Monday, March 19, 2018

Ignatius: Time for Putin Payback

It was no surprise that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was reelected for another six years, as there is no doubt that the election was truly rigged.

With the brazen attempted nerve agent murder of a former GRU colonel and defector in the United Kingdom and other outrageous acts around the world, the former KGB officer and Russian president is due for a bit of payback, says Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (seen in the below photo), author of The Quantum Spy and other fine spy thrillers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC's Megyn Kelly this month that in using power, you "must be ready to go all the way to achieve the goals." Now, it seems, Putin has gone all the way too far.

Putin's aggressive use of covert action to settle scores hit an international tripwire after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the quiet British cathedral town of Salisbury. An outraged Britain was joined Thursday by France, Germany and America in condemning the murderous use of the banned Soviet-era toxin known as Novichok.

A joint statement denounced the attack as "the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War" and called it "a breach of international law" that comes "against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior." That strong language warrants action by NATO and the U.N..

The Trump administration, after a year of mealy-mouthed, temporizing statements, also announced sanctions Thursday against Russia's "malicious cyberattacks." The sanctions, targeting five Russian organizations and 19 people, will have little practical effect beyond those already in place. What matters is that President Trump finally seems to have ended his dubious defense of Putin. "It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it," he said of the poisoning. "We're taking it very seriously."

So how can the U.S. and its closest allies alter Putin's behavior, if they're truly serious about holding Russia to account? The answer, say several former senior CIA officials, is to use America's network of alliances to put Russia under strain. Putin has been playing a weak hand well, but the high cards remain in Western hands.

Russia's greatest vulnerability is its dependence on sales of oil and gas. Here, the U.S. is uniquely positioned for payback.

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

Note: My Q&A with David Ignatius will appear in the upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Deep Undercover: Former Legendary FBI Undercover Agent Joseph Pistone Introduces Netflix True Crime Series

I met and interviewed legendary former FBI undercover agent Joseph Pistone (seen in the above and below photos) some years ago and I wrote a Crime Beat column about him.

Pistone infiltrated the New York Cosa Nostra Bonanno organized crime family for six years posing as jewel thief Donnie Brasco. He wrote a book about his amazing experiences and a popular film based on his book, Donnie Brasco, starred Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Donnie Brasco is considered to be one of the most realistic organized crime films.

Now Joseph Pistone introduces stories of other undercover cops and agents who brought down drug kingpins and other criminals in the Netflix series, Deep Undercover. 

You can watch the dramatic and interesting series via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column about Joe Pistone via the below link: 

And you can watch a documentary about Joe Pistone’s undercover operation via the below link:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nominee For Top NSA Post Shares Views With Senators At Confirmation Hearing

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ibarra at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2018 — President Donald J. Trump’s nominee to serve as the next director of the National Security Agency today promised to defend the nation and secure the future as he testified before lawmakers during his confirmation hearing here.

Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone (seen in the above official photo), the commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, spoke before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is considering his nomination to succeed retiring Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers as NSA director.

Ensuring Security

“The safeguard of our national secrets, the safeguard of our capabilities is one of the most important things the next director will continue to address,” Nakasone said, “My intent is to look to ensure the security of the enterprise and the security of the network initiatives that NSA has undertaken to date are timely, are accurate, are on target to ensure that we continue to have the safeguard of our national treasures,” he said.

He emphasized two elements that will help ensure national security.

The first focus, he said, is “continuing to hire great people that work at the NSA, not only hiring them, but also training them, developing them and ensuring that their long-term careers with the NSA are well-tended-to.”

Secondly, he said, the agency needs to continue to look at control mechanisms to provide the ability to safeguard networks and secure the environment.

If confirmed to the post, Nakasone will assume the current dual-hat arrangement of leading both U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA.

Strong Public-Private Partnership

The general emphasized the importance of working with the private sector on technology to secure the future and to continue to attract the best and the brightest to serve.

“If confirmed, I know that a strong public-private partnership will be needed to ensure this country benefits from the leading-edge technology being developed and implemented today and into the future,” Nakasone said, adding that the agency’s mission and technological advances are what sets the NSA apart from the public sector and helps to attract young talent.

“We have to continue broad abilities to continue to recruit from a very diverse population -- academia, and industry, [and] within inside our government,” Nakasone said, noting he admires the agency’s ability to look at a broad range of capabilities, including people who have disabilities, and to provide the necessary infrastructure that will support them.

Securing the Future

Nakasone addressed security concerns ranging from Russian and Chinese cyber threats to private-sector encryption platforms to soldiers wearing geolocation devices. He also touched on insider threats and how to reconsider looking at networks, data and weapons systems.

“Ten, 15, 20 years ago, we were concerned about what we said on phones. Today we’re concerned about what our soldiers wear, where they’re talking, where they’re able to be monitored,” he said. “This is indicative of how we have to approach the future. We are technologically informed -- we also have to be informed for operational security as well.”   

The Ugliest Man In Hollywood: On This Day in History Comedian Shemp Howard, One Of the Three Stooges, Was Born

Born on this day in 1895 was Shemp Howard. The American actor and comedian, one of the Three Stooges, was born in Brooklyn, New York. 

Howard, whose real name was Samuel Horwitz, died in 1955.  

TCM offers a piece on the late, great funny man.

Once described as "The Ugliest Man in Hollywood" as part of a publicity stunt concocted by his agent, comic actor Shemp Howard was an integral member of The Three Stooges for more than 70 films. Receiving his start on the vaudeville circuit, Shemp performed with his brother Moe and violinist Larry Fine alongside popular comedian Ted Healy on Broadway and in the two-reel short "Soup to Nuts" (1930) prior to venturing on to a solo career. Over the 15 years that followed, Shemp established himself as a film comedian opposite players like W.C. Fields and Abbott & Costello until the failing health of his younger brother Curly brought him back into the Stooges fold with the comedy "Fright Night" (1947). Less hyper-kinetic and childlike than Curly, Shemp's shameless mugging and trademark utterance of "Bee-bee-bee-bee!" - in addition to his willingness to take a mallet to the head or a pair of fingers to eyes - easily made him a welcome addition to the line-up. After appearing in dozens of shorts that included "I'm a Monkey's Uncle" (1948) and "Corny Casanovas" (1952), he died of a heart attack in 1955. And while replaced onscreen, the stringy-haired funny man would never be supplanted in the hearts of Stooge fans who truly appreciated what Shemp Howard and his fellow Stooges gave to the world of comedy, even if the critics did not.

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

You can also watch a video of Shemp Howard and the other Stooges as detectives via the below link:

Note: I was and am a huge fan of Shemp Howard and the other Three Stooges. I love them as a kid and I still laugh when I see them. 

Frederick Forsyth: EU Needs Britain To Keep Tabs On The Kremlin

Frederick Forsyth, a columnist for the British newspaper the Express and the author of The Outsider: My Life in IntrigueThe Day of Jackal and other classic thrillers, writes about his upcoming thriller and offers his view of Putin, a resurgent Russia and the European Union (EU).

Life can be extremely irritating. About six months ago I came up with a couple of predictions as to what was likely to happen on the world stage before very long. Foolishly for an old codger who swore he was in retirement after my last novel The Kill List and real swansong The Outsider, I mentioned the ideas to my agent. He mentioned it to my publisher and the pair of them went into spasm.

So weeks later I capitulated and agreed to make a real last novel out of it. It all meant a lot of research as usual in order to accrue the authenticity that makes a fictional story almost believable.

The trouble is, it is all happening too fast. And no, it is not Islamic State-style terrorism any more. The new peril is the increasingly aggressive attitude towards the West in general and this country in particular by Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. The other idea I will keep quiet about lest it also happens before I am ready to write.

Those of the grandpa generation lived through Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov. After the reforming Mikhail Gorbachev – who closed down world communism, abolished the Soviet Union, dismantled the KGB and liberated the six European Soviet satellites (who promptly joined the EU) – we thought all threats from Moscow might be over. It was called the Peace Dividend and we thought we could cut back on defense expenditure. So we did: a mistake, it seems.

Russia, despite an economy the size of Italy on a wet Sunday morning, is rearming furiously. The elected dictator (oh yes, it's possible if you rig the elections) is using the new income from oil and gas exports to build or re-fit massive warships, tanks, missiles and bombers. History shows us that when tyrants pile up this weaponry, they end up by using it – to invade or at least threaten.

Putin is slowly rebuilding the inner core of the old USSR. The rebellious Chechnya is back under his thumb, headed by his servant Kadyrov. Belarus does exactly what it is told under its obedient dictator Lukashenko. Crimea has been re-annexed, Ukraine invaded, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan intimidated.

He now threatens the Baltic States. But they are EU and Nato members so we have to defend them. Depend on our EU partners to do that? You might as well whistle Dixie.

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

You can also read Frederick Forsyth’s previous column on Putin via the below link:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Peace, Love And Homicide: A Look Back At The Unicorn Killer In Philadelphia

I offered a look back at Ira Einhorn, the Philadelphia “Unicorn Killer” in my 2002 Crime Beat column. 

I’ll never let you leave me. If I can’t have you, no one will.

The jilted lover turned murderer is a classic character in crime fiction and in the true annals of crime.

 "To kill what you love when you can’t have it seems so natural that strangling Rita last night seemed so right," Ira Einhorn wrote in his journal in 1962 when their love affair ended. Fortunately, she survived the attack, but a later girlfriend would not be so lucky.

Einhorn, often called Philadelphia’s "Hippie Guru," in the 1960s and 70s, was recently convicted in Philadelphia of the murder of his former girlfriend, Holly Maddux.

The long road to his conviction and life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison began in 1977 when Maddux, a young woman who left Texas to attend Bryn Mawr College, was reported missing after she broke it off with Einhorn. When the police could not find her, the Maddux family hired a private detective to search for her.

When neighbors complained about a horrible smell coming from Einhorn’s apartment in 1979, the police searched and found Maddux’s body in a locked steamer trunk in his closet. Arrested and charged with her murder, Einhorn’s attorney, former Philadelphia District Attorney and current U.S. Senator, Arlen Specter, arranged for several prominent business, social and civic leaders to testify to Einhorn’s good character. Despite the obvious fact that Einhorn kept his mummified girlfriend in a closet for 18 months, bail was set at $40,000. He skipped his pretrial hearing and fled the country.

Einhorn, a local media darling, often appeared on TV and in the newspapers during the 1960s as a counterculture hippie spokesman and in the 1970s as a "New Age activist." He was a friend of 60’s radicals Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, as well as the pet radical of some of Philadelphia’s bluest bloods and wealthiest corporate leaders (to get a better understanding of this type of odd social pairing, read Tom Wolfe’s great piece, Radical Chic).

As the name Einhorn translates to "one horn," he began to call himself "the Unicorn." He lived off of the kindness and money of gullible supporters. He was largely a media creation, it seemed to me. He was, both then and now, a sociopath and con artist.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Omar Comin!: The Wire's Creators And Actors Remember The Iconic Character Omar Little

I was a huge fan of The Wire, HBO’s award-winning crime drama. 

There series offered many interesting characters, but one notable standout was Omar Little, the shotgun-wielding robber of drug dealers, portrayed by actor Michael K. Williams (seen in the above photo).

Jonathan Abrams at, an interesting new online publication, offers a piece on The Wire and the iconic Omar character.

Early on, HBO executives asked David Simon to cut a seemingly pointless scene featuring a shadowy figure named Omar, who robbed drug dealers. His presence did not seem relevant to them in moving the story along. Simon asked them to wait. The introduction of Omar, he said, would serve as a placeholder for the character when he was reestablished later in the inaugural season.

The request paid off. Television had never seen a character as full of contradictions as Omar Little, depicted brilliantly by Michael K. Williams. The role was the first major gig for Williams, a native of Brooklyn’s East Flatbush, who had dropped out of school to pursue a dancing career. Omar wore a duster and a bulletproof vest, carried a .44 Magnum, and whistled “The Farmer in the Dell” as he stalked the streets, ringing fear in the neighborhood. Yet, he nurtured out-of-luck mothers, refrained from cursing, attended church with his grandmother, and showed a caring, tender touch with his gay lovers. As inconceivable as it sounds, Omar, too, was sourced from real-life inspirations. During his days on the force, Ed Burns found that stick–up artists roamed independently and often maintained their own set of rules, while providing accurate information. He cultivated several into his best sources. Donnie Andrews, one of the primary inspirations for Omar, positively transformed his later life, becoming a consultant on The Wire.

“The guys that I knew, the Anthony Hollies, Shorty Boyd, those type of guys, they all had a code,” Burns said. “They all lived by something, and they hunted drug dealers. That’s what they hunted. Donnie [Andrews], he was ferocious. Ferdinand [Harvin], this guy was amazing. He gave me a call one time, and says, ‘You want to hit this house.’ We got a search warrant, hit the house. It’s three guys who are in their fifties. You don’t see many guys in their fifties with shoulder holsters, with .45s in the shoulder holsters, at a table. It was a substantial amount of drugs on the table, but we didn’t find all Ferdinand said was in there.

“I went outside, and I called him up. I said, ‘We can’t find it.’ He says, ‘I don’t understand you. Every time I been at their house, I find everything.’ I said, ‘Ferdinand, I can’t put a gun down a guy’s mouth. I mean, I’m willing to talk to the guy, but I can’t do that.’”

ALEXA L. FOGEL (CASTING DIRECTOR): Michael K. had auditioned for me for Oz. You keep very good records for all your auditions. I had to figure out which character it was that he had auditioned for, and I had to go back every season and go through every page until I could find him. I knew I had wrote in my notes that he had this scar, so that’s how I refound him to have him in for The Wire. He made an impression. I knew I wanted to see him again.

MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS (OMAR LITTLE): I mean, it was odd. How many people walk around with a scar in the middle of their face? It’s a very odd thing to see. When you really think about it, on my face, you know? My face got mauled over. It’s jarring.

ED BURNS (CO-CREATOR): We picked Omar, primarily, because of the scar. His first scene was him and his partner, getting ready to go do a robbery, and the guy comes and gives him a sawed-off shotgun. He takes the shotgun and—Mike was the name of the guy who gave it to him—he starts walking away, and Michael K. says, “Excuse me.” “Yes?” “How do you open this?” “It’s a fucking shotgun, Michael.” I’m standing right next to him going, “Oh God, this is going to be so bad,” And then he goes out there and it looked like when he was in his crib, his mother gave him a shotgun.

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