Wondering Wednesday: Suicide in Singapore, Drone Over Brooklyn, and Telco Tattlers

Help me get over the hump and clue me in on a few things. I’ve been scratching my head wondering about these topics.

Suicide in Singapore — The recent “suicide” of a U.S. electronics engineer in Singapore looks fishy to me. It looked not-right to Financial Times as well; it appears no other domestic news outlet picked up this case for investigative reporting before FT. The deceased, who’d worked for a government research institute on a project related to Chinese telecom equipment company Huawei, is alleged to have hung himself, but two details about this case set off my hinky meter.

•  Every photo I’ve seen of engineer Shane Todd depicts a happy chap. Sure, depressed folks can hide their emotions, but comparing a photo of his family after his death to photos of him and you’ll see the difference. My gut tells me that if he was truly depressed, he should have looked more like his folks–flat, withdrawn, low affect. Perhaps meds could have messed with his head more than depression itself. But I’m not a psychologist or a pharmacologist, what do I know?

•  Among all the details of the case, it’s said the victim’s face postmortem was white when his body was discovered. This doesn’t strike me as consistent with hanging; there should have been lividity above the ligature. Conveniently, Singapore’s law enforcement cleaned everything up so quickly there was no chance to see the crime scene or the body as found. Law enforcement also snagged the victim’s laptop and all other work-related stored content, save for a hard drive that looked like a speaker. Everything he was working on “disappeared” except for the contents of that drive.

The engineer had been very concerned about technology he was working on and its possible transfer, which included gallium nitride transistors with potential for both commercial and military applications. After poking around for some time on gallium compounds used in various computing, communications and other technology, nothing screams at me as highly sensitive technology that might get someone “suicided.” But…as I went through abstracts, it seems odd there are a substantive number of Chinese researchers working in on GaN-based technologies.

Thought these two points in particular jar my senses, more than just these two points don’t sit well. Read the story at the link above and see for yourself. (Original FT link here.)

What do you make of this case? Suicide or no? Strategic technology or no?

Drone over Brooklyn — On Tuesday an Alitalia pilot reported an unmanned craft flying within 200 feet of his plane over Brooklyn. Both the FBI and FAA are investigating and have asked for witnesses’ help. As of this post, there’s been no additional information published about this incident.

Was this the first case where drone usage preceded adequate regulation about their usage? Was this simply a consumer product like the AR Parrot drone gone astray? Or was there something more sinister at work?

If you’ve heard anything more on this situation, please share in comments.

Telco Tattlers — Voice carriers Verizon and AT&T complain that they are unfairly targeted by new cybersecurity requirements; the two businesses claim technology companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft should be subjected to the same regulations.

With all three of Google, Apple, and Microsoft in some way involved with voice-related technologies using their operating systems, one has to wonder why they weren’t included as well as other similar technology companies.

BUT…perhaps it’s because none of these technology companies has nationwide network infrastructure with NSA-furnished secret rooms attached (that we know of)—rooms that terrorists could otherwise access OR be used to shut down telecommunications networks in case of a cyber attack.

Why do you think there’s such an exclusion of consumer-facing technology companies?

Okay, your turn. Go ahead, wonder away.

9 replies
  1. seedeevee says:

    While Mr. Todd’s death sure doesn’t seem to be a suicide, the story is amusing in its own journalmalism way.

    Am American PhD working in Singapore – partnering with one of the world’s largest telecom companies, a Chinese one – wonders if he is “compromising” US security.

    WTF does he think getting a job paid for by a foreign country and partnering with another company from a second non-US country is going to be?

    It all will come out to be about someone’s money (running away with a companies trade secrets is a bad decision) or a jealous boyfriend/girlfriend.

    But he was tailor made to be a spy.

    But but. C’mon, some guy getting a advanced tech job in Singapore and then feeding us a story about “worrying about US national security”? That just doesn’t smell right.

  2. P J Evans says:

    I don’t see anything strange about the foreign job – US companies aren’t hiring people. He might have gotten cold feet after seeing what was going on inside that company. As many of us know, the promises they make when you’re interviewing aren’t necessarily reality after you’re hired.

  3. qweryous says:

    Gallium nitride is probably the most important semiconductor material since silicon. It can be used to emit brilliant light in the form of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes, as well as being the key material for next generation high frequency, high power transistors capable of operating at high temperatures.


  4. greengiant says:

    The suicided individual is 90 percent probability killed by the Chinese and a 10 percent chance (snark on) Brennan had him killed as an imminent danger (snark off) IMHO. Read the articles, he was the only one in his company who was given sanctioned recipes for running the VEECO manufacturing equipment. Anyone with familiarity about the use of manufacturing equipment knows what that means.
    VEECO refused to transfer the recipes directly, but only to a US citizen attending their training course, putting the onus directly on him. The Chinese were using his company as a cut out, and his company used him as their cut out. He was killed a few days before his flight leaving Singapore.
    My recollection is transfer restrictions got way loose under Clinton and Bush. That there are still certain technologies like these that are limited is a data point in itself.
    There are probably hundreds or thousands of individuals/companies transferring proprietary information to outside entities at any point in time. This should be a wake up call for those dealing in military or intelligence tech.

  5. jawbone says:

    Local reports here in the NYC metro area state the drone was about 6 feet wide. Too large for the Parrot, I think. But it was id’d as having “four propellars.”

    So, who is playing with exactly what? And why….

    And, uh, 200 freakin’ feet from the air liner? And it was black, so possibly difficult to see. Yikes.

    If it is a private toy, just being that close may preclude anyone fessing up to controlling it. Also any gov’t controlled entity might be mighty embarrassed to be responsible for that kind of intrusion in flight paths.

  6. greengiant says:

    Regarding the drone, could well have been the drone was NYC, US or soon to be US and the drone contractor pilot or team was doing a cowboy operation with little or no thinking. Do the math, there have been thousands of drone flights in the US already for drone and drone appliance development.
    At first most if not all drone contracted pilots were real pilots not just flight simulator trained gameboys. Only a few of them would get near an airport flight path restricted area just like only a few of them fly under bridges.
    That suggests either the supposed NYC drone program/contractors/developers are wildly unsupervised or that some kind of rogue drone appliance developers were doing field testing in NY. The Bloomberg track record on terror security suggests the former is highly probable.
    On the other hand radio controlled toy planes must have at least a 2500 foot range?, and some come with some pretty big wingspans.

    google c130 radio controlled scale model pulls up videos of 110 inch wing span 4 engined model.

  7. jo6pac says:

    My former wife worked on this gallium nitride over 30yrs ago for an AT&T think tank. Then about 2 yrs later a small company in the Bay Area made a laptop with them, the company disappeared a few months later. They also tried growing this type chip on the shuttle a few times.

  8. geoschmidt says:

    One of my favorite movies was: ” Forbidden Planet”. where the theme is that a people (like we would aspire to be/futuristically speaking,) having developed the ability to “3D, print” all things needed, a… materializer simply provides whatever that would be requested.

    That came to a bad end, when the requested items, began to be hacked by a kind of more primitive aspect of the populace… Or if you didn’t see the movie, the subconscious… Id started to get in some licks! And the machine/tech thing started to provide monsters from the id.

    As to the way somebody looks prior to… doing the bad thing… I don’t think so, I bet the way pre suicide looks is not sad or down, it more likely is euphoric! Well just from my failed education I remember the statement from a Scitzoid/suicidal/patient, which was back in the day… when these things were recorded: (a patient, who was really down/depressed, asked to respond to some question…

    answered: “Well when I’m feeling a little better, I will kill myself”.

    PS: Are you looking at the Marshall murder in Calaveras co. Ca?

    PPS: Suicide is when one kills self, what a great cover, if you can make a murder look like… that! sheesh!

  9. geoschmidt says:


    /greengiant, excerpt from above:

    [“There are probably hundreds or thousands of individuals/companies transferring proprietary information to outside entities at any point in time. This should be a wake up call for those dealing in military or intelligence tech.”]

    Well to me, I see this trend of our corporate people to offshore our manufacturing as couse, or greed oriented/bottom line rationalized… etc… However, wasn’t that kind of thing rather frowned upon, in our not too distant past? Weren’t the Rosenbergs killed for doing the same damned thing?

    Or like Mit Nit said: “corporations are people my friend”

    These asshole corporat mfrs, should be rounded up… and that means they need to be Identified and classified, for the time… for that time… well… when, well when “too big” don’t fly!!!!!

    Again identify, classify, make the make on em…. they live on a street somewhere, they don’t pay taxes… somewhere… they… ain’t invulnerable… Kill the bums!

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