In what could be the first act of domestic terrorism since Timothy McVeigh, a small plane (Piper) that set out from Georgetown Municipal Airport hit a federal office building housing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 11:36 AM in Austin, Texas. A software developer, Joseph Andrew Stack, who had previously set his house on fire, was the pilot who suicidally flew his plane Kamikaze style into the building in an apparent act of revenge against the IRS as detailed in a 3,202 word suicide note on his web site: http://embeddedart.com. The web site is reporting a last update of Thursday, February 18, 2010 10:12:53 AM.
Note that the following message now appears on embeddedart.com: This website has been taken offline due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI. If you want to see the original letter, please see the archived version at thesmokinggun.com. Regards, T35 Hosting http://www.t35.com/
The suicide note on embeddedart.com downloaded as a pdf: Well Mr. Big Brother IRS man… take my pound of flesh and sleep well.
The FBI and CIA also have offices in the same building complex. This particular IRS office is home to a group called the EP Team Audit Program, which examines employee benefit plans with 2,500 or more participants.
Well certainly not the kind that one would think of with regards to foreign religious ideological based groups, such as Al Qaeda, but let’s take a closer look at what the definition of terrorism really is:
(the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear) -Princeton.edu
Well, one could make argument that this was a decision to commit suicide in a very public way (crashing planes into buildings is certainly an attention getter), to further his views as outlined in the manifesto he wrote, or that this was an attempt to incite some sort of movement by his actions. Regardless, there was an attempt to incite fear. The deliberate use of an airplane as the method of attack, along with the parallels it invokes, are no accident. These characteristics place this as, albeit minor given the no reported deaths, an act of domestic terrorism.
“I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”
- Joseph Stack
Is the Letter a Hoax?
We do not think so. Let’s explore this a little, first looking at the whois results for this http://embeddedart.com/ web site. The person listed as the administrative contact is the same person being identified as the pilot, Joseph Stack. Further the web site was not registered recently, its been around for seven years. Finally, while we’ve been impressed with the complexity of Internet hoaxes in the past, its not easy to write a well thought out essay of 3,202 words in less than two hours.
Administrative Contact: Stack, Joe [email protected] 925 E Hwy 80 287 San Marcos, TX 78666 US 1.3215649879 Technical Contact: Stack, Joe [email protected] 925 E Hwy 80 287 San Marcos, TX 78666 US 1.3215649879 Registrar of Record: TUCOWS, INC. Record last updated on 16-Sep-2006. Record expires on 05-Jun-2010. Record created on 05-Jun-2003.
So this does appear to be as it outwardly appears: the last essay of an American suicide bomber with a serious beef against the IRS.
A Software Engineer
Looking at the previous form of Stack’s web site, before it hosted an anti-tax manifesto, it advertised his software contracting services:
To advance the art of programming, one project at a time; by achieving an optimum balance between cost, schedule, functionality, reliability, and maintainability.
Stack’s software experience (resume): Embedded Art – Key Environment Components.
Stack’s Home Location
According to his web site, his address appears to be a condominium unit:
6001 W. Parmer Ln., #370-167 Austin, TX 78727
However this may be old, as another web site is reporting the address to be: 1827 Dapplegray Lane. This makes more sense when combined with the house burning video below (there is a fence/wall in both).
If this is really his house, its a nice place for a guy with tax problems:
Either way, this was what the house looked like this morning:
A Wrong Reaction
So other than being a homeland security issue, why would a humble information security blog find this interesting? Well it is always interesting to us how people handle incident response.
The DHS Journal reported the following via Twitter: “Small plane crash into private office bldg in Austin, TX. Cause unknown, but no known link to terrorism.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also weighed in, saying it was not an attack.
Filed Under: Homeland Security