Friday, December 31, 2010

Krauthammer's Column: Government By Regulation. Shhh

As Charles Krauthammer points out in his column in The Washington Post, the Obama administration snuck in the so-called "death panel" feature that was a point of contention during the Obama-care debate and was removed from the legislation.

Now the unpopular feature is back in and the Democrats don't want you to know about.

You can read Krauthammer's column via the below link:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Dude Or The Duke: Who Has More True Grit?

Entertainment Weekly has an interesting piece on the Coen brother's film True Grit.
The piece compares Jeff Bridges (seen in the above photo), who plays Rooster Cogburn in this film (and played "the Dude" in the Coen brothers' film The Big Lebowski) to John Wayne (seen in the below photo), known as "Duke" to his friends and millions of fans, and played Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 version of True Grit.
You can read the piece via the below link:
You can also read my earlier post of the two True Grit films via the below link:
I watched John Wayne's True Grit last week on TV and I plan to see the new True Grit next week.
I like Jeff Bridges, but I think Billy Bob Thorton would make a better Rooster Cogburn.
I watched Bad Santa last week and I thought that with Thorton's cantankerous personality and Southern accent, along with some weight gain, he would make an ideal Rooster Cogburn.
Thorton (seen below as Bad Santa and Davy Crocket) has already followed in the Duke's footsteps, having played Davy Crockett in an updated Alamo film.
Bad Santa, despite its foul language and coarse and criminal behavior, is a good, funny Christmas film. There is a Christmas sentiment at the end of the film.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Review of Philadelphia Noir

My friend and former editor Frank Wilson wrote a good review of Philadelphia Noir for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

You can read his review of the collection of noirish Philadelphia crime stories via the below link:

You can also read Frank Wilson's popular literary blog, Books, Inq, via the below link:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Joseph Wambaugh's The Christmas Troll

Joseph Wambaugh wrote an interesting piece for The Daily Beast called The Christmas Troll.

You can read the piece via the below link:

The former LAPD Detective Sergeant has written a new novel called Hollywood Hills. The novel is the fourth in his series about the cops who work out of the Hollywood Station.

You can read my review of his previous novel, Hollywood Moon, via the below link:

You can also visit Joseph Wambaugh's web site via the below link:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

America's First Christmas

If you believe our country has insurmountable problems today, it might be good to consider the tough times we had in the beginning of our history as a nation when we were fighting the most powerful country on earth.

Rich Lowry, a syndicated columnist and editor of National Review, wrote a column on America's first Christmas and how we reversed our fortunes in the Revolutionary War.

You can read the column via the below link:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My On Crime & Security Column: Cash Control Policy Prevents Burglaries and Home Invasions

The online small business magazine published my On Crime & Security column today.

The column deals with how a cash control policy can prevent armed robberies, theft and home invasions.

You can read my column via the below link:

Monday, December 20, 2010

John Wayne's True Grit Out On Blue-Ray

In an earlier post I noted that TCM was airing the 1969 film True Grit, starring John Wayne, on Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. to coincide with the theatrical release of the Coen brothers new version of True Grit, starring Jeff Bridges.

The Duke (John Wayne) is also competing with The Dude (Jeff Bridges) with the release of John Wayne's True Grit on Blu-Ray.

You can read the Blu-Ray review via the below link:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Twas A Night in December: U.S. Troops Offer a Military Twist to Twas the Night Before Christmas

By Jian DeLeon, Ian Graham and Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2010 - Servicemembers stationed from Antarctica to Afghanistan lent their talents and time to craft a video for a poem titled "'Twas a Night in December," based on Clement Clarke Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas," but rewritten with a military twist.
You can view the video via the below link:

More than 40 commands around the world, representing every branch of the military service, participated. Along with the military people who contributed to this creative effort, country music star Toby Keith introduced the video, reinforcing his long-term support for military and their families stationed around the world.

Some of the servicemembers involved in this holiday greeting were located in the most remote regions in the world. For example, Air Force Capt. Graydon Muller of 6th Special Operations Squadron and Air Force Capt. Rob Marshall of the 8th Special Operations Squadron departed Nov. 24 to climb Vinson Massif, the highest mountain in Antarctica. Muller and Massif took time away from their climb to speak a few lines for the video.

Other servicemembers from Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Pakistan and throughout the United States participated in making the video. In fact, people on six out of the world's seven continents took part. The video was produced by Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.

'Twas a Night in December

'Twas a night in December and all over the world, At bases and stations where our flag flies unfurled, The Holiday season had long since commenced, And spread its spirit of cheer through the Department of Defense.

Combat boots sat at ease by the fence line with care, In hopes that a return date soon would be there.

At home, loved ones slept sound in their beds, With visions of troops coming home in their heads. As Moms perform night patrols, and Dads conduct checks, A long winter's nap is the last thing they expect. When out on the tarmac arose such a clatter, Soldiers and sailors sprang up to see what was the matter.

Away to the deck, they hustled, they dashed, Some ran through a passageway, one opened a hatch.

In Antarctica, moonlight shimmered on the snow, A sliver of light shown on the objects below. And what to our wondering eyes should appear, But letters and packages bundled with care.
Yet it wasn't just there that we saw these things land, We received them as well, here in Afghanistan! They were packaged so well that they could withstand, The harsh desert winds full of Iraqi sand. Onto Nicaragua with volcanoes and lakes, Padded so carefully that nothing would break Addressed from our family and friends we hold dear, With Holiday greetings and a "Wish You Were Here!" We lined up and claimed them, with smiles ear-to-ear, Every person overcome with Holiday cheer.

Your support and your thoughts are the best possible gift, We send you our thanks for giving our spirits such a lift. Thanks from the National Guard Thanks from the Army, Thanks from the Navy, Thanks from the Marines, Thanks from the Air Force, Thanks from the Coast Guard, We want you to know how much this gift means.
In our eyes you're super, and we mean A-OK.

We will do our duty and keep defending our freedom, And wish you and yours the very best this Holiday season!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Event Pays Tribute to "The Chosin Few" From the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War

By Elaine Wilson, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2010 - Fang Woo walked into a room, walls adorned with Navy history memorabilia, and made a beeline for a young Marine reservist across the room.

Fang Woo speaks with Anton Sattler about Marine Corps life and history during a Chosin Reservoir commemoration event hosted by the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2010. (The above DOD photo by Elaine Wilson shows Woo on the left and Sattler on the right).

Woo is a Korean War veteran who fought in the Chosin campaign, and Sattler is the producer of a documentary about that battle called "Chosin." The 78-year-old retired Marine was eager to meet one of the men responsible for what is believed to be the first full-length documentary about the Chosin Reservoir campaign, a harrowing 17-day battle during the Korean War marked by crippling losses and incredible triumphs of the human spirit.

Woo has a personal interest in the topic -- he is among "The Chosin Few," the last living survivors of the battle.

Woo was one of several Korean War veterans who braved chilly temperatures last night to attend a commemoration of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, which took place 60 years ago this month. A crowd of local history buffs and servicemembers also gathered at the Navy Memorial here for the public event, which featured a viewing of the documentary "Chosin" followed by a panel discussion on the film.

"I twisted his arm to come here, but I know this means a lot to him," Woo's son, Conrad, said, while watching his father from across the room. "He doesn't ask for attention for what he did. My dad never even mentioned what he did in Korea when I was growing up."

The documentary -- produced, written and directed by Marine Corps reservists Anton Sattler and Brian Iglesias, both former active-duty Marines -- tells the Chosin story through first-person accounts from Korean War veterans the Marines interviewed across the country. They made the movie after they departed active Marine Corps duty, both drawn to a largely overlooked, but highly impactful moment in history.

"We picked this battle because it's never been done before, and these guys are slowly fading away," Iglesias said, flanked by two of the Chosin veterans featured in the documentary, Warren Wiedhahn and Dr. Stanley Wolf.

Wiedhahn said the movie offered veterans an opportunity to talk about events that some had never opened up about before. After his kids saw it, they asked him, "Daddy why didn't you ever talk about it? Why didn't you tell us this?" One of the reasons, he said, is that it was difficult to share his military past with anyone other than the veterans who shared it.

Still, he and his fellow Chosin veterans opened up in detail on the documentary about the horrific, yet triumphant, events of the Chosin Reservoir battle, also known as the "Frozen Chosin."

In November 1950, U.N. forces were nearing a successful end to the Korean War. U.N. Forces had chased the North Korean army from near the southern tip of South Korea to the north, near the border with China.

But China had decided to enter the conflict and sent thousands of its troops flooding across the border. In late November, the seasoned Chinese forces launched a surprise attack on about 15,000 U.S. troops from the 1st Marine Division and elements of the 7th Infantry Division in and around the Chosin Reservoir area. By Nov. 27, 120,000 Chinese troops had encircled about 30,000 U.N. troops, and a brutal, 17-day battle in sub-zero temperatures began.

The Chinese troops attacked in human waves each night, sending thousands at a time to overrun the U.N. troops until dawn. The veterans recalled the Chinese coming in relentless fronts, unaffected by the mass casualties piling up around them.

"You thought you were a dead man," one veteran said in the documentary. Only a relentless "love of life" kept him from giving up, he added.

"I prayed for the first time in my life," another Chosin veteran said, his voice breaking with emotion. "I said, 'God, don't let me die, not here. I just want to see the sun come up one more day.'"

Temperatures dipped to frigid levels and a veteran recalled a "mind-numbing" cold so intense that the troops' eyeballs would freeze until they put their hands up to warm them. "It was 30-below zero," Wiedhahn said. "You lived in 30-below temperature, all the time."

U.N. troops fought valiantly for days and broke out of the encirclement while inflicting huge losses on the Chinese, with an estimated 35,000 Chinese troops killed or wounded.

They fought their way to freedom across miles of rough, mountainous terrain until they reached the port of Hungnam on Dec. 11, where they were evacuated along with thousands of Korean refugees to Pusan.

Of the 15,000 U.S. troops at the battle of Chosin Reservoir, 3,000 were killed, 6,000 were wounded and 12,000 suffered frostbite injuries. For their heroic actions, 17 U.S. servicemembers were awarded the Medal of Honor, making Chosin one of the most decorated battles in U.S. history.

Army Col. David J. Clark, director of the Defense Department's 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, was on hand for the last night's event. Congress created the committee, he explained, to honor and thank Korean War veterans, celebrate the war's milestones and ensure the American public has a clear understanding and appreciation of the war.

Clark praised the documentary and the Korean War veterans in the audience. He was honored, he said, "to share the experience with some of the heroes that lived this story, and in the process saved a nation and a people from unspeakable tyranny and oppression."

"And certainly, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir was a major part of that," he continued. "We have come to honor our comrades in arms who persevered through one of the most ferocious battles in the annals of American military history.

While vastly outnumbered and fighting in unimaginable conditions, our veterans' courage, selfless sacrifice and unbendable will evened the odds. In Chosin Reservoir, all that is good about the American fighting spirit was on display."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FBI Offers Tips To Avoid Being Scammed This Holiday Season

The FBI offered the below to help us avoid being a crime victim this holiday season:

As the holidays approach, the FBI reminds the public to use caution when making online purchases. Cyber criminals continue to create ways to steal your money and personal information. If a deal looks too good to be true, it likely is.

Be wary of e-mails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. Criminals will attempt to direct victims to click a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The links may appear to lead you to legitimate websites, but they are not. Any personal information you share on them could be compromised.

The major legitimate delivery service providers do not e-mail customers directly regarding scheduled deliveries; you have to already have an existing account for this type of communication. Nor will they state when a package has been intercepted or is being temporarily held. E-mails about these issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses.

Internet criminals post classified advertisements on auction websites for products they do not have. If you buy merchandise promoted via an online ad or auction site but receive it directly from the retailer, it could be stolen property. You can protect yourself by not providing the seller with your financial information. Use legitimate payment services for transactions.

Fraudsters will also offer reduced or free shipping to auction site customers. They provide fake shipping labels, but they don’t pay for the packages’ delivery. Parcels shipped with these phony labels are intercepted and identified as fraudulent.

It’s safest to purchase gift cards directly from merchants rather than through auction sites or classified ads. If the merchant discovers the card you received from another source was initially fraudulently obtained, the card will be deactivated.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses.

Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.

Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.

Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed to determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.

Log directly onto a store’s website identified in the e-mail instead of linking to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence will provide the proper contact information.

Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.

If you are asked to act quickly, it may be a scam. Fraudsters often create a false sense of urgency.

Verify any requests for personal information by calling the business or financial institution using the phone numbers listed on a billing statement or credit card.

If you have received a suspicious e-mail, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

Monday, December 13, 2010

British Royal Marine Unit Renamed After a World War II Commando Group Founded by James Bond Creator Ian Fleming

The BBC reports that a British Royal Marine unit in Devon was renamed after a World War II intelligence gathering commando group, 30 Assault Unit, which was founded by Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming (seen in the below photo).
Fleming, of course, went on to write Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, Dr No and other James Bond thrillers after the war.
You can read the BBC report via the below link:
You can also read my two-part interview with Craig Cabell, the British author of Ian Fleming's Secret War (Pen & Sword Books), which is about Fleming and his 30 Assault Unit, via the links below:
An upcoming film about the intelligence gathering commando unit, starring Sean Bean and called Age of Heroes, will soon be released. Below is the film's poster.

You can also visit an earlier post about Age of Heroes and other films that feature Ian Fleming via the below link:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Twelve Tales for Christmas: Writers Read and Discuss Short Stories By Masters of the Form

The British newspaper The Guardian offers a podcast of writers who select short stories from masters of the form, and then read and discuss the stories.

One of the stories is Ernest Hemingway's Homage to Switzerland.

You can link to the newspaper site via the below link:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

From Russia With Love: Suspected Russian Spy Was Cold, Aloof and Wore Short Skirts

Ekaterina Zatuliveter, the Russian aide to a British member of Parliment that the British Security Service MI5 suspects is a spy and "honey trap," was cold, aloof and wore short skirts, according to a co-worker.

You can read about the British spy scandal in the British newspaper The Telegraph via the below link:

Philly Ranked Number One City In the World For Holiday Spirit

Philadelphia was ranked the number one city in the world for holiday spirit by U.S. Airways' airline magazine.

The magazine noted Macy's lightshow in their Center City store (seen in the above photo) and other Christmas exhibits and displays.

You can read about the magazine's ranking via the below link:,0,2182791.story

Friday, December 10, 2010

Enemies of America, Say Hello To My Little Friend: U.S. Navy Sets World Record With Incredible, Sci-FI Railgun Weapon offers a report on the successful test of the U.S. Navy's Railgun, a new weapon that fires a projectile using an electromagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound.

You can read the FoxNews report and watch a video of the test via the below link:

British Cold War Spy and Traitor Kim Philby Honored By Russian Intelligence Agency

Kim Philby, the notorious British Cold War spy and traitor, was honored by the Russian SVR, the successor to the KGB, with a plaque in Moscow.

You can read the BBC account of the ceremony via the below link:

Although the Russian leadership under Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, may think highly of Philby, most Western government, military and intelligence officials think of Philby as a traitor, a rotter, and a murderer.

You can learn more about Philby in a U.S. News & World Report article via the below link:

Former Top Intelligence Official Blasts Lobbying Effort To Release Convicted Spy Jonathan Pollard

Jeff Stein's column at The Washington Post offers the critical response of a former top U.S. intelligence official to the lobbying effort to have convicted spy Jonathan Pollard released from prison.
(Pollard is seen in the above FBI/NCIS surveillance photos).
You can read the column via the below link:
You can also read my piece on Ronald J. Olive, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Special Agent who investigated Pollard via the below links:
Below is a link to my 1999 commentary concerning the Pollard case in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Carols Still Defy Secularism

As in past years, I've heard a good number of people complain about Christmas music, which has been playing around the clock on some radio stations since Thanksgiving.

But I'm not complaining, as I love Christmas music.

As I noted in a commentary for The Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2005, our greatest composers and musical performers have produced our classic Christmas carols. And Christmas carols are perhaps the only public medium where you will hear an artistic celebration of the birth and life of Jesus Christ.

You can read my commentary on Christmas carols below:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

EgoLeaks: Why Julian Assange is An Ass

Victor Davis Hanson explains why Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks fame, is a coward, a juvenile and a narcissist.

You can read Hanson's interesting piece at National Review Online via the below link:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jay Leno Jokes About Political Correctness, WikiLeaks and Charles Manson

Jay Leno joked about a number of current issues on The Tonight Show.

You have to be careful of political correctness this time of the year. You can’t call them “Santa’s elves” anymore. They’re “undocumented little people.”

Because of a printing error, a billion new $100 bills have to be destroyed. They’re going to burn $100 billion dollars — just like they did with the last stimulus program.

President Obama’s pledge to have the most transparent administration in history has come true. Thanks to WikiLeaks.

Charles Manson was busted for having a cell phone in his prison cell. He’s surrounded by concrete and metal bars. What carrier does he have?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Oliver North On American Heroes in Special Operations

I interviewed retired Marine Lt Col Oliver North today for a piece that will appear in the upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

Lt Col North is a syndicated columnist, host of Fox News' War Stories and the author of American Heroes in Special Operations, a new book on America's military special operators in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world.

You can learn more about American Heroes in Special Operations via the below link:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Counterspies Hunting Mole at NSA

When I was in the U.S. Navy many years ago we joked that NSA stood for No Such Agency.

Today NSA (National Security Agency), the super-secret intelligence agency, is better known to the public.

After the Navy I went on to do security work for the Defense Department as a civilian employee and in that capacity I visited NSA headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland on several occasions.

So with some interest I read Bill Gertz's piece in The Washington Times that stated that NSA's counterintelligence people are hunting a "mole" who may have had a connection to the Russian spy ring that the FBI rolled up a while back.

Bill Gertz is an outstanding national security correspondent. You can read his piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post about the Russian spy ring via the below link:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Tribute to Leslie Nielsen

The doctor approached the passenger who was a former military pilot and asked him if he could fly the plane now that the two airline pilots were incapacitated.

"Surely, you can't be serious," the former military pilot asked.

"I am serious," the doctor replied. "And don't call me Shirley."

Leslie Nielson (seen in the above AP photo), who died this week, was a straight dramatic actor before he played the doctor in Airplane.

He played the doctor deadpan straight, which is why he was so funny in that film comedy. He also portrayed the detective in the Police Squad TV series and the Naked Gun film series straight and he was hilarious in that role as well.

David Zucker, one of the makers of the classic film comedies Airplane and Naked Gun, wrote a tribute to the late actor for The Hollywood Reporter.

You can read the tribute below:

The Hollywood Reporter also published a tribute to Nielson from comedians.

You can read that piece via the below link:

Assange the Anti-American

"President Obama insisted that America’s adversaries hated his predecessor, not this country. Julian Assange begs to differ," wrote Rich Lowry, the syndicated columnist and editor of National Review.

Lowry wrote an interesting column about how Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has leaked scores of American military and diplomatic documents, hates America.

You can read Lowry's column via the below link:

My On Crime & Security Column: Balancing Security and Customer Convenience

The online small business magazine published my On Crime & Security column yesterday.

The column deals with invasive security procedures at airports, as well as business offices, and how business owners and security professionals must balance security with privacy and customer convenience.

You can read the column via the below link:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New novel and old passion for cop-turned-writer Joe Wambaugh

Peter Rowe at The San Diego Union-Tribune offers an interesting piece on Joseph Wambaugh, the Los Angeles Police Department detective who went on to become a best-selling author.

Wambaugh, who has written classic police novels like The Choirboys and classic true crime books like The Onion Field, has written a new novel called Hollywood Hills.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:

You can also read my review of Joe Wambaugh's last novel, Hollywood Moon, and link to my interview with him, via the below link:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Q & A with Mark D. Clookie, Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)

Counterterrorism magazine published my interview with Mark D. Clookie, the Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

I first met Mark Clookie a while back when he was the NCIS Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge in the Northeast.

Mark Clookie was my guest on Inside Government, a public affairs radio program that aired on Sunday mornings on WMGK FM and WPEN AM in the Philadelphia area.

He and another NCIS Special Agent came on the radio program to discuss military procurement fraud.

You can read my Q&A with the NCIS director below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

My Piece On The Rise Of Chinese Espionage In The United States

Counterterrorism magazine published my article on the rise of Chinese espionage in the United States.

As I noted in the magazine piece, the U.S. Justice Department has prosecuted more than 40 espionage cases involving the Communist Chinese, including the case that was profiled on 60 Minutes a while back.

In that case, a Chinese spy handed a Defense Department official cash for classified information and the feds caught the transaction on video.

You can read my magazine piece via the below and below:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mob Talk: A Look Back at the Murder of Raymond "Long John" Martorano

Fox News Channel 29 in Philadelphia offers another Mob Talk piece with their reporter Dave Schratwieser and The Philadelphia Inquirer's George Anastasia.

This piece looks back at the murder of Raymond "Long John" Martorano.

You can watch the Fox News video via the below link:

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of George Anastasia's true crime book The Last Gangster via the below links:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pirates Of the Horn Of Africa: Five Somalis Convicted of Piracy Against USS Nicholas

The U.S. Justice Department announced on November 24th that a federal jury in Norfolk, Va., convicted five men from Somalia of engaging in piracy and related offenses in their attack on the USS Nicholas marking what is believed to be the first piracy trial conviction in the United States since 1820.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.

"Today marks the first jury conviction of piracy in more than 190 years," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "These five Somali pirates were convicted of an armed assault on the high seas against what they thought was a merchant vessel, but turned out to be a U.S. Navy frigate engaged in counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments. Today's conviction demonstrates that armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels are crimes against the international community and that pirates will face severe consequences in U.S. courts."

"Ensuring maritime security on the world's seas continues to be a high priority for NCIS as part of the international law enforcement community," said NCIS Special Agent in Charge Russ. "NCIS is forward deployed with U.S. naval forces and is able to deliver a unique blend of capabilities to help deter and prosecute pirates."

After nine days of trial, the jury convicted the five men—Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia—of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). They face a mandatory penalty of life in prison when they are sentenced on March 14, 2011.

The Somalis were indicted on April 21, 2010, and were later charged with additional crimes in a 14-count superseding indictment on July 7, 2010.

According to evidence and trial testimony, the five men left Somalia in search of a merchant ship to pirate. They used a larger ship full of supplies, along with two smaller vessels loaded with assault weapons and a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) that served as attack boats.

On April 1, 2010, Hasan, Ali, and Dire boarded one of these smaller vessels and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar remained onboard the large ship to maintain that ship during the attack.

Ali and Dire each carried an assault weapon, and Hasan carried an RPG. They opened fire on a ship, which they later discovered was the USS Nicholas, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate homeported in Norfolk, Va.

The piracy conviction and the conviction for the use of a destructive device (an RPG) in relation to a crime of violence both carry a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In addition, they are facing a maximum of 10 years in prison for attack to plunder a vessel; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy and an act of violence against persons on a vessel; a maximum of 10 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon in the special maritime jurisdiction; a maximum of 20 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence; a maximum of 10 years in prison for one count of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, a second firearm count carries an additional 25 years—to equal 35 years—in prison.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph DePadilla, John Davis, and Benjamin L. Hatch from the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome Teresinski from the Department of Justice's National Security Division prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

The above artist impression is by Alba Bagoli/AP.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Look Back at Ian Fleming's Iconic Character: The 45th Anniversary of the Airing of The Incredible World of James Bond On Television

The HMSS web log offers a piece on the 45th anniversary of the TV program (which HMSS called an infomercial) The Incredible World of James Bond.

You can read about the program and view part one of the video via the below link:

You can view part two via the below link:

You can view part three via the below link:

You can watch part four via the below link:

You can watch part five via the below link:

You can watch part six via the below link:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Elmore Leonard On John Steinbeck's Influence

Elmore Leonard recently spoke about John Steinbeck's influence on him.

You can read Leonard's remark's via the below link

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Russian Spy Agencies Under Fire for Their Rank Amateur Peformance

Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB officer and current Prime Minister of Russia, is suffering criticism of his spy agencies, according to the Scottish newspaper The Herald.

The FBI's round up of the Russian spy ring in the United States and other intelligence failures have made the once powerful Soviet spy agencies look like rank amateurs.

You can read the newspaper story via the link below:

You can also read an earlier post on the Russian spy ring via the below link:

Mark Twain's Autobiography Flying Off the Shelves

Julie Bosman at The New York Times tells us that Mark Twain's Autobiography, Volume 1, is flying off the shelves.

The autobiography, which Mark Twain wanted to be published 100 years after his death, is fast becoming a best seller.

Although I don't agree with all of Twain's views, I think he was a wonderful writer - and he was funny.

You can read the Bosman piece via the below link:

You can also visit the book's web site via the below link:

Lastly, you can visit an earlier post, where Twain is noted to be America's first blogger:

Colonel Roosevelt: Edmund Morris' Third and Final Volume of his Biography of Theodore Roosevelt

I look forward to reading Edmund Morris' third and final volume in his fine biography of one of our most fascinating, if not greatest presidents. Theodore Roosevelt led a full and wonderful life.

Colonel Roosevelt covers his post-presidency. The former president, who preferred to be called Colonel (from his Rough Rider days), rather than Mr. President, was a prolific writer, went on an African safari, won the Nobel Peace prize, formed a third political party (Bull Moose) and ran for president again, and survived an assassination attempt.

I thoroughly enjoyed Morris' first two volumes, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, and I'm sure I'll thoroughly enjoy Colonel Roosevelt as well.

Below is a link to a review of Morris' book by Nicholas Basbanes in The Los Angeles Times:,0,3351631.story

Saturday, November 20, 2010

First Look At the Russian Defector Who Blew the Cover of the Russian Spy Ring

The New York Post offers the name, background and a photo of the Russian defector who blew the covers of the Russian spy ring to the FBI.

The newspaper reports that the defector was a Russian Colonel named Alexander Poteyev (seen on the right in the above photo).

Poteyev defected to the United States and gave the names of the Russian sleeper agents in America, including Anna Chapman (seen on the left in the above photo).

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on the Russian spy ring via the below link:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Russian Arms Dealer Known As "The Merchant of Death" Prefered Clients Who Murdered Americans

A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official stated that Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer who bragged that he was the "Merchant of Death," liked clients who'd use his weapons to murder Americans.

Bout was arrested in Thailand in a clever DEA sting two years ago. On November 16th, after two years of legal proceedings, Bout was extradited to the Southern District of New York from Thailand to stand trial on terrorism charges, the Justice Department announced.

Bout arrived on a DEA charter plane and was brought to a high-security prison in Manhattan, where he will be held pending trial.

Bout, who also goes by many other names, including “Boris,” “Victor Anatoliyevich Bout,” “Victor But,” “Viktor Budd,” “Viktor Butt,” “Viktor Bulakin,” and “Vadim Markovich Aminov,” is scheduled to be presented in Manhattan federal court tomorrow afternoon before U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, to whom the case has been assigned.

“Viktor Bout has been indicted in the United States, but his alleged arms trafficking activity and support of armed conflicts in Africa has been a cause of concern around the world. His extradition is a victory for the rule of law worldwide,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Long considered one of the world’s most prolific arms traffickers, Mr. Bout will now appear in federal court in Manhattan to answer to charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to a terrorist organization for use in trying to kill Americans.”

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Viktor Bout allegedly jumped at the chance to arm narco-terrorists bent on killing Americans with an arsenal of military grade weapons. Today’s successful extradition underscores our commitment to protect Americans on our own soil and throughout the world. The historic operation culminating in today’s extradition would not have been possible without the courageous and groundbreaking work of our partners at the DEA.”

“With Viktor Bout now behind bars in the United States, this defendant will finally face his most feared consequence: accountability for his alleged crimes in a court of law,” said Michele M. Leonhart, Acting Administrator of the DEA. “For more than a decade, Mr. Bout is alleged to have plied a deadly trade in surface-to-air missiles, land mines, bullets, death and destruction. Fortunately, with his arrest, extradition, and pending prosecution in the Southern District of New York, his last alleged attempt to deal in death means that he will finally face justice.”

According to the indictment and other court documents:

Until his arrest in March 2008, Bout was an alleged international weapons trafficker. To carry out his weapons trafficking business, Bout assembled a fleet of cargo airplanes capable of transporting weapons and military equipment to various parts of the world, including Africa, South America and the Middle East.

In 2004, as a result of his weapons trafficking activities in Liberia, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) placed Bout on the Specially Designated Nationals list, which prohibits any transactions between Bout and any U.S. nationals, and freezes any of Bout’s assets that are within the jurisdiction of the United States.

Between November 2007 and March 2008, Bout agreed to sell to the Colombian narco-terrorist organization, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), millions of dollars worth of weapons -- including surface-to-air missile systems; armor piercing rocket launchers; AK-47 firearms; millions of rounds of ammunition; Russian spare parts for rifles; anti-personnel land mines; C-4 plastic explosives; night-vision equipment; “ultralight” aircraft that could be outfitted with grenade launchers and missiles; and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The FARC is dedicated to the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Colombia and is also the world’s largest supplier of cocaine. Bout agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the DEA (the “CSs”), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC, with the specific understanding that the weapons were to be used to attack U.S. helicopters in Colombia.

During a covertly-recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6, 2008, Bout stated to the CSs that he could arrange to airdrop the arms to the FARC in Colombia, and offered to sell two cargo planes to the FARC that could be used for arms deliveries. Bout also provided a map of South America, and asked the CSs to show him American radar locations in Colombia.

Bout indicated that he understood that the CSs wanted the arms for use against American personnel in Colombia, and advised that the United States was also his enemy, stating that the FARC’s fight against the United States was also his fight. During the meeting, Bout also offered to provide people to train the FARC in the use of the arms. Following this meeting, Bout was arrested by Thai law enforcement authorities.

The indictment charges Bout with four separate terrorism offenses:

Count one: conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals,

Count two: conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees,

Count three: conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, and

Count four: conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization

If convicted of all counts, Bout faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

This investigation was conducted by the DEA and its success is the result of international law enforcement cooperation efforts spanning the globe. The case is being handled by the Southern District of New York’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anjan Sahni and Brendan R. McGuire are in charge of the prosecution. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, as well as the U.S. State Department, also provided substantial assistance.

Communist Chinese Spy Pleds Guilty To Stealing Ford Secrets

A former Ford employee, Xiang Dong Yu, aka Mike Yu, 49, of Beijing, China, pleaded guilty today in federal court to two counts of theft of trade secrets, announced Barbara L. McQuade, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.

According to the plea agreement in this case, Yu was a product engineer for the Ford Motor Company from 1997 to 2007 and had access to Ford trade secrets, including Ford design documents.

In December 2006, Yu accepted a job at the China branch of a U.S. company. On the eve of his departure from Ford and before he told Ford of his new job, Yu copied some 4,000 Ford documents onto an external hard drive, including sensitive Ford design documents.

Included in those documents were system design specifications for the engine/transmission mounting subsystem, electrical distribution system, electric power supply, electrical subsystem and generic body module, among others.

Ford spent millions of dollars and decades on research, development, and testing to develop and continuously improve the design specifications set forth in these documents. The majority of the design documents copied by the defendant did not relate to his work at Ford.

On December 20, 2006, the defendant traveled to the location of his new employer in Shenzhen, China, taking the Ford trade secrets with him. On January 2, 2007, Yu e-mailed his Ford supervisor from China and informed him that he was leaving Ford’s employ.

The plea agreement further states that in November 2008, the defendant began working for Beijing Automotive Company, a direct competitor of Ford. On October 19, 2009, the defendant returned to the United States, flying into Chicago from China.

Upon his arrival, the defendant was arrested on a warrant issued upon the indictment in this case. At that time, the defendant had in his possession his Beijing Automotive Company laptop computer.

Upon examination of that computer, the FBI discovered that 41 Ford system design specifications documents had been copied to the defendant’s Beijing Automotive Company work computer.

The FBI also discovered that each of those design documents had been accessed by the defendant during the time of his employment with Beijing Automotive Company.

Under the plea agreement, Yu faces a sentence of between 63-78 months’ imprisonment based on an agreed loss amount of more than $50 million and less than $100 million and a fine of up to $150,000. The agreement also provides that Yu will be deported from the United States after completing any term of incarceration.

"We will vigilantly protect the intellectual property of our U.S. automakers, who invest millions of dollars and decades of time in research and development to compete in a global economy," McQuade said. "Those who do not play by the rules will be brought to justice."

Special Agent Arena stated, “Michigan, as well as the rest of the United States, is significantly impacted by the auto industry. Theft of trade secrets is a threat to national security and investigating allegations involving theft of trade secrets is a priority for the FBI. The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue these cases.”

Yu remains in federal custody and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

The investigation of this case had been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My On Crime & Security Column: Indiana Police Officer Explains the Benefits of a Business Crime Watch

The online small business magazine published my On Crime & Security column today.

My column covers my interview with an Indiana police officer who explained the benefits of a Business Crime Watch.

You can read my column via the below link:

John Wayne's Winchester and Other Favorite Movie Guns

As The American Rifleman notes, guns have been part of the movies since The Great Train Robbery  in 1903.

The magazine's web page has complied a list of the 10 most favorite movie guns, which includes John Wayne's Winchester Model 1892 (seen in the above photo), which appeared in the film True Grit.

You can see the rest of the favorite movie guns via the below link:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Crime Beat Column: Martin Scorsese's Film World of Crime

In the opening scene of The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-Winning film, Jack Nicholson gives a speech to his young criminal aspirants. With facial expressions and motions perhaps more suited to a warlock than a South Boston hoodlum, Nicholson tells his students that when he was a kid he was told that he could become a cop or a criminal. He then asks them, when someone is facing you with a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

Well, Scorsese himself noted the difference in his 1990 film Goodfellas. When Ray Liotta, portraying small-time hood Henry Hill, is backing out of his driveway, a loaded gun is placed behind his head and a man yells for him not to move or he’ll get his head blown off.

In the voice-over narration, Hill relaxes and says it must be a cop, because if it were a criminal – a Goodfella - he would not have heard a thing. He would be dead.

That, Mr. Nicholson, is the difference between a cop and a criminal with a loaded gun. The cop arrested Hill, whereas the criminal would have given Mr. Hill the proverbial two behind the ear.

It is insulting to believe that working class kids from neighborhoods like Irish South Boston, or South Philly’s Little Italy, where I grew up, have only the two choices in life. Although it’s true that most of the mob guys as well as many cops come from South Philly - including one who went on to become the police commissioner and mayor of Philadelphia, Frank Rizzo - there were and are many other job paths available.

Including, I might remind The Departed's screenwriter, Bill Monahan, writing and filmmaking.

The stereotype, I suppose, is that cops and criminals are both violent and gun-crazy, but that notion is pure nonsense. I grew up with guys who went on to become criminals and guys who went on to be cops (as well as electricians, doctors and postal workers). Those who became criminals never stood at a fork in the road asking themselves if they should apply for the police department or rob a warehouse. Usually, they already had criminal records that would preclude them from becoming cops. But beyond that, the criminal, unlike a cop, has a bent mind. They are generally sociopaths who have no empathy for their victims.

Cops, on the other hand, generally have a sense of justice and duty, and/or they like the idea of a good job with benefits and a pension. Cops rarely use their guns and when they do, they are buried in an investigation that will determine their future as a police officer. Cops and criminals may come from the same working class neighborhoods (as well as from the suburbs) and there have been aberrant cases of bent cops, to be sure, but the two groups are as different as night and day.

That criticism aside, I’m genuinely happy that Martin Scorsese finally received an Oscar for one of his films. But I don’t think The Departed is in the same league as Goodfellas, which I rank as one of the greatest crime films ever made. Scorsese’s Casino (1996) and Raging Bull (1980) are also superior films in my view.
I enjoyed The Departed when it came out last year and I recently watched it again on cable TV. I think it is a good film. Scorsese offered a grand showcase for some fine acting from Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and Mark Walberg. Ray Winstone (who was also brilliant in Sexy Beast) energizes the film as a criminal henchman and Martin Sheen gave a fine, understated performance as the police captain who oversees the undercover cop portrayed by DiCaprio. His calm demeanor is a counterpoint to Walberg’s angry young police Sgt.

Understated is not exactly the word I’d use to describe Nicholson’s performance, although to be fair, he was portraying a flamboyant crime boss based in part, I’m sure, on Boston’s own Whitey Bulger, a vicious murderer and FBI informant who is now one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted.

James "Whitey" Bulger was a notorious Boston criminal that ruled in the 1980s and early 1990s. He went on the lam in 1994 after he was tipped off to an arrest warrant for a variety of crimes including murder. Bulger, who is suspected of 21 murders, was the leader of the Winter Hill gang. The gang included a cold-blooded killer named Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi and an assortment of demented and violent criminals.

Bulger’s Irish-American gang competed with the Italian-American Patriarca crime family. In this joust, Bulger was aided by his brother, William "Billy" Bulger, who was president of the Massachusetts State Senate, and an FBI agent named John Connolly.

Although Billy Bulger was never convicted of a crime in connection to his brother, local observers believe that the brothers used each other’s power and influence to get ahead. Connolly, who grew up in South Boston and had a long connection to Whitey Bulger, placed him on the FBI’s payroll.

The FBI was hot to bring down the Patriarca crime family and Bulger, despite the "Southie Code," became an informant – a rat, in criminal parlance – for Connolly and the FBI. Bulger cleverly used the FBI to wipe out his competitors and to shield him from prosecution from federal and commonwealth authorities.

As the Italian mob guys were rolled up thanks to Bulger’s inside information, Bulger assumed their criminal enterprises. Connolly, thanks to Bulger, looked good to his FBI bosses.

Eventually, Bulger’s murders, narcotics dealing, extortion and other crimes became so vast and violent that he went beyond the protection of his brother and the FBI. Connolly was later convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for crossing the line in aiding Bulger.

I’ve visited Boston many times and I know the city fairly well. Boston reminds me in many ways of my own city, Philadelphia.

If you would like to know more about Boston crime and Bulger, there are several good books on the subject and I recommend Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, and The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century by Howie Carr.

Although the Bulger/FBI storyline is an added twist to the story, Scorsese's film is based on the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, which in a way, I wish I had not seen before I saw The Departed.

Infernal Affairs, which I saw in Chinese with English subtitles, was an interesting film. I visited Hong Kong many years ago when I was in the Navy and I vividly recall the crowded streets, the neon lights with Chinese symbols and the hustle of the people. When I read that Scorsese was filming a remake, I wondered what his vision of this story would be.

Like the original film, The Departed tells the tale of two young men who go undercover. The story is very similar, merely exchanging Chinese gangs in Hong Kong for Irish-American gangs in Boston. One of the undercover cops is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, who goes undercover to infiltrate Nicholson’s Irish mob and the second, portrayed by Matt Damon, is a criminal protégé of Nicholson’s who becomes a cop and infiltrates the Massachusetts State Police.

I’m not too crazy about DiCaprio. I did not buy him as a street tough in Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and although I loved the film and the otherwise stellar cast of Daniel Day Lewis (who was also brilliant in The Last of the Mohicans) Liam Neelson (also brilliant in Batman Begins), Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson and John C. Reilly, DiCaprio’s unbelievable performance lessened my enjoyment of the film. I also think DiCaprio stunk up Scorsese’s The Aviator. I just could not buy him as Howard Hughes.

DiCaprio, thankfully, was not nearly as front and center in The Departed, and I have to admit that he gave a good performance. His performance sucking up to former Vice President Al Gore at the Academy Awards ceremony is another matter.

I’ve been a Scorsese fan since Mean Streets came out in 1973. I was a young aspiring writer at the time, hanging out at a bar in South Philly that was the same type of bar that Scorsese portrayed in Mean Streets.

The characters in the film, based on people he knew from the Lower East Side of New York, had their counterparts in South Philly. Replace New York’s tenements with South Philly’s row homes, and you had the same type of neighborhood and people.

One weeknight at the bar, the bar’s owner called me over. He had seen Mean Streets and knowing that I was a film buff as well, asked me if I had seen the film. I said that I had and that I loved it. We laughed as we pointed out our own "Johnny Boy," "Michael" and the other characters from the film.

Inspired by our conversation, he promptly closed the bar, told customers to come to the movies or go home. About a dozen of us went to see Mean Streets.

I later read The Playboy Interview with Scorsese and he mentioned a story about another crew that had flocked to see Mean Streets. He said that while filming Goodfellas, Henry Hill told him that he and Paul Vario’s son had seen Mean Streets and loved it. They saw Paul Vario, who was a capo in the Lucchese crime family, and urged him to see the film. Vario, who rarely went to the movies, gave in and saw the film.

Vario, who would years later be portrayed by Paul Sorvino in Scorsese’s Goodfellas, called his crew together and instructed them to see Mean Streets. Vario, a man of few words, simply told his astonished crew, "It’s about us."

If you have not caught The Departed yet, I recommend that you see the film on DVD or on cable. It is not Goodfellas, but it is still a pretty good crime film. You might also want to revisit Scorsese’s other great crime films.

Bulger is still at large today, walking around with his millions. There have been sightings of Bulger leaving movie theaters showing The Departed.

Note: The column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2007.