Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The recent killing of Federal Judge Joan Lefkow's family is a story we hope will prompt the media to continue focusing on white hate groups. Right now, the suspicion is that all-purpose hater Matthew Hale somehow ordered or at least suggested that one of his crimies or followers execute Lefkow's husband and mother.

The NYT today has a story today that Hale has been communicating with people on the outside through his parents and lawyer by means of coded messages. Hale's mother is quoted as saying that the coded messages was "the dumbest thing I've ever heard of." The lawyer said that Hale's mother made the lawyer write the message down verbatim and deliver it to one of Hale's people on the outside. The message was apparently not delivered.

As a result of all this, POs have cut off Hale from communicating with his parents. Surprisingly, the ACLU has yet to raise an objection about cutting Hale off from his family.

While code comms from prison may be something new to the average citizen, the fact is, codes have been around almost as long as prisons. The range of codes run from simple hands signals, ghost writing, one time pads, Aztec writing, lip reading, imbedded writing with signifiers and variations of all those.

For instance, one of the more common codes is the simple letter that appears innocent to the untrained eye. The key to the code in the letter lies in the salutation. If the salutation for instance is "HI, HOW'S IT GOING?" the recipient knows to pick out every fifth letter. A letter that starts with "WHAT'S NEW?" indicates that every seventh letter in the body is the coded message. All this, of course, is worked out ahead of time long before the inmate lands in prison.

Also common is what cryptographers call the one time pad. Again this is worked out well ahead of time and consists of a number of code guides. Every letter in the alphabet is assigned a random number or letter. The key as to which page of the code guide to use is somewhere in the code. By going to the correct page in the guide, the recipient simply compares the random number or letter in the message to its actual meaning.

The difference between this and a letter with a salutation signifier is that it looks like a code and therefore harder to slide by the POs in charge of reviewing communications.

The most secure avenue of comms still remains legal documents. By law, POs can't open letters addressed from prisoners to their lawyers and vice versa. These are confidential. Some lawyers, as was documented in the Lynne Stewart/Blind Sheik case that recently ended, knowingly cooperate in illegal communications from prisoners to the outside. Other lawyers aren't even aware that they're being used as a conduit.

So Matt Hale's mother's contention that Hale might have been communicating in code is anything but "dumb."