Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Covering Crime, Espionage & Terrorism, And Other Military Journalism

Prior to working as a reporter, columnist and writer for newspapers, magazines and Internet publications, I was a contributing writer to U.S. Navy and Defense Department magazines.

I received the Philadelphia Federal Executive Board's 1990 Public Affairs Award for my magazine articles.  

I wrote my first newspaper piece while I was an 18-year-old seaman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in 1970. I was assigned to the warship's Special Services unit and although I was a high school dropout, the officer in charge took a chance when he discovered that I was an aspiring writer and had me write several pieces for the ship's newspaper, The Flyer. 

My pieces ranged from what Special Services offered the 5,500 men aboard the carrier to what San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico offered the crew ashore. I loved going out as a reporter and writing those pieces. As we prepared to sail to Southeast Asia and combat duty off the coast of Vietnam, the ship's newspaper was transferred to the newly formed Public Affairs Division. As I had not attended the Navy's journalism school or had a journalism degree, I was reassigned to the Radio Communications Division.

In 1986 I was the civilian chief of Installation Services for a Defense Department command in Philadelphia. I oversaw security, safety and other programs for the command's military and civilian employees. I also began contributing articles to local and worldwide Defense Department magazines. The Defense Logistic Agency's magazine, Dimensions, reached more than three million DoD civilians and military people worldwide.

I covered crime, espionage, terrorism, drug trafficking and special operations, subjects I continue to cover today.

You can read some of my magazine pieces below:


Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Look Back At The Terrorists Jihad Jane And Theblackflag

Counterterrorism magazine published my piece on the terrorists "Jihad Jane" and "Theblackflag."

You can read the piece below:

My Q&A With Jack Carr, Retired Navy SEAL And Author Of The Thriller 'The Terminal List'

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with Jack Carr, a retired Navy SEAL and the author of The Terminal List.

You can read the interview below:

Monday, May 20, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'Dateline - Liberated Paris'

The Washington Times published my review of Ronald Weber's Dateline – Liberated Paris

It was if Ben Hecht and Charles McArthur’s hard-bitten, cynical and profane crime-beat reporter characters from the 1928 play “The Front Page” were all assigned to cover liberated Paris in World War II.

In Ronald Weber’s “Dateline Liberated Paris: The Hotel Scribe and the Invasion of the Press,” an army of war correspondents converged on Paris after the Nazi Germans left the “City of Light” toward the end of the war.

As Mr. Weber explains, in the European combat zones of World War II, press camps were an integral part of Allied operations. Accredited war correspondents attached to combat units dressed in the uniforms of their countries and wore insignia that identified them as correspondents. They were treated as captains, although they wore no insignia of rank.

The correspondents were housed in buildings or tents and they were fed, briefed on war news, and given jeeps with military drivers for transportation by military public-relations officers. The correspondents’ copy, photos, radio broadcasts, field art and personal letters were reviewed by military censors before they were sent out by cable, teletype, mobile radio, or by land and air courier to the international media centers. The press camps followed the combat units as they moved on to new positions.

“The Hotel Scribe was one of several Allied press camps on the march from Normandy to Germany. It was also one of a kind,” Mr. Weber tells us. “Among other distinctive features, it was located in central Paris in a storied hotel that before the war was favored by foreign journalists and during the occupation became the Nazi headquarters for information and propaganda. It had a lounge bar and dining room, an experienced French staff, chambermaids, phone service, running water, electricity, and enough coal for some heat and warm baths in limited hours. It could accommodate as many as five hundred correspondents, as against the fifty or fewer of other press camps.”

The Scribe quickly took on an aura of journalistic legend and folklore, as a good number of correspondents chronicled the hotel as well as the war in their dispatches. The Scribe was also featured in several novels and nonfiction books by the correspondent residents and customers after the war.

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

A Little Humor: Church Donations

Every Sunday, an elderly woman placed $1,000 in the donation box at church. 

This went on for weeks until the Priest, overcome with curiosity, approached her.

“Mrs. Jones, I couldn’t help but notice that you put $1,000 a week in the donation box,” he said.

“Why yes,” she replied, “Every week my son sends me money, and what I don’t need I give to the church.”

“That’s wonderful, how much does he send you?”

“Oh, $2,000 a week.”

“Your son is very successful, what does he do for a living?”

“I believe he is a veterinarian,” she answered.

“That is a very honorable profession. Where does he practice?”

“Well, he has one cat house in Chicago, and another in Dallas…”

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Spy And The Traitor: How A KGB Officer Stopped The Soviets From Launching A Nuclear Attack On The West

Cole Moreton at the Daily Mail offers a piece on the former KGB officer who helped prevent WWIII.

We’re walking through a park in London where a Soviet spy once carried out a secret drop – just before he saved the world. ‘Most people have no idea how close we were to nuclear war at that time,’ says Ben Macintyre, author of The Spy And The Traitor, which tells the extraordinary true story of a KGB agent turned British informant called Oleg Gordievsky (seen in the above photo). ‘He was able to crack open the inner secrets of the Kremlin. No spy had ever done that for Britain before.’

Gordievsky worked undercover for the KGB – the Soviet secret service – in London in the early Eighties, sending reports back to Moscow. But he was also, bravely, spying for the West. ‘If Oleg had been caught he would have been tortured and executed, and most of his family would have been rounded up as well.’ 

Then came Able Archer 83, a NATO war-game training exercise in November 1983, leading up to a simulated nuclear attack. The Soviets thought it was real. ‘Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric about the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” was interpreted in Moscow as a direct threat. The Kremlin genuinely believed the West was going to launch a first nuclear strike.’

The Soviets panicked and prepared to launch their missiles first, believing it was the only way to save themselves. Gordievsky heard all about it as a senior KGB operative, but quickly passed word on to his handlers, who took it to the highest level.

‘People in Downing Street and the Oval Office didn’t believe it at first, but Oleg managed to convince them it was true – and say that unless they calmed down the fighting talk, the West would effectively press the button on its own destruction.’

Moves were made to calm down the Soviets, who never fired. ‘A lot of what spies do doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. This is one of the few cases in which spying changed history.’

Gordievsky was even more intimately involved in the next historic development, when the Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev came to London in 1984 for a meeting with the Prime Minister that would hasten the end of the Cold War. ‘Oleg was briefing both sides. He was telling Thatcher what to say to Gorbachev and he was telling Gorbachev to say to Thatcher. Extraordinary.’

Gordievsky had been brought up a loyalist, the son of a KGB agent, but his stomach was turned by the sight of the Berlin Wall going up while he was stationed there. ‘He came to believe that he was serving a corrupt, barbarian regime. He didn’t do it for money; he did it purely for ideological reasons.’

All this is laid out in The Spy And The Traitor, which is about to be released in paperback. So I’m walking with Macintyre, a short, bespectacled 55-year-old with a tweed jacket and a fierce intelligence, through Coram’s Fields near Holborn. This is where Gordievsky carried out his last dead-drop, hiding £8,000 in the bushes for a newly arrived Soviet spy. ‘He brought his kids as cover. They would have been aged three and six. He left them on the swings, went behind the hedge and dropped a brick with the notes, wrapped in a plastic bag.’

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

You can also read my review of The Spy and the Traitor via the below link: 

A Little Humor: Hiring A New 007 With A License To Kill

With James Bond getting on in years, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was looking to hire a new 007 with a license to kill. 

After all the background checks, interviews and testing were done, there were 3 finalists: two men and a woman.

For the final test, an SIS officer took one of the men to a large metal door and handed him a gun. 

“We must know that you will follow your instructions no matter what the circumstances. Inside the room you find your wife sitting in a chair… kill her.”

The man said, “You can’t be serious. I could never shoot my wife.” 

The SIS officer said, “Then you’re not the right man for this job. Take your wife and go home.”

The second man was given the same instructions. 

He took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about 5 minutes. 

The man came out with tears in his eyes, “I tried, but I can’t kill my wife.” 

The SIS officer said, “Then you don’t have what it takes. Take your wife and go home.”

Finally, it was the woman’s turn. 

She was given her instructions: kill your husband. 

She took the gun and went into the room. 

Shots were heard. The SIS officer heard screaming, crashing, and banging on the walls. 

After a few minutes, all was quiet.

The door opened slowly and there stood the woman, wiping the sweat from her brow. 

“This gun is loaded with blanks” she said. “I had to kill him with the chair!”