Feeds

Software fraudster 'fooled CIA' into terror alert

Spooks 'f*cking livid'

The essential guide to IT transformation

A con man fooled US spooks into grounding international flights by selling them "technology" to decode al-Qaeda messages hidden in TV broadcasts, it's claimed.

A long and highly entertaining Playboy article explains that in 2003, 50-year-old Dennis Montgomery was chief technology officer at Reno, Nevada-based eTreppid Technologies. The firm began as a video compression developer, but Montgomery took it in new and bizarre directions.

He reportedly convinced the CIA that he had software that could detect and decrypt "barcodes" in broadcasts by Al Jazeera, the Qatari news station.

The Company was apparently impressed enough to set up its own secure room at the firm to do what Montgomery called "noise filtering". He somehow produced "reams of data" consisting of geographic coordinates and flight numbers.

In December 2003, it's claimed CIA director George Tenet was sufficiently sold on Montgomery's data to ground transatlantic flights, deploy heavily armed police on the streets of Manhattan and evacuate 5,000 people from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge told the press the terror alert was the result of "credible sources - about near-term attacks that could either rival or exceed what we experienced on September 11".

In fact, according to evidence from his former lawyer, Montgomery, the "credible source", was a "habitual liar engaged in fraud".

Montgomery worked with the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology - its Q Branch - engaged in exotic research and intelligence gathering. According to Playboy, one counter-intelligence official briefed on the programme said: "We were fucking livid. I was told to shut up. I was saying, 'This is crazy. This is embarrassing.'"

Eventually a branch of French intelligence helped the CIA prove that the Al Jazeera "messages" never existed. Files were handed over to counter-intelligence to investigate the scam.

The FBI uncovered a series of frauds by Montgomery, who was a compulsive gambler. As well as his "noise filtering" technology, he had rigged video software to convince officials it could detect weapons.

Following a dispute with eTreppid's financial backer, Montgomery took off with his "technology" and tried to win more government contracts alone. By now though, the officials he was trying to sell to were part of the FBI investigation. It reportedly "went nowhere", however.

By 2008, the financial dispute had come to court. Montgomery said he was still doing classified government work, for $3m. In June this year however, his gambling led to personal bankruptcy, listing his still-classified "technology" as a $10m asset.

Frances Townsend, a homeland security adviser to Bush, said she did not regret having relied on Montgomery's mysterious intelligence. "It didn't seem beyond the realm of possibility. We were relying on technical people to tell us whether or not it was feasible," she said. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
KER-CHING! CryptoWall ransomware scam rakes in $1 MEEELLION
Anatomy of the net's most destructive ransomware threat
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?