Big news in California today -- after a five month trial and two weeks of deliberation, a jury in Santa Ana has convicted two leaders of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang of racketeering and murder. Barry "The Baron" Mills and Tyler (at right) "The Hulk" Bingham (at left) were found guilty of ordering attacks on black inmates from maximum security cellblocks, and are now eligible for the death penalty. How did they order hits from within such high-security cells? With 400-year-old crypto, and invisible ink made from urine. Snip from Los Angeles Times story:
One of the government's star witnesses, Al Benton, a high-ranking Brotherhood defector, testified that he stabbed a victim through the throat after receiving a smuggled order from Bingham, who was incarcerated 1,700 miles away at the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colo. Benton testified that the order was written in invisible ink, which came into view when held over a flame. (...)
By the government's account, Brotherhood leaders ran the gang's far-reaching network by adapting ingeniously to the tight surveillance conditions in maximum-security lockups. To transmit messages, the gang employed an elaborate system of codes and cryptograms – including a 400-year-old binary alphabet system devised by Sir Francis Bacon – as well as more prosaic jailhouse ruses, such as slipping notes in mop handles and under recreation yard rocks.
Jurors learned about the gang's reading list, which included Nietzsche, Machiavelli and Sun Tzu's "The Art of War." They learned how to make knives from the shaved-off sliver of a light fixture. And with a cast of eccentric criminal witnesses, they witnessed strange, tangential exchanges, as when defense attorney Michael White cross-examined Chris Risk, who said he robbed banks to protest the treatment of American Indians.