Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Piece On Cosa Nostra: The Threat Of Organized Crime In America

Counterterrorism magazine published my piece on Cosa Nostra and the threat of organized crime today.

You can read the piece below:

The Quantum Spy: My Q&A With Spy Novelist And Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with David Ignatius, the Washington Post columnist and author of the thriller The Quantum Spy.

You can read the interview below:

  Note: My review of David Ignatius’s The Quantum Spy will soon appear in the Washington Times

Out Of The Past: Talking To An Old Navy Tugboat Shipmate

I was on the phone last night with Ricky Price from Kentucky, who served with me on the U.S. Navy Tugboat USS Saugus at the nuclear submarine base in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1975.

I recall that Ricky was a hell of a sailor and deckhand and he was a good friend. We took that 100-tugboat out into the Irish Sea to rendezvous with submarines in God-awful winter weather, with Gale Force winds, 50-foot waves and icy-cold sea sprays. 

We sailed out in many a "perfect storm" and survived. We also took "down river" trips on the River Clyde. Hard times and good times.

Good to be in touch with old shipmates.

The above photo is of the Navy harbor tugboat USS Saugus.

In the below photo, Ricky’s kneeling and working while I'm sitting on my butt and smoking a cigar. No wonder Chief Thompson liked him and not me (Ha).

The following photo shows Ricky working again with a paint roller and then one of me in civvies. 

Although I don't have a photo of our old tugboat chief, Chief Thompson, the bottom photo is of film comic Buster Keaton, whom the chief resembled. 

I called the chief "Chief Cool," because like Buster Keaton, he was stone-faced and said little.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Nine Iranians Charged With Conducting Massive Cyber Theft Campaign On Behalf Of The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

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

An Indictment charging Gholamreza Rafatnejad, 38; Ehsan Mohammadi, 37; Abdollah Karima, aka Vahid Karima, 39; Mostafa Sadeghi, 28; Seyed Ali Mirkarimi, 34; Mohammed Reza Sabahi, 26; Roozbeh Sabahi, 24; Abuzar Gohari Moqadam, 37; and Sajjad Tahmasebi, 30, all citizens and residents of Iran, was unsealed today.  The defendants were each leaders, contractors, associates, hackers-for-hire or affiliates of the Mabna Institute, an Iran-based company that, since at least 2013, conducted a coordinated campaign of cyber intrusions into computer systems belonging to 144 U.S. universities, 176 universities across 21 foreign countries, 47 domestic and foreign private sector companies, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the State of Hawaii, the State of Indiana, the United Nations, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.  

Through the defendants’ activities, the Mabna Institute stole more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from universities, and email accounts of employees at private sector companies, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  The defendants conducted many of these intrusions on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (Iran) Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), one of several entities within the government of Iran responsible for gathering intelligence, as well as other Iranian government and university clients.  In addition to these criminal charges, today the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the Mabna Institute and the nine defendants for sanctions for the malicious cyber-enabled activity outlined in the Indictment.

The charges were announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein; Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers; U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York; FBI Director Christopher A. Wray; Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Division; and Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

“These nine Iranian nationals allegedly stole more than 31 terabytes of documents and data from more than 140 American universities, 30 American companies, five American government agencies, and also more than 176 universities in 21 foreign countries,” said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.  “For many of these intrusions, the defendants acted at the behest of the Iranian government and, specifically, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.  The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate and prosecute hostile actors who attempt to profit from America’s ideas by infiltrating our computer systems and stealing intellectual property.  This case is important because it will disrupt the defendants’ hacking operations and deter similar crimes.”

“Today, in one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice, we have unmasked criminals who normally hide behind the ones and zeros of computer code,” said U.S. Attorney Berman.  “As alleged, this massive and brazen cyber-assault on the computer systems of hundreds of universities in 22 countries and dozens of private sector companies and governmental organizations was conducted on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.  The hackers targeted innovations and intellectual property from our country’s greatest minds.  These defendants are now fugitives from American justice, no longer free to travel outside Iran without risk of arrest.  The only way they will see the outside world is through their computer screens, but stripped of their greatest asset – anonymity.”  

“This investigation involved a complex threat in a dynamic landscape, but today’s announcement highlights the commitment of the FBI and our partners to vigorously pursue those that threaten U.S. property and security,” said Director Wray.  “Today, not only are we publicly identifying the foreign hackers who committed these malicious cyber intrusions, but we are also sending a powerful message to their backers, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran: your acts do not go unnoticed.  We will protect our innovation, ideas and information, and we will use every tool in our toolbox to expose those who commit these cyber crimes.  Our memory is long; we will hold them accountable under the law, no matter where they attempt to hide.”

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Background on the Mabna Institute

Gholamreza Rafatnejad and Ehsan Mohammadi, the defendants, founded the Mabna Institute in approximately 2013 to assist Iranian universities and scientific and research organizations in stealing access to non-Iranian scientific resources.  In furtherance of its mission, the Mabna Institute employed, contracted, and affiliated itself with hackers-for-hire and other contract personnel to conduct cyber intrusions to steal academic data, intellectual property, email inboxes and other proprietary data, including Abdollah Karima, aka Vahid Karima, Mostafa Sadeghi, Seyed Ali Mirkarimi, Mohammed Reza Sabahi, Roozbeh Sabahi, Abuzar Gohari Moqadam, and Sajjad Tahmasebi.  The Mabna Institute contracted with both Iranian governmental and private entities to conduct hacking activities on their behalf, and specifically conducted the university spearphishing campaign on behalf of the IRGC.  The Mabna Institute is located at Tehran, Sheikh Bahaii Shomali, Koucheh Dawazdeh Metri Sevom, Plak 14, Vahed 2, Code Posti 1995873351.

University Hacking Campaign

The Mabna Institute, through the activities of the defendants, targeted more than 100,000 accounts of professors around the world.  They successfully compromised approximately 8,000 professor email accounts across 144 U.S.-based universities, and 176 universities located in foreign countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.  The campaign started in approximately 2013, continued through at least December 2017, and broadly targeted all types of academic data and intellectual property from the systems of compromised universities.  Through the course of the conspiracy, U.S.-based universities spent more than approximately $3.4 billion to procure and access such data and intellectual property.

The members of the conspiracy used stolen account credentials to obtain unauthorized access to victim professor accounts, which they used to steal research, and other academic data and documents, including, among other things, academic journals, theses, dissertations, and electronic books.  The defendants targeted data across all fields of research and academic disciplines, including science and technology, engineering, social sciences, medical, and other professional fields.  The defendants stole at least approximately 31.5 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property, which they exfiltrated to servers outside the United States that were under the control of members of the conspiracy.

In addition to stealing academic data and login credentials for the benefit of the Government of Iran, the defendants also sold the stolen data through two websites, (Megapaper) and (Gigapaper).  Megapaper was operated by Falinoos Company, a company controlled by Abdollah Karima, aka Vahid Karima, the defendant, and Gigapaper was affiliated with Karima.  Megapaper sold stolen academic resources to customers within Iran, including Iran-based public universities and institutions, and Gigapaper sold a service to customers within Iran whereby purchasing customers could use compromised university professor accounts to directly access the online library systems of particular U.S.-based and foreign universities.

Accompanying Mitigation Efforts

Prior to the unsealing of the Indictment, the FBI provided foreign law enforcement partners with detailed information regarding victims within their jurisdictions, so that victims in foreign countries could be notified and foreign partners could assist in remediation efforts.

Also, in connection with the unsealing of the Indictment, today the FBI provided private sector partners detailed information regarding the vulnerabilities targeted and the intrusion vectors used by the Mabna Institute in their campaign against private sector companies.  This information will assist the public in its network defense and mitigation efforts.

*                *                *
Rafatnejad, Mohammadi, Karima, Sadeghi, Mirkarimi, Sabahi, Sabahi, Moqadam and Tahmasebi was each is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; two counts of unauthorized access of a computer, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the assigned judge.

Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, the assistance of the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA), and the support of the OFAC.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy T. Howard, Jonathan Cohen and Richard Cooper are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorneys Heather Alpino and Jason McCullough of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

OSS, World War II Espionage Unit And CIA Predecessor, Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Dan Boylan at the Washington Times offers a piece on the WWII OSS receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian distinction, was awarded on Wednesday to veterans of the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II intelligence agency and CIA predecessor.

In a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall stressing realism, idealism and above all else patriotism, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, presented the medal “on behalf of a very grateful nation.”

“It is the spirit of these veterans that endures,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, added. “Their pluck and patriotism proved that any American could rise to defeat the foes of freedom. How fortunate we are that these heroes answered the call.”

Created in 1942 by the legendary General William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan (seen in the below photo) to coordinate American intelligence efforts, in its heyday the OSS deployed more than 13,000 operatives, a third of them women, in addition to four future CIA directors.

Pioneers of sabotage, intelligence gathering, supplying resistance movements, capturing high-value targets and infiltrating enemy strongholds, OSS agents were in Gen. Donovan’s words “glorious amateurs” who undertook “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

Mr. Donovan’s statue now stands outside CIA headquarters in Virginia (photo above) and the OSS is widely recognized for playing a major role in the creation of the CIA and formation of the Army Green Berets and Navy Seals.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Federal Criminal Complaint And Arrest Warrant Filed Against Pflugerville, TX Man Prior To His Death After Discharging Bomb

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Texas released the below information:

(Austin, TX) – Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Fred J. Milanowski, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas John F. Bash announced that a federal criminal complaint and an arrest warrant were filed last night against 23–year-old Mark Conditt (seen in the above photo) of Pflugerville, TX, in connection with the recent series of bombings in Austin.  Those filings occurred before Conditt detonated a destructive device early this morning as authorities were attempting to apprehend him in Round Rock, TX.  Conditt died during the incident.

“Hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officers worked together to identify and locate Conditt.  I was awed by their professionalism, collaborative spirit, and indefatigable commitment to protecting the public,” stated United States Attorney John F. Bash.  “I send my deepest condolences to the families of Anthony Stephan House and Draylen Mason, and I pray for the recovery of the surviving victims of these monstrous crimes.”

The federal criminal complaint charged Conditt with one count of Unlawful Possession and Transfer of a Destructive Device.  The complaint affidavit remains under seal at this time.    The investigation continues at this time.  Because it is possible that further destructive devices were planted or mailed, residents of Austin and surrounding areas should call 911 if they see any suspicious package, bag, or backpack, or any other item that looks out of place.

“I appreciate all the hard work of the men and women of the Austin Police Department and our Federal partners for their tireless work in restoring peace to our community,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.  “My thoughts and prayers continue to be with those victimized by these criminal acts committed.”

“I am grateful for the extraordinary leadership demonstrated by Chief Manley during this complex and challenging investigation.  He inspired an amazing team of law enforcement professionals and prosecutors who worked together and with members of the public to restore peace in our community,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.

“Thank you to the City of Austin and the surrounding communities for coming together and remaining vigilant over the past three weeks.  By doing so, we were able to restore a sense of calm to the community,” stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred J. Milanowski, Houston Field Division.

The Austin Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives are investigating this case.  The Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the United States Marshals Service, the Round Rock Police Department, the Schertz Police Department, the Pflugerville Police Department, and the Cedar Park Police Department are providing valuable assistance in this investigation.  The Travis County District Attorney’s Office and the Austin Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas have collaboratively provided legal support during the investigation of these incidents. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Happy 72nd Birthday To Actor Timothy Dalton, The Second Best Bond

As notes, today is the 72nd birthday of actor Timothy Dalton.

Timothy Dalton was born March 21, 1946 in Colwyn Bay, Wales. An accomplished Shakespearean actor, Dalton got his start in film in The Lion in Winter (1968). He caught the attention of sci-fi fans in Flash Gordon (1980) then catapulted to international fame in the 1980s as James Bond. 

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

Timothy Dalton appeared as James Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill.

In my view, Sean Connery is James Bond, as an advertisement once proclaimed, but I think Timothy Dalton was very good as Bond. I think he is the second best Bond. 

Dalton replaced Roger Moore, who portrayed Bond in a lighthearted manner. Dalton, who was and is a serious actor, reread all of the Ian Fleming novels and then attempted to portray Ian Fleming's Bond.

I think he succeeded.

Dalton portrayed Bond as serious, quiet, cold, sardonic, tough and ruthless. He looked and acted like Fleming's James Bond. 

Except for a few silly bits that I could have done without, I think The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill were very good Bond films.

Bond fans should take a second look at Timothy Dalton's portrayal of James Bond.

You can read an earlier post on Dalton as Bond via the below  link: