Monday, September 1, 2014

Thriller Writer And Gun Expert Stephen Hunter Looks At Ferguson Shooting

Stephen Hunter, author of the thriller series that features former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger,  offers his take on the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri at

So much has been written about the incident at Ferguson, Missouri, that it’s remarkable none of it is of any use. So let’s try something new.

My idea is to look at the shooting as a shooting, not as an avatar of social malaise, a tragedy or an inevitability. Instead, let’s determine what can be learned from the few facts known and considered incontrovertible. I am no expert but I do know a little about this stuff.  

The four shots that hit Michael Brown in the right arm, according to autopsy drawing provided by Dr. Michael Baden at the insistence of Brown’s own parents, penetrated the outside, leading edge of that limb, just inside the bone. Thus it seems unlikely that those shots, assuming they came directly from in front, could have penetrated the arm at those locations while maintaining a front-to-rear angle.

Try this simple test. Raise your arms. In that position, examine which surface of your arm is vulnerable to frontally incoming gunshots. Clearly, it is the inside, unless you torque your arms inward in order to make the outsides vulnerable to incoming shots, an inconceivable notion.

As I see it, Brown’s arms were not up when he was shot, at least four of the six times.

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

FBI: Corruption In A Small Texas Town - Investigation Dismantles Family-Run Criminal Operation

The FBI web site offers the below piece:
Public corruption arrests and convictions in major metropolitan areas usually garner a great deal of national attention. But big cities don’t have a monopoly on crooked politicians—they can be found anywhere.

Like Progreso, Texas, a small town a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. For almost a decade—from 2004 to 2013—several members of the same family, all Progreso government officials, used their positions to exact bribes and kickbacks from city and school district service providers. Through their illegal activities, they distorted the contract playing field, cheated the very citizens they purported to serve, stole education money from the children whose educations they were supposed to ensure, and lined their own pockets in the process.

Until the FBI got wind of what was going on, that is, and opened a case. Our investigation—which included confidential sources, undercover scenarios, financial record examinations, and witness interviews—collected plenty of evidence of wrongdoing and ultimately led to guilty pleas by the defendants. And on August 11, 2014, they were all sentenced to federal prison terms.

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Notorious Cold War Spy John Walker Dies In Prison

Denise M. Watson at the Virginian-Pilot offers a piece on the death of Cold War spy John Walker.

John A. Walker Jr, the mastermind who for years operated one of America’s most devastating spy rings out of Norfolk, has died.

Walker, 77, was fewer than nine months away from his expected release from federal prison in Butner, N.C. He had been sentenced in 1986 to two life terms, plus 10 years, but his actual prison stay was to have been much shorter because of federal parole guidelines at the time.

He died Thursday, according to prison officials. He had suffered health issues in recent years, including throat cancer.

For 18 years, Walker sold U.S. secrets to the Soviets, both as a cryptologist in the Navy and after he retired. He eventually enlisted espionage help from his brother Arthur; his son, Michael; and a Navy friend, Jerry Whitworth. Arthur Walker died last month.

The security breach was considered one of the biggest in the nation’s history.

Robert Hunter, the FBI agent who arrested John Walker, described the ring’s leader as one of the most treacherous men he’d ever met.

“I think the man was pure evil,” said Hunter, who is retired and living in Virginia Beach.

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

You can also read my On Espionage column on John Walker via the below links:

Note: The above photo of John Walker was provided by the FBI.

Army General Votel Takes Charge of Special Operations Command

Claudette Roulo at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2014 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today presided over the U.S. Special Operations Command change of command ceremony in Tampa, Florida, where Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III (seen in his offical DoD photo above) assumed command from Navy Adm. William H. McRaven.

McRaven, who's served as the command's chief since Aug. 8, 2011, has been named as the next chancellor of the University of Texas. Votel most recently served as commander of Joint Special Operations Command. A full account of McRaven's career has yet to be written, Hagel said in his prepared remarks. "When it is, it will have to be heavily redacted," he joked. "But his legacy in the special operations community is already secure. He is a warrior-leader that generations of special operators from across the branches of service will strive to emulate," Hagel said.
 Career milestones McRaven (seen in his official DoD photo above) has been deeply intertwined with the history of special operations in this country, the defense secretary said. "He helped establish and was in the first graduating class of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict curriculum at the Naval Postgraduate School," Hagel said of McRaven.

"He literally wrote the book on special operations -- I'm told that his graduate school thesis at one point outranked even Clausewitz on Amazon's list of military strategy bestsellers. "As the commander for special operations in Europe, he was the driving force behind the creation of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre," the defense secretary continued, "and under his leadership, the Joint Special Operations Command carried out perhaps the most important mission in their history -- hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden."

Socom's transition

McRaven led the special operations community as it transitioned from the era of post-9/11 conflicts and into confronting the next generation of dynamic, dispersed, and networked challenges, Hagel said. "Special operators have long been the vanguard of our military's global engagement, epitomizing the kind of far-reaching work that our military will be called upon to do in the future," the defense secretary said. "What special operators do every day not only helps make America safer, it also directly contradicts the uninformed and false narrative that the United States is pulling back from the world,"

Hagel said. Special operations forces deployed into more than 150 countries under McRaven's command, he noted. "In fact, Socom and the entire U.S. military are more engaged internationally than ever before -- in more places and with a wider variety of missions," the defense secretary added.

Special operations missions under McRaven included delivering life-saving relief after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, Hagel said. "They helped Peruvian forces successfully target two senior members of the Shining Path rebel group. They're working with African partners to help counter the terrorist activities of Boko Haram," he said.

In Iraq, special operations forces are helping strengthen Iraqi security forces in their fight against terrorist forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the defense secretary noted. "And in Eastern Europe, they are reinforcing NATO allies in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine," he said.

A more agile force

During his time in command, McRaven organized Socom's forces to be more agile, flexible and responsive, Hagel said. "He has better integrated Socom with the geographic combatant commands, and issued the first-ever Global Campaign Plan for Special Operations," he said. "He has deepened our relationships abroad, working more closely with allies and partners to better anticipate and counter threats. "

As a testament to the growing demand for special operators," the defense secretary continued, "Socom has grown by almost 8,000 people over the past three years -- and its growth will continue even as other parts of our military draw down.". Repeated deployments have dealt the special operations community a heavy burden, Hagel said, but McRaven and his wife Georgeann have worked tirelessly to help alleviate some of the strain. "[McRaven] established initiatives to address the physical and mental well-being of his force, offer support to family members, and provide more predictability on deployments.

He modified Socom's definition of readiness to include families as a vital part of the equation, something the entire Department of Defense can learn from," he said. And Georgeann has been a consistent advocate for special operations families, personally supporting many of these important initiatives, the defense secretary said. "The McRavens live by the [special operations] community's saying ... 'Our people are more important than our hardware,'" Hagel added.

Incoming commander

Votel is a worthy successor to McRaven, the defense secretary said. "[His] quiet, decisive leadership -- combining both operational and strategic expertise -- is precisely what this command will need as we confront the next generation of threats to our national security," Hagel said.

Both men know that an institution is only as strong as its people, Hagel said before thanking the special operations community for their sacrifices, particularly over the past 13 years. "Your skill, your agility and your dedication are what make you so often the force of choice for our highest priority missions," the defense secretary said. "And a special thank-you to your families, who make untold sacrifices and never get the amount of recognition and appreciation they deserve."

"In a complicated and combustible world, this community is a precious national asset," Hagel said. "All Americans are inspired by your strength, determination, and devotion to duty."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elmore Leonard Shoots His Way Into The Library Of America

Neely Tucker at the Washington Post offers a piece on the late great Elmore Leonard's novels published by the Library of America.

The new Library of America volume of four Elmore Leonard novels from the 1970s has a winner on just about every page.

Flipping . . . let’s see . . . here.

From "Fifty-Two Pickup": Harry Mitchell’s lawyer is asking him about his mistress, an affair for which he’s being blackmailed:

“You score that night?”

“Jim, we were having a nice time, that’s all. I didn’t even think about it.”

“Well, when did you start thinking about it?”

“I guess when I saw her without any clothes on.”

“That could do it.”

See that deadpan thing? In the middle of murderous blackmail?

That’s not easy, brother. Maybe in one line, one book. But to build dozens of violent crime novels based on character, not plot, with a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, often as funny as it is frightening?
It didn’t do anything less than change (and elevate) the way the modern American crime novel is written, and today Leonard’s influence is everywhere from the films of Quentin Tarantino to FX’s hit series "Justified". The release of the book on which it was based — one year after Leonard died at 87 — coincides with the opening Friday of “Life of Crime," starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins, which is based on "The Switch," also included in this edition.

... It should serve as a reminder of both the depth and longevity of Leonard’s career that only seven authors have more volumes dedicated to their work by the Library — including Henry James, Mark Twain, Philip Roth, William Faulkner and Edith Wharton. The Library, a nonprofit organization founded in 1979, publishes its distinctive black-jacketed volumes to preserve the nation’s “best and most significant writing.”

Gods of crime and mystery, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, each have two volumes.

“He’s the giant figure who looms in the second half of the 20th century” in crime fiction, says Max Rudin, Library of America’s publisher. “He’s the one who recharged the American crime novel.”

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Elmore Leonard via the below link:

Footage From Secret Meeting Reveals Spread Of Calabrian ’Ndrangheta Mafia Into Switzerland And Germany

Tony Patterson at the British newspaper the Independent offers a piece on the Italian gangsters operating in Switzerland.

The scene could have been lifted straight from The Godfather. In a dimly lit restaurant back room, 14 thickset men sit huddled around a table listening attentively to their boss as he lectures them on the importance of dignity, honour, respect – and extortion.

Yet the sinister meeting is not from Hollywood. It is real life – a gathering of the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta gun and drugs Mafia held recently in the small Swiss town of Frauenfeld, north of Zurich. The event was clandestinely filmed by Swiss and Italian police during a two-year investigation.

“You can work in everything – extortion, cocaine, heroin,” insists the Mafia boss as he welcomes what are believed to be new recruits to his criminal organisation. “There is everything, 10 kilos, 20 kilos a day. I will bring it to you personally but then I don’t want to know anything more about it.”

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FBI: Investment Con Man Pleads Guilty

The FBI web site offers the below piece:

It’s an age-old scam: A smooth-talking individual offers an amazing investment opportunity—with promises of large returns—that turns out to be completely bogus. But because there are always people willing to accept these kinds of claims at face value and hand over their hard-earned money, it’s a scam that continues to be effective.

Consider a recent case in Orange County, California, where just-convicted David Rose duped more than 75 doctors and dentists from around the country into shelling out more than two million dollars for him to invest in companies involved in researching and developing emerging medical technologies. But the investment money, despite what he promised, never made it any further than Rose’s own bank accounts.

From at least March 2005 to around May 2011, Rose solicited mainly doctors to invest money with him through his company, M.D. Venture Partners. In many instances, he recruited investors by placing ads in medical publications, but he also got additional business through referrals from doctors who had already signed with him.

In his promotional material and in conversations and e-mails with prospective clients, Rose claimed that investor funds would be pooled and used to invest in companies developing new medical technology—an area that of course was of great interest to physicians. Rose even prepared for each client a private placement memorandum (PPM), a document commonly used in investments that fully lays out how invested funds will be used and what the risks are. The PPM also stated that Rose would receive a 2.5 percent “management fee.”

To keep his clients engaged in the scam, Rose periodically consulted with them to solicit their medical expertise and bounce ideas off them. But they never saw any return on their investment.

In 2011, he began another scam, this one involving recruiting dentists and orthodontists into giving money to his new company, Technology Innovation Partners. He claimed that their funds would be pooled and invested in a company developing technology that would remove wisdom teeth in children without surgery. Like his previous scam, Rose targeted a certain group of people and relied heavily on referrals. He tapped into the medical expertise of his investors to keep stringing them along. He also prepared phony PPMs for his clients—only this time, he upped his “management fee” to 10 percent.

But by 2013, after several complaints to the FBI from his victims—the Bureau began investigating Rose and his investment activities. And through numerous interviews with victims and other witnesses and detailed examinations of Rose’s financial records—tracking where the money actually went—we were able to gather enough evidence for a federal indictment against him.

Where did investors’ money end up? Investigators found that Rose used it to rent pricey homes in California and purchase an $80,000 powerboat, luxury vehicles, expensive jewelry, college tuitions, and even shares of stock in a professional football team.

If you are contemplating investing your hard-earned money, here are a few tips to help you do it as safely as possible:
  • Be extremely cautious about unsolicited offers to invest.
  • Don’t believe everything you’re told. Take the time to do your own research on the investment’s potential and on the person making the offer.
  • Be wary of investment opportunities that offer unusually high yields.
  • Check with a trusted financial adviser, broker, or attorney about any investments you are considering.