CIA Code Expert Found Dead on Palm Springs Trail

NBC Los Angeles
Jul 25, 2009

A Central Intelligence Agency employee who died on a trail near Palm Springs was identified Saturday as a 64-year-old Fort Collins, Colo., resident.

Robert Allen Liebler was found dead on a trail about 100 feet west of West Arenas Road and South Tahquitz Drive about 11 a.m. Sunday amid 100-degree-plus heat, according to a coroner's spokesman.

Liebler was a Colorado State University professor and CIA communications expert, who had been working in the Palm Springs area, the Desert Sun reported.

Liebler, who had a doctorate from the University of Michigan, specialized in discrete mathematics and did security work for the U.S. government, a friend and former colleague, Ben Manvel, told the newspaper.

Liebler worked for the "brains branch" of the CIA, developing secret codes for stealth communication, he said.

Liebler, reported missing Saturday, was in Palm Springs working with a local think tank, Manvel said. He began his hike up the Carl Lykken Trail with a friend about 3:45 a.m. Saturday. About three hours later, he told the friend he was cramping up and headed back.

Liebler and his hiking partner were going to meet a group of about 15 other people who had taken the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the top of Mount San Jacinto, according to police.

Liebler's body was found about 75 feet off the nearest trail.

Another body was found along a trail in a same general vicinity about two hours earlier, but that man's has not been made public. His decomposing body was found west of Museum Drive and north of Belardo Road. Though coroner's investigators think they know who he is, they have been unable to positively identify him yet through dental records or fingerprints.

"The state of the remains don't allow identification by photos," a deputy coroner said. "We're identifying him by other means."

In the past six months, four bodies have been recovered from the shadeless terrain above Palm Springs.

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