Physiognomy: Bunker Beckwitt!

Here’s a tragicomic, one-of-a-kind story of DIY urban prepping gone wrong.


Guy on the left: Eyes normal, lower lip more prominent than the upper and his curved eyebrows suggests sociability and willingness to please. Nose (I think) is not wide and flat, suggesting a weaker tribal orientation than normal for negroid. Hair & clothing is orderly so a tidy mind. Well-defined shoulders suggest he works out but not enough for arm hypertrophy. If he has a thin mustache then he’s slightly insecure about his masculinity. A decent guy, somewhat unremarkable.

On the right: Nice brainpan. His eyes and ears really stand out. Ears are tiny, suggesting he listens to himself much more than other peoples’ ideas. In most people, the right eye is slightly more recessed than the left because we’re slightly more on guard against our outside world than our inside world. But this guy, that’s inverted. He freaks himself out. Untreated acne suggests he’s a loner. Is he wearing a painting smock? Doctor’s outfit? His skin never sees daylight; that and a big brain suggests he’s a server jockey.

BETHESDA, Md. – A Maryland millionaire will soon be out on bond as he fights charges of “depraved heart” murder in a bizarre chain of events that led to a 21-year-old man’s death. News outlets report that a judge set day trader Daniel Beckwitt’s bail at $100,000 in the death of Askia Khafra.

Beckwitt had hired Khafra to dig tunnels beneath his Bethesda home. Prosecutors say the tunnels were supposed to be part of a bunker Beckwitt wanted to create because he was worried about nuclear war with North Korea.

In September, officers responding to a fire at Beckwitt’s residence found Khafra dead in the tunnels. His cause of death was listed as smoke inhalation and thermal injuries. …

CBS affiliate WUSA reports that according to court documents, the tunnels beneath Beckwitt’s home were discovered approximately 20 feet down from a hole cut into the basement’s concrete floor, and branch out approximately 200 feet in length.

The station also reports that court documents reveal Beckwitt told police he would pick Khafra up at his home in Silver Spring, Md., drive him to Manassas, Va., make him put on black-out sunglasses, and then drive back to Beckwitt’s home in Bethesda, Md. Beckwitt reportedly told Khafra that he was taking him to an undisclosed location in Virginia. Once in Beckwitt’s basement, Khafra was allowed to remove the glasses and would dig the tunnels for intervals of days at a time.

Montgomery County officials reportedly ordered the demolition of the home in January, saying that the tunnels threaten the “support and stability” of the home. And investigators said that the home had “hoarding conditions,” with the home containing human excrement, discarded items, saturated materials and piles of garbage.

These conditions, according to investigators, made escape from the home difficult as the hoarding conditions led to maze-like pathways throughout.

“The substantial electrical needs of the underground tunnel complex were served by a haphazard daisy-chain of extension cords and plug extenders that created a substantial risk of fire,” said Montgomery County Detective Michelle Smith in a court affidavit.

In March, Montgomery County sued Beckwitt and additional homeowner David Beckwitt after officials say they failed to safely demolish the home, as well as deal with the tunnels and hoarding.

There’s more in this followup article:

Hours before the fire, Khafra texted Beckwitt to warn him it smelled like smoke in the tunnels. Beckwitt flipped a breaker that turned off lights in the tunnels but turned the power back on after Khafra said he couldn’t see, Wink said.

Beckwitt ignored those “obvious signs” of danger, the prosecutor told a judge.

Wink said Beckwitt had a “paranoid fixation” on a possible nuclear attack by North Korea. Beckwitt’s lawyer compared his client’s concern to “the days of the Cuban missile crisis.”

Bonsib said Khafra posted photos of himself in the tunnels on social media, suggesting he was proud of the work.

“He kept coming back,” Bonsib said.

Beckwitt’s lawyer described him as a successful “day trader” who has made millions trading stocks. Dia Khafra said his son was impressed by Beckwitt’s wealth.

“I think Askia was very trusting,” he said. “He believed in the guy.”

Dia Khafra said he only met Beckwitt once, when he dropped off his son at their home. He seemed shy.

“He said he made his money off bitcoins,” Khafra recalled.

Beckwitt lived with his parents at the Bethesda house until college. He enrolled at the University of Illinois, where campus police arrested him in 2013 on charges including computer fraud. He was suspected of installing keystroke logging devices on the Urbana school’s computers. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation, according to online court records.

The conviction didn’t steer Beckwitt away from computers after he moved back to Maryland. In 2016, he spoke at a hacker convention using the alias “3AlarmLampscooter” and wearing a fire-resistant suit and visor that obscured his face.

Wink said Beckwitt was teaching his audience how to make thermite bombs to destroy computer data “in order to get away with hacking.”

Bonsib said his client’s use of a pseudonym and disguise was harmless, typical of the “weird things” people do on the internet.

County officials sued Beckwitt over his property’s condition, calling it unsafe and a “public nuisance.” Wooden boards now cover the doors and windows of the house, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence and police tape.

The NSA should pick this guy up fast. I once knew a security guard there, actually, who protected their code-crackers from terrorists and (mostly) themselves. They were freaks. One (actual) genius was nicknamed Spiderman because he rubbed along the wall while walking down the hallway. My friend joked, “How can you tell if your guy is an extrovert? He looks at YOUR shoes when he’s talking.”

A bit unkind but my friend didn’t mean it that way. High intelligence is good but sky-high intelligence interferes with your ability to be a normal human being. There’s a special class of manager at NSA that, basically, helps their best and brightest function in the real world. Sounds like Beckwitt.

That being said, Beckwitt didn’t make his fortune day-trading bitcoins. That’s bullshit ripped off headlines. I’m guessing family money combined with a sweet computer gig. I’ll also guess that Beckwitt is going to get an even sweeter gig thanks to publicity and paranoia.

I feel bad for Khafra. Too trusting. Cool assignment, I know why he’d dig a secret bomb shelter for a summer job but he ran past many red flags. Stupid kid. I was young and stupid once, too.

There’s a book about computer hackers that reminds me of Beckwitt. The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll. It’s an interesting true-crime read of one of California’s first serious cybercrimes. One thing you’ll learn from it is how real-deal computer geniuses are very “differently rational”, including the author.


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