so when carelessly abused/misused/overused.

  30. Martin

    Excellent read

    Just finished reading and I have to say I was glad I bought this book.

    Some very good points were made about the use of false-positives as a license to search, and also about the character and attitudes of those who push for ever increasing use of surveillance on the general population.

    Might I also add (as others have posted above..) that if Amber is ever in the midlands it's safe to say she's pulled! :-)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why reinforce...

    ...the unsupported and unpleasant concept that people of different races smell different, when a rather simpler explanation exists - dogs can see, can't they?

  32. Reid Malenfant


    But surely all laws are essentially arbitrary; regardless of whether or not you buy into any of the various God/Gods theories?

    Whilst at any given time there are indeed a number of common legal threads that self-evidently cut across different countries and cultures (perhaps reflecting a universal humanity or our evolutionary roots); there are multitudes of other laws spread throughout the globe, all quite different and utterly culturally idiosyncratic, often dramatically so.

    Judging by the numerous Register postings, it seems many here are in favour of decriminalising cannabis and clearly find our existing laws quite incredulous and nonsensical – but don’t forget this view is an entirely cultural perspective and a relatively recent one at that (I’m talking decades here). It does not follow that there is any empirical ‘truth’ in this viewpoint, no more so than abortion is always wrong and that the rich should pay a higher percentage of tax – such is the nature of ‘popular opinion’.

    It’s a fair rule of thumb that only liberal democracies tend to resort to consensus in establishing their legal frameworks – at least nominally they do. Much of the world still depends upon scripture and religious dogma for their laws; and in such cases the actual natural occurrence and/or health considerations of many substances are utterly irrelevant. Indeed, there are a good many other natural occurring substances that are quite damaging, fatal even, and they don’t necessarily attract any form of legal classification or control whatsoever.

    We know that nothing will ever be said or done to persuade strict Islamic countries to OFFICIALLY condone the use of compound interest or loans for profit (at least for their own people), let alone the use of alcohol or recreational drugs. I have Muslim acquaintances that universally regard the use of cannabis as self-evidently depraved, indefensible and clear evidence of Western moral and cultural bankruptcy. And who’s to say that they’re wrong? …. because they don’t just think they’re right, they absolutely ‘know’ they are - beyond any reasonable doubt!

    Yes of course there is a certain hypocrisy in this, but after a little reflection you’ll see that we’re not much better here the West in the hypocrisy stakes. I don’t believe the crime of murder was ever repealed as such under the 3rd Reich yet they didn’t do a bad job at establishing a legal and cultural framework that effectively legitimised murder for certain ‘categories of people’. Similarly, slavery was once a relatively unquestioned and an ecclesiastically endorsed condition in this country. The point is, at different times and from different perspectives, all these viewpoints were regarded as right and proper, such are the shifting sands of cultural givens.

    The point I am trying to make is that, in reality, all laws are man made and, as such, can all be regarded as potentially flawed and often unnecessary. It is for each independent legislature to decide if their particular laws are utterly sacrosanct or at least open to the possibility of modification. If they are, and you live in the West, then you at least have the potential for instigating change at your disposal and this is sometimes called politics, another alternative strategy is called anarchy and its for you to choose which path to follow.

    In the meantime, laws exists and you have little choice but to accept that whilst you are at liberty to transgress them, you do so at your peril; for the wheels of peaceful change can turn very slowly indeed.

    Hmm, once again I appear to have gone off on one ...... it must be this weed!

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