A one-way ticket to crazyville

Tanguma's The Children of the World Dream of P...
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Tanguma's The Children of the World Dream of P...
Image by rsgranne via Flickr
Tanguma's The Children of the World Dream of P...
Image by rsgranne via Flickr

From Dave Alan’s “Interview with Alex Christopher” (Leading Edge Research Group: 1 June 1996):

Legend: DA [Dave Alan, Host] AC: [Alex Christopher] C: [Caller]

(Note: according to former British Intelligence agent Dr. John Coleman, the London-based Wicca Mason lodges are one-third of the overall global conspiracy. The other two thirds are the Black Nobility banking families who claim direct descent from the early Roman emperors, and also the Maltese Jesuits or the Jesuit – Knights of Malta network. All three networks each have 13 representatives within the Bilderberg organization, which is a cover for the Bavarian Illuminati, suggestive that Bavaria itself has orchestrated a “marriage of convenience” between these three formerly competitive global control groups. – Branton)

AC: All right. The information, primarily, that is in “Pandora’s Box” covers how the major corporations, railroad and banking concerns in this country were set up through a ‘trust’ that was originally known as the Virginia Company… The deal was that everything would remain under English control, or subservient to it, and that brings us right up to today, because we are still looking at everything falling under that ‘trust’ system going back to the Crown of England. It is mind boggling to think that everyone in this country has been led to believe that the people in the United States had won independence from England, when in fact they never did.

AC: The capstone, or the dedication stone, for the Denver airport has a Masonic symbol on it. A whole group of us went out to the airport to see some friends off and see this capstone, which also has a time capsule imbedded inside it. It sits at the south eastern side of the terminal which, by the way, is called “The Great Hall”, which is what Masons refer to as their meeting hall. And, on this thing it mentions “the New World Airport Commission”. …

AC: It has a Masonic symbol on it, and it also has very unusual geometric designs. It depicts an arm rising up out of it that curves at a 45 degree angle. It also has a thing that looks like a keypad on it. This capstone structure is made of carved granite and stainless steel, and it is very fancy.. This little keypad area at the end of the arm has an out-of-place unfinished wooden block sitting on it. The gentleman that was with me on the first trip out to the airport has since died. They say he committed suicide, but everything else tells me that this is not possible. No one can double-tie a catheter behind his own neck and strangle himself. I just don’t think that is possible. But, his name was Phil Schneider, and he started blowing the whistle on all this stuff going on in the underground bases that he had helped build for years and years. He worked on the underground bases at Area 51 and Dulce, New Mexico, as well as several other places. Schneider told me that this keypad-looking area looked like a form of techno-geometry that is “alien-oriented”, and that it had something to do with a “directional system”, whatever that meant, that functioned as a homing beacon to bring ships right into the “Great Hall”.

(Note: … Remember even through the Bilderbergers consist of a “marriage of convenience” between Londonese Wicca Masons, Basilian Black Nobility and Roman Maltese Jesuits… the supreme controllers of the Bildeberger cult itself are the secret black Gnostic cults of Bavaria whose ‘Cult of the Serpent’ — or Illuminati — can be traced back to Egypt and ultimately to Babylon itself. These Rockefeller-Nazi projects reportedly continued through at least 1975 during which period many thousands more “underground Nazis” were brought into America from Europe and also, if we are to believe some reports, from the secret German “New Berlin” base under the mountains of Neu Schwabenland, Antarctica that was established during World War II via Nazi-occupied South Africa. Is Neu Schwabenland the REAL power behind the joint Bavarian-Alien New World Order Agenda? …)

AC: … It took myself and two other people over eight months to figure out all the symbology that is embodied in these murals. It turned out that some of these are ‘trigger’ pictures, containing symbology designed to trigger altered personalities of people that have been groomed in MKULTRA type programs for specific tasks that they have been trained to do in terms of something connected with Satanic rituals and mind control. I had one woman that called me out of the blue one night, and she was really disturbed about some information. She told me many different things that later turned out to be known MKULTRA triggers. Also, almost every aspect of these murals contains symbols relating back to secret societies. When you get the overall view of what they are talking about in these things, it is very very scary. It goes back to the Bio-diversity Treaty, getting rid of specific races of people, taking over the world and mind control.

AC: Well, the gentleman that I was dealing with, Phil Schneider, said that during the last year of construction they were connecting the underground airport system to the deep underground base. He told me that there was at least an eight-level deep underground base there, and that there was a 4.5 square mile underground city and an 88.5 square-mile base underneath the airport.

DA: You were telling me that there are huge concrete corridors with sprinklers all along the ceiling. What are these sprinkler heads doing in a concrete bunker, pray tell? (Presumably concrete will not ‘burn’ if there is a potential fire, so is it possible that something other than ‘water’ is meant to be expelled from these sprinklers which are located “all along” the ceiling? – Branton)

AC: I think a lot of the people saw things that disturbed them so much that they would not talk about it. I know several people who worked on the project that managed to find their way down into the depths, probably close to the deep underground base, and saw things that scared them so badly they won’t talk about it. I interviewed a few of the former employees on these construction crews that worked out there on these buildings that ended up buried, and they are afraid to talk. They say that everybody is real nervous about it, and they decided to tell some of the secrets that they knew, but they don’t want anybody to know who they are. So, I can tell you that it is a very unusual and spooky type of place, and if you are a sensitive person you get nauseated as soon as you enter the perimeter of the airport. Especially when you go down underground. You become very nauseated a nervous. There is also so much electromagnetic flux in the area that if you get out on the open ground around the airport, you will ‘buzz’.

AC: If Phil is right, and all this hooks up to the deep underground base that he was offered the plans to build back in 1979, and that what this other man TOLD me in private [is] that there is a lot of human SLAVE LABOR in these deep underground bases being used by these aliens, and that a lot of this slave labor is children. HE SAID that when the children reach the point that they are unable to work any more, they are slaughtered on the spot and consumed.

DA: Consumed by who?

AC: Aliens. Again, this is not from me, but from a man that gave his life to get this information out. He worked down there for close to 20 years, and he knew everything that was going on.

DA: Hmmm. Who do these aliens eat?

AC: They specifically like young human children, that haven’t been contaminated like adults. Well, there is a gentleman out giving a lot of information from a source he gets it from, and he says that there is an incredible number of children snatched in this country.

DA: Over 200,000 each year.

AC: And that these children are the main entree for dinner.

AC: Yes. From some information that has been put out by a group or team that also works in these underground bases that is trying to get information out to people that love this country, THERE IS A WAR THAT IS GOING ON UNDER OUT FEET, AND ABOVE OUR HEADS, that the public doesn’t know anything about, and its between these ALIEN forces and the HUMANS that are trying to fight them.

DA: What other types have you seen?

AC: The ones that I have seen are the big-eyed Greys and the Reptilians.

DA: What do these Reptilians look like?

AC: There are three different types.

AC: … Anyway, they were both totally flipped out. I finally got them calmed down enough to let me go home. I went home and went to bed. The next thing I know, I woke up and there is this ‘thing’ standing over my bed. He had wrap-around yellow eyes with snake pupils, and pointed ears and a grin that wrapped around his head. He had a silvery suit on, and this scared the living daylights out of me. I threw the covers over my head and started screaming….I mean, here is this thing with a Cheshire-cat grin and these funky glowing eyes…this is too much. I have seen that kind of being on more than one occasion.

DA: What else can you say about it?

AC: Well, he had a hooked nose and he was [humanoid] looking, other than the eyes, and had kind of grayish skin. Later on in 1991, I was working in a building in a large city, and I had taken a break about 6:00, and the next thing I knew it was 10:30 at night, and I thought I had taken a short break. I started remembering that I was taken aboard a ship, through four floors of an office building, and through a roof. There on the ship is were I encountered ‘GERMANS’ AND ‘AMERICANS’ WORKING TOGETHER, and also the GREY ALIENS, and then we were taken to some other kind of facility and there I saw the REPTILIANS again … the one’s I call the “baby Godzilla’s”, that have the short teeth and yellow slanted eyes, and who look like a VELOCI-RAPTOR, kind of.

DA: So, why would these people pick on you?

AC: Well, I found one common denominator in the abduction, and it keeps on being repeated over and over again. I deal with lots of people who have been abducted, and the one common denominator seems to be the blood line, and its the blood line that goes back to ancient Indian or Native American blood lines.

AC: Well, at that facility I saw the almond-eyed Greys, but the thing that sticks in my mind are the beings that look like reptiles, or the veloci-raptors. They are the cruelest beings you could ever imagine, and they even smell hideous. There were a couple of very unusual areas down there where I was taken which looked like cold storage lockers, where these things were in hibernation tubes, and that is about all I remember, other than seeing some black helicopters and little round-wing disk type aircraft

In the book “Cosmic Conflict”, the author talks about the ancient city that was uncovered by the Germans before World War II, and tells about their effort to revive some frozen humans they found in this underground city, and that the true humans couldn’t be revived, but the ones that could be revived were in fact reptilians in disguise, and the reptilians have the capability to do shape-shifting and create a [laser] holographic image so when you look at them you see a human, but under that there is no human there. … Allegedly the reptilians re-animated and killed the Soviet scientists and through some type of psychic osmosis drained their minds and assimilated their memories and features through a molecular shape-shifting type process. … The alien ‘impostors’ then called for backup and more scientists came out and were ‘replaced’, and these eventually returned to Russia and began to infiltrate the Communist government.

AC: These people that have done all this research and are part of the underground government are telling that the humans on this planet have been at war with these reptilian aliens for thousands of years. At one point, things got so hot on the planet, like it is now, aliens took on this holographic image and infiltrated the human race in order to take it over and undermine it, just like this New World Order is doing right now. They’re saying that the same thing happened to civilization on Earth before, and that the humans before actually had the capability for interplanetary travel, and that it was so bad here with the reptilians that they had to leave… What they are also saying is that these beings that are human-looking that are visiting our planet, at this time, trying to inform people what is going on, and guide them, are actually OUR ANCESTORS THAT ESCAPED FROM EARTH before, when it was under reptilian domination.

AC: I went to South Florida a couple of weeks ago and interviewed a man who had done research for 30 years, and oddly enough, he tapped into some of the same information I had, in that our government has had round-winged, saucer-type technology, high mach speed aircraft since the 1920’s, and that in 1952 they had over 500 of these aircraft hidden in secret bases. Now, if they had that in 1952, considering that military technology grows by 44 years for every year that goes by, what do you imagine they have now, 44 years later, after technology has advanced the equivalent of 1,936 years?

AC: He claims to be one of the ones who jumped overboard off the Eldridge when it went into hyperspace during the Philadelphia Experiment. He actually traveled forward in time, and asked the people that he encountered there what happened in his future. At that time, he was given the information about the New World Order and that Denver was the location for the NWO Western Sector, and that Atlanta was supposed to be the control center for the Eastern Sector. Can it be that the fact that the Olympics is supposed to be in Atlanta is part of a scenario?

How it feels to drown, get decapitated, get electrocuted, and more

From Anna Gosline’s “Death special: How does it feel to die?” (New Scientist: 13 October 2007):

Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grâce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, people ultimately die because their neurons are deprived of oxygen, leading to cessation of electrical activity in the brain – the modern definition of biological death.

If the flow of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain is stopped, through whatever mechanism, people tend to have about 10 seconds before losing consciousness. They may take many more minutes to die, though, with the exact mode of death affecting the subtleties of the final experience.


Typically, when a victim realises that they cannot keep their head above water they tend to panic, leading to the classic “surface struggle”. They gasp for air at the surface and hold their breath as they bob beneath, says Tipton. Struggling to breathe, they can’t call for help. Their bodies are upright, arms weakly grasping, as if trying to climb a non-existent ladder from the sea. Studies with New York lifeguards in the 1950s and 1960s found that this stage lasts just 20 to 60 seconds.

When victims eventually submerge, they hold their breath for as long as possible, typically 30 to 90 seconds. After that, they inhale some water, splutter, cough and inhale more. Water in the lungs blocks gas exchange in delicate tissues, while inhaling water also triggers the airway to seal shut – a reflex called a laryngospasm. “There is a feeling of tearing and a burning sensation in the chest as water goes down into the airway. Then that sort of slips into a feeling of calmness and tranquility,” says Tipton, describing reports from survivors.

That calmness represents the beginnings of the loss of consciousness from oxygen deprivation, which eventually results in the heart stopping and brain death.

Heart attack

The most common symptom is, of course, chest pain: a tightness, pressure or squeezing, often described as an “elephant on my chest”, which may be lasting or come and go. This is the heart muscle struggling and dying from oxygen deprivation. Pain can radiate to the jaw, throat, back, belly and arms. Other signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea and cold sweats.

Most victims delay before seeking assistance, waiting an average of 2 to 6 hours. Women are the worst, probably because they are more likely to experience less well-known symptoms, such as breathlessness, back or jaw pain, or nausea, says JoAnn Manson, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School.

Even small heart attacks can play havoc with the electrical impulses that control heart muscle contraction, effectively stopping it. In about 10 seconds the person loses consciousness, and minutes later they are dead.

Bleeding to death

People can bleed to death in seconds if the aorta, the major blood vessel leading from the heart, is completely severed, for example, after a severe fall or car accident.

Death could creep up much more slowly if a smaller vein or artery is nicked – even taking hours. Such victims would experience several stages of haemorrhagic shock. The average adult has 5 litres of blood. Losses of around 750 millilitres generally cause few symptoms. Anyone losing 1.5 litres – either through an external wound or internal bleeding – feels weak, thirsty and anxious, and would be breathing fast. By 2 litres, people experience dizziness, confusion and then eventual unconsciousness.


Long the fate of witches and heretics, burning to death is torture. Hot smoke and flames singe eyebrows and hair and burn the throat and airways, making it hard to breathe. Burns inflict immediate and intense pain through stimulation of the nociceptors – the pain nerves in the skin. To make matters worse, burns also trigger a rapid inflammatory response, which boosts sensitivity to pain in the injured tissues and surrounding areas.

Most people who die in fires do not in fact die from burns. The most common cause of death is inhaling toxic gases – carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and even hydrogen cyanide – together with the suffocating lack of oxygen. One study of fire deaths in Norway from 1996 found that almost 75 per cent of the 286 people autopsied had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Depending on the size of the fire and how close you are to it, concentrations of carbon monoxide could start to cause headache and drowsiness in minutes, eventually leading to unconsciousness. According to the US National Fire Protection Association, 40 per cent of the victims of fatal home fires are knocked out by fumes before they can even wake up.


Beheading, if somewhat gruesome, can be one of the quickest and least painful ways to die – so long as the executioner is skilled, his blade sharp, and the condemned sits still.

Quick it may be, but consciousness is nevertheless believed to continue after the spinal chord is severed. A study in rats in 1991 found that it takes 2.7 seconds for the brain to consume the oxygen from the blood in the head; the equivalent figure for humans has been calculated at 7 seconds.

It took the axeman three attempts to sever the head of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. He had to finish the job with a knife.

Decades earlier in 1541, Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, was executed at the Tower of London. She was dragged to the block, but refused to lay her head down. The inexperienced axe man made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. According to some reports, she leapt from the block and was chased by the executioner, who struck 11 times before she died.


In accidental electrocutions, usually involving low, household current, the most common cause of death is arrhythmia, stopping the heart dead. Unconsciousness ensues after the standard 10 seconds, says Richard Trohman, a cardiologist at Rush University in Chicago. One study of electrocution deaths in Montreal, Canada found that 92 per cent had probably died from arrhythmia.

Higher currents can produce nearly immediate unconsciousness.

Fall from a height

A high fall is certainly among the speediest ways to die: terminal velocity (no pun intended) is about 200 kilometres per hour, achieved from a height of about 145 metres or more. A study of deadly falls in Hamburg, Germany, found that 75 per cent of victims died in the first few seconds or minutes after landing.

The exact cause of death varies, depending on the landing surface and the person’s posture. People are especially unlikely to arrive at the hospital alive if they land on their head – more common for shorter (under 10 metres) and higher (over 25 metres) falls. A 1981 analysis of 100 suicidal jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco – height: 75 metres, velocity on impact with the water: 120 kilometres per hour – found numerous causes of instantaneous death including massive lung bruising, collapsed lungs, exploded hearts or damage to major blood vessels and lungs through broken ribs.

Survivors of great falls often report the sensation of time slowing down. The natural reaction is to struggle to maintain a feet-first landing, resulting in fractures to the leg bones, lower spinal column and life-threatening broken pelvises. The impact travelling up through the body can also burst the aorta and heart chambers. Yet this is probably still the safest way to land, despite the force being concentrated in a small area: the feet and legs form a “crumple zone” which provides some protection to the major internal organs.

Some experienced climbers or skydivers who have survived a fall report feeling focused, alert and driven to ensure they landed in the best way possible: relaxed, legs bent and, where possible, ready to roll.


Suicides and old-fashioned “short drop” executions cause death by strangulation; the rope puts pressure on the windpipe and the arteries to the brain. This can cause unconsciousness in 10 seconds, but it takes longer if the noose is incorrectly sited. Witnesses of public hangings often reported victims “dancing” in pain at the end of the rope, struggling violently as they asphyxiated. Death only ensues after many minutes, as shown by the numerous people being resuscitated after being cut down – even after 15 minutes.

When public executions were outlawed in Britain in 1868, hangmen looked for a less performance-oriented approach. They eventually adopted the “long-drop” method, using a lengthier rope so the victim reached a speed that broke their necks. It had to be tailored to the victim’s weight, however, as too great a force could rip the head clean off, a professionally embarrassing outcome for the hangman.

Despite the public boasting of several prominent executioners in late 19th-century Britain, a 1992 analysis of the remains of 34 prisoners found that in only about half of cases was the cause of death wholly or partly due to spinal trauma. Just one-fifth showed the classic “hangman’s fracture” between the second and third cervical vertebrae. The others died in part from asphyxiation.

Lethal injection

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Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has found similar results in US victims. He concluded, however, that even if asphyxiation played a role, the trauma of the drop would have rapidly rendered all of them unconscious. “What the hangmen were looking for was quick cessation of activity,” he says. “And they knew enough about their craft to ensure that happened. The thing they feared most was decapitation.”
Lethal injection

US-government approved, but is it really painless?

Lethal injection was designed in Oklahoma in 1977 as a humane alternative to the electric chair. The state medical examiner and chair of anaesthesiology settled on a series of three drug injections. First comes the anaesthetic thiopental to speed away any feelings of pain, followed by a paralytic agent called pancuronium to stop breathing. Finally potassium chloride is injected, which stops the heart almost instantly.

Each drug is supposed to be administered in a lethal dose, a redundancy to ensure speedy and humane death. However, eyewitnesses have reported inmates convulsing, heaving and attempting to sit up during the procedure, suggesting the cocktail is not always completely effective.

Explosive decompression

In real life there has been just one fatal space depressurisation accident. This occurred on the Russian Soyuz-11 mission in 1971, when a seal leaked upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere; upon landing all three flight crew were found dead from asphyxiation.

Most of our knowledge of depressurisation comes from animal experiments and the experiences of pilots in accidents at very high altitudes. When the external air pressure suddenly drops, the air in the lungs expands, tearing the fragile gas exchange tissues. This is especially damaging if the victim neglects to exhale prior to decompression or tries to hold their breath. Oxygen begins to escape from the blood and lungs.

Experiments on dogs in the 1950s showed that 30 to 40 seconds after the pressure drops, their bodies began to swell as the water in tissues vaporised, though the tight seal of their skin prevented them from “bursting”. The heart rate rises initially, then plummets. Bubbles of water vapour form in the blood and travel through the circulatory system, obstructing blood flow. After about a minute, blood effectively stops circulating.

Human survivors of rapid decompression accidents include pilots whose planes lost pressure, or in one case a NASA technician who accidentally depressurised his flight suit inside a vacuum chamber. They often report an initial pain, like being hit in the chest, and may remember feeling air escape from their lungs and the inability to inhale. Time to the loss of consciousness was generally less than 15 seconds.

How the Greek cell phone network was compromised

From Vassilis Prevelakis and Diomidis Spinellis’ “The Athens Affair” (IEEE Spectrum: July 2007):

On 9 March 2005, a 38-year-old Greek electrical engineer named Costas Tsalikidis was found hanged in his Athens loft apartment, an apparent suicide. It would prove to be merely the first public news of a scandal that would roil Greece for months.

The next day, the prime minister of Greece was told that his cellphone was being bugged, as were those of the mayor of Athens and at least 100 other high-ranking dignitaries, including an employee of the U.S. embassy.

The victims were customers of Athens-based Vodafone-Panafon, generally known as Vodafone Greece, the country’s largest cellular service provider; Tsalikidis was in charge of network planning at the company.

We now know that the illegally implanted software, which was eventually found in a total of four of Vodafone’s Greek switches, created parallel streams of digitized voice for the tapped phone calls. One stream was the ordinary one, between the two calling parties. The other stream, an exact copy, was directed to other cellphones, allowing the tappers to listen in on the conversations on the cellphones, and probably also to record them. The software also routed location and other information about those phone calls to these shadow handsets via automated text messages.

The day after Tsalikidis’s body was discovered, CEO Koronias met with the director of the Greek prime minister’s political office. Yiannis Angelou, and the minister of public order, Giorgos Voulgarakis. Koronias told them that rogue software used the lawful wiretapping mechanisms of Vodafone’s digital switches to tap about 100 phones and handed over a list of bugged numbers. Besides the prime minister and his wife, phones belonging to the ministers of national defense, foreign affairs, and justice, the mayor of Athens, and the Greek European Union commissioner were all compromised. Others belonged to members of civil rights organizations, peace activists, and antiglobalization groups; senior staff at the ministries of National Defense, Public Order, Merchant Marine, and Foreign Affairs; the New Democracy ruling party; the Hellenic Navy general staff; and a Greek-American employee at the United States Embassy in Athens.

First, consider how a phone call, yours or a prime minister’s, gets completed. Long before you dial a number on your handset, your cellphone has been communicating with nearby cellular base stations. One of those stations, usually the nearest, has agreed to be the intermediary between your phone and the network as a whole. Your telephone handset converts your words into a stream of digital data that is sent to a transceiver at the base station.

The base station’s activities are governed by a base station controller, a special-purpose computer within the station that allocates radio channels and helps coordinate handovers between the transceivers under its control.

This controller in turn communicates with a mobile switching center that takes phone calls and connects them to call recipients within the same switching center, other switching centers within the company, or special exchanges that act as gateways to foreign networks, routing calls to other telephone networks (mobile or landline). The mobile switching centers are particularly important to the Athens affair because they hosted the rogue phone-tapping software, and it is there that the eavesdropping originated. They were the logical choice, because they are at the heart of the network; the intruders needed to take over only a few of them in order to carry out their attack.

Both the base station controllers and the switching centers are built around a large computer, known as a switch, capable of creating a dedicated communications path between a phone within its network and, in principle, any other phone in the world. Switches are holdovers from the 1970s, an era when powerful computers filled rooms and were built around proprietary hardware and software. Though these computers are smaller nowadays, the system’s basic architecture remains largely unchanged.

Like most phone companies, Vodafone Greece uses the same kind of computer for both its mobile switching centers and its base station controllers—Ericsson’s AXE line of switches. A central processor coordinates the switch’s operations and directs the switch to set up a speech or data path from one phone to another and then routes a call through it. Logs of network activity and billing records are stored on disk by a separate unit, called a management processor.

The key to understanding the hack at the heart of the Athens affair is knowing how the Ericsson AXE allows lawful intercepts—what are popularly called “wiretaps.” Though the details differ from country to country, in Greece, as in most places, the process starts when a law enforcement official goes to a court and obtains a warrant, which is then presented to the phone company whose customer is to be tapped.

Nowadays, all wiretaps are carried out at the central office. In AXE exchanges a remote-control equipment subsystem, or RES, carries out the phone tap by monitoring the speech and data streams of switched calls. It is a software subsystem typically used for setting up wiretaps, which only law officers are supposed to have access to. When the wiretapped phone makes a call, the RES copies the conversation into a second data stream and diverts that copy to a phone line used by law enforcement officials.

Ericsson optionally provides an interception management system (IMS), through which lawful call intercepts are set up and managed. When a court order is presented to the phone company, its operators initiate an intercept by filling out a dialog box in the IMS software. The optional IMS in the operator interface and the RES in the exchange each contain a list of wiretaps: wiretap requests in the case of the IMS, actual taps in the RES. Only IMS-initiated wiretaps should be active in the RES, so a wiretap in the RES without a request for a tap in the IMS is a pretty good indicator that an unauthorized tap has occurred. An audit procedure can be used to find any discrepancies between them.

It took guile and some serious programming chops to manipulate the lawful call-intercept functions in Vodafone’s mobile switching centers. The intruders’ task was particularly complicated because they needed to install and operate the wiretapping software on the exchanges without being detected by Vodafone or Ericsson system administrators. From time to time the intruders needed access to the rogue software to update the lists of monitored numbers and shadow phones. These activities had to be kept off all logs, while the software itself had to be invisible to the system administrators conducting routine maintenance activities. The intruders achieved all these objectives.

The challenge faced by the intruders was to use the RES’s capabilities to duplicate and divert the bits of a call stream without using the dialog-box interface to the IMS, which would create auditable logs of their activities. The intruders pulled this off by installing a series of patches to 29 separate blocks of code, according to Ericsson officials who testified before the Greek parliamentary committee that investigated the wiretaps. This rogue software modified the central processor’s software to directly initiate a wiretap, using the RES’s capabilities. Best of all, for them, the taps were not visible to the operators, because the IMS and its user interface weren’t used.

The full version of the software would have recorded the phone numbers being tapped in an official registry within the exchange. And, as we noted, an audit could then find a discrepancy between the numbers monitored by the exchange and the warrants active in the IMS. But the rogue software bypassed the IMS. Instead, it cleverly stored the bugged numbers in two data areas that were part of the rogue software’s own memory space, which was within the switch’s memory but isolated and not made known to the rest of the switch.

That by itself put the rogue software a long way toward escaping detection. But the perpetrators hid their own tracks in a number of other ways as well. There were a variety of circumstances by which Vodafone technicians could have discovered the alterations to the AXE’s software blocks. For example, they could have taken a listing of all the blocks, which would show all the active processes running within the AXE—similar to the task manager output in Microsoft Windows or the process status (ps) output in Unix. They then would have seen that some processes were active, though they shouldn’t have been. But the rogue software apparently modified the commands that list the active blocks in a way that omitted certain blocks—the ones that related to intercepts—from any such listing.

In addition, the rogue software might have been discovered during a software upgrade or even when Vodafone technicians installed a minor patch. It is standard practice in the telecommunications industry for technicians to verify the existing block contents before performing an upgrade or patch. We don’t know why the rogue software was not detected in this way, but we suspect that the software also modified the operation of the command used to print the checksums—codes that create a kind of signature against which the integrity of the existing blocks can be validated. One way or another, the blocks appeared unaltered to the operators.

Finally, the software included a back door to allow the perpetrators to control it in the future. This, too, was cleverly constructed to avoid detection. A report by the Hellenic Authority for the Information and Communication Security and Privacy (the Greek abbreviation is ADAE) indicates that the rogue software modified the exchange’s command parser—a routine that accepts commands from a person with system administrator status—so that innocuous commands followed by six spaces would deactivate the exchange’s transaction log and the alarm associated with its deactivation, and allow the execution of commands associated with the lawful interception subsystem. In effect, it was a signal to allow operations associated with the wiretaps but leave no trace of them. It also added a new user name and password to the system, which could be used to obtain access to the exchange.

…Security experts have also discovered other rootkits for general-purpose operating systems, such as Linux, Windows, and Solaris, but to our knowledge this is the first time a rootkit has been observed on a special-purpose system, in this case an Ericsson telephone switch.

So the investigators painstakingly reconstructed an approximation of the original PLEX source files that the intruders developed. It turned out to be the equivalent of about 6500 lines of code, a surprisingly substantial piece of software.

John Berryman’s suicide note

From Steve Marsh’s “Homage to Mister Berryman” (Mpls St Paul Magazine: September 2008):

Berryman’s last words to Kate came on that January morning—he told her he was going to campus to clean his office. He had never said that before, she says, but Kate, who was attending Al-Anon meetings at the time, was trying “not to manage this situation.” Berryman had actually been sober for several months following repeated periods of hospitalization, twice at St. Mary’s and once at Hazelden. “But he had developed a hum,” Kate says. “He would hum all the time. And he stopped talking very much.”

After his suicide, Kate found a note written on the back of an envelope in a wastebasket.

O my love Kate, you did all you could.
I’m unemployable & a nuisance.
Forget me, remarry, be happy.

Forced to commit suicide by brain parasites

From New Scientist‘s “Parasites brainwash grasshoppers into death dive“:

A parasitic worm that makes the grasshopper it invades jump into water and commit suicide does so by chemically influencing its brain, a study of the insects’ proteins reveal.

The parasitic Nematomorph hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) develops inside land-dwelling grasshoppers and crickets until the time comes for the worm to transform into an aquatic adult. Somehow mature hairworms brainwash their hosts into behaving in way they never usually would – causing them to seek out and plunge into water.

Once in the water the mature hairworms – which are three to four times longer that their hosts when extended – emerge and swim away to find a mate, leaving their host dead or dying in the water. …

Now Biron and his colleagues have shown that the worm brainwashes the grasshopper by producing proteins which directly and indirectly affect the grasshopper’s central nervous system.

Haber’s dead wife

From “The Invention of Modern Gas Warfare“, at Ockham’s Razor:

[Dr. Fritz] Haber [inventor of modern gas warfare] was a very patriotic German and so when the war began he looked for ways to assist the military effort. His first major critic was his childhood sweetheart and wife, Clara. She was a talented chemist herself. She was appalled at the use of science to kill people. A few days after the first use of gas, she used his army pistol to commit suicide.

This did not deter Haber. He went off to supervise the use of gas warfare on the Eastern front and he left others to handle her funeral arrangements.

When the war ended in 1918, Haber donned a disguise and fled temporarily into Switzerland. The use of gas warfare had been so controversial that he was afraid that he would be tried by the Allies as a war criminal. About 1.3 million people had been wounded by gas, with 91,000 being killed.