Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scotland Yard In Fact And Fiction


Crime writer Andrew Taylor offers a pice on Scotland Yard in fact and fiction for the BBC web site.

Around the world, the words Scotland Yard mean something. Like Wall Street and Westminster, the name summons up a host of associations. It exists in fiction, on the page and on the screen, as much as in fact.

Scotland Yard is the name of the headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police, founded in 1829, the oldest modern police force in the world and arguably the best known. The name comes from the location of the original HQ, with a public entrance in a street called Great Scotland Yard.

Within a few decades the name Scotland Yard was almost synonymous with the police force itself. The name migrated with the force to its new and much larger headquarters, New Scotland Yard, first on the Victoria Embankment and, in 1967, in Victoria.

In the mind of the public, however, Scotland Yard became associated with a special sort of police officer - the detective, the professional expert called to investigate crime, especially murder, the greatest crime of all.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

McCain's Last Laugh

Robert Costa at National Review Online offers a piece on the reception Senator John McCain received at an American Legion in Virginia.

Four years ago, McCain lost a presidential election by 192 electoral votes, but to Vietnam veterans and other former service members, he remains a towering figure. The second McCain steps inside, the packed banquet hall erupts with applause. As he walks toward the lectern, past a table piled high with Romney-Ryan posters, several men stand up and salute him. McCain squints and nods. This isn’t a mere rally; it’s a homecoming.  

... As a decorated veteran, a former presidential nominee, and the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain gives the Romney campaign a certain gravitas among military audiences. In his 15-minute speech, he hits on two key themes: President Obama’s mishandling of the Benghazi mess, and his failure to take action to stop “sequestration,” a series of looming (and large) defense cuts that was brokered by the White House and congressional leaders in the effort to cut a spending deal.

But this speech and the others he has made this cycle are more than rote pro-Romney orations. They are a reminder that McCain, at 76 years old, is still in the game. After his loss four years ago, many of his friends urged him to retire. McCain ignored them. He yearned to remain a force, and that meant spending Sunday mornings in television green rooms, not on an emerald-green golf course. He became a fierce critic of the administration during Obama’s first year in office, and a year later, he won reelection to the Senate.

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ahead Of the Storm: A Cruise To Bermuda

I have not posted anything in a while as I was on a week-long cruise to Bermuda aboard the Explorer of the Seas (shown in the above photo).

My beautiful wife and I traveled with three other couples and we were fortunate in that we set sail from Cape Liberty, New Jersey - across from the Statue of Liberty and New York City - to Bermuda just after Hurricane Rafael and we returned home from Bermuda just ahead of Hurricane Sandy.

The large cruise ship rolled a bit on the way back to Cape Liberty, as the storm was coming up behind us, but we rolled with it and we had a good time on the Atlantic Ocean.

We caught wonderful weather in Bermuda and we traveled all over the beautiful island, from the Royal Dockyard, where our cruise ship was docked, to Hamilton and later to St George.

We especially loved swimming in Horseshoe Bay (photos below). For two days we visited Horseshoe Bay and went swimming in the clear, warm water and enjoyed sitting on the beach, drinking beer and mixed drinks, and basking in the sun.


It was a fine vacation with good friends.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

More Tom Wolfe Characters Under Social Pressure, This Time In Miami

John Timpane at the Philadelphia Inquirer offers an interview with Tom Wolfe and a review of Wolfe's latest novel Back To Blood. 

'In Miami, everybody hates everybody."

That's what Dionisio Cruz, mayor of Miami, tells Chief of Police Cyrus Booker in Tom Wolfe's novel Back to Blood (Little, Brown, $30).

Wolfe, who appears Thursday at the Free Library of Philadelphia, says: "It's not inevitable, that kind of friction, but it's a city of immigrants, like no other, and you're going to have tensions."

Back to Blood is another novel in which the celebrated reporter, reluctant godfather of New Journalism, and novelist (starting with The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1989) tackles his great interest as a writer: "What people do under the stress of social pressure."

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Prosecution Witness Says Reputed Philly Mob Leader Seldom Threatened Him

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, offers a piece on the organized crime federal trial in Philadelphia.

A South Philadelphia bookmaker who owed reputed mob leader Anthony Staino (seen in the above photo) between $60,000 and $80,000 rarely made his loan payments on time, and usually paid less than was due.

Yet, Henry Scipione testified Friday, Staino seldom threatened him or demanded more money.

Scipione, the first witness the prosecution called in the racketeering trial of Staino, reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi, and five others, spent nearly six hours on the witness stand Friday detailing his role as a reluctant FBI informant between 2003 and 2007.

"It's not the way I was raised," said Scipione, 55, who spent most of his life in South Philadelphia. "You don't tell on your friends."

At another point, the former postal worker and admitted degenerate gambler said: "What I'm doing, they just don't do."

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

Classified Information Plays Central Role In Both 9/11 And WikiLeaks Cases

Donna Miles at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

FORT MEADE, Md. - Pretrial hearings for two major court cases – one involving the alleged perpetrators behind the 9/11 terror attacks and the other involving the soldier charged with the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history – are converging this week as attorneys operating in two very different legal systems focus on the issue of classified information in the courtroom.

The pre-trial hearing for Khalid Sheik Mohammed (seen in the above photo), who has confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks "from A to Z," and four others who allegedly trained, financed or arranged transportation for the 19 hijackers entered its fourth day today at Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mohammed's codefendants in the case are his nephew, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali; Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin Attash, charged with selecting and training some of the hijackers; and Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, accused with helping finance the attacks.

Meanwhile, here at Fort Meade, the second day of pre-trial hearings continued for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning (seen in the above photo). He is an Army intelligence specialist accused of downloading and transmitting classified information to the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks while he was deployed to Iraq.

The legal systems being used to prosecute these cases are significantly different.

Manning, as a member of the U.S. military, is subject to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. This system has roots dating back to the Revolutionary War to promote good order and discipline in the armed forces. The 9/11 defendants, on the other hand, will be tried through a military tribunal governed by the Military Commissions Act of 2009.

Manning is charged with aiding the enemy; wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, knowing that it is accessible to the enemy; theft of public property or records; transmitting defense information; and fraud and related activity in connection with computers. The charges against him also include violation of Army Regulations 25-2 "Information Assurance" and 380-5 "Department of the Army Information Security Program."

If found guilty, Manning could receive up to life in prison. He also could be reduced to E-1, the lowest enlisted grade, and face a total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dishonorable discharge.

Military commissions, on the other hand, apply to "an alien unprivileged enemy belligerent who has engaged in hostilities, or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States, its coalition partners or was a part of al Qaeda."

The 9/11 defendants were captured in Pakistan between 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

They were charged during their arraignment in May with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft. If found guilty, they could receive the death penalty.

A casual peek into the courtrooms gives a glimpse into one of the most obvious differences between the UCMJ and military commission processes.

By law, Manning is not required to attend proceedings regarding his case, but a military lawyer with more than 20 years experience said on background that he's never seen a service member not attend. Photographers outside the courtroom yesterday captured images of Manning being escorted from the courtroom in his Army dress blue uniform with gold-colored private first class rank on his sleeves.

Army Col. James Pohl, the judge presiding over the 9/11 case, ruled earlier this week that the defendants don't have to attend their court sessions, as long as they sign a waiver form each morning they choose to skip. When they do elect to attend, they can dress as they choose – as long as their attire doesn't include U.S. military uniform items or prisoner garb in a color that would misrepresent their security status at the detention facility.

Mohammed quickly took advantage of both rulings. He opted out of court the first day after Pohl ruled that he could – the day the judge also took up the wardrobe issue. Yesterday, Mohammed initially elected not to attend the third day of pre-trial hearings, then showed up later that morning wearing a camouflage vest over his traditional white tunic.

Most of the distinctions between the UCMJ and military commission legal processes are less obvious to those without legal training, and the discussion could fill textbooks. One big question being debated during the 9/11 hearings, for example, is whether the defendants have constitutional rights.

However, a central concern in both the Manning and 9/11 cases is the issue of how classified information is dealt with in court.

Today, the fourth day of pretrial hearings for the 9/11 suspects continued to focus on the balance between protecting classified information that, if made public, could jeopardize U.S. national security, and the constitutional mandate that court proceedings be open to the public.

The prosecution and U.S. government lawyers say protections are needed to prosecute the case without disclosing classified information that would threaten U.S. national security.

In contrast, the defendant's defense teams accused prosecutors of using an overly broad banner of national security to safeguard information vital to providing a solid defense. Echoing them were lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union and media groups, who said the government wants to squelch information the public deserves to know.

Pohl is expected to rule this week on a protective order the prosecution has requested to spell out what provisions are protected and what aren't.

A central issue in both the 9/11 and Manning cases involves information regarding the defendants' detention. For Manning, that involves time when he was allegedly mistreated while being held in a Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Va. Of primary concern regarding the 9/11 defendants is time they spent in the hands of the CIA before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

Both cases also require hammering out details about witnesses who can be called. In Manning's case, for example, some witnesses' names have been redacted from the motion and are considered to be classified as secret. At Guantanamo Bay, the issue involves whether the defense is required to give the prosecution a heads up about what the witnesses it calls are likely to say –something the government would weigh in deciding whether to fly a witness to the courtroom.

Meanwhile, Army Col. Denise Lind, the judge hearing he Manning case, ordered the prosecution yesterday to release hundreds of emails about his incarceration to the defense team. Lind's ruling covered all but 12 of about 600 emails covering a range of issues: from Manning's visitor list and provisions to ensure he had proper uniforms to plans for responding to protesters and media queries. These emails, added to ones already in the possession of Manning's defense attorneys, bring to 1,200 the total number of emails that will presumably be used to argue that their client was treated illegally.

Lind also issued rulings that would allow parts of CIA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security documents used in the case to be redacted.

Ironically, the only concrete decision made during the 9/11 hearing today had nothing to do with the court proceedings. Rather, it involved the cleanup of administrative space the defense teams have complained are plagued with rat droppings and mold. Although base officials had declared them safe, a defense lawyer told Pohl the space is making her staff sick.

A Navy officer promised a comprehensive cleanup before the next series of pre-trial hearings, assuring the court that occupational health experts will verify that they they're up to standards.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Look At Deeds, Not Talk, Says Accused Philadelphia Mobster's Lawyer

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, offers a piece on Edward Jabobs Jr (seen in the above photo), the lawyer who is defending seven of the accused Philadelphia organized crime figures on trial in Philadelphia.

The case against reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six codefendants should not be decided based on who the government says they are, Ligambi's lawyer argued Thursday, but rather on what they've done.

And, Edwin Jacobs Jr. told a federal jury, neither Ligambi nor any of the other defendants actually did anything.

"It's not a crime to be associated with or to be a member of the Mafia," Jacobs said in his opening statement as the long-awaited mob racketeering conspiracy trial got under way in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

"In America, you can be a member of almost anything," he said. "It's not about being a member. It's about what you do."

The "real charges" in the case "wouldn't support an episode of The Sopranos," Jacobs said.

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

Poe's Philadelphia, Evermore

Arielle Emmett wrote an interesting piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer about the late great Edgar Allan Poe and his Philadelphia connection.

You wouldn't know from a reading of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination that his dead wife showed up on stilts to dance with him one night. You wouldn't suspect from the richness of his poetry and short stories that Poe and his family were starved for calories for much of their lives. And you wouldn't guess from the bitter obituary written by his literary executor and rival Rufus Griswold - who claimed that Poe "had few or no friends" and that few would grieve for him - that his reading public not only adored Poe, but would soon elevate him to the status of dark literary god.
Nothing about Poe seems obvious: not the literary squabbles that cost him the support and admiration of people who could have furthered his career; not the scandals surrounding his flirtations with drugs, booze, and married women; not even the details of his mysterious death in a Baltimore hospital.

Poe remains a giant of mysteries, and Philadelphia was where many of those mysteries were born.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

World Premiere Of 'American Spirits: The Rise And Fall Of Prohibition' Exhibition At The National Constitution Center In Philadelphia

I attended the press preview and world premiere of the National Consititution Center's new exhibition, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibtion, today.

Daniel Okrent, the author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, was the main speaker at the press luncheon and his interesting and amusing presentation made me want to read his book, as well as see the exhibition after the luncheon.

We were also entertained by a 1920-style dance performance by dancers from the Society Hill Dance Academy and the luncheon was disrupted with a mock raid by mock Prohibition Enforcement Officers.    

Beyond evoking the glamor and excitement of jazz music, flappers, bootleggers and gangsters, as well as suffragists and temperance advocates, the prohibition era also makes one think about constitutional issues and the current prohibition of drugs.

I plan to write a future column about the prohibition exhibation and I'll post it here.


The exhibition runs from October 19, 2012 to April 28, 2013.    

You can link to a video commercial for American Spirits via the below link:

Photo Interpreters Recall Cuban Missile Crisis

By Ken White
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

SPRINGFIELD, Va., Oct. 18, 2012 - Fifty years after they discovered Soviet missiles poised to strike the United States from Cuba, two intelligence officers met with hundreds of their current-day counterparts to commemorate the anniversary of the crisis that nearly brought the world to nuclear war.

Dino Brugioni and Vincent DiRenzo were part of a small group from the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center who worked for 13 tense days in October 1962 to avert disaster. They joined author and journalist Michael Dobbs, and two current analysts, in an Oct. 15 panel discussion at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency here.

Through reminiscences and present-day observations, the group illustrated the significance of the crisis and its continued impact on the tradecraft of imagery and geospatial analysis.

A photo interpreter, DiRenzo led the NPIC team and formed the initial conclusion about the presence of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba from analysis of U-2 spy plane imagery. He discussed the immediate wake of his discovery.

"Considering the severity of the identification, we figured we'd be in for a long night," DiRenzo said. He indicated that the initial assessment was not a "slam dunk," as convincing people of the true significance of the find was difficult. While DiRenzo was absolutely sure, the image did not show clearly identifiable missiles, but rather, long, canvas-covered objects that, to the layman, could be almost anything.

Charged with preparing materials on daily developments for NPIC Director Arthur C. Lundahl's briefs to the executive committee and the White House, Brugioni was instrumental in arming President John F. Kennedy with intelligence needed to navigate this perilous moment in history.

He recalled with humor how many of his briefing boards came back from the White House marked up with blue crayon from a doodling Caroline Kennedy. On a more somber note, he also relayed the fearful mood of the time.

"Black Saturday, we had gone to [defense readiness condition] 2," Brugioni said. "Fourteen hundred bombers were loaded with nuclear weapons; 50 B-52s were in the air; eight Polaris submarines were at sea; 125 [intercontinental ballistic missiles] were ready to fire; there was tactical aviation; there was 60 Thor missiles in England, 30 Jupiter missiles in Italy, and 15 Jupiters in Turkey. That morning we met with Art Lundahl and told him that all 24 pads were operational, meaning that within four to six hours, 24 missiles could be coming at the United States.

"I remember Lundahl scratching his chin, looked at me and said, 'I don't want to scare the hell out of them, but I want to make sure they understand the danger,'" Brugioni recalled.

The son of a career diplomat, Dobbs spent his formative years behind the Iron Curtain. He became a Cold War scholar after covering it as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post. He drew a parallel between his work and intelligence analysis.

"I feel a kinship with intelligence analysts. We try to start with the evidence and proceed from the evidence to the conclusions," Dobbs said. "Our goal is to tell truth to power."

Dobbs went on to laud the efforts of the team who identified the missiles, and to praise Brugioni for his efforts since the crisis to improve public understanding of photo analysis.

"Dino has done more than anyone else to explain the art and science of photo interpretation to the broader public," he said. "He's a great educator; he's very good at explaining very complicated matters to laymen."

He also discussed how his research of the crisis, with the advantage of 50 years of hindsight, affirmed both the significance the crisis and the criticality of intelligence to policymaking. He also pointed out that 60 to 70 percent of the actionable intelligence came from NPIC during the crisis.

"This was the moment of the photo interpreter," Dobbs said. "They were able to tell [the president] when the missiles would be ready to fire."

It was probably the single biggest intelligence coup of the Cold War, he added.

Art Lundahl's son, Robert, shared his late father's connection with the president.

"Above all, my father was certainly a technologist. He was a scientist at heart; he loved technology," said the younger Lundahl. "It sounded like President Kennedy had an equal interest in technology. There was a bond there."

Beyond technology, Lundahl also shared what he believes to be the key to his father's effectiveness as an intelligence officer: exceptional communication skills.

"He was born to brief," Lundahl said. Specifically, he noted his father's ability to be credible, while adjusting to the knowledge level of his audience and using humor to diffuse tension.

NGA analyst Walter S. Trynock compared and contrasted the world of 1962 with today's environment. Communication skills remain critical for analysts, he noted, but the tools for providing geospatial intelligence are markedly different, and today's leaders are bombarded with information.

"The type of information, and the pace in which information is received by the policymaker, is constant, at all times of the day and night," Trynock said. "So the challenge is to bring out the relevancy and the 'so what' to contribute to their decision making."

Then and now, keen analysis always has been key, Dobbs said.

"Intelligence is like a huge jigsaw puzzle, and you only find a few pieces, and there are always going to be some missing pieces, but from the pieces you do find, you try to inform policymakers about the entire jigsaw puzzle," he said.

9/11 Defendant Condemns Military Tribunal Process

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Oct. 17, 2012 - The self-described mastermind in the 9/11 terrorist attacks condemned the military commissions process today for the second time since the pre-trial hearings for him and four other codefendants began this week.

Army Col. James Pohl, the judge overseeing the case of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four others charged with planning and conducting the 9/11 attacks, gave Mohammed the
opportunity to address the court at Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The defendant, wearing a camouflage vest Pohl granted him permission to wear and arriving late for court today after initially electing to skip it, unexpectedly raised his hand during the afternoon session indicating that he wanted to speak.

Pohl called a recess so his defense team could ascertain their client's intention before giving Mohammed the floor.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mohammed accused the U.S. government of using national security concerns as a guise to circumvent a legitimate legal process. He said the prosecution is being subjective about what activities it conducts and information it protects in the interest of national security.

"The president can take someone and throw them in the sea in the name of national security," he said, a reference to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's burial at sea. Mohammed went on to charge that the U.S. government is so focused on the 3,000 people killed on 9/11 that it has justified killing "millions" in the name of national security.

"Your blood is not made out of gold and ours out of water," he charged.

Pohl, clearly not anticipating the tirade, made clear that it won't tolerate others. "This is a one-time occurrence," he told David Nevin, Mohammed's learned counsel, after Mohammed finished speaking.

Pohl emphasized that he would never allow the court proceedings to be disrupted again to allow any of the defendants to express their personal thoughts about how the proceedings are going.
He also underscored that his failure to interrupt Mohammed should not be construed as an endorsement of anything he said.

Mohammed's commentary was the second time this week that he condemned the military commission process. During the first day of pre-trial hearings, he told Pohl, "I don't think there's any justice in this court."

Mohammed's comments came at the end of a day in which only one of the five 9/11 defendants, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, initially elected to attend court. Mohammed skipped yesterday's session and initially opted do the same today. However, he informed the guards that he had changed his mind and appeared in court an hour-and-a-half into today's session.

Three other defendants, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi, waived their right to attend today's hearing.

All five of the defendants were captured in Pakistan between 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

They were charged during their arraignment in May with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft.

The third day of their pretrial hearings continued to focus today on the balance between protecting classified information that, if made public, could jeopardize U.S. national security, and the constitutional mandate to make court proceedings public.

Hina Shamsi, representing the American Civil Liberties Union, argued this morning that the proceedings should be open, objecting to measures she called "categorical suppression of information that has largely been made public."

Shami called the closed sessions, and a 40-second delay in the audio feed, an attempt to censor the defendants' testimony about their torture and detention while in U.S. custody, particularly by the CIA.

Later in the day, the court security officer demonstrated how this works, cutting the microphone to Navy Lt. Cdr. Kevin Bogucki, Binalshibh's military counsel, when Bogucki referred to enhanced interrogation methods. As it became clear that Bogucki was speaking in hypothetical terms, the CSO restored the audio and Pohl asked Bogucki to repeat what he had said for the court record.

James Connell, Ali's learned counsel, told Pohl he believes the defense teams has the right and obligation to challenge the classification of information relevant to their cases. He said previous questions to the convening authority about why some information is classified have been met with "silence."

Department of Justice attorney Joanna Baltes argued that protective measures are required so the government can prosecute the case without disclosing classified information that threatens U.S. national security. She said these measures, including the audio delay and soundproof gallery for court observers, are the only reason the sessions can be as open as they are.

Baltes also defended a protective order the prosecution has requested to ensure that the U.S. government is able to prosecute the case without compromising national security interests.

Pohl is expected to rule on a protective order tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Terrorist Attemps To Blow Up Federal Reserve Bank In New York

The New York Post reports on the attempt to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in New York by a would-be-terrorist.

A Bangladeshi terrorist tried to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan this morning using a 1,000-pound bomb, according to a criminal complaint.

Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, of Jamaica, Queens, parked a van filled with the fake explosives — which were provided by an undercover FBI agent — outside of the Liberty Street building, authorities said, then tried to set them off using a cell phone detonator.
During a recorded meeting in Central Park with the agent, Nafis said his goal was Muslim global domination.

“I don’t want something that’s like small. I just want something big,” he said. “Something very big. Very very very very big, that will shake the whole country, that will make America, not one step ahead, change of policy, and make one step ahead, for the Muslims ... that will make us one step closer to run the whole world.”

Nafis, who is here on a student visa, came to the US to carry out a terror attack, authorities said, and claimed to have connections to al-Qaeda overseas.

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

'Skyhook' In James Bond's Film 'Thunderball' Was A Real Device Used By CIA To Pluck Agents From Behind Enemy Lines

David McCormack at the British newspaper the Daily Mail wrote an interesting piece on the reality behind skyhook featured in the James Bond film Thunderball.
Fans of the James Bond classic Thunderball will recall how Sean Connery and his trusty Bond girl are rescued at the end of the movie by being snatched from an inflatable dinghy by a flying aircraft.
Now the CIA has revealed that this type of rescue without landing wasn’t just something from the fantasy world of 007, but was actually used to retrieve secret agents in real-life.
In the 1950s, the CIA decided they needed a means of removing officers from hostile situations without setting foot (or wheels) on the ground. They turned to inventor Robert Fulton who developed the aerial retrieval system known as Skyhook.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Three Detainees Skip Court As 9/11 Hearing Continues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Oct. 16, 2012 - Three of the five defendants charged with planning and conducting the 9/11 terrorist attacks took advantage of yesterday's military court ruling and sat out of their pre-trial hearing today as the judge granted them broad latitude regarding what they can wear when they do choose to appear in court.

On the second of what is expected to be a five-day hearing at Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, also took up what is considered a main issue: how to proceed with the trial without compromising classified information.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi waived their right to attend the second day of pre-trial hearings. Based on Pohl's ruling, the waivers apply to one day only, and the defendants must repeat the process the morning of any court session they wish to skip.

Today, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin Attash and Ramzi Binalshibh were the only defendants to sit in the courtroom with their defense attorneys.

Pohl opened today's hearing by ruling that the accused can wear pretty much what they want to their court proceedings, including camouflage clothing that both Mohammed and bin Attash have requested. Pohl stipulated, however, that the clothes must not be legitimate U.S. military uniform items and, if prison garb, must not be in a color that misrepresents the detainee's security status. The judge said he would issue the ruling in writing to spell out details.

Mohammed's military defense attorney, Army Capt. Jason Wright, argued that the accused should be able to dress to reflect their affiliations. He noted, for example, that Mohammed wore a uniform as a member of the mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and during operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Army Maj. Joshua Kirk, representing the Defense Department, argued that no legal precedent gives prisoners "the unfettered right to wear clothing of their own choosing." He noted that a former Joint Task Force Guantanamo commander had issued specific dress guidelines both as a force-protection measure and to ensure detainees don't use their attire to make an inflammatory statement.

Pohl affirmed the JTF Guantanamo commander's authority to designate what detainees can wear in detention and when transported to court proceedings, but not inside the courtroom.

Much of today's hearing focused on how to proceed with the military tribunal without divulging classified information. The prosecution has asked for a protective order that includes "presumptive classification," which essentially means that anything the defendants say is treated as classified unless it is proven otherwise.

Justice Department Attorney Joanna Baltes said the presumptive classification measure helps ensure the government can prosecute the case without disclosing classified information that threatens U.S. national security.

However, Navy Lt. Cdr. Kevin Bogucki, Binalshibh's military defense attorney, called it "a scheme" that prevents detainees from testifying about everything that has happened to them since they were taken into U.S. custody, particularly in the hands of the CIA.

"It puts up barriers" and "makes this job impossible," agreed Cheryl Bormann, bin Attash's learned counsel, an attorney appointed by the Defense Department who has specialized training and experience in capital cases.

Baltes said a court security officer or other official could operate as a middleman, serving as a neutral party to smooth issues between the defense teams and intelligence agencies.

James Connell, learned counsel for Abdul Aziz Ali, argued that the defense team needs a security official to help them identify what information might be classified. "We need a mechanism for privileged classification review and we don't have it," he said. "I don't care what you call it or how you organize it. We need it."

David Schulz, a media lawyer representing 14 news organizations, argued that the draft protective order would violate the public's constitutional right to information. The issue, he said, boils down to whether the public's constitutional right to observe and attend court proceedings extends to the military tribunals.

"We don't have secret trials in this country," Schulz told Pohl. "We, as a country, take the guarantee of open trials very seriously."

Schulz said closed sessions are appropriate when necessary to protect information that, if released, could substantially impact national security. However, he pressed for a narrow definition of what issues are important enough to override the public's constitutional rights and warrant closed sessions.

Hina Shamsi, representing the American Civil Liberties Union, also argued against what she called a thinly veiled effort to censor the defendants' testimony about their torture and detention while in U.S. custody.

The ACLU filed a motion in May asking the commission to bar a delayed audio feed of the proceedings or promptly release an uncensored transcript.

"There is an ongoing public debate about the fairness and transparency of the Guantánamo military commissions," Shamsi said of the motion. "And if the government succeeds in imposing its desired censorship regime, the commissions will certainly not be seen as legitimate."

Pre-trial sessions are expected to continue through Oct. 19. Pohl said he plans to schedule one week of pre-trial hearings in December, January, February and March to iron out administrative and legal issues before the actual trial begins later next year.

All five of the dependents were captured in Pakistan between 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

They were charged during their arraignment in May with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft. If found guilty, they could receive the death penalty.

The proceedings are being broadcast via closed-circuit television to a media center here at Fort Meade and at several other military bases around the country.

Note: Above is a Defense Department photo of the Pentagon after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Pretrial hearing Kick Off For 9/11 Defendants

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Oct. 15, 2012 - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks (seen in the above photo shortly after his arrest), and four co-defendants charged with planning and carrying out the attacks have the right to skip court proceedings regarding their case, Army Col. James Pohl, the judge, ruled today.

Pohl's decision kicked off a week of pretrial hearings that opened today at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The court is expected to address a docket of 25 administrative and legal issues ranging from what defendants can wear in court to measures to prevent classified information from being divulged during the trial.

The judge ruled that Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi can elect not to attend their court proceedings. The caveat, Pohl said, is that they must understand their right to attend and the potential disadvantages of not doing so.

Based on the ruling, the defendants would have the right to submit a waiver request each morning that court convenes, and waivers would cover only that single day. Defendants who change their minds during the day could notify the guard force and attend court if it's possible to get them to the court facility after they make their request.

Mohammed, with a red, henna-dyed beard, wore eyeglasses, white robes, a black vest and white headpiece, sat with his defense counsel in the front row of the courtroom. His co-defendants, also dressed in white, sat quietly behind him, one in each row.

All five defendants were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

They were charged during their arraignment in May with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft.

Although none answered Pohl's questions during the arraignment in May, the defendants showed more signs of cooperation today. Each responded affirmatively when Pohl asked them individually to confirm that they understood his ruling. Mohammed responded, "Yes, but I don't think there's any justice in this court."

Some of the defendants asked questions to clarify the ruling, and Binalshibh raised concerns about guards who might intentionally misrepresent a defendant's intentions. Several of the accused seemed to be puzzled or even amused when Pohl asked if they understood that their trials would proceed even in the unlikely event that they were no longer in U.S. custody at the time, such as in the event of an escape.

During discussions that dominated today's session, Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, chief prosecutor in the Office of Military Commissions, argued that the defendants should be required to attend court proceedings, particularly in a capital case. Martins cited legal precedent, saying the accused have the explicit right to be present as their cases are presented, but not necessarily the right to be absent. "Apathy or disdain for the proceedings does not qualify as good cause [for absence]," he said.

James Harrington, Binalshibh's "learned counsel" who is experienced in handling death-penalty cases, disagreed. Harrington said defendants should be able to skip court as long as they acknowledge they have voluntarily waived their right to attend and understand that their cases could suffer as a result. Denying their request not to participate in the legal process could, in fact, violate their constitutional rights, he said.

James Connell, Abdul Aziz Ali's learned counsel, echoed that argument, noting that defendants who don't want to attend court can get removed by disrupting the proceedings. In this case, they are removed from the courtroom to individual holding cells, where the proceedings are piped in through closed-circuit TV. This, Connell said, amounts to a "waiver by conduct."

In other developments during today's hearing, Hawsawi requested additional legal representation through an interpreter. His counsel, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, a Navy reservist with experience in capital cases, requested Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier as a "resource counsel" to support his legal defense.

Lachelier previously represented bin al Shibh, which Pohl noted could cause a conflict of interest as the two defendants' cases move forward. Both of the accused agreed to waive any objections.

In another motion filed today, Cheryl Bormann, bin Attash's learned counsel, asked for a larger workspace and more resources for his eight-person defense team. A second work area the team had been using was plagued by rodents and mold, but has since been sanitized and declared useable by engineers and industrial health officials at the base, officials said. However, Bormann told Pohl the space is making her staff sick.

The motion hearings originally were slated to begin in August, but were postponed when Tropical Storm Isaac forced the commander to order nonessential personnel to evacuate the base. The proceedings already had been delayed a day after a coal-train derailment near Baltimore damaged fiber-optic lines that carry Internet traffic to and from Guantanamo Bay, including the defense and prosecution teams there.

Pohl said he plans to conduct additional hearings with one-week sessions beginning in December and continuing one per month through March. The tribunals are expected to begin sometime next year.

This week's proceedings are being broadcast via closed-circuit television to a media center here.

Five family members who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks were selected by lottery to attend the proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, as well as five support people to accompany them, officials said. Other families have been invited to watch via closed-circuit TV at Fort Meade, Fort Dix, N.J., Fort Devens, Mass., and Fort Hamilton, N.Y. However, only four family members accepted the invitation, and are watching at Fort Hamilton.

Spectators in the courtroom are sitting behind soundproof glass, and the proceedings are being rebroadcast with a 40-second delay to ensure classified information is not inadvertently revealed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

'Skyfall' Miraculously Resurrects Sean Connery's Audience Gripping James Bond

D. Chandler at the Guardian Express wrote an interesting piece about the new James Bond film  Skyfall.  

After 50 years, in which the movies have often descended to abject self-parody, Bond is a hero who should, by rights, have long ago shuffled off to the retirement home.

Instead, as Mail film critic Christopher Tookey wrote in later editions of Saturday’s paper, the new 007 adventure, “Skyfall,” is ‘one of the finest of all time’.

Intelligent, bursting with thrilling action set-pieces and filled with top-drawer turns by some of Britain’s finest acting talents — Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney — in Tookey’s words, this is a film that assures the future of the Bond franchise ‘for years to come’.

The film hits cinemas a week on Friday and its opening sequence is dynamite.

Now the critics have my attention. I have been on the fence since Sean Connery bowed out decades ago. In fact, I have not seen a James Bond movie since “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice” that I can honestly say rose to the level of the classic spy movie Ian Fleming perfected. So when I hear a critic emphasizing the opening sequence, pointing out that it explodes, which is what dynamite does, I am encouraged because Ian Fleming’s James Bond featuring Sean Connery gripped its audience from its opening scene until its equally attention-grabbing, closing foray.

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

Chuck Yeager Breaks Sound Barrier Again, 65 years After Historic Flight

The New York Daily News offers an interesting piece on Chuck Yeager, a genuine American hero, who once again broke the sound barrier.

Sixty-five years after becoming the first human to fly faster than the speed of sound, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager is still making noise.

The 89-year-old Yeager, who was featured in the movie "The Right Stuff," flew in the back seat Sunday of an F-15 Eagle as it broke the sound barrier at more than 30,000 feet above California's Mojave Desert — the same area where he first achieved the feat in 1947 while flying an experimental rocket plane.

The F-15 carrying Yeager took off from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas and broke the sound barrier at 10:24 a.m. Sunday, exactly 65 years to the minute the then-Air Force test pilot made history.

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

Below is a Defense Department photo of General Yeager and Air Force Capt David Vincent's aircraft as it taxis in under water jets after landing on Nellis Air Force Base.

And below is an older photo of General Yeager:

CIA Arranged Marriage To Anwar Al Awlaki In Plot To Kill Terrorist Mastermind, Say Report

Michael Blaustein at the New York Post offers a piece on a report from a Danish newspaper about a CIA matchmaking plot to kill a top terrorist.

Talk about a match made in hell.

A Croatian woman became the third wife of American-born al-Qaeda terrorist leader Anwar al Awlaki thanks to a CIA plot designed to track down and kill one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.

Al Awlaki was linked with 2009’s Fort Hood shooting and the foiled airplane underwear bomb that happened later in the same year.

The devilish plot to kill al Awlaki revolved around a Danish CIA-al Qaeda double agent who was paid $250,000 by the US CIA in 2009 to find and deliver a European wife to the terrorist mastermind, according to Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

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

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Philadelphia Organized Crime Trial Set To Start This Week

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, offers a piece about the upcoming Philadelphia organized crime trial.

They call him "Uncle Joe," which is both a reference to his age - 73 - and his laid-back style.

Mob boss Joe Ligambi is old school, a make-money-not-headlines crime boss who has had a surprisingly long and relatively peaceful run as Philadelphia's Mafia don.
But that run may be over.

In jail for the last 17 months, Ligambi and six codefendants begin a legal fight for their lives this week when opening arguments are expected in the city's latest organized-crime trial.

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

Looking Back At Hemingway's Time In Idaho

Ashley Smith at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho looks back on the time the late great writer Ernest Hemingway spent in Idaho.

Every Hemingway fan knows the story of how the author came to Sun Valley for the first time in September 1939, invited to represent the outdoors appeal of the resort in promotional material. Fans make the pilgrimage to Room 206 at the lodge where he wrote part of his novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

But the stories that don’t appear in biographies or the documentaries are the brief interactions that happened next to creeks and in fields near Shoshone and Hagerman and Twin Falls, where Hemingway met fellow bird hunters and lovers of the outdoors.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

FBI Reports 'Large Amount' Of Next Version Of $100 Bills Stoeln During Or After Flight From Dallas To Philadelphia

Robert Moran at the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a piece on the FBI report that some of the new $100 bills were stolen.

New versions of $100 bills scheduled for circulation next year were stolen Thursday during or after a flight from Dallas to Philadelphia, the FBI said.

A law enforcement source said $20,000 was stolen from a total shipment of several million dollars.

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

Mexican Cartels Flood U.S. With Cheap Meth

The Washington Times offers an interesting piece on the Mexican meth that is flooding the U.S.

ST. LOUIS — Mexican drug cartels are quietly filling the void in the nation’s drug market created by the long effort to crack down on American-made methamphetamine, flooding U.S. cities with exceptionally cheap, extraordinarily potent meth from factorylike “superlabs.”

Although Mexican meth is not new to the U.S. drug trade, it now accounts for as much as 80 percent of the meth sold here, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. And it is as much as 90 percent pure, a level that offers users a faster, more intense and longer-lasting high.

“These are sophisticated, high-tech operations in Mexico that are operating with extreme precision,” said Jim Shroba, a DEA agent in St. Louis. “They’re moving it out the door as fast as they can manufacture it.”

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

U.S Treasury Department And ICE Designates Violent Street Gang MS-13 As A Transnational Criminal Organization

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released the below information this week:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) today is designating the Latin American gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO).
This group is being designated by Treasury pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13581, which targets significant TCOs and their supporters. E.O. 13581 is a key part of the National Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime.
Using the authority provided in E.O. 13581, Treasury is targeting the economic power of MS-13 as a transnational criminal network - and those individuals and entities who work with them, enable them and support them - by freezing any assets those persons may have within U.S. jurisdiction. Any property or property interests in the U.S., or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which these targets have an interest are blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
"This designation allows us to strike at the financial heart of MS-13 and is a powerful weapon in our fight to dismantle one of the most violent, transnational criminal organizations operating today," said ICE Director John Morton. "History has proven that we can successfully take down organized crime groups when we combine sophisticated investigative techniques with tough street level enforcement, cutting off cash flows, contraband and collaborators to ensure they no longer find safe haven in our communities."
"MS-13 is an extremely violent and dangerous gang responsible for a multitude of crimes that directly threaten the welfare and security of U.S. citizens, as well as countries throughout Central America," Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen stated. "This action positions us to target the associates and financial networks supporting MS-13, and gives law enforcement an additional tool in its efforts to disrupt MS-13's activities."
MS-13 is being designated for its involvement in serious criminal activities, including drug trafficking, human smuggling and sex trafficking, murder and violence, racketeering, and immigration offenses. MS-13, consisting of at least 30,000 members and present in at least five countries, including the United States, is one of the most dangerous criminal gangs in the world today. MS-13 violently protects its illicit interests through murder, murder for hire, kidnapping, blackmail, extortion and assassination. MS-13's creed is exemplified by one of its mottos, "mata, roba, viola, controla," which translates in sum and substance to "kill, steal, rape, control." In addition, MS-13 members have been responsible for numerous killings within the United States.
The HSI National Gang Unit will take the law enforcement lead, under this MS-13 enforcement effort dubbed, "Operation Barbed Wire." The National Gang Unit removes gang members from our neighborhoods and, when appropriate, from the United States. In 2005, HSI initiated Operation Community Shield, an international law enforcement initiative to enhance U.S. public safety. Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements, to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members as well as to suppress violence and prosecute criminal enterprises.
The National Gang Unit's goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities. Since 2006, HSI has arrested 4,078 MS-13 gang members and, partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice, has successfully brought to indictment numerous MS-13 racketeering investigations in Washington, D.C., Virginia, New York, San Francisco, Houston and Atlanta.
MS-13 is the first transnational criminal street gang designated as a TCO. Others TCOs include the The Brothers' Circle, Camorra, Yakuza, and Los Zetas in the United States. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The USS Cole Attack, 12 Years Later

Michael Warren at the Weekly Standard offers a piece on the anniversary of the al Qaeda terrorist attack on the USS Cole.

Twelve years ago today, on October 12, 2000, al Qaeda terrorists on a suicide mission drove a small boat filled with explosives into the hull of the USS Cole while the Navy destroyer was docked at the port of Aden in Yemen. The attack killed 17 American sailors and wounded 39 others. The attack came nearly a year before al Qaeda would murder nearly 3,000 Americans in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Kirk S. Lippold, the former commanding officer of the Cole, who wrote a book about the attack and his cool and courageous crew who saved lives and the ship after the attack, via the below links:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Inside The Ring: New WMD Threats

Bill Gertz, the Washington Times' veteran military and national security reporter, offers a piece on a Pentagon-sponsored report on WMD threats.

A Pentagon-sponsored report warns that the United States faces new threats from mass destruction weapons in the form of cyber, electronic and financial attacks, in addition to more well-known dangers from nuclear, chemical and biological WMD arms.

“In addition to the prolific conventional [weapons of mass destruction] threats posed by a vast network of state and non-state actors, the U.S. must also contend with emerging threats that are not conventionally recognized as WMD,” said the report produced last month for the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.

“Very few of America’s adversaries will attempt to challenge the unmatched strength of the U.S. military in a traditional conflict, but they may employ alternative asymmetric approaches.
“It is therefore necessary to consider emergent, nontraditional threats, such as cyber, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and economic attacks, in a comprehensive discussion of WMD threats.”

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on how criminals, spies and terrorists can cause chaos by cyber warfare attacks via the below links:

You can also read my interview with the International Spy Museum's historian on the history of cyber warfare via the below links: 

CIA Located Bin Laden Despite Obama's Policies

Ronald Kessler, the veteran journalist and author of several books on the FBI and the CIA, writes in his column that bin Laden was located by the CIA despite President Obama's policies.

The one clear achievement of the Obama administration was the killing of Osama bin Laden. But while President Obama gave the order to Navy SEALs to take him out, the CIA likely would not have located bin Laden if the agency had been restricted by the policies Obama imposed after he took office.

That’s because Obama opposed the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and banned them when he became president.

Two days after bin Laden was killed, Leon Panetta, President Obama’s choice to head the CIA, gave an interview to NBC’s Brian Williams. On "Nightly News," Panetta confirmed that the CIA obtained some of the intelligence that led to bin Laden from enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding, when George W. Bush was president.

Moreover, by demonizing those who approved the enhanced interrogation program and allowing Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to pursue pointless investigations of them, Obama undermined the intelligence community’s willingness to take risks in the future.

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

A Soldier's Soldier Dies: Basil L. Plumley, A Veteran Of Three Wars And Featured In The Film 'We Were Soldiers,' Dies At Age 92 reports that Basil L. Plumley, a legendary soldier who was portrayed By actor Sam Elliot in a Vietnam war film, died. He was 92.

Basil L. Blumley, a renowned career soldier whose exploits as an Army infantryman were portrayed in a book and the movie "We Were Soldiers," has died at 92 — an age his friends are amazed that he lived to see.

Plumley fought in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam and was awarded a medal for making five parachute jumps into combat. The retired command sergeant major died Wednesday.
... It was during Vietnam in November 1965 that Plumley served in the Battle of la Drang, the first major engagement between the U.S. Army and North Vietnamese forces. That battle was the basis for the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young," written nearly three decades later by Galloway and retired Lt. Gen. Hal G. Moore, who had been Plumley's battalion commander in Vietnam.
In the 2002 film version, Mel Gibson played Moore and Elliott played Plumley. Galloway said several of Elliott's gruff one-liners in the movie were things Plumley actually said, such as the scene in which a soldier tells the sergeant major good morning and is told: "Who made you the (expletive) weather man?"

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hollywood Can't Make This Up: 'Argo' Recounts The CIA Rescue Of Six Americans In Iran

Patrick Hruby at the Washington Times reports on the new Ben Affleck film about the CIA's rescue of a half dozen Americans held in Iran.

The situation was dire. Unbearably tense. Three months after the late-1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries, six American diplomats who had secretly escaped the compound were attempting to flee the country.

Through the capital city’s airport.

Disguised as a flashy, oblivious Hollywood film crew.

Led by an undercover Central Intelligence Agency officer.

... As he watched a dramatic re-creation of that moment during a recent screening of the new film “Argo,” he felt the uneasiness all over again.

“Oh, absolutely, it brought back the emotions,” said Tony Mendez, a retired disguise specialist in the CIA’s office of technical service (seen in the below photo). “I went to screenings in [Los Angeles] and Toronto, and it was just like being there again. Both times.

“There’s nothing so final as ‘Wheels up.’ [On missions], we always were waiting for that wheels-up feeling before we broke out the Bloody Marys.”

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

Head Of Italian Police Force Says Mafia Is 'World Leader' In Drug Smuggling

A piece in the Australian reports that the head of the Italian police claims that Italian organized crime is the world leader in drug trafficking.

THE Ndrangheta, the branch of the Italian mafia rooted in the region of Calabria, is the world's leader in drug smuggling, the head of Italy's police force, Antonio Manganelli, says. 
In recent years, a string of police operations in northern Italy and the 2007 execution-style slayings of six suspected clan affiliates in Duisburg, Germany, have exposed the extent to which the Ndrangheta has expanded beyond its Calabrian base.

It is "today perhaps the strongest, the most present (organised crime force) in the field of drugs, I can confirm that," Manganelli said during a press conference in Rome with Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble.

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

Mob Figure Awaiting Trial Unloads In Blog Posts

George Anastasia, the Philadelphia Inquirer's veteran organized crime reporter, offers an interesting piece on an accused organized crime assoicate who is blogging while in jail.

In courtroom appearances over the last 10 months, reputed mob associate Salvatore Pelullo has blasted the FBI for investigating him, criticized the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecuting him, and claimed that the federal judge who will preside at his trial is biased.

Now Pelullo, an Elkins Park businessman and alleged mastermind of the multimillion-dollar looting of FirstPlus Financial, a Texas mortgage company, has moved his complaining to the Internet.
Meet Salvatore L. Pelullo, inmate blogger.

Pelullo, who is being held without bail in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, is the driving force behind the eponymous

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

Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger Lets Nature Do His Dirty Work

In Howie Carr's column in the Boston Herald he offers a view of Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger's defense strategy. 

The feds have it wrong. Whitey Bulger isn’t trying to stall his trial until he dies.

He’s trying to stall it until all the witnesses against him die.

“Won’t work,” said one of his former colleagues. “Too many witnesses.”

But they’re very old, most of them. The Winter Hill Gang is now the Over the Hill Gang. And sure enough, one of the ex-cons the feds were hoping would testify against him has just passed on.

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mexican Officials Arrest Druglord Called 'La Ardilla,' 'Commander Squirrel,' In U.S. Citizen's Death

Jerry Seper at the Washington Times reports on the arrest of a drug cartel leader called "La Ardilla," also called one of my favorite criminal nicknames, "Commander Squirrel," in the death of an American and other crimes.

Mexican military officials have arrested a regional leader of the brutal Los Zetas drug cartel in the 2010 killing of a U.S. citizen who was fatally shot in an ambush by six Mexican pirates in two boats on Falcon Lake near Zapata, Texas.

David Michael Hartley, 30, of McAllen, Texas, was riding with his wife on personal watercraft on the lake when the daylight shooting occurred. Mr. Hartley’s wife, Tiffany, tried circling back to pull him from the water, but was forced to retreat after being fired at by the gunmen.

The suspect, captured after a gunfight Saturday with Mexican marines in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, was identified as Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobar, a regional leader of the Zetas’ organization in three Northern Mexico states — Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.

Martinez, known as “The Squirrel” and “Commander Squirrel,” also is suspected of being the ringleader of a 2010 massacre in Tamaulipas in which 72 migrants from South America and Central America were killed as they tried to make their way to a checkpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border.

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

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Photographer Anton Kusters Captures Intimate Portraits Of yakuza, Japan's World Of Organized Crime

Christine Roberts at the New York Daily News reports on a Belgian photographer has taken some interesting photos of the Shineseikai yakuza crime organization.

A night in the streets of Tokyo's red light district. A morning at a covert training camp.
Those are just some of the dark scenes a Belgian-based photographer captured in the two years he spent following the Shinseikai, a family within the yakuza — Japan’s notoriously inaccessible world of organized crime.

Anton Kusters and his brother, Malik, became the first westerners invited into the criminal underworld in 2008, after 10 months of negotiations with the Shinseikai, who control Tokyo’s infamous red light district, Kabukicho.

"There was never a moment I wanted to call off the project," Kusters told the Daily News of the immense undertaking. "It was a rollercoaster ride."

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

Friday, October 5, 2012

Russian Agent And 10 Other Members Of Procurement Network For Russian Military And Intelligence, Operating In The U.S. And Russia, Indicted

The U.S. Justice Department released the below informetion on October 3rd.
BROOKLYN, NY – An indictment was unsealed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging 11 members of a Russian military procurement network operating in the United States and Russia, as well as a Texas-based export company and a Russia-based procurement firm, with illegally exporting high-tech microelectronics from the United States to Russian military and intelligence agencies.1 Alexander Fishenko, an owner and executive of the American and Russian companies, is also charged with operating as an unregistered agent of the Russian government inside the United States by illegally procuring the high-tech microelectronics on behalf of the Russian government. The microelectronics allegedly exported to Russia are subject to strict government controls due to their potential use in a wide range of military systems, including radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance systems, and detonation triggers.
The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, Department of Justice; Stephen L. Morris, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Houston Field Office; Under Secretary of Commerce Eric L. Hirschhorn, Department of Commerce; and Timothy W. Reeves, Special Agent in Charge, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Central Field Office. The arrested defendants will be arraigned later today before United States Magistrate Judge George C. Hanks, Jr., at the U.S. Courthouse in Houston, Texas, where the government will seek their removal to the Eastern District of New York.
In addition to the unsealing of the charges, search warrants were executed today at seven residences and business locations associated with the defendants, and seizure warrants were executed on five bank accounts held by Fishenko and defendant Arc Electronics, Inc., the Texas-based export company. In conjunction with the unsealing of these charges, the Department of Commerce has added 165 foreign persons and companies who received, transshipped, or otherwise facilitated the export of controlled commodities by the defendants to its “Entity List.” This designation imposes a license requirement before any commodities can be exported from the United States to these persons or companies, and establishes a presumption that no such license will be granted.
The Scheme
As alleged in the indictment, between approximately October 2008 and the present, Fishenko and the other defendants engaged in a surreptitious and systematic conspiracy to obtain advanced, technologically cutting-edge microelectronics from manufacturers and suppliers located within the United States and to export those high-tech goods to Russia, while carefully evading the government licensing system set up to control such exports. The microelectronics shipped to Russia included analog-to-digital converters, static random access memory chips, microcontrollers, and microprocessors. These commodities have applications, and are frequently used, in a wide range of military systems, including radar and surveillance systems, missile guidance systems and detonation triggers. Russia does not produce many of these sophisticated goods domestically.
According to the indictment and a detention motion filed by the government today, defendant Alexander Fishenko was born in what was, at the time, the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, and graduated from the Leningrad Electro-Technical Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. He immigrated to the United States in 1994, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2003. In 1998, he founded defendant Arc Electronics, Inc. (“Arc”) in Houston. Between 2002 and the present, Arc has shipped approximately $50,000,000 worth of microelectronics and other technologies to Russia. Fishenko and his wife are the sole owners of Arc, and Fishenko serves as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Fishenko is also a part owner and executive of defendant Apex System, L.L.C. (“Apex”) a Moscow, Russia-based procurement firm. Apex, working through subsidiaries, served as a certified supplier of military equipment for the Russian government. Between 1996 and the present, Fishenko has regularly traveled back and forth between the United States and Russia. Defendant Alexander Posobilov entered the United States from Russia in 2001, and became a naturalized citizen in 2008. He joined Arc in 2004, and serves as its director of procurement. Posobilov was arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on his way to Singapore and Moscow.
The defendants allegedly exported many of these high-tech goods, frequently through intermediary procurement firms, to Russian end users, including Russian military and intelligence agencies. To induce manufacturers and suppliers to sell them these high-tech goods, and to evade applicable export controls, the defendants often provided false end user information in connection with the purchase of the goods, concealed the fact that they were exporters, and falsely classified the goods they exported on export records submitted to the Department of Commerce. For example, in order to obtain microelectronics containing controlled, sensitive technologies, Arc claimed to American suppliers that, rather than exporting goods to Russia, it merely manufactured benign products such as traffic lights. Arc also falsely claimed to be a traffic light manufacturer on its website. In fact, Arc manufactured no goods and operated exclusively as an exporter.
According to the court documents, the defendants went to great lengths to conceal their procurement activities for the Russian military. For example, on one occasion, defendants Posobilov and Yuri Savin, the Director of Marketing at another Russian procurement firm, discussed how best to conceal the fact that certain goods Savin had purchased from Arc were intended for the Russian military. Savin asked Posobilov, “What can we do if a client is military all over?” Posobilov replied, “We can’t be the ones making things up. You should be the ones.” Similarly, on another occasion defendant Fishenko directed a Russian procurement company that, when the company provided false end user information, to “make it up pretty, correctly, and make sure it looks good.” On yet another occasion, Posobilov instructed a Russian procurement company to “make sure that” the end use certificate indicated “fishing boats, and not fishing/anti-submarine ones . . . Then we’ll be able to start working.”
Despite this subterfuge, according to the documents, the investigation revealed that the defendants were supplying Russian government agencies with sophisticated microelectronics. For example, the investigation uncovered a Russian Ministry of Defense document designating an Apex subsidiary as a company “certified” to procure and deliver military equipment and electronics. The FBI also recovered a letter sent by a specialized electronics laboratory of Russia’s Federal Security Service (“FSB”), Russia’s primary domestic intelligence agency, to an Apex affiliate regarding certain microchips obtained for the FSB by Arc. The letter stated that the microchips were faulty, and demanded that the defendants supply replacement parts.
In addition, in anticipation of an inquiry by the Department of Commerce regarding the export of certain controlled microelectronics, defendants Fishenko, Posobilov, and Arc salesperson Viktoria Klebanova allegedly directed Apex executives Sergey Klinov and Dmitriy Shegurov, as well as other Apex employees, to alter Apex’s website and forge documents regarding certain transactions to hide Apex’s connections to the Russian military. In connection with the cover-up, Apex removed images of Russian military aircraft and missiles and other links to the Russian Ministry of Defense from its website.
The Arc Defendants
In addition to Fishenko, Posobilov, and Klebanova, the indictment charges Arc salespersons Lyudmila Bagdikian, Anastasia Diatlova, Sevinj Taghiyeva, and Svetalina Zagon, as well as Arc shipping manager Shavkat Abdullaev, with one count of conspiring to violate and twenty-one counts of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) and the Arms Export Control Act (“AECA”), and with conspiring to commit wire fraud. According to the indictment, these defendants obtained controlled microelectronics by lying and submitting false information regarding the true nature, users, and intended uses of the high-tech goods, then exporting the goods, without the required licenses, to procurement firms in Russia. The defendants’ principal port of export for these goods was John F. Kennedy International Airport in the Eastern District of New York.
The Foreign Defendants
According to the indictment, in addition to owning and controlling Arc, Fishenko is also a controlling principal of the Russian procurement firm Apex, the defendant Sergey Klinov is the chief executive officer of Apex, and the defendant Dmitriy Shegurov is an employee of Apex. Apex and its affiliates supplied microelectronics to Russian government agencies, including Russian military and intelligence agencies. The defendant Yuri Savin was the Director of Marketing at Atrilor, Ltd., another Russian procurement firm. Klinov, Shegurov and Savin conspired with Fishenko and the Arc defendants to obtain controlled U.S.-origin microelectronics and to export those technologically sensitive goods to Russia without the required export licenses by falsifying information to hide the true nature, users and intended uses of the goods. In addition, Fishenko, Posobilov, Klebanova, Klinov and Shegurov were charged with obstruction of justice, and Fishenko and Arc were charged with conspiring to commit money laundering. 
The individual defendants face maximum terms of incarceration of five years for the conspiracy charge, twenty years for each of the substantive IEEPA and AECA charges, and twenty years for the obstruction of justice charge. In addition, Fishenko faces a maximum term of incarceration of twenty years for conspiring to commit money laundering, and ten years for acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. The corporate defendants face fines of up to $500,000 for the conspiracy count and $1,000,000 for each of the substantive IEEPA and AECA counts.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants spun an elaborate web of lies to evade the laws that protect our national security. The defendants tried to take advantage of America’s free markets to steal American technologies for the Russian government. But U.S. law enforcement detected, disrupted, and dismantled the defendants’ network,” stated United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. “We will not rest in our efforts to protect the technological advantage produced by American ingenuity. And, we will expose and hold responsible all who break our counter-proliferation laws, particularly those, like Fishenko, who serve foreign governments.” Ms. Lynch thanked the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas for its assistance in this matter.
“Today’s case underscores the importance of safeguarding America’s sensitive technology and our commitment to disrupt and prosecute networks that attempt to illegally export these goods,” said Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “I applaud the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who worked on this extensive investigation.”
“In this day and time, the ability of foreign countries to illegally acquire sensitive and sophisticated U.S. technology poses a significant threat to both the economic and national security of our nation,” said Houston FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris. “While some countries may leverage our technology for financial gain, many countries hostile to the United States seek to improve their defense capabilities and to modernize their weapons systems at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. The FBI will continue to work aggressively with our partners in the U.S. Intelligence Community to protect this technology and hold accountable those companies that willfully choose to violate our U.S. export laws.”
“Today’s action is a perfect example of two of the core benefits of the Administration’s export control reform effort – higher enforcement walls around controlled items and extensive coordination and cooperation among the enforcement agencies. I applaud our special agents who worked with the Justice Department in the interagency effort that led to today’s actions,” said Under Secretary of Commerce Eric L. Hirschhorn.
“The receipt of U.S.-made, cutting-edge microelectronics has advanced Russia’s military technological capabilities. NCIS and the Department of the Navy have worked closely with the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Commerce in this investigation due to the potential for significant enhancement of Russian naval weapons systems that would result from the illegal acquisition of these export-controlled technologies,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy W. Reeves, NCIS Central Field Office.
As a result of this case, there may be victims and witnesses who need to contact the agencies involved in the investigation. If your business has been approached by one of the defendants, or by someone trying to obtain export-protected, sensitive technology who appeared not to be legitimate, please report that information to The information will remain confidential and will be handled by the appropriate authorities.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel Silver, Hilary Jager, and Claire Kedeshian, as well as Trial Attorney David Recker of the Counterespionage Section of the Department of Justice.
The Defendants:
Arc Electronics, Inc.
Principal Place of Business: Houston, Texas
Apex System, L.L.C.
Principal Place of Business: Moscow, Russia
Alexander Fishenko
Age: 46
Shavkat Abdullaev
Age: 34
Lyudmila Bagdikian
Age: 58
Anastasia Diatlova
Age: 38
Viktoria Klebanova
Age: 37
Sergey Klinov:
Age: 44
Alexander Posobilov
Age: 58
Yuri Savin:
Age: 36
Dmitriy Shegurov
Age: Unknown
Sevinj Taghiyeva
Age: 32
Svetalina Zagon
Age: 31
The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants have not yet been convicted of these offenses.