Saturday, July 30, 2011

Michael Scheuer, The Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief, Believes The Media Is Anti-Agency And 'Thinks It's Fun To Put People At Risk' offers a piece on Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit, being interviewed on FoxNews about the media exposure of the CIA officer who headed the team of CIA officers and Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and killed him.

I liked when Michael Scheuer sarcastically referred to a Washington Post reporter, who won the "Pulitzer Prize for Treason."

You can watch the video clip and read a transcript of the interview via the below link.

I interviewed Michael Scheuer, the author of a book called Osama bin Laden, for Counterterrorism magazine just before bin Laden was killed.

You can read the interview via the below links:

Friday, July 29, 2011

AWOL Soldier Arrested In What Police Say Was New Fort Hood Terror Plot reports on an alleged terrorist plot against Fort Hood by Naser Jason Abdo, seen in the above photo.

An Army private has been arrested in connection with an alleged plot to attack Fort Hood soldiers that authorities suggest was close to being carried out. The arrest, first reported by Fox News, comes nearly two years after a deadly shooting rampage at the base.

Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell in Kentucky, was arrested by the Killeen, Texas, Police Department near Fort Hood and remains in custody at the Killeen jail.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Retired General Chuck Yeager Still Gruff, Colorful And Quotable At 88

Bill Glauber at the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel wrote an interesting piece about retired Air Force General Chuck Yeager.

At 88, Chuck Yeager still has the right stuff.

He flies.

He hunts.

He goes fishing.

And he spins tales of an extraordinary aviation career.

"I tell it the way I remember it - that's not necessarily the way it happened," Yeager said Wednesday, speaking to an overflow audience settled into a museum hangar at the EAA AirVenture event.

The greatest test pilot of his era, perhaps the greatest of all time, was the first man to fly through the sound barrier. His exploits were long-ago celebrated in the acclaimed Tom Wolfe book "The Right Stuff," later brought to the screen.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ATF Agents Denounce Operation Fast And Furious

Chuck Neubauer at the Washington Times reports on the congressional hearings on the Justice Department and ATF's Operation Fast and Furious.

ATF field agents working in Mexico broke ranks with their supervisors Tuesday during a rancorous five-hour House committee hearing, saying they were kept in the dark about a controversial undercover operation in which hundreds of guns ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Carlos Canino, the ATF acting attache to Mexico; Darren Gil, former attache; and Jose Wall, senior agent in Tijuana, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee they had serious concerns about the alarming rate of guns found in violent crimes in Mexico whose source was “Operation Fast and Furious” in Arizona.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

AMC's 'Mob Week' Features 'Goodfellas,' 'The Godfather,' and 'Donnie Brasco'

The Hollywood Reporter offers a piece on the cable station AMC's announcement about Mob Week.

AMC is getting into the mob business.

The cable channel best known for critically acclaimed series including Mad Men and Breaking Bad is set to roll out its first annual "mob week," hosted by former New York City Mayor and, as AMC puts it, "real life mob buster, Rudy Giuliani."

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

AMC will offer The Godfather, Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco and other classic mob movies, but I don't see how Pulp Fiction fits into that group. I'm not crazy about Pulp Fiction.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fans Celebrate Author Ernest Hemingway At Annual Key West Festival

Greensboro, North Carolina's WFMY News 2 covered the annual Hemingway festival in Key West, Florida.

Ernest Hemingway look-alikes proved their affinity for the author is "no bull" during Saturday's "Running of the Bulls" in Key West, Florida. It is a zany and much shorter take-off on the world-renowned annual run held in Pamplona, Spain.

The event featured past winners and competitors in the annual "Papa" Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. The stocky, white-bearded "Ernests" paraded through downtown Key West with life-size man-made replica bulls.

You can read about the festival and watch a video via the link below:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Answers Needed On Operation Fast And Furious

The San Antonio Express-News published an editiorial that calls for answers from the Obama Justice Department regarding Operation Fast and Furious.

In theory, Operation Fast and Furious was a sting operation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to take down major gun traffickers supplying the drug cartels in Mexico. In practice, it was an operation out of control, with U.S. authorities allowing the illegal sale of 1,700 guns.

Two guns recovered from the scene of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent were sold to straw buyers under Operation Fast and Furious. The Mexican government alleges at least 150 Mexican citizens have been killed or injured by weapons that entered the country with the knowledge of federal agents.

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

You can also read my earlier post on Operation Fast and Furious via the below link:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Tale Of Two Thriller Writers: Ian Fleming Interviewed Raymond Chandler On BBC Radio In 1958

I was thrilled to discover that BBC was offering a recording of Ian Fleming interviewing his friend and fellow crime and thriller writer Raymond Chandler - two of my favorite writers - on BBC Radio in 1958.

You can listen to the classic radio interview via the below link:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Report: China Building Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons For Use Against U.S. Carriers

Bill Gertz, the veteran national security reporter for the Washington Times, wrote an interesting piece about the Communist Chinese building electromagnetic pulse weapons, which can be used against American aircraft carriers.

The carrier remains one of America's symbols of power. No nation on earth can counter the carrier battle group at sea - yet. 

As an old carrier sailor - I served as a teenage seaman on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War - I'm concerned about this report and I hope our leaders in Washington are equally  concerned.

You can read Bill Gertz's report via the below link:     

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Writing Detective Retires To Focus On Books

The New York Times reports that Edward Conlon, the NYPD detective who wrote Blue Blood, a memoir, and Red On Red, a novel, has retired from the Police Department to write full-time.

Conlon told the Times that storytelling is a longstanding tradition among officers.

“In any given barroom, squad room or cookout, there are going to be cops telling stories,” Mr. Conlon said. “Many that are better than mine. I just can write them in a certain way.”

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

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

Humbling Hanoi Jane

Jeffrey T. Kuhner wrote an interesting column in the Washington Times about QVC canceling Jane Fonda's appearance on the cable shopping network.

Fonda complained that QVC canceled her appearance due to her opposition to the Vietnam War.

Of course, Fonda did much more that just oppose the war, as Kuhner notes in his column.

For many Vietnam veterans, and many Americans, Fonda's actions were acts of treason.

You can read the column via the below link:   

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sixteen Individuals Arrested In The United States For Alleged Roles In Cyber Attacks

The U.S. Justice Departmant released the below information yesterday:

WASHINGTON - Fourteen individuals were arrested today by FBI agents on charges related to their alleged involvement in a cyber attack on PayPal’s website as part of an action claimed by the group “Anonymous,” announced the Department of Justice and the FBI. Two additional defendants were arrested today on cyber-related charges.

The 14 individuals were arrested in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio on charges contained in an indictment unsealed today in the Northern District of California in San Jose. In addition, two individuals were arrested on similar charges in two separate complaints filed in the Middle District of Florida and the District of New Jersey. Also today, FBI agents executed more than 35 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing investigation into coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations. Finally, the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Service arrested one person and the Dutch National Police Agency arrested four individuals today for alleged related cyber crimes.

According to the San Jose indictment, in late November 2010, WikiLeaks released a large amount of classified U.S. State Department cables on its website. Citing violations of the PayPal terms of service, and in response to WikiLeaks’ release of the classified cables, PayPal suspended WikiLeaks’ accounts so that WikiLeaks could no longer receive donations via PayPal. WikiLeaks’ website declared that PayPal’s action “tried to economically strangle WikiLeaks.”

The San Jose indictment alleges that in retribution for PayPal’s termination of WikiLeaks’ donation account, a group calling itself Anonymous coordinated and executed distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal’s computer servers using an open source computer program the group makes available for free download on the Internet. DDoS attacks are attempts to render computers unavailable to users through a variety of means, including saturating the target computers or networks with external communications requests, thereby denying service to legitimate users. According to the indictment, Anonymous referred to the DDoS attacks on PayPal as “Operation Avenge Assange.”

The defendants charged in the San Jose indictment allegedly conspired with others to intentionally damage protected computers at PayPal from Dec. 6, 2010, to Dec. 10, 2010.

The individuals named in the San Jose indictment are: Christopher Wayne Cooper, 23, aka “Anthrophobic;” Joshua John Covelli, 26, aka “Absolem” and “Toxic;” Keith Wilson Downey, 26; Mercedes Renee Haefer, 20, aka “No” and “MMMM;” Donald Husband, 29, aka “Ananon;” Vincent Charles Kershaw, 27, aka “Trivette,” “Triv” and “Reaper;” Ethan Miles, 33; James C. Murphy, 36; Drew Alan Phillips, 26, aka “Drew010;” Jeffrey Puglisi, 28, aka “Jeffer,” “Jefferp” and “Ji;” Daniel Sullivan, 22; Tracy Ann Valenzuela, 42; and Christopher Quang Vo, 22. One individual’s name has been withheld by the court.

The defendants are charged with various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer. They will make initial appearances throughout the day in the districts in which they were arrested.

In addition to the activities in San Jose, Scott Matthew Arciszewski, 21, was arrested today by FBI agents on charges of intentional damage to a protected computer. Arciszewski is charged in a complaint filed in the Middle District of Florida and made his initial appearance this afternoon in federal court in Orlando, Fla.

According to the complaint, on June 21, 2011, Arciszewski allegedly accessed without authorization the Tampa Bay InfraGard website and uploaded three files. The complaint alleges that Arciszewski then tweeted about the intrusion and directed visitors to a separate website containing links with instructions on how to exploit the Tampa InfraGard website. InfraGard is a public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection sponsored by the FBI with chapters in all 50 states.

Also today, a related complaint unsealed in the District of New Jersey charges Lance Moore, 21, of Las Cruces, N.M., with allegedly stealing confidential business information stored on AT&T’s servers and posting it on a public file sharing site. Moore was arrested this morning at his residence by FBI agents and is expected to make an initial appearance this afternoon in Las Cruces federal court. Moore is charged in with one count of accessing a protected computer without authorization.

According to the New Jersey complaint, Moore, a customer support contractor, exceeded his authorized access to AT&T’s servers and downloaded thousands of documents, applications and other files that, on the same day, he allegedly posted on a public file hosting site that promises user anonymity. According to the complaint, on June 25, 2011, the computer hacking group LulzSec publicized that they had obtained confidential AT&T documents and made them publicly available on the Internet. The documents were the ones Moore had previously uploaded.

The charge of intentional damage to a protected computer carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

An indictment and a complaint merely contain allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

To date, more than 75 searches have taken place in the United States as part of the ongoing investigations into these attacks.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern District of California, Middle District of Florida and the District of New Jersey. The Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section also has provided assistance.

Today’s operational activities were done in coordination with the Metropolitan Police Service in the United Kingdom and the Dutch National Police Agency. The FBI thanks the multiple international, federal and domestic law enforcement agencies who continue to support these operations.

My On Crime & Security Column:Crime Prevention Tips You Can Take To The Bank

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

The column covers how to protect yourself when making bank deposits.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ATF Chief Admits Mistakes In Operation Fast And Furious, Accuses Holder Aides Of Stonewalling Congress

FoxNews has been on top of the ATF scandal involving the disastrous "Fast and Furious" operation.

The below piece was published on yesterday, July 18th:

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has admitted that his agency, in at least one instance, allowed sales of high-powered weapons without intercepting them -- and he accuses his superiors at the Justice Department of stonewalling Congress to protect political appointees in the scandal over those decisions.

Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson made the disclosures about the so-called Operation Fast and Furious in an interview with congressional investigators looking into the controversial anti-gunrunning initiative.

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Scarfo Role Seen In Texas Fraud Case

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, wrote an interesting piece about Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, the former Cosa Nostra boss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey crime family.

Jailed mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo played an active role in setting up a scheme to defraud a Texas financial firm of millions of dollars while sitting in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta, new documents in a Dallas bankruptcy case contend.

 But whether the 82-year-old mob boss will be indicted is one of several issues that prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Camden are wrestling with as the FirstPlus Financial Group investigation draws to a close.

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

You can also watch a video of George Anastasia on Scarfo via the below link:   

A Terrorist's Worst Nightmare: A Cool Photo Of A Navy SEAL

A U.S. Navy SEAL peers over the railing of a utility landing craft during a board, search and seizure drill at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, Calif. on July 12, 2011.

The above U.S. Navy photo is by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson.

You can click on the photo to enlarge.

Crime Thrillers On Cable: The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer is out on DVD and the film is also available On Demand on Comcast Cable TV.

I watched The Lincoln Lawyer on Comcast Cable TV last night with my wife.

We both enjoyed the film and we thought it was a very good, fast-paced and suspenseful crime thriller.

Matthew McConaughey was very good as Mickey Haller, the Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer who works out of his Lincoln Towncar rather than an office. He prefers to work out of his car, as he has to travel a good distance to five different courthouses located across Los Angeles.

The film director, Brad Furman, cast the film with a good number of fine co-stars, including Ryan Phillippe, William H.Macy and Marisa Tomei.

He also cast some strong character actors in supporting roles. The film offered Bryan Cranston, Francis Fisher, Michael Pena and other fine character actors.

You can watch a trailer of the film via the below link:

I'm thankful that Furman and screenwriter John Romano were basically faithful to the Michael Connelly novel. Connelly is one of my favorite crime writers and I read and enjoyed The Lincoln Lawyer some years ago.

I interviewed Michael Connelly a while back and you can read my piece, Killers, Cops and Crime Reporters: A Q & A With Crime Writer Michael Connelly, via the below link:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Remembering Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia's Former Mayor And Police Commissioner, Twenty Years After His Death

Admirers of Frank Rizzo gathered Saturday at his statute in Center City Philadelphia to remember and honor the late mayor and police commissioner on the 20th anniversary of his death.

You can read about the event in the below link to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

There have been several books written about the controversial mayor and top cop of Philadelphia, but I recommend The Cop Who Would Be King: The Honorable Frank Rizzo by Joseph R. Daughan and Peter Binzen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On Ernest Hemingway's Great Short Stories

Chris Power wrote an interesting piece for the British newspaper The Guardian about Ernest Hemingway's great short stories.

Hemingway's earliest published stories are stark formal experiments. In Our Time (1924), a 32-page book of vignettes often just a paragraph long, describes scenes from the first world war (Hemingway served in the Red Cross in Italy), the Greco-Turkish war, criminal life, and the bullring. They rank with Felix Fénéon's elevation of faits-divers to the status of art, but are fired by an even greater intensity through what Edward Said identifies as their "incredible purity of line and severity of vision".
 You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Cyber Threat Grows More Destructive, Deputy Defense Secretary Lynn Says

The American Forces Press Service released the below piece yesterday:

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2011 - The cyber threat the United States faces is increasing in severity and is accessible to a wide range of enemies, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said in a television interview broadcast last night.

"Most of what we see today is exploitation -- that's theft, stealing secrets, either commercial or military," Lynn told Ray Suarez on "PBS Newshour." "[But] we know the tools exist to destroy things, to destroy physical property, to destroy networks, to destroy data, maybe even take human lives."

Lynn said nation-states currently are the sole possessors of sophisticated cyber tools, but the capability will spread over time.

"It's going to migrate to rogue states, and it's going to migrate to, eventually, terrorist groups," he said. "At some point, you're going to see a marriage of capability and intent, and that is what we should truly worry about."

DOD is working both to defend its own networks and support the Department of Homeland Security's mission to protect systems important to national security, Lynn said.

Pentagon officials yesterday released the Defense Department's first strategy aimed at countering the cyber threat. The strategy document charts the increase of Internet usage since 2000, when there were 360 global users, to 2010's 2 billion. DOD alone has 15,000 networks and more than 7 million computing devices.

"In the first instance, we're protecting those military capabilities," Lynn said. "But we need to go further. Working through the Department of Homeland Security, we need to think about how we might use better defensive capabilities to protect ... the power grid, the transportation network, the financial sector."

DOD is not committing to protecting the entire Internet, Lynn said.

"We're talking with our allies about how we have a collective defense," he said. "We're working with them to share technologies, to share understandings of the threat, so that we have a collective defense approach to this important problem."

Most cyber attacks happening now are malicious activity, some are criminal, and some reach the level of espionage, Lynn said.

We have seen a few cases ... where it goes above that and degrades networks themselves," he said, noting the 2007 attack on Estonia and the 2008 cyber assault on the republic of Georgia.

Defending the cyber domain requires a new way of thinking, Lynn said. 

"It's different than land, sea, air and space," he noted. "It's largely privately owned. It crosses borders. It doesn't respect sovereignty. And the speed at which it moves, keystrokes on one side of the globe can have an impact on the other in the blink of an eye."

U.S. Cyber Command is responsible for organizing DOD's efforts in the cyber domain, the deputy secretary said.

"They're out hiring people, both in uniform and as civilians, with ... [the] cyber skills that we need," he added. "They're different kinds of skills than we might need with conventional soldiers, but they're equally important."

DOD doesn't monitor or scan commercial networks in the United States, Lynn said.

"We're trying to work with the appropriate agencies, the FBI, with law enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, for protection of critical infrastructure to provide capabilities ... that the Defense Department has that might be used for those critical missions," he said. "But we don't have the primary role." 


To learn more about the cyber threat, you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on a gathering of current and former intelligence chiefs who discussed the threat of spies, terrorists and criminals using cyber warfare via the below links:

You can also read my interview with Thomas Boghardt, the International Spy Museum's historian, about the history of cyber wafare via the below link:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

When The Going Got Tough: A Review Of The Early Works Of Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh is one of my favorite writers, so I'm pleased that Penguin is issuing another complete edition of his novels, biographies and travel books.

You can read Paul Johnson's review of the early books for The Spectator via the below link:

The Grandson Also Runs With The Bulls

Fiona Govan at the British newspaper The Telegraph wrote an interesting piece about John Hemingway, who ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

John Hemingway is the grandson of the great writer, Ernest Hemingway.

The yearly event was covered in Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Sun Also Rises, and became world famous after the novel was published.

You can read the newspaper story via the below link:

Fiona Govan also wrote a piece about Ernest Hemingway's seminal writings on bullfighting. You can read that piece via the below link: 

Pennsylvania Man Indicted For Soliciting Jihadists To Kill Americans

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

WASHINGTON – Emerson Winfield Begolly, 22, of New Bethlehem, Pa., was indicted by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., today for allegedly soliciting Islamic extremists to engage in acts of terrorism within the United States and posting bomb-making instruction materials online.

The indictment was announced by Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office; and David J. Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

“Today’s case underscores the continuing threat posed by homegrown extremists seeking to use the Internet to incite violence,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

“Emerson Begolly is accused of repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “These allegations demonstrate how young people in the United States can become influenced by – and eventually participate in – jihadist propaganda that is a serious threat to the safety of us all.”

“Today, the FBI is faced with a complex threat environment that combines homegrown extremism and the Internet,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “The FBI’s top priority is stopping terrorism, and we remain vigilant against those who solicit violent acts in the United States.”

“Those who attempt to harm or kill Americans will face a determined, coordinated law enforcement effort,” said U.S. Attorney Hickton.

According to the two-count indictment, Begolly has been an active moderator of a popular, internationally known Islamic extremist web forum, the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF), used by its members to promote and distribute jihadist propaganda. The indictment alleges that since July 2010, Begolly has placed a number of postings encouraging attacks within the United States, including the use of firearms, explosives and propane tanks against targets such as police stations, post offices, synagogues military facilities, train lines, bridges, cell phone towers and water plants.

Following the reported shootings in Northern Virginia at the Pentagon and the Marine Corps Museum in October 2010, Begolly allegedly posted a comment online that praised the shootings and hoped the shooter had followed his previous postings encouraging similar acts of violence that might “seem small but cause big damage.”

On Dec. 28, 2010, Begolly allegedly posted links to a 101-page document that contains information on how to set up a laboratory, conduct basic chemistry and manufacture explosives.

The indictment charges Begolly with solicitation to commit a crime of violence, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

On Feb. 2, 2011, Begolly was indicted for allegedly assaulting federal agents and firearms-related charges in the Western District of Pennsylvania. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the charges filed in that district.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Hammerstrom of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia’s National Security and International Crime Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Trial Attorney Stephen Ponticiello of the Counterterrorism Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division are prosecuting the case.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

General Petraeus Says Counterinsurgency Strategy Has 'Borne Fruit'

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2011 - The commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, the officer many view as the architect of the Defense Department's counterinsurgency strategy, assessed its results in Afghanistan as he prepares to retire.

During his last full week commanding coalition and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, seen in the above DoD photo, discussed his tenure there with NATO TV yesterday.

"What we have done is implement the so-called NATO comprehensive approach, a civil-military campaign ... that does indeed embody many of the principles of the counterinsurgency field manual that we developed back in 2006, and which we employed in Iraq in the surge of 2007-2008," he said. "I think generally, it has borne fruit."

Petraeus and Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, who succeeded him in August as commander of U.S. Central Command, jointly oversaw the manual's development and publication. Petraeus has issued further counterinsurgency guidance on troop operations and contracting since assuming the ISAF command in July 2010.

There have been setbacks as well as successes, the general said, but over the last year coalition and Afghan forces have halted the Taliban's momentum in much of the country, and reversed the insurgent hold in central Helmand province, districts around Kandahar city and in the security bubble in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul.

While ISAF and Afghan forces have increased their hold in many population centers, there is still a tough fight for control of the country, he said.

"We always say it gets harder before it gets easier, and we have definitely been in the 'getting harder' phase of this overall endeavor," the general noted.

The number of enemy attacks between last May and this May was about the same, he said, and levels in June decreased by 3 to 5 percent from last year. That trend may not continue, but is still noteworthy for those two months, Petraeus said, particularly since the increase in violent incidents from 2009 to 2010 was "very, very significant."

"But this is hard," he said. "There is a resilient enemy, and there is no question ... that enemy is willing to cause civilian casualties. It's an enemy willing to blow himself up, in some cases, to achieve objectives."

Enemy activity within Afghanistan's border area with Pakistan is a very serious challenge, the general said.

Petraeus said ISAF and Afghan forces have worked together to establish a layered border defense in key locations such as the area between Khost province and North Waziristan. The protection force there "is quite effective and well supported," he added.

Coalition troops plan to expand that force and establish similar defenses in Paktika province and other "rugged, mountainous tribal areas in which the insurgents have been able to establish safe havens over the years," he said.

"Many of these areas, frankly, are just not those in which you will ever see sizeable Afghan or ISAF forces," he acknowledged.

With mountains reaching to 14,000 feet and sparse population, he said, the border area requires sustainable security solutions that will deny insurgents access to the Afghan side of the border. The challenge then, he said, will be to "work with our Pakistani partners so that they can do the same on the other side."

"Keep in mind, many of these insurgents are posing what we believe is the most existential threat to Pakistan," Petraeus said. "[They] pose the most urgent threat to the very existence of the Pakistani state, as its citizens know it, ... killing dozens of Pakistani civilians in an average week."

In contrast, and in keeping with the coalition's emphasis on minimizing civilian casualties, he said, coalition special operations activities generally result in no shots fired.

"They have been very effective, indeed, in getting those individuals we're seeking," he said. "Typically capturing them, because we want to interrogate them and ... learn more about their networks."

The hierarchy of Afghan security forces is capable "with some caveats," the general said.

"The Afghan special operations forces, over 12,000 of them now, [are] really quite capable and indeed leading nearly a quarter of the so-called night raids at this point," he said. "We certainly provide enablers for them ... but they are the ones going through the door, they're the ones doing the apprehensions, the searches, and all the rest of that."

The Afghan regular army forces are "generally doing well," he said. "Certainly there's a range of them," he added, "all the way from still being established ... to an actual independent infantry battalion."

The Afghan police forces, he said, "run the gamut from quite good to some that are suspect in the eyes of the local population."

Petraeus said that during the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on June 28, Afghan forces responded capably and relatively quickly in a situation involving a massive structure with hundreds of rooms, two huge wings and multiple floors.

It does take a few hours to alert a force, assemble it, issue its equipment, develop initial plans, deploy to the location, get an update and then launch into operations," he said, "keeping in mind that the individuals they were going after, each of them, was wearing a suicide vest and heavily armed."

Afghan forces accomplished a "credible and courageous performance" clearing the hotel of heavily armed attackers in suicide vests, he said.

NATO forces assisted during the attack, Petraeus said. "But it was the Afghan forces that died in this operation," he added. "There's no better example ... that they were the ones confronting these would-be suicide bombers, and ultimately forcing the remaining handful that remained up on to the roof, where they were killed by ... other forces."

Petraeus will turn over command July 18. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen has been nominated for promotion to general and appointment as Petraeus' successor.

Petraeus will retire from the Army on Aug. 31 and assume his new duties as CIA director Sept. 6.

Petraeus told NATO TV he never expected to end his military career in Afghanistan.

"I thought I would end it as the commander of U.S. Central Command," he said. "This was unexpected. ... We've jokingly said that I went to the White House for the monthly National Security Council meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan with President [Barack] Obama, and came out with a new job."

Serving as NATO ISAF commander was "an extraordinary privilege," Petraeus said.

"There's no greater honor, there's also no greater responsibility, than that of command," he said. "I've had probably more than my share of commands, especially as a general officer, and especially in some pretty important endeavors in combat."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Love Those Wildwood Days

I've been offline for a few days as I spent a long weekend "downashore," as we in South Philly call our time at the New Jersey seaside resorts.

I went with my family to Wildwood, New Jersey.

I've been visiting Wildwood since I was a child on family vacations with my parents. I later visited Wildwood as a teenager with my South Philly corner crowd, and in my 20s, after I returned home from my time in the Navy, I hit the Wildwood club and bar scene.

In my 30s, I visited Wildwood each summer with my wife and children, and now at this stage in my life, I returned to Wildwood with my wife, my grown children and my grandchildren.

I enjoyed watching the children in the hotel pool, on the beach and in the ocean, and on the boardwalk. The kids loved the carnival-like atmosphere on the boardwalk, the amusement rides, and the great pizza, french fries and ice cream served there.

My wife and I also enjoyed good food from the local restaurants. We had a great breakfast at Samuel's Pancake House and a fine dinner of Italian-style seafood at Nino's.

Although I've been to New York, California, Hawaii, the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Europe, South East Asia, and other interesting locations around the world, Wildwood, New Jersey remains one of my favorite places.

Below is a link to Bobby Rydell, a South Philly native, singing his 1963 hit Wildwood Days:      

Friday, July 8, 2011

Whitey Bulger's Jailhouse Blues

Howie Carr's column in the Boston Herald covers former Boston crime boss and killer James "Whitey" Bulger's time in jail.

You can read Carr's clever column via the below link:

Carr wrote an interesting book a while back on Whitey Bulger and his politician brother called The Brothers Bulger, and he has a new book on one of Whitey Bulger's killers called Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano.    

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Joseph Wambaugh's 'Police Story' Will Be Out On DVD On September 6th

The web site reports that season one of Police Story, an outstanding police drama that aired on television during the 1970s, will be released on September 6th.

Created by Joseph Wambaugh (The Onion Field), ex-cop-turned-author, Police Story is an anthology series detailing the lives of LAPD officers in a collection of realistic and gritty accounts of what it meant to be a cop in 1970s Los Angeles. The series became the archetype for many critically acclaimed shows that followed, including Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life On The Street.

You can read more about the upcoming release of  Police Story via the below link:

I was a big fan of Police Story and I look forward to watching season one again.

I'm also a big fan of Joseph Wambaugh's books and I was glad that I was able to interview him a few years ago.

You can read my interview with the author of The Onion Field, The Choir Boys, Hollywood Station and other classic police novels and nonfiction books via the below link:

You can also read my review of Joseph Wambaugh's latest novel, Hollywood Hills, which appeared in the the Philadelphia Inquirer last January, via the below link: 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Man Who Hunted Osama Bin Laden

The Associated Press offers an interesting story about the CIA analyst who was key to the CIA/Navy SEAL take down of America's public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.

You can read the story via the link to the New York Post below:

Prior to the Navy SEALs' raid and killing of bin Laden, I interviewed Michael Scheuer, a retired CIA analyst who previously hunted bin Laden for many years.

Scheuer is the author Osama bin Laden, an interesting and informative look at the al-Qaeda leader.

You can read my interview with Scheuer in Counterterrorism magazine via the below links:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Channelling George Washington: The Revolution That Changed The World

Thomas Fleming, a noted historian and historical novelist, offers his latest in a series of articles on channelling the late George Washington on issues of American history and current affairs.

The series of articles appear in George Mason University's History News Network.

The latest has General George Washington, our first and perhaps our greatest president, speaking about the American Revolution and how that revolution changed the world.

You can read the article via the below link:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Review Of 'Death At Sea: Graf Spee And The Flight Of The German East Asiatic Naval Squadron in 1914'

Frank Wilson, my friend and former editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, wrote an interesting review of Eric Dorn Brose' World War I naval history.

Mention World War I, and most people will likely think of trench warfare in Europe. They likely will not think of the Pacific Ocean.

But the conflict triggered by the assassination on June 28, 1914, of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was indeed a global conflict, fought on sea as well as land.

Drexel University history professor Eric Dorn Brose thinks historians have missed the boat by not paying enough attention to what went on in the Pacific during World War I. The conventional view, he says, is that "this was a kind of sideshow, not a particularly important aspect of the war. I think it was more important to the outcome of the war than has been realized."

You can read the rest of Frank Wilson's review in the Philadelphia Inquirer via the below link:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hemingway In A New Light 50 Years After His Death

On the anniversary of Hemingway's death, Reed Johnson offers a piece at the Los Angeles Times that notes:

Ernest Hemingway's two competing personas — the hard-living macho man and the bohemian writer whose style influenced many other authors — have something to teach today's men, as evidenced in some new books and an HBO film.

You cna read the rest of the piece via the below link:,0,3840324.story?track=icymi

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

50 Years Ago, The Literary World Shook

Gregory Foley at the Idaho Mountain Express writes about Ernest Hemingway's days in Ketchum, Idaho.

In the above photo, Gary Cooper (on the left) is hunting with Hemingway in Idaho.

The great writer ended his life there 50 years ago.

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