Monday, February 08, 2010
Tale of a Would-Be Spy, Buried Treasure, and Uncrackable Code
One night in June 2001, Brian Patrick Regan drove out to Pocahontas State Park in Virginia and walked through the muggy darkness into the woods.
The former Air Force sergeant wore a backpack on his bearish 6′5″ frame; a sawed-off shovel handle stuck out of the top as he made his way along soft creek beds, avoiding hiking trails. Inside the pack was a night-vision monocle and a pile of classified material he had stolen from his longtime employer, the National Reconnaissance Office — the US agency that manages the nation’s spy satellites.
After he had walked about 10 minutes, Regan stopped and surveyed the tall oaks and maples. He lowered his pack, pulled out the shovel, and laid a plastic sheet on the ground. Then he began to scoop out a series of holes, carefully piling the dirt on the sheet so as to leave behind no sign of the dig. From his backpack he grabbed a stack of packages wrapped in garbage bags and placed one in each hole. The bags were stuffed with thousands of documents containing information about Libyan missile sites, Iraqi air defenses, and US spying operations in China and Iran. The material would have revealed exactly what the US knew about those countries. It was, Regan thought, the kind of information that could start a war.