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Investigators Crack DB Cooper Code, Identify Suspect With Possible CIA Connections (seattlepi.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: A private investigative team announced Thursday morning that members now believe D.B. Cooper was a black ops CIA operative possibly even involved with Iran-Contra, and that his identity has been actively hidden by government agents. The 40-member cold-case team comprised of several former FBI agents and led by Thomas and Dawna Colbert made its latest reveal after a code breaker working with the team found connections in each of five letters allegedly sent by Cooper in the days following the famed hijacking in 1971.

What's more, several people who knew Colbert's top suspect, a man named Robert W. Rackstraw, have noted possible connections to the CIA and to top-secret operations, Colbert said. "The new decryptions include a dare to agents, directives to apparent partners, and a startling claim that is followed by Rackstraw's own initials: If captured, he expects a get-out-of-jail card from a federal spy agency," Colbert said in a news release... In a brief phone call last year, Rackstraw only told SeattlePI to verify Colbert's claims; he didn't issue a denial, or comment further on Colbert's investigation...

Late last year, Colbert's team obtained a fifth letter allegedly sent by Cooper that Colbert said supports a possible FBI cover-up, but also included random letters and numbers. A code breaker on Colbert's team was able to decode the letters and numbers and find they pointed to three Army units Rackstraw was connected to during his military service in Vietnam. The code was meant to serve as a signal to his co-conspirators that he was alive and well after the jump, Colbert said... Another letter, in which Cooper claimed to be CIA openly, also had the letters "RWR" at the end -- the initials of Robert W. Rackstraw, according to Colbert.

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Investigators Crack DB Cooper Code, Identify Suspect With Possible CIA Connections

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2018 @11:43AM (#56061857)

    A short ciphertext can decrypt to anything your'e motivated to make it say. All of this is very thin.

    • Also one code was for the Washington Post, and one for the LA Times. NY Times and Seattle Times were TBA. Hell of a code.
    • Re:Code cracked? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @12:27PM (#56062025) Homepage Journal

      Agreed on the thinness of evidence, but also remember this was 1971, before personal computers or even the first public key cipher. Assuming for sake of argument the people behind this latest "solution" to the mystery are correct, then the text would have been ciphered by hand using some rudimentary shared-secret cipher. An expert wouldn't need much text to recover the key -- and in fact this might have been necessary if the sender had no secure channel to transmit the key over.

      The problem with "solving" the D.B. Cooper mystery is the double-edged role of imagination in understanding the world. You need imagination to connect sparse evidence into some kind of coherent picture, but that emotionally convincing "aha" feeling you get when you manage to do that drops you right down into confirmation bias territory. That's how conspiracy theories get started.

      Making Cooper out to be an ex-spook with CIA paramilitary experience connects a some of dots in an emotionally convincing way: Cooper's ability to manipulate others, his ability to make a convincing bomb and use a parachute. But it leaves others unconnected, like the titanium particles found on his tie. But that's real life, isn't it? Sometimes dots don't have any connection to the picture (e.g. contamination of the evidence after it is collected).

      The letters aren't a slam-dunk even if the decryption is valid. They could be a prank. They could be a spook taking advantage of the highly publicized event for his own purposes. What's more there is nothing really to connect this Rackstraw person to the letters, and the known details of his career don't really match up (which of course they wouldn't).

      In the end this is Yet Another D.B. Cooper Theory: a few very suggestive connections topped with a mountain of conjecture. Particularly suspect is tying it down to a specific person. That's a major leap of faith.

      • Re:Code cracked? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by timholman ( 71886 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @01:03PM (#56062153)

        Agreed on the thinness of evidence, but also remember this was 1971, before personal computers or even the first public key cipher. Assuming for sake of argument the people behind this latest "solution" to the mystery are correct, then the text would have been ciphered by hand using some rudimentary shared-secret cipher. An expert wouldn't need much text to recover the key -- and in fact this might have been necessary if the sender had no secure channel to transmit the key over.

        In 1971, any publicly broadcasted cypher would have almost certainly been encoded with a one-time pad. They were routinely used in espionage in the early days of the Cold War, and are still used today (e.g. the "numbers stations" on shortwave radio). Given that the cyphers in question were a few 10-character alphanumeric strings, a one-time pad would be the obvious means to send a short, unbreakable message ... assuming that's what it really was, a not simply a random string of characters put together by the letter writer to make it appear mysterious.

        Realistically, this entire "investigation" is just another example of a lot of people with too much time on their hands looking for patterns in what is effectively random noise.

        • I wouldn't be so certain about that. One time pads have existed as long as writing itself, yet ciphers were always far more commpn for cryptography, only being replaced by computer-based cryptography. If unbreakable one-time pads were universal what were all those code breakers doing? The (now) famous Venona operation was engaged in breaking spy codes. The Walker Ring used a rotor encipherment gadget.

          Generation and management of one time pads is a huge pain in the ass. It is much easier now because - comput

          • I wouldn't be so certain about that. One time pads have existed as long as writing itself, yet ciphers were always far more common for cryptography, only being replaced by computer-based cryptography. If unbreakable one-time pads were universal what were all those code breakers doing? The (now) famous Venona operation was engaged in breaking spy codes. The Walker Ring used a rotor encipherment gadget.

            The Venona project was all about breaking "one time codes". Under the pressure of Nazi invasion the Soviets in WW2 made a big whoopsie and reprinted some of their one time pads (but shuffled and mixed the pages with others), making them ultimately breakable in part.

            The pads produced during that time were used after the World War ended and into the cold war era. It's thought that none of the people that produced the pads were game to admit it to their superiors as they would have been sent to Siberia or exe

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "You need imagination to connect sparse evidence into some kind of coherent picture," - not in this case, as the codes related directly to suspect's unit #'s in Vietnam. That's not a coincidence. That's a confirmation the code is correctly broken.

        From that they can look at what the rest of the message says, and given the suspect's colorful history of both admissions and denials, all of those individual items can be confirmed or tested against - in this case quite successfully.

        Thin evidence? Pfft. This

      • Not just another D. B. Cooper theory, the whole thing has all the ingredients of and reads like a conspiracy theory. If it was true, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer should treat the story better instead of using a sensationalist style normally seen in tabloids.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        The best code at that time and the easiest to do with a piece of paper, were one time pad. You agreed in advance with your accomplice of a series of book and chapter, then you encode each letter once using the book letter as one time pad, heck even a roman cipher is good enough using the OTP as key. You omit space and punctuation so that word can't be recognized, and statistic will be useless due to the OTP nature. If necessary add a simple shift for each letter e.g. fibbo modulo 26. Then switch to next boo
      • What's more there is nothing really to connect this Rackstraw person to the letters, and the known details of his career don't really match up (which of course they wouldn't).

        So being that he hasn't really given up anything - it's a Rackroll?

    • There is about a one in a million chance that Rackstraw (or any random person) was a black ops CIA operative. There is a one in 200 million chance of someone being DB Cooper. The odds that a person is BOTH DB Cooper and a black ops CIA operative is 1 in 200 trillion.

      • So, you are saying there's a chance?

      • You don't have nearly enough information to know if you can multiply those here, or not.

        It may actually be true that all DB Coopers are black ops CIA, and the chances of being both are only "one in 200 million" meaning that there are only 38 DB Coopers in the whole world.

        Just because you have probabilities for two events doesn't mean you have a probability for them to both happen. That would require additional facts.

        But I'm actually going to go out on a limb and say that chances of being DB Cooper are much

        • > It may actually be true that all DB Coopers are black ops CIA,

          It may be true that you are CIA black ops. Unlikely though. Unlikely as in million to one odds against.
          It may be true that I'm CIA black ops. Unlikely though. Million to one shot.
          It may be true that Robert is black ops. Unlikely though. Million to one unlikely.

          It may be true that Robert is DB Cooper. Millions to one odds against it, though.

          The odds that he's BOTH black CIA AND ALSO DB Cooper - trillion to one against.

          • You left out the part where you prove "being black CIA" and "being DB Cooper" are independent. Only then the probability of being both is the product of the two probabilities.
      • There is about a one in a million chance that Rackstraw (or any random person) was a black ops CIA operative. There is a one in 200 million chance of someone being DB Cooper. The odds that a person is BOTH DB Cooper and a black ops CIA operative is 1 in 200 trillion.

        So he never existed (1 in 200 trillion odds in a population of under 5 billion means a 99.999% chance of a non-event)?

        When doing stats on a population your realistic lower bound is 1 inpopulation-size and your realistic upper bound is population-size in population-size. Within that range your odds of finding a speciman matching your criteria are linear to the num when saying odds are num in $population-size. Once you go below that range your odds of finding a speciman matching that criteria grow exponential

        • Can't you reduce further (diminished returns, yes), by removing other confirmable alibi, like being in prison or being deployed overseas, disabled, etc?
          • Can't you reduce further (diminished returns, yes), by removing other confirmable alibi, like being in prison or being deployed overseas, disabled, etc?

            Yeah, but that raises the odds, not lowers it. It makes it better than the 1 in trillion that the OP specualted.

        • >>The odds that a person is BOTH DB Cooper and a black ops CIA operative is 1 in 200 trillion.

          > So he never existed (1 in 200 trillion odds in a population of under 5 billion means a 99.999% chance of a non-event)?

          We're not talking about the odds that Robert exists. We're talking about the odds that both he is DB Cooper (roughly one in 200 million) AND ALSO he's a black ops CIA agent (roughly one in a million).

          > That number also includes being a black ops CIA operative because all of the black

  • I've heard some far out conspiracy theories, but this one takes the cake! It's even more far out than the crazy people who came out of the woodwork after the JFK assassination.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Calydor ( 739835 )

      Yeah, this is as crazy as thinking the NSA has the capability to snoop on all communication going through the internet unless it's heavily encrypted, and even that is no guarantee.

    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @01:51PM (#56062327)
      It does flow into a predictable pattern of when someone has no evidence, they explain it away as a conspiracy. The earth is flat and no one has taken a picture of the edge because the world's governments have set up patrols to keep people from visiting the edge. It's completely circular logic.
      • by TWX ( 665546 )

        The earth is flat and no one has taken a picture of the edge because the world's governments have set up patrols to keep people from visiting the edge. It's completely circular logic.

        If you believe the flat earth is a disc, then yes, it really is circular logic.

    • I've heard some far out conspiracy theories, but this one takes the cake! It's even more far out than the crazy people who came out of the woodwork after the JFK assassination.

      I don't know, man - codes that could mean anything (including the "truth"); circular confirmations concerning possible people; and a solid foundation of much speculation, spanning decades? Well, I'm sold.

      ; )

    • I've heard some far out conspiracy theories, but this one takes the cake! It's even more far out than the crazy people who came out of the woodwork after the JFK assassination.

      Not really. The CIA has done so much illegal shit outside the realm of their mandates that it should really be the default assumption at this point. "Did something fucked up happen? Probably the CIA." The fact this has some research put into it is practically a smoking gun.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ba dum pa

  • That's an awful noisy op for a couple hundred grand. Unless part of the CIA's mission statement is to make sure life plays out like a soap opera, anyway.
    • Re:I Dunno... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @12:33PM (#56062039) Homepage

      Yes. For $200K, the CIA could just rifle a couch somewhere or sell Iran a fake surface to air missile. Or something less obvious than creating the month's biggest news story.

      Motive? I don't get it. Opportunity? OK, sure, but it's awfully convoluted. Payback? Small coin.

      • The story is not about the CIA but about a suspect who is said to have had links to the CIA. Huge difference.
      • Yes. For $200K, the CIA could just rifle a couch somewhere or sell Iran a fake surface to air missile.

        From what i'm seeing, $200K in 1971 would be the equivalent to about $1.2 Million dollars in today's money, adjusted for inflation.

        That's a lot of money.

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      The only reason it got so noisy is media attention. There were plenty of hijackings and hostage situations in that era with much more money involved and even the Cooper case didn't initially raise an eyebrow until someone wrote a sensationalist story about it with a few creative liberties (eg. the name was Dan Cooper, the D.B. was added later)

    • You don't seem to comprehend the implications of the word "black" in "black ops"; it implies that they can't use regular money that gets appropriated in normal ways, but they can manipulate the levers of power behind the scenes. This is exactly the type of scenario that was being implied every time you ever heard the term "black ops," you just didn't understand what they were saying.

      If it is on the news is irrelevant, what is important to them is mostly that it is a type of crime that looks one-off, done by

  • by Anonymous Coward

    https://yro.slashdot.org/story/16/07/13/0357225/fbi-closes-db-cooper-investigation-after-45-years?sdsrc=rel

  • The coded letters, reportedly sent by D.B. Cooper, actually reveal that D.B. Cooper wrote the Voynich manuscript while deployed to the grassy knoll so he could fake the moon landing videos.

    • You left out the part where, after faking the videos, he was taken up by aliens, to be re-united with Elvis.

  • by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @12:16PM (#56061991)
    The guy "outed" isn't the one. It's been disproved. He's 15 years younger than "DB Cooper" for one thing. If the person didn't die jumping from the plane, he would be over 85 years old today. Most likely he died in the attempt, or has long since died. These "hounds" pop up about every year of the anniversary, to hawk their books and what not.
    • What is your reason for thinking DB Cooper had to be over 40 when he committed the crime? Is there something about the crime that would make it hard for a young adult? What would that even be? There aren't many things you can't do at 25 that you can do at 40!

    • Age was never absolutely ascertained . . . try again!
  • Because there is a vast government conspiracy it must be true.

  • by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @12:31PM (#56062033) Journal

    Robert Rackstraw stories always amaze me, mostly because we forget so much about what life was like during the Vietnam Era. There's a lot of context missing from this analysis, like how so many people went around claiming to be D.B. Cooper during the 70s and how a good number of them had similar military training. This is back when Soldier of Fortune was a guide to being manly and a life of adventure that didn't involve a snowboard was still to be had.

    You could apply the same logic the author does to the cases of Ted Mayfield, Richard McCoy, and a few others to reach the same conclusions. Robert Rackstraw is undoubtedly a badass and someone I'd love to have a beer with, just the stories about his Silver Stars are pretty incredible.

    But, when you consider all the other things he's done, for Rackstraw to be DB Cooper is outside-the-realm-of-possibility amazing. Apply some common sense: how could he have done this without some help from the FBI? Why would the FBI protect someone who also stole an airplane trying to fake his own death?

    I think the author watched too much A-Team as a kid and has a fascination with Murdock.

    • He was also 28 at the time, and the suspect was reported to be in his mid-40s. You can tell the difference.
      • I'm mid 40s and people mistake me for being in my 20s.

        I knew a woman who had her real ID confiscated by a store for being fake, because she looked "way too young" for it to be "possible." The same employee had sold her wine the day before, and didn't recognize her. My friend thinks it is because the earlier day she was also buying diapers, so she looked older.

        Witness accounts giving an age in the 40s does not mean you have evidence that the person actually is in their 40s. All you have evidence of is that t

  • by DrTJ ( 4014489 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @12:33PM (#56062043)

    A quick look at the wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._B._Cooper) reveals that in 2007, FBI secured DNA traces from the hijacker's tie.

    If this DNA matches the suspect, this would be hard to explain.

    This is not the first time Rackstraw is under investigation. He appeared already in 1978 in the investigation, but this is far from the only suspect that has been identified. The Wikipedia article lists ten other individuals that - on the surface of things - appear just as likely as him.

    I'd say that this is another hypothesis generated by the famousness of the case, like other famous crime cases in the past. The "Jack the ripper" suspect list on Wikipedia counts no less than 29 persons.

  • This was the plot of an episode of the short-lived TV show "Journeyman". Just sayin'
  • Why now? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eric T Duckman ( 4391433 ) on Saturday February 03, 2018 @12:58PM (#56062139)
    Gee, I wonder why somebody suddenly wants to call attention to this outlandish story that alleges the FBI is riddled with corrupt yet devilishly competent conspirators who have been able to conceal the real identity of the most famous hijacker in history for over four decades?
  • ROFL, sounds like another crackpot book in the making and a decent check for a marketing firm.

  • This sounds like an Archer episode.

  • Given the semiregularity of these announcements, they will now switch to Ubuntu-style scheduling.

    Twice a year, on April 1 and October 1, releases of the latest proof and confirmed cooper will be made. No attempt will be made to keep these going longer than six months.

    Every two and a have years, though, a LTN (Long Term Nonsense) will be released, with the wild guesses, speculation, and made up stuff promised to be supported for a full three years, or until you can't read it anyway from your eyes rolling to

  • by Njovich ( 553857 )

    You are telling me Jimmy James was in the CIA?

  • I clicked the link in TFS but after the page loaded it had a lot of blank space and just didn't look right. So I glanced at the URL, saw "www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/amp/..." and realized I'd been had.

    C'mon Slashdot, why can't you filter links to catch AMP URLs, then find and offer us a direct, un-"enhanced" link to the article?

    Here it is:
    http://www.seattlepi.com/seatt... [seattlepi.com]

  • Jesus H Christ, the grasp of English here is not getting better.

    >The 40-member cold-case team comprised of several former FBI agents

    No. Several former FBI agents comprised the team. The team was *composed* of several former FBI agents.
    Comprise, compose. It's not difficult. They teach it in school, to schoolchildren.

    • You know what? I'd rather them use the wrong words than leave out words or misspell them, which is pretty often. /. should be turned over to some high school newspaper editors for a major quality improvement. At least they'd fucking proofread and correct mistakes.
  • Should we really be basing our opinions on something we learned from the Colbert Report ?
  • This guy is a writer and he thinks a cache of money is pronounced cash-ay?
  • Although not an avid DBCooper ID'd fan, that was also the name I came up with several years back, which leads me to believe they are correct.
  • JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Hoffa, Amelia Earhart, DB Cooper, Oswald, [insert your character here] conspiracy theories of what really happened are same old rehash and retreads. I guess nobody is creative these days to come up with new genres.

    Bernie Rhodes author of "The Real McCoy" about the 1972 hijacker that managed to do a DB Cooper from a 727 but was later caught. Rhodes, a DOJ probation officer, said many guys already arrested for other crimes come to him claiming to be DB Cooper. Rhodes would ask que

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