by Bruce A. Smith
Over the past six months, the Mountain News has come under cyber attack, presumably over the DB Cooper research Galen Cook and I have been conducting.
The intrusions reached a crescendo last week, resulting in my filing a federal complaint of computer hacking. The account that follows is an update on events that have unfolded since my initial posting on this matter a few days ago:
As I prepared to address the intusions, I composed the document that appeared in the Mountain News on January 15. Knowing that I would have to tell a lot of people about the circumstances of the attacks, I would welcome having a document ready to email everyone who needed the information.
But, as I began writing my piece, my mouse lost its ability to scroll. Sensing trouble, I shut down my rig, then fired it back up and finished the document using my computer solely as a word processor and without any Internet connections. My mouse worked perfectly. That was the last straw. I got angry.
Incensed, I made a number of phone calls, first to my security guy, Brad at AMS Technology in Tacoma, who promised to launch a “deep clean” from his office. When I told Brad what was transpiring, he said graphically, “You’re scaring me.”
Through the course of the week he ran a couple of scans, first a malware search and then a form of a deeper cleaning.
Then I called Galen Cook and strategized. He advised me to contact Curtis Eng, the DB Cooper case agent. After all, this intrusion occurred while working on Cooper.
I contacted Eng through the FBI’s main switchboard in Seattle and left a phone message. I followed up with an email, then contacted the Seattle PIO, Ayn Dietrich. We had a lengthy chat, and she was sympathetic in a professional, federal sort of way. She advised me to file a formal complaint at the IC3 web site. Simply, IC3 is an acronym for “Internet Crime Complaint Center.”
The online process was relatively straightforward and easy to complete. I was pleased that I had already written my complaint in a word document, so cutting and pasting removed the sting usually found in filing a federal form.
However, I was taken back when I read in a follow-up robo email from the IC3 announcing that they receive thousands of complaints every day and could not guarantee when or if any law enforcement personnel would be able to respond to me.
Ms. Dietrich at the FBI had already spoken to that issue, and she told me that, surprisingly, the FBI may not be the lead agency in this cyber investigation. Dietrich told me that the Secret Service is taking a major role in cyber security while the FBI plays a reduced part. She also told me that Homeland Security has created a new division to deal with these types of crimes, the Homeland Security Investigations department, or HSI.
Ms. Dietrich also requested that I send her my cyber attack document so that she could keep track of the specifics. I did so, and she called the next day. She thanked me for the description of the intrusion and also said she was pleased to learn that I had filed my IC3 complaint.
Moments later I received an email from Curtis Eng, my first ever from the Cooper case agent despite my many requests via Ayn for an interview. Agent Eng was very formal with me, and I include his response because it is very informative of both his demeanor and the FBI’s position in this matter:
I do not have any further suggestions to add to what Ayn suggested to you. Filing a complaint with IC3 is definitely the best course of action. What is happening to you is no different than somebody breaking into your house and stealing personal papers or your work on the Norjak case. You would of course, call the police and report that you were burglarized. Hence, that is what you are doing now by reporting these incidents to IC3. Although you believe that you have been specifically targeted because of your work on Norjak, the intrusion will not be pursued by the FBI with more urgency or priority because your Norjak data is not government property. I apologize that I cannot offer you more suggestions or assistance beyond what you have already done. I hope you are able to implement technical safeguards to prevent future intrusions because it sounds like you are definitely the victim of being hacked. Thank you for contacting me about this since it concerns Norjak. Take care.
SA Curtis J. Eng”
Following receipt of Agent Eng’s email, I specifically requested an interview with him to discuss the case. However, I haven’t heard back from him.
Still a little unsettled, I checked back in with my security guy, Brad. He assured me that my rig was clean and operating in a safe manner. I asked him if he had found any keystroke loggers, or other pernicious plants that might spell trouble down the road.
“No, the programs we ran would have found anything like that,” he replied.
“Have you ever encountered anything like this before?” I queried.
“No, not really.”
We chatted about why somebody would perform this kind of intrusion. Brad’s words were chilling.
“Whoever it was, it seems like they got in and then left, leaving nothing behind. We know the FBI can do this kind of thing.”
Yes, that is my perspective as well, but it could be bigger than just the FBI and include any intelligence outfit, or rogue guys at any of those agencies. Or even a clever guy in Uzbekistan who has a penchant for American true-crime stories. To me, the Bottom Line is this: In our world never assume that any correspondence is secure; in fact it is the guiding principle of open-sourced sharing – act as if everything is being written across the sky in big letters for the whole world to read.
As such, I have received numerous suggestions on how to protect myself and this work. Some took their queries a little further and one correspondent asked succinctly:
“If the FBI hacked you why would they let you know? Why would they care what you are doing? Are you digging up some stuff that could embarrass or damage them?”
In response, I wrote:
“I see three possibilities:
1. Somebody in the FBI is just wigged-out about what I am writing and went a little nutso. Or,
2. Somebody in the FBI knows why the DB Cooper case has not been solved, or thinks they know why, and feels that my book will bring more attention to this issue and cause problems for the Bureau and the perpetrators of the sabotage-slash-cover-up. Hence, they are trying to scare me off.
3. They are trying to warn me that I am about to get into deep doo-doo, and are trying to protect me.
PS: So, what do I have? Only what I have published so far: Numerous inconsistencies, spin jobs, and lapses of sound LE practices; ie:
1. Lost evidence, such as the cigarette butts.
2. The tie entered the evidence collection four days after the skyjacking. Where was it during that time and why was it withheld?
3. SA Calame says the evidence retrieval was botched.
4. SA Calame claims that evidence of mind control may have played a role in the investigation as FBI agents seemed to have been acting ‘as if they were under the influence of a post-hypnotic suggestion.’
5. SA Jeremy Blauser was active in the case when he was on assignment in LA. LA? Carr needed help?
6. Blauser has now disappeared.
&. SA Larry Carr didn’t seem to know who Blauser was when I asked him to describe Blauser’s role in the investigation. Carr doesn’t answer any of my calls to clarify this.
7. DNA samples from the Forman’s attorney that was hand-delivered to Blauser has gone totally missing.
8. Every FBI agent on the money retrieval describes a different finding, eg: thousands of shards, a couple of shards, dozens of shards.
9. The evidence collection has no shards of any substantial size and the CST tells me the teeny pieces of bills in the collections are most likely crumblings from the larger bills held in the evidence folders. All told, all the bits of money the FBI has fit into two plastic pouches the size of small match boxes.
10. No radar maps from SAGE.
11. The ground search on T-Day weekend was minimal.
12. The primary search for Cooper following the skyjacking was mostly aerial, and apparently focused mainly in areas outside of the designated LZ radiating from Ariel.
13. The big search with hundreds of soldiers was five months late and in many ways was Kabuki Theater. Residents in the search area report that the FBI search was haphazard and done seemingly for show.
14. Tina was traumatized, but by what?
15. Every one in the Mucklow clan lies to me and rebuffs me. Why?
16. McCoy was connected to the Cooper skyjacking, but how and why?
17. When it comes to the FBI and the main players, I am ‘One and Done.’ I get one phone call, or one impromptu visit, and then nobody returns my phone calls or agrees to meet with me. Why? Himmelsbach, Rataczak, McPheters, George G from SF, Larry Carr, Calame. With Eng, I am really ‘None and Done.’”
© 2013 Bruce A. Smith