Sunday, July 23, 2017

Special Ops Capabilities Relevant Around The World, Commander Says

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2017 — Special operations forces are relevant to most operations the U.S. military is involved with and are a good return on the investment, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado yesterday.

Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge interviewed Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III for the forum and he used the occasion to debunk some myths about the command, which is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“We are not the world’s cop, we are not a panacea, we don’t do anything by ourselves and we aren’t doing things that aren’t highly supervised, there is no off the reservation activities,” Thomas said.

But special operations forces have been at the heart of most operations against violent extremism, he said, and have been key to turning the tide against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al-Qaida wherever these groups raise the ugly heads.

“We are relevant to most if not all the national security challenges,” the general said.

The command consumes about 2 percent of the DoD budget and has about 2 percent of the personnel in the department. Some 8,000 special operators are in 80 countries around the world.

The question he gets most often -- and Herridge asked a version of it -- is whether special operations forces are being overused or overextended? “We are actively trying to work our way out of a job, whether that be in Afghanistan or against ISIS,” he said.

In Afghanistan, the general said, “we’re anxious to finish there. We’re anxious to win.”

Not the Time to Relax

That said, Socom is working with indigenous forces, proxies, allies and conventional U.S. forces to leverage special operations capabilities.

Thomas stressed that the force is having successes, but now is not the time to let up on the pressure being placed on enemy forces. He said the lesson from the Osama bin Laden operation in 2011 was, as good as it was to kill the al-Qaida leader, “if you don’t dismantle the whole network -- if you don’t address the ideology -- you’ve just killed one guy.”

The territory that ISIS controls is shrinking by the day and Syrian Democratic Forces are closing on Raqqa, the so-called capital of the ISIS caliphate. Thomas said he does not know if ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive, but if he is not dead “there is not a safe place for him on this Earth. We absolutely dismantled his network; everyone who worked for him initially is dead or gone. Everyone who stepped to the plate following [him] -- dead or gone. Down through a network where we have killed, at a conservative estimate, 60,000 of his followers -- his army.”

Baghdadi declared the caliphate and placed his army on the battlefield “and we went to war with it,” the general said.

Mosul has been liberated, but it is still “dicey” in the old city, he said. There are still pockets of ISIS fighters in Tal Afar and in western Iraq. “We are pursuing these people as hard as we can to affect the physical aspect of the caliphate while we deal with the harder part -- the ideological basis of it,” he said.

Coordinating Authority

Socom is the DoD coordinating authority for transregional terrorism and has been for going on two years, the general said. “This was a role and process that didn’t exist,” he said. “It tied together our disparate DoD efforts.”

Previously, Army Gen. Joe Votel would handle special operations in the Central Command region, and Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser would handle Africa Command and Navy Adm. Harry Harris would handle Pacific Command. “They were good, focused activities but without any synchronization at the DoD level,” Thomas said. “We were thrust into that role.”

He said he is not sitting at MacDill moving special operators around the globe, but the change enables the command “to agitate or drive an assessment at the senior DoD level of what are we trying to do, how well are we doing it, and what do we need to change in terms of strategy and resourcing.”

Previously, the only person in the department who could do such a thing was the defense secretary.

He said his mission objectives from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have changed. “It used to be 'Defeat ISIS,'” he said. “It is now, 'Annihilate ISIS.' [Mattis] put a non-doctrinal term out there to amp up the volume a bit, and we all got the message.”

Thomas wants Socom to be more agile and more networked.

He said the command has its eyes on Iran and its stated goal of building a Shia crescent through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon. Iranian officials are all throughout that area now, the general said, adding that they bear special attention.

ISIS is trying to export its “brand” through the world and they seized on Libya as a failed state, which, with its gap in governance could serve as a foothold in the region. In fact, ISIS leaders declared Libya a province in the caliphate, he said, and at its high-water mark in the country had around 2,000 fighters in and around the seaside city of Sirte. “They don’t exist anymore,” Thomas noted.

Special operations forces worked through proxies and surrogates to eliminate the ISIS threat in that area, he said. Still, the general said, Libya is another place that bears watching as some of the fighters escaped to southern Libya and are looking for a time and place to return.

The command is also invested in deterring Russia and there are special operators working with all the nations bordering Russia, Thomas said. “The people [of those nations] enjoy their freedom and want to keep it,” he added.


Herridge asked about the command’s work on the Korean Peninsula. Thomas objected to the argument that there is no military option against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he continues to build a nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. “There is always a military option,” he said. “That’s why you pay $600 billion a year. It is an ugly, ugly option, but you cannot play elements of power and then discount that there is no option."

“People say that Kim Jong Un can only put a warhead the size of the Hiroshima bomb on a missile,” he continued. “That’s not comforting to me. Everything I am hearing … is that he and the regime are inextricably tied to their nuclear program.”

For the future, the general wants Socom to be able to give decision-makers more options to choose from when a crisis develops. “My biggest concern is the need to transform,” Thomas said.

The general spoke of a senior private industry executive who visited the command and told him that though the command is getting the right people and prototyping new capabilities well, “you suck at deep learning.”

“We are still trying to digest terabytes of data, and this company is way beyond that,” Thomas said. “If we can master that, we become Socom on steroids in terms of Seeing threats, seeing opportunities [and] applying our special capabilities.” 

Note: In the top U.S. Air Force photo taken by Tech. Sgt. Angelita Lawrence U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, salutes after placing a wreath on a memorial in remembrance of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day on April 25, 2017 at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Anzac Day i marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI.

In the above U.S. Navy photo taken by Seaman Richard Miller  Army Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of, Joint Special Operations Command, participates in a riverine demonstration with members of Special Boat Team 22 at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School in Mississippi on March 12, 2015. 

On This Day In History Crime Novelist Raymond Chandler Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1888 the late, great crime novelist Raymond Chandler was born.

You can read about his life and work via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler and his influence on crime novels and crime films via the below link:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Has U.S. Navy Been Going Soft On Most Suspects In Historic 'Fat Leonard' Corruption Scandal?

Carl Prine at the San Diego Union-Tribune offers a piece on the U.S. Navy’s handling of the ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery and fraud cases.

Since 2014, federal prosecutors in San Diego have compiled a perfect 16-0 record in convicting corrupt Navy officers and defense contractors tied to the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal.

But when it comes to doling out discipline to sailors and Marines passed over by the feds, the Navy’s watchdog command targeting ethical scofflaws passes far more often than it prosecutes.

About two out of every three potential public corruption cases can’t be substantiated by military investigators, the Navy said. The service has only one ongoing court-martial, a pair of lighter nonjudicial punishment decisions and a handful of sternly written rebukes of senior officers to show for more than three years of inquiries, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s analysis of a trove of Navy files obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

When he was the Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus created the consolidated disposition authority — or CDA for short — in the wake of the still-running criminal probe into Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a now defunct Singapore-based defense contractor that was owned by Malaysian tycoon Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis (seen in the above photo).

In federal court, prosecutors have secured convictions against Francis and four of his business colleagues; nine Navy officers; an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and a civilian Department of Defense contracting supervisor.

They’ve also indicted 10 active-duty or retired service members and a trio of Glenn Defense employees.

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

Note: You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Fat Leonard case via the below link:

Hawaii Soldier Indicted For Attempting To Provide Material Support To ISIS

The U.S. Justice Department released the below link:

An indictment was returned July 21 charging Ikaika Erik Kang, 34, an Army sergeant first class stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Kang was previously arrested on July 8, and ordered detained pending further proceedings.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Elliot Enoki of the District of Hawaii and Special Agent in Charge Paul Delacorte of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office made the announcement.

The grand jury indictment, which was filed on July 19, charged Kang with four counts of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, based on events that occurred in Hawaii between June 21 and July 8. The indictment and an earlier criminal complaint allege that Kang met with undercover agents of the FBI whom he believed to be affiliated with ISIS and provided military information, some of which was classified at the SECRET level. Kang is also charged with providing property (a drone,s military clothing and equipment) and training (instruction on combat techniques and weapons training which was videotaped for future use by ISIS) to undercover agents whom he believed to be affiliated with ISIS.

Kang will appear in court on July 24, for an arraignment and plea on the charges, at which time a trial date will be scheduled.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted of the charges, Kang faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each count. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ken Sorenson and Marc Wallenstein. 

'Man Our Ship And Bring It To Life': USS Gerald R. Ford Commissioned As Navy's Newest Carrier

Terri Moon Cronk at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2017 — President Donald J. Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took part in commissioning the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, named in honor of the 38th president, in Norfolk, Virginia, today.

Service members and their families, senior defense and military officials and other dignitaries, including Ford’s daughter and the ship's sponsor, Susan Ford Bales, were aboard the warship for the ceremony.

Gerald R. Ford enlisted in the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor and was commissioned as an officer in the Naval Reserve in 1942. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Monterey and participated in actions in the Pacific Theater, including at Makin Island, Kwajalein and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Ford served for 25 years as a U.S. Representative before his appointment to the vice presidency. He became president in 1974, following the resignation of Richard Nixon.

The ship named for Ford is the lead ship of a new class of supercarriers and the first new carrier design in the Navy since the USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975. The Ford is also the first aircraft carrier to join the fleet since USS George H. W. Bush in 2009. Ford is expected to be in operation in 2020.

The Navy received the Ford on May 31 after the carrier successfully completed acceptance trials on May 26. It features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults and an enhanced flight deck capable of increased aircraft sortie rates. Ford-class carriers will operate with smaller crews than their predecessors in the Nimitz-class.

‘Magnificent Warship’

Mattis called the ship a “magnificent warship [that] joins the best Navy in the world. It is named after a tried-and true member of the Greatest Generation, and that spirit will permeate this ship so long as it sails on the seas, as well as the U.S. Navy spirit of ‘We have just begun to fight,’” he said.

Addressing Trump, Mattis said, “Mr. President, you will send this ship in harm’s way and [it] will happily sail in harm’s way for you, for our nation and for what we stand for.”

Trump called the ship an American symbol of power and prestige wherever it sails in the world.
“Wherever this vessel cuts through the horizon, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming and America is coming strong,” he said.

“This ship is the deterrent that keeps us from having to fight in the first place,” Trump said. “But this ship also ensures that if a fight does come, it will always end the same way. We will win … we will never lose.”

Nation’s Strength is its People

Having the best technology and equipment is only one part of the American military dominance, he said. “Our true strength is our people. Our greatest weapon is all of you.”

America is fortunate to have warriors who are willing to serve the nation in the greatest fighting force in history, Trump said, adding, “Today, this ship officially begins its role in the noble military history of our great nation.”

He implored Congress to pass a defense budget that “provides for higher, stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs, that our fighting men and women deserve … and you will get [it], believe me,” Trump told the audience.

At the ceremony's conclusion, Ford Bales gave the order, “Man our ship and bring her to life.” 

Note: You can click on the above photos to enlarge.

My Crime Beat Column: A look Back At The Trial Of The Chicago 'Outfit' And The Deadly Family Secrets That Exposed Chicago Organized Crime

In Martin Scorsese’s classic crime film Casino, actor Joe Pesci plays a vicious mob enforcer and hitman in Las Vegas who reports to the “bosses back home,” as Pesci’s character describes them in the film’s voice-over narration.

The bosses are portrayed in the film as a group of elderly and infirm men who hang around eating, playing cards and collecting money from their criminal underlings.

Pesci’s character, based on a very real gangster named Anthony Spilotro (seen in the above photo), is brutally murdered, along with his brother Michael, in a mid-west cornfield in the film. Their murder, along with several other murders, were ordered by the bosses back home. 

"Back home" is Chicago, home of the criminal organization known as the “Outfit.”

Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob covers the Spilotro murders and much more in this revealing look at organized crime. The book, written by Chicago Tribune reporter Jeff Coen, covers the trial of the Outfit bosses in 2007.

“The scale of the case was unprecedented, for the first time naming the Chicago Outfit itself as a criminal enterprise under federal anti-racketeer laws and alleging a conspiracy that was born with Al Capone and flourished from the 1960s forward,” Coen wrote in his book. “The case included fourteen defendants, eighteen murders, and decades of bookmaking, loan sharking, extortion and violence.”

The investigation of the Outfit began in 1998 when the FBI received a letter from Frank Calabrese Jr., son of one of the Outfit’s most violent bosses, Frank Calabrese Sr (seen in the above photo).

Due to a sour relationship with his father, the son told the FBI that he was willing to wear a wire and gather evidence against his father while they were incarcerated together. The father enjoyed explaining how the Outfit worked to his son. He also allowed his son to observe how he conducted business from the prison yard.

The FBI was later able to turn Nicholas Calabrese, a hitman for his brother Frank Calabrese Sr., into the key witness against the Outfit bosses.

The FBI called the seven-year investigation “Operation Family Secrets.” According to the FBI, the list of those charged read like a “Who’s Who” of the Chicago mob.

After several mobsters pleaded guilty, the remaining five defendants were Frank Calabrese Sr., James “Jimmy Light” Marcello, the reputed boss of the outfit, Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, a tough, old school mob boss, Anthony “Twan” Doyle, a former Chicago police officer accused of leaking information to Frank Calabrese Sr., and Paul “the Indian” Schiro, an outfit enforcer.

In September of 2007 the jury convicted the five men on broad conspiracy charges.

Jeff Coen does a fine job covering the trial and he offers vivid descriptions of the defendants, the witnesses and the victims. He also offers a good portrait of the defense attorneys and the prosecutors, who were as colorful as the gangsters.

Reading this book makes you feel as if you are sitting in the courtroom. This is a very good true crime book.

Note: The above column originally appeared at in 2009.                    

Friday, July 21, 2017

On This Day In History Wild Bill Hickok Fights First Western Showdown

As notes, on this day in 1865 legendary western gunman Wild Bill Hickok fought his first western showdown.  

In what may be the first true western showdown, Wild Bill Hickok shoots Dave Tutt dead in the market square of Springfield, Missouri.

Hollywood movies and dime novels notwithstanding, the classic western showdown–also called a walkdown–happened only rarely in the American West. Rather than coolly confronting each other on a dusty street in a deadly game of quick draw, most men began shooting at each other in drunken brawls or spontaneous arguments. Ambushes and cowardly attacks were far more common than noble showdowns.

… The best-known example of a true western duel occurred on this day in 1865. Wild Bill Hickok, a skilled gunman with a formidable reputation, was eking out a living as a professional gambler in Springfield, Missouri. He quarreled with Dave Tutt, a former Union soldier, but it is unclear what caused the dispute. Some people say it was over a card game while others say they fought over a woman. Whatever the cause, the two men agreed to a duel.

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

Note: The above illustration of the Hickok and Tutt shooting appeared in Harper's Monthly magazine.