How did the LD-as-DB Cooper story get so big, so fast?

by Bruce A. Smith

Seemingly from out of nowhere, the possibility that an Oregon man named LD Cooper could be the infamous skyjacker DB Cooper has become an international sensation.

 But how, and why?

 It seems implausible that Geoffrey Gray, author of the forthcoming Skyjack – The Hunt for DB Cooper, and his publicist, Eve Rabin of New York Media, could whip up a world-wide journalistic frenzy that could put LD as DB on the front page of every newspaper and TV set just days before the national release of his book.

 But somebody did, because that’s what happened. 

 One key factor in the ascendancy of the LD story was a few words spoken by the FBI’s public information officer in Seattle, Ayn Sandalo Dietrich, who told a British journalist named Alex Hannaford that the FBI had a “most promising” lead.  This tidbit fueled the “LD Cooper is DB Cooper” story that went worldwide last week.

 But how did the FBI make their determination of this “most promising” lead?  Further, the fact that this event plays to Geoffrey Gray’s benefit is too much of a coincidence to ignore.  Are they related?

 Seeking an answer to those questions, I’m now in the process of learning how the LD angle geared-up in Seattle, because it seems the rapidity of the story started there.  Most national and international media quoted the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI as their source and not Alex Hannaford and the London Sunday Telegraph, which is the true source of the “most promising” lead angle on the story.

 As I understand the play-out, Alex’s piece came out on Saturday eve, July 30th for the Sunday edition, London time.  That would be mid-afternoon Pacific Time in Seattle, and it seems that the Seattle Times and PI were on the story within minutes.

 How did they get on the story so quickly?  Were they alerted?

 Regardless, they were quoting the FBI’s PIO Dietrich by the end of the afternoon, and the “most promising” lead went international within a few hours. 

 Did Geoff tell them to be ready, or the FBI?  Or are the PI and Times just top-notch newspapers and ever-vigilant, even in the middle of a mid-summer weekend?

 Nevertheless, in the ensuing days Geoff Gray conducted a plethora of interviews and became the world’s Guru Extraordinaire on DB Cooper.

 Then, last weekend, eight days after the “most promising” lead story breaks, Geoff has a Cooper essay published in the Sunday New York Times and another piece in the Wall Street Journal.  In addition, the NY Times commissioned five authors to write a combo piece on whether a modern-day criminal could stay disappeared like DB Cooper for 40 years in today’s Patriot Act world.  How can an editor get five freelance authors to submit a piece so quickly?  That kind of journalistic effort takes weeks to prepare, so this whole role out must have been well-planned   What kind of marketing team can get such a degree of support from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal?

 Further, in Geoff’s NYT piece he says empathically that DB Cooper is dead, yet he offers no proof or compelling evidence.  It is as if the Wizard of Oz has spoken and is unchallenged.

 Not only does Geoffrey have the new book coming out, he now has an authoritative perch to pronounce from – heck, we’ve learned from his ubiquitous interviewing that he has had exclusive access to the FBI files – something that no other journalist has been granted despite the information being public property.  Heck, I can’t even get a cup of coffee with the feds, let alone see the juicy stuff like Geoffrey.

 But besides touting his book, Gray is also pronouncing DB Cooper dead.  Why?  Is he seeking to also bury the legend, the cultural phenomena?  Does Geoffrey Gray want to switch off the Cooper excitement?

 Or does somebody else want Cooper dead and buried, and is using Gray?  LD is already dead for sure, but maybe somebody wants the legend of DB to be dead, too.  After all, Ayn Sandalo Dietrich is getting all those interrupting phone calls about counter-terrorism during her DB Cooper interviews in those early days before her vacation, and her fill-in, Fred Gutt, pronounced Goote, is telling everyone who will listen that the FBI ranks DBC so low on the priority scale that just about any other criminal beats him in a heart beat.

 Does the FBI want the DB Cooper case to go away?  Permanently?

 So, I ask, is the FBI orchestrating the Geoffrey Gray roll out?  After all, Gray has a singular relationship with the Bureau.  Or, are two organizational forces allied together – one to sell books, and the other to make that book the last one written?

 After all, the LD Cooper story is so pedestrian.  I understand that the man never skydived in his life and his physical characteristics don’t match.  So, what made the FBI so ga-ga over it?  Do they really trust a retired cop that much, even though he only sent a guitar strap for evidence?  This item has a poor capacity to offer DNA samples or useable fingerprints to the FBI, even though the comparison material available to the Bureau are suspect themselves. 

 Plus, if I was the source of the story and not the lovely – and camera ready – Marla Cooper, would I get the same traction?  Unlikely, imho.  What if LD’s name was Rabinowitz or Rodriguez and not Cooper, would his story still get the same mileage?  I doubt it.

 It all seems too pat, – the world-wide media telling the world that Cooper is dead.  And he is – LD Cooper that is – and not DB Cooper.

 In the meantime, I’m still looking for the PIO, Ayn Sandalo Dietrich.  Her FBI voice mail says she’s on vacation through August 15, and the writer of the Seattle Times’ Cooper piece says that Dietrich’s not answering her cell phone.

 My old buddy, Alex Hannaford still isn’t talking to me since I asked him if he’s in cahoots with Gray, but he may have been played by Geoffrey.  After all, Alex was so miffed about his Cooper piece being ripped off by the London Daily Mail, and I don’t blame him – but it does seem to put him outside the conspiracy to whip-up publicity for GG.  Stealing is stealing, even in the Big Leagues of main stream media.

 Plus, Alex gave all of us Cooper hunters a taste of fame in his Cooper article – Galen Cook and me, Robert Blevins and his investigation of Kenny Christiansen, the Fazio brothers down at Tina’s Beach and Dona Elliott up in the LZ of Ariel.  The Mountain News got 2-3,000 hits last week, and 90 percent of it was DB Cooper.  In fact, one night I had over 30 hits from a newspaper link in Austria!

 Tomorrow, Geoffrey Gray’s book receives its national release, and I will be reading it.  Then, it’s back to the phone, Google and emails – trying to ascertain what is going on.

 I smell something fishy, and I do believe the game is afoot, this time in a different fashion than usual in the DB Cooper saga.

 ©  2011 The Mountain News-WA



Amy Pivetta-Hoffman  – Attorney at Law

Estate Planning and Wills

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President of the Frederickson-Clover Creek Community Council

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6 Responses to How did the LD-as-DB Cooper story get so big, so fast?

  1. Mary Schooley says:

    Bruce Smith,

    I am very impressed with your reporting skills and your choice of topics. I don’t know what your following is, but I am pleased to be on your site list. My sister-in-law, Judy told me of this site.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mary Schooley

  2. Well Bruce, you are indeed a great ‘unravel-er’ of stories. This one is quite interesting and I applaud you for your tenacity.
    Bettye Johnson

  3. Jamie Cooper says:

    “DB” Cooper is dead alright but it was time, regret, smoking, and boozing that killed him.

  4. moses says:

    I was 23 when all this tranpired, a war was still going on and I had just left the Army. To this day, this story has always been interesting to say the least. I know that for a few months in those years that reading of DB was a refreshing story as compared to the lousy war we were losing due to imcometent Presidents and Politicians. So, saying this, this old man is still quite miffed of this whole scenerio and to this day I still welcome this story. What you fell is what you get.

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