Friday, September 30, 2011

Get Some: Death of Al-Awlaki Removes Key Al Qaeda English-Speaking Recruiter

Bill Gertz, the veteran national security correspondent for the Washington Times, offers a good piece on the killing of al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki.

The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a key spokesman for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, removes one of the global jihadist movement’s most effective English-speaking recruiters from the scene.

According to U.S. officials, al-Awlaki was the most successful recruiter for what has been called “self-radicalized” terrorists — those inspired by al Qaeda’s message of jihad to take action.

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

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Crime Beat Column: Goodfellas Don't Sue Goodfellas, A Look Back At Organized Crime And The Philly Mob

Joseph Bonanno, the former boss of one of New York’s five Cosa Nostra's original crime families died last month of heart failure. He was 97.

Bonanno was often sited with being the model for the Vito Corleone character in The Godfather novel and the subsequent trilogy of films.

Like Bonanno, Corleone had a “Joe College” son who reluctantly joined his father in the organized crime business. Like Bonanno, Corleone took on the other crime families in New York, although Bonnano, unlike Corleone, lost and was exiled to Arizona (where law enforcement officials have always maintained he continued to be involved in crime activities).

Bonanno, like Vito Corleone in the novel and the movies, died of natural causes. Unlike most mob bosses in fact and in fiction, Bonanno did not die in prison or in a hail of bullets.

The Godfather, although highly romanticized, is a fine fictionalized study of organized crime’s history in America. Nearly all of the major events in the Mario Puzo novel and Francis Ford Coppola’s film trilogy were based on real events in crime history.

Puzo admitted that he never knew any mob guys other than gamblers and he said he based his novel entirely on research. It is perhaps a testimony to Puzo’s skill as a novelist that real mob guys never truly believed that. Many of them believed he had a highly placed mob source.

Over the years I've heard from a number of law enforcement officials who complain that The Godfather and the other mob books and movies glamorize crime.

When I was a producer and on-air host on Inside Government, a public affairs radio program that aired on WPEN AM and WMGK FM on Sunday mornings a few years ago in the Philadelphia area, I interviewed Robert Courtney, the chief of the U.S. Attorney's Organized Crime Task Force.

He did not agree with my assessment of Goodfellas, which I said was the most realistic film portrayal of organized crime. Courtney felt that audiences liked the actor Joe Pesci in the film because he was funny and charming, but failed to realize that he and the other criminals in the film were vicious and murderous.

I didn't disagree that the criminals in the film were vicious and murderous - director Martin Scorsese certainly showed that in the gritty and realistic movie - but I noted that I’ve found some of the real mob guys to be funny, charming and even generous.

And I’ve also seen them quickly turn vicious, cold and heartless – just as Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro portrayed them on the screen. They can be good friends and good company - unless you owe them money or you have something they want. Serial killers and con artists have also been known to be quite charming.

From The Godfather to The Sopranos, novels, movies and TV programs have often presented the gangster as a tragic, romantic and even sympathetic figure. Told from the criminal’s point of view, these stories are how the gangsters see themselves. Readers and viewers often sympathize with the human qualities of the characters, but they should always remember these characters are murderers.

Criminals are interesting, which is why most of us watch the movies and read the books, but they are not admirable.

Being part Italian and born and raised in a predominately Italian-American neighborhood in South Philly - the hub of the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob - I was well aware of organized crime at an early age. I lived just around the corner from the home of the long-time Philadelphia mob boss, Angelo Bruno. He was killed in front of that very same home in 1980, sparking a two-decade leadership struggle that would result in many more murders.

I also lived near Richard Zappile, the former Philadelphia chief of detectives who fought the mob and went on to become the first deputy police commissioner. Yes, Virginia, there are Italian-Americans involved in organized crime, but there are also many Italian-Americans on the other side of the law as well.

In my late teens and 20s, I was a regular at the clubs and bars owned and frequented by mob guys. Many of my childhood friends went on to dapple in the rackets, and as a writer I went on to cover organized crime. I knew the funny, violent and tragic characters that populate Mean Streets, Goodfellas and other crime films.

Film director Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas is a powerfully stylistic cinematic telling of a true crime story.

Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s true crime book Wiseguy, the film chronicles Henry Hill’s low-level life of crime. Hill would end up as a witness against his mob mentors in crime, one of whom was James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, the leader of a crew that carried out the robbery of the Lufthansa Air Cargo Terminal at Kennedy Airport in 1978. Millions of dollars were stolen and more than a dozen of the perpetrators were later murdered by Burke.

Mean Streets is Scorsese’s earlier crime film that dealt with young mob guys in the old New York neighborhood. The film is an artful and accurate portrayal of what George Anastasia, the veteran Philadelphia Inquirer crime reporter, called the “dark side” of Italian-American life.

A few years ago, I went to hear Anastasia, who had just published an account of the Philadelphia organized crime family in his book The Goodfella Tapes: The True Story of How the FBI Recorded a  Mob War and Brought Down a Mafia Don.

The book is about how the FBI secretly recorded an internecine mob war and brought down the local crime boss, John Stanfa.

Anastasia made an appearance at Borders bookstore in Center City Philadelphia. He read passages from his book and fielded questions from the crowd of about 30 people.

Like his two previous outstanding books on the Philly mob, Blood and Honor and Mobfather, South Philadelphia is featured so prominently in The Goodfella Tapes that it’s practically a character.

“The Philadelphia mob is probably the most dysfunctional crime family in America,” I recall Anastasia saying. “It’s kind of  The Simpsons of the underworld.”

How it got that way, he said, is what the book is all about.

Anastasia talked about the 1993-95 mob war in and around South Philadelphia, noting that one failed hit man used the wrong size shells in a shotgun (which was right out of Jimmy Breslin’s comic novel The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight) and how another mob guy called off a hit because he had to report to his parole officer.

Anastasia explained that one side was old world Sicilian and the other side was born and bred South Philadelphians, the offspring of the previous mob leadership.

And the Feds got it all down on tape.

A minor gambling investigation led to the bugging of a law office in New Jersey, where the mob guys met secretly (and they thought safely) to discuss mob gossip, philosophy and tactics. Over the course of two years, the FBI recorded 2,000 conversations.

“Goodfellas don’t sue goodfellas," one mob philosopher advised a mob associate and potential litigant as the FBI listened in. "Goodfellas kill goodfellas.”

The book offers a good number of other insightful comments as well.

Anastasia said he became interested in organized crime having been born in South Philly and the fact that his grandfather came from Sicily. “I was fascinated because it’s the dark side of the Italian-American experience,” Anastasia said.

He began covering crime when he was assigned by the Inquirer to cover Atlantic City at the time of the gambling referendum in 1976. There was much talk about keeping the mob out, but as Anastasia noted, they were already there. He later covered more and more mob-related stories.

I asked him how he responded to criticism from Italians that his extensive coverage of the “dark side” as he put it, offered a negative image of Italians, the vast majority of whom were not criminals.

“These guys are taking the positive values of the Italian-American experience; honor, family and loyalty and bastardizing them for their own end. I think you should shine a light on that,” he said.

On the other hand, Anastasia said he took great pride in the positive contributions that Italians have made to this country and to the world.

Scorsese offered an interesting side note to his crime films in his Playboy interview.

Scorsese said that Henry Hill told him that he once convinced his friend’s father to go and see a certain movie. The father, Paul Vario, a capo in the Lucchese crime family, never went to the movies, but agreed to see Mean Streets at Hill’s urging.

Vario, who would years later be portrayed by Paul Sorvino in Scorsese’s film Goodfellas, liked Mean Streets so much that he instructed his entire crew to go and see it.

“It’s about us,” Vario said succinctly.

Note: The above Crime Beat column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2002.   

A Look Back At The Philly Mob Story

Thanks to you can watch the National Geographic Channel's program on the the South Philly/South Jersey Cosa Nostra crime family.

You can watch the program via the below links:

Part 1 of 5

Part 2 of 5

Part 3 of 5

Part 4 of 5

Part 5 of 5

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Former Guard Charged With Attempting To Communicate U.S. National Defense Information To Communist China

WASHINGTON – Bryan Underwood, a former contract guard working at a U.S. Consulate in China, has been charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release.

The superseding indictment, which was returned today by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia, was announced by Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Underwood, 31, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011. On Sept. 21, 2011, Underwood was scheduled to appear at a status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia, but failed to do so. The FBI located Underwood in Los Angeles and arrested him there in the early morning hours of Sept. 24, 2011. Underwood will be brought back to the District of Columbia for arraignment on the superseding indictment. If convicted of the charges against him in the superseding indictment, Underwood faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

According to the superseding indictment, from about March 1, 2011, to about Aug. 5, 2011, Underwood knowingly and unlawfully attempted to communicate photographs and other information relating to the national defense to representatives of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), with the intent and reason to believe that these materials would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.

The indictment further alleges that on Aug. 5, 2011, Underwood made a false statement when he stated to an FBI representative that he was intending to assist the FBI when he wrote a letter stating his “interest in initiating a business arrangement” with the PRC. Underwood also made a false statement, according to the indictment, when he stated to an FBI representative that he was intending to assist the FBI when he took certain photographs of his place of work. Finally, the indictment alleges that Underwood failed to appear in court on Sept. 21, 2011 in accordance with the conditions of his release, after his initial arrest on Aug. 31, 2011.

“ As this case demonstrates, we remain vigilant in protecting America’s secrets and in bringing to justice those who attempt to compromise them,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

“Our national security depends upon our ability to keep our most sensitive information confidential. Bryan Underwood is charged with trying to pass American secrets to China and then lying to cover up his betrayal,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “I want to congratulate the FBI for so quickly tracking down this defendant in California so that he could be brought back to the District of Columbia to face these charges.”

“The FBI is committed to working with our partners in the U.S. Government to prevent the compromise of U.S. national security information by those who would attempt to sell it for personal gain,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Those who seek to flee from justice should know that the FBI will locate and apprehend them.”

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Ryan Fayhee from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wiseguy Henry Hill Has A Permanent Place In Mobster Lore

Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy, a book that chronicled the life of crime of a street hoodlum named Henry Hill, was published 25 years ago. The book was later made into Martin Scorsese's classic crime film Goodfellas.

A 25th anniversary edition of Wiseguy is coming out and Nicholas Pileggi appeared on NPR to discuss the book and Henry Hill.

Twenty-five years after its initial publication, Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy remains one of the signal narratives about life in the Mafia. Adapted by Pileggi and director Martin Scorsese into the 1990 film GoodFellas, it follows the rise and fall of true-life Brooklyn gangster Henry Hill — "a little cog" in the Lucchese crime family who turned FBI informant after a drug arrest.

He was sort of a soldier in Napoleon's army," Pileggi remembers. "And I said, 'You know, if you're going to do a book about Napoleon, it might be interesting to see that world from the point of view of the soldier.' "

You can listen to Pileggi and/or read about Wiseguy via the below link:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Two On Twain: A Look At Two New Books About Mark Twain

The Hollywood Reporter offers a review of two new books on one of America's greatest writers, and one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain.

Mark Twain is not only the most important author in American letters. During the past century, Twain himself -- the white suit, the cigar, the folksy advice -- has become an iconic character. Now, two new books -- one a memoir, the other a piece of comedy -- pick up the icon as the jumping-off point for their own stories.

One of the two books is actor Hal Holbrook's Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain.

I've seen Hal Holbrook perform his one-man Mark Twain show and the show was the next best thing to seeing and hearing Mark Twain himself.

I look forward to reading about how Holbrook prepared for and began his long-running show. 

Michael Kupperman's Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010 is a comical look at a Mark Twain character who becomes involved in world events a hundred years after the real Mark Twain died.

You can read the Hollywood Reporter piece via the below link:

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Finest Life You Ever Saw: Another Look At Hemingway's Life, Art And His Boat

James Salter at the New York Review of Books offers a review of Paul Hendrickson's Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961.

Ernest Hemingway, the second oldest of six children, was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899 and lived until 1961, thus representing the first half of the twentieth century. He more than represented it, he embodied it. He was a national and international hero, and his life was mythic. Though none of his novels is set in his own country—they take place in France, Spain, Italy, or in the sea between Cuba and Key West—he is a quintessentially American writer and a fiercely moral one.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Howell Raines at the Washington Post also offers a review of Hemingway's Boat. 

While reading “Hemingway’s Boat,” it occurred to me that serious students of Ernest Hemingway have been like passengers in another vessel, the metaphorical boat invoked by his friend and rival F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Great Gatsby.” As readers, we have been beating against a ceaseless current of posthumously published novels, biographies, family memoirs, psychoanalytic studies and polarized critical debates about Hemingway’s oeuvre and character. Now thanks to Paul Hendrickson, we can rest on our oars for a while.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My On Crime & Security Column: Crime Is Down, But Your Business Needs To Keep Its Guard Up

The national web site published my On Crime & Security column on the FBI's national crime statisitics and the need to remain dilligent.

You can read the column via the below link:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brian Kelly, Veteran Counterspy, Dies At 68

Brian Kelly, a veteran counterintelligence officer for the Air Force and CIA, died on Monday, September 19th. He was 68.

Brian Kelly was falsely suspected of spying for the Russians and the aggressive FBI investigation caused him and his family a good deal of grief and anguish. The true spy turned out to be an FBI agent, Robert Hanssen.

I spoke to Brian Kelly several times and he provided me with information about espionage and counterintelligence matters for my magazine pieces. He also told me about his personal story and his planned book on the subject. He remained somewhat bitter over the actions of certain FBI agents and he felt he never received a full apology from the FBI.

Brian Kelly was a patriot and a good man. I look forward to reading his book.

You can read Kelly's obituary in the Washington Times via the below link:

You can also read Ronald Kessler's column on Kelly via the below link:

Lastly, you can read my previous post on Kelly, which links to a Virginia newspaper that Kelly told his side of the to, via the below link:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Convicted Spy Jonathan Pollard Tried To Spy For Australia

Ronald Kessler, a columnist for and the author of a good number of books on the FBI, the CIA and the White House, offers an interesting column on convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

Jonathan Pollard has portrayed himself as an Israeli patriot who spied for Israel to prevent another Holocaust. But during questioning by the FBI, Pollard admitted that before spying for Israel, he provided Australia with classified information in an effort to become a spy for that country.

You can read the rest of Ronald Kessler's column via the below link:

In Kessler's column he notes that Ronald J. Olive, the Naval Investigative Service Special Agent who investigated Pollard and wrote Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in Americian History Was Brought to Justice, mentions in his book that Pollard tried to spy for Australia, but the mainstream press ignored this fact.

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

Note: Pollard and his wife appear in the above DoD photo.

Brush Up On Your Mandarin, Mr. Bond

Christopher Carothers at the Wall Street Journal takes a look at David Wise's book on Chinese espionage, Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War With America.

The book's central case study is FBI informant Katrina Leung, a double agent who was in bed with the MSS (figuratively) and with two FBI agents (literally). Mrs. Leung confessed to stealing classified documents out of an FBI agent's briefcase on numerous occasions, but which documents and how many remains a mystery. The extent of the damage done is likewise unknown, not least because her arrest cast doubt on her FBI reports, some of which were passed on to the White House.

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

David Wise is one of America's foremost experts on espionage and intelligence.

I recently interviewed David Wise about Chinese espionage and his book for Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the interview via the below links:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Can We Ever Really Know Ernest Hemingway?

In my previous post, I linked to a review of Paul Hendrickson's Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961.

The below link offers an interview with Hendrickson by's Kevin Canfield:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Papa And The True Love Of His Life

Larry Lebowitz reviewed Paul Hendrickson's Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934 - 1961 (Knopf) for the Miami Herald. 

His not-so-implausible premise: The true love of the final half of Hemingway’s tumultuous life was a 38-foot fishing vessel named Pilar...

Hemingway hosted more than 500 visitors, many of them celebrated, aboard Pilar, making it an easy metaphoric vessel to carry the narrative. Placing Papa behind the wheel, Hendrickson covers most of the well-trod hagiography — fishing off Key West, Havana and Bimini; hunting in Idaho and Africa; literary friendships and paranoiac rants at critics; extramarital dalliances and bittersweet relationships with his tragic sons; hard drinking and debauchery; diminishing skills; dementia and ultimately suicide.

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

The book sounds interesting. As Hemingway is one of my favorite writers, and as a sailor who loves boats, I look forward to reading this book.

My Crime Beat Column: The Triple Threat of Crime, Espionage And Terrorism

I addressed the Men's Club at the Ohev Shalom of Bucks County, Pennsyvania today.

I spoke to a group of about 40 men and women about the triple threat that faces America today - crime, espionage and terrorism.

The questions I received after my talk were lively and intelligent. I'd like to thank Mark Podob for inviting me to speak to the group.

As a Philadelphia resident, I told the Bucks County residents, I’m often asked if it is safe to visit the city. Well, despite the stories of flash mobs, drug gangs, robberies and murders, the city is relatively safe.

We received 37 million visitors in 2010, and they were not robbed or killed, and many of them returned in 2011. In Center City, the main cultural and shopping district, crime is very low and there is a strong police presence.

So if you’ve never visited the city, or not visited us lately, I invite you to check us out.

Most of you, I’m sure, are concerned about violent street crime, in Philadelphia as well as here. You fear being brutally robbed and assaulted and perhaps you fear having your home burglarized or invaded.

Law enforcement officers and security professionals say that most street crimes are preventable. The key is for you to be security conscious. Always being aware of your surroundings and take basic crime prevention measures.

I’ve had more than one cop tell me that they’ve come upon burglary scenes where the home or business owner had a burglary alarm system, but failed to turn it on. Turn on your system if you have one, and always lock your doors and windows. And to me, the best protection is a dog. Even a little, yapping, rat-looking dog. Crooks hate barking dogs.

If you’re going to the bank or going shopping, try to go with a friend or family member, as there is truly safety in numbers.

Mostly, adapt a confident air when out in the public. A crook is like a shark – they look for a weak, confused or unobservant victim. And trust your instincts.

You should also be concerned about white collar scam artists. These crooks are smooth talkers and they often say just what you want to hear. The old adage “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t” still holds true today.

If you’re offered a deal, a discount, a prize – carefully check out where this “wonderful” deal is coming from. Usually, crooks want money up front, so that’s a clue that white collar victim’s miss.

“Yes, you’ve won a valuable prize, but first you’ll have to send us $200 dollars in administration fees.” Don’t you believe it.

You can check out potential crooks with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and your local police.

Besides street crime, another serious threat is organized crime. And organized crime today is not just Cosa Nostra. I’m half-Italian and from South Philly and I've coverd organized crime for newspapers and magazines for a good number of years, so I know a little something about the local mob.

But today organized crime involves a good number of ethnic groups and international organizations. Even though you may not have any direct contact with organized crime members, they do indeed affect your life.

Organized crime manufactures and distributes narcotics, which fuels street crime and murder. Organized crime also corrupts government officials.

Organized crime preys on union and business alike, sending up the cost of nearly every product or service you purchase in your daily life. This “corruption tax” on daily commerce is passed on to you - the consumer.

Espionage is another crime that may not directly touch you and you may think of it as something that only happens in a movie or novel.

But espionage affects out national security and our every day lives. Today a good number of foreign countries commit espionage against the U.S. Some countries are good at it and some are not.

Communist China is one country that I’m concerned about. They are stealing our secrets from government and businesses alike. They are not only stealing the secrets on how to make a cruise missile, they are also stealing our ideas on how to make a better mousetrap, as the saying goes.

There have been a good number of Chinese spies prosecuted in the past couple of years, but if we catch one, I wonder how many spies we missed.

China is already an economic giant and they are fast becoming a military giant as well. I fear China will be a major threat to my grandchildren in the future thanks to espionage.

The last serious threat I’d like to briefly cover this morning is terrorism. Thankfully, the U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, who was America's Public Enemy Number, but al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain a threat.

Thanks to our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, America has disrupted al-Qaeda’s ability to recruit, train, equip and plan major attacks like the horrific 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

We’ve cleaned their clock on the battlefields and we’ve rolled up most of their networks.

But today al-Qaida is recruiting via the Internet. In Internet chat rooms, disgruntled and misguided people are being encouraged to go out and create murderous mishap.

As these are, for the most part, lone wolves, so it is hard for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to zoom in on them. And yet, we’ve managed to prevent more than 40 plots since 9/11.

And thankfully, some would-be-terrorists have been unlucky, poorly trained and even stupid – so we’ve not had another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

In closing, I’d like to suggest that average Americans can help the fight against crime, espionage and terrorism by simply being aware of your surroundings, and by reporting suspicious behavior to the police.

Bear in mind that it was an observant store clerk who prevented an attack on the soldiers at Fort Dix.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

National Reconnaissance Office Maintains Nation's Intel Satellite Edge

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2011 - The National Reconnaissance Office is 50 years old this month, but its mission of designing, building, launching and maintaining America's intelligence satellites is always future focused, its chief said yesterday.

Bruce A. Carlson, a retired Air Force general and NRO's director, told defense reporters here the office's current missions range from identifying roadside bombs in Afghanistan to tracking activities in China and North Korea.

The National Reconnaissance Office has launched six satellites in seven months, "the best we've done in about 25 years," the director said.

As recently as two years ago, more than 30 percent of the organization's programs were rated yellow or red for improper performance. All the NRO's major system acquisition programs are now in the green -- delivering on schedule, on contract and on price, Carlson said.

Carlson said NRO's mission is getting more challenging because space is becoming increasingly congested where the satellites work.

"Other countries are launching a lot of stuff, and it's becoming more competitive," he said. "We all have to operate in the same space."

And it's no secret the Chinese are becoming more active in space, the director added. "That concerns us because we're not absolutely sure of their intent," he said.

NRO and Air Force Space Command have a joint space protection program, Carlson said, which is the "ace in the hole" should "somebody try to do something."

"We also use the space protection program to work around the congestion problem ... make sure we don't run into something else up there," he said.

China and Russia both contend with the United States for room in space, Carlson said.

In satellite surveillance as with night fighting, deep strike capabilities and special operations expertise, "they have to focus on our strengths," the director said.

China and Russia don't try to compete with U.S. capabilities, but to counter them, Carlson noted. "That's why we have a space protection program," he said.

China is a focus for his organization's surveillance efforts, as is North Korea, Carlson said.

"I remain concerned about [China's] intent and exactly what it is that I do not know," he said.

North Korea also works "really hard to deceive us," Carlson noted. "We work really hard to make sure we don't let them deceive us. So it's sort of a cat-and-mouse game. It's very serious for us."

The NRO's three main lines of business are imaging, signals collection and communications, the director said. The science and technology, or developmental and demonstration program, underlies all three, he added.

"We have a very active program to do our own technology," Carlson said. "We're the only organization in the government that does space reconnaissance ... and that takes some unique technologies."

NRO partners with the National Laboratories and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in developing new capabilities, but some 60 percent of the equipment on the six recently launched satellites was developed in-house, he said.

Several other small satellites -- less than about 1,000 pounds -- are now in orbit demonstrating new technologies that NRO will roll into its existing surveillance systems, the director said.

For imaging reconnaissance, the NRO seeks to examine as many parts of the spectrum with as many instruments as possible, he said.

The goal is to "do sensing ... in the daytime, at night, in bad weather, good weather ... and sandstorms," he said.

Some of the signals collection satellites are "remarkably old," he said.

"Those satellites were designed to collect Soviet long-haul communications that dealt with the Cold War," he said. "Now they're collecting phone calls or push-to-talk radio signals out of the war zone."

NRO uses its communications satellites to relay image or signals data around the world and down to the ground for processing, then shunt the results back to where they're needed, Carlson said.

"Processing takes a lot of energy and [computer] capacity," he said. "We've got to do that on the ground; we can't afford to do it in space."

NRO's ability to fuse various streams of intelligence data -- including image, signals and geolocation -- into a single, usable result has increased by an order of magnitude, but is five orders of magnitude below where it needs to be, Carlson said.

"It's incredibly difficult to take a picture someplace and fuse it with signals intelligence, that you might have a million pieces of, and sort that all out and geolocate it rapidly," he said. "But in many cases we're able to do that ... in minutes or less."

One promising example of fusion is the "red dot" system, Carlson said, which pinpoints the signals emitted by roadside bombs set for electronic detonation.

"We do a lot of work to make sure that we know what those signals are, where they're coming from, and geolocate them," he said.

That data generates a red dot on displays in military vehicles or command posts to show high probability of an explosive, he added.

"I can't tell you exactly how we do that, but it's a pretty clever set of technologies," the director said. "What it has meant is that, even though we still have an unacceptable loss from [roadside bombs], we are catching a lot of them before they're detonated."

The system has been in place for approximately six months and has been about 80 percent effective, he added.

NRO was also "instrumental" to the NATO operation in Libya, ensuring the air campaign was successful, Carlson said.

The NRO feeds data to military commanders, he said, but it is also a key strategic asset, serving the National Security Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

There will always be competition between, for example, the information an analyst wants to assess foreign weapon systems and a combat commander's need to know where and how many cell phones are operating in a particular enemy area, the director noted.

Whether identifying insurgent behavior patterns or focusing on larger national security questions, Carlson said, "My job is to ... get the most out of a sensor."

There are only so many satellites in orbit, so NRO has an inclusive and responsive process to allocate its 24-hour capabilities, he said.

"What that allows us to do is very rapidly ... worldwide and throughout our architecture, tune those systems," he said.

An example is an aircraft bailout requiring a search-and-rescue effort, he said.

"We can, within a matter of seconds, turn an incredible number of our sensors on a specific area," he added.

Carlson said during NRO's next 50 years, the challenges are to do what it now does even better, and to develop more in-space capability.

"We know what we have to do -- we have to provide the best, integrated intelligence in the world," he said. "Now, [we have to] do it faster and cheaper."

Space satellites have always focused downward, and now need to be able to look around and up as well, he said.

"Because space is more congested and more contested and more competitive ... we've got to build systems that continue to be much more adaptable," he said. "Space reconnaissance -- that's my job."

Friday, September 16, 2011

American Aircraft Carriers Remain Essential To Commanding The Seas

Having served as a young sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War, I'm prone to agree with Robert O'Brien's essessment that carriers remain essential to America's national security.

No navy in the world can put to sea a ship comparable to the 100,000-ton-displacement Stennis or its 10 sister carriers, which are powered by two nuclear reactors, carry 85 aircraft and are crewed by 5,400 sailors and aviators when their air wings are embarked. It is for this reason that in a crisis, the first question asked by an American president is, “Where are the carriers?”

It is the reason that our ally the Philippines welcomed the Stennis and its escorts into the neighborhood last month as a counterweight to the region’s assertive superpower, China. It is the reason our commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq can send soldiers and marines into desolate and hostile environments. They rely on fighters launched from the Stennis to deliver ordinance, on demand, to support their missions. These carrier-based aircraft do not require bases in the war zone or in nearby fickle allied nations.

It’s why China has been developing anti-access and sea-denial strategies to deter the United States from sending its carriers into the Western Pacific.

You can read the rest of Robert O'Brien's piece in The Daily Caller via the below link:

Note: The above U.S. Navy photo shows the USS Kitty Hawk at sea.

Bob Beckel's Che Guevara Romance

Cuban-American Humberto Fontova, author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, wrote an interesting piece for on Bob Beckel's positive comments about Che Guevara.

Appearing on FoxNews' "The Five," Beckel praised the late communist thug and murderer as a "freedom fighter" and claimed he still had his old Che Guevara poster.

You can read Fontova's responce via the below link:

I interviewed Humberto Fontova a few years ago for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the interview via the below links:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TV Series Based On Former NYPD Detective's Novel Will Air On CBS reports that Edward Conlon's outstanding first novel, Red On Red, will be adpated for TV and aired on CBS. Conlon, also the author of Blue Blood, recently retired from the NYPD.

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can also read Edward Conlon's New Yorker piece about 9/11 and his leaving the NYPD via the below link:

Saddam Hussein: What We Know Now

Jim Lacey wrote an interesting piece on Saddam Hussein for National Review Online. 

Jim Lacey lays out the reasons why Saddam Hussein was a terror threat to the U.S. and why he should have been removed.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Top Five Cold War-Era Spy Thrillers

With the film version of John le Carre's classic spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy opening in British cinemas this week,'s Simon Reynolds offers his take on the top five Cold War-era spy films.

You can read the piece via the below link:    

I agree with four of his picks.

From Russia With Love is the best James Bond film, in my view, and Ian Fleming's best Bond novel. The film is a first-class spy thriller and I watch it again and again every couple of years. Sean Connery is the best Bond, in my view, and his fight with the late, great Robert Shaw is the best film fight scene.

The Manchurian Candidate is another great spy film. Based on Richard Condon's great novel, the film offers Frank Sinatra in one of his finest film roles and his fight scene with Henry Silva comes close to matching Sean Connery and Robert Shaw's fight in From Russia With Love. Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey and James Harvey are terrific in this clever film of a brain-washed Korean War who returns home as a political assassin.

I also like The Ipcress Spy and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

But I would not have picked Three Days of the Condor. The idea of the CIA killing their own officers in New York is absurd. The film is a paranoid fantasy. I've spoken to several CIA officers who just hate this film.

My fifth pick would have been The Hunt for Red October (based on the Tom Clancy novel) or The Fourth Protocol (based on the Fredrick Forsyth novel).  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Howard Wasdin And SEAL Team Six

I interviewed former U.S. Navy SEAL and SEAL Team Six member Howard Wasdin today.

Howard Wasdin is the author of SEAL Team Six (St. Martin's Press),

He is an interesting man and he tells an interesting story.

My Q & A with Howard Wasdin will appear in the next issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

I'll offer a link to the Q & A when the magazine comes out.

Below is the publisher's description of Seal Team Six:

This is a book that takes you inside SEAL Team Six – the covert squad that killed Osama Bin Laden

SEAL Team Six is a secret unit tasked with counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and counterinsurgency. In this dramatic, behind-the-scenes chronicle, Howard Wasdin takes readers deep inside the world of Navy SEALS and Special Forces snipers, beginning with the grueling selection process of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S)—the toughest and longest military training in the world.

After graduating, Wasdin faced new challenges. First there was combat in Operation Desert Storm as a member of SEAL Team Two. Then the Green Course: the selection process to join the legendary SEAL Team Six, with a curriculum that included practiced land warfare to unarmed combat. More than learning how to pick a lock, they learned how to blow the door off its hinges. Finally as a member of SEAL Team Six he graduated from the most storied and challenging sniper program in the country: The Marine’s Scout Sniper School. Eventually, of the 18 snipers in SEAL Team Six, Wasdin became the best—which meant one of the best snipers on the planet.

Less than half a year after sniper school, he was fighting for his life. The mission: capture or kill Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. From rooftops, helicopters and alleys, Wasdin hunted Aidid and killed his men whenever possible. But everything went quickly to hell when his small band of soldiers found themselves fighting for their lives, cut off from help, and desperately trying to rescue downed comrades during a routine mission. The Battle of Mogadishu, as it become known, left 18 American soldiers dead and 73 wounded. Howard Wasdin had both of his legs nearly blown off while engaging the enemy. His dramatic combat tales combined with inside details of becoming one of the world’s deadliest snipers make this one of the most explosive military memoirs in years.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Crime Beat Column: The Terrorist In Fact And Fiction

The below Crime Beat column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine: 

The terrorist has long been a staple villain in fiction. From Ian Fleming to Tom Clancy, the terrorist in thrillers has been portrayed as a criminal out to extort money, a religious fanatic doing the work of God (as he sees it in his deluded mind), or a former soldier seeking revenge for some perceived slight.

We’ve seen neo-Nazis, white supremacists, international criminals, misguided youth and of course, the Islamic fanatical terrorist exporting the mid-east conflict to America. 

In Money, Money, Money, Ed McBain’s Middle Eastern character arrives at an American airport and he is deeply offended at being profiled as a terrorist - even though he is one.

McBain’s crime novel, involving money laundering and international terrorism, was published two days before the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

Ed McBain, a.k.a. Evan Hunter, said he was on a book promotion tour in Chicago when he heard the news of the attack. He noted the eerie similarity between his novel and the real unfolding events.

Since 9/11, the stock bad guy terrorist in fiction and action movies has become a very real villain and a very real threat.

America’s war on terrorism may have begun in earnest following the September 11th attacks, but the terrorist's war against America and the Western democracies can be traced back to 1968.

Plane hijackings, kidnappings, car bombs and other acts of terrorism plagued the capitols of Europe throughout the 1970s and right on into the new century. Europeans have long lived under the gun (and the bomb) of Middle-East terrorists, as well as the IRA, organized crime, separatist movements and a variety of left- and right-wing terrorist groups. These groups considered embassies, hotel lobbies, sports arenas, airport lounges and sidewalk cafes free-fire combat zones.

I lived in Europe for two years in the early 1970s while serving in the U.S. Navy and I saw how life could be affected by the fear of terrorism. I talked to a good number of Britons, Italians, Germans, Spaniards and other Europeans in train stations, restaurants and bars as I traveled throughout Europe. I recall that nearly all of them expressed a deep fear of terrorism following every news account of a car bombing or assassination in London, Paris or Stockholm. Terrorism was not an abstraction to them. It was a very real threat to their well-being.

I was in Belfast during the Christmas season and I was saddened to see this war-torn city with British troops in full combat gear on street corners.

While I was there a bomb was detonated at a store and several innocents were killed.

I recall being glad that we didn’t see terrorist attacks on American soil. I also reflected on America’s good fortune to have fought all our modern wars on foreign shores.

Previous to 9/11, terrorists mostly targeted our military people at overseas posts, from the Marine barracks in Beirut to the USS Cole in Yemen. They also targeted Americans traveling abroad on foreign airlines and cruise ships.

Of course, since 9/11, that’s all changed now. The terrorists have brought the war home in a big way.

The terrorists have brought the war to our shores and like the Europeans, we now must live with the threat of terrorism. 9/11 was perhaps America’s worst disaster, but the acts of heroism and humanity that followed the attack lead me to believe that we have the resolve to win the war on terrorism.

Note: The above photo shows the Statute of Liberty and beyond it the World Trade Center on fire on 9/11.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Reflects On Changes Caused By 9/11

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2011 - The morning of the 9/11 attacks, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was hosting a breakfast meeting at the Pentagon, warning members of the House Armed Services Committee about the dangers of major cuts to the defense and intelligence budgets.

His new book, "Known and Unknown," recounts Rumsfeld's foreboding comments.

"Sometime within the coming period," he told his guests, "an event somewhere in the world will be sufficiently shocking that it will remind the American people and their representatives in Washington how important it is for us to have a strong national defense."

Just as the meeting was wrapping up, that event began to unfold as a group of al-Qaida members launched the largest terror attack ever to take place on American soil.

Rumsfeld's senior military assistant, Navy Vice Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., passed him a note to tell him that a plane had crashed into New York City's World Trade Center, the former defense secretary recalled during a recent interview with The Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

Then news arrived of the second World Trade Center attack.

"At that point, it clearly was not an accident," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld was watching television images of the attacks with his intelligence briefer when he felt the Pentagon building shake. He bounded down the outer "E" ring hallway to find out what had happened, encountering such heavy smoke that he had to go downstairs and ultimately, outside the building.

"There was smoke and flames and people ... coming out of the building and being pulled out of the building, wounded," he said.

With first responders not yet on the scene, Rumsfeld joined others tending to the wounded. But as emergency workers arrived, he headed back to his office to communicate with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and "making decisions about what needed to be done at the Pentagon and elsewhere at the Department of Defense."

Before reentering the building, Rumsfeld bent over to pick up one of the thousands of pieces of metal strewn across the ground near the crash site. Ten years later, it sits mounted on a wooden plaque in his Washington office, an ever-present reminder of that day that changed America, and especially, its military.

Rumsfeld recalled this week the chain of events that began immediately after the attacks. Not knowing if another attack was on the way, authorities grounded all commercial aircraft. Military aircraft were sent into the skies with orders to shoot down any aircraft that didn't comply and appeared to pose a threat.

"That was an enormous decision for a president [and] for a vice president to pass that instruction down, and for the pilot of those aircraft," Rumsfeld said. "Fortunately, it didn't have to be done.... None of our military pilots had to shoot at an American aircraft filled with innocent people because it was headed for a target that was of importance to the United States."

Based on continuity-of-operations plans developed during the 1980s, Rumsfeld was among the Cabinet members expected to move to secure locations outside Washington in the event of an attack. Instead, he sent Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, so he could remain at the Pentagon.

Despite a building still smoking and burning, Rumsfeld called a news briefing that evening at the Pentagon. The goal was two-fold, he explained. The American people needed to know what had taken place at the Pentagon. But he had a message for the terrorists who had masterminded the attacks, too.

"I was convinced it would not be a good thing for the terrorists to believe that they had shut down the Department of Defense [and] the Pentagon, so we made a decision to have a press briefing there," he said. "I indicated at that briefing that the Department of Defense would be operating that night and the next morning and we would not shut the place down."

Even as fire marshals urged evacuation, Rumsfeld and his staff of essential personnel remained at their Pentagon posts.

Rumsfeld admitted he was surprised to hear that al-Qaida had successfully launched the attack from within the United States. The Defense Department had always been organized and trained to deal with external threats. Internal threats were considered the domain of the FBI and state and local police.�

"So what we had was a very different situation," Rumsfeld said. "We had an external enemy that had successfully attacked our country, not from outside, but from within the country."

Bush opted to deal with the attackers, not as common criminals or a hostile foreign nation, but as an enemy network hostile to the United States, Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said his past experience as a Middle East envoy for President George H. W. Bush convinced him that when dealing with terrorists, the attacker always has the advantage.

"They can attack at any time, using any technique in any location, and it is not possible to defend everywhere, at every moment of the day or night against every conceivable type of attack," he said.

That, Rumsfeld said, requires going on the offensive.

"If you were going to protect the American people, you had to do more than try to defend," he said. "You had to put pressure on [terrorists] all across the globe and make everything they do more difficult: make it harder to raise money, harder to train, harder to talk to each other, harder to move from place to place.

"And only by doing that could you hope to ... protect the American people and our interests and our friends and allies in a reasonable way."

Looking back, Rumsfeld said he never imagined on 9/11 that the United States would go a full decade without experiencing another attack on the homeland.

Of the many attempts, all were foiled, he said. But just as other parts of the world have faced terror attacks, Rumsfeld said he's not convinced the United States couldn't be hit again.

"There could be a terrorist attack as we sit here today, because it is not possible to defend everywhere, and they only have to be right once," he said. "We can be right dozens of times, but if they are right once, they have success."

Rumsfeld recalled his major objective at the Pentagon before 9/11: to transform the Defense Department into a 21st-century organization better suited to the current world.

After 9/11, Rumsfeld said many thought that effort would have to be sidelined.

"But it turned out to be just the opposite," he said. "In fact, the events of September 11th provided an impetus to transform the department."

Rumsfeld rattled off just a few of those sweeping changes made to posture the military for post-9/11 threats. Large Army divisions have been subdivided into more flexible and agile brigade combat teams. Special operations forces, now also joined by Marine special operators, have increased in numbers, authorities and equipment. U.S. forces have been "rebalanced" around the world to better deal with 21st-century challenges and threats.

"So I feel that, rather than preventing the department from transforming, September 11th really did provide a sense of urgency," Rumsfeld said. [It] "helped people who had a traditional way of doing things recognize that we were facing a new kind of enemy and we needed to deal with asymmetrical threats as well as conventional threats. And we had to be able to do it with a great deal more skill and agility and speed."

This transformation, he said, has impacted the fighting force as well. Rumsfeld, who served both in uniform and as defense secretary before the days of the all-volunteer force, said today's service members have a sense of pride and purpose in serving their country in uniform.

"They all have a dedication and a patriotism and an aspect of their personalities that caused them to volunteer, to want to be involved in helping to serve our country," he said. "We have a military that ... has been tested in battle, that is stronger and more resilient and healthier as an armed force" than during any previous conflict."

The chapter of Rumsfeld's book about 9/11 and its aftermath, "The Agony of Surprise," is posted on his website at The Pentagon Channel will air portions of its interview with Rumsfeld beginning Sept. 9 and continuing through the 9/11 weekend.

In the above DOD photo by Donna Mills, a twisted piece of metal he picked up on the morning of 9/11 from the grounds of the Pentagon at the American Airlines Flight 77 crash site serves as a constant reminder to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about the need for continued vigilance in standing up to terrorists.

Nation Mourns Fallen, Honors New Generation, Says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2011 - The nation comes together this weekend to mourn nearly 3,000 innocent lives taken 10 years ago on 9/11 and to honor a new generation that has volunteered to shoulder the burden of protecting the United States, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here last night.

"Today we not only commemorate those nearly 3,000 innocent lives who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, but we also honor those who stepped forward in the wake of those attacks -- the generation that answered the nation's call to serve at a time of war," Panetta said.

This new generation, the secretary added, "has volunteered to shoulder the burden of protecting this country, a young generation fighting for a better life, a better America and a better world."

In a Kennedy Center concert hall lit by chandeliers and festooned with large screens that held images of the National Cathedral -- the originally scheduled venue for the concert before it was damaged by a recent earthquake and a subsequent crane accident -- the Marine Chamber Orchestra, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters and the Washington National Cathedral Choir honored the victims of 9/11.

On the stage, Panetta addressed hundreds of Washington dignitaries, families of those who died on 9/11, survivors of the attacks, military service members, and National Cathedral officials and staff who helped to transform the concert hall into a sacred place for the commemoration.

"Ten years ago, just days after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, leaders from all political, religious and cultural backgrounds gathered in Washington at the National Cathedral," he said. "As the nation stood traumatized, we came together to mourn the dead, to begin the healing, and to remember those values -� of liberty, and equality, and tolerance, and fairness -� that we all hold dear and that make America the great nation that it is."

And so it is fitting, he added, "that we gather again under the leadership of the National Cathedral on this 10th anniversary of 9/11 to remember, to continue to heal, and to pledge anew that we will continue to show the world the enduring strength of the American character."

At the heart of a strong democracy, Panetta said, are citizens who are willing to roll up their sleeves and serve their country.

"It was true for our forefathers. It was true for our pioneers. It was true for the immigrants who have come to this country," said Panetta, whose own parents emigrated from Italy to the United States in the 1930s. "And it is true for all of us today."

Among the protectors of America's freedoms are the men and women throughout history who have been willing to wear the country's uniform and defend the nation's liberties and values, the secretary added.

"For 10 long years, they have fought and they have died in places such as Fallujah and Sadr City in Iraq, and in remote outposts in Afghanistan's Helmand and Korengal valleys," Panetta said. "In Iraq's city streets and in Afghanistan's mountains, this generation has spilled its blood so that their fellow citizens and future generations will have that better and safer life."

A military commander who led those men and women in battle also addressed those who attended the commemoration.

CIA Director David H. Petraeus, a retired Army general and former commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and coalition forces in Iraq, said that in large measure, the gains made against America's enemies "are a testament to the skill, energy and commitment of the members of our country's new greatest generation."

A significant number of them, he added, were inspired to join the ranks of the nation's armed forces, intelligence services and law enforcement agencies by the events of 9/11.

"Like their great-grandparents before them who survived a depression and won a war," he said, "the members of the new greatest generation have responded with courage and purpose to the great challenges of their day. They have earned their place in the long line of patriot-soldiers on which our country depends."

In the years leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, more than 6,200 of America's finest sons and daughters gave "the last full measure of devotion" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Panetta said, quoting Abraham Lincoln's 1863 address at Gettysburg.

"We honor America's service members, their families [and] their sacrifices by remembering that protecting the things that we hold dear is the work of all Americans," he said. "It is the duty of the American people to share in that sacrifice. Out of the darkness of that tragic day of 9/11 has come the bright light of inspiration, renewal and resilience -- inspiration that brought a generation of young men and women to the service of their country.

"Their sacrifice will ensure that the American dream of my parents, the American dream of giving our children a better life, is achieved," the secretary continued. "But more importantly," he added, "it will ensure that we always have a government of, by and for all people. And because of their sacrifice, the torch of freedom burns brightly, now and forever."

In the above DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta addresses the audience at "A Call to Compassion," a Washington National Cathedral commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, hosted at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Charles Krauthammer's Column: The 9/11 Overreaction

Charles Krauthammer wrote an interesting and insightful column that debunks the "new conventional wisdom on 9/11."

Krauthammer responds to the notions that we have created a decade of fear, we overreacted to 9/11, al-Qaeda was a paper tiger, and our overreaction to 9/11 bankrupted the country and sent us into national decline.

9/11 was our Pearl Harbor. This time, however, the enemy had no home address. No Tokyo. Which is why today’s war could not be wrapped up in a mere four years. It was unconventional war by an unconventional enemy embedded within a worldwide religious community. Yet in a decade, we largely disarmed and defeated it, and developed the means to continue to pursue its remnants at rapidly decreasing cost. That is a historic achievement

You can read the rest of Charles Krauthammer's brilliant column, which appeared in the Washington Post, via the below link:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Communist Chinese General Spills Secrets On YouTube

David Wise, the author of Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War With China, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about the Chinese general who spilled communist state secrets when his briefing was posted on

Maj. Gen. Jin Yinan of the People's Liberation Army, in what he apparently thought was an internal briefing, revealed half a dozen cases of Chinese officials who had spied for Britain, the United States and other countries. Somehow, the video of his sensational disclosures leaked out. Clips of his hours-long talk appeared on at least two Chinese websites, and, but were quickly removed by government censors.

It was too late. The extraordinary video is on YouTube and can be viewed the world over, although not in China, where YouTube is blocked.

You can read the rest of David Wise' piece via the below link:,0,4630211.story

I recently interviewed David Wise for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the interview via the below links:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

John Wayne's Personal Items Are Up For Auction

Susan King wrote an interesting story about the placing of iconic actor John Wayne's personal items up for auction.

Though the actor most widely known for his westerns died of cancer in 1979 at the age of 72, his popularity remains unparalleled. A Harris poll released earlier this year listed Wayne as America's No. 3 favorite actor after Johnny Depp and Denzel Washington. Wayne won the lead actor Oscar as the wily one-eyed marshal Rooster Cogburn in 1969's "True Grit," and starred in some of the most respected films of the 20th century working with John Ford on such acclaimed movies as 1939's "Stagecoach," 1948's "Fort Apache," 1949's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and 1952's "The Quiet Man." He also appeared in director Howard Hawks' "Red River" in 1948, 1959's "Rio Bravo" and 1962's "Hatari."

You can read the rest of the story via the below link:,0,723317.story

Al-Qaida Weakened, But Still Poses Threat, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Says

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

NEW YORK, Sept. 6, 2011 - The terrorist attacks of a decade ago have in some ways strengthened the United States, and operations against al-Qaida have left it much less capable, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

"As tragic as 9/11 was, we have drawn tremendous inspiration [from it]," the secretary told reporters after touring the National September 11 Memorial and Museum site here.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, brought the nation together in a commitment that such horror "will never happen again," Panetta said.

"Since 9/11, we have achieved significant success going after al-Qaida and ... [its] leadership," he said.

Of the top four al-Qaida leaders, three are dead, he said, and many lower-level leaders have been killed or captured.

"I think that has significantly undermined the command and control of al-Qaida, and their ability to plan the kind of 9/11 attacks that occurred here," he said.

The nation's domestic security is also stronger than it was 10 years ago, he said, crediting cooperation among intelligence organizations, the Department of Homeland Security and "a number of other agencies" with that improvement.

"Having said that, it's very important for us to also pledge, not only to the families of those that died but to all Americans, that we will forever remain vigilant," the secretary said.
The main threats emerging from al-Qaida now emanate from nodes such as those in Yemen and Somalia, he said.

"They continue to plan attacks, and I don't think we can take anything for granted," he said.

Yemen "has risen to the top of the list" of al-Qaida threats, and remains an important counter-terrorism focus for the United States, the secretary said.

The leader of al-Qaida in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, "has continued to urge individuals to attack this country, and continues, himself, to represent a threat to this country," Panetta said.

On another front, Pakistani forces yesterday announced the capture of Younis al-Mauritani and two other senior al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan.

"This is ... particularly encouraging, because we thought [Mauritani] was someone who was a real threat," the secretary said.

Panetta said he is also encouraged by Pakistan's role in the capture.

"We have had that kind of cooperation [from Pakistan] in the past," he said. "We've had kind of a rocky relationship of late, but we have continued to urge the Pakistanis to work with us ... [against] terrorist targets, and this is an indication that they are cooperating with us in that effort."

Depsite gains made over the past decade, jihadist ideology remains an attraction to potential terrorists, and al-Qaida is still a threat to U.S. security, Panetta said.

"We have to continue the pressure on al-Qaida, but there is no question ... [on] the tenth anniversary of 9/11, that we have made significant progress," he said.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 11th: Ten Years, With Former NYPD Detective And Writer Edward Conlon

The New Yorker asked their contributors to look back and comment on how their lives have changed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Edward Conlon, a former NYPD detective and author of  Blue Blood and Red On Red, offered his comments in the current issue of the magazine.

I was a new detective in a South Bronx precinct. That morning, I’d caught a case—a gunpoint bodega robbery from the night before—when the news came on the TV. The sergeant told us to put on our uniforms: “We’re at war. Let’s suit up.”

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

You can also read an earlier post on Edward Conlon via the below link:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On The Set Of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy

Mick Brown at the British newspaper the Guardian offers an interesting behind the scene look at the making of the spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  

You can read the piece via the below link: 

Although I disagree with John le Carre's leftist, anti-American worldview, I think he is a fine writer and I think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is his best novel.

I'm also a big fan of the 1979 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy TV miniseries, which starred the late, great Alec Guinness as le Carre's character, George Smiley.

I'm not sure the film version of le Carre's thriller can compete with the miniseries, and although Gary Oldman is a fine actor, I'm not sure he can compete with Alec Guinness as Smiley.

Still, I'm interested in seeing the film.