Saturday, March 31, 2012

Italian Banker Connected To The 'Pizza Connection' Case Arrested In Bangkok

The Washington Post reports that a fugitive connected to the 'Pizza Connection' heroin smuggling case that reached from Sicily to American pizza parlours was arrested in Bangkok.

ROME — A fugitive Italian banker implicated in the “Pizza Connection” drug and money laundering trial has been detained in Thailand after Italian authorities tracked his whereabouts on Facebook, authorities said Saturday.

Italy’s highest court in 2009 upheld the 2006 conviction and nine-year prison sentence against Vito Roberto Palazzolo for Mafia association. Prosecutors allege that while working in Switzerland as a banker, Palazzolo laundered money for some of Italy’s top mobsters, a charge he denies.

You can read about the "Pizza Connection" and the rest of the story via the below link:

Why Charles Dickens Is Still Relevant: 'Great Expectations' On PBS' Masterpiece Sunday Evening

PBS offers a short video on the showing of Great Expectations on PBS' Masterpiece Sunday night.

You can watch the video via the below link:

You can also read Linda Stasi's New York Post review via the below link:

Note: I've recently watched and enjoyed Masterpiece's adaptation of Dickens' Little Dorritt on Comcast's On Demand. I've also recently watched and enjoyed Masterpiece's adaptations of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, Little Dorritt and Bleak House.      

The Hunt For KSM: Inside The Pursuit And Takedown Of The Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Josua Sinai at the Washington Times offers a good review of Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer's The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

"The Hunt for KSM: Inside the Pursuit and Takedown of the Real 9/11 Mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed” by veteran investigative reporters Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer, is a gripping account of how KSM, one of al Qaeda’s most prominent terrorist “entrepreneurs,” played such a crucial role in one of the deadliest terrorist operations in history. It is also a dramatic account of how the decade-long persistence and hard work of FBI and CIA investigators eventually succeeded in tracking and bringing KSM and his associates to justice, although, as described in great detail by the authors, it took a painstakingly long time in their global pursuit to finally identify him, pinpoint his location and roll up much of his network.

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

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Q & A With Crime Writer Elmore Leonard

Megan Abbott interviewed crime writer Elmore Leonard for the LA Times magazine.

With Justified, the FX series based on his short story “Fire in the Hole”—and featuring U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, introduced in 1993’s Pronto—Leonard finally has a singer worthy of his hardboiled song. Set in the hollows of Kentucky, the show centers on Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as he wrestles with drug rings, coal-mine feuds and his own itchy trigger finger.

The new novel Raylan, his 45th, emerges as a gift to fans of Leonard’s fiction and the show, the supremely cool eponymous hero navigating a menagerie of lowlifes (where, in classic style, the organ thieves have a slight moral advantage over the coal-company executives). The author happily settled in to discuss his storied career, Tinseltown and the mysteries of inspiration.

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

Actor Clive Owen Discusses His Role As Hemingway In HBO's Film 'Hemingway And Gelhorn'

Alex Suskind at the Huffington Post reports on Clive Owens speaking about his role as the late great writer Ernest Hemingway. 
Below is part of the Q & A:
So you are about to play Ernest Hemingwawy in HBO's "Hemingway and Gellhorn." Besides slugging whiskey and shooting bears, what sort of preparation did you do for the film?
A lot, actually. I took months out and traveled a lot. I went to his house in Cuba. I went to Hemingway's Paris, Hemingway's Madrid, read everything . It was an amazing project. It was a wonderful script. Philip Kaufman is such a great director. And obviously [acting] with Nicole Kidman -- it was one of those rare [movies] that felt like a real gift.

How familiar were you with Hemingway beforehand?
Not wildly familiar. That's why I took six, seven months out and sort of read everything. One of the perks of being an actor is you get to travel on these journeys and find out things. Doing that film made me read everything Hemingway [has done], which was great. I loved it.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read an earlier post on Hemingway and Gelhorn and other films on Hemingway via the below link:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When Hemingway Killed His Cat: Previously Unpublished Ernest Hemingway Letters Released

Martine Powers at the Boston Globe reports that the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum announced that it had aquired 15 previously unpublished letters written by the late great writer Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway wrote the letters, which were purchased by the library in November, between 1953 and 1960. They shed light on the Nobel Prize-winning author’s life in Cuba and his travels to Tanzania, Kenya, France, Spain, and Idaho.

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

In one of the newly released letters, Hemingway wrote of having to put down his cat.

David Haglund at writes about the cat and Hemingway's image.

While the popular myth of Papa Hemingway surrounds the writer with lions and other big game, smaller felines played a larger role in the writer’s later life. By 1945, he had 23 cats, who were “treated as royalty,” according to "Hemingway’s Cats," which was published in 2006. Hemingway and his fourth wife Mary called the cats “purr factories” and “love sponges.” The descendants of those cats continue to live at the old Hemingway house (a fence was erected for them after a neighbor’s complaint led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Because many of Hemingway’s cats were of the six-toed variety, “Hemingway cat” has become a colloquial term for polydactyl felines. Cats also show up in Hemingway’s fiction, most notably, perhaps, in “Cat in the Rain,” from In Our Time.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Link Grows Between Terrorism, Organized Crime, Assistant Secretary Of Defense Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2012 - The two missions of fighting terrorism and combating global organized crime are increasingly linked, senior Defense Department officials told Congress yesterday.
Michael A. Sheehan (seen in the above DoD offical photo), assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict; Garry Reid, deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism; and William F. Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee's emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee.
The hearing focused on the Pentagon's role in implementing the national strategies for counterterrorism and combating transnational organized crime under the 2013 defense budget request.
"Terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime are increasingly intertwined," Sheehan noted, adding that his office -- which is responsible for overall supervision of special operations forces -- is uniquely positioned to provide policy guidance and program oversight to the department's efforts in both missions.
Wechsler noted four trends in terrorism and transnational crime:
-- Terrorist groups are adopting criminal techniques, including drug trafficking, to raise funds;
-- Criminal organizations are adopting terrorist techniques, such as beheadings;
-- Terrorist organizations and criminal organizations that have been separate are now "working together in ways that previously we hadn't seen ... [such as] the attempted assassination of a Saudi ambassador here in the United States"; and
-- Some countries are using criminal activity to produce revenue.
Sheehan said that while the Defense Department plays a central role in fighting terrorism and a more supporting role battling transnational organized crime, the national strategies governing the two missions are complementary and mutually reinforcing.
While the counterterrorism focus on al-Qaida remains, he said, the landscape is changing. As al-Qaida and other terror groups meld with international criminal networks, DOD is expanding its efforts beyond direct strikes against terrorist targets in supporting an interagency approach, Sheehan said.
"All our national security challenges ... [are] becoming increasingly interagency," he noted.
Fighting terrorism increasingly includes targeting the global drug trade, he said. "Nowhere is the link between transnational organized crime, insurgency and terrorism more apparent than in Afghanistan, where the Taliban continues to receive a large percentage of its revenue through heroin trade," he added.
Fighting insurgents, prosecuting criminals and applying pressure to states profiting from terror or criminal activity involves agencies from DOD to the Drug Enforcement Agency to the State Department, Sheehan noted. And while direct strike is an important special operations capability, even purely military action often focuses on a partnering approach, he said.
"Just as important ... are the special operations forces' efforts that build the capability and capacity of our partners to shape the global information and ideas environment, as well as train and equip the capacity of other countries," he added.
Working with Pakistan to keep pressure on al-Qaida is essential, and Yemen serves as an important front against al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, he noted.
"DOD continues to collaborate extensively with the Yemeni forces on operational matters, and together we are closely monitoring [al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula] and regularly improving our understanding of its external plots," Sheehan said.
Combating the nexus of terrorism and transnational organized crime, he said, "is a call to action to leverage all of the elements of national power to protect citizens and U.S. national security interests and to enable our foreign partners to do the same."

Mob Turncoat Details The 1997 Slaying Of NYPD Cop Ralph Dols

Mitchel Maddux at the New York Post is covering the trial of Colombo crime family members for crimes that include the murder of NYPD officer Ralph Dols (seen in the above photo).

A mob hit man today detailed the sickeningly intricate steps taken to rub out NYPD cop Ralph Dols, who'd innocently asked “what’s up” to his killers just seconds before they pumped him up with lead.

Mafia capo-turned-stool pigeon Dino “Big Dino” Calabro told jurors in Brooklyn federal court that Dols, who was killed because he was married to an ex-mob wife, never saw it coming on that deadly 1997 night in Brooklyn.

Calabro is testifying against his cousin Dino “Little Dino” Saracino and Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli, who are being prosecuted for murder and racketeering.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cyber Defense Is A Team Sport: DoD Needs Industry's Help To Catch Cyber Attacks, Says U.S. Cyber Command General

By Lisa Daniel, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 27, 2012 - The Defense Department needs private-sector cooperation in reporting computer network attacks in real time to stop what has been the "greatest transfer of wealth in history" that U.S. companies lose to foreign hackers, the head of U.S. Cyber Command told a Senate committee today.
Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander (seen in his official DoD photo), who also is the National Security Agency director, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supports legislation that would require private companies to report attacks, and added that such reporting needs to happen before an attack is complete.
"We need to see the attack," he said. "If we can't see the attack, we can't stop it. We have to have the ability to work with industry -- our partners -- so that when they are attacked, they can share that with us immediately."
Many cyber defense bills have stalled in Congress over concerns about privacy, overregulation and the military's role in cyber protection, Alexander and the senators noted.
The general compared the current situation, where DOD computers receive some 6 million threatening probes each day, to a missile being fired into U.S. airspace with no radars to see it. "Today, we're in the forensics mode," he said. "When an attack occurs, we're told about it after the fact."
Alexander added, though, that industry should be monitoring their own systems with help from Cyber Command and the Department of Homeland Security. "I do not believe we want the NSA or Cyber Command or the military in our networks, watching it," he said.
Alexander explained the federal partnership of U.S. cyber security as one in which Homeland Security leads in creating the infrastructure to protect U.S. interests, Cyber Command defends against attacks, FBI conducts criminal investigations, and the intelligence community gathers overseas information that could indicate attacks.
"Cyber is a team sport," he said. "It is increasingly critical to our national and economic security. ... The theft of intellectual property is astounding."
The Defense Department's request of $3.4 billion for Cyber Command in fiscal 2013 is one of the few areas of growth in the DOD budget, senators noted. The command has made progress toward its goals of making cyber space safer, maintaining freedom of movement there, and defending the vital interests of the United States and its allies, Alexander said. The command also is working toward paring down the department's 15,000 separate networks, he said.
Cyber threats from nations -- with the most originating in China -- and non-state actors is growing, Alexander said.
"It is increasingly likely, as we move forward, that any attack on the U.S. will include a cyber attack," he said. "These are threats the nation cannot ignore. What we see ... underscores the imperative to act now."

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Letter To the People Of Ireland: Don't Build A Monument To Che Guevara

Yale Professor Carlos Eire wrote a letter to the Irish Times in response to the plans by the City of Galway to erect a statue of Ernesto "Che" Guevara.  The Irish Times declined to publish the letter, but National Review didn't.

The awful truth about Ernesto “Che” Guevara is that he was a violent thug with despotic tendencies. Che’s admirers prefer to think of him as a righteous warrior, and often cite certain books that portray him as a saint. I hate to break the news to them: Some books are full of lies. Fortunately, others are not, like the memoir Cuba 1959, "La Galera de la Muerte," written by Javier Arzuaga, the priest who accompanied all of Che’s victims to the firing squad during the first nine months of the so-called Revolution. Read it and weep, please, all of you who love Che. We Cubans are the only people on earth who knew the real Che — as opposed to the icon stamped on all sorts of merchandise — but there are many in the world who tune us out, discredit our testimony, and would love to gag us. Somehow, the lie is preferable.

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

Note: I interviewed Cuban-American Humberto Fontova, author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, for Counterterrorism magazine a few years ago.

You can read the interview via the below links:

Space Capability Integral To All Military Operations, Says Commander Of Air Force Space Command

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2012 - Space capabilities have become integral to all military operations, the commander of Air Force Space Command told reporters here during a Defense Writers Group breakfast yesterday.

"It's hard to imagine what life was like before we had ... GPS providing very accurate targeting capability, military satellite communications providing all the reach-back that's needed, [and] missile warning providing cover for our deployed forces," Air Force Gen. William L. Shelton said.

The Air Force launched and maintains the 24 satellites that make up the GPS navigation system. The all-weather, 24-hour system was intended for military use, but in 1983 President Ronald Reagan made it freely available to civilians, for the public good, after a Korean Air Lines flight carrying 269 people was shot down for straying into Soviet airspace.

The first GPS satellite was launched in 1989, and the 24th in 1994. In 2000, Congress authorized a modernization effort called GPS-III that will improve position, navigation and timing services and add advanced anti-jam capabilities to the constellation.

"The biggest concern is that GPS's signal is a very weak [one]," Shelton said. "It's a spread-spectrum signal, and it is not difficult to jam. ... In fact, you can buy [a GPS jammer] online, and we're starting to see even criminal elements use GPS jamming to cover their tracks. The game afoot here is to continue to drive a no-kidding adversary to higher powers of their jammers. Once you get to a significant power level, those are called targets."

The Air Force is cranking up power on the satellites to force adversaries to use higher-power jammers that can then be found and targeted, Shelton said.

"One of the design features of GPS-III is higher power," Shelton said, "and we also can do some things with antenna technology and the way we operate our platforms to protect ourselves from jamming."

For the Air Force satellite effort, space launch -- getting satellites from Earth to orbit -- is truly foundational, Shelton said. In 2011, the Defense Department and intelligence community succeeded in all 49 attempts to launch evolved expendable launch vehicles, or EELVs, that carried satellites into orbit.

The Air Force EELV program, replacing the existing launch fleet with two families of vehicles that use common components and infrastructure, seeks to make space launch more reliable and affordable, the general explained.

United Launch Alliance, which Shelton called "the only supplier of the full gamut of launch capabilities," now handles space launches for the Defense Department, NASA, and the intelligence community -- including the National Reconnaissance Office, the government agency that designs, builds, launches and maintains U.S. intelligence satellites.

ULA, formed in 2006, is a joint venture by Lockheed Martin and the Boeing Co. that uses Atlas V and Delta II and Delta IV launch vehicles to support strategic U.S. space initiatives.

"We are very proud of our success record in the launch business, unprecedented in the history of space flight, ... but at the same time, with costs spiraling like they are, we have to take action to reduce the cost," Shelton said.

One action, he said, is to ask ULA to come in with priced options for booster cores, or rocket stages, over three to five years. "Somewhere in there," the general added, "we believe there will be a sweet spot for us."

The other action, Shelton said, is to use commercial services whenever possible, citing military use of wideband communications as an example.

"If all I'm concerned about is volumes of data moving around in space and ultimately down on the ground, commercial space knows how to do that very well and very economically," he explained. "If you look at the bandwidth coming back from Afghanistan, somewhere in the 70 percent to 80 percent range is commercial satellite communications. We've already proven in warfare that we can rely on commercial satellite communication."

But the services must be assured of worldwide capability, the general said.

"If you tell me where I'm going to fight, it's easy," Shelton said. "But if I have to protect the capability to fight anywhere, any time, can I do it commercially, or do I have to have a dedicated military capability to do that? Those are all the kinds of things we are exploring with the commercial community."

Using commercial space launch services for national security satellite launches is not an option today, he said, because the capability doesn't yet exist in the commercial world.

"A national security payload on top of a commercial asset has to be a proven capability," Shelton said. "When you're talking $1 billion for a satellite, as well as the national security capability that satellite represents, as well as how long it would take you to get replacement capability for that, you just don't want to take the risk."

Two U.S. commercial space companies, Orbital Sciences Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., have the potential to launch national security assets.

Orbital, based in Virginia, has delivered or had under contract 1,000 satellites, launch vehicles and other space-related systems since 1982. The company says it provides full-service engineering, production and technical services for NASA, DOD and commercial and academic space programs, and is supplying commercial cargo resupply services for the International Space Station.

SpaceX, established in 2002, reports that it has developed two new launch vehicles; has a manifest for light, medium and heavy-lift space launches into 2017; and has received commercial off-the-shelf funding from NASA to demonstrate delivery and return of cargo to the space station.

Shelton said the Air Force distributed a step-by-step guide to certification for national security launches in October. Commercial companies, he said, "just need to give us adequate insight to [their history of] commercial missions so we can assure ourselves that no corners were cut, that we understand their process, the reliability of the components [and] their capabilities."

"Once they've proven that with a number of missions," he added, "they'll be ready to go."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Operation Fast and Furious Investigation Escalates As ATF, FBI Disconnect Revealed reports on the leaked Justice Department documents that were provided to Congressional investigators.

The scope of investigation also includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which records show failed to tell ATF its own confidential informants were helping finance the illegal gun purchases.

Eduardo and Jesus A. Miramontes-Varela, Mexican nationals born in Juarez worked for the Sinaloa Cartel when they became informants for the FBI in 2009, according to sources.
Previously, the brothers, ages 36 and 37, worked as informants for police in Miami, the U.S. Marshall's Service, and the DEA.

According to DEA and Congressional reports, the two men were the primary cartel contacts used to finance the illegal gun trafficking ring. Jim Needles, the assistant Agent in Charge of the Phoenix ATF office estimated the brothers spent $250,000 on guns tracked by his agency while conducting Operation Fast and Furious. Needles called it “a disappointment” the FBI didn’t bother to tell his agency of the connection.

“You are getting at the very basis of this investigation,” Senator Charles Grassley said Friday.
“But I have to wait till we have all the information before we bring down the hammer.”

You can read the rest of the story and watch the video report via the below link:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ronald Kessler's Column: Cuba Rejected Lee Harvey Oswald's Overtures

Ronald Kessler, the veteran journalist, author of books on the CIA, the FBI and the Secret Service, and chief Washington correspondent for, writes in his new column about Lee Harvey Oswald, the Kennedy assassination and the idea that Fidel Castro knew in advance that Oswald was going to assassinate the president.

Many people find it difficult to accept the idea that a man like John F. Kennedy could be assassinated by a single nut.

They feel that trivializes an admired leader and want to believe that a president like Kennedy must have been the target of powerful forces — the KGB, Fidel Castro, or the Mafia.

But as with most assassinations, the sad fact is that a deranged man, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed JFK.

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

You can also read an earlier post on Brian Latell's Castro's Secrets via the below link:

Note: My interview with Ronald Kessler about his book , The Secrets of the FBI, appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the interview via the below links: 

Actor Clive Owen Given Access To Ernest Hemingway's Cuban Home For Film Role

The British actor Clive Owen told the entertainment web site that he was given total access to Ernest Hemingway's Cuban home as he prepared to portray the late great writer in the HBO film Hemingway and Gelhorn.

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Clive Owen and the Hemingway film, as well as other Hemingway films via the below link:

You can also read my online column On Crime & Thrillers on Hemingway's crime stories via the below link:  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Toulouse Terrorist Is Dead After 32-Hour Siege And Gunfight

Peter Allen at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers good coverage of the siege, gunfight and death of the terrorist Mohammad Merah in France.

The Toulouse terrorist burst out of his flat's bathroom 'shooting insanely' with a cache of weapons at police before leaping to his death from a window.

In scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood film, the 32-hour siege at the Al Qaeda terrorist's Toulouse home ended after the vicious gunfight - injuring two officers, one who is in a serious condition.

Mohammad Merah, 23, unleashed round after round from an automatic weapon after gas cannisters were thrown into his apartment and police stormed in.

You can read the rest of the story and view the photos via the below link:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cool Photo: MV-22 Osprey Maneuvers On The Flight Deck Of The USS Bush

In the above photo an MV-22 Osprey maneuvers on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) during test operations.
The Bush is in the Atlantic Ocean conducting carrier qualifications.
The U.S. Navy photo is by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian M. Brooks.
Note: You can click on the photo to enlarge

Noted Scientist Sentenced To 13 Years In Prison For Attempted Espionage, Fraud And Tax Charges

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:
WASHINGTON – Stewart David Nozette, 54, a scientist who once worked for the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the White House’s National Space Council, was sentenced today to 13 years in prison for attempted espionage, conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion.
The sentence covered charges in two cases. In one, Nozette pleaded guilty in September 2011 to attempted espionage for providing classified information to a person he believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer. In the other, he pleaded guilty in January 2009 to fraud and tax charges stemming from more than $265,000 in false claims he submitted to the government.
The sentencing, which took place this morning in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was announced by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John A. DiCicco of the Tax Division.
Joining in the announcement were James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Paul K. Martin, Inspector General for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA OIG); Eric Hylton, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and John Wagner, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington, D.C., Office of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).
In addition to the prison term, the Honorable Paul L. Friedman ordered that Nozette pay more than $217,000 in restitution to the government agencies he defrauded.
Nozette has been in custody since his arrest for attempted espionage on Oct. 19, 2009. At the time, he was awaiting sentencing on the fraud and tax evasion charges. FBI agents arrested Nozette following an undercover operation in which he provided classified materials on three occasions, including one that formed the basis for his guilty plea. He was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury. The indictment does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under U.S. laws in this case.
“Stewart Nozette's greed exceeded his loyalty to our country” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “He wasted his talent and ruined his reputation by agreeing to sell national secrets to someone he believed was a foreign agent. His time in prison will provide him ample opportunity to reflect on his decision to betray the United States.”
“Stewart Nozette betrayed his country and the trust that was placed in him by attempting to sell some of America’s most closely-guarded secrets for profit. Today, he received the justice he deserves. As this case demonstrates, we remain vigilant in protecting America’s secrets and in bringing to justice those who compromise them,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “I thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors who worked on this important case.”
“As this case demonstrates, those who attempt to evade their taxes by abusing the tax-exempt status of non-profit entities will be investigated, prosecuted and punished,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General DiCicco.
“Today’s sentencing demonstrates that espionage remains a serious threat to our national security,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “The FBI and our partners in the defense and intelligence communities work every day to prevent sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands, and I commend the hard work of the dedicated agents, analysts and prosecutors who spent a significant amount of time bringing this case to resolution.”
“We are particularly proud that NASA OIG’s fraud investigation of Nozette, which began in 2006, served as the catalyst for further investigation and today's outcome,” said NASA Inspector General Martin.
“IRS-Criminal Investigation provides financial investigative expertise in our work with our law enforcement partners,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Hylton. “Pooling the skills of each agency makes a formidable team as we investigate allegations of wrongdoing. Mr. Nozette decided to betray his country to line his own pockets rather than play by the rules. He now is being held accountable for his actions.”
“Federal agents take an oath to protect our nation ‘against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ That would include ‘insider threats’ like Stewart Nozette,” said Special Agent in Charge Wagner. “NCIS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners and prosecutors to find and hold accountable those like Nozette who put personal gain above national security.”
Nozette received a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Beginning in at least 1989, he held sensitive and high-profile positions within the U.S. government. He worked in various capacities on behalf of the government in the development of state-of-the-art programs in defense and space. During his career, for example, Nozette worked at the White House on the National Space Council, Executive Office of the President. He also worked as a physicist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he designed highly advanced technology.
Nozette was the president, treasurer and director of the Alliance for Competitive Technology (ACT), a non-profit organization that he organized in March 1990. Between January 2000 and February 2006, Nozette, through his company, ACT, entered into agreements with several government agencies to develop highly advanced technology. Nozette performed some of this research and development at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
In connection with the fraud and tax case, Nozette admitted that, from 2000 through 2006, he used ACT to defraud the NRL, DARPA and NASA by making and presenting more than $265,000 in fraudulent reimbursement claims, most of which were paid. He also admitted that, from 2001 through 2005, he willfully evaded more than $200,000 in federal taxes. In addition, he admitted using ACT, an entity exempt from taxation because of its non-profit status, to receive income and to pay personal expenses, such as mortgages, automobile loans, sedan services and other items.
The investigation concerning ACT led investigators to suspect that Nozette had misused government information. From 1989 through 2006, Nozette held security clearances as high as TOP SECRET and had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the national defense of the United States.
On Sept. 3, 2009, Nozette was contacted via telephone by an individual purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer from the Mossad, but who was, in fact, an undercover employee of the FBI. That same day, Nozette informed the undercover employee that he had clearances “all the way to Top Secret SCI” and that anything “that the U.S. has done in space I’ve seen.” He stated that he would provide classified information for money and a foreign passport to a country without extradition to the United States.
A series of contacts followed over the next several weeks, including meetings and exchanges in which Nozette took $10,000 in cash left by the FBI at pre-arranged drop-off sites. Nozette provided information classified as SECRET/SCI and TOP SECRET/SCI that related to the national defense. Some of this information directly concerned satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and major elements of defense strategy.
Nozette and the undercover employee met for the final time on Oct. 19, 2009, at the Mayflower Hotel. During that meeting, Nozette pushed to receive larger payments for the secrets he was disclosing, declaring that, “I gave you even in this first run, some of the most classified information that there is. . . . I’ve sort of crossed the Rubicon.”
Nozette was arrested soon after he made these statements.
The investigation of the fraud and tax evasion case was conducted by NASA-OIG, NCIS, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), IRS-CI, the IRS Tax Exempt & Government Entities Group, the Naval Audit Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
The prosecution of the fraud and tax evasion case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael K. Atkinson from the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Kenneth C. Vert from the Department of Justice’s Tax Division.
The investigation of the attempted espionage case was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from NCIS; Naval Audit Service; National Reconnaissance Office; Air Force Office of Special Investigations; Defense Computer Forensics Laboratory; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; DCIS; Defense Contract Audit Agency; U.S. Army 902nd Military Intelligence Group; NASA Office of Counterintelligence; NASA-OIG; Department of Energy Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; IRS-CI; IRS Tax Exempt & Government Entities group; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, as well as other partners in the U.S. intelligence community.
The prosecution of that case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Asuncion, from the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorneys Deborah A. Curtis and Heather M. Schmidt, from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Bent Finger Lou: Wannabe Wiseguy Likely To Be Key Witness In Philly Mob Trial

Geroge Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, offers a piece on a cooperating witness in the upcoming trial of the Philadelphia-South Jersery Cosa Nostra crime family.

He's filed for bankruptcy.

He's pleaded guilty to racketeering.

He's scheduled to be a key witness against reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi and George Borgesi, Ligambi's volatile nephew and fellow mobster.

Yet he continues to live in a house in Ventnor, frequents local restaurants, and is spotted in Atlantic City casinos.

Since his release on bail in June, that's been the life of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, a wannabe wiseguy who loved playing the game but is trying not to pay the price.

You can read the rest of the story and view a Mob Scene video via he below link:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Former Army Contractor Sentenced To 39 Months In Prison For Role In Bribery And Money Laundering Scheme Related To Iraq War Support Contracts

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

WASHINGTON –Terry Hall, 45, was sentenced today in Birmingham, Ala., to 39 months in prison for his participation in a bribery and money laundering scheme related to bribes paid for contracts awarded in support of the Iraq war, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins for the Northern District of Alabama also ordered Hall to serve one year of supervised release following the prison term. Hall has agreed to forfeit $15,757,000 as well as real estate and a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Hall pleaded guilty on Feb. 18, 2010, to bribery conspiracy and money laundering and agreed to testify against his co-defendants, former U.S. Army Major Eddie Pressley and his wife, Eurica Pressley. The Pressleys were convicted on March 1, 2011, of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud, money laundering conspiracy and engaging in monetary transactions with criminal proceeds.

The case against Hall and the Pressleys arose from a corruption probe focusing on Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military base in Kuwait. As a result of this investigation, 17 individuals, including Hall, have pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial for their roles in the scheme.

According to evidence presented at the Pressleys’ trial, from spring 2004 through fall 2007, Hall operated and had an interest in several companies, including Freedom Consulting and Catering Co. and Total Government Allegiance. The companies received more than $20 million from contracts and blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) – a contract that allows the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to order supplies on an as-needed basis at a pre-negotiated price – to deliver bottled water and erect security fences for the U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq.

Hall testified that, to obtain the contracting business and facilitate unlawful payments by other contractors, he made more than $3 million in unlawful payments and provided other valuable items and services to U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at Camp Arifjan, including to Eddie Pressley and former U.S. Army Majors John Cockerham, James Momon, Christopher Murray and Derrick Shoemake.

According to Hall’s testimony and other evidence presented at the Pressley trial, Eddie Pressley demanded a $50,000 bribe before he would issue bottled water orders or “calls” to Hall. Hall testified that in April 2005, he and his associates arranged for Pressley to receive the money in a bank account established in the name of a shell company, EGP Business Solutions Inc., which was controlled by Eurica Pressley.

Hall testified that soon after the $50,000 bribe was paid, Pressley and Cockerham, another U.S. Army contracting official, increased the bribe demand to $1.6 million, which consisted of $800,000 for Pressley and $800,000 for Cockerham. After Hall and others agreed to pay the money, Pressley and Cockerham issued calls for bottled water and fencing, arranged for Hall to receive a fence contract and modified Hall’s agreement to remove the upper limit of the money Hall could receive from the DoD under the bottled water BPA.

Evidence at trial also showed that Eddie Pressley enlisted the help of his wife, Eurica, to receive the bribes. Eurica Pressley traveled to Dubai with Hall in May 2005 and to the Cayman Islands in June 2005 to open bank accounts to receive the bribe money. Hall testified that he and the Pressleys attempted to conceal the true nature of their corrupt scheme by having Eurica Pressley execute bogus “consulting agreements.” They also prepared false invoices that were designed to justify the bribe payments as payment for non-existent “consulting services.”

Hall testified that, in total, he transferred approximately $2.9 million in bribe payments to the Pressleys, approximately $1.6 million of which consisted of payments from other contractors that Hall facilitated for Eddie Pressley. Bank statements, wire transfer reports and other records presented at trial showed that the Hall and Eddie Pressley used approximately $2.9 million of the money to purchase commercial real estate in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

In addition, Hall testified that, after Eddie Pressley and Cockerham left Kuwait, he paid Momon more than $300,000, approximately $100,000 of which consisted of unlawful payments from another corrupt military contractor, which Hall facilitated by routing the money through bank accounts in Kuwait controlled on Hall’s behalf. In exchange, Momon issued calls under Hall’s bottled water BPA worth more than $6.4 million. Hall also testified that he paid Murray approximately $30,000 in exchange for official acts that benefited Hall and his companies.

On Jan. 5, 2012, Eddie Pressley was sentenced to 144 months in prison, and on Feb. 23, 2012, Eurica Pressley was sentenced to 72 months in prison.

On Aug. 13, 2009, Momon pleaded guilty to receiving approximately $1.6 million in bribes and agreed to pay $5.7 million in restitution. Momon’s sentencing has not yet been scheduled. On Jan. 8, 2009, Murray pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and making a false statement. He was sentenced on Dec. 17, 2009, to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $245,000 in restitution. On Jan. 31, 2008, Cockerham pleaded guilty to participating in a bribery and money laundering scheme at Camp Arifjan. He was sentenced on Dec. 2, 2009, to 210 months in prison and ordered to pay $9.6 million in restitution. On June 9, 2011, Shoemake pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery, including receiving $215,000 from Hall. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18, 2012.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter C. Sprung and Edward J. Loya Jr. of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. Assistance was also provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. The cases are being investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, FBI, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF). The ICCTF is a joint law enforcement agency task force that seeks to detect, investigate and dismantle corruption and contract fraud resulting from U.S. Overseas Contingency Operations worldwide, including in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hemingway's Early Letters Challenge Myths

Linda Patterson Miller, the Penn State 2011-2012 laureate, offers her view of Hemingway as a young letter writer.

Hemingway did not become an established writer until after 1922 (he was still essentially unpublished except for his newspaper pieces), but his early letters reveal that he was very much aware of himself as a writer in the making. After working as a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star for six months, Hemingway wrote his father on April 16, 1918, to express his understanding that professional newspaper writing demanded immediacy and precision, along with endurance. He was “bushed! . . . mentally and physically,” he told his father, from months of “[h]aving to write a half column story with every name, address and initial verified and remembering to use good style, perfect style in fact, and get all the facts and in the correct order, make it have snap and wallop” and “see it all in your mind’s eye,” while “a boy snatches the pages from your machine as fast as you write them.”

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

You can also read more about Hemingway's early letters via the below link:

Organized Crime's 'Judas' Hit Team

Mitchel Maddux at the New York Post offers an interesting piece about how the murder trial of reputed Colombo crime family boss Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli (seen in the above photo).

He made killing “traitors” his specialty — and his Mafia bosses rewarded him handsomely.

As two factions of the Colombo crime family battled for control in the 1990s, street boss Thomas Gioeli “developed a crew of professional killers” to ward off insurgents, “committing murder and getting away with it,” prosecutor Christina Posa told a Brooklyn federal jury yesterday.

Gioeli — known as “Tommy Shots” — took “the bosses’ side,” and “that meant eliminating traitors,” Posa said in her opening statement at the murder racketeering trial of Gioeli and one of his accused henchmen, Dino Saracino.

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

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jailed Canadian Mobster Plotting To Become Godfather Of The World

Brad Hamilton at the New York Post writes that jailed Canadian mobster Vito Rizzuto (seen in the above phot) is plotting to become head of the Bonanno Cosa Nostra crime family and beyond.

This Canadian Godfather wants to rule the world.

Bonanno soldier Vito Rizzuto has vowed to take control of the battered crime family when he gets out of federal prison in October — and exact murderous revenge on the rivals who rubbed out his father and son while he stewed behind bars, a jailhouse source says.

Rizzuto, serving 10 years for participating in the notorious “Donnie Brasco” triple homicide in 1981, said “I don’t just want to be godfather of Canada — I want to be godfather of the world,” the source said.

He’s got little to live for, so while locked up at a maximum-security pen in Florence, Colo., he’s been eating vegetarian, staying fit, sharpening his mind with games of pinochle — and plotting his coup, the source said.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Kennedy Assassination: Did Castro Know?

Glen Garvin at the Miami Herald wrote an interesting piece about an interesting book, Brian Latell's Castro's Secrets: The CIA and Cuba's Intelligence Machine (Palgrave McMillan)

The orders surprised the Cuban intelligence officer. Most days in his tiny communications hut, just outside Fidel Castro’s isolated family compound on the west side of Havana, were spent huddled over his radio gear, trolling the island’s airwaves for the rapid-fire bursts of signals that were the trademark of CIA spies and saboteurs, pinpointing their location for security forces.

But now his assignment had abruptly been changed, at least for the day. “The leadership wants you to stop your CIA work, all your CIA work,” his boss said. Instead, the officer was told he had a new target: Texas, “any little detail small detail from Texas.” And about three hours later, shortly after mid-day on Nov. 22, 1963, the shocked intelligence officer had something to report that was much more than a small detail: the assassination in Dallas of President John F. Kennedy.

“Castro knew,” the intelligence officer would tell a CIA debriefer years later, after defecting to the United States. “They knew Kennedy would be killed.”

The defector’s tale is reported in a book to be published next month by retired CIA analyst Brian Latell, the agency’s former national intelligence officer for Latin America and now a senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies.

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

Read more here:

Vintage Books Acquires Rights To Publish Ian Fleming's 14 James Bond Books

Vintage Publishing has acquired the ten year license to publish Ian Fleming's 14 James Bond books, including his classic thrillers  Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Dr No.

As Vintage publishing noted in their press release, Fleming's novels have gone on to sell more than 100 million copies worldwide and have been the inspiration behind the world's longest-running film franchise.

You can read Vintage Publishing's press release below:

The Random House Group and Ian Fleming Publications Ltd today announce that Vintage Publishing, a division of Random House, has acquired through Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown the ten-year licence for Ian Fleming’s entire James Bond backlist in print and ebook format, along with Fleming’s two non-fiction titles.
Vintage Books is the sister imprint of Jonathan Cape, who were the original publishers of Ian Fleming’s Bond fiction and published Casino Royale, the first in the series of fourteen Bond books in 1953. The novels have now gone on to sell over 100 million copies worldwide and have been the inspiration behind the world’s longest-running film franchise.
Jonathan Cape was also the publisher of the first ever official Bond novel written following Fleming’s death in 1964. Kingsley Amis took up the mantle in 1968 writing Colonel Sun as Robert Markham.

Bond novels have since been written by John Gardner, Raymond Benson, Sebastian Faulks and Jeffery Deaver.
Corinne Turner, Managing Director of Ian Fleming Publications Ltd comments: ‘We are delighted to be reuniting James Bond with his original publisher. This new deal, incorporating both print and ebook formats, represents a significant step-change for Ian Fleming and his work.’
Richard Cable, Managing Director, Vintage Publishing, acquired exclusive rights to the Bond novels in the English language worldwide exc USA/Canada. Cable commented: ‘Bond, James Bond. Ian Fleming’s famous Secret Service agent 007 remains one of the most iconic of all literary creations, and continues to thrill new and existing readers alike. We are excited to welcome Ian Fleming’s books to the Vintage list for the first time and to reunite him with Jonathan Cape, the original publisher of his work. We are hugely looking forward to working with IFPL to relaunch the list in 2012, a year which marks the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr No, and sees a new 007 adventure hit the big screen.’
Vintage Publishing Sales Director Tom Drake-Lee, a lifelong fan of the Bond novels, will head up the publishing team across all publications as Ian Fleming Brand Manager. Two series styles will be created for the fourteen books: one under the Vintage paperback imprint and one in Vintage Classics.
This is the first time that an author’s entire fiction backlist has been published under both imprints.
The publishing programme will be underpinned by consumer insight to bring a new generation of readers to Ian Fleming’s work and engage people who have recently discovered the Bond brand through the films and computer games.
Jonny Geller, Managing Director, Curtis Brown comments: ‘2012 is the year of Bond - a new movie and a new home for Ian Fleming’s backlist. James Bond never sleeps and we promise an exciting programme of innovative publishing ventures aimed at the next generation of readers for Ian Fleming’s greatest creation.’ Random House will take over from Penguin as publishers of the James Bond novels in April and will publish the Bond backlist in ebook and print format in summer 2012. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Mad, Bad And Ugly: A look At Some Of Florida's Police Mugshots

The British newspaper, the Daily Mail offers an interesting story and photos of Florida's criminal mugshots, like the one above.

A handful of criminals have been snapped sporting some truly bizarre looks after being hauled in front of the camera lens at their local police stations.

While some stand out for their unusual choice of hairstyles and extreme tattoos others, it seems, are simply not that photogenic.

The crooks, all from the Orlando area of Florida, have failed to perfect their picture pose despite almost every one of them having mug shot taken repeatedly.

You can read the story and check out the mugshots via the below link:

But We Got him First: The Bin Laden Plot to Kill President Obama And General Petraeus

David Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, reports on the Osama bin Laden plot to assissinate President Obama and General David Petraeus.

Before his death, Osama bin Laden boldly commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus.

“The reason for concentrating on them,” the al-Qaeda leader explained to his top lieutenant, “is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make [Vice President] Biden take over the presidency. . . . Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour . . . and killing him would alter the war’s path” in Afghanistan.

Administration officials said Friday that the Obama-Petraeus plot was never a serious threat.

The scheme is described in one of the documents taken from bin Laden’s compound by U.S. forces on May 2, the night he was killed. I was given an exclusive look at some of these remarkable documents by a senior administration official. They have been declassified and will be available soon to the public in their original Arabic texts and translations.

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

Note: David Ignatius is also a fine spy thriller writer. You can read my review of one of his thrillers, The Increment, via the below link:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Citizen Twain: Actor Val Kilmer To Play Mark Twain In One-Man Play

Sarah Ann Hughes at the Washington Post reports that Val Kilmer, seen in the above photo, is portraying one of my favorite writers, Mark Twain, in a one-man show.

Have you recently thought to yourself, “I wonder what Val Kilmer is up to”? Why, he’s currently playing Mark Twain in a one-man show he created about the American author and humorist, of course.

The “Batman Forever” actor will perform “Citizen Twain” — a show that “delves into the heart and soul of Samuel Clemens and conjures forth the great spirit of Mark Twain” — in a two-weekend run at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery this March, Playbill reports.

Apparently, Kilmer has been impersonating Twain for some time now.

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

Note: I love Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone.

40th Anniversary Of The Classic Film 'The Godfather' reports that today is the 40th anniversary of the classic film The Godfather.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of what many consider to be one of the greatest films ever made: “The Godfather.”

Based on the book of the same name by author Mario Puzo, the film, originally released March 15, 1972, starred Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, a leader of a Mafia family in 1940s New York. It was his character that uttered the famous line, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

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

Note: I still believe Ernest Borgnine would have been a better choice to portray Vito Corleone. Borgnine is Italian, speaks Italian, and he would not have had to stuff his face with cotton and used heavy makeup like Brando. He was a great comedic actor - I loved him in McHale's Navy - but watch him in Marty, From Here To Eternity and Bad Day At Black Rock and you will see how fine an actor Borgnine was.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Vietnam War From The Rear Echelon: An Intelligence Officer's Memoir, 1972-1973

Peter Brush offers a good review of Timothy J. Lomperis' The Vietnam War From the Rear Echelon in Vietnam magazine.

Now, author Timothy Lomperis is a political science professor who has written several books about the Vietnam War. Then, Lomperis was an Army lieutenant in Saigon, a REMF (a rear echelon mother—you know the rest) who did two tours of duty. By combining a history of the war and personal memoir, the result is two narratives woven into one. The author's service covers the period from the 1972 Easter Invasion to the 1973 Paris Peace Agreement and its aftermath. He offers a "mid-level perspective of the rear-echelon war in Saigon." Lomperis writes that macro accounts of strategy and diplomacy as well as combat memoirs are plentiful, while mid-level accounts have been largely neglected.

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

Former CIA Head Of Bin Laden Unit Discusses Current Situation In Afghanistan

Gary Berntsen, the former CIA officer who led a group of operators that hunted Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, spoke to CNN about the current situation in Afghanistan.

On Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, Gary Berntsen, former commander of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit in Afghanistan, discusses the potential fallout of the U.S. moving the Afghanistan shooter to Kuwait, Leon Panetta security scare and sustained American Presence in the country.  

You can watch the video via the below link:

Note: I interviewed Gary Berntsen about Operation Jawbreaker a few years back for Counterterrorism magazine. You can read the piece via the below links:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Afghan With Ties To The Taliban Convicted On Drug Trafficking And Narco-Terrorism Charges

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

WASHINGTON – An Afghan national with ties to the Taliban was convicted today by a jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia of conspiracy, distribution of heroin for importation into the United States and narco-terrorism, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Haji Bagcho, from Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, was investigated by the DEA for narcotics offenses. The investigation revealed that Bagcho was one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world and manufactured the drug in clandestine laboratories along Afghanistan’s border region with Pakistan. Bagcho sent heroin to more than 20 countries, including the United States. Proceeds from his heroin trafficking were then used to support high-level members of the Taliban to further their insurgency in Afghanistan.
Beginning in 2005 and continuing for the next five years, the DEA, in cooperation with Afghan authorities, conducted an investigation of Bagcho’s organization. With the help of cooperating witnesses, the DEA purchased heroin directly from the organization on two occasions, which Bagcho understood was destined for the United States. They also conducted several searches of residences belonging to Bagcho and his associates, recovering evidence consistent with drug trafficking. During one search, ledgers belonging to the defendant were found. One ledger, cataloguing Bagcho’s activities during 2006, reflected heroin transactions of more than 123,000 kilograms, worth more than $250 million, according to Bagcho’s ledger. Based on heroin production statistics compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime for 2006, the defendant’s trafficking accounted for approximately 20% of the world’s total production for that year.

The investigation also obtained evidence that over several years, Bagcho used a portion of his drug proceeds to provide the former Taliban governor of Nangarhar Province and two Taliban commanders responsible for insurgent activity in eastern Afghanistan with cash, weapons and other supplies so that they could continue their “jihad” against western troops and the Afghan government.

“Haji Bagcho was a prolific and dangerous heroin manufacturer, trafficking in over 123,000 kilograms of the drug in 2006 alone,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Moreover, he used proceeds from his crimes to fund Taliban insurgents and fuel their ongoing ‘jihad’ against the United States and others. The effects of Bagcho’s criminal activity were felt all over the world, and today’s guilty verdict ensures that he will serve a lengthy prison term.”

“One of the world’s most prolific drug trafficker’s reign has come to an end,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “Now Haji Bagcho will serve time behind bars on the same soil he sought to destroy with his drugs, and whose troops he sought to kill through his support to the Taliban. DEA stands committed to stopping narco-traffickers, like Bagcho, and their funding of terror.”

A grand jury returned an indictment against Bagcho on Nov. 8, 2006, charging him with distributing heroin, knowing that it would be imported into the United States. A superseding indictment returned on Jan. 28, 2010, added additional charges of conspiracy to distribute and distribution of heroin, knowing or intending that it would be imported in the United States, as well as engaging in drug trafficking knowing or intending to provide something of pecuniary value to a terrorist or terrorist organization. Bagcho was brought to the United States on June 24, 2009. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled before the Honorable Ellen S. Huvelle on June 12, 2012.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Matthew Stiglitz and Marlon Cobar of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The case was investigated by the DEA Special Operations Division in the United States, with assistance from the DEA’s Foreign Deployed Advisory Support Team and Kabul Country Office in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and in close cooperation with Afghan law enforcement. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided invaluable support.

Otto Penzler On Charles McCarry's Latest Book, 'Ark'

Otto Penzler, the publisher of and the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, offers his take on legendary spy novelist Charles McCarry's latest thriller, Ark.

You can read the piece via the below link:

Philly Mob Scene: Mob Informant 'Nicky Skins' Settles Debt, Kills Self

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, offers a closer look at Nicholas "Nicky Skins" Stefanelli, the mob informant who killed himself, and how his death may impact the federal case against the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family and other criminal organizations.

You can watch the Mob Scene video via the below link:

You can also read an earlier account of the mob informant via the below link: 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Noel Coward: Playwright, Performer, Spy

Chris Michard at offers an interesting piece on a new exhibit at the New York Public Library on Noel Coward.

For many, the name Noel Coward conjures the image a smoking jacket-clad bon vivant, tickling the ivories and tossing off bons mots between sips of a cocktail.

But a new exhibit that opened on Monday at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center takes a comprehensive look at the many, sometimes lesser-known lives of Coward the celebrated playwright. He was, for instance, a spy.

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

Note: I passed by Noel Coward's Jamaican home Firefly some years ago. I was staying at Ian Fleming's nearby Jamaican villa Goldeneye, where Noel Coward was often a guest.

Fleming, like Coward, served in intelligence during WWII, and the two were good friends. Coward served as Fleming's best man when Fleming married Anne in Jamaica.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

DOD Demonstrates Nonlethal, Directed-Energy Protypes

By Cheryl Pellerin, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 12, 2012 - A state-of-the-art millimeter-wave system developed by the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate gives warfighters something more persuasive than shouting but less harmful than shooting when dealing with potentially hostile crowds, Defense Department experts said during a recent demonstration.
At a training area on Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia, members of the media gathered March 9 to watch two prototype active-denial systems -- one built onto a heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck, the other onto a Humvee -- deliver a man-sized heat beam to officials and experts, then to service members pretending to be angry protestors, then to fearless volunteers.
The beam, from the same millimeter-wave technology used in airport body scanners, penetrates only 1/64th of an inch into a person's skin and cornea, heating water molecules in the tissue and generating an instinctive and irresistible urge to run from the effect.
"For our forces out there operating in uncertain situations, what it gives them is decision time -- time to decide if there's a real threat without using lethal means," said Marine Corps Col. Tracy Tafolla, director of the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate.
"You're not going to hear it, you're not going to smell it, you're going to feel it, and that provides us with some advantages we can use," he said.
Stephanie Miller, chief of the radio frequency bioeffects branch for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said the frequency used in the active denial system is 95 gigahertz.
"Our lab has studied ... how much energy it takes to produce the repel response of running away from the beam, how much energy to produce a blink response, which protects the eye, and then on the flip side of that, how much energy would it take to produce some form of injury, whether that's eye irritation or a skin blister," she said. "We understand what the safety margins are, and in fact, these systems have been designed so that you can't put enough energy on the surface of the eye in the time it takes a person to blink to cause damage to the eye."
Miller's group also worked with scientists at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to make sure the beam doesn't initiate skin cancer or make an existing cancer worse. And effects from the beam are temporary, she said.
"If you open a hot oven and you get a blast of heat, your skin may feel a little tingly, a little tender," Miller said, explaining that's how the beam makes people feel for 10 to 15 minutes.
The technology may be state-of-the-art, but it's not new. Tafolla said that it's nearly 18 years old, and Diana Loree, assistant chief scientist for the Air Force Research Laboratory's directed-energy directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., explained how it works.
Each truck carries all the electrical generators and thermal systems the transmitters need, operator station included, independent of any grid, Loree said, calling it "a very simple piece of equipment."
From the equipment built onto the truck, a high-powered vacuum called a gyrotron turns electricity into radio frequency waves and heat, and water systems in the equipment absorb this excess heat.
"So the electromagnetic wave is created by that gyrotron and then is fed through a series of mirrors that illuminate a reflector antenna -- it's bouncing there and getting shape and then bouncing off a main aperture and coming downrange," Loree said.
The beam goes in the direction that the operator is pointing, she said, adding that the operators have a simple set of controls. "They have several day/night cameras that look through the middle of the invisible beam so they know what they're targeting," she said, "and there's a simple touch-screen operation."
The transmitter, Loree said, is 100 times the power of a standard microwave oven. "I can't pop a bag of popcorn with that 100-times-the-power transmitter, because the radio frequency is not penetrating deep enough to internally heat the material."
Susan LeVine, principal deputy for policy and strategy in the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Directorate, said the nonlethal weapons program is a joint operation.
"Our office is headed by a Marine Corps colonel, but he is in a joint billet and within our office we have all the services represented," she said. "As part of being the executive agent for nonlethal weapons, we have a research and development budget and we use that funding to sponsor research all across the Defense Department, across all the services. One of the programs that we've been funding is the active denial system, which has been led by the Air Force Research Laboratory."
Military utility assessments have been conducted at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., for entry control point scenarios; Fort Benning, Ga., for more urban scenarios; and Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., firing from the beach on personnel on a Coast Guard vessel to show maritime applications.
The objective of joint concept technology demonstrations, which developed the active denial prototypes, "is to rapidly take promising technology and assemble it in a configuration" so that it can be used and evaluated, she said.
The "trigger point" for the technology to be used, LeVine said, involves service requirements and a service decision to further develop it and field it.
"We're continuing to make the technology available to the services if they want to experiment and try it out," she said.