Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Washington Times Review of 'Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the KU Klux Klan And The Man Who Masterminded America's First War On Terror'

The Washington Times published my review of Charles Lane’s Freedom’s Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror.

Hiram Coombs Whitley, the chief of the U.S. Secret Service under President Ulysses S. Grant, was brave and public-service-minded, yet he was also opportunistic and even, at times, criminal.

Charles Lane, a columnist for The Washington Post, offers a portrait of a man who played a major role in combating the Ku Klux Klan and major counterfeiters in the post-Civil War era. 

Mr. Lane’s “Freedom’s Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror” takes us back to a contentious time in the South after the Civil War, as well as further north to Washington, D.C., with its political battles, and to New York City with its criminal gangs.

The book deals with the post-Civil War Secret Service, before the federal law enforcement organization was a presidential protective service, and its role in combating the terror of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mr. Lane tells us that Whitley left his home on the Ohio frontier while still a teenager, and he worked on fishing boats out of Gloucester, Massachusetts; slung hash at a makeshift Kansas restaurant; traded sugar and molasses on the Red River of Louisiana; and served as a Union Army officer in New Orleans during the Civil War, and later served as a federal law officer.

“Through these experiences, Whitley had formed an appreciation for the American wilderness and the physical challenges it presented. He had grown from a skinny, bowlegged kid into a sinewy thirty-seven-year-old man, with piercing blue eyes, high cheekbones, and a vaguely menacing dark brown goatee,” Mr. Lane writes. “He had developed the skills with horses and firearms that helped make him useful to the government; he arrived at the Staunton River not only as a representative of the Treasury Department, but also as a deputy United States Marshal, carrying a sheaf of blank warrants authorizing him to arrest any violator of the tax law he might encounter. More than that, he had developed a thoroughly jaded view of human nature, and how it could be manipulated to his advantage, honestly, if possible — but through deception if necessary, and convenient.”

Mr. Lane describes the turmoil in Southern states after the Civil War, the politics and effects of Reconstruction, and the hostile views of most white Southerners toward the newly freed African Americans. He also offers a history of the early Ku Klux Klan, and how a former Confederate cavalry officer named Nathan Bedford Forrest took over the Klan and converted its sporadic violence into an organized terror campaign.

When Grant became president, counterfeiters flooded the nation with fake bills, many made in Canada and smuggled South. Hiram Whitley, with his record of battling moonshiners and the Ku Klux Klan, became the chief of the Secret Service and took on the counterfeiters.

Mr. Lane describes the Secret Services’ investigations of major counterfeiters, as well as the Ku Klux Klan. Whitley assigned his detectives to assume fictitious identities and infiltrate both counterfeiting gangs and the Klan, often with success. He was granted extraordinary powers and autonomy, and he made great strides against criminals, but not all were happy with his semi-clandestine national police force and his questionable investigative methods.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: 

FBI: Booklet Lists Observable Indicators Of Potential Violent Extremists

The FBI released the below information:
A list of nearly four dozen observable behavioral signs that someone might be planning to commit an act of extremist violence is contained in a newly updated publication released by the country’s foremost counterterrorism organizations. 
Homegrown violent Mobilization Indicators, 2019 Edition, produced by the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Homeland Security, contains a broad list of 46 behavioral indicators listed in color-coded groupings of how clearly the indicators might demonstrate an individual’s likelihood of engaging in terrorist activity. The booklet updates a prior version published in 2017.
The agencies authored the updated publication to help law enforcement—and the public at large—recognize potentially dangerous behaviors as the U.S. faces a heightened threat from homegrown violent extremists.
“The booklet provides our partners with tools to identify concerning behavior so that it can be responsibly reported to law enforcement,” said Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. “We can’t be everywhere. We count on our partners to identify threats in their communities.”
The booklet, published on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, describes each of the behavioral indicators, organized by how easily they can be diagnosed. For example, observing someone prepare a martyrdom video could be diagnosed on its own as a mobilization indicator, while seeing an individual conduct suspicious financial transactions would be considered “minimally diagnostic” and would require other observable indicators to meet a diagnostic threshold.
The publication emphasizes that many of the indicators may involve constitutionally protected activities. But observed together, the behaviors may raise suspicions and merit reporting to authorities.
“It’s an indispensable tool in our efforts to leverage all available resources to identify terrorists before they conduct deadly attacks,” said Matthew Alcoke, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. 
Other criteria include categories of behaviors, the people who are most likely to observe them, and the time-sensitivity of potential concerns (i.e., imminent, near-term, or long-term).
The booklet encourages people to take a holistic view of situations and to put the mobilization indicators into context.
“It is important to consider the totality of circumstances when observing potential indicators, as some factors may increase the risk of violence in a given situation,” the booklet states. Risk factors that may raise additional concerns include a potential subject’s inability to cope with change or perceived failures, a history of violence, social isolation, and possession of weapons or explosives.
Last month, a Syrian man living in Pittsburgh was arrested by an FBI joint Terrorism Task Force on charges related to his alleged plot to bomb a church in the name of ISIS, a foreign terrorist group based in the Middle East. Among other things, the subject allegedly distributed propaganda materials for his cause and recorded a video of himself pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS—observable mobilization indicators of imminent or near-term concern, according to the indicators booklet.
An FBI analysis shows that in recent years, about one in four internationally inspired terrorism plots here in the U.S. was disrupted with the help of tips from community leaders and the public. Matthew Aken, a special agent in the FBI’s Springfield Field Office, said the updated publication is an effective tool for educating the Bureau’s partners in law enforcement and the communities where they serve.
“It allows our partners to educate themselves concerning extremist behavior,” he said, “and assists them to make an informed decision on a potential international terrorism-inspired extremist and how to report it to law enforcement.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At The James Bond Film, 'License To Kill'

Thirty years ago, in July of 1989, the James Bond film, License To Kill, starring Timothy Dalton as Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond, premiered. 

License To Kill was the 16th film in the series and the first film not to use the title of an Ian Fleming novel or short story.

Although to me, Sean Connery is James Bond, as an advertisement once proclaimed, I thought Timothy Dalton was very good as James Bond, and I rate him as the second-best Bond. 

He replaced Sir Roger Moore, whom I loved as The Saint on TV in the 1960s when I was a teenage, but I didn’t care for his casual humor and lighthearted approach to Bond. The Roger Moore-Bond films were well made, profitable and popular, but the films in the 1970s went from being thrillers with a touch of humor to action-comedy films. (To be fair, Sean Connery’s Diamonds Are Forever started this trend in 1971).  

Although Dalton lacked Connery’s √©lan, his big cat-like movements, and his mischievous comedic quips, Dalton looked like Ian Fleming’s James Bond; tall, dark, dangerous, handsome and athletic. 

Dalton was and is a serious actor. He reread all the Ian Fleming novels and then attempted to portray Ian Fleming's Bond. I think he largely succeeded. He portrayed Bond on the big screen as serious, quiet, cold, sardonic, tough and ruthless. 

Except for a few silly bits, I thought The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film, was a good thriller. I liked License To Kill even more. I liked that the film makers used passages from Ian Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die that were not used in the Roger Moore film based on that novel. 

License To Kill offered the bait shop passage and the brutal mauling of Bond’s friend, Felix Leiter. Like the novel, Leiter lost a part of his leg and part of his arm when he was fed to a shark.

Still alive, barely, he was left bleeding with a note attached to him that read, "He disagreed with something that eat him,” one of the rare bits of dark humor found in Ian Fleming’s novels.   

Dalton’s Bond was ruthless. He killed bad guys in cold blood and he held a gun to one woman in the film and a knife to the throat of another. 

I also liked Robert Davi’s portrayal of Franz Sanchez, the drug lord villain in License To Kill. 

Although the character was created by the screenwriters and not Ian Fleming, I thought Sanchez was close to the type of villains Fleming employed. Murderous, vicious and a bit crazed, Davi is one of the best villains since the Sean Connery-Bond films from the 1960s. 

The supporting cast is also very good, including the two women in the film, Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto, who offer strong performances as well as being very attractive. The other good supporting cast includes Anthony Zerbe as a criminal associate to Davi, and a nasty young Benicio Del Toro as Davi's henchman. David Hedison portrays Leiter, repeating the role he portrayed in Live and Let Die, and Desmond Llewellyn gives an expanded performance as "Q" as he aids Bond' in the field.   

“Being part of the most successful series of films in history and playing the main villain was – let’s face it – pretty remarkable,” Davi said to Fox News. “As a kid, you either wanted to play Bond or a Bond villain. Ask any of my friends in entertainment, whether they are actors or writers or producers or directors, and they will tell you that they’d love to play a Bond baddie. I can go anywhere in the world and I am known, it put me on the international map.”

“Ian created a character that is mythical and has become part of the pop culture iconic consciousness. I said in interviews at the time, that he is Shakespearean! ‘License To Kill’ dealt with a drug lord, and the real threat that is posed by such power,” Davi said. “I remember producer Michael Wilson researching this world diligently and this subject is as timely today as it was when the film was made. It is this approach to films that helps make them continually relevant.”

I like the exchange between Bond and Sanchez when Bond offers his services to Sanchez, stating that he helps people with problems.

“Oh, a problem solver?” Sanchez asked.

“More of a problem eliminator,” Bond responded coldly. 

Sadly, the making of Bond films was suspended for six years due to legal battles and Dalton elected not to return when the producers resumed production.

Only recently has Dalton explained why he left the series after the legal dispute was resolved and production on a new Bond film was about to begin.

Speaking with The Week, Dalton said: “Cubby Broccoli asked if I would come back, and I said, ‘Well, I've actually changed my mind a little bit. I think that I'd love to do one. Try and take the best of the two that I have done and consolidate them into a third.’” Dalton continued. 

“And he said, quite rightly, ‘Look, Tim. You can't do one. There's no way, after a five-year gap between movies that you can come back and just do one. You'd have to plan on four or five.’ 

“And I thought, ‘Oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long.’ So, I respectfully declined.”

Sadly, Timothy Dalton did not return as Bond.  

James Bond fans should take a second look at Timothy Dalton License To Kill

I believe it is one of the best Bond films.

The Spy Who Kept The Cold War From Boiling Over: Double Agent Dmitri Polyakov Was One Of The Cold War’s Greatest Spies—And Likely The Most Damaging Mole In The history Of Soviet Intelligence. looks back at the double agent known as “Top Hat.” 

In 1984, U.S. spies monitoring the Soviet press found an alarming piece in a Russian magazine. It wasn’t an expose on officials in the Soviet Union or a worrying account about Cold War attitudes toward the United States. Rather, it was a recipe for coot, a small water bird that’s common in Eastern Europe.
For CIA officials, that meant trouble. They had long had an agreement with a Russian double agent they called TOP HAT—if he wanted to get in touch with them, he’d indicate it by publishing the recipe. Was TOP HAT in danger?
As it turns out, yes. Soon after, America’s most valuable spy, Dmitri Polyakov, fell off the map entirely. For nearly 25 years, the Soviet military intelligence officer had served as the United States’ most trusted resource on the Soviet military, providing reams of intelligence and becoming a legend in the process.
Polyakov’s documents and tips informed U.S. strategy in China during the Cold War and helped the U.S. military determine how to deal with Soviet-era weapons. And Polyakov was credited with keeping the Cold War from boiling over by giving the United States secrets that gave it an inside view of Soviet priorities.
But was Polyakov a double agent…or a triple one who kept the U.S. on an IV drip of false tips and misinformation? And what happened to him after his sudden disappearance?
Polyakov was born in what is now Ukraine in 1921. After serving in World War II, he was recruited by the GRU, the USSR’s military intelligence agency. He wasn’t the type of man anyone would peg as a spy—the son of a bookkeeper, he was an unassuming father who did carpentry projects in his spare time. On the surface, he was a dutiful worker and a reliable GRU asset. But as he rose through the ranks of the agency, following protocol and living a seemingly routine life, he began to work to undermine the USSR itself.
At the time, the GRU had agents all around the world, and was tasked with learning everything possible about American life, priorities, and military assets. The United States did the same thing with the USSR, but had a harder time because of the absolute secrecy that ruled Soviet intelligence. 
Until Polyakov offered himself to the CIA as a double agent, that is. At the time, he was stationed at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations in New York. Though Polyakov was fiercely loyal to the USSR, he was increasingly disgusted by what he saw as the corruption and impending failure of Soviet leaders. So he offered his services to the United States. 
You can read the rest of the story via the below link: 

Monday, July 15, 2019

FBI: Airport Terrorist Sentenced - Canadian Man Stabbed Michigan Airport Police Officer In 2017

The FBI released the below information:
When a Canadian man stabbed an airport police officer in the neck at the airport in Flint, Michigan, investigators worked quickly to find out all they could. Why did he do this? Why Flint? Was anyone helping him?
The victim was saved by other officers and a Bishop International Airport employee on the scene. The attacker, later identified as Amor M. Ftouhi, a 51-year-old Tunisian native who had lived for years in Canada, was immediately arrested.
Working closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and its Joint Terrorism Task Force pieced together information about Ftouhi’s life and the days leading up to the June 21, 2017 attack. Agents fanned out across the country and reviewed surveillance footage from locations Ftouhi had visited in the U.S. The RCMP searched Ftouhi’s home and computer. FBI linguists spent months translating the information Canadian authorities found.
Investigators learned that Ftouhi had financial and family struggles back in Canada, and he had viewed anti-Western videos online.
“Things were not going well for him in his life, and he decided to take his jihad to a different level,” said FBI Special Agent Todd Reineck, who worked the case out of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office.
Investigators found that Ftouhi had looked into how to purchase a gun in the United States and thought Michigan would be the best place for him to buy one. Ftouhi had also carefully researched how to use a gun, and he specifically had an interest in targeting police.
A few days before the attack, Ftouhi left his wife and children behind in Canada and came to the United States, crossing the border in New York before driving to Michigan. Once he arrived in Michigan, Ftouhi repeatedly tried to buy an assault rifle, but he was turned down each time because he was not a U.S. citizen.
Instead, Ftouhi bought a knife and searched his phone’s GPS for the nearest international airport—which happened to be Bishop International in Flint. He canvassed the airport, learning where the police officers were stationed. The next day, Ftouhi went back to the airport and carried out the attack. He approached the police officer, dropped his backpack, pulled out a knife, and repeatedly stabbed the victim.
“His goal was to kill law enforcement or the military, and he told us even if he killed innocent people, Ftouhi thought that was okay,” Reineck said.
Coincidentally there was a meeting of local law enforcement happening in an airport conference room, just a few feet from where the officer had been stabbed. Ftouhi had no opportunity to get away.

Ftouhi told police he worked alone, and investigators found no evidence of anyone helping him. He was convicted of terrorism charges in November 2018 and sentenced to life in prison in April 2019.
Reineck and the investigative team got to know the victim officer over the course of the investigation. They credit the officer himself, as well as an airport maintenance worker who rushed to save him, as the true heroes.
“A lot of guys here in the office now consider him a friend,” Reineck said, noting many in the FBI office already knew the officer from the local law enforcement community. “We’ve gone through this process with him, and we know he’s relieved that it’s over. There’s a sense of relief and that justice was served.” 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Little Humor: The Red Neck And The Saw

A red neck walks into a hardware store and asks for a saw that will help him cutdown 6 trees in one hour. 

The salesman recommends the top of the line chain saw model. 

The red neck is suitably impressed and buys it.

The next day he brings it back and says, “This saw is defective. It would only cut down one tree and it took all the gosh-darned day!”

The salesman takes the chain saw, starts it up to see what’s wrong, and the red neck asks, 

“What’s that noise?” 

Note: The above photo is of comedian Larry the Cable Guy 

Former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, Sr., Resentenced To 10 Years Of Incarceration For Corruption Convictions

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below information:
PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that former U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah (seen in the above photo), Sr., 62, of Philadelphia, PA was resentenced to 10 years of incarceration by United States District Judge Harvey Bartle, III. 
After a month-long trial in 2016, a federal jury found defendant Fattah and various co-defendants guilty of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, honest services wire fraud conspiracy, mail fraud conspiracy, and multiple counts of mail fraud, falsification of records, mortgage fraud, and false statements to a financial institution.  The criminal conduct of Fattah and his racketeering enterprise was organized around five corruption and fraud schemes:  a loan repayment scheme, a Blue Guardians scheme, a college tuition scheme, a mortgage fraud scheme, and a fake conference scheme.  For his role in these schemes, Fattah was sentenced after trial to 10 years of incarceration.
Both parties appealed.  With regard to Fattah’s appeal, the Court of Appeals remanded for a new trial as to certain bribery and money laundering counts, concluding that the jury had not been properly instructed regarding “official acts” in a bribery context.  (The government thereafter announced its intention not to retry those counts.)  With regard to the government’s cross-appeal, the Court of Appeals reinstated certain counts that had been dismissed by the District Court post-trial.   The case was then remanded for resentencing.  Today, for these additional counts, Fattah was again sentenced to 10 years of incarceration.
“Let today serve as a warning to all public officials who allow greed or a thirst for influence to overpower any desire to serve the community honestly,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams.  “If you are a corrupt official, we will investigate and convict you, and we will remain steadfast behind our prosecution until the last appeal is wrapped up and the final proceeding complete.  Today’s sentencing illustrates the strength of our original case and the need to put Chaka Fattah behind bars for a very long time.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General, the NASA Office of Inspector General, the Department of Education Office of Inspector General, the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric L. Gibson and Paul L. Gray.  Jonathan Kravis, former Trial Attorney with the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, also prosecuted this matter.