Comments

keiner September 2, 2020 7:37 AM

“It’s a perennial problem: trusted insiders have to be trusted.”

Nope Sir, there have to be EFFECTIVE checks and balances in places. No trust.

Caesurus September 2, 2020 7:47 AM

Trusted insiders should also be paid appropriately. I didn’t find any information about Priores Salary range, the article says he was trying to merely stay “afloat.” What he did was wrong, but I’m curious about his compensation. Underpaid positions that have access to valuables are a recipe for disaster. If your organization has private keys used for signing, make sure the people who have access to those assets are paid appropriately.

Tatütata September 2, 2020 8:47 AM

(I’m in town for a few days)

A not too uncommon occurence, alas… There is the sad story of the Girolamini library in Napoli back in 2013, which was pretty much ransacked by its director.
https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25403595

But remarkably, just 18 months after the looting was discovered, police investigators believe that they have already managed to track down the great majority of the stolen books.

“We think a high percentage – up to 80% – has been recovered,” says Coppola.

While I was tracking down this item, I came across several other ones, including these ones:

https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/romanian-kingpin-of-rare-book-thieves-behind-bars-thanks-to-italy

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/professor-helps-bust-italian-art-theft-ring-180963563/

https://www.rarebookhub.com/articles/1808?id=1808

There is a three part series in French discussing theft of libraries. Part 1 is dedicated to burglars, and part 3 to kleptomaniac collectors. Part 2 deals with dishonest librarians, including the 1840s case of one Libri (sic), who used his position as the national inspector of libraries to pillage collections all over France for nearly a decade:
https://www.dicopathe.com/voleurs-de-livres-2eme-partie-le-cas-des-bibliothecaires-malfaiteurs/

In both the Napoli and French case, the perpetrators felt protected by the powers who named them (Berlusconi, July Monarchy).

The latin phrase “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” is getting very tired…

Bob September 2, 2020 9:23 AM

Banks manage this risk with separation of duties, mandated vacations, and routine audits, among other measures. If the person with the key needs another person with another key, and the access is monitored by a person without a key, and audits are regularly conducted by a totally different person altogether, this sort of theft becomes increasingly difficult. It costs money, to be sure.

Tatütata September 2, 2020 10:18 AM

At the other end of the hierarchy:

Janitor tried in 2008 for the theft of rare books from a Nuremberg library.

https://www.spiegel.de/lebenundlernen/uni/dreister-diebstahl-hausmeister-verhoekerte-buecherschaetze-aus-bibliothek-a-557170.html

Only the thefts which occurred after 1999 were at stake because of the statute of limitations.

The stolen goods were auctioned off for 322k€. Investigators found 367 other books at the janitor’s hiding place.

The article mentions another case from 2006 where a German scholar with sticky fingers replaced antique books with low value books acquired at flea markets. The library in Bonn reported 105 books from the 16th to the 18th century to be missing from its catalog, valued at about 250k€.

The anarchist Proudhon wrote around 1840 (incidentally when Libri was active) : “La propriété c’est le vol” — “Property if theft”. So what is then theft? To paraphrase US Senator Hayakawa on the Panama canal, “It’s ours, we stole it fair and square”.

Etienne September 2, 2020 10:19 AM

I didn’t see where the feds stepped in with tax evasion??

I would revoke the children’s diplomas and make them get a GED.

David Rudling September 2, 2020 10:48 AM

Trust is just an aspect of security. In the same way that there can be no absolute security, there can be no absolute trust. Ultimately as Bruce said “trusted insiders have to be trusted” and however many checks and balances are put in place there will be someone at the final affordable level in the trust hierarchy who will have to be trusted to do the checks on the level(s) below them. There will be a statistical improbability of multi-level collusion which will be judged by management to be adequate, but no more than is considered affordable. Yes, that may well mean that to the security minded readers and contributors of this blog it will seem be set at an inadequate level but it is no different to any other aspect of security. It’s a risk management exercise.

Andy September 2, 2020 12:32 PM

Wow! No restitution or fine but only three years’ house arrest for the thief and four for the seller.

Singapore Noodles September 2, 2020 2:13 PM

@Tatütata

Re: theft

Well Carnegie was one of the “Robber Barons”.

Evidently, Proudhon did not think the body existed.

JonKnowsNothing September 2, 2020 2:16 PM

Happens frequently and in all sorts of businesses.

iirc(badly) From a documentary eons ago:

An expert on rare china ceramics pilfered from every major museum. Being THE expert on rare ceramics, the person had access to all the stored items. Museums have the vast majority of their collections in storage and the vast majority never get displayed and are forgotten. The person normally picked out un-displayed and forgotten items, not only for sale but for a personal collection which was one of the finest in the world. The person also had access to the Sales Catalogs for all the global sales that museums keep to prove provenance and valuations. Since auction houses are supposed to document provenance and history, these catalogs are short cuts for future validations and documentation. The person expertly moved and shifted pages and pages of catalog descriptions around the world so successfully that later no one could determine what the original page contained.

The trip up was the person took a very rare set of china from a museum locker and had it displayed in their personal collection. A noob hired to catalog some items had noticed a vague description of something almost identical that was supposed to be in the storage room. It wasn’t. It was on display in the private collection.

Then there was the guy who was the expert on Cockatoos….

Jon September 2, 2020 2:59 PM

As Bob and Keiner pointed out, there’s ways around ‘trusting the trustee’, even if they are expensive.

e.g. Alice and Bruce both have the same job description, and when Alice goes on her mandatory leave Bruce does the audit, and when Bruce’s on leave Alice does the audit, and when they’re both on leave Claudia, with temporary powers, does the audit. Yeah, they could all three be in cahoots – but that’s a risk worth taking.

I think an error of the library was not auditing nearly often enough – but audits are expensive. Leaving one power broker permanently in place was a major error.

As far as their sentences go, I concur – they’re incredibly light. However, I suspect there will be massive civil litigation about to descend upon both of them – for damage as well as value stolen.

For ‘staying afloat’? I haven’t looked up the tuition rates for those private schools, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they ran $40,000 – $70,000 a year. Four children at $50k / yr. is $200k – and I doubt his salary was anywhere near that, leaving aside any other expenses. Note that fencing stolen goods doesn’t get you anywhere near the market rate – if anyone made $8 million, it was the bookseller, not the thief. The thief have been lucky to clear $800k – over 25 years.

Jon

Steve September 2, 2020 7:59 PM

This case is similar to another recent one, deliciously complicated, involving “an eccentric Oxford classics don, billionaire US evangelicals, and a tiny, missing fragment of an ancient manuscript.”

Petre Peter September 3, 2020 6:53 AM

It doesn’t matter what shinny new firewall I have if I don’t know the rate of my sysadmin.

WmG September 4, 2020 1:08 AM

Signs of psychological disturbance are important. Priore, the rare book librarian argued against a proposed audit.

“But his colleagues chalked it up to his general obstinacy against having others in his domain, an obstinacy that one librarian noted had grown increasingly pronounced as the years ticked by.”

A bad sign. An old story.

@Steve Thanks for the link.

Tatütata September 16, 2020 10:23 AM

if anyone made $8 million, it was the bookseller, not the thief.

As the saying goes, “now Barrabas was a bookseller. LeCarré has Smiley quip this while paying for a rare book in the 1979 BBC filming of Tinker Tailor. Actually, it would have been “publisher”, and is sometimes attributed to Byron. The novel merely mentions Heywood Hill’s bookshop in Curzon Street, where [Smiley] occasionally contracted friendly bargains with the proprietor.

A December 1926 letter to the editor to the Sidney Morning Herald attempts to debunk the Byron theory as a private prank.

Stealing books is reprehensible, but damaging them is worse, at least in my book. I seethe with hatred and dream up the most cruel and unusual punishments when I borrow library books with pages liberally covered in pen or marker.

This would be a case of the alcoholic turned teetotaler. As I learned to read, my nasty habit of eating pages of the textbook after I had absorbed their content (bread for the soul, bread for the body?) earned me a nice pranging. “Damaging a book is like hurting a person”. So were my parents… Yet my mum bathed with her novels. Humans are full of contradictions.

Leave a comment

Login

Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via https://michelf.ca/projects/php-markdown/extra/

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.