Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Berlin 1961: When Kennedy Blinked

Charles McCarry, a former CIA deep cover agent and the author of The Tears of Autumn, The Better Angels, and other outstanding spy novels, wrote an interesting review of Frederick Kempe's Berlin 1961 in The Wall Street Journal.

Readers skeptical of the Camelot myth may experience twinges of schadenfreude while reading this meticulously researched, elegantly written account of John F. Kennedy's mortifying encounters with the Soviet Union's Nikita Khrushchev during the first year of his presidency. Others, on coming to the end of Frederick Kempe's molecule-by-molecule deconstruction of the Kennedy reputation for toughness, vigor, smarts and unshakable cool, are more likely to breathe a sigh of relief that civilization somehow survived the confrontation.

"Berlin 1961" revolves around the question of whether Kennedy's decision to countenance the erection of the Berlin Wall was, in Mr. Kempe's words, "a successful means of avoiding war, or . . . the unhappy result of his missing backbone." On those terms, the book is a scholarly history of the crisis that culminated on Aug. 13, 1961, when East Germany, convinced that its economic and political survival depended on stopping the hemorrhage of refugees to the West, cut the city in two with the Berlin Wall, thereby imprisoning its people for the next 26 years. Since 1945, 2.8 million, or one in every six East Germans, had fled their benighted country.

You can read the rest of Charles McCarry's review via the below link:


Saturday, May 28, 2011

South Philly Mob Talk: The Big Bust

Fox 29's Dave Schratwieser discusses the federal government's takedown of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime family with George Anastasia, The Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter.

You can watch the video via the below link:


You can also read the Justice Department's May 23rd announcement of the indictment below:

WASHINGTON – A superseding indictment was unsealed today against 13 members and associates of the Philadelphia organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (LCN), including its current boss and underboss. The indictment charges various crimes involving racketeering conspiracy, extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling and witness tampering.

The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; William H. Ryan Jr., Acting Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; George C. Venizelos, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Division; Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton of the Philadelphia office of Internal Revenue Service (IRS)-Criminal Investigations; Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey; Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan; and Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police Colonel Rick Fuentes .

The defendants charged in the 50-count superseding indictment are Philadelphia LCN family boss Joseph Ligambi, Philadelphia LCN family underboss Joseph Massimino, George Borgesi, Martin Angelina, Anthony Staino Jr., Gaeton Lucibello, Damion Canalichio, Louis Monacello, Louis Barretta, Gary Battaglini, Robert Verrecchia, Eric Esposito and Robert Ranieri.

All but two of the defendants were arrested today and will make initial court appearances in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia at 1:30 pm. EST. Borgesi and Canalichio are already serving federal prison sentences for previous convictions.

“Today’s arrests and charges are the largest enforcement action in a decade against La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “We have pried loose La Cosa Nostra's grip on power and influence in the United States. But there is still work to be done. We will continue use all the tools at our disposal – including wiretaps, undercover operations and consensual recordings - to build cases against these individuals, and to bring them to justice.”

“It goes without saying that Philadelphia has a rich and vibrant history steeped in government, law and order,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “Indeed, the documents which form the basis of our government and the rule of law in this country were signed here. Unfortunately, there continues to exist within Philadelphia a criminal element which refuses to abide by our laws and continues to use force and violence to instill fear and exert power in order to make money. Today, we make clear that such activity will not be tolerated by my office and that La Cosa Nostra remains a priority for the Department of Justice.”

“The significance of the extensive and long-term investigative effort that has resulted in the unsealing of this indictment and the arrests today is that it represents our continuing commitment to the dismantling of the Philadelphia LCN crime syndicate family,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Venizelos. “The FBI in Philadelphia and all of its law enforcement partners will remain focused on identifying and destroying the elements of organized crime that have long victimized Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.”

According to the superseding indictment, the Philadelphia LCN family is one of a number of LCN families based in various cities throughout the United States. The Philadelphia LCN family is led by a boss, who has authority over the activities of the members and associates of organization. If a boss is sent to prison, he appoints an “acting boss” to direct the organization’s affairs. In addition to the boss, the administration of the Philadelphia LCN includes an underboss and consigliere who together oversee crews of criminals led by captains, who in turn supervise organized crime soldiers and associates.

The superseding indictment alleges that for more than a decade, 10 of the defendants, including Ligambi as the boss and Masimino as the underboss, as well as other members and associates of the Philadelphia LCN family, conspired to conduct and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia LCN family through a pattern of racketeering activity and through the collection of unlawful debts. The alleged racketeering activity includes numerous acts involving extortion, extortionate extensions of credit through usurious loans, extortionate collections, illegal gambling and witness tampering. The organization’s collection of unlawful debts allegedly relates to its loan sharking operations and debts that arose from their illegal gambling businesses.

For example, according to the superseding indictment, Ligambi, Massimino, Staino and other conspirators allegedly ran illegal electronic gambling device businesses, providing video poker machines and other gambling devices for bars, restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops and other locations in Philadelphia and its suburbs, and then collected the illegal gambling proceeds. After federal law enforcement agents seized 34 of their illegal electronic gambling devices, Ligambi, Massimino and Staino allegedly forced the owners of another illegal electronic gambling device business to sell their illegal businesses to them, including 34 machines.

In another example, the superseding indictment charges that from 2002 to 2006 Massimino extorted yearly tribute payments from a bookmaker to the Philadelphia LCN family so that the bookmaker could avoid personal harm and disruption of the illegal bookmaking business.

According to the superseding indictment, the defendants promoted and furthered their illegal money-making activities through violence, actual and implied threats of violence, and the cultivation and exploitation of the Philadelphia LCN family’s long-standing reputation for violence. The defendants also used this reputation for violence to intimidate and prevent victims and witnesses from cooperating with law enforcement. The indictment alleges various instances where defendants used phrases such as “chop him up” and “put a bullet in your head” when threatening victims. In one instance, Canalicho allegedly used a bat to beat a victim for not paying a loan debt.

The superseding indictment alleges that some of the defendants continued their racketeering activities even after being sent to prison. For example, Borgesi and Massimino, while in prison, allegedly generated criminal proceeds for themselves and the Philadelphia LCN family by using intermediaries to operate criminal businesses and to make extortionate demands at their direction.

Each charge of racketeering conspiracy, collection of unlawful debt, collection of extensions of credit through extortionate means, making extortionate extensions of credit, financing extortionate extensions of credit and witness tampering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The illegal gambling charges each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John S. Han of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys David E. Troyer and Frank A. Labor III for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather A. Castellino of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, the IRS-Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, Office of Inspector General, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police and the Philadelphia Police Department. Additional assistance was provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Golf Stories Link P.G. Wodehouse, Ian Fleming And John Updike

I'm not a golfer, but I have friends who are fanatical about the game.

I'm sure my friends will be interested in reading a new book called Golf Stories.

Edited by Charles McGrath (Everyman's Library), the book includes stories from P.G. Wodehouse, Ian Fleming, John Updike, F. Scott Fitzgerald and other notable writers on the game of golf. 

Eric Felton at The Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting piece about Golf Stories. You can read his piece via the link below:


Friday, May 27, 2011

My Q & A With Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief And Author Of "Osama Bin Laden," Michael Scheuer

Prior to the Navy SEALs killing America's Public Enemy Number 1, Osama bin Laden, I interviewed Michael Scheuer, the former CIA chief of the bin Laden unit and the author of a book on the al-Qaeda chief, called Osama bin Laden.

Although I don't totally agree with Mr. Scheuer's views, his book was interesting.

My interview appears in the latest issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read my interview with Michael Scheuer below:

My Piece On Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Discussing The Iraq War And 9/11 At The National Constitiuion Center In Philadelphia

A while back I ventured to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to hear former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discuss his memoir, Known and Unknown.

The center was the site selected by Donald Rumsfeld to be his kick off for his national book tour. I covered the event for Counterterrorism magazine.

Althought the book covered Rumsfeld's long life and government career, historian Michael Beschloss based most of his questions on the Iraq War and 9/11.

You can read my magazine piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Philly Mob Used Reputation And Threats Of Violence To Secure Gambling Racket

George Anastasia, The Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, wrote an interesting piece about how the Philly mob didn't have to resort to violence to take over video poker gambling racket.

They didn't break legs, because they didn't have to.

They lived off the reputation of the organization and the gangsters who came before them.

And they made a lot of money.

That was the picture of the Philadelphia mob painted by federal prosecutors Wednesday at bail hearings for two top members of the crime family arrested Monday in a racketeering-gambling case.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:


Top Ten Moments From Ian Fleming's James Bond Novels

In light of the publication of Carte Blanche, the new James Bond continuation novel by American thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, Mark Monahan at the British newspaper The Telegraph came up with his top ten moments from the Ian Fleming thrillers.

You can read Monahan's picks via the below link:


I'll offer my own top ten moments from Ian Fleming's thrillers in a later post.

A Review Of John Wayne's The Comancheros' Blu-Ray Release

William Bibbiani at Craveonline.com reviewed John Wayne's The Comancheros'  Blu-Ray release.

Although not one of the Duke's best films, The Comancheros is still a good film.

Lee Marvin briefly shines in his small role as a gun-runner and outlaw as mean and nasty as Marvin's Liberty Valance in John Ford's classic western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Lee Marvin plays well against John Wayne. I wish he had been in The Comancheros longer.

Stuart Whitman is fine, but as Bibbiani notes in his review, the role of Paul Regret was written with Cary Grant in mind. I would love to have seen Cary Grant in this film with Wayne and Marvin.

And for those who still say John Wayne can't act, I suggest they watch the scene with Wayne in a jail cell with an over-the-top character actor (I can't recall the actor's name), whom Wayne impersonates to get close to Marvin.

Watch Wayne's Texas Ranger character act like the jailed criminal when he meets Marvin. Great stuff.

If you've not seen The Comancheros, I suggest you check it out.

You can read the review of The Comancheros via the below link:


Battle Of The Bonds: James Bond Action Figures Battle Each other In Clever Stop-Action Parody

Wired.com offers an interesting piece on a stop-action film parody of the James Bond films.

The James Bond action figures modeled after the actors who portrayed Bond - Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig and others - swap insults in this clever, silly and amusing short film.

The parody is especially amusing to me, as my daughter gave me the black tux-wearing Sean Connery action figure from Dr No a few years ago as a present. The gift was given partly as a joke, as she knows I am a big Ian Fleming & Sean Connery/Bond fan.

My stepson later gave me the scuba diving Sean Connery action figure from Thunderball. The action figures are on my book shelves.

You can read the Wired.com piece and watch the parody via the below link:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Classic Thrillers Of Len Deighton And Alistair MacLean To Be Reprinted

The web site Booktrade.Info reports that Sterling and HarperCollins will team up to reprint the complete works of Len Deighton (seen in the above BBC photo) and Alistair MacLean.

I enjoyed the thrillers of both writers in the 1960s and I look forward to rereading MacLean's The Guns of Navarone, When Eight Bells Toll, Ice Station Zebra and his other thrillers. (Howard Hughes reportedly watched the film version of Ice Station Zebra over and over again when he was hiding out in his high-rise apartment in las Vegas).

I also look forward to rereading Deighton's early spy series with the intelligence officer with no name, (he was called Harry Palmer in the Michael Caine film series based on the books) like The Ipcress File, Horse Under Water and Funeral in Berlin, as well as the Bernard Sansom series  - Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match - and his other interesting thrillers.

I hope the reprints of the classic thrillers will be read and appreciated by a younger generation.

You can read the Booktrade.info piece via the below link:


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Strong U.S. Military Is Key To Long-Term Success Against Aggressors, Dictators And Terrorists In The 21st Century

By Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2011 - The ultimate guarantee against success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century is the size, strength and global reach of the United States military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

"Beyond the current wars, our military credibility, commitment and presence are required to sustain alliances, to protect trade routes and energy supplies, and to deter would-be adversaries from making the kind of miscalculations that so often lead to war," Gates said, speaking at a graduation commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

Gates acknowledged that defense cuts will have to be made in light of the nation's steep fiscal imbalances and mounting debt, and that Washington cannot put off dealing with the crisis.

"But going forward, we must be clear-eyed about the fact that there are no painless answers," Gates said.

At the same time, Gates said, the United States faces a complex and unpredictable international security environment that includes a major war in Afghanistan, winding up the war in Iraq, revolution throughout the Middle East, new rising powers, nuclear proliferation in Iran and Korea, the continued threat of terrorism.

But, Gates added, America has faced equally tough times in the past and emerged successfully.

"We have battled slavery and intolerance in our own society, and on the global stage prevailed against Nazi Germany and Soviet communism. We have seen periods of painful economic collapse give way to renewed and unprecedented prosperity," Gates said. "Our progress has been sometimes unsteady, and sometimes too slow. Winston Churchill purportedly said during World War II, 'You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they've tried everything else.'"

But the U.S. story has been, and still is, the envy of the world, Gates said.

"Indeed, the death of Osama bin Laden after a decade-long manhunt by the United States reminded us earlier this month that, as President [Barack] Obama said, when faced with tough times, 'We do not falter. We don't turn back. We pick ourselves up and we get on with the hard task of keeping our country strong and safe," the secretary said.

Americans live now in a time of "great necessities," Gates said.

"For my entire life, the United States has been the most economically dynamic, powerful country and government in the world -- the indispensible nation," he said. "It still is all those things, and indeed, as I've traveled the world over the last four and a half years, I have been struck by the number of countries – from Europe to Southeast Asia – who want to forge closer ties with us and our military, and want the United States to play a bigger, not smaller, role as partners providing stability, security and prosperity across the globe.

"But there is no question that our ability to lead, and our economic strength – a given for nearly three quarters of a century – are being tested by fiscal problems at home and rising powers and emergent threats abroad. Your lives will be defined by how we respond to these challenges," he added.

America cannot assume, because things have worked out in the past, that the problems facing the country eventually will resolve themselves, Gates said. And, he added, the United States needs leaders able to make tough choices and work together.

As leaders debate those choices, the secretary said, some will call to shrink America's international commitments and the military's size and capabilities.

"As part of America getting its financial house in order, the size of our defense budget must be addressed," Gates said. "That means culling more bureaucratic excess and overhead, taking a hard look at personnel levels and costs, and re-examining missions and capabilities to separate the desirable or optional from the essential."

In considering those cuts, though, Gates urged caution.

"A recurring theme in America for nearly a century has been a tendency to conclude after each war that the fundamental nature of man and the iron realities of nations have changed -- that history, in all of its unpredictable and tragic dimensions, has come to a civilized end [and] that we will no longer have to confront foreign enemies with size, steel and strength," Gates said.

Another tendency, he added, has been for Americans repeatedly to avert their eyes in the belief that remote events elsewhere in the world need not engage this country.

"The lessons of history tell us we must not diminish our ability or our determination to deal with the threats and challenges on the horizon, because ultimately they will need to be confronted," Gates said. "If history – and religion – teach us anything, it is that there will always be evil in the world -- people bent on aggression, oppression, satisfying their greed for wealth and power and territory, or determined to impose an ideology based on the subjugation of others and the denial of liberty to men and women."

In keeping with his most recent commencement speeches at Washington State University, North Dakota State University and the University of Oklahoma, Gates used the opportunity to issue a call to public service.

"We need the active involvement of our best, most honest, citizens to make our democracy work -- whether as candidates for public office, as civil servants, members of our armed forces or in other roles," he said.

Gates, who entered government service 45 years ago this summer, will retire as secretary of defense next month. He challenged the graduates to consider taking an active role in their nation's life by committing to spending at least part of their careers in public service.

Gates closed with a quote by the elder President John Adams in a letter to his son, Thomas Boylston Adams, in which he wrote: "Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or another. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not."

"To this I would add," Gates said, "if America declines to lead in the world, others will not. So to the Notre Dame class of 2011, I would ask the wisest and most honest of you to find a way to serve and to lead our country to new greatness at home and around the globe."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Philly Mob Takedown: Reputed Mob Boss Joseph Ligambi And 12 Others Charged With Racketeering, Gambling And Other Crimes

George Anastasia, The Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran crime reporter, offers a piece on the federal government's arrest of reputed Cosa Nostra organized crime boss Joseph Ligambi and ten others. Two others, already incarcerated, were also charged.

You can read Anastasia's piece via the below link:


You can also read the indictment via the below link:


Lastly, you can read George Anastasia's piece on Philadelphia mob bosses from the past 30 years via the below link:


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Age Of Heroes: How The WWII Inspirations For James Bond Is Being Brought To Life In An Evocative New Movie Thriller

Michael Pilgrim at the British newspaper The Daily Mail wrote an interesting piece on the true wartime story behind the film Age of Heroes.

The film is about the 30AU intelligence-gathering commandos that were formed and led by Royal Navy Commander Ian Fleming, who would go on after the war to write the James Bond thrillers.

Sean Bean and Danny Dyer star as two of the commandos and James D'Arcy stars as Ian Fleming.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Armed Forces Day 2011

The I's Have It: Mark Twain, Politicians Of Old, And President Obama

Sherman Frederick at The Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote an interesting piece about an encounter between a young reporter named Mark Twain and a windbag politican, and connects the story to Obama's recent speech at CIA headquarters.

You can read the piece via the below link:


Interview With Frederick Forsyth On The 40th Anniversary of The Classic Thriller, The Day Of The Jackal

Helen Brown at the British newspaper The Telegraph interviewed the great thriller writer Frederick Forsyth about his book The Day of the Jackal, on the classic thriller's 40th anniversary.

You can read the interview via the below link:


You can also read my On Crime & Thrillers column on Frederick Forsyth and his latest thriller, The Cobra via the below link;


Blinded By Greed: U.S. Sailor Sentenced To 34 Years In Espionage Case

Petty Officer 2nd Class Bryan Minkyu Martin was sentenced to 34 years for attempted espionge and other charges by a military judge at the Norfolk Naval Station.

You can read about the case in The Virginian-Pilot via the below link:


My On Crime & Security Column: Charity Fraud Scams Follow In The Wake Of Natural Disasters

The business web site AllBusiness.com published my On Crime & Security column today.

You can read the column via the below link:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

U.S. Sailor Pleads Guilty To Attempted Espionage And Other Charges

Petty Officer 2nd Class Bryan Minkyu Martin pleaded guilty today at his court martial in Norfolk, Virginia for attempting to sell classified information to a person he believed was a Chinese intelligence officer.

You can read more about Martin in The Virginian-Pilot via the below link:


You can also read an earlier post on the sailor and would-be-spy via the below link:


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meet The New Boss: Eqyptian Selected As Interim Al-Qaeda Chief

An Eqyptian militant has been slected as the interim replacement for Osama bin Laden, The Christian Science Monitor reported today.

Al Qaeda has chosen Egyptian Al Qaeda member Saif al-Adel as interim leader while it decides on a more permanent successor to Osama bin Laden, according to independent but unconfirmed reports. While Mr. Adel has long been a senior member of Al Qaeda, his appointment comes as a surprise to many. It may signal a rift in the organization, which many expected would now be led by Mr. bin Laden's longtime No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:


Inside The Bin Laden Raid: How Navy SEALs Took Out Public Enemy No. 1 And How The Plan Nearly Failed

Helen Kennedy at The New York Daily News wrote an interesting piece about the bin Laden raid.

Dramatic new details about the 40-minute blitz against Osama Bin Laden - and how close it came to disaster - finally explain all the grim faces in the now-famous Situation Room photo.

The Associated Press reported extensive new details about the raid on the Al Qaeda leader's compound, revealing the operation was much more of a nailbiter than previously known.

You can read the rest of the newspaper story via the below link:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Threatcon Column: A History of Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs On Display At The National Constitution Center In Philadelphia

‘Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America,” is an exhibition currently on display at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The exhibit was created by the International Spy Museum in Washington D. C.

The exhibition has toured the country since 2006 and will remain on display in Philadelphia until August 21st. The exhibit may be appearing at a site near you in the future.

The National Constitution Center said that the exhibition dramatically illustrates the challenge of securing our nation without compromising the civil liberties upon which it was founded.

“Through artifacts, multimedia elements, and interactive exhibits, visitors will uncover stories of espionage, treason, and deception in the United States from 1776 to today,” the center announced. “Visitors will discover little-known accounts of foreign agents, militias, and radicals, and learn how responses to domestic attacks have driven counterintelligence measures that continue to affect our everyday lives.”

I attended the press preview of the Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs exhibit back in March.

One of the speakers at the press preview was James Doolin, the assistant special agent-in-charge for counterterrorism, counterintelligence and weapons of mass destruction programs for the FBI office in Philadelphia.

“I’ve served 25 years as an agent in the field, overseas and at headquarters,” Doolin said. “In those 25 years I’ve seen a lot of changes but none as dramatic as those in the almost ten years since 9/11.

Doolin went on to say that throughout American history and continuing today, we have dealt with threats against our national security.

“These threats come from outside the country, from groups like al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and they are also coming from inside our borders from our home-grown individual groups,” Doolin said.

Doolin noted that the Internet provides a vehicle for terrorists to spread propaganda, to recruit and to have people act on their behalf.

‘Since 2001 we have tripled our joint terrorism task force,” Doolin said. “These task forces are made up of not just FBI but our intelligence community members, our military, and our state and local law enforcement agencies. The tasks forces have the responsibility to stop the next terrorist attack.”

“You have civil liberties, but you should also have the right not to live in fear of people and organizations committing terrorist attacks,” Doolin said.

“In the FBI we don’t see this as a tension or a conflict; we see it as a balance. An important balance we see day-in-day-out balancing of civil liberties and individual rights with the need to protect this country.”

Another speaker was Peter Earnest, the International Spy Museum’s founding executive director. Earnest previously served 35 years in the CIA.

“Our purpose in doing the exhibit was primarily educational,” Earnest said. “We want to have people visit this exhibit, and for those who might be older, remind them of our past, remind them of what has gone on before us.”

“And for those who are younger, we wanted to say that these are the things that have happened and now it is your generation that will deal with today’s threats. History has a way of repeating,” Earnest said.

The exhibit offers a timeline that traces more than 80 acts of terror that have taken place in the United States from 1776 to today.

The events in the exhibit include the capture of the City of Washington and the burning of the White House during the War of 1812, the explosion of a munitions depot in New York Harbor in 1916 by German secret agents, aided by American collaborators, and the bombing of the Attorney General’s home in 1919 by an anarchist.

There are also displays concerning the Ku Klux Klan, the American Communist Party under Kremlin rule, the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army from the 1960s, and the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The final exhibit is called Beyond September 11th - Terrorism Today.

This exhibit offers fragments of the planes that hit the World Trade Center and the smashed front end of a New York City police car damaged in the terrorist attack.

I enjoyed the exhibit and I thought it was well-done, but I had a complaint.

The exhibit offered a photo gallery of the leaders of the white supremacy groups in America, but there was not a photo of Osama bin Laden (this was before the Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden), nor was there any mention of al-Qaeda, bin Laden’s group who planned and flew the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11.

A casual observer might get the impression that the Ku Klux Klan attacked us on 9/11.

I wrote the International Spy Museum and asked if this was an oversight or simply political correctness.

Peter Earnest wrote back and stated that my point was a good one.

“When the exhibit was initially developed and displayed at the International Spy Museum in DC the conclusion contained a film titled Under Siege,” Earnest wrote. “This film, which is now six years old, did include far greater detail on the role of al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks. The National Constitution Center wanted to present an updated film of a less graphic nature and choose to create a locally produced piece in conjunction with their media partner, Fox 29.”

Earnest went on to state that due to the change in the film there was an inadvertent drop that can easily be corrected.

“Our exhibitions department is working together with the National Constitution Center to further update the panels and video,” Earnest wrote.

The International Spy Museum and the National Constitution Center are two fine organizations and they always offer fine exhibitions.

If you are in Philadelphia in the next two weeks, I suggest you visit the Spies, Traitors & Saboteurs exhibit. I also suggest that you visit the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.

You can also read my piece on the International Spy Museum and the myth, the mystique and the history of espionage via the below link:


Philly Mob Talk: Inside The Russian Mafia

Philadelphia's Fox 29 News' Dave Schratwieser and The Philadelphia Inquirer's George Anastasia discuss the Russian mob and two high-ranking Russian mobsters with Philadelphia ties, Semion Mogilevich and Konstantin Ginzburg, in the latest edition of Mob talk.

You can watch the video via the below link:


Monday, May 16, 2011

Channelling George Washington: What Bin Laden's Death Means

Thomas Fleming, a noted historian, offers another interesting piece in his series Channelling George Washington for the George Mason University's History News Network.

This piece has Fleming discussing the death of Osama bin Laden with our first and perhaps greatest president.

You can read the piece via the below link:


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An Interview with A Former SEAL Team Six Sniper

TIME.com interviewed Howard Wasdin, a former U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six member and the author of SEAL Team Six: Memoirs Of An Elite Navy SEAL Sniper.

I'm currently reading the interesting memoir and I plan to interview Wasdin for Counterterrorism magazine in the near future.

You can read the TIME.com interview via the below link:


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jay Leno On Bin Laden, Bin Laden's Wives, Pakistan And Other Topics

Jay Leno gave his take on the death of bin Laden, bin Laden's wives, and other current topics on The Tonight Show.

Below are Jay Leno's comments:

The interior minister of Pakistan says that they have nothing to hide. Yea, not anymore.

The United States gave the Pakistani police $162 million. Unfortunately, bin Laden gave them $163 million.

Apparently, Pakistan has given the United States permission to interview bin Laden’s wives, as long as we promise not to turn it into a reality show.

The TSA is being criticized for checking 2-year-olds at airport security. People say 2-year-olds can’t be terrorists — unless you’re sitting next to one on a flight.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A C-SPAN Q & A With Author And Former Navy SEAL Dick Couch

In light of the increased interest in Navy SEALs due to the bin Laden raid, this past Sunday C-Span interviewed Dick Couch, the author of seven books on Navy SEALs and Special Operations, as well as seven novels.

Former Navy SEAL Dick Couch has lectured widely, including as adjunct professor of ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy. He also acts as an advisor to the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

His latest book is The Sheriff of Ramadi, a nonfiction book about the role of the Navy SEALs in the al-Anbar province from 2005 to 2007. His next book, to be released in 2012, is called Sua Sponte: The Making of a Modern American Ranger.

Dick Couch became a member of the Underwater Demolition and SEAL Teams following his 1967 graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. As a platoon leader in SEAL Team One in 1970, he led a POW rescue operation in Vietnam. His active duty in the military ended in 1972. He then joined the CIA as a Maritime Operations Officer.

You can watch the Dick Couch Q & A via the below link:


I interviewed Dick Couch for Counterterrorism magazine when The Sheriff of Ramadi came out. You can read my Q & A with Dick Couch via the below link:





Monday, May 9, 2011

Richard Marcinko, The Creator Of SEAL Team Six, Is A "Proud Papa"

Richard "Dick" Marcinko, the creater of SEAL Team Six, was interviewed by The El Paso Times.

You can read the Q & A with Marcinko via the below link:


You can also listen to a radio interview of Macinko via the below link:


Evil Does Not Die Of Natural Causes

Charles Krauthammer wrote a very interesting column on the bin Laden raid, the Navy SEALs killing of bin Laden and the war on terrorism.

The syndicated column, which appeared in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and other newspapers around the country, can be read via the below link:


Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Look Back At British Spy Scandals: Britain's Biggest Ever Traitor, Red Sonia, Christine Keeler And The Final, Damning Evidence

Chapman Pincher, the author of Treachery, writes about past British spy scandals involving "Red Sonia," Christine Keeler (seen in the above photo), and his suspicions about MI5 officer Roger Hollis in the British newspaper The Daily Mail.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:


Released Videos Show Bin Laden Still Played Active Role In Al-Qaida

By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2011 - Five video clips released to reporters today at the Pentagon show that Osama bin Laden was still an "active player" in al-Qaida operations, a senior intelligence official said.

Since bin Laden's May 1 death at the hands of American forces inside his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a multi-agency task force has worked around the clock to sift through "the most significant amount of intelligence ever collected from a senior terrorist," the official said.

"Materials reviewed over the past several days clearly show that bin Laden remained an active leader in al-Qaida," he added, "providing strategic, operational and tactical instructions to the group."

From digital audio and video files, and from printed materials, computer equipment, recording devices and handwritten documents, analysts are learning that "bin Laden continued to direct even tactical details of the group's management and to encourage plotting," he said.

In a statement released today, CIA Director Leon Panetta said, "The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after bin Laden." Panetta added that, "Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered."

A CIA-led multiagency task force is triaging, cataloging and analyzing the materials, drawing on expertise from the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the National Media Exploitation Center, the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Treasury Department.

In a compound the senior intelligence official characterized as "an active command-and-control center for al-Qaida's top leader," bin Laden focused on inspiring and engineering international terrorism and on attacking the United States, especially transportation and infrastructure targets, the official said.

"The materials have already provided us some important insights and we expect to learn more about al-Qaida and its affiliates, their plans and intentions, and any threats they currently pose," he said.

The five short videos released today all show the al-Qaida leader delivering messages to his audience, but in these versions the sound has been removed.

"It would be inappropriate to spread the words of terrorists and their propaganda messages," the official said, "especially Osama bin Laden's."

The first video is a complete but unreleased message by bin Laden to the American people, produced sometime between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5, 2010, the official said.

In the video bin Laden has trimmed and dyed black his normally gray beard.

His message condemns U.S. policy and denigrates capitalism, the official said.

The second video shows a gray-bearded bin Laden in a room, watching live or taped video clips of himself, possibly from news outlets, on a television.

The intelligence official said the date of the video can't yet be determined, but he noted that bin Laden's beard was gray at the time of his death.

"In this video he has not dyed or trimmed his beard," the intelligence official said, "suggesting that this practice was one he reserved for films he planned to distribute."

Bin Laden, the official noted, "jealously guarded his image."

The final three short clips show brief video rehearsal sessions of a black-bearded bin Laden.

"The collection is large and is proving valuable, and it will take time to go through it," he said. "But we are already disseminating intelligence across the U.S. government based on what we've found."

Bin Laden's identity was confirmed in several ways, the official said.

A woman in the compound identified him to the assault team as Osama bin Laden, and CIA specialists compared photos of the body and of bin Laden, using facial recognition methods that match points of similarity of unique facial features, including the size and shape of a persons eyes, ears and nose.

With this method, the official said, "we were able to determine with 95 percent certainty that the body was his."

DNA analysis conducted separately by Defense Department and CIA labs positively identified Osama bin Laden, he added, as did DNA samples collected from bin Laden's body and compared to a comprehensive DNA profile derived from bin Laden's large extended family.

Al-Qaida released its own statement May 6 acknowledging bin Laden's death.

It is noteworthy, the official said, "that the group did not announce a new leader, suggesting it is still trying to deal with bin Laden's demise."

So far, the senior intelligence official said, there is no indication that Pakistan's government was aware that bin Laden was at this compound in Abbottabad.

"We're asking some questions, and the Pakistanis themselves have said that they're asking questions of themselves," he added, noting that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is important and complicated.

"It's important that we find ways in the future to work together, especially on the counterterrorism front," he said.

"This is a common fight," the official added. "Bin Laden is responsible for supporting operations that have killed scores of Pakistanis as well, so there is a mutual interest in us working together."

Going forward, he said, "we need to find ways to solidify that relationship." 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

Job Well Done!: Obama Awards Presidential Unit Citation To Unit That Took Part In Bin Laden Raid

The New York Post reports that President Obama thanked the U.S. military members who took part in the operation that killed terrorist Osama bin Laden at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Obama, seen in the above AP photo, told the military members that, on behalf of all Americans, "Job well done."

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ayman Al-Zawahiri Could Replace Bin Laden On FBI's Most Wanted List

Aliyah Shahid at The New York Daily News wrote an interesting piece on al-Qaida's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and how he may replace the recently slain Osama bin Laden as the leader of the terrorist group, as well as replacing bin Laden on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:


I love the above Bill Bramhall cartoon that accompanied the newspaper story.

FBI Warns Of Malicious Software That Features Usama Bin Laden Links To Ensnare Unsuspecting Computer Users

The FBI today warns computer users to exercise caution when they receive e-mails that purport to show photos or videos of Usama bin Laden’s recent death. This content could be a virus that could damage your computer. This malicious software, or “malware,” can embed itself in computers and spread to users’ contact lists, thereby infecting the systems of associates, friends, and family members. These viruses are often programmed to steal your personally identifiable information.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) urges computer users to not open unsolicited (spam) e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages. Even if the sender is familiar, the public should exercise due diligence. Computer owners must ensure they have up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software running on their machines to detect and deflect malicious software.

The IC3 recommends the public do the following:

Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites you frequent to make it more difficult for people you know and do not know to post content to your page. Even a “friend” can unknowingly pass on multimedia that’s actually malicious software.

Do not agree to download software to view videos. These applications can infect your computer.

Read e-mails you receive carefully. Fraudulent messages often feature misspellings, poor grammar, and nonstandard English.

Report e-mails you receive that purport to be from the FBI. Criminals often use the FBI’s name and seal to add legitimacy to their fraudulent schemes. In fact, the FBI does not send unsolicited e-mails to the public. Should you receive unsolicited messages that feature the FBI’s name, seal, or that reference a division or unit within the FBI or an individual employee, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Bin Laden Raid: SEAL Admiral Wrote The Book In 1995

Spencer Ackerman at Wired.com wrote an interesting piece about Admiral William H. McRaven, noting that the high-ranking SEAL officer offered a plan like the one the Navy SEALs used to kill bin Laden in his book Spec Ops back in 1995.

Admiral McRaven (seen in the above U.S. Navy photo) is currently the commanding officer of the Joint Special Operations Command. His book Spec Ops also offers case studies of previous raids in military history.

You can read the Wired.com piece via the below link:


You can also read Ackerman's earlier piece, cleverly titled It's His Special Operations World. You Just Get Hunted In It, on Admiral McRaven via the below link:


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

White House Corrects Information On Bin Laden Raid

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 - Osama bin Laden was not armed, but did resist an American military team raiding his compound in Pakistan on May 1, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today.

Initial statements said bin Laden had been armed, and that he used his wife as a shield during the raid that killed him.

The team methodically cleared the one-acre, two-building compound, moving from room to room in an operation lasting nearly 40 minutes, Carney said. "They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation, and Osama bin Laden was killed by the assaulting force," he added.

On the first floor of bin Laden's building, the team killed two al-Qaida couriers. A woman also was killed in crossfire. The team found bin Laden and his family on the second and third floors of the building.

"There was concern that bin Laden would oppose [the capture operation], and indeed, he did resist," Carney said. "In the room with bin Laden, ... bin Laden's wife rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg, but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."

Government officials are not going to give out any more operational details of the raid. A senior Defense Department official said Americans need to understand that the raid was a clandestine operation, and while it has huge international consequences and some portions of the raid should be known, "we feel it is important to protect these operational details."

U.S. Navy SEAL Raid On Bin Laden Reflects Tradition Of Grit, Secrecy

In light of the daring raid on Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs, Bloomberg.com offers an interesting piece on the background and history of the SEALs.

You an read the piece via the below link:


You can also read a piece I wrote for Counterterrorism magazine on the SEALs via the below links:




Monday, May 2, 2011

Al-Qaida Remains Dangerous, CIA Director Panetta Says

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 - Osama bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida still is dangerous, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said today in a letter to the agency's employees.

"Today, we have rid the world of the most infamous terrorist of our time," Panetta wrote in a letter posted on the CIA's website.

Panetta –- who has been nominated as the next defense secretary –- said that nothing can compensate those who have lost family and friends to bin Laden and his henchmen, but he hopes the fact that bin Laden is gone will be a source of comfort "for the thousands of families, here in America and around the globe, who mourn the victims of al-Qaida's barbarity."

Panetta congratulated those who work in the Counter-Terrorism Center and the Office of South Asia Analysis for their expertise, creativity and tradecraft.

"I also extend my profound appreciation and absolute respect to the strike team, whose great skill and courage brought our nation this historic triumph," he wrote.

Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaida is not, Panetta said.

"The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must -- and will -- remain vigilant and resolute," he said. "But we have struck a heavy blow against the enemy. The only leader they have ever known, whose hateful vision gave rise to their atrocities, is no more. The supposedly uncatchable one has been caught and killed. And we will not rest until every last one of them has been delivered to justice."

CIA And Navy SEAL Team Six Took Out Osama Bin Laden

Bill Hemmer at FoxNews interviewed Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's bin Laden Unit and the author of Osama bin Laden, about the secret, elite Navy Special Operations unit, SEAL Team Six.

You can watch the video via the below link:


The unit's official name is the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, DEVGRU, but is often referred to by it's former name, Navy SEAL Team Six.

Retired Marine Lt Colonel Oliver North, who has gone out on Special Operations raids, was also interviewed on FoxNews about the Navy SEALs who were on this mission.

You can watch the video and see some footage of an earlier Special Operations raid via the below link:


I interviewed Oliver North about American Special Operations for Counterterrorism magazine and you can read the interview via the below link:


I also interviewed Michael Scheuer for the upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine and you can read about it via the below link:


Intelligence, Operations Team Up For Bin Laden Kill

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 - The plan to attack the compound of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was the result of relentless intelligence work and operational professionalism, White House officials, speaking on background, said this morning.

The operation was the culmination of years of careful and highly advanced intelligence work, officials said, as officers from the CIA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency worked as a team to analyze and pinpoint the Pakistani compound where bin Laden was killed.

Once the intelligence pointed precisely to the compound in Abbottabad –- a town 35 miles north of Pakistan's capital of Islamabad –- the work on the mission began between the intelligence and military communities.

"In the end, it was the matchless skill and courage of these Americans that secured this triumph for our country and the world," one official said.

A small team conducted the helicopter raid on the compound. An official called it a complex operation, noting that the compound was a virtual fortress -– built in 2006 with high walls, razor wire and other defense features. Its suburban location and proximity to Islamabad complicated the operation, the official said.

"The men who executed this mission accepted this risk, practiced to minimize those risks, and understood the importance of the target to the national security of the United States," he said. "This operation was a surgical raid by a small team designed to minimize collateral damage and to pose as little risk as possible to noncombatants on the compound or to Pakistani civilians in the neighborhood."

U.S. helicopters delivered the team to the compound, and the team was on the ground for less than 40 minutes, an official said. They did not encounter any local authorities. In addition to bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the raid.

"There were several women and children at the compound," the official said. "One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant. Two other women were injured."

One of the U.S. helicopters was lost at the compound due to mechanical failure. The crew destroyed it on the ground, and the assault force and crew members boarded the remaining aircraft to leave, an official said.

"There's also no doubt that the death of Osama bin Laden marks the single greatest victory in the U.S.-led campaign to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida," the official said. "It is a major and essential step in bringing about al-Qaida's eventual destruction."

Though the organization's terrorists still are dangerous and al-Qaida may not fragment immediately, an official said, "the loss of bin Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse."

The United States did not share any intelligence on the raid with any other country, the official said.

"We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel," he said. "In fact, only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance." Shortly after the raid, he added, U.S. officials contacted senior Pakistani leaders and told them about the raid and its results.

"Since 9/11, the United States has made it clear to Pakistan that we would pursue bin Laden wherever he might be," the official said. "Pakistan has long understood that we are at war with al-Qaida. The United States had a legal and moral obligation to act on the information it had."

U.S. Kills Osama Bin Laden In Intelligence-Driven Operation

By John D. Banusiewicz, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 - An intelligence-driven U.S. operation in Pakistan killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden yesterday, President Barack Obama announced in a nationally televised address from the White House late last night.

The president revealed that shortly after taking office in January 2009, he ordered CIA Director Leon E. Panetta to make bin Laden's death or capture the top priority of the U.S. war against the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

"Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground," he said. The president said he met repeatedly with his national security team as information developed indicating bin Laden was at a compound in Pakistan, and that last week he determined enough information was available and authorized the operation.

"Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan," Obama said. "A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.

"No Americans were harmed," he continued. "They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."

Obama noted that bin Laden had been al-Qaida's leader and symbol for more than 20 years and continued to plot attacks against the United States and its allies.

"The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaida, yet his death does not mark the end of our effort," Obama said. "There is no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must, and we will, remain vigilant at home and abroad."

The president emphasized that the war against al-Qaida is not a war against Islam.

"Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader," he said. "He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al-Qaida has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."

Counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped in finding bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding, the president said.

"Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people. Tonight, I called [Pakistani] President [Asif Ali] Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations, and going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates."

The president praised those who worked to find bin Laden and those who carried out the operation that killed him.

"Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who've worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome," he said. "The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

"We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation," he continued, "for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Retracing Hemingway's Steps In Cuba

Janice Law at the Galveston Daily News wrote an interesting piece about her visit visit to Ernest Hemingway's old house in Cuba.

You can read the piece via the below link:


The great writer has been in the news lately as there are several film productions in progress on his life and his fiction.

You can read an earlier post on the film productions via the below link:


You can also read my column on Hemingway and crime via the below link: