Entries Tagged "prison escapes"

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Movie Plot Threat: Terrorists Attacking US Prisons

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts wins an award for his movie-plot threat: terrorists attacking the maximum-security federal prison at Ft. Leavenworth:

In an Aug. 14 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Roberts stressed that Kansas in general — and Leavenworth, in particular — are not ideal for a domestic detention facility.

“Fort Leavenworth is neither the ideal nor right location for moving Guantánamo detainees,” Roberts wrote to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. “The installation lies right on the Missouri River, providing terrorists with the possibility of covert travel underwater and attempting access to the detention facility.”

Not just terrorists, but terrorists with a submarine! This is why Ft. Leavenworth, a prison from which no one has ever escaped, is unsuitable for housing Guantanamo detainees.

I’ve never understood the argument that terrorists are too dangerous to house in US prisons. They’re just terrorists, it’s not like they’re Magneto.

Posted on August 25, 2015 at 2:19 PMView Comments

Remotely Opening Prison Doors

This seems like a bad vulnerability:

Researchers have demonstrated a vulnerability in the computer systems used to control facilities at federal prisons that could allow an outsider to remotely take them over, doing everything from opening and overloading cell door mechanisms to shutting down internal communications systems.

[…]

The researchers began their work after Strauchs was called in by a warden to investigate an incident in which all the cell doors on one prison’s death row spontaneously opened. While the computers that are used for the system control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems that control prison doors and other systems in theory should not be connected to the Internet, the researchers found that there was an Internet connection associated with every prison system they surveyed. In some cases, prison staff used the same computers to browse the Internet; in others, the companies that had installed the software had put connections in place to do remote maintenance on the systems.

The weirdest part of the article was this last paragraph.

“You could open every cell door, and the system would be telling the control room they are all closed,” Strauchs, a former CIA operations officer, told the Times. He said that he thought the greatest threat was that the system would be used to create the conditions needed for the assassination of a target prisoner.

I guess that’s a threat. But the greatest threat?

EDITED TO ADD (11/14): The original paper.

Posted on November 14, 2011 at 7:14 AMView Comments

Prison Escape Artist

Clever ruse:

When he went to court for hearings, he could see the system was flawed. He would arrive on the twelfth floor in handcuffs and attached at the waist to a dozen other inmates. A correction officer would lead them into the bull pen, an area where inmates wait for their lawyers. From the bull pen, the inmates would follow their lawyers or court officials either up a set of back stairs into a courtroom or down a set of stairs.

The more Tackmann went to court, the more he noticed that once the inmate at the head of the line would get uncuffed and turn into the bull pen, he would be out of view of the correction officer at the back of the line. He could then avoid the bull pen and dart down the rear stairs.

[…]

On the morning of September 30, Tackmann prepared for court in Manhattan. He dressed in a light-gray three-piece suit that he thinks was his stepfather’s. He wore two sets of dress socks. One around his feet, the other around the Rikers Island slippers he was ordered to wear (“to make them look like shoes; they looked like suede shoes”).

As he was bussed to the courthouse, he rehearsed the move in his mind.

When you come up to the twelfth floor, you’re handcuffed with like twelve people on a chain. The C.O. is right there with you.You have to be ready, so if the move is there…

That day, the move was there. “I was in the front of the line. The C.O. — it was some new guy. He un-handcuffed us in the hallway, and I was the first one around the corner.”

Tackmann raced down the stairwell and knocked on a courtroom door. A court officer opened it.

Tackmann had the shtick worked out — the lawyer in distress. “You know,” he said, “I was just with a client, and my mother is real sick in Bellevue. Could you tell me how to get to Bellevue? I gotta get over there fast; she is 80 years old.”

He wanted to sprint. The adrenaline was gushing. He calmly walked to the courtroom entrance as the sweat trickled around his neck. He raced down several flights of stairs and tried the door. It was locked. He walked down another flight. Locked. What is going on? Did they find out I was missing already? One more flight down. The door was open. He jumped in an elevator, got out on the ground floor, and walked into the street. Freedom. But not for long.

Posted on January 18, 2010 at 6:57 AMView Comments

Monopoly Sets for WWII POWs: More Information

I already blogged about this; there’s more information in this new article:

Included in the items the German army allowed humanitarian groups to distribute in care packages to imprisoned soldiers, the game was too innocent to raise suspicion. But it was the ideal size for a top-secret escape kit that could help spring British POWs from German war camps.

The British secret service conspired with the U.K. manufacturer to stuff a compass, small metal tools, such as files, and, most importantly, a map, into cut-out compartments in the Monopoly board itself.

Posted on September 23, 2009 at 1:43 PMView Comments

Spanish Police Foil Remote-Controlled Zeppelin Jailbreak

Sometimes movie plots actually happen:

…three people have been arrested after police discovered their plan to free a drug trafficker from an island prison using a 13-foot airship carrying night goggles, climbing gear and camouflage paint.

[…]

The arrested men had setup an elaborate surveillance operation of the prison that involved a camouflaged tent, powerful binoculars, telephoto lenses, and motion detection sensors. But authorities caught wind of the plan when they intercepted the inflatable zeppelin as it arrived from the Italian town of Bergamo.

EDITED TO ADD (7/14): Another story, with more detail.

Posted on July 8, 2009 at 1:54 PMView Comments

Prairie Dogs Hack Baltimore Zoo

Fun story, with a lot of echoes of our own security problems:

It took just 10 minutes for a dozen prairie dogs to outwit the creators of the Maryland Zoo’s new $500,000 habitat.

Aircraft wire, poured concrete and slick plastic walls proved no match for the fast-footed rodents, the stars of a new exhibit that opens today.

As officials were promoting the return of the zoo’s 28 prairie dogs — their former digs had been out of sight in a closed section of the animal preserve for more than four years — some of the critters found ways to jump, climb and get over the walls of their prairie paradise, a centerpiece exhibit just inside the zoo’s main entrance.

[…]

But a few intrepid prairie dogs tried to find their way out, sending keepers scrambling to plug escape routes.

An hour later, just as zookeepers thought everything was under control, one rodent made it to the top of the wall. A dozen workers closed in. The prairie dog seemed to think better of it and jumped back into the enclosure.

“They find all the weak spots and exploit them,” said Karl Kranz, the zoo’s vice president for animal programs and chief operating officer.

[…]

Zoo staff members say the animals cannot burrow their way out because the former Kodiak bear environment is essentially a large concrete swimming bowl. The soil depth at Prairie Dog Town ranges from 6 feet to 8 feet.

“The dirt must be deeper than 36 inches in order for the prairie dogs to make their burrows under the frost line,” Kranz said. “We took soil samples from the old exhibit so the soils could be matched exactly to what they were used to having.”

After foiling the escape attempt, zoo workers adjusted wire fencing and installed more slippery plastic on the walls.

Posted on June 16, 2009 at 7:24 AMView Comments

Prisoner Escapes by Mailing Himself Out of Jail

So maybe this isn’t an obvious tactic, and maybe large packages coming into a prison are searched more thoroughly than large packages leaving a prison — but you’d expect prison guards to pay attention to anything large enough for a person to fit into.

At the end of his shift, the inmate climbed into a cardboard box and was taken out of prison by express courier. His whereabouts are still unknown.

I am remembering the tour of Alcatraz I took some years ago, and I think the tour guide talked about someone who tried to escape in a laundry cart. So maybe this isn’t such a new idea after all.

EDITED TO ADD (12/12): He was recaptured.

EDITED TO ADD (12/13): In 1977 Nazi war criminal Herbert Kappler was smuggled out of a hospital, concealed in a large suitcase.

Posted on December 5, 2008 at 7:01 AMView Comments

Random Stupidity in the Name of Terrorism

An air traveler in Canada is first told by an airline employee that it is “illegal” to say certain words, and then that if she raised a fuss she would be falsely accused:

When we boarded a little later, I asked for the ninny’s name. He refused and hissed, “If you make a scene, I’ll call the pilot and you won’t be flying tonight.”

More on the British war on photographers.

A British man is forced to give up his hobby of photographing buses due to harrassment.

The credit controller, from Gloucester, says he now suffers “appalling” abuse from the authorities and public who doubt his motives.

The bus-spotter, officially known as an omnibologist, said: “Since the 9/11 attacks there has been a crackdown.

“The past two years have absolutely been the worst. I have had the most appalling abuse from the public, drivers and police over-exercising their authority.

Mr McCaffery, who is married, added: “We just want to enjoy our hobby without harassment.

“I can deal with the fact someone might think I’m a terrorist, but when they start saying you’re a paedophile it really hurts.”

Is everything illegal and damaging now terrorism?

Israeli authorities are investigating why a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem rammed his bulldozer into several cars and buses Wednesday, killing three people before Israeli police shot him dead.

Israeli authorities are labeling it a terrorist attack, although they say there is no clear motive and the man — a construction worker — acted alone. It is not known if he had links to any terrorist organization.

New Jersey public school locked down after someone saw a ninja:

Turns out the ninja was actually a camp counselor dressed in black karate garb and carrying a plastic sword.

Police tell the Asbury Park Press the man was late to a costume-themed day at a nearby middle school.

And finally, not terrorism-related but a fine newspaper headline: “Giraffe helps camels, zebras escape from circus“:

Amsterdam police say 15 camels, two zebras and an undetermined number of llamas and potbellied swine briefly escaped from a traveling Dutch circus after a giraffe kicked a hole in their cage.

Are llamas really that hard to count?

EDITED TO ADD (7/2): Errors fixed.

Posted on July 3, 2008 at 12:57 PMView Comments

Prison Break

Details:

Police said Espinosa and Blunt were in adjacent cells and used a long metal wire to scrape away mortar around the cinder block between their cells and the outer wall in Espinosa’s cell.

Once the cement block between the cells was removed, they smashed the block and hid the pieces in a footlocker. According to police, Blunt, who is 5 feet 10 inches and weighs 210 pounds, squeezed into Espinosa’s cell through an approximately 16- to 18-inch hole.

The two inmates wiggled through another 18-inch hole in the outer wall. From a roof landing, the two men “took a running jump or they were standing and they jumped approximately 15 feet out and about 30 feet down,” Romankow said.

Then they jumped a razor-wire fence onto a New Jersey transit railroad bed to freedom, police said. Authorities found two sets of footprints in the snow heading in opposite directions.

[…]

To delay discovery of the escape, Espinosa and Blunt used dummies made of sheets and pillows in their beds. They also hung photographs of bikini-clad women to hide the holes in the walls, a move reminiscent of a scene in the Hollywood hit “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Posted on December 19, 2007 at 5:10 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.