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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
August 19 2011- Terror Attack in the Negev
It was a quiet summer, one in which I anticipated generating limited entries into this blog until mid-September, when I would begin writing from Israel. Unfortunately, that calm ended today, with a series of coordinated terror attacks on Israelis along the Egyptian border. The attack, for which no one has taken direct responsibility, (as of yet), killed eight Israelis. Though the attackers have not yet been identified, they were most likely members of the Rejection Front; a group that is even more radical than Hamas. These attacks clearly caught Hamas by surprise. It is also clear Hamas feels that attacks against Israel are not currently in their interest, considering the uncertain state of their relations, both with the Egyptians and with their Syrian patron.
Israel immediately retaliated for today's attacks. Reportedly the retaliatory strike killed the leader of the group who is allegedly responsible for the attack. The Israeli retaliation resulted in those groups firing missiles into Israel at Ashkelon. The Iron Dome system intercepted the missile that could have landed in a populated place.
This most recent attack on the negev was well coordinated, with as many as 15 terrorists involved. It was, without question, the largest terror attack (in terms of participants) that I can remember in many years. Is this the beginning of a series of attacks, or an isolated attack? It's hard to know. Sadly, I would bet on the former. It has been clear for quite a while, (certainly since the downfall of of Mubarak), that Israel cannot leave its border with Egypt under-defended or not defended at all. The border between Gaza and Egypt is open to all who own a tunnel, that makes the whole border between Israel and Egypt vulnerable.
Israel’s response was to retaliate by bombing terrorist targets in Gaza. While this feels good, it will not deter the terrorists. That being said, the question remains, how to respond effectively to terror attacks, without allowing the situation to spiral out of control. Finding this answer provides a much more difficult challenge.
Beersheba ( / b ɪər ˈ ʃ iː b ə / Hebrew: בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע , romanized: Be'er Sheva, IPA: [ˈbe(ʔ)eʁ ˈʃeva(ʕ)] ( listen ) Arabic: بئر السبع , romanized: Biʾr as-Sabʿ, lit. 'Well of the Oath') is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the center of the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in Israel, the eighth-most populous Israeli city with a population of 209,687,  and the second-largest city (after Jerusalem) with a total area of 117,500 dunams.
The Biblical site of Beersheba is Tel Be'er Sheva, lying some 4 km distant from the modern city, which was established at the start of the 20th century by the Ottoman Turks.  The city was captured by the British-led Australian Light Horse in the Battle of Beersheba during World War I. In 1947, Bir Seb'a (Arabic: بئر السبع ), as it was known, was envisioned as part of the Arab state in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Following the declaration of Israel's independence, the Egyptian army amassed its forces in Beersheba as a strategic and logistical base. In the Battle of Beersheba waged in October 1948, it was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces. 
Beersheba has grown considerably since Israel's independence. A large portion of the population is made up of the descendants of Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews who immigrated from Arab countries after 1948, as well as smaller communities of Bene Israel and Cochin Jews from India. Second and third waves of immigration have taken place since 1990, bringing Russian-speaking Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as well as Beta Israel immigrants from Ethiopia. The Soviet immigrants have made the game of chess a major sport in Beersheba, and it is now Israel's national chess center, with more chess grandmasters per capita than any other city in the world, making it the chess capital of the world in some regards. 
Afghanistan: August 2011
On August 6, 2011, American forces in Afghanistan suffered their single deadliest day in the nearly decade-long war, as Taliban insurgents shot down a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, killing 30 Americans and eight Afghans. August continued to be a particularly deadly month for Afghan civilians, who bore the brunt of dozens of attacks and IED explosions across the country. According to the Associated Press, Afghan government officials were apparently angered when they learned of secret American talks with an emissary of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, and in reaction appear to have leaked details of the secret meetings, scuttling the talks and sending the emissary into hiding in Europe. As the U.S. continues its plan to withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014, a negotiated settlement between the Karzai government and the Taliban has become a major goal, but all sides involved are reportedly pursuing separate, often secret discussions with multiple contacts inside the insurgency. Gathered here are images from the ongoing conflict over the past 31 days, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. (Editor's note, the next posting here will be on Sunday, September 4th)
US Army Flight Medic Brandon Lowther (left) holds the hand of a fatally wounded US army soldier as he is airlifted by the Medevac helicopter of 159th Brigade Task Force Thunder, on August 24, 2011, to Kandahar Hospital Role 3. Two US soldiers were heavily injured by gun shots and brought to the hospital. #
(1 of 2) An assault breaching vehicle with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion fires a line charge to clear Improvised Explosive Devices in and around the Ladar Bazaar in Shukvani, Helmand province, Afghanistan. The charge is comprised of 1,750 pounds of C4 explosive and is spread along a 350-foot rope. #
(2 of 2) An explosion rocks the ground in the Ladar Bazaar in Shukvani, Helmand province, Afghanistan, after a line charge is detonated. Second Combat Engineer Battalion leveled the marketplace to clear it of Improvised Explosive Devices and make the area a safer place for local residents. #
Spc. Adam Supino, M249 squad automatic weapon gunner attached to Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, takes a break while on a security halt during a multi-day operation on August 21, 2011, in Alingar District, Laghman province. The PRT, combined with assets from the 45th Infantry Brigade, conducted a cordon and search in a village thought to be home to IED makers and Taliban fighters. #
An aerial view taken from an aircraft shows an Afghan child following a woman through the streets of a village near Pasab some 30 kilometers west from Kandahar, on August 24, 2011. #
Rehmat Ullaha, Afghan fruit vendor poses for picture at a local market in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 5, 2011. #
Afghan National Army members and U.S. Army soldiers from Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry (The Wolfhounds), Task Force No Fear watch a Chinook helicopter carrying supplies landing upon arrival at Observation Post Mace from FOB Bostick in eastern Afghanistan Naray district, near the border of Pakistan, on August 26, 2011. #
An Afghan woman looks at a display in the Kabul Museum, on August 4, 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. The sculptures, which had been destroyed by Islamists during the Taliban regime, were repaired after the collapse of the hardliners in 2001. #
An ancient sculpture is displayed in the Kabul Museum, on August 4, 2011. Portions of the collection have been exhibited in seven countries. #
US infantryman Private Freymond Tyler of Delta Company, 2-87 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, sleeps on his laptop next to his gun in the Delta Company barracks at combat outpost Makuan in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on August 13, 2011 -- a day before an air and ground assault mission by Delta Company against insurgents in nearby Maiwand district. According to Major Kirby Dennis, operations officer of Task Force 2-87, the August 14, 2011, five hour raid in Maiwand district resulted in the capture of eight Afghans among them are two suspected Taliban leaders and assorted bomb making components. #
An Afghan girl greets a joint patrol of US troops from the Charlie Company, 2-87 Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and Afghan National Army soldiers at Kandalay village in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, on August 8, 2011. #
An Afghan man carries his belongings as he passes burning fuel tankers in the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 4, 2011. Police said around five fuel tankers carrying fuel for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan caught fire inside a depot in Kabul. #
Afghan men watch fuel tankers that caught fire in Kabul, on August 4, 2011. Police said they are investigating the incident,with no casualties reported, but have so far dismissed any terrorist involvement. #
An Afghan shopkeeper clears shattered glass outside his shop near the British Council in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 20, 2011. The nation's capital was recovering Saturday from an eight-hour assault on a British compound a day earlier killing eight people, including four police officers, two Afghan security guards, two foreign security guards and wounding dozens. #
Sayed Mohammad Nabi, a 42 year-old farmer from Kalakan Village, shows some grape vines in the Shomali Palains north of Kabul, on August 8, 2011, during the grape harvest. The Shomali Plain is a plateau north of Kabul, fertile and rich with water, and was a large battleground for some 23 years. #
A scenic view from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flying over Regional Command-East, Afghanistan, August 18. #
Two Afghan civilian men lie in the Medevac of 159th Brigade Task Force Thunder, to be airlifted to Kandahar Hospital Hero, on August 25, 2011. Three Afghan nationals where heavily injured by an motorbike accident. #
A wounded Afghan man closes his eyes as he is airlifted to Kandahar Hospital Hero after by a Medevac from the 159th Brigade Task Force Thunder on August 26, 2011. The man was hit by an IED and lost his right leg. #
An explosive ordnance disposal team drives their vehicle to a secluded area to dispose of an improvised explosive device found by local Afghan National Police in Alingar District, Laghman province, on August 8, 2011. #
The family of U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Benjamin Palmer stand as the colonel's remains are carried to his burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, on August 23, 2011 in Arlington, Virginia. Assigned to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, Palmer, 43, of Modesto, California, was fatally shot May 12 by a member of the paramilitary Afghan Civil Order Police Unit he was mentoring in Helmand Province. #
Local surfers memorialize Navy bomb technician and Virginia Beach resident Kraig Vickers, who died in the Afghanistan helicopter crash on August 6, by forming a giant circle, interlocking hands and paddles in a ceremony called a paddle out, on August 9, 2011. Vickers was a surfer and stand up paddle boarder originally from Hawaii. #
Afghan National Army soldiers take their position inside the compound of Mullah Omar mosque during a patrol with US troops from the Battle Co., 1-32 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Sangsar village in Kandahar province, the heartland of Taliban in southern Afghanistan, on August 10, 2011. #
River Darya ye Kunar valley near Assadabad is seen from a Canadian Molson contractor helicopter in eastern Afghanistan province of Kunar, on August 20, 2011. #
This combination photo shows the 30 troops killed when their helicopter was downed in Afghanistan, on August 6, 2011. The Pentagon identified the Americans as 17 members of the elite Navy SEALs, five Naval Special Warfare personnel who support the SEALs, three Air Force Special Operations personnel and an Army helicopter crew of five. #
This photograph taken on August 10, 2011, shows fighters with Afghanistan's Taliban militia standing at a cemetery, near the site where a CH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying US troops crashed killing 38 personnel including 30 US soldiers, at the remote Tangi Valley in Wardak province, west of Kabul. Taliban insurgents who shot down a US Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, leaving 30 American troops dead, have been hunted down and killed in an air strike, a US commander said on August 10. But the insurgent leader who was the target of the original operation in which the Americans perished remained at large, said General John Allen, commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. #
U.S. Army Corporal Frances Gadiane of Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry (the Wolfhounds), Task Force No Fear from San Diego, California, take position upon arrival at Observation Post Mace from FOB Bostick in eastern Afghanistan Naray district, on August 26, 2011. #
The nose of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, viewed while it is refueled in mid-air over southern Afghanistan. The most prominent feature of the A-10 Thunderbolt II is the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling-gun cannon, which can fire 3,900 rounds a minute. #
Ahmad Taki, a human resources manager at the main international military base, plays guitar at his residence in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 8, 2011. Ahmad Taki has braved threatening phone calls and risked being targeted by the Taliban in the hope that his job with the Americans would provide a ticket to the United States. Now, nearly nine months after applying for a visa program for cases like his, he's heard nothing and feels abandoned by the people for whom he's risked his life. #
Two V-22 Osprey aircraft prepare for take off from Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on August 22, 2011. #
A US infantryman of Delta Company, 2-87 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, prepares his ammunition in the Delta Company barracks at combat outpost Makuan in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on August 13, 2011. #
Captured Taliban suspect identified as "detainee number 1" awaits interrogation on arrival at the Forward Operating Base Pasab in Zahri district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan on August 15, 2011, following a five hour ground and air assault operation by US troops from Bravo and Delta company, 2-87 Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and Afghan national security forces in Maiwand district. #
Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul convoys along the Tarnek River in Qalat City, Afghanistan, on August 24, 2011. #
Afghan warlord Haji Tor Gani, poses with his Russian assault rifle after having hosted an iftar reception for US military officials belonging to 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, in observance of Islam's holy month of Ramadan. The reception was held at Tor Gani's highly secured compound in a village at Zahri distict in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, on August 11, 2011. #
US soldiers from the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 2-87 Infantry, 3d Brigade Combat Team keep guard while troops seal off a canal running through Highway 1 in the outskirts of Kandalay village in Kandahar province, on August 6, 2011. According to Captain Max Ferguson commander of Charlie Co., a member of the Taliban was killed while trying to place an IED some 800 meters from the area where soldiers were sealing off the road culvert with iron grids and barbed wire. #
Internally displaced Afghan girls looks out from a glass window of a shanty, in a refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 9, 2011. According to UNHCR some 2.7 million registered Afghans refugees still remain in Pakistan and Iran. #
Men retreat as a fireball rises from tankers which were carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan, as they explode after being attacked on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan, on August 19, 2011. There were no reported casualties. #
Local residents watch the burning NATO supply oil tankers following an attack by gunmen on the main highway at Kolpur village, 25 km (15 mi) south of Quetta, on August 22, 2011. Gunmen on motorbikes in southwestern Pakistan on August 22 set ablaze at least 19 oil tankers carrying fuel for US-led NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan, officials said. #
US soldiers gather near a destroyed vehicle and protect their faces from rotor wash, as their wounded comrades are airlifted by a Medevac helicopter from the 159th Brigade Task Force Thunder to Kandahar Hospital Role 3, on August 23, 2011. Three soldiers were wounded while their vehicle was destroyed up by an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED). #
An Afghan man stops to pose for a photo while riding his bicycle along Highway 1 in Zabul province, Afghanistan, on August 23, 2011. Unlike many countries, it is normal for the people of Afghanistan to bicycle roughly 100 kilometers a day to transport food. #
Soldiers with the U.S. Army's 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, board a plane as they begin their journey home upon completion of their year-long deployment, on August 4, 2011 at Forward Operating Base Sharana in Paktika province, Afghanistan. The 4th Brigade Combat Team was the last brigade to deploy as part of President Obama's 30,000 troop surge. #
British Army Lieutenant Daniel John Clack's fiancee Amy Tinley (2nd from left), mother Sue Clack (left), and brother James (right) gather just before his coffin is driven through the town of Wootton Bassett, England, on August 18, 2011. Clack, 24, of the 1st Battalion The Rifles was killed while serving in Afghanistan the Friday before. #
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IDF Kills 14 in Gaza, Hamas Renounces Ceasefire, IDF Disagrees With Netanyahu on Responsibility for Eilat Attack
This is exactly the sort of gift that Israeli rightists like Bibi Netanyahu love. Faced with a mounting internal crisis in the form of the J14 movement, Palestinian rejectionists have handed him his “Get Out of Political Crisis Free” card. Yesterday’s attack in Eilat has fueled an Israeli reaction that can be described as uncontrollable fury, which has killed 14 including three children. Today, an Israeli drone performed heroically for the fatherland by incinerating a car (or in other reports a motorcycle) carrying a Palestinian doctor and his family to hospital seeking treatment for a sick child. The doctor, his brother, and the doctor’s little boy were killed in the attack. Ynet announced: Oops, we missed. The drone was aiming for a terrorist cell traveling nearby. WAFA says the doctor’s brother was an Al Quds commander, which would mean that the IDF is willing to kill sick 2 year old children in order to get alleged terrorists as well.
It might be fitting to ship the boy’s coffin to the prime minister’s residence and let it sit outside his door for a few days for him to think about the blood he is shedding. Oh but I forgot, Palestinian blood is less red than Jewish blood.
Hamas has called off the ceasefire it had been honoring since the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2009. Now, either we will have another war or somehow someone will patch things up so Israel and Palestine can continue to limp along like the cripples they are.
Egypt has pulled its ambassador in light of Israel’s killing of two Egyptian police officers yesterday on the Gaza border. If I were Israel I’d wake up and smell the fresh coffee brewing in Cairo. It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy in its relations with Egypt. If you break the china you’ll pay the price unlike under Israel’s pliant friend, Mubarak. This report says five Egyptian police were killed yesterday by Israeli fire, but earlier reports said two died. Two deaths may be a mistake, but five begins to look like a massacre, which may explain the withdrawal of their ambassador.
Egypt is also demanding an official Israeli apology, which now makes two Muslim countries insisting Israel apologize for killing their citizens. Before you know it every country in the region may want one! The Foreign Ministry may want to save time and effort by preparing a formal ‘Apology template’ in which they leave blank spaces to fill in the particular details of the atrocity for which Israel is apologizing.
Lia Tarachansky has exposed a potentially very important disagreement among senior Israeli officials about who is responsible for the attack. Bibi Netanyahu very specifically blamed the Popular Resistance Committees for the attack. But in her interview with IDF spokesperson Avital Leibowitz, the latter refuses to say that the PRC is responsible. In fact, she says specifically that she “isn’t prime minister Netanyahu,” implicitly rejecting her boss’ claim. I think this is a major break in the story. It appears that Israel wanted to assassinate the leadership of PRC and took advantage of the terror attack to do so, all the while lying in implicating the group in the attack. All that Leibowitz will say on tape is that someone from Gaza is responsible, which is a little like saying that someone from Saudi Arabia was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Unlike the Palestinian news agency Maan, Israeli media can’t seem to acknowledge readily Palestinians were killed today in Gaza. The Haaretz main headline is Rockets Hit Ashdod in Southern Israel and Ynet’s is Rocket Salvo Hits South. Only in the fourth paragraph of this story do you learn the IDF has killed 15 Palestinians.
Finally, Pres. Obama–is anyone home? Where is Dan Shapiro, your ambassador to Israel? Are you going to celebrate the birth pangs of democracy as Condi Rice did during the Lebanon War? Or are you going to do something before the Israeli landlord truly goes insane (baal ha-bayit hishtageah)? Oh, why waste my breath. Obama is simply going to continue the same limp policy he’s always followed regarding Israel.
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Omagh bombing, terrorist attack in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, on August 15, 1998, in which a bomb concealed in a car exploded, killing 29 people and injuring more than 200 others. The Omagh bombing, carried out by members of the Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA, or New IRA), was the deadliest and most-damaging attack to have occurred during the three-decades-long civil conflict known as the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The attack came just months after the citizens of Northern Ireland voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement, a document laying out the necessary steps to peace and the order in which they should be taken.
The Troubles—a civil conflict between members of Northern Ireland’s majority-Protestant community, who wanted Northern Ireland to remain a part of the U.K., and its minority-Catholic community, who wanted the province to become a part of the Republic of Ireland—began in the late 1960s. Late in 1997, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and various Protestant paramilitary groups declared a cease-fire. On April 10, 1998, delegates representing the major parties to the conflict signed the Good Friday Agreement.
A number of IRA members disagreed with the decision to declare a cease-fire, however, and they were disgusted by the Good Friday Agreement, which required the IRA to seek a political solution to the conflict through its representative political party, Sinn Féin. These members split with the group and formed a competing organization, the Real IRA.
It is believed that on the day of the bombing, members of the Real IRA drove across the border from the Republic of Ireland to Omagh in Northern Ireland. Omagh, a small town with a largely Catholic population, had long housed a British army garrison. In the early afternoon, a car carrying a 500-pound bomb was parked in the town’s market square, an area frequently crowded with shoppers and even more so on the day of the bombing, which marked the final day of an annual town carnival week.
Around 2:30 pm a call was placed to Omagh’s police force warning them of a bomb. The police believed it was near the town’s courthouse, a building at the opposite end of the main street from the market square. Police rushed to clear the area, tragically directing people toward the market. Shortly after 3:00 pm , the car bomb exploded, destroying two buildings nearby.
The attack immediately put the peace accords into jeopardy. Although suspicion quickly fell on the Real IRA, many Unionist politicians declared that the IRA’s failure to disarm—its reluctance to do so had been a major obstacle throughout the peace process—had allowed the atrocity. Providing some reassurance about the IRA’s commitment to the peace process, Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, made an unprecedented declaration condemning the bombings. Previously, the IRA’s position was that civilian deaths were regrettable but justified. In the days following the bombing, the British Parliament passed harsh new antiterrorism laws that allowed suspects to be convicted on the word of a senior police officer, and the Real IRA issued an apology for the bombing, insisting that civilians had not been the target.
In December 2001, Nuala O’Loan, the ombudsman for Northern Ireland’s new security force, issued a report severely criticizing the conduct of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), in particular the officers of its Special Branch, in the days before the bombing. The report maintained that a highly regarded police informant warned his Special Branch handlers that a bombing was being planned somewhere in Northern Ireland for August 15. It further alleged that a warning was received by the RUC that a mortar attack on police headquarters in Omagh was also planned for that date. Records of those events, however, were never found within Special Branch.
The victims’ families expressed outrage at the report’s conclusions, outrage that was only heightened when the only person convicted in connection with the Omagh bombing, Republic of Ireland citizen Colm Murphy, had his conviction overturned and a retrial ordered in 2005 because law-enforcement officials tampered with interview notes and perjured themselves. A second suspect, Sean Hoey, Murphy’s nephew, was acquitted in 2007, with the judge once again strongly criticizing law enforcement’s handling of evidence from the attack.
Frustrated by the criminal courts, the families of the victims took the case to civil court, suing Murphy, Seamus Daly, Liam Campbell, and the founder of the Real IRA, Michael McKevitt, for their involvement in the bombing. On June 8, 2009, a judge found that the four men were liable for the attack and awarded the relatives £1.6 million. In 2014, Daly, the last remaining suspect, was charged with murder for those killed in the bombing the charges against him were dropped in 2016.
August 19 2011- Terror Attack in the Negev - History
Law-enforcement officials say the cancer of white nationalism has metastasized across social media and the dark corners of the Internet, creating a copycat effect in which aspiring killers draw inspiration and seek to outdo one another. The suspect in El Paso was at least the third this year to post a manifesto on the online message forum 8chan before logging off to commit mass murder. More people were killed that day in El Paso than all 14 service members killed this year on the battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
“Even if there was a crackdown right now, it’s going to take years for the momentum of these groups to fade,” says Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), whose 2009 report on right-wing extremism was lambasted by conservatives even before its release. “I’m afraid we’ve reached a tipping point where we’re in for this kind of violence for a long time.”
Right-wing terrorism is a global problem, resulting in devastating attacks from New Zealand to Norway. But it is particularly dangerous in the U.S., which has more guns per capita than anywhere else in the world, an epidemic of mass shootings, a bedrock tradition of free speech that protects the expression of hateful ideologies and laws that make it challenging to confront a disaggregated movement that exists largely in the shadows of cyberspace.
Law enforcement lacks many of the weapons it uses against foreign enemies like al-Qaeda. To defend America from the danger posed by Islamist terror groups, the federal government built a globe-spanning surveillance and intelligence network capable of stopping attacks before they occurred. Federal agents were granted sweeping authorities by Congress to shadow foreign terrorist suspects. No comparable system exists in domestic-terror cases. Domestic terrorism is not even a federal crime, forcing prosecutors to charge suspects under hate-crime laws.
“White supremacy is a greater threat than international terrorism right now,” says David Hickton, a former U.S. Attorney who directs the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security. “We are being eaten from within.” Yet Hickton says federal prosecutors are limited in how they try domestic cases. “I’d have to pursue a white supremacist with hate crimes, unless he interfaced with al-Qaeda. Does that make any sense?”
Then there is the problem of a Commander in Chief whose rhetoric appears to mirror, validate and potentially inspire that of far-right extremists. The screed posted by the suspected terrorist in El Paso said he was motivated by a perceived “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” President Trump’s campaign has run some 2,200 Facebook ads warning of an “invasion” at the border, according to a CNN analysis. It’s a term he regularly uses in tweets and interviews. “People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is,” he said in the Oval Office in March. “It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people.” (The El Paso shooter said his actions were unconnected to Trump. A senior Administration official told TIME that the criticism linking the President’s rhetoric to violence was “unfortunate, unreasonable and obviously politically motivated.”)
In the wake of the El Paso attack, which was followed by a second mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, roughly 13 hours later, Trump promised to give federal authorities “whatever they need” to combat domestic terrorism. He said law enforcement “must do a better job of identifying and acting on early warning signs” and said he was directing the Justice Department to “work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies, as well as social-media companies, to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”
But White House officials did not specify which new authorities are needed. Nor does the Administration’s record offer much hope. In the early days of his presidency, the Trump Administration gutted the DHS office that focused on violent extremism in the U.S. and pulled funding for grants that were meant to go to organizations countering neo-Nazis, white supremacists, antigovernment militants and other like-minded groups.
The El Paso suspect was born in 1998, three years after the worst homegrown terrorist attack in American history. The bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was carried out by Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran who wanted to exact revenge against the federal government for the deadly sieges in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The sprawling investigation that followed McVeigh’s attack, which killed 168 people, foreshadowed some of the challenges facing law enforcement today.
The bombing helped call attention to the threat of domestic terrorism. But that focus dissipated in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, which drove the full force of the U.S. national-security system into fighting Islamic terrorism. From 2005 to 2009, according to a Justice Department audit, the number of FBI agents assigned to domestic-terrorism probes averaged less than 330 out of a total of almost 2,000 FBI agents assigned to counterterrorism cases.
By the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, however, it had become apparent to U.S. officials monitoring such threats that something serious was brewing at home. The prospect of the first black President sparked a sharp rise in far-right groups, from so-called Patriot movement adherents to antigovernment militias, according to analysts at DHS. The Secret Service took the unprecedented step of assigning Barack Obama a protective detail in May 2007, mere months into his campaign and long before candidates typically receive protection.
Johnson, who led a six-person group at DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis, began working on a report about the rise of right-wing extremism. It warned that white nationalists, antigovernment extremists and members of other far-right groups were seizing on the economic crisis and Obama’s ascension to recruit new members. Johnson was preparing to release his report when a similar study by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, meant for law-enforcement officers, was leaked to the public in February 2009. The paper, titled “The Modern Militia Movement,” linked members of these militias to fundamentalist Christian, anti-abortion or anti-immigration movements.
The report was pilloried by GOP groups and politicians for singling out conservatives as possible criminals. Missouri officials warned Johnson about the blowback he could expect for publishing a similar analysis. But Johnson, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, says he thought the DHS lawyers and editors who worked on the report would provide a layer of protection from GOP criticism. “I didn’t think the whole Republican Party would basically throw a hissy fit,” he recalls.
But when the DHS report was leaked to conservative bloggers in April 2009, it provoked an outcry from Republicans and conservative media, who painted it as a political hit job by the Obama Administration. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who originally issued a broad defense of the report, apologized to the American Legion for one of its most controversial components–a section that raised concerns about military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and subsequently being susceptible targets for recruitment by right-wing groups. Johnson’s team was slowly disbanded the number of analysts devoted to non-Islamic domestic terrorism dwindled from six to zero in 2010, he said.
The Missouri and DHS reports were early examples of how the fight against right-wing terrorism would be hamstrung by politics. For years, “there’s been a visceral response from politicians that if these groups are being labeled as ‘right wing,’ then it’s Republicans who are responsible for those groups’ activities,” says Jason Blazakis, former director of the Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office at the U.S. State Department, who is now a professor at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey, Calif. “It’s unfortunate, but I think in many ways this has resulted and served this reluctance in the Republican side to take as strong of action as they could.”
In interviews, veterans of the FBI, DHS and other national-security agencies recalled moments during the Obama Administration when they realized the domestic-terror threat was expanding unchecked. In January 2011, local police in Spokane, Wash., narrowly averted a tragedy when they redirected a Martin Luther King Day parade away from a roadside bomb planted on the route, loaded with shrapnel coated with a substance meant to keep blood from clotting in wounds. At the time, it was one of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices to appear in the U.S. Two months later, the FBI arrested Kevin William Harpham, 36, a former U.S. Army member linked to the neo-Nazi National Alliance. “I remember being like, ‘Wow, we have a problem,'” recalls former FBI agent Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “The belief was always that this would be al-Qaeda, not a former soldier who is a white supremacist.”
In 2011, the Obama White House released a strategy to “empower local partners” to counter violent extremism. As part of that plan, DHS official George Selim was put in charge of leading these efforts as director of an interagency task force in 2016. Selim’s office of community partnerships, which had been set up a year earlier, grew to 16 full-time employees and 25 contractors, with a total budget of $21 million. As part of its work, it had $10 million in grants for local programs to counter propaganda, recognize the signs of radicalization in local communities and intervene to stop attacks before they happen.
But the Obama Administration was wary of the political blowback, according to a senior government official familiar with the efforts of the FBI and DHS, and mindful of the government’s lack of legal authority to monitor domestic hate speech, obtain search or surveillance warrants, or recruit sources. Meanwhile, the threat continued to grow, fueled in online forums. In June 2015, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old who posted on the neo-Nazi site Stormfront under the screen name “Lil Aryan,” opened fire in a black church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine parishioners.
Then Trump won the White House. In the new Administration, efforts to confront domestic extremism “came to a grinding halt,” says Selim. The new Administration redirected federal resources on Islamist terrorism. Barely a week into his presidency, Reuters reported that Trump had tried to change the name of the Countering Violent Extremism program to Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.
The Administration’s reconstituted Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention saw its mission expand while its staffing and budget were slashed to a fraction of what it had been, according to a former DHS official. “The infrastructure we had labored over for years started to get torn down,” says Selim, who also led counterterrorism efforts under George W. Bush. “It has been decimated in the past two years under this Administration.”
The Justice Department has also recently reorganized its domestic-terrorism categories in a way that masks the scope of white-supremacist violence, according to former FBI officials who say the change makes it harder to track or measure the scale of these attacks, which are often haphazardly classified as hate crimes or deferred to state and local authorities. The lack of clear data impacts the resources the FBI can devote to investigating them.
A second senior government official, granted anonymity to discuss the Trump Administration’s efforts, says that while FBI analysts continued to issue warnings about the alarming patterns of white-nationalist radicalization online, mid-level officials and political appointees quickly recognized that assessments that ran counter to what Trump was saying publicly would fall on deaf ears. “That could cost you a seat at the table,” the official says, “although there have been fewer and fewer tables to sit at and discuss intelligence and policy.”
As President, Trump has repeatedly downplayed the threat posed by white supremacists. He famously blamed “both sides” for violence at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Asked if he saw white nationalism as a rising threat in the wake of a March attack on two New Zealand mosques by an avowed racist who killed 51 people, he countered, “I don’t really. It’s a small group of people.”
In a nation where a mass shooting occurs on average about once a day, it is easy to be cynical about the prospect of change. But following the El Paso and Dayton attacks, there are glimmers of hope, however slight.
The crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates has jumped on the issue, ensuring that the national spotlight of the 2020 campaign will keep the debate over guns and domestic terrorism from fading away. In Congress, Democrats have rallied behind legislation that would require DHS, the FBI and the Justice Department to address white supremacism and right-wing extremism, including training and information sharing.
Among law enforcement there has been a new push for domestic terrorism to be codified as a federal crime. “Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them,” Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, wrote in a statement. Such a change would give prosecutors new tools to confront the threat of domestic radicalization.
There has also been a noticeable shift in how law-enforcement and government officials talk about these attacks. FBI agents, politicians and federal attorneys have become quicker to label extremist violence committed by Americans as “terrorism.” On Aug. 6, the FBI announced it was opening a domestic-terrorism investigation into the suspect in Gilroy, noting that the gunman had a “target list” of religious institutions, political organizations and federal buildings. The day after the El Paso attack, the top federal prosecutor in western Texas declared that the incident would be treated as terrorism. “We’re going to do what we do to terrorists in this country, which is deliver swift and certain justice,” said U.S. Attorney John Bash.
This language matters, experts say. If we cannot call an evil by its name, how can we hope to defeat it? “You can’t really deal with the problem unless you acknowledge it exists,” says Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism, who has studied far-right extremism since the mid-1990s. “We need a consensus that this is a problem, and we need to get together, irrespective of people’s partisan beliefs or anything else, to confront this problem for the good of everybody.”
–With reporting by ALANA ABRAMSON, TESSA BERENSON and JOHN WALCOTT/WASHINGTON
The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 1,650 feet above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records).
General Leslie R. Groves, the man responsible for organizing the Manhattan Project, which solved the problem of producing and delivering the nuclear explosion, estimated that another atom bomb would be ready to use against Japan by August 17 or 18𠅋ut it was not necessary. Even though the War Council still remained divided (“It is far too early to say that the war is lost,” opined the Minister of War), Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared that 𠇌ontinuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.
August 19 2011- Terror Attack in the Negev - History
The office workers at the Roden Center apparently do not suffer for lack of updated news.
As a full-throated supporter of the Gallente democratic tradition, part of me has always been uncomfortable with such a well known corporate mogul winning the Presidency. President Roden has a long history not in politics, but in the so-called military-industrial complex. Roden Shipyards is a major contractor to the Federation Navy. While their small-craft division is well known in the commercial sector, the President has made the vast part of his fortunes from manufacturing machines of war. The argument is easy to make (and I’m sure it has been) that, in fact, the President has a vested interest in making war to ensure the continued prosperity of his company. Given all that doom and gloom conspiracy theory making, one might assume that I’m not a fan of President Roden. On the contrary, I’ve been happy with the President so far. The war we’re admittedly in wasn’t started by us, but was rather brought upon us by an attack by the Caldari when our defenses were down. I can’t blame President Roden for that (though I realize certain conspiracy theorists would disagree with me).
A slight paraphrase of an ancient saying seems appropriate here: The sun never sets on Roden Shipyards
What I CAN blame President Roden on, however, is the plethora of Roden Shipyard facilities that seem to pop up throughout the Federation. At times, I feel like every other system I visit has some form of Roden facility, be it orbital facility, deep space military shipyards, or some other administrative center just floating in the middle of nowhere, why not. I thought I had discovered, by now, the various forms of the somewhat cookie-cutter Roden facilities. That’s why I was particularly surprised to discover that I had apparently missed one in my various wanderings through Gallente space. Merely called the Roden Center, the rather banal name drew my attention as I was warping through the system. Intrigued to see precisely what this new complex did, once I dropped out of warp at my original destination, I quickly turned around and warped back out from the gate. As I approached, I was met with a standard greeting:
Welcome to the Roden Center!
If you are here for the Roden Experience or the Jacus Roden History Museum, please proceed to docking bay two.
For guided tours of our offices, please proceed to a security checkpoint in docking bay three. Gift shops are available on all floors.
Thank you for visiting the Roden Center, where the Federation’s past and future collide!
Some of the cargo containers near the Center
Notwithstanding their somewhat hackneyed motto, the site itself seemed to be a bustling spaceport in its own right. Ships flitted around the area, while massive cargo vessels were docked, ready to load or unload their cargo. Most striking about the complex, however, was the dozen news billboards surrounding the station. Apparently, Roden valued well-informed employees, as each of those billboards were tuned into the CONCORD Information Network that could be found at every stargate. I was immediately reminded of yet another recent news report that said that people were so overwhelmed with information these days that their attention spans were shrinking drastically. I don’t remember if there was anything else in the report, since as I was reading the story I was distracted by a new message and never got back to it, but I’m sure it was something along those lines.
A closeup of the upper part of Roden Center.
I had to admit that I was tempted to stop at the gift shop. I was always a fan of cheesy gifts, even if I never actually bought any of them. I didn’t have a chance to stay, however. Being involved in other pursuits currently meant that I had limited time today. Besides, I was hoping that I might see some pixies. As I warped to the stargate though, I continued my reflection on the current Federation President. He certainly was not my first pick when I saw the presidential field, but he’s weathered the recent crises as well as anyone could expect. For a military-industrial hack, maybe there was hope yet. After all, the People have spoken.
31 thoughts on &ldquo Gyroscope-based Smartphone Keylogging Attack &rdquo
Interesting indeed. My first thought was if handedness would affect accuracy, or would measurements simply need to be reversed.
“The motion of the
smartphone during keystroke is affected by many factors, such as the typing force, the resistance force of the
holding hand, the original orientation of the device, and
the location where the supporting hand holds the device.”
I didn’t read the WHOLE research paper, but from this it seems they’re looking at the same hand doing the typing and holding the device. One would think the rotational forces would be the same when you touch the screen in the same spot from the opposite hand holding the device, but they would be significantly smaller.
If this could be more accurate it would be cool to see how it would work emulating keystrokes from a dummy keyboard with no electronics.
You mean like have a plank of dumb wood with letters painted on then stick a gyro to the back of it and make it a keyboard?
Cool idea, would definitely be interesting to see how well it worked.
That sounds like a very interesting way to make a fold-out keyboard. Perhaps you could make a prototype or find somebody who would.
Then how do you press Ctrl+C? And when you put the keyboard on the desk it maybe more difficult for your PC to recognize the key. It’s a cool idea, and it is just an idea.
I don’t think this is using a gyroscope– linked article even uses the work accelometer. I can’t think of a single phone that has a gyroscope. The new Wii (and maybe the new Playstation) controllers have gyros. Most smartphones have accelerometers.
Accelerometers measure linear acceleration. Gyros measure rotational acceleration.
I haven’t read the article, but phones with gyros are out there.
The Nexus S and iPhone 4 to name two.
Gyros actually measure angular velocity, not acceleration.
They can increase accuracy by having its output estimated letters compared as “words” usign a “hamming-distance styled” estimator with a dictionary and then those word level estimations can be grammatically parsed to estimate phrases.
It all boils down to the enthropy of the language of the user and the total real information the gyro can get.
I bet you could even use Android’s source code to get a lot of help. They have both good button-guessing and good dictionary matching.
But it will be (almost) useless with Swype.
Having successfully installed the gyroscope sniffing software, isn’t that the actual attack? I mean if you can install that, why not just install a straight-up keylogger? Anyway, I wonder if they can improve accuracy using the same auto-correct algorithm iPhone uses, or that T9word feature on some phones? Maybe that’s what Khanzerbero is talking about.
Sensor data like this can generally be accessed by any app that wants to. Just have to get them to install the app in the first place.
Keylogger, on the other hand, requires exploitz.
well kind of like that but T9 is very sensitive to the first guessed letters of the word to estimate the others, what im saying is that you can have a dictionary of words and compare whole words.
then when u type ur phone disable accelerometer and or gyroscope!by now.
If you’re trying to use this to get the phone’s password, the 72% isn’t such a big deal because you’ll have plenty of opportunities. Record multiple login attempts, and that should handle the error nicely.
Easy enough to defeat though. Just lay the device flat on a table while typing.
Without that, it would be interesting to see how the accuracy compares on a tablet vs. a smartphone.
Then physical orientation matching and sound spectrum pattern matching are also holes.
These ‘researchers”gotta be under some trademark or nobody would even be talking about this..
So, your touch screen presses generate distinct patterns, yes, that’s a given as it’s how phone games work for things like rotation.
I see how this works to identify individual presses (aka, you can tell you’ve pressed *a* certain button) on a phone by phone/user by user basis.
However, matching up those distinct presses to a value so you can actually figure out *which* button has been pressed is harder if not near impossible due to the variables involved.
Ie, is phone free standing, on a surface, is left or right hand being used, in transit (vibrating/jittering around), on a motherchuffing boat, etc…
I think this while a nice discovery and may end up causing things like accels/gyros to be accessed only by whitelisted or active apps, I don’t think it’s much of a security problem.
Basically, what I’m saying is that graph up there showing “key 1” “key 2” et all, is misleading.
The reason? Either the app has just designated it an arbitrary value of “key 1” when really it could be number 7 on the keypad, or the reseachers will have matched up keypad numbers to the correct profile manually while testing it, the app itself won’t (unless it has some pattern matching).
Did you even read the article?
I wonder how press any key and hold -> drag to key you want -> release would affect the results?
Seconded on the “Improve Accuracy” concept.
@Khanzerbero: How did you arrive at the use of Hamming as opposed to several other tools for Error Detect/Correct? My background is more hardware than software and I am trying to learn :]
This hack seems in two parts- accessing the sensor data and parsing it into the desired keystrokes. Hmnm- exploiting a market app for something innocent appearing that needs positional data+communications would serve as the judas data conduit? One part of exploit seems plausible to me. Of the many ways to hack the rest?
One being grepping the keystroke handling of the firmware. As reputedly there are internal math models for device’s using variants of timing detection for several common categories of input error:
autowhiteout, in one phrase for the tl:dr version=detects timing and blanks a suspect keystroke/s which prompts the human to retype.
The semi-related one for speech to text software:
That study by IBM of speech-to-text software offers little depiction of “math tools” so it only serves to help build our understanding of Human>Machine parsing correction “overview” in a limited case. But- it’s on track to taking a 70
% confidence level character stream and someday raising the confidence level far enough to risk burning up blown access attempts.
Oh- I updated a friend’s phone to Android 2.2x and it’s feature of “haptic by vibrate” might offer a way to totally FUBAR this not even fully formed as an exploit keylogger CONCEPT.
Which made me contemplate having the phone begin a soft vibrate after keystroke n to frustrate this proposed exploit rather completely.
Don’t think vibrate would fubar, though I think it might hamper.
Remember Sony when they said the vibrate function would mess with the motion sensing (yes, lame excuse to avoid paying royalties ) ?
But seriously, the vibrate occurs only AFTER you press a key, and it moves it predictably. All you’d have to do is basically use your gyro/accel to record it vibrating without a keypress and effectively “subtract” that motion.
I was thinking about they first should do principal component analysis, develop son eigen-letters and then in the principal components space they shloud do an estimate at the letter level, and then at the word level a hamming distance based estimation against a dictionary, and then at the phrase level some semantic analisys.
Why hamming? i guess its faster.
Wow, this is some brilliant thinking!
What everybody (or at least the hackaday poster) misses is that even with a statistical chance of 72% of being right, you weaken the security a lot.
Suppose there is a 4-digit PIN that allows 10 tries, for a 1/1000 chance of breakin by random guesses. You have to steal on average 1000 phones and randomly try PINs before you hit the jackpot.
But with say a 90% (the calculations are easier with a round number) chance of getting the numbers right from the attack means you have only 0.9^4 = 65% chance of getting the pin right on the first try. But if you didn’t get it right on the first try, you have 9 tries left. You often have a “next candidate”. So you can try the 4 “second-best” tries next. If the second-best has a 90% chance of being correct (given the first try was wrong), then we again have 65% chance of success on the next 4 tries… With 5 tries left, we can try a few two-wrong PINs but that doesn’t make a big difference. In this example with imperfect pin-stealing, the average number of phones to steal before the PIN can be guessed goes from 1000 to under two.
With the reported 72% accuracy and only 3 tries, there is still a significant advantage over “blind guessing”. The first guess has a 27% chance of success. With the two next tries this can be raised to almost 40%. On average after stealing 2.5 phones you have guessed the PIN correctly within 3 tries.
Before dying, Bernie Madoff lifted veil on the biggest Ponzi scheme in history
As Bernie Madoff gained a reputation as a Wall Street savant, he also acquired an unusual nickname: “The Jewish T-Bill.” The moniker referenced not only the United States Treasury bill — widely seen as a can’t-miss investment — but also Madoff’s heritage. At one point, around 85 percent of his investors were also Jews, aka Members of the Tribe, and included well-known individuals, charities and institutions — from Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to the Hadassah women’s organization.
As it turned out, Madoff was actually running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. On December 11, 2008, he was arrested by the FBI, with his investors collectively losing nearly $65 billion — the largest scandal ever on Wall Street.
That scandal is the subject of a new book, “Madoff Talks: Uncovering the Untold Story Behind the Most Notorious Ponzi Scheme in History,” by nationally syndicated US business radio host Jim Campbell, who gained rare access to Madoff and his family. Interest increased when Madoff died in April, with the book published several weeks later.
In a phone interview with The Times of Israel, Campbell called Madoff “a serial financial killer” who “wiped out a lot of people — a lot of Jewish charities, in particular.”
Yet, he said, “When I do interviews, I’m asked how should the world view Bernie. The key takeaway from the book is that the system failed. It enabled him to go on. To the extent we’re saying, ‘This one guy did this bad Ponzi scheme for a long time that destroyed the lives of 16,000 US citizens, 720,000 around the world’… that’s not really the right way to view him. He was not a guy acting alone.”
The author seeks to present a balanced portrayal of Madoff, whom he corresponded with over eight years while the latter served a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina. It reflects Campbell’s middle-of-the-road, in-depth approach as a radio host.
Over the years, Campbell has helped listeners understand complex issues such as the 2008 global financial crisis, which initially sparked his interest in doing a business-focused talk show. Yet it was another thing entirely to write a book about Madoff once McGraw-Hill took him up on the idea.
In the end, he said, it was “just like radio — write the facts.”
The book incorporates Campbell’s access to three members of the Madoff family — Madoff himself, his wife Ruth Madoff and their late son Andrew Madoff, who died of cancer in 2014. The couple’s other son, Mark Madoff, died by suicide in 2010.
The hard-to-get interviews that resulted in the book were “a series of really kind of fortuitous coincidences,” Campbell said.
It began in October 2011, when author Laurie Sandell unexpectedly connected Campbell with Andrew Madoff, who was cooperating with her on a book. The second bit of serendipity happened that December. Campbell learned that Ruth Madoff was relocating from Florida to his hometown of Old Greenwich, Connecticut. They met for lunch. As Campbell remembered, she came in wearing a coat and sunglasses, ordered a shellfish salad, asked if he was wired and ended up introducing him to her incarcerated husband.
“Bernie said, ‘My wife and son said you are a sincere person I’m happy to talk to dispel the misconceptions about [me],’” said Campbell, noting that in fact, Andrew hadn’t spoken “one word” to his father since the day before the elder Madoff’s arrest.
“If Bernie reported that Andrew said I was a good guy, it must have come through Ruth,” said Campbell.
From 2011 to 2019, Campbell corresponded with Madoff, including through the Bureau of Prisons email system. Madoff showed what Campbell described as a lack of introspection and talked about himself in the third person, including the memorable line, “Nobody knows why Bernie Madoff did this.” Campbell never got to meet his pen pal in person, and was denied a prison visit on three separate occasions.
Nevertheless, Campbell accumulated 400 pages of correspondence and developed an ambitious idea.
“I wanted to do the first book on the overall architecture of the case,” he said, calling it “kind of a detective story.” Campbell imagined the first part depicting — in reverse chronological order — the day of Madoff’s arrest, his last months at work, and his last year of work.
From temple to temptation
Throughout the book, Campbell explores the Jewish thread that runs through the story.
Madoff was a temple president’s son from Far Rockaway, Queens, who got his start as an investor by convincing his in-laws, the Alperns, to deposit their money with him. When he lost their investments, he borrowed money and paid them back — a precedent he would not repeat again.
With time, Madoff developed a reputation for making money instead of losing it, including among the members of the Palm Beach Country Club after he acquired a home in the South Florida town.
“It was an affinity thing,” Campbell said. “[The club had a] largely Jewish membership. Eventually all of these members said, ‘Give your money to Bernie, he’s safe, you’ll make 11 percent [returns] every year, it’s big, big, big.’ There were some that said they did not know how Bernie did this, it was probably not legal or honest, but he’s our guy, let him do it.”
“Trust needs to be there,” said Campbell, who is not Jewish. “Jewish folks have been thrown out of every country in the world through 1,000 years. Within the Jewish community, you don’t scam somebody financially. He was devastating… It was a Jewish affinity crime.”
Meanwhile, Madoff eluded five investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. While running his Ponzi scheme, he managed a separate, squeaky-clean business in the same Manhattan office building.
“I found out he was running both businesses side by side,” Campbell marvels. “One of the most ethical and one of the most corrupt on Wall Street, at the same time, in the same place.”
As Campbell explains, “the fully legitimate business on the 19th floor was essentially hiding the criminal business, which was under lock and key on the 17th floor. Even his sons had no access.”
Decline and fall
Ultimately, Campbell writes, it was the 2008 financial collapse that brought down Madoff. It was left to government-appointed bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard to attempt to claw back stolen money for victims. Ironically, Campbell notes, had regulators asked the right questions, they could have discovered Madoff’s chicanery in all of five minutes.
As for Madoff’s family, “I do not believe they were complicit in knowing about the Ponzi scheme,” Campbell said. “They did not realize he had stolen money from the customers.”
Despite not being aware of the Ponzi scheme, said Campbell, Madoff’s family were complicit in his lies — namely Madoff’s misrepresentation of investments, which Campbell called illegitimate and against protocol.
Campbell said he understood why Madoff received a 150-year sentence — “he died without still telling the whole truth.”
Though he had described Madoff as a financial serial killer, Campbell noted that an actual sociopath wouldn’t have used legitimate business funds to pay for family medical needs and home mortgages, as Madoff did. He also points out that Madoff eschewed a trial to spare his wife anguish and potentially get back more money for his clients.
According to Campbell, Madoff had a “Big Four” of investors who extended the longevity of his Ponzi scheme.
“They fed money to him every now and then when he had a cash crisis,” Campbell said. “He grew to hate them. Jeffry Picower, the biggest of the Big Four, took $7 billion out of the Ponzi scheme. Bernie himself is only considered to have snuck out $800 million.”
Campbell’s book also considers whether Madoff, in addition to being a perpetrator, was also himself a victim, of a tax-evasion scheme in which “all kinds of dirty money” was allegedly coming in from Eastern Europe, Russia and Colombia.
“How much he knew how dirty the money was, I don’t know,” Campbell said. “There was more going on than a Ponzi scheme.”
“Only a handful of people in total went to jail,” Campbell said. “Bernie was one. After he died three weeks ago, not a single person was still in jail for this… no one was fired at the SEC, eight people were demoted. You have that, you can’t just say it was Bernie.”
Campbell wonders what might have happened had Madoff survived the 2008 financial collapse.
“He likely would have kept going,” Campbell said. “I calculated to 2021. He would likely have had $240 billion if he kept his 11 percent [rate] in that timeframe.”
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