Thursday, June 30, 2011

'Papa' Hemingway Still Casts A Long Shadow

Craig Wilson at USA TODAY writes that on the anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's death, Hemingway is still with us.

Hemingway has been called many things. Dull isn't one of them.

The Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author died 50 years ago this weekend, killing himself at 61 (on July 2, 1961) with a gunshot, a violent end to what can only be described as a turbulent, hard-driving and over-the-top life. Four wives, seven novels, six short-story collections and enough booze to float his beloved boat, Pilar. Throw in a few bullfights for good measure.

Not that he's really dead.

This summer he's "co-starring" in a hit movie, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris; plays a major role in a best-selling novel, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain; and is the subject a number of other new books, including Hemingway's Boat, which follows the writer's life on his 38-foot motor yacht, out in September. There's even a laugh-out-loud parody, just published, called The Heming Way.

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

Al-Qaida Becoming More Desperate, More Likely To Take More Risks To Kill Americans

Ronald Kessler, a Newsmax columnist and author of a good number of books on the CIA, the Secret Service and the FBI, including his upcoming book, The Secrets of the FBI, states that al-Qaida has become more desperate and is likely to attack Americans.

The decapitation of al-Qaida leadership and the killing of a senior al-Qaida commander in Pakistan earlier this month are making them more desperate,” one FBI official says. “When they are desperate, they may be willing to change tactics. They might try something more risky.”

You can read the rest of Kesslers' column via the below link:

I interviewed Ronald Kessler a while back for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the interview via the below links:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Q & A With George Lazenby, The Man Who Was Once James Bond

MI6 - the James Bond web site, not the British intelligence agency - offers a good Q & A with George Lazenby, the man who portrayed James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

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

Despite the absence of Sean Connery, I think On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a terrific Bond thriller.

You can read my earlier post on On Her Majesty's Secret Service via the below link:    

Shark Money: Philadelphia Mob Case Focuses On Core Businesses Of Loan-Sharking And Gambling

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, wrote an interesting story for the newspaper that explains how gambling and loan-sharking are the Philadelphia-South Jersey crime family's core businesses.

You can read the story via the below link:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Senators Quiz Vice Admiral McRaven For Top Special Operations Slot

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 - Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today as the senators met to consider his promotion to the rank of admiral and appointment as commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

McRaven currently commands Joint Special Operations Command. His previous assignments include service commanding Special Operations Command Europe, Naval Special Warfare Group 1 and SEAL Team 3.

"I have been very fortunate to have spent the past 34 years in special operations, and I can tell you from my personal experience that ... we have the best-trained, the best-equipped, and most experienced special operations force in the history of the U.S., and possibly the world," McRaven said.

If confirmed, McRaven said, he will train, organize, equip and deploy special operations troops, as directed by the secretary of defense, across the spectrum of conflict.

"We will, at all times, be prepared to answer the nation's call with experienced forces whose intellect, maturity and courage allows them to operate in politically and militarily complex environments," he said.

McRaven called Socom's joint troops, "... men and women who relish challenges, and who willingly go where the threat to America is at its greatest."

As good as the force is, McRaven said, he knows one of his primary challenges if he is confirmed as commander will be to ensure special operations forces and their families are well taken care of, physically and emotionally.

"In his 2011 posture hearing, [current Socom commander] Admiral Eric Olson noted that as a result of 10 years of continuous combat, the force is frayed at the edges," McRaven said. "Admiral Olson and his wife, Marilyn, were exceptionally engaged in the welfare of the [special operations forces] soldiers and their families, particularly our wounded warriors."

If he is confirmed, McRaven said, he and his wife, Georgeann, "will follow their lead and put forth every effort to ensure the well-being of the individuals under my command and the families that support them."

In a written response to advance questions before today's hearing, McRaven gave his views on Socom's operational tempo, troop morale, and the command's cooperation with the military services and other governmental agencies.

The "new normal" for special operations forces is a "persistently engaged, forward-based force to prevent and deter conflict and, when needed, act to disrupt and defeat threats," McRaven wrote.

The long-term engagement that new normal represents, he added, "translates into increased demand for [special operations forces]. The pace of the last 10 years is indicative of what we expect for the next 10 years."

Special operations forces by doctrine rely on the military services for critical support in missions longer than 15 days, McRaven wrote, adding that like conventional units, they "struggle to obtain enough ... [explosive ordnance disposal], [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], communications personnel, medical and security personnel support."

While special operators have deployed frequently over the past decade, McRaven wrote, "In most cases, [special operations forces] are doing what they expected and wanted, and they feel good about their impressive contributions."

However, increasing deployment predictability and avoiding last-minute demand for forces will be important to maintaining troops' job satisfaction, he wrote.

The recent operation resulting in Osama bin Laden's death highlights Socom's success in providing skilled forces and working effectively with other agencies, McRaven wrote.

Maintaining high standards [and] challenging training environments and encouraging ingenuity develops unique and valuable operators," he wrote. "Finally, continuing to break down barriers between the various agencies and departments allows for increased cooperation and synchronization, allowing the U.S. government to successfully accomplish the mission."

After the committee reports on today's hearing, McRaven's nomination will move to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Marine Lt General John R. Allen Vows To Emulate General David H. Petraeus' Leadership

By Lisa Daniel, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 - If he becomes the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen (seen in the above DoD photo) said he'll seek to equal the strong leadership of his predecessor, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.

"If confirmed, I will seek to emulate General Petraeus' resolute leadership," Allen said today during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Petraeus appeared before the committee last week for his confirmation hearing to become President Barack Obama's CIA director, replacing Leon Panetta, who becomes defense secretary on July 1.

"I assure you, I will do whatever I can to provide our forces with everything they need in Afghanistan and [for them] to arrive home safely," Allen said.

The general told the senators he did not participate in military recommendations that led to Obama's decision this month to bring home all 33,000 U.S. surge forces from Afghanistan by September 2012, but he agrees with it. The redeployment of 10,000 of those troops this year will begin next month.

"The troops that will be redeployed in July represent the fulfillment of the president's commitment to both resource the strategy he enunciated at West Point [in December 2009], but also to demonstrate to Afghan leadership the urgency of increased Afghan national security force strength and capability to assume its proper role in securing Afghanistan," he said.

Allen noted that 68,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of NATO forces will remain in Afghanistan after the surge forces redeploy. He added under questioning that it will be enough to continue counterinsurgency operations there, and that if confirmed, he will monitor the drawdown closely.

"It is my intention, as commander, to monitor that progress," he said. "Should I become concerned that our ability to accomplish our objectives is threatened, I will give forthright recommendations up the chain of command."

Allen recently became a special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after serving as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters. He was the deputy commanding general of Multinational Force Iraq – West and commanded the II Marine Expeditionary Force in Anbar province, Iraq, from 2006 to 2008.

If confirmed as commander in Afghanistan, Allen said he looks forward to serving again with Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the new ambassador in Afghanistan, and will "fully synchronize" military and civilian efforts there.

Based on his recent time in Afghanistan, Allen said, he agrees with assessments that U.S. and NATO forces have made significant progress there, but that challenges remain.

Afghan and coalition forces control much of the battle space in Afghanistan, including the capital of Kabul, which consists of one-fifth of the population, as well as other population centers in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the general said.

Military operations increasingly are being led by Afghan forces, which are on track in a surge of their own to meet a goal of 305,000 troops later this year, Allen said.

Asked about the importance of Afghan forces taking over security, Allen said, "It's essential to the strategy."

The Afghans also are making much progress in getting Afghan men to leave the insurgency and reintegrate into Afghan society, the general said. About 1,900 Afghan men have been reintegrated from the insurgency and about 3,000 more are waiting reintegration, he said.

Still, "there are significant challenges" in Afghanistan, Allen said, including the need for more operational training and literacy education, and the need to get rid of government corruption in Afghanistan and insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. NATO still needs about 480 more trainers for Afghan troops, he said.

"There are significant challenges, but I believe in the current campaign, ... the objectives are attainable," he said.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hem And Us

Clancy Sigal at the British newspaper the Guardian writes about Ernest Hemingway, his suicide and how he is unfairly judged today.

Fifty years ago, Ernest Hemingway, the writer, sportsman, big-game hunter, soldier, poseur, genius and Nobel Prize winner shot himself with his favourite Boss doublebarrel shotgun at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. His wife Mary at first pretended it was an accident, but nobody bought that fairy tale. He'd been suffering almost every imaginable physical and some mental problems, including writer's block and, so it is said, impotence...

There's a lot there to pick apart in the man: the bluster, exaggerated machismo, mood swings, four marriages, alcoholism, death-wooing in the bullring, at the D-Day landing, and in bed. No small ego there. But, in all the fancy analytical footwork, it's sometimes forgotten that, like Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, Hemingway explored "strange new worlds … to boldly go where no man has gone before". His powerfully insinuating prose practically took over the style of many young writers, including me, as did Salinger's for a later generation. Some of Hemingway's novels, and many beautiful short stories like "Big Two Hearted River" and "In Another Country", will live as long as literature.

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

You can also read my earlier post on Hemingway movies via the below link:

And you can also read my column that covers Hemingway on crime via the below link:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What's The Best Newspaper Column Of All Time?

Charles Passey at the Wall Street Journal reports on the selection of one of Ernie Pyle's World War II columns as the best newspaper column of all time.

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists has weighed in on the question of what it considers the finest example of its craft. And the short answer? No, Virginia.

In an online poll, the society’s members voted Ernie Pyle’s “The Death of Captain Warskow ” the best column ever published in an American newspaper, placing the 1944 story ahead of Francis Pharcellus Church’s classic 1897 editorial-page proclamation, “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.” The announcement about the poll winner came at the society’s annual conference, which is being held this week in Detroit.

In his piece, Passey interviewed John Avlon, one of the poll's organizers, and one of two editors, along with Jesse Angelo, of Deadline Artists: America's Greatest Newspapers Columns. 

I agree with Avlon, who states in the interview that the column on Captain Warskow reads like a Hemingway short story.  

I've wanted to write a newspaper column since I was a teenager and Pyle (seen in the above photo) was an inspiration to me. I've written a reguar column since 1995, beginning with a column in a South Philadelphia weekly newspaper.

You can read the rest of Passey's piece via the below link:

You can also read Pyle's column on Captain Warskow's death via the below link:

Life On The Lam: James 'Whitey' Bulger Offers New Details About His Life As A Fugitive To Authorities

Shelly Murphy at the Boston Globe reports that James "Whitey" Bulger, 81, the notorious Boston gangster who was on the FBI's Most Wanted List, is providing the FBI with details about his 16 years as a fugitive.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link: 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cool Photo: Aircraft Carriers Passing At Sea

As an old Navy enlisted man and carrier sailor (I served two years on the USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam war), I thought the above photo of two passing carriers was interesting.

In the photo, the Navy's oldest active duty aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), right, passes the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), during a transit of the Strait of Bab el Mandeb.

The George H.W. Bush arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to take over operations for the Enterprise

The U.S. Navy photo is by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr.

Click on the above photo to enlarge.

Tip From Publicity Campaign Credited In Capture Of 'Most Wanted' Mobster James "Whitey' Bulger reports that a tip aided the law enforcement task force in the capture of the 81-year-old fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger (seen in the above photo).

You can read the story via the below link:

You can also read Howie Carr's column on Bulger in the Boston Herald via the below link:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Two Men Charged In Plot To Attack Seattle Military Processing Center

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information regarding the arrest of two men charged with plotting to attack the Seattle Military Processing Center:

SEATTLE – Two men were arrested late last night and are charged by criminal complaint with terrorism and firearms related charges. The complaint alleges that Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, aka Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, aka Frederick Domingue, Jr., 32, of Los Angeles, took possession of machine guns that they purchased and planned to use in an attack on the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) located on East Marginal Way, Seattle.

Law enforcement has been monitoring Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh, including the weapons transaction, to prevent the attack and protect the public. Unbeknownst to the defendants, the weapons were rendered inoperable and posed no risk to the public. The defendants initially planned an attack on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, but later changed targets. The defendants intended to carry out their attack with both grenades and machine guns.

“The complaint alleges these men intended to carry out a deadly attack against our military where they should be most safe, here at home,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This is a sobering reminder of our need to be vigilant and that our first line of defense is the people who live in our community. We were able to disrupt the plot because someone stepped forward and reported it to authorities. I commend the joint efforts of the FBI, the Seattle Police Department, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force who quickly recognized the seriousness of the threat and ensured the safety of the community.”

Law enforcement first became aware of the potential threat when a citizen alerted them that he/she had been approached about participating in the attack and supplying firearms to the conspirators. The person then agreed to work with law enforcement, which began monitoring Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh. Since early June the conspirators were captured on audio and videotape discussing a violent assault on the Military Entrance Processing Station. The MEPS is where each branch of the military screens and processes enlistees. In addition to housing many civilian and military employees, the building houses a federal daycare center.

“Driven by a violent, extreme ideology, these two young Americans are charged with plotting to murder men and women who were enlisting in the Armed Forces to serve and protect our country. This is one of a number of recent plots targeting our military here at home, ” said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “The threat was averted by the combined efforts of the federal, state and local law enforcement officers that make up the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

“The FBI remains committed to utilizing intelligence-based investigations to thwart would-be terrorists,” said Laura Laughlin, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle Division. “This case epitomizes the value and capabilities of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force concept as a means of preventing acts of terrorism. But for the courage of the cooperating witness, and the efforts of multiple agencies working long and intense hours, the subjects might have been able to carry out their brutal plan.”

“This attack was foiled because of the trust and relationships the men and women of the Seattle Police Department enjoy with our community,” said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz. “The complainant felt safe approaching a Seattle Police Detective and, in doing so, ended the plot intended to take innocent lives. This cooperative investigation involving local, state, and federal partners worked exactly as intended.”

Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh are charged by complaint with conspiracy to murder officers and employees of the United States, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (grenades), and possession of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence. Abdul-Latif is also charged with two counts of illegal possession of firearms. The defendants will make their initial appearance on the complaint at 2:30 p.m. in front of Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler, on the 12th floor of the federal courthouse at 700 Stewart Street, Seattle.

Both Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh face potential sentences of life in prison if convicted of the charges.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, which has investigators from federal, state and local law enforcement. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives contributed significant expertise to this investigation.

U.S. Postal Service Honors Great American Writer Mark Twain With New First Class Stamp

Stephen Lowman at the Washington Post reports on the new Mark Twain postal stamp.

The publication of Mark Twain’s 500,000 word autobiography last fall started literary tongues wagging again about the great author and satirist. Now, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service, they’ll be able to lick him, too.

Twain, otherwise known as Samuel Clemens, is being honored with a stamp in the Postal Service’s Literary Arts series. A ceremony marking the stamp’s release will be held in Hannibal, Mo., Twain’s boyhood home, on Saturday.

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

You can also read my earlier post on Mark Twain, one of my favorite writers, that covers volume one of his autobiography via the below link:

FBI's Most Wanted Criminal, Boston Gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, Is Captured

The Associated Press reported that James "Whitey" Bulger has been arrested.

LOS ANGELES — James "Whitey" Bulger, a notorious Boston gangster on the FBI’s "Ten Most Wanted" list for his alleged role in 19 murders, was captured Wednesday near Los Angeles after living on the run for 16 years, authorities said.

 Bulger, 81, was arrested along with his longtime girlfriend, 60-year-old Catherine Greig, in the early evening at a residence in Santa Monica, said a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. The arrest was based on a tip from the recent publicity campaign that federal authorities had regenerated, according to the official.

The two were arrested without incident, the FBI said. The FBI had been conducting a surveillance operation in the area where the arrest was made, Santa Monica police Sgt. Rudy Flores said.

You can read the rest of the Associated Press story via the link to the Boston Herald:

You can also read my earlier post on Whitey Bulger via the below link:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My On Crime & Security Column: Acess Control Systems Bring High-Tech Security To Small Business

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

The column covers access control systems. I interviewed an ADT access control system specialist and he explained how access control systems worked and made recommendations to small business owners.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Old Mafia File Going On New York City Auction Block

The New York Post published an interesting story about the upcoming auction of a thick government file on organized crime figures like Charles "Charlie Lucky" Luciano (seen third from the left in the above photo) and Meyer Lansky (seen third from the right in the above photo).

It was an unlikely — and coveted — find: a thick United States government file discovered on the backseat of a New York City taxi, its pages containing mug shots, criminal associates and favorite hangouts of over 800 Mafia members during the 1950s and early 1960s. Such notorious figures as Carlo "Don Carlo" Gambino, Meyer Lansky and Salvatore "Lucky Luciano" Lucania each had their own entries.

Nearly 20 years after it was found inside the yellow cab by a passenger, the 3-inch thick, three-ring binder stamped "Mafia" and "United States Treasury Department Bureau of Narcotics" is being offered for sale at Bonhams New York on Wednesday. Its pre-sale estimate is $10,000 to $15,000.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Defense Department News: Fuerzas Comando Promotes Special Ops Skills

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 - Elite commandos from 19 countries are participating this week in Fuerzas Comando 2011, a demanding counterterrorism and special operations skills competition sponsored by U.S. Southern Command to promote military-to-military relationships, increased interoperability and improved regional security.

In the above U.S. Army photo by Spc. Casey Collier, the Dominican Special Operations Sniper Team prepares for the stalk event of Fuerzas Comando 2011, at Shangallo Range in Ilopango, El Salvador, that's near San Salvador, June 16, 2011.

The competitors, from throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, are taking part in the eighth annual competition that kicked off June 15 and continues through June 23 in Ilopango, El Salvador, said Air Force Maj. Brett Phillips, the lead Fuerzas Comando planner for U.S. Special Operations Command South.

The El Salvadoran military is hosting this year's exercise, with participants from Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and the United States.

The competition consists of sniper, assault, physical fitness, strength and endurance events that challenge commandos psychologically as well as physically, Phillips said.

Among this year's events is a timed 18.8-kilometer forced march, with six-man teams from each country carrying 30-pound rucksacks and rifles, and a series of sniper competitions that include target acquisition, range estimation and night shooting events.

The competitive events wrap up today, to be followed with a combined airborne operation tomorrow and exchange of wings before the closing ceremony.

While special operators test out their tactical skills, a concurrent senior-leader seminar is providing a strategic-level focus to security challenges and possible solutions. Twenty-four nations have sent a senior special operations officer, typically the brigade-level commander of the country's commando team, and a ministerial-level policymaker associated with the country's counterterrorism policies, procedures and strategies, to participate in the two-day distinguished visitor program, Phillips said.

"That's when they talk about the regional counterterrorism projects and programs that are in place, they talk about trans-national threats, they talk about illicit trafficking and how to combat that," he said. "That is where you are addressing those strategic-level thought processes and objectives."

Phillips called this two-part approach key to fostering relationships throughout the ranks that pay off in closer regional cooperation, enhanced mutual trust and increased military interoperability as it advances the counter-terrorism training and readiness of participating special operations forces.

"It's the strategic level, with the commanders and strategic thinkers from that country, all the way down to the tactical level, where the teams that go and break down the doors and go save people, or, depending upon their requirement, they eliminate a threat," he said.

There's another dimension to Fuerzas Comando as well. As commandos compete and their leaders convene, staff members from each participating country are operating as a combined staff, providing administrative, logistical, medical, communications and other support.

This, Phillips explained, gives the staffs experience they would need to work together during a real-world contingency.

While Fuerzas Comando has sparked some healthy competition among participants, "the camaraderie and the fraternity between these teams from all these different countries has been just exceptional," he said.

When the commandos aren't competing, they share their operational experiences and ideas with other teams and compare different tactics, techniques and procedures. This promotes cooperation and learning, along with a better understanding of how different countries' militaries operate, Phillips said.

It also lays a foundation for relationships, he said, that could have a big payoff in the future as commandos advance to increasingly responsible positions within their respective militaries.

"Now, if there is a conflict," he added, "it is a lot more likely that the conflict will be resolved between two chiefs of staff who know each other, who have had a relationship on a personal side as well as professional, and they can resolve their problems in a more practical manner than resorting to armed conflict."

Phillips said he's seen past competitors who'd risen through the ranks return to Fuerzas Comando as senior military commanders or government officials to participate in the strategic-level distinguished visitor forum.

"That's our dream that we are seeing realized," Phillips said. "These younger team leads from years ago are now growing in rank and position and soon will be able to pick up the phone and talk to Juan or Jose or Jorge or whoever that they competed against 10, 15 years ago as a team member," and bring the benefit of shared operational expertise to strategic-level conversations.

Phillips said he's also encouraged by the growth of the Fuerzas Comando, which began in 2004 with 13 countries.

"It just grows and gets better every year," he said.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Thomas L. Brown II, commander of Special Operations Command South, thanked participants during the opening ceremonies at El Salvador's Special Counterterrorism Command special operations center for the dedication they have brought to the competition and to regional security.

"You represent the world's finest warriors, sacrificing daily to defend and protect the freedom and security of the citizens of the Western Hemisphere," the admiral told the participants.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cool Photo: The Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise Exits The Gulf Of Aden

The U.S. Navy released a cool photo of the the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) as the aircraft carrier exits the Gulf of Aden.

The U.S. Navy photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist Brooks B. Patterson.  

(Click on the photo to enlarge).

General David Petraeus' Path Forward In Afghanistan And The CIA

Gina Cavallaro at the Army Times offers a good interview with General David Petraeus.

Petraeus, seen in the above U.S. Army photo, will soon give up command of the war in Afghanistan and become the director the CIA.

In the Army Times interview, Petraeus discusses the successes and challenges in Afghanistan and his plans to take over the CIA.

You can read the interview via the below link: 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Following Hemingway's Tracks In Madrid

When I was stationed in Scotland on a Navy Tugboat at the U.S. nuclear submarine base in the mid-1970s, I was deep into reading Hemingway's novels and short stories.

Influenced by Hemingway's stories, I traveled to Italy, France and Spain. I would later visit Key West and other places where the great writer lived and worked and used those locations as backdrops for his stories.

I have particularly fond memories of my visit to Madrid. I visited the city because of Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises.

Other writers and readers have followed Hemingway's path to Madrid, including David Farley, who wrote an interesting travel piece for the New York Times.   

I was instead following the tracks of that American writer, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway is associated with a handful of places around the planet — most notably Paris, Pamplona, Havana, Key West and Ketchum, Idaho, where he took his own life in July 1961. But none may have held a warmer spot in his heart than Madrid, which he called “the most Spanish of all cities,” referring to its diverse population from every region of the country. He also titled a short story based in Madrid “The Capital of the World.”

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yes, Him Again: Che Guevara Diaries Are Published 44 Years After His Death

Communist Cuba is releasing Che Guevara's unpublished diaries 44 years after his death in Bolivia.

The British newspaper the Guardian offers a droll and clever report on the Guevara diaries and his life.

You can read the newspaper piece via the below link:     

You can learn more about Che Guevara by reading my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Humberto Fontova, author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, via the below links:

Channelling George Washington: Don't Let Afghanistan Turn Into Another South Vietnam

Noted historian and novelist Thomas Fleming offers another piece in his series of "interviews" with the late George Washington.

With Thomas' vast knowledge of our first, and in my view, our greatest, president, he imagines what Washington would think of current and historical events.

The clever and insightful series appears on George Mason University's History News Network.

In his latest piece, Washington warns against abandoning Afghanistan after so much American sacrifice, which is what we did in Vietnam in the 1970s.

Washington tells us about the rarely reported brutal aftermath of the Communist victory and how harshly the South Vietnamese were treated by the North Vietnamese.

I played a minor role in the Vietnam War, having served as a teenage sailor on the USS Kitty Hawk in 1970 and 1971 as the aircraft carrier performed combat operations on "Yankee Station" off the coast of Vietnam.

(Check out my look back at the USS Kitty Hawk in the Vietnam War at

I, like most Vietnam veterans, and most Americans, was outraged when the Democratic Congress cut off funds to support the South Vietnamese government and allowed the Communist North Vietnamese to invade and capture the South after the United States withdrew combat troops.

(For the record, the North Vietnamese defeated the South Vietnamese troops, not U.S. troops. There were no U.S. combat troops in South Vietnam in 1975, only support troops. The North Vietnamese never won a battle over company strenth during the entire Vietnam War). 

This was a dark day in American history.

I truly hope that we do not do abandon Afghanistan like we did South Vietnam.

You can read General George Washington's view of the subject via the below link:

In the DoD photo above by Pfc. Justin A. Young, U.S. Army Spc. Joseph Wilhelm of HHC Scouts, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, patrols through a grape vineyard during Operation Mountain Cougar, Char Shaka, Afghanistan, April 28, 2011. Operation Mountain Cougar is intended to disrupt and reduce Taliban activity.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Meet The New Boss: Bin Laden's Number Two Is The New Leader of Al-Qaeda

The Associated Press is reporting that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the late Osama bin Laden's number two man, is now the leader of al-Qaeda.

Have the U.S. Navy SEALs and the Predator Drone operators been informed of this?

You can read the news report via the below link:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The World's Ten Most Wanted Men

With the U.S. Navy SEALs dispatching Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, who is left on the list of the world's most wanted criminals and terrorists?

Nathan Vardi at compiled a list of the world's ten most wanted fugitives. The list includes Joaquin Guzman (seen in the above photo), a nortorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo.

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

You can view a slide show of world's ten most wanted fugitives via the below link:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Only Live About 23 Times: The Wall Street Journal Reviews New James Bond Continuation Novel, Carte Blanche

Michael C. Moynihan wrote a good review of Jeffery Deaver's new James Bond continuation novel for the Wall Street Journal.

In 1953, former naval-intelligence officer Ian Fleming introduced readers to the British secret agent James Bond with two wonderfully evocative sentences: "The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are naseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling - a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension - becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it." Fleming died in 1964, just when his Cold War creation was undergoing transformation into a hugely popular film franchise. He completed a dozen novels.

The runaway success of 007 demanded that Fleming's saturnalia of sex, genocidal villians and Cold War spycraft be continued by a capable literary ventriloquist.

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

I reviewed the previous literary ventriloquist's James Bond continuation novel, Devil May Care, for the Philadelphia Inquirer. You can read my review via the below links:

Wanted No More: Mastermind Of 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings Killed, Removed From FBI Most Wanted Terrorist List

The FBI removed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed from their Most Wanted List, as he was killed last week in Somalia.

Mohammed was a key al Qaeda operative and the mastermind of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The bombings killed 224 people, including 12 Americans

The FBI notes that Mohammed was on their Most Wanted Terrorists list for nearly a dozen years after his indictment in New York for his role in the bombings.

According to the FBI, more than 900 agents traveled overseas to assist in the recovery of evidence and identify victims at the bombsites. The investigations at that time represented the largest deployment in the FBI's history.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Animal Kingdom: A Crime Story

I watched an outstanding crime thriller over the weekend on Starz cable TV. The film was called Animal Kingdom: A Crime Story.

The Australian film was about an infamous crime family in Melbourne. The family consisted of three brothers and their mother, a loving and scheming sociopath.

The violent sons were armed robbers and drug dealers and the oldest son, Pope, was being hunted by a special police squad who were known to shoot known violent criminals to death. A corrupt cop tells Pope's friend and fellow criminal, Barry "Baz" Brown, that Pope should lay low as the special squad was about to be disbanded.

Pope, who has some mental issues, instead takes the police on and murders two young police officers.

Into the family mix comes "J," their 17-year-old nephew, who moves in after his mother dies from a drug overdose.

The film was directed by David Michod and featured an oustanding ensemble cast; including Ben Mendesohn, Joel Edgerton, Like Ford, Sullivan Stapleton, and Jacki Weaver who was truly outstanding as the Austrialian Ma Parker matriarch.

The actors were unknown to me, with the exception of Guy Pearce, who portrayed a detective who was investigating the violent brothers.

The film won the 2010 World Cinema Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Jacki Weaver was nominated for best supporting actress at last year's Academy Award. The film also won a good number of Australian film awards.

The story was based on a true crime family in Melbourne. The Pettingil family was a notorious group of criminals who were armed robbers, drug dealers and cop killers and the film is a fictionalized version of their saga.

If you like realistic, fast-paced, well-written, well-directed, and well-acted crime thrillers, then I suggest you check out Animal Kingdom.    

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War With China

Joseph C. Goulden, the author of several fine nonfiction books, including The Death Merchant, wrote an interesting review of David Wise's Tiger Trap: America's Spy War With China in the Washington Times.

David Wise, who has been writing about intelligence since the early 1960s and is, in my view, the best in the business, now turns his considerable talent to a little-noted facet of the espionage wars: the ongoing campaign by the People's Republic of China to steal U.S. nuclear-weaponry secrets. For years, of course, Soviet spying spawned movies, best-selling books and incessant publicity elsewhere. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, China has become “America’s chief rival” in the intelligence wars and has scored many signal and unheralded successes.

You can read the rest of the review of this important book via the below link:

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

Saturday, June 11, 2011

When Nat Hentoff Met Che Guevara

Despite the photo of Che Guevara on t-shirts and posters that serves as a symbol of opposition to tyranny, Che Guevara was in fact, a vicous and violent defender of Communist tyranny in Cuba.

Nate Hentoff, the Cato Institute scholar and former Village Voice columnist, recounts his brief meeting with Che Guevara in a video featured on the web site.

You can watch the video via the below link:         

Ranger General Replaces SEAL Admiral As Commander Of The Joint Special Operations Command

Henry Cuningham at the Fayetteville Observer reported on the change of command at the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, with Army Ranger Lt General Joseph L. Votel replacing Navy SEAL Vice Admiral William H. McRaven as commander.

President Obama nominated Admiral McRaven for a fourth star and command of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base.

Alongside CIA Director Leon Panetta at CIA headquarters, Admiral McRaven oversaw the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden in Pakastan.

You can read the Observer piece via the below link:      

Friday, June 10, 2011

Justice Department News: Former NSA Senior Executive Pleads Guilty To Unauthroized Access Of Government Computer

WASHINGTON - Former National Security Agency (NSA) senior executive Thomas A. Drake pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to a one-count criminal information charging him with unauthorized access of an NSA computer, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Drake, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett to the misdemeanor offense of intentionally exceeding the authorized access of a computer. Sentencing is scheduled for July 15, 2011, at 3:00 p.m. EDT.

“Today, Thomas Drake admitted that he illegally accessed classified NSA computer systems to obtain information that he then provided to another person who had no authorization to receive it . As today’s guilty plea shows, in cases involving classified information, we must always strike the careful balance between holding accountable those who break our laws, while not disclosing highly-sensitive information that our intelligence agencies conclude would be harmful to our nation’s security if used at trial,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Individuals who are granted special access to our nation’s most sensitive information cannot unilaterally decide to disregard the law and agreements they make with the government on how that information may be handled.”

According to the statement of facts, Drake worked as an employee of the NSA from August 2001 through April 2008. In connection with his employment, Drake was granted a Top Secret clearance and had access to classified computer systems, such as the NSA’s internal intranet or NSANet. Drake received various security briefings regarding the handling restrictions and requirements involving official NSA information, and knew that the NSA restricted the use of and access to its computers and NSANet for official use only.

According to the statement of facts, from approximately February 2006 through March 2007, Drake intentionally accessed NSANet, obtained NSA information and provided the information to another person not permitted or authorized to receive it.

Also today, in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea, the government filed a motion to dismiss, at the time of sentencing, the pending indictment against Drake. Drake was charged in an April 2010 indictment with willful retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and false statements.

According to the government’s motion, pre-trial rulings by the court under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) would have required that highly classified information appear, without substitution, in exhibits made publicly available at trial. The NSA concluded that such disclosure would harm national security. According to the filing, in CIPA litigation, the parties indicate what classified information they reasonably expect to disclose thorough evidence, and the court makes determinations on how and what classified information may be used at trial. The government then must make a determination whether the disclosure of that classified information could harm national security, and accordingly how the prosecution is impacted.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel William M. Welch II of the Criminal Division and Trial Attorney John P. Pearson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. This case was investigated by the FBI and the NSA Office of Security & Counterintelligence. The National Security Division also provided assistance in this matter.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Defense Department News: Panetta Vows To Put National Security, Troops First

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2011 - Leon E. Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that if he's confirmed as the next defense secretary, his first and foremost mission will be to protect the United States and ensure it has the "best-trained, the best-equipped and the strongest military in the world" to provide that defense.

Panetta, (seen in the above official CIA photo), who has served as director of the CIA since February 2009, said during his confirmation hearing that he will work closely with the service secretaries and chiefs and Congress, and that he will be a staunch advocate for military members and their families.

"I believe it's important to have a candid, open line of communication between the secretary and all of the service chiefs," he said. "They're the ones that are out there leading each of their services. And I need to know what they're thinking, and I need to know what is important in terms of serving the interests of the troops that they directly lead."

The United States owes members of the all-volunteer force who have stepped forward to serve, as well as their families, the "best leadership, the best training, the best equipment, the best benefits [and] the best health care that we can give them," he told the panel.

Panetta pledged to fight for support and to be "mindful of the stresses" on military members and their families as he makes deployment decisions. "They put their lives on the line to fight for America, and I will just as surely fight for them and for the families who support and sustain them," he said.

The president's nominee for the top Pentagon post said he feels honored to be considered to follow in the footsteps of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who he said "will be remembered as one of the greatest secretaries of defense in our nation's history for the way he led the department during a time of war and for the crucial reforms that he's tried to put in place in the way the Pentagon does business."

"Those are reforms that I intend to carry on," he told the committee, promising to use a "focused, hands-on" management style to run the department.

If he is confirmed, Panetta said, he will lead the department at a time of "historic change" and as the nation confronts "a multitude of challenges."

These, he said, include the operations under way in Iraq and Afghanistan, al-Qaida and other terrorist networks, the proliferation of dangerous weapons, rising international powers, and political transformations under way in the Middle East and Northern Africa. In addition, "the next Pearl Harbor that we face could well be a cyber attack," he said.

"We are no longer in the Cold War," Panetta declared. "This is more like the 'Blizzard War' -- a blizzard of challenges that draw speed and intensity from terrorism, from rapidly developing technologies and the rising number of powers on the world stage."

This comes as the Defense Department attempts to cut $400 billion in spending as part of the administration's deficit-reduction initiatives, Panetta noted.

"Our challenge will be to design budgets that eliminate wasteful and duplicative spending while protecting those core elements that we absolutely need for our nation's defense," he told the panel.

Panetta said he doesn't believe the United States needs to choose between strong fiscal discipline and a strong national defense.

"I don't deny that there are going to be tough decisions that have to be made and tough choices that have to be made," he said. "But we owe it to our citizens to provide both strong fiscal discipline and a strong national defense." 

Act Of Valor: New Fictional Film On The Exploits of U.S. Navy SEALs Features Real SEALs As Leading Men

Paul McHugh wrote an interesting piece for the San Francisco Chronicle on Act of Valor, the new film about U.S. Navy SEALs that actually has real SEALs in the leading men roles.

Considering the public's huge interest in the Navy SEALs due to the Navy warriors' take down of America's Public Enemy Number One, Osama bin Laden, this film should do very well.

The film offers a fictional account of the SEALs in action, but this fact-based film provides viewers with a realisticic portrayal of a SEAL mission.

The above photo by Paul McHugh shows Navy SEALs (left) conferring with filmmakers Mike McCoy (second from the right) and Scott Waugh on the set on Act of Valor.  

You can read the newspaper piece via the below link. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cool Photo: A U.S. Navy Aircraft Breaks The Sound Barrier

The U.S. Navy released a very cool photo of a Navy F/A-18C Hornet breaking the sound barrier during an air power demonstration over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) on June 6, 2011, in the Pacific Ocean.

The aircraft is assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113. The USS Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 were under way in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Travis K. Mendoza, U.S. Navy)

True Grit: I Like The Duke Better

I finally saw the Coen Brothers' film True Grit. I watched the film on cable last night.

As I'm a fan of the 1969 Henry Hathaway film that starred John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, the big, fat, boozy deputy U.S. Marshal with considerable "true grit," I've been looking forward to seeing what the Coen brothers do with the material.

Although the Coens insist their film is not a remake of the John Wayne film, comparisons are inevitable.

I like the Coen's small, odd, comic touches, such as the scene with Mattie Rose (Hailee Stein) talking to Rooster (Jeff Bridges) while he is in an outhouse.

I liked the look of the Coen film. I liked the music. I also liked hearing Mattie Ross' voice over narration at the beginning of the film and seeing her as a grown woman at the end of the film.

I thought Matt Damon was an improvement over Glen Campbell (who was not an actor), and although I thought Hailee Stein was very good for such a young girl, I also liked Kim Darby's performance as Mattie Ross in the original film.

Jeff Bridges is a fine actor, and I loved him as "the Dude" in the Coen brother's The Big Lepowski, but I don't think he measured up to John Wayne as Rooster.

Rooster is a larger-than-life character and only an actor with an immense screen presence like John Wayne can do the character justice. Wayne gave a much more animated, robust and funnier performance than Bridges, in my view.

Of course, a remake of a film does not cancel out the older film.

We have both films and we can like both of them for different reasons. And I hope the Coen Brothers' film helps to bring Charles Portis new and younger readers.

You can read my earlier post on True Grit via the below link:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My On Crime & Security Column: Summertime Is Prime Time For Graffiti Vandalism

The national business web site published my latest On Crime & Security column.

The column covered summertime graffiti vandalism.

You can read the column via the below link:

When Writers Were Real Men: Maybe Guys Aren't Reading Because Manliness is Absent From Literature

Brian McGackin wrote an interesting piece in The New York Daily News about the lack of "manliness" in today's literature and a lack of masculine writers like Ernest Hemingway.

You can read the piece via the below link;

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Review Of David Ignatius' Bloodmoney: A Novel Of Espionage

Joseph C. Goulden, the author of many fine nonfiction books, such as The Death Merchant, wrote an interesting review of David Ignatius' Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage in The Washington Times.

In “Bloodmoney,” we find Mr. Ignatius at his best. This is an account that makes one think, “This must be based on an actual CIA operation, but reality and common sense say otherwise.” Well, perhaps. A hallmark of an Ignatius book, given his intimate knowledge of the intelligence community, is determining where fact ends and fiction begins.

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

You can also read my On Crime & Thrillers column on The Increment, an earlier Ignatius thriller, via the below link:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Impact of Bin Laden's Death Still Unknown, Defense Secretary Robert Gates Says

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan, June 4, 2011 - It is too early to see if the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden will have an effect on the fighting in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Speaking during a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the secretary also said the responsible drawdown of American forces ordered by President Barack Obama will begin next month.

Bin Laden used Afghanistan as a safe haven for years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. He had years to develop relationships with local Afghans, and he was a particularly close friend with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The drawdown must be cautious to begin, Gates said. "It is too soon yet to see the consequences or meaning of the elimination of bin Laden," he added.

Officials hope that because of the close ties between Mullah Omar and bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader's death at the hands of Navy SEALs in Pakistan will lead to many in the Taliban to walk away from al-Qaida and disavow the organization, the secretary said.

"I think it's too early to tell. My hope is that we would have some indication perhaps later this year of the impact," the secretary said. "But I think the important thing is for us to see through where we are today. We have enjoyed a lot of success over the last year to 18 months. We need to continue that."

If coalition and Afghan forces can continue to hold the territory that has been recaptured in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, then "we will be in a position toward the end of this year to perhaps have an opening with respect to reconciliation, or at least be in a position to say we've turned a corner here in Afghanistan," Gates said.

"I think making any change prior to that time would be premature," he added.

Karzai said he hopes those in the Taliban who are not affiliated with terror groups will "take this opportunity to return to their country in peace and dignity and participate with the rest of the Afghan people in rebuilding their country."

The president said Afghan forces will continue to take on Taliban fighters, but that "the Afghan people would want that this campaign ... does not bring them casualties in the form of more civilians bombarded or night raids that cause deaths to civilians, or detentions of civilians that cause suffering."

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Day Of The Jackal - The Hit We Nearly Missed

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Day of the Jackal, I recently reread Frederick Forsyth's classic thriller.

I first read the book when I was a young man and I found that the novel holds up very well after all these years.

Charles Cumming, the author of The Trinity Six, an interesting spy thriller that I read a month or so ago, wrote an interesting piece for the British newspaper The Guardian about Frederick Forsyth and how he came to write the classic thriller The Day of the Jackal.

You can read the piece via the below link:   

You can also read an earlier post of mine, which links to an interview with Frederick Forsyth, via the below link:

You can also read an even earlier post on how Frederick Forsyth "keeps it real," via the below link:

Defense Department, Homeland Security Collaborate In Cyber Realm

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2011 - Recognizing the huge national security implications of compromised U.S. computer networks, a senior Pentagon official said the Defense Department is working hand in hand with the Department of Homeland Security and others to shore up vulnerabilities against an increasingly sophisticated threat.

"Our focus is to ensure we can operate effectively in cyberspace, especially in areas of command and control" and other network-centric operations, Robert J. Butler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, told a Center for a New American Security forum yesterday.

Kristin M. Lord, coeditor of the center's new report, "America's Cyber Future: Security and Prosperity in the Information Age," told attendees that cyber threats endanger the enormous economic, social and military advances cyberspace enables for the United States and the world.

This can have severe implications across the board, including on the U.S. military, which depends on cyberspace to operate its communications, weapons, logistics and navigation systems. In a worst-case scenario, Lord noted, cyber attacks could disable critical equipment and even turn it against its users.

The Defense Department stood up U.S. Cyber Command under U.S. Strategic Command to focus directly on the challenges as well as opportunities in what DOD now recognizes as a fifth domain of warfare. The military services have aligned their capabilities as well, with 24th Air Force, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, Marine Forces Cyber Command and Army Cyber Command/2nd Army all leading their respective services' efforts.

Butler (seen in the above DoD photo) cited a memorandum of understanding signed last fall that enables the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security to better share information, expertise and capabilities.

The plan retains Homeland Security's lead responsibility for protecting the U.S. government's civilian networks and critical infrastructure. The Defense Department is responsible for protecting some 15,000 military networks in the so-called "dot-mil" domain. Under the agreement, the two agencies will collaborate to better safeguard cyberspace against state as well as nonstate actors.

Butler said this sharing arrangement will expand as Cyber Command grows and matures. He said he envisions more personnel-sharing between the two departments, and more collocating of employees to they can better conduct planning and share talents.

Rand Beers, undersecretary of Homeland Security's national protection and programs directorate, said his department, a relative newcomer to the cyber arena, gains tremendously through the whole-of-government approach to cyberspace, particularly its partnership with DOD.

"The bottom line is we couldn't do it without DOD because it is a team effort," he said.

A recent cyber attack on a network at Lockheed Martin Corp., a major U.S. defense contractor, had only a minimal impact, Butler said. The FBI is leading the investigation into the incident, which reportedly occurred May 2.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

CIA Releases Film On Blown China Spy Mission

ABC News reports that the CIA will for the first time make public a documentary the agency produced about the two-decade imprisonment of two CIA officers by the Communist Chinese government after a blown secret mission.

You can read more about the spy story via the below link: