Richard Nova, former director of school security who knew Adam Lanza.
Huffington Post is reporting that perhaps the hard drive of the Newtown, CT killer Adam Lanza may not be so unsalvageable as was described yesterday in the tech media, and in any event if some of his content was "in the cloud" or in gmail, this will be eminently obtainable by authorities. (And that's as it should be, in my view).
It also turns out that Adam Lanza played Call of Duty, the very realistic murder and rampage game, according to a plumber who used to work in the house, as the British tabloid The Sun has reported, and as the Telegraph has reported.
"Killer lived in windowless lair playing violent video games," screams the sub-head. Interesting, isn't it, that a British tab gets this story, and not the Hartford Courant or the New York Times. Maybe because they don't want to find it.
Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist, and the French terrorist Mohammed Merah also played Call of Duty. Cue up the inevitable pushback: they also put on their pants one leg at a time and not everyone who puts their pants on one leg at a time is a killer.
Huffpo's analyst then theorizes how more could be discovered about the killer through game chat:
But in the age of cloud computing and multiple Internet-connected devices, authorities have no shortage of ways to follow his online footprints for clues, from acquiring his emails and search history to obtaining his online correspondence while he reportedly played "Call of Duty" on Xbox, experts said.
"Your Internet history is very telling," said Monique Ferraro, an attorney and digital forensics expert. "Even without a hard drive, if he was on the Internet, and most people are, investigators will be able to tell quite a bit about what he was doing, where he was going and what he was thinking
It would only confirm my bias if it turns out that Adam Lanza played CoD or other violent games, but I will note here that this Huffpo story is a bit shakey. Who reported that played CoD? "Experts" said Huffpo and "a plumber" said the Telegraph. But were these experts actually on the case, or are they just speculating? And how was it that a plumber could gather all this information about the habits of his customers when he was ostensibly just focusing on the toilets or sinks? Just to play the devil's advocate.
The autism advocates also ask this sort of question: who is the mental health provider who made the diagnosis that Adam Lanza had Asperger's or was on the autism spectrum? Was it a school nurse, a social worker, a psychiatrist? This hasn't really been established yet, so that enables the autism advocates to discount that Lanza may even have had any mental disability -- yet I think there are enough neighbours and townspeople making this description who actually saw Lanza over the years that it seems reasonable to assert. I think it's also reasonable to assert that he played violent war games . What kid in his demographic doesn't? There's also the plumber's description of the tank posters on the walls of the basement where Lanza lived -- he claimed he lived down in the basement. Yet another story said he lived in two bedrooms upstairs. Still a number of contradictions...
Right now, we're at the level in the story where the press is grasping at any straw, and interviewing neighbours and casual acquaintances and even the barber in town, who said that Lanza did not talk and his mother had to order him around to move in and out of the chair or he could just sit there.
I recall it took quite some time before the psychiatrist who actually treated the Colorado shooter James Holmes came forward and told about all her qualms and efforts to warn people. So we're not there yet on this story. And it was only a week before the Newtown killings, long after the summer killings in Colorado, that we learned that James Holmes psychiatrist refused to order a 72-hour hold on him, when he told her that he fantasized about killing people. And I can imagine why: she was afraid of lawsuits and unwanted attention from first university authorities, then the ACLU, so she backed off, even though the police were willing to arrest him. And there was speculation that this was related to the fact that Holmes was quitting the university anyway and would be out of their hands.
There will be a very thorough scoping in Lanza's case, especially given these sorts of problems in missing the opportunities to confine Holmes -- and authorities will do just those very things that some civil libertarians want to keep them from doing even with a warrant -- and that the CryptoParty would like to eliminate even from Internet altogether:
And if, for example, Lanza used Google for email or Web search, law enforcement officials will likely subpoena the company to gain access to the content of his emails or what sites he visited after conducting a Google search, according to experts. As the recent email scandal involving retired Gen. David Petraeus highlighted, it's very difficult to hide the details of correspondence from law enforcement -- even for the director of the CIA.
What's more, Lanza's reported obsession with "Call of Duty," a first-person shooter video game, may also offer clues. Microsoft's Xbox allows players to collaborate with each other online while playing the game. Such conversations, if they exist, are likely stored in the game console and could provide investigators with information that he sent other players and topics they discussed, Ferraro said.
I suspect email, even if there is an account, will have almost nothing in it but spam. Teenagers do not use email, young people in their early 20s do not use email. They use many other things from AIM to their cell phone text system to tinychat but email is just not their thing. Huffpo and others like Memeburn also note that Lanza does not appear to have any Facebook or Twitter account. That's also typical of this type of person -- young, white male nerd with mad computer skills -- they just don't like the open, popular commercial, girly stuff and the exposure of their privacy. If they have accounts on those services, they will be under an avatar, and so far, with less than a week passing since the atrocity occurred, we don't have a single nickname under which Lanza was known.
I'm not at all a professional or even an amateur expert at these things, and there are people online who could do this 100 times better. But to find Adam Lanza online, you have to go to all those underbelly sites of the Internet, all the raunchy sites like 4chan (but not really, as that has sort of waned lately, the way somethingawful.com come, and the kids go to Reddit now), but also tinychat and Pastebin. What caper of Anonymous hasn't been achieved without Pastebin?
On Pastebin, an anonymous site where you can post anything, originally intended to be used for posting code but often the repository of manifestos and "dox" -- the outing of people's identities -- there's a fairly active discussion around the Newtwon shootings.
Of course, the unfortunate surviving members of the Lanza family -- the brother Ryan and the father Peter -- have all been thoroughly dox'd, with all their private information published. This is sadly too easy to get on the Internet, right down to their cell numbers and the worth of their homes and exact addresses. There's even a Pastebin Possee called "We are the Crows" which has decided to get revenge for these kids' death and are going around drilling for info on everything.
There's a conspiracy theory now that has developed that has some variations that veer off into the totally Internet-wierd, but it usually has to do with the "second shooter" or "the man in the woods" or "the second suspect cuffed" which some news accounts contained in the confused beginning of the story's reporting, but then disappeared. The conspiracies also revolve around the father, Peter, and his business as a tax professional for GE. (Ryan is also in the tax business with Ernst and Young).
The conspiracy story centers on one Richard Novia, a security specialist who was reportedly once an official of the Sandy Hook school responsible for security. I'm wondering why a little elementary school in a sleepy little down in Connecticut even had a security principal, like a big old bad urban high school in New York City will definitely have (i.e. "the safety principal" or "deputy principal"). But maybe they did. This man describes himself in a video published by the AP to have taken Lanza under his wing and befriended him and his friends, such as they were. He was also involved in shepherding the technology club where Lanza was a member, his only activity, and watching out for him because the concern was more than Lanza would be the target of bullying than that he would harm anyone back then.
Novia was reportedly put on suspension after an incident involving pushing of a student. He then goes off and does security consulting and then -- so the conspiracy theorists believe -- is somehow tied to Peter Lanza's business reported in an exotic caper that involves the perennial of right-wing blog conspiracies, the LIBOR investigation (the corruption in the European banks).
Naturally, the left wing blogs have a field day with this wacky stuff and use it once again to pillory the religious right, but elsewhere on Pastebin, all the right questions are asked about this tragedy, and some you may not have thought of, and that's useful. But then the questioners veer off into concocting a script whereby the entire story is staged by actors -- for some nefarious purpose -- perhaps to force the issue on gun control. The Pastebinners cite the fact that the children's dead bodies were left in the school and the parents were not allowed to see them. In the middle of the night, they were taken to a temporary morgue.
I think there is a simple rather than mysterious explanation for this: the authorities wanted to avoid chaos, mass horror, and any destruction of evidence. In order to be able to have all the necessary forensics tests made properly, they would have to make sure the crime scene wasn't contaminated.
I felt bad for the parents that their unexpected gallopping horror was made even more awful by not being able to go immediately to their children to see them. I know from having lost a baby myself -- and others who have been through this say the same thing -- that an important part of grieving is being able to see and hold your child even after they have died. As is known, primates limp around with their dead babies in hand for weeks after their death, still mourning them. It seems to be a natural process, and sadly, these parents, thrust into a nationally-covered atrocity, could not have that basic human need fulfilled. The authorities also likely wanted to make sure that no one accused them of messing up important evidence later, so they tried to be extra careful and organized even under the terrible circumstances. No, I don't think actors performed this horror and then gave photoshopped pictures to the parents -- that's just totally insane. We now have the testimony of the little girl who played dead and who ran out of the school, covered with blood, and other eyewitness reports.
But the "second shooter" conspiracists and the weaving in the story of Peter Novia may have something that could be like crimes of the past. While they don't come out and say it, the Pastebinners seem to be setting the stage for saying that this man with a grudge against the school that fired him, and possibly some failed business dealing or caper with Lanza's father, could have set up Lanza somehow in the shooting. Yet Novia hasn't been questioned by police and he seems to sound sane enough on the video tape. When the two wounded people are able to speak, maybe there will be details that emerge to debunk any conspiracy theory involving Novia, but I'm going to go with "the likeliest explanation is the simplest" and say that if there are reports of surviving school officials who hid from the gunman that there was just the one armed man, if there are reports from kids describing the angry lone gunman who came in their room -- and they ran behind his back out the door -- that it's likely just Lanza.
Keep in mind that Pastebin is very ephemeral, and all those links could be dead by the time you read this, it can be a very hit-and-run sort of place.