Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's The Bet On Philadelphia Mob Trail Deliberations

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

Does the jury in the trial of mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi and six co-defendants want to deliberate on Super Bowl weekend, or will the panel, which finished its 16rh day of deliberations this afternoon, come back with a verdict tomorrow?
The anonymously chosen jury of eight men and four women went at it for six more hours today without asking a question or requesting additional evidence. The panel has been holed up in the deliberation room off the 15th floor courtroom since Jan. 8.
Judge Eduardo Robreno told the jurors this afternoon that they will deliberate from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday if the process is still ongoing after tomorrow’s session. The trial, which began on Oct. 18 and extended over 10 weeks, included approximately 33 days of testimony.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

High-Ranking Member Of "Los Zetas" Crime Cartel Pleds Guilty To Drug Conspiracy Charges

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

Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, aka “Mamito” and “Caballero,” a high ranking member of the “Los Zetas” drug cartel, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to import multi-ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana into the United States, 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).
Rejon Aguilar, 36, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein in the District of Columbia. Rejon Aguilar was extradited to the United States in September 2012 and was ordered detained in federal custody pending trial.
On Nov. 4, 2010, Rejon Aguilar and 19 co-defendants were charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana for importation into the United States. The indictment charges that between 2000 and 2010, members of Los Zetas, including Rejon Aguilar, engaged in a conspiracy with members of the Gulf Cartel in an arrangement referred to as the “Company” to import drugs into the United States. Rejon Aguilar was an original member of Los Zetas and held a high ranking position with the Company.
“As a leader of the Company’s drug trafficking operation, Rejon Aguilar ensured that mass quantities of cocaine and marijuana were brought into the United States for distribution,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The Justice Department is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to bring cartel members and associates to justice for their crimes.”
“As an original and high-ranking member of the Los Zetas cartel, Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar was responsible for funneling massive amounts of marijuana and cocaine into the United States while using violence to intimidate anyone that stood in his way,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “Rejon Aguilar’s plea today was possible only with the strength and power of international law enforcement cooperation. DEA, along with our Mexican counterparts, are committed to bringing violent criminals like Rejon Aguilar, to justice.”
According to the indictment, the Company transported shipments of cocaine and marijuana by motor vehicles from Mexico to cities in Texas for distribution to other cities within the United States. The indictment alleges that Rejon Aguilar, his co-defendants and others organized, directed and carried out various acts of violence to retaliate against and to intimidate anyone who interfered with, or who were perceived to potentially interfere with, the cocaine and marijuana trafficking activities of the Company.
On April 15, 2009, under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, the President identified Los Zetas as a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker. On March 24, 2010, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named Rejon Aguilar as a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker. On July 25, 2011, an executive order was issued that blocks the transfer, payment or export of property belonging to certain transnational criminal organizations, including Los Zetas.
The department expressed its gratitude and appreciation to the government of Mexico for its assistance in this matter.
At sentencing, Rejon Aguilar faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the extradition. The investigation in this case was led by the DEA’s Houston Field Division and the DEA Bilateral Investigation Unit.

Filming Fleming: A Look Back At The Film Bios Of James Bond Creator Ian Fleming

MI6, the James Bond web site, not the British intelligence agency, offers an interesting look back at three film biographies of thriller writer Ian Fleming.

Naval commander, stockbroker, journalist, author, and bon vivant are just some of the words that can be used to describe Ian Fleming. With his birth on May 28, 1908, the world was certainly introduced to a unique individual whose total life experiences, it could be argued, were leading up to the creation of master spy James Bond. But, who really was Ian Fleming? Since the 007 phenomenon began sixty years ago it has been fashionable for critics and fans alike to proclaim that Fleming was James Bond and James Bond was Ian Fleming. However, the threads of Fleming's real life are layered and complex and this assessment has since been proven to be not so cut and dried.

What was real and what has since been embellished? Since his death on August 12, 1964, three movies Goldeneye, Spymaker, and Age of Heroes have attempted to answer these questions by focusing on different aspects and times within his life. While these films may be of mixed quality and merit, together they show how Fleming's all-too-short life and work can be ably juxtaposed with the timeless character he created.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
I have not yet seen Age of Heroes, but I interviewed two authors who wrote about Fleming's creation and involvement with the World War II commando group 30 Assault Unit, and they didn't think much of the film.
I recall not liking Spymaster very much, as the filmmakers put in a lot of fiction in an attempt to make Fleming out to be a James Bond character. Goldeneye, not to be confused with the James Bond film also named Goldeneye, was a fine film and I liked Charles Dance as Fleming.
Fleming, in my view, is as interesting a character as his fictional creation. Fleming was a womanizer like Bond and he traveled the world and saw and did interesting things as a journalist before and after World War II and during the war as a naval intelligence officer. These experiences allowed him to write authentically about crime and espionage.
I look forward to the new Fleming film, although I fear the filmmakers may spend more time on his  sex foibles than his world adventures.
There are several good books about Fleming's life, including two biographys written by John Pearson and Andrew Lycett, and For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond by Ben Macintye.  
You can also read my piece in Counterterrorism magazine on Fleming's time as a naval intelligence officer in World War II via the below links:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Going in Circles At The Philadelphia Mob Trail

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

Gary Battaglini stood in the middle of the 15th floor hallway of the federal courthouse this afternoon and slowly turned in a circle. Once. Twice. Three times.

"This is where we're going," Battaglini, who along with mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and five co-defendants, has now been waiting 15 days for a jury to decide his fate.

The jury wrapped things up at 4:30 p.m. without a decision and will be back at it again tomorrow morning.

"Who knows?" Battaglini, 51, said when asked where he thought the process was. Then he slowly turned in a circle again.

Ligambi, 73, and his co-defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy in a case built around a 12-year FBI investigation that began in 1999. The 52-count indictment also includes charges of gambling, loansharking and extortion.

To convict the defendants of the racketeering conspiracy count -- the most serious -- the jury would have to decide that the defendants knowingly engaged in plans to commit crimes on behalf of the criminal organization. Among other things, the defense has argued that even if their clients are guilty of individual crimes like bookmaking, the evidence does not support a finding that the crimes were part of a criminal enterprise.

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

The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much

Robert F. Worth at the New York Times wrote an interesting piece about an interesting man and writer.

Last June, a pulp-fiction thriller was published in Paris under the title “Le Chemin de Damas.” Its lurid green-and-black cover featured a busty woman clutching a pistol, and its plot included the requisite car chases, explosions and sexual conquests. Unlike most paperbacks, though, this one attracted the attention of intelligence officers and diplomats on three continents. Set in the midst of Syria’s civil war, the book offered vivid character sketches of that country’s embattled ruler, Bashar al-Assad, and his brother Maher, along with several little-known lieutenants and allies. It detailed a botched coup attempt secretly supported by the American and Israeli intelligence agencies. And most striking of all, it described an attack on one of the Syrian regime’s command centers, near the presidential palace in Damascus, a month before an attack in the same place killed several of the regime’s top figures. “It was prophetic,” I was told by one veteran Middle East analyst who knows Syria well and preferred to remain nameless. “It really gave you a sense of the atmosphere inside the regime, of the way these people operate, in a way I hadn’t seen before.” 

The book was the latest by Gérard de Villiers, an 83-year-old Frenchman who has been turning out the S.A.S. espionage series at the rate of four or five books a year for nearly 50 years. The books are strange hybrids: top-selling pulp-fiction vehicles that also serve as intelligence drop boxes for spy agencies around the world.         

Is Benghazi This President's Mogadishu? Former Navy SEAL Says 'It Looks Like Hillary Clinton Took A Page Out Of Her Husband's Playbook'

Howard E. Wasdin, a former member of SEAL Team Six and the author of SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper, appeared on Fox News and took President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton to task for failing to support the Americans in Benghazi.

Eighteen Americans were killed in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. The two-day firefight during which a group of soldiers tried to rescue their fallen comrades inspired the film ‘Black Hawk Down.’

According to critics, the Clinton White House failed to provide our men with the resources needed to complete the mission. Some are drawing comparisons between the tragedy and the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

Howard Wasdin, who survived the battle at Mogadishu and went on to write “SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper,” joined Fox and Friends this morning.

Wasdin discussed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack, saying it “looks like she took a play or a page out of her husband’s playbook, which is not to give what’s asked for.”

He continued, “In Mogadishu […] we asked for armor, but weren’t given the armor. I lost friends in that battle. Now the SEALs in Benghazi, I think it’s well-documented now, that there was a desperate cry for help going out that wasn’t heeded.”  

You can read the rest of the piece and watch the video interview of Wasdin via the below link:

You can also read my interview with Howard Wasdin that appeared in Counterterrorism magazine via the below links:

Special Operators Depend On Good Partners, Admiral McRaven Says

Karen Parrish at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 - Close partnership with U.S. geographic combatant commanders will be crucial to keeping the nation's special operations forces effective as budgets and formations dwindle, U.S. Special Operations Command's leader said here today.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven talked about special operations support to national strategy during a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association's 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.

Socom troops around the world, McRaven said, are "doing exceedingly well, operating as an integral part of the geographic combatant commanders' strategy."

The admiral said while his forces operate in more than 70 countries around the world, Afghanistan remains a key focus. U.S. Central Command is the geographic combatant command responsible for Afghanistan, with NATO's International Security Assistance Force in charge of operations there.

McRaven noted all coalition special operations forces in Afghanistan now are united under one special operations joint task force, commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas.

"His headquarters, which reached its full operational capability on 1 January, has done a phenomenal job," the admiral said. "During my most recent visit there, I was impressed to see [the headquarters] integrating, coordinating and fully synchronizing all [special operations activities] -- not only with each other, but with ISAF."

Village stability operations and support to Afghan local police –- both programs aimed at growing security and extending governance in rural areas -- are among the "most compelling success stories" special operations forces are logging in Afghanistan, McRaven said.

"These programs have been game-changers to our efforts," he noted.

McRaven said he recently visited some of the places where Afghan local police groups have established outposts. "I was amazed at the relationships forged with our Afghan counterparts," he told the symposium audience. "These relationships, built on trust, have clearly paved the way for greater security in the remote areas of the country. They have also helped bridge the gap between the local, district and provincial governments."

The thinning of U.S. conventional forces in Afghanistan this year and in 2014, McRaven said, will give special operations troops "more opportunity to do more in places that we have neglected."

While he doesn't yet know the number of special operations forces that will be needed in Afghanistan beyond 2014, he said, one approach now under way to bridge the anticipated gap is a "surge" in Afghan local police.

The local police program across Afghanistan now numbers close to 19,000 "guardians," he said, which Afghan leaders want to build to 45,000. Around 60 Special Forces or SEAL units, working with Afghan counterparts, support the program as trainers, he added.

McRaven said Thomas has a plan to sustain the program, with coalition special operations forces shifting to a "train the trainer focus," helping the Afghan uniformed police and Afghan special operations forces to take over training local forces.

"I think [the program is] on a good glide path right now," he said. The post-2014 special operations contribution in Afghanistan isn't yet known, he added, but officials are making plans to enable helping the Afghans continue to build the local police program even if special operations forces draw down to a small number.

Special operators also are achieving "similar positive results" around the world, their commander said. He noted that in the Philippines, "our Green Berets and [Navy] SEALs are doing a terrific job with our Filipino partners."

McRaven said on a recent visit to the Philippines, he stopped in two places that "10 years ago ... were safe havens for Abu Sayyaf and other extremist organizations." A decade ago, security for the people in such places depended on "how well they knew the enemy," McRaven said.

"Beheadings, bombings, and families fleeing their homes were a constant part of life," he said. "Today, largely through the magnificent efforts of our [special operations forces] advisory teams and their Filipino counterparts, the threat is contained. Security has greatly improved."

McRaven said improvement in the Philippines, where economic progress and stable local government have followed security gains, rivals similar success in Colombia, where U.S. special operators have worked for decades. Such special efforts are also taking place now in Africa, he added, where U.S. special operations troops are "working with our African counterparts to end the [Lord's Resistance Army] tyranny in Central Africa."

All of these efforts, he said, demonstrate the ability special operators bring geographic combatant commanders: to "counter regional challenges before they become global problems."

Those 70-plus countries where his troops operate, McRaven said, often are "places we don't hear about on the news."

"[Socom's missions in such places] are not secretive. They are not sexy," he said. "Nor do they involve low-flying black helicopters in the dead of night." Socom troops work at the invitation of the host government, are approved by the appropriate U.S. embassy, and are commanded by the U.S. geographic combatant commander for the region, he explained.

"These missions involve supporting an embassy country team, building partner capacity, or increasing [special operations forces] interoperability," he said. "It is hard, slow and methodical work that does not lend itself to a quick win. Instead, it is about patience, persistence, and building trust with our partners -- a trust that cannot be achieved through episodic deployments or chance contacts."

Special operations leaders always have known that "you can't surge trust," said McRaven, noting trust "is developed over years by personal one-on-one interaction."

Socom troops' ability to build such trust, along with language and cultural expertise and the "ability to think through ambiguity," he said, increases both the command's credibility and the demand for its capability.

The past year, the admiral said, has offered a glimpse of the future that includes reduced defense budgets, a drawdown in Afghanistan troop levels and ongoing demands for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"Socom is prepared to deliver properly organized, trained and equipped forces to the combatant commanders," he said. "Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are ready to address these and other challenges that our nation will face."

McRaven noted that current defense strategy "directs us to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region." Special operations forces have maintained a persistent presence in the region that will benefit conventional-force commanders who "fall in" on long-established partnerships, he said.

"We have always been there, in a quiet and persistent way," McRaven said. "Whether capacity building in Thailand, advising in the Philippines, training with our Aussie and Kiwi [special operations] counterparts, or rendering assistance in the time of natural disaster, our efforts have been consistently focused on the region, our partners and our allies."

The future of special operations in Asia and elsewhere lies in how well Socom supports the geographic combatant commanders, McRaven reiterated. His suggestion for how best to improve regional support is to bolster theater special operations commands, which he calls TSOCs.

"As a sub-unified command under the [combatant command], they, the TSOCs, work for the combatant commander and serve as their primary command-and-control node for special operations in theaters," he explained. "Simply put, the TSOCs are the center of gravity for [special operations forces] in theater. And if we want to adequately address current and emerging challenges with a SOF solution, we need to increase their capability."

Socom is now rebalancing its manpower -- without increasing its budget -- to better support the TSOCs, McRaven said.

Regionally focused special operations commands are an adaptation to the changing world, he added, and will position Socom forces to meet global challenges.

Socom also has to consider, he said, how to move Special Forces "A" teams, Marine special operations teams, Navy SEAL platoons and the platforms that support them in and out of theater quickly. That requires working closely with each of the services, he noted.

"The relationship between the services and Socom is at an all-time high. ... We cannot do the job without the services," McRaven said.

The nation's special operations forces, he said, "are the sum of the parts of the greatest military in history. It is the services' people, their traditions, their culture that makes SOF what it is."

Socom also relies on interagency partners -- "all the three-letter agencies" -- on every mission, McRaven said.

Interagency partners stand right beside special operators as they "secure a target, treat an injured child, or provide a much-needed water well or school," he said. "They are always there to provide expert analysis, the authority to arrest a criminal, or a new capability."

That level of cooperation would have been thought impossible before 9/11, but is commonplace today, he said. Work with coalition partner nations has progressed in a like way, McRaven noted.

"The level of trust and friendship has so greatly expanded our network," he said. "It has given our nation a tangible edge over those who would threaten us. These partnerships give us our strength, based on a trust forged of mutual hardships, common cause, and shared ties. This is what will provide the best defense for the homeland and for our partners abroad."

Responding to audience questions, McRaven underscored his emphasis on engaged partnership. One lesson he draws from his experience, he said, applies to Mali, where U.S. forces are supporting French-led efforts against insurgent groups. The United States was never able to establish a persistent presence for its special operations forces in Mali, he observed.

"We had an episodic presence in Mali," the admiral said. "And while I don't know whether or not a persistent presence would have changed our relationship with the Malian forces, ... one lesson we've learned from years of doing this is ... to work with the host country, you really have to have that persistent presence."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More Tapes, More Food, No Verdict In Philadelphia Mob Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

Two more tapes, another lunch and still no verdict.

Despite unfounded rumors and rampant speculation that they had reached a decision, jurors in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants wrapped up another day of deliberation this afternoon without reaching a decision.

"I think they're playing a high stakes game of chicken," said one defense attorney, speculating that the panel has broken into two camps, one favoring conviction and the other acquittal. "The question is will either side blink."

With Judge Eduardo Robreno announcing on Monday that deliberations would continue through the weekend -- including Super Bowl Sunday -- the conventional wisdom is that the anonymously chosen jury will announce something by Friday at the latest.
The jury has multiple options -- across the board acquittals or convictions, split decisions that allow some of the defendants to go free or deadlocks and a hung jury on some or all of the counts.

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

Former Iraqi Terrorists Living In Kentucky Sentenced For Terrorist Activities

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:
Two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, Ky., who admitted using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and who attempted to send weapons and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers, were sentenced today to serve federal prison terms by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
The sentences was announced Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; David J. Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; and Perrye K. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Louisville Division.
Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 25, a former resident of Iraq, was sentenced to life in federal prison, and Waad Ramadan Alwan, 31, a former resident of Iraq, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison, followed by a life term of supervised release. Both defendants had pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges.
“These two former Iraqi insurgents participated in terrorist activities overseas and attempted to continue providing material support to terrorists while they lived here in the United States. With today’s sentences, both men are being held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “I thank the dedicated professionals in the law enforcement and intelligence communities who were responsible for this successful outcome.”
“These are experienced terrorists who willingly and enthusiastically participated in what they believed were insurgent support operations designed to harm American soldiers in Iraq,” stated U.S. Attorney Hale. “The serious crimes of both men merit lengthy punishment, and only the value of Alwan’s immediate and extensive cooperation with law enforcement justifies our recommendation of a reduced sentence for him. Bringing these men to justice is the result of a comprehensive law enforcement effort. The FBI agents of the Louisville Division, along with the federal and local law enforcement members of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces here in Kentucky, including the Bowling Green Police Department, and our many other partners, are to be commended.”
“Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks remains the FBI's top priority,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Turner. “Using our growing suite of investigative and intelligence capabilities, FBI agents and analysts assigned to our Bowling Green office were able to neutralize a potential threat. Our local Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprised of FBI Agents and other local, state and federal agencies from across the Commonwealth, remains committed to dismantling extremist networks and cutting off financing and other forms of support provided by terrorist sympathizers, whether they are operating in Kentucky or worldwide.”
“Today, the sentencing of Alwan and Hammadi represents the culmination of the extensive, effective and focused efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Kentucky Division of the FBI for their roles in the investigation and prosecution of these would-be terrorists. I want to thank U.S. Attorney David Hale, the Kentucky Division of the FBI and the members of the FBI Bowling Green local office for their individual and collective efforts in bringing Alwan and Hammadi to justice for their crimes against the people of Kentucky and the United States,” stated Chief Doug Hawkins, Bowling Green Police Department.
Alwan, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded IED found in Iraq, pleaded guilty earlier in the case on Dec. 16, 2011, to all counts of a 23-count federal indictment. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill U.S. nationals abroad; conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of IEDs; attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to AQI and conspiring to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles.
Hammadi pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2012, to a 12-count superseding indictment. Charges against him included attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to AQI; conspiring to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles; and making a false statement in an immigration application. At today’s sentencing, at the request of the United States, Alwan received a reduced sentence due to his cooperation with federal law enforcement. The United States asked for no reduction of Hammadi’s sentence.
According to information presented by the United States in connection with today’s sentencings, Hammadi and Alwan both admitted, in FBI interviews that followed waiver of their Miranda rights, to participation in the purported material support operations in Kentucky, and both provided the FBI details of their prior involvement in insurgent activities while living in Iraq. Both men believed their activities in Kentucky were supporting AQI. Alwan admitted participating in IED attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Hammadi admitted to participating in 10 to 11 IED attacks as well as shooting at a U.S. soldier in an observation tower.
Court documents filed in this case reveal that the Bowling Green office of the FBI’s Louisville Division initiated an investigation of Alwan in which they used a confidential human source (CHS). The CHS met with Alwan and recorded their meetings and conversations beginning in August 2010. The CHS represented to Alwan that he was working with a group to ship money and weapons to Mujahadeen in Iraq. From September 2010 through May 2011, Alwan participated in ten separate operations to send weapons and money that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq. Between October 2010 and January 2011, Alwan drew diagrams of multiple types of IEDs and instructed the CHS how to make them. In January 2011, Alwan recruited Hammadi, a fellow Iraqi national living in Bowling Green, to assist in these material support operations. Beginning in January 2011 and continuing until his arrest in late May 2011, Hammadi participated with Alwan in helping load money and weapons that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq.
Documents filed by the United States describe in detail the material support activities of the men in Bowling Green. Without Hammadi present, Alwan loaded money and weapons he believed were being sent to Iraq on five occasions from September 2010 through February 2011, handling five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five machine guns, two sniper rifles, two cases of C4 explosive and what he believed to be $375,000. After Hammadi joined Alwan in January 2011, the two men loaded money and weapons together on five occasions from January to May 2011. Together, on these five occasions, they loaded five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five machine guns, five cases of C4 explosive, two sniper rifles, one box of 12 hand grenades, two Stinger surface-to-air missile launchers and what they believed to be a total of $565,000. Alwan and Hammadi were recorded by video during these operations.
In speaking with the CHS, Alwan spoke of his efforts to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, stating “lunch and dinner would be an American.” Hammadi told the CHS that he had experience in Iraq with “Strelas” (a Russian made, portable, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile launcher) and discussed shipping “Strelas” in future operations.
According to the charging documents, Hammadi entered the United States in July 2009, and, after first residing in Las Vegas, moved to Bowling Green. Hammadi and Alwan were arrested on May 25, 2011, in Bowling Green on criminal complaints. Both defendants were closely monitored by federal law enforcement authorities in the months leading up to their arrests. Neither was charged with plotting attacks within the United States. All of the weapons, including Stinger missiles, had been rendered inert before being handled by Hammadi and Alwan. The weapons and money handled by the men in the United States were never provided to AQI, but instead were carefully controlled by law enforcement as part of the undercover operation.
This case was investigated by the Louisville Division of the FBI. Assisting in the investigation were members of the Louisville and Lexington Joint Terrorism Task Forces, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Bowling Green Police Department.
The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bennett and Bryan Calhoun from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Larry Schneider from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mob Jurors Focus On Lunch

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

Lunch was clearly on the minds of jurors as they entered the 13th day of deliberations this morning in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants.

Sticking with a routine established two weeks ago, the jury placed their orders shortly after arriving in court at 8:30 a.m. They also asked if Olive Garden and Red Lobster could be added to their luncheon options, according to several courthouse sources.

The answer was "no." Lunch is supplied by vendors who own businesses close to the courthouse at 6th and Market Streets.

Later the jury panel asked to rehear several tapes, including a 40-minute secretly recorded session from a mob lunch meeting at LaGriglia, an upscale -- this is no Olive Garden -- Italian restaurant in Kenilworth, N.J.

The lunch meeting, in May 2010, was recorded by Nicholas "Nicky Skins" Stefanelli, a Gambino crime family soldier who was wearing a body-wire for the FBI.

The LaGriglia tape was one of the first played for the jury after the trial began back on Oct. 18. That the panel has asked to return to that meeting now has raised eyebrows and questions about where the deliberations are heading.

Prosecutors have described the restaurant gathering of leaders of the Gambino crime family from New York and the Philadelphia branch of Cosa Nostra as a "meeting of the board of directors of organized crime."

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

More Pretrial Hearings Kick Off For 9/11 Suspects

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

FORT MEADE, Md., Jan. 28, 2013 - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (seen in the above photo at the time of his capture), the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, along with four co-defendants charged with planning and carrying out the attacks, acknowledged to the judge today that they understand and have no questions about their rights.

Army Col. James Pohl, the judge, opened four days of pretrial hearings at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, affirming that the defendants understand they have the right to attend the proceedings and may voluntarily skip most proceedings. In outlining the rights, Pohl also made clear that opting out of court could hurt the defense, while recognizing that the accused could be compelled to come to court when specific issues are discussed.

Pohl asked each defendant -- Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi -- to affirm that they understand these rights.

Bin Attash, the only defendant to offer more than a simple "Yes," told Pohl he and his fellow defendants have "no motivating factors to come to court." He complained that the prosecution does not want the defendants to hear or understand what is going on or to speak during the proceedings.

Bin Attash also expressed frustration that after a year and a half of association, the defendants have not established trust in the attorneys involved. "The attorneys are bound, but we are bound also," he told the court.

Much of today's discussions involved whether the prosecution and defense teams need to go into a closed session to discuss what issues they can address in open court. That includes one of the most controversial aspects of the hearing: information about the defendants' detention at so-called "black sites" operated by the CIA before they were transferred to the Guantanamo Bay facility.

Portions of the proceedings were blocked out by loud static to keep the statements out of the public record. This also prevented the audio from being heard by families of 9/11 victims at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and watching via closed-circuit television here and at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Fort Hamilton, N.Y.; and Fort Devens, Mass.

Reporters covering the proceedings at Guantanamo Bay and from a media center at Fort Meade also heard the static.

This led Pohl to question during the hearing who has a right to turn on a light that generates the static sound and also institutes a 40-second delay in the audio feed. After closing today's opening session, he brought together the prosecution and defense teams to work through these issues.

All five defendants at today's hearing 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 2012 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.

This round of commission hearings will continue through Jan. 31, with the next slated for Feb. 11 to 14.

Today's hearings began three days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the conviction of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul of Yemen. The court ruled that the charges of conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and soliciting murder did not qualify as war crimes when Bahlul committed them.

A military commission found him guilty of conspiracy with Osama bin Laden and others to commit murder of protected persons, attacking civilians and other crimes in November 2008. He was also found guilty of solicitation to commit murder of protected persons, to attack civilian objects, and to commit acts of terrorism.

In addition, the commission found him guilty of providing material support for terrorism by supporting al-Qaida through meeting with the highest-ranking members of the organization and creating al-Qaida propaganda, including a widely distributed propaganda video, "The Destruction of the American Destroyer U.S.S. Cole." All offenses were in violation of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

Hypocrisy: Mayor Bloomberg Ducks Question On Why He Advocates Gun Control, Yet Has Armed Security

Wynton Hall at reports on an incident when a reporter asked the New York City Mayor a question about gun control.

In an explosive exchange outside the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., security guards for billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg accosted senior Talk Radio Network investigative reporter Jason Mattera when he asked the mayor about his strong support for gun control.

In the video, Bloomberg is seen surrounded by security. Mattera approaches Bloomberg and asks, “In the spirit of gun control, will you disarm your entire security team?”

Bloomberg’s reply: “Uh, you, we’ll get right back to you.”

“Why can you defend yourself but not the majority of Americans?” Mattera asks as the mayor walks away. “Look at the team of security you’ve got. And you’re an advocate for gun control?” 

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

Note: The question asked is a good one; why do liberal gun control advocates, from Obama on down, all have armed security officers?

I also question what authority a New York City police officer has to question anyone, let alone an accredited reporter, in Washington D.C.

Goodbye To Our Gal Sal: TV Icon Sally Starr Dies At 90

Like most of the baby boomers in the Philadelphia area, I grew up watching Sally Starr on TV.

Andy Wallace at the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a look back at her life.

Sally Starr, the gun-totin' cowgirl who rode a palomino with a silver saddle and introduced millions of children in the Philadelphia area to Popeye, Clutch Cargo, and the Three Stooges, died Sunday.

One of the most beloved celebrities in Philadelphia TV history, Miss Starr was an icon of the black-and-white era.

She died two days after her 90th birthday at the Berlin, Camden County, convalescent home where she lived, her former station, 6ABC, said in an online obituary.

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

She will be missed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

South Philly Mob Hitmen: A Look Back At The Philadelphia Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Family

I came across an old American Justice TV program on on the Scarfo-era Philadelphia  Cosa Nostra organized crime family.
George Anastasia, the former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who wrote a book about the Scarfo era called Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob - the Mafia's Most Violent Family, was interviewed on the program, as were FBI agents and men who became cooperating witnesses. 

You can watch the documentary via the below link:

You can also read my interview with Philip Leonetti, the former Cosa Nostra underboss under Scarfo, via the below link: 

The Mouse That Roared: The Federal Organized Crime Trial In Philadelphia

The veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

It was an underworld version of The Mouse That Roared, a less than flattering look at mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino captured on FBI wiretaps that were replayed today for the jury deliberating the fates of Massimino, mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and five co-defendants.

Massimino, 62, has been one of the more verbal defendants throughout the three-month trial, drawing smiles and laughter from friends and family members with his quips and asides, predicting not guilty verdicts and telling everyone to "keep those martini glasses on ice" for the victory party.

But the career criminal had little to say today -- other than calling a reporter a "jerkoff" -- when he strode into court to hear the tapes the jury had asked to be replayed.

What those in the courtroom heard was not the easy-going and glib defendant, but rather what the prosecution alleges was the volatile, take-no-prisoners underboss.
"You fuckin' bet, you motherfucker, you don't wanna pay?" he said in one conversation with an associate that was recorded in 2003.

Later on the same tape, Massimino appeared to put himself in the middle of a sports betting operation, one of the key charges in the case.

"Why didn't you do like I said?" he asked the associate. "Why didn't you turn all the sports bets in?"

Anger and frustration surfaced in another taped phone call from 2004 in which he threatened an unidentified gambler.

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

Author Sebastian Faulks Pans Latest James Bond Film 'Skyfall'

Ruth Whitehead at the British newspaper the Daily Mail reports on the poor review author Sebastian Faulks gave the latest James Bond film Skyfall.

Skyfall, the latest James Bond blockbuster that grossed more than US$1 billion in ten weeks, has been lambasted by author Sebastian Faulks.

Faulks, who was commissioned by the estate of Bond creator Ian Fleming to write a Bond novel, described the film as 'pretty distasteful', criticised some of the acting and said the film's attempts to show a sensitive side to the spy hero had failed.

He told an audience at India's Jaipur Literature Festival, as reported in the Telegraph: 'I found the last film pretty distasteful. One [of the Bond girls] couldn't act and the other had been previously exploited as a sex worker. And Bond walks into the shower and makes love to her. Casino Royale was much better.'

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

You can also watch a video of the discussion via the below link:

Note: I agree with Faulks that Daniel Craig's Casino Royale was a better film than Skyfall and that Albert Finney, an otherwise great actor, was truly awful as a Scottish groundskeeper with an English accent.

I also thought that Javier Bardem, an otherwise fine actor, looked more like a Batman or a Dick Tracy villain than a Bond villain with that awful blond wig.

I could criticize the film more, but I don't want to spoil the plot for those who have not yet seen it.   

I thought Skyfall was a well-made thriller and Daniel Craig was very good as James Bond, but I don't  agree with many of the film critics who hailed the film the best of the Bond series.

In my view, Skyfall is no Goldfinger and Daniel Craig is no Sean Connery.

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Faulks' continuation James Bond novel via the below links:  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Combat Shift Ignores Gender Realities

Retired Lt General William G. Boykin offers a dissenting voice regarding allowing women into combat in USA Today.
Unlike Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, President Obama, and the editors of USA Today, General Boykin, a former Delta Special Operations Commander, has actually been in combat. 
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision to open virtually all positions in the military to women, including those in infantry and front-line combat units, is the wrong policy, adopted for the wrong reasons and implemented the wrong way.

It was adopted in the wrong way because such a significant change in longstanding military personnel policy, with potentially serious implication for the effectiveness of the fighting force, should not be made without holding congressional hearings in advance to explore all the issues involved.

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

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Look Back At The Alger Hiss Espionage Case

The FBI web site offers a look back at the Alger Hiss case.

The jury returned from its deliberations on January 21, 1950—63 years ago this month. The verdict? Guilty on two counts of perjury.

Alger Hiss, a well-educated and well-connected former government lawyer and State Department official who helped create the United Nations in the aftermath of World War II, was headed to prison in Atlanta for lying to a federal grand jury.
In August 1948, Whittaker Chambers—a senior editor at Time magazine— was called by the House Committee on Un-merican Activities to corroborate the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley, a Soviet spy who had defected in 1945 and accused dozens of members of the U.S. government of espionage. One official she named as possibly connected to the Soviets was Alger Hiss.

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

You can also read my Q & A with veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden, who spoke of his covering the Alger Hiss case, via the below link: 

And you can read a review of a recent book on Alger Hiss via the below link:

A South Philly Mobster And His Money

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

Damion Canalichio onced boasted on a secretly recorded covnersation that he was in the "collection" business for the mob.

Jurors in the racketeering trial of Canalichio, mob boss Joe Ligambi and five others spent part of their deliberations today listening in on how Canalichio allegedly conducted that business.

"I'm gonna go crack his fuckin' head," Canalichio said on one tape recorded conversation from 2002 in which he discussed a deadbeat with a cooperating government witness who was wearing a body-wire.

On another tape, Canalichio's part of a phone conversation with another debtor it picked by the same cooperating witness.

"I gave you fuckin' money and you've been fuckin' me ever since," Canalichio yells into the phone. 'You're a lyin' fuckin' junkie."

The tapes were played as jurors in the case completed their 11th day of deliberations. The conversations, recorded by Michael Orlando, were played early in the 10-week trial and replayed when the jury asked to hear them again this afternoon.

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

David Coleman Headly Sentenced To 35 Years In Prison For Role In India And Denmark Terror Plots

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information yesterday:
David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen partly of Pakistani descent, was sentenced today to 35 years in prison for a dozen federal terrorism crimes relating to his role in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and a subsequent proposed attack on a newspaper in Denmark. Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to all 12 counts that were brought against him following his arrest in October 2009 as he was about to leave the country. Immediately after his arrest, Headley began cooperating with authorities.
Headley, 52, was ordered to serve 35 years, followed by five years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber. There is no federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. “Mr. Headley is a terrorist,” Judge Leinenweber said in imposing the sentence.
“There is little question that life imprisonment would be an appropriate punishment for Headley’s incredibly serious crimes but for the significant value provided by his immediate and extensive cooperation,” the government argued in seeking a sentence of 30 to 35 years.
In pleading guilty and later testifying for the government at the trial of a co-defendant, Headley admitted that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by Lashkar e Tayyiba, a terrorist organization operating in that country, on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005. In late 2005, Headley received instructions from three members of Lashkar to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times leading up to the Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed approximately 164 people, including six Americans, and wounded hundreds more. Headley’s plea agreement in March 2010 stated that he “has provided substantial assistance to the criminal investigation, and also has provided information of significant intelligence value.”
In consideration of Headley’s past cooperation and anticipated future cooperation, which would include debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence and national security information, as well as testifying in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory, the Attorney General of the United States authorized the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago not to seek the death penalty.
“Today’s sentence is an important milestone in our continuing efforts to hold accountable those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attacks and to achieve justice for the victims. Our investigations into Mumbai attacks and the Denmark terror plot are ongoing and active. I thank the many agents, analysts and prosecutors responsible for this investigation and prosecution,” said Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.
Headley was convicted of conspiracy to bomb public places in India; conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India; six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India; conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India; conspiracy to murder and maim persons in Denmark; conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in Denmark; and conspiracy to provide material support to Lashkar.
According to Headley’s guilty plea and testimony, he attended the following training camps operated by Lashkar: a three-week course starting in February 2002 that provided indoctrination on the merits of waging jihad; a three-week course starting in August 2002 that provided training in the use of weapons and grenades; a three-month course starting in April 2003 that taught close combat tactics, the use of weapons and grenades, and survival skills; a three-week course starting in August 2003 that taught counter-surveillance skills; and a three-month course starting in December 2003 that provided combat and tactical training.
Mumbai Terror Attacks
After receiving instructions in late 2005 to conduct surveillance in India, Headley changed his given name from Daood Gilani in February 2006 in Philadelphia to facilitate his activities on behalf of Lashkar by portraying himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani. In the early summer of 2006, Headley and two Lashkar members discussed opening an immigration office in Mumbai as a cover for his surveillance activities.
Headley eventually made five extended trips to Mumbai — in September 2006, February and September 2007, and April and July 2008 — each time making videotapes of various potential targets, including those attacked in November 2008. Before each trip, Lashkar members and associates instructed Headley regarding specific locations where he was to conduct surveillance. After each trip, Headley traveled to Pakistan to meet with Lashkar members and associates, report on the results of his surveillance, and provide the surveillance videos.
Before the April 2008 surveillance trip, Headley and co-conspirators in Pakistan discussed potential landing sites in Mumbai for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea. Headley returned to Mumbai with a global positioning system device and took boat trips around the Mumbai harbor and entered various locations into the device.
Between Nov. 26 and 28, 2008, 10 attackers trained by Lashkar carried out multiple assaults with firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices against multiple targets in Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, the Leopold Café, the Chabad House and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, each of which Headley had scouted in advance, killing approximately 164 victims and wounding hundreds more.
The six Americans killed during the siege were Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, his daughter Naomi Scherr and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.
In March 2009, Headley made a sixth trip to India to conduct additional surveillance, including of the National Defense College in Delhi, and of Chabad Houses in several cities.
Denmark Terror Plot
Regarding the Denmark terror plot, Headley admitted and testified that in early November 2008, he was instructed by a Lashkar member in Pakistan, to conduct surveillance of the Copenhagen and Aarhus offices of the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten in preparation for an attack in retaliation for the newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. After this meeting, Headley informed co-defendant Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Abdur Rehman), also known as “Pasha,” of his assignment. Abdur Rehman told Headley words to the effect that if Lashkar did not go through with the attack, Abdur Rehman knew someone who would. Although not identified by name at the time, Headley later learned this individual was co-defendant Ilyas Kashmiri. Abdur Rehman previously told Headley that he was working with Kashmiri and that Kashmiri was in direct contact with a senior leader of Al Qaeda.
While in Chicago in late December 2008 and early January 2009, Headley exchanged emails with Abdur Rehman to continue planning for the attack and to coordinate his travel to Denmark to conduct surveillance. In January 2009, at Lashkar’s direction, Headley traveled from Chicago to Copenhagen to conduct surveillance of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus and scouted and videotaped the surrounding areas.
In late January 2009, Headley met separately with Abdur Rehman and a Lashkar member in Pakistan, discussed the planned attack on the newspaper, and provided them with videos of his surveillance. About the same time, Abdur Rehman provided Headley a video produced by the media wing of Al Qaeda in approximately August 2008, which claimed credit for the June 2008 attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and called for further attacks against Danish interests to avenge the publication of the offending cartoons.
In February 2009, Headley and Abdur Rehman met with Kashmiri in the Waziristan region of Pakistan, where they discussed the video surveillance and ways to carry out the attack. Kashmiri told Headley that he could provide manpower for the operation and that Lashkar’s participation was not necessary. In March 2009, a Lashkar member advised Headley that Lashkar put the newspaper attack on hold because of pressure resulting from the Mumbai attacks. In May 2009, Headley and Abdur Rehman again met with Kashmiri in Waziristan. Kashmiri told Headley to meet with a European contact who could provide Headley with money, weapons and manpower for the Denmark attack, and relate Kashmiri’s instructions that this should be a suicide attack and the attackers should prepare martyrdom videos beforehand. Kashmiri also stated that the attackers should behead captives and throw their heads on to the street in Copenhagen to heighten the response from Danish authorities, and added that the “elders,” whom Headley understood to be Al Qaeda leadership, wanted the attack to happen as soon as possible.
In late July and early August 2009, Headley traveled from Chicago to various places in Europe, and met with and attempted to obtain assistance from Kashmiri’s contacts and, while in Copenhagen, he made approximately 13 additional surveillance videos. When he returned to the United States on Aug. 5, 2009, Headley falsely told a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector in Atlanta that he had visited Europe for business reasons. On Oct. 3, 2009, Headley was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, intending ultimately to travel to Pakistan to deliver the approximately 13 surveillance videos to Abdur Rehman and Kashmiri.
One of Headley’s co-defendants, Tahawwur Rana, 52, of Chicago, was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to the Denmark terror plot and providing material support to Lashkar. Headley testified for the government at Rana’s trial in June 2011.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Collins and Sarah E. Streicker, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have worked on a broader investigation of the Mumbai attacks. The investigation was conducted by the Chicago Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the Chicago Office of the FBI, with assistance from FBI offices in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., as well as both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Still No Verdict In Philadelphia Mob Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for

Ten days and counting.

The jury in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and six co-defendants headed home this afternoon after completing a tenth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the high profile case.

What's more, for the first time since deliberations started on Jan. 8, the anonymously selected panel did not ask a question or request to hear a tape that had been played during the 10-week trial.

What does it mean?

Depends on who you ask.
Ligambi and four co-defendants who are being held without bail wait each day in a secured lock-up in the federal court building several floors below the 15th floor courtroom where the trial was held and where deliberations are taking place.

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

Woe Is Poe: The TV Show 'The Following" Loses Its Literary Grip

Poor Poe. Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times points out that Edgar Allan Poe is maligned in the new TV show The Following.

Woe to Edgar Allan Poe. In life, the writer was ill-served by fortune: orphaned as a toddler, an indebted college dropout, Poe moved often, usually to dodge creditors. His beloved wife (and, um, first cousin) died in the Bronx at age 24; two years later Poe himself was dead. The circumstances of his death remain mysterious -- the 40-year-old left Richmond, Va., en route to Philadelphia and turned up five days later at a pub in Baltimore, where he was delirious, wearing someone else's clothes and was at the end of a deathly bender or something else that drove him into the arms of the grim reaper.

Yes, his stories were dark. Characters are buried alive, blackmailed, overwhelmed by guilt; they exact revenge and try and fail to escape fate; they are tortured and even murdered.
What is not in any of his work: A serial killer. Or a death cult.

So, to "The Following." In the show, Kevin Bacon is former FBI agent Randy Hardy, who locked up an English professor-turned-serial killer. The professor, Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy) was a Poe expert.

By some twist of logic, we're meant to believe his Poe expertise led him to slaughter comely co-eds in a dorm. But... that's so un-Poe! In "The Murder in the Rue Morgue," sometimes called the first detective story, we're on the side of the investigator, not the criminal. When we're meant to observe the creepy gothic horror of his stories, it's the sense of inevitability or fate that gives the reader a frisson, not the gore: someone is buried alive, or dissolves in a moment.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:,0,3709889.story

Note: I agree with Carolyn Kellogg, and I think The Following sort of rips off Michael Connelly's The Poet and Thomas Harris' Red Dragon. 

Yet despite its failings, I still liked the TV show. Kevin Bacon is very good and so is James Purefoy an the supporting cast.

The above photo by Sarah Shatz/Fox show Kevin Bacon at the scene of the crime.

You can read about Poe in an earlier post via the below link:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teddy Roosevelt Biographer Recalls An Earlier Top Cop

Richard Morgan at the Wall Street Journal offers a Q & A with Theodore Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris about his subject's time as New York City's top cop.

A new poll has New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly at 75% approval among New Yorkers – his strongest-ever public support in a tenure that stretches over 14 years and two mayors.

But with a crowded race for City Hall this year and some likely candidates suggesting they would like appoint a different top cop, it remains unclear what’s might come next for the long-time commissioner. Metropolis spoke with historian Edmund Morris, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt, on how Kelly compares with New York’s other famous police commissioner.   

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

The Third Man: British Traitor And Spy Kim Philby Fled To Soviet Union 50 Years Ago Today

Neil Tweedie at the British newspaper the Telegraph wrote an interesting piece on the 50th anniversary of the defection of British Traitor and spy Kim Philby to the Soviet Union.

Fifty years ago tonight, as a fierce storm lashed Beirut, a lean, middle-aged man quietly closed the door of his flat, situated on a hill overlooking the city, and made his way down five flights of stairs into the darkness of the Rue Kantari. Checking to ensure he was not being followed, he walked quickly through streets awash with water to the port, and a waiting ship, the Dolmatova. The freighter hauled anchor the minute the man came aboard, heading out into the turbulent Mediterranean. The hammer and sickle flew from her stern; Odessa was her destination. After a quarter of a century in the shadows, Kim Philby was finally on his way to the spiritual home he had visited only in his thoughts.

The defection of Philby to the Soviet Union on January 23 1963 is one of the great dramatic moments of the Cold War. With his departure that night, the humiliation inflicted on Britain’s secret world by the Cambridge Spy Ring was almost complete. Nine years previously, Harold Macmillan, then Foreign Secretary, had stood in the House of Commons to declare that there was no evidence to suggest Philby was the so-called Third Man, who had helped the spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to flee to Russia in 1951. But he was.

There was a Fourth Man, too – Anthony Blunt – and a Fifth, John Cairncross, who helped betray the secret of the atomic bomb. But Philby stands out as the archetypal traitor, the subject of admiration in MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, even as he sent agents to their deaths behind the Iron Curtain.

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