Schneier on Security
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February 22, 2011
Terrorist-Catching Con Man
Interesting story about a con man who conned the U.S. government, and how the government is trying to hide its dealings with him.
For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.
Posted on February 22, 2011 at 7:21 AM
• 38 Comments
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Mentioned in the NYT article, Spaceman Spiff. This appears to investigate further and is not just a rehash, but I am not directly comparing all the articles.
> Hints of fraud by Mr. Montgomery, previously raised by Bloomberg Markets and Playboy,
Why any surprise the government was conned by a faux security expert when airports around America are installing useless scanners and hiring inept screeners?
I wish we could do something about the misuse of National Security as a protective measure when the government makes a mistake.
Isn't that the sole purpose of national security?
I am amazed that the government doesn't make a much stronger effort to prosecute and punish people caught defrauding the government and taxpayer funds.
Isn't scamming people out of their money the government's forte?
I guess they're suing Montgomery for Prior Art then? ;)
"...their conclusions apparently were not relayed to the military’s..."
That's because all government agencies (the intel ones in particular) are Write-Only-Memories (WOM); they gather every scrap of information they can (relevant or not) and then lock it up and never allow ANYONE outside their own organization access to any of it.
No accountability for mistakes, no penalties for fraud, no public accounting for the money used/wasted. No due process of law for people targeted in error/by malicious complaints. Sounds like my observation.
"No accountability for mistakes, no penalties for fraud, no public accounting for the money used/wasted. No due process of law for people targeted in error/by malicious complaints."
This is what government DOES.
What amuses me is that most people think it can be changed into something they call "fair" and "just" - as long as "their guy" gets elected. The last time they believed this was some lying clown called Obama.
Student assignment: Find a government in history that qualifies as "just" and "competent". Requirement: Prove your conclusion.
Hint: Look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. At the end of the course, two of you will not be here. In fact, you probably won't be here.
State secrets are there only to protect those who would be in jail otherwise.
"I am amazed that the government doesn't make a much stronger effort to prosecute and punish people caught defrauding the government and taxpayer funds."
You are assuming government is an uniform entity. While some people working for gov want to get fraudsters caught, the people who did this deal for the government, really, really, want to hide their mistake at all costs to keep their career going. They simply have nothing to benefit from exposing their incompetence. Therefor frauds and tax money misuse gets hidden all the time.
Did anyone get around to blaming the unions yet? Or the 2008 fiscal crash? Or terrorists?
Meh, I blame the investment power of our politicians. Get enough politicos with M$ stock, and pretty soon Bill Gates will personally send a crack-team to vacuum the White House tapestries for $30mil / hour, and a $10k per diem for on-the-job refreshments.
All billed, of course, to Johnny Taxpayer c/o The !#@% in your #!%.
At least they managed to work out this was bogus faster than, say, remote viewing. (The Pentagon started investigating it in the 1970s and took until 1994 to give up.) So, some improvement there, actually.
Montgomery, Dennis L.; (Reno, NV) has filed a lot of patent applications. A few of them have been issued. This must be the fabulous invention he made $20M on:
United States Patent 7,006,666
Montgomery February 28, 2006
Method and apparatus for detecting and reacting to occurrence of an event
A method of detecting occurrence of an event. The method includes comparing a first compressed frame size to a later compressed frame size to determine the occurrence of an event.
Claim 1 (be the first one to find ANY inventive step here):
A method of detecting occurrence of an event, the method comprising: comparing a first compressed digital frame size to a later compressed digital frame size in a sequence of compressed digital image frames to determine whether a change in size exists that is greater than a predetermined amount, and, if the change in size is greater than the predetermined amount, using that determination to indicate the occurrence of the event, wherein the occurrence of the event is an appearance of a new object in the later compressed frame; periodically selecting a frame in the sequence of compressed frames after the occurrence of the event and transmitting each selected frame, wherein the step of periodically selecting selects at least one of every 10 adjacent frames during the occurrence of the event; and performing external pattern recognition on the selected frame using an external pattern.
It would be interesting to learn whether Mr. Montgomery ever had any dealings with Mr. John P. Wheeler; formerly of Mitre Corporation, soon to occupy Arlington National Cemetery.
"Student assignment: Find a government in history that qualifies as "just" and "competent". Requirement: Prove your conclusion."
Your alive aren't you?
This would be the fraud equivalent of murder. Y'know, kill one person, you go to jail. Kill a million people...
If the fraud had been small, say whatever is the average for welfare fraud, they'd be in jail. But, defraud the government for $20 million, over a period of time, and you walk away, scot-free.
Hey, I remember this story. Still seems like covering it up is a plan that will backfire. Then again, I have not seen it yet on FOX.
I see many comments that immediately suggest this is a government problem. Blaming the victim is a plan that also will backfire.
We all are susceptible in one way or another to fraud.
Let's take it away from "government" and instead look at the Governor -- Nevada's Republican Governor Jim Gibbons, a man with nineteen service medals, including the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross. If you want to start researching mistakes in government related to trust and deception...
Looking at this case and saying the government is too stupid, etc. is not only unproductive, it misses the larger point.
Regardless of how we may become victims and make mistakes (yes, all of us have flaws) the real question is how should we (and our representatives) respond. Secrecy? Deception?
Ooops, I take that back. FOX news gave it very brief mention in 2009
"People who say they read Playboy magazine for the articles might be telling the truth, after it published an account of an elaborate scam "
Nonetheless, I see evidence that agencies outside the CIA were skeptical about the no-bid contract and the software.
Why the secrecy about the mistakes and the risk, not to mention the cost?
Perhaps it has to do with bills like the SHIELD Act introduced by New York Republican Representative Peter King to the House that looks like it would define leaks as a terrorist act and whistle-blowers as enemies of the state.
It's part of the new don't tell don't tell and get promoted policy.
Just remember, the Bush Administration's trust in the bogus software was due in no small part to the words of support from a decorated veteran and politician who said:
"Racial profiling should be for terrorism. If you look like and act like a terrorist, if you’re coming across as a bad person, you’re going to do harm to our citizens, whether it’s deal drugs, commit crime or commit a terrorist act. Absolutely we ought to profile everybody that looks like a terrorist. I don’t have a problem with that. But if they want to have a racial profile of Irishmen, then I’m going to question that."
@ Spaceman Spiff
Yeah. That's actually why many of us read Playboy. Just for the articles. Right.
For a good laugh, put that Cyrillic post (a couple above) through a Russian-English online translator. Gotta be the most rambling, non-sequitur pornspam ever!
@ Boris Badenov
Quite right. Sorry moderator but I've got to post the first line of the translation:
"Porn videos free online Jerks do not want teens first masturbation erotic tale Porno girls in latex online"
LMAO! The broken translation probably sounds catchier than a good translation. Free online jerks? first timers? latex porn stars? this guys got it all. And I bet u can have the privilege for only $29.95 a month! What a deal!
@ Moderator/ Boris Badenov / Nick P.
No online translator necessary. Anyone with some basic Cyrillic reading skills immediately spots the transvestites, transsexuals and hermaphrodite words in upper case. Not to mention the first word "porno".
On the subject: is anyone really surprised they're doing their very best to cover this up ? In most private companies, this would constitute a serious CLM (career limiting move). It's the kind of stuff governments invest in, with or without proof that it's actually working. On a related sidenote, the honourable Fars News Agency is claiming Secretary Clinton has paid Anonymous 25 million to go after Iran ( http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?... ) . Unfortunately, the boyz at Anonymous have no idea where that money went. Maybe someone should go knocking at Mr. Montgomery's door again ?
@ Dirk Praet:
"Anyone with some basic Cyrillic reading skills..."
Uh, what do you suppose is the percent of the population here that fits in that subset? Just curious.
When a forum is in English only, I would assume any post in a non-Latinic alphabet to be spam, and probably pornspam, until proven otherwise.
@ Nick P:
Was tempted to post the entire translation myself, but didn't want to deprive non-Russian-speakers of the "fun" of finding out for themselves.
@Boris Badenov is that written about the underground in england? can you post the text..
I don't know if this is still true, but in the 70's it was:
They paid, for their articles, about double the typical word rate. Where an author might get seventy-five cents a word for an article in the "New Yorker" or "Cosmopolitan" you'd get a dollar-fifty per word for an article in Playboy.
Naturally, that attracted some of the best authors in the business. Reading Playboy for the articles wasn't that farfetched.
In the interests of complete disclosure, however, I should point out that I am a heterosexual male and that there were other attractions in Playboy that didn't require literacy (and sometimes looking at them reduced my literacy to the gibbering idiot stage... ;-)
This goes to show that:
"[Peer review] is the worst form of [quality control] except for all those others that have been tried."
I must add that secrecy must be the ultimate in ensuring the complete absence of any trace of quality. That is the biggest argument against secret weapons and hidden conspiracies: Their secrecy assures their ineptness.
W: "Your alive aren't you?"
Not only that, I survived in excess of 8 years in the Federal pen.
OTOH, how many Iraqi and Afghan civilians are dead? I was in Vietnam and managed to survive, no thanks to the US government, so how many US soldiers are dead?
One could go on, but the idea that someone as antithetical as I am to government could still be alive proves the US government is at the very least not competent at killing all their enemies.
So you argued my case. Thanks.
@RSH sorry about that , but I was meaning all that has happened with goverments.., without them what would have happened(worst/better)
"@Boris Badenov is that written about the underground in england? can you post the text.."
It's not "about" anyone or anything, just some rambling mentions of lots of different kinds of porn, terribly worded.
Use any search engine to find "Russian-English translate", and after one or two tries, you should be able to read it. Or try the one that "look-see" suggested.
I'd rather not give this creep any more publicity by posting the entire thing in English, though it *was* amusing of Nick P. to post the first sentence, to give a small sample.
Sorry I thought you lot were talking about covert channels
"шлифующий круглую вазу" remain hinding easly
"сакрамент" car park,cash payment
"молотом по аппарату" montior a-party
". Not to mention the first word "porno"."
@RSH - "the idea that someone as antithetical as I am to government could still be alive proves the US government is at the very least not competent at killing all their enemies."
Gimme a break. That same line could also be used to 'prove' the fact that governments in general have come a long way in terms of protecting your freedom to dissent.
I can't stand when people selectively forget that the US was founded on a plainly stated skepticism and mistrust of ALL governments, including the one they eventually built for themselves. Perfect? Of course not, it still requires the public to THINK. Better than the Roman Empire? Absofuçkinglutely. At the very least, we've stopped eating lead and inbreeding... well, for the most part.
Point being: your freedom to dissent, to be 'antithetical' towards our government, is precisely what the US government was established to allow, protect, and even encourage. So STFU a little, and have some respect.
Well to be fair to him, didn't he catch as many terrorists as all the other agencies?
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