Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Imam's Clout: The Kaboni Savage Federal Drug Kingpin Trial In Philadelphia

Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriano is covering the Kaboni Savage federal drug kingpin trial in Philadelphia, along with George Anastasia, for
On a 13-year-old FBI surveillance tape, a cocaine dealer named Bubby is overheard lamenting how he could have saved the life of a fellow drug dealer known as Shafiq.

If only he had brought Shafiq and his rival known as Bree to the Sister Clara Muhammad School, the late Gerald "Bubby" Thomas says on the tape, recorded in Oct. 6, 2000, it could have all been worked out. We could have saved Shafiq.

On Aug. 2, 200 Kareem Bluntlly, AKA "Bree," shot and killed Mansur Abdullah, AKA "Shafiq," while he was sitting in his Mercedes-Benz. In federal court today, former drug dealer and now cooperating witness Craig Oliver talked with regret about his best friend Shafiq didn't listen when Oliver warned him to stay away from Bree.

"Did you know that Shamsud-din Ali referred street disputes involving drug dealers?" defense attorney Christian Hoey asked Oliver.

"No," Oliver said; he wasn't into the Muslim thing.

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

Murder, Mayhem And Philadelphia Politics: The Kaboni Savage Federal Drug Kingpin Trial In Philadelphia

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the Kaboni Savage federal drug kingpin trial in Philadelphia for

File this one under politics and strange bedfellows ... VERY strange bedfellows.

Drugs, money and murder have been the primary focus of the prosecution's case in the racketeering trial of cocaine kingpin Kaboni Savage.

But the month-long trial also has offered a look at the dark side of Philadelphia politics, a fascinating back story that has been referred to repeatedly in testimony, on wiretaps and in statements by defense attorneys.

In fact, it was the FBI investigation of Savage and fellow drug kingpin Gerald "Bubby" Thomas in 2003 that spawned a major political corruption investigation and the bugging of then Mayor John Street's City Hall office.
That bug was discovered less than two weeks after it had been secreted into the mayor's inner sanctum and was removed before Street "could say anything that would get him in trouble," Savage's lawyer, Christian Hoey, said in his opening statement to the jury back on Feb. 4.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Dale Robinson, Tales Of Wells Fargo TV Western Star, Dies At 89

Mike Barnes at the Hollywood Reporter reports on the death of TV Western star Dale Robinson.

Dale Robertson, a veteran of movies and TV Westerns of the 1950s and ’60s who played “the left-handed gun” on NBC’s Tales of Wells Fargo, died Wednesday of lung cancer and pneumonia in a San Diego hospital. He was 89.

Somali Pirates Conviced For Attack Of The USS Ashland

The U.S. Justice released the below information yesterday:
NORFOLK, VA—Mohamed Ali Said, a/k/a Maxamad Cali Saciid; Mohamed Abdi Jama, a/k/a Mohammed Abdi Jamah; Abdicasiis Cabaase, a/k/a Ahmed Mahomood; Abdirazaq Abshir Osman, a/k/a Abdirasaq Abshir; and Mohamed Farah, a/k/a Mohamed Farraah Hassan, were found guilty by a federal jury of engaging in piracy and committing other offenses pertaining to the attack on the Navy ship the USS Ashland.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, made the announcement after the verdicts were accepted by United States District Judge Raymond A. Jackson.
The five men are scheduled to be sentenced on July 1 and July 2, 2013. The maximum sentence for the convictions are as follows:
  • Conspiracy to commit hostage taking carries a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Conspiracy to commit kidnapping carries a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Conspiracy to perform act of violence against persons on a vessel carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • Conspiracy involving firearm and a crime of violence carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • Piracy under the Law of Nations carries a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Attack to plunder vessel carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • Act of violence against persons on a vessel carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
  • And use/possession of firearm during crime of violence carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison if convicted of one count. A second or subsequent conviction adds an additional 25 years, making the prison term a minimum mandatory 35 years.
“These men were pirates—plain and simple,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “They attacked a ship hoping to hold it ransom for millions of dollars. Few crimes are older than piracy on the high seas, and today’s verdict shows that the United States takes it very seriously.”
Assistant Director Venizelos said, “These defendants are headed where they belong: to federal prison. Let this send a clear message of deterrence to anyone who threatens those who traverse the high seas. I commend U.S. Attorney MacBride and the U.S. Navy for their diligence in the investigation and prosecution of this case.”
Said, Jama, Cabaase, Osman, and Farah were charged in a second superseding indictment that was filed on August 8, 2012. According to court records and evidence at trial, they attacked the USS Ashland on April 10, 2010, and three of the defendants, Mohamed Ali Said, Mohamed Abdi Jama, and Abdicasiis Cabaase, had previously gone to sea in February 2010 for purposes of capturing another vessel but were instead intercepted by the HMS Chatham of the Royal Navy.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin L. Hatch and Joseph DePadilla from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome Teresinski of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mean Streets And Murder: The Kaboni Savage Drug Kingpin Trial In Philadelphia

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the Kaboni Savage federal drug kingpin trial in Philadelphia for

Kenneth Lassiter was trying to park his car near the corner of 8th and Butler Streets one afternoon back in 1998 when he accidentally bumped a car already parked along the curb.

Bumped, in fact, probably isn't the right word. "Tapped" might be a better description. But this was 8th and Butler, a notorious drug corner, one of the meanest streets in North Philadelphia. And the other car was owned by Kaboni Savage, then an up-and-coming drug dealer.

Lassister, a barber from Lansdale in town to visit a friend, said he was sorry. Savage, according to witnesses, asked for money to cover the damages. Lassister was incredulous. There was hardly a scratch. Angry words were exchanged.

Then, according to one law enforcement report, Savage looked at the two men on the corner he had been talking to and asked, "Do you know this boy?" When they said they did not, Savage pulled out a gun and shot Lassiter in the stomach.

He died at Temple University Hospital a short time later.

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

Aiding The Enemy: Bradley Manning Prosecution May Call Navy SEAL To Testify About WikiLeaks Damage

Ed Pilkington at the British newspaper the Guardian reports on the Army PFC Bradley Manning court-martial.

The U.S. government is planning to call an American, possibly one of the 22 Navy Seals involved in the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, to give evidence at the trial of Bradley Manning about how he discovered digital material later revealed to contain WikiLeaks disclosures, a military court heard on Tuesday.

Prosecutors intend to bring to the witness stand an anonymous man they are calling "John Doe" who would testify how he entered a room in the al-Qaida leader's hideout in Pakistan, grabbed three items of digital media and removed it. Later, four separate files of information were off-loaded with WikiLeaks contents on them.

The testimony would be used, the prosecution said, to show that Bin Laden had actively sought access to the material Manning had passed to WikiLeaks. That in turn would provide supporting evidence for the most serious charge against the soldier – that he had "aided the enemy".

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

He Will Answer for This In The Next Life As Well: New Jersey Man Pleds Guilty To Scamming Nuns


The FBI released the below last week:
PHILADELPHIA—Adriano Sotomayor, 54, of Margate, New Jersey, pleaded guilty late today to 17 counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud members of the Dominican Sisters of the Rosary of Fatima (“Sisters of Fatima”) and others between May 2009 and February 2012. Sotomayor was captured by the FBI Fugitive Squad in Las Vegas, Nevada, on February 27, 2012. He went on the run November 16, 2011, one day after he was indicted.
The defendant launched his scheme by causing an elderly nun to believe that she had been named in a will as the beneficiary of an estate estimated at approximately $2.1 million. In order to lure the elderly nun into this scheme, the defendant caused his victim to believe that the man who notified her about the will was a Catholic priest from New Jersey, and the testator was one of his parishioners. Sotomayor fraudulently induced the elderly nun to begin sending money to him in Atlantic City, New Jersey, by telling her that she needed to pay taxes, processing fees, and various legal fees associated with the fictitious will. He went on to target other victims in Levittown and Philadelphia who initially sent money to him on the elderly nun’s behalf. Sotomayor caused at least 50 victims to send a total of at least $1.3 million from Pennsylvania and elsewhere to him in New Jersey over a two-year period. The defendant received wire transfers at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Showboat Hotel and Casino, and Bally’s Park Place, among other places.
U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 12, 2013. Sotomayor faces a possible advisory sentencing guideline range of 70 to 188 months in prison.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen M. Klotz.

High Ranking Gulf Cartel Member Convicted In Washington For Drug Trafficking


The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:
Aurelio Cano Flores, a Mexican national and high ranking member of the Gulf Cartel, was found guilty today by a federal jury of conspiring 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).
Cano Flores, 40, aka “Yankee” and “Yeyo,” was convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia. Cano Flores was one of 19 defendants charged in a superseding indictment on Nov. 4, 2010, 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. Cano Flores was extradited to the United States from Mexico in August 2011 and was ordered detained in federal custody pending trial.
“Aurelio Cano Flores was convicted today of leading one of the world’s most notorious criminal organizations in a conspiracy to traffic massive quantities of illegal drugs into the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Cano Flores is the highest ranking Gulf Cartel member to be convicted by a U.S. jury in the past 15 years, and his conviction demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to hold ruthless cartel leaders responsible for importing narcotics into the United States – no matter where they conduct their illegal business. Along with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, we will continue to bring our resource to bear to ensure that cartel members and associates are brought to justice for the damage they inflict on both sides of the border.”
“Our strategy of targeting the highest levels of the Gulf Cartel continues to pay off,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “DEA and our law enforcement counterparts on both sides of the border remain committed to using every law enforcement tool available to attack these criminal organizations, while taking out their financial infrastructure to thwart their illicit business models and deprive them of their ill-gotten gains.”
Evidence presented at trial included dozens of lawfully intercepted telephone conversations between Cano Flores and other leaders of the Gulf Cartel, as well as testimony from previously convicted Cartel members. According to evidence presented at trial, Cano Flores began working for the Gulf Cartel in approximately 2001 while serving as a police officer in Mexico. While serving as a police officer, Cano Flores recruited others into the Gulf Cartel, collected drug money and escorted large shipments of cartel drugs to the U.S. border.
Cano Flores ultimately rose through the ranks of the Gulf Cartel to become a major transporter of narcotics within Mexico to the U.S. border and became the cartel’s top representative in the important border town of Los Guerra, Tamaulipas, Mexico. As the “plaza boss” for Los Guerra, Cano Flores oversaw the mass distribution of cocaine and marijuana into the United States on a daily basis. Testimony also established that between 2000 and 2010, the Gulf Cartel grew from an organization of only 100 members controlling three border towns to an organization of 25,000 people controlling the drug trade over approximately half of Mexico. As established during the trial, the means and methods of this conspiracy included corruption, murder, kidnapping and intimidation.
At sentencing, scheduled for May 13, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein, Cano Flores faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Darrin McCullough and Sean Torriente of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in the provisional arrest and extradition of Cano Flores. The investigation in this case was led by the DEA Houston Field Division’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force and the DEA Bilateral Investigation Unit.

Not A Trial By Video: Philadelphia Police Officer Acquitted Of Puerto Rican Day Parade Assault

Joseph A. Slobodzian at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the acquittal of former Philadelphia police Lt. Jonathan Josey.

Triggering a deafening eruption of cheers from a courtroom packed with scores of Philadelphia police, a city judge this morning found ex-police Lt. Jonathan Josey not guilty of simple assault for swinging at and decking a woman during an unruly street party after last year's Puerto Rican Parade.

Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan said he remained troubled by Josey's conduct on the 10-second video that shows Josey hit Aida Guzman from behind and knock her to the ground during the Sept. 30 incident at Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia.

Dugan, however, cited Josey's testimony that the 19-year decorated police veteran was trying to swipe a beer bottle from Guzman's hand and accidentally hit her. Josey said he acted in the context of an escalating melee in which some spectators were throwing beer bottles at police trying to arrest a driver doing "donuts" in the middle of the intersection.

The judge also cited other police testimony and character witnesses and an defense expert on police procedure who approved of Josey's conduct.

Dugan said the video alone was not enough to prove that Josey intended to harm Guzman: "This is not a social media contest, this is not trial by video."
You can read the rest of the story via the below link:
You can also read an earlier post and watch the video via the below link:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bail Denied For Ligambi In Philadelphia Mob Retrial

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

"Uncle Joe" Ligambi will remain a "guest" of the federal government while awaiting a retrial on racketeering conspiracy, gambling and obstruction of justice charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno, in a ruling that drew sarcastic comments from several friends and family members who packed the courtroom for today's bail hearing, turned down Ligambi's request for bail, accepting the government's argument that the mob boss was a "danger to the community."

Benghazi: The Definitive Report

Gary Anderson at the Washington Times reviews a new ebook on the Benghazi incident.

This is a “first report” e-book that was obviously rushed to publication. The definitive book on the Benghazi debacle still needs to be written, and this isn’t it. “Benghazi: The Definitive Report” has problems.

The authors are former special operations soldiers and work for an on-line publication called The book contains some startling revelations, and for that, it is worth reading. However, the first part of the book wanders from Libya to Mali to Syria, making it hard for the reader to see where it is going and why. This is too bad because the second half is a gripping account of the attack on the American consulate and the CIA compound in Benghazi that reads like a thriller, but its lack of footnotes renders its credibility suspect at best. The book makes some dynamite accusations, but the lack of citations makes it impossible to verify their credibility. 

The authors claim that the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were probably premeditated and not a result of a reaction to a movie portraying Islam in a bad light. They also state that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned of the situation too late to do anything about it.

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

Unfit For Duty: LAPD Officer Says Christopher Dorner Was No Superhero Or Martyr

Jack Dunphy, the pseudonym for a Los Angeles police officer and writer, offers his take on  Christopher Dorner, the former LAPD officer who went on a murder spree, in The City Journal.

First and most important, Dorner’s problem was not that he was “entirely crazy”; he was evil, a term rarely heard in the discussion of his crimes. Given Hill’s academic position, it is most likely a term absent not only from his own vocabulary, but also from that of virtually everyone with whom he interacts regularly.

Second, how is it that Dorner’s online manifesto is more indicative of his mental state than the heinous acts he is believed to have committed? That he could describe his grievance with the Los Angeles Police Department with some coherence shouldn’t obscure the fact that in this now infamous document, Dorner threatened the lives of police officers and their families—and then went out and made good on the threat, murdering the daughter of the retired police captain against whom he held a grudge, as well as her fiancĂ©. Yes, Dorner had “a plan and mission”—the first act of which was to murder two people having nothing to do with his grievances.

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

Why Was Michelle Obama At The Oscars And Why Didn't She Mention The Military People Behind Her Used As Props

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post wants to know, as do I and millions of others, why did Michelle Obama appear at the Oscars?

It was the average too-long, unfunny, over-produced Academy Awards TV show, and then, after suffering through the 10-hour (well, it seemed like it) show, there was the first lady. In a ball gown. With military service personnel in dress uniform behind her.

She declared of the Best Picture nominees, “They reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough and find the courage within ourselves.”

Alas, none of the films nor her aides reminded her to mention the military, not those personnel behind her nor those serving overseas, an odd omission for the White House that nevertheless was pleased to have them arrayed behind her like, well, set decoration.

She did have time to give a crumb to the gay community, applauding the movies that inspire us ”no matter who we are or what we look like or who we love,” adding that “they are especially important for our young people.” (Except when they contain gruesome violence, traffic in stereotypes or use gratuitous profanity, I guess.) Real heroes, such as our servicemen and servicewomen, inspire us, too, I would think.

... No one, it seems, gets within a mile of the White House with any sense of restraint. No one there would dare suggest nearly half the country didn’t vote for him and doesn’t much like him and might want to be left to their small daily pleasures. (Greta Garbo said it best.) And no one there is apt to explain that the White House, the military and the first lady (not this one in particular) are institutions bigger than the Obamas and their e-mail list.

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

Member Of Philadelphia Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Family Sentenced To 55 Months In Prison

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information today:
Louis Fazzini was sentenced today to serve 55 months in prison for his participation in a racketeering conspiracy involving illegal gambling and theft from an employee benefit plan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and John Brosnan, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division.
Fazzini, 46, of Caldwell, N.J., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In addition to his prison term, Fazzini was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.
On Oct. 5, 2012, Fazzini pleaded guilty to conspiring to conduct and participate in the affairs of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra (LCN) Family through a pattern of racketeering activity. At the time of the plea colloquy, he admitted that, as a “made” member of the North Jersey crew of the Philadelphia LCN Family, he operated a sports bookmaking business and devised a fraudulent scheme to obtain health benefits through a “no show” job controlled by the LCN in furtherance of the racketeering conspiracy. As a “no show” employee, Fazzini performed no work or productive services, while still receiving health benefits.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John S. Han of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank A. Labor III and Suzanne B. Ercole of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Valuable prosecutorial assistance was provided by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New Jersey State Police, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. Additional assistance was provided by the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Matt Helm World War II Prequel Available On Kindle

Donald Hamilton's 1960s-era secret agent character Matt Helm is making a comeback, as I noted in a previous post -

Not only is Titan reissuing Hamilton's Matt Helm spy thrillers in paperback, but now there is also a Matt Helm prequel written by Ken Wease that covers Helm's World War II years.

The always interesting web site The HMSS Weblog reports that Matt Helm: The War Years is available on Kindle.

Wease tells us:

Although a cold-blooded killer, Matt Helm has a superb sense of humor, a sharp opinion on just about everything, and is quite capable of falling in love (or lust) during his missions. This book is about his WWII experiences, from his initial recruitment into the agency, his training, and his missions during the war. Matt Helm fans will know the ending, but it would be a “spoiler” to mention it here.

I have been a Donald Hamilton fan since the 1960s and, when he died, decided to write the prequel. Having read the Matt Helm series several times, I researched everything Donald Hamilton wrote about Matt Helm’s wartime experiences and his pre-war life. Incorporating direct quotes from the books, and my own imagination, I filled in many of his mission details (including, of course, the one featuring Tina, who shows up in the first Matt Helm novel, Death of a Citizen) and added several of my own, trying to keep the narrative authentic to Donald Hamilton’s style.

The book was approved by Donald Hamilton’s son (who is CEO of the company holding the rights), who told me that I had “captured Don’s voice quite successfully” and that it was “All in all, a quite good read!”  

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Elmore Leonard Wants A Dude Like His Dad For Pope

Elmore Leonard, the great crime writer, offers his idea of who should become the pope in a New York Times piece.

When I was a boy, around the time Pope Pius XI died, in 1939, I remember my dad saying he could be the next pope if he got the votes. He said there were no rules saying the pope had to come out of the cardinal pool, or be a bishop or priest of some kind; he only had to be a Catholic — male, of course — of good standing in the church, to be elected. 
My mother, Flora, normally a kind soul, would tell Elmore Sr., “Shush, you could never in the world be the pope.” It was the only subject I remember them arguing about. 
I grew up Catholic, went to Mass every day in grade school and high school; was taught by the Jesuits; spent two and a half years in the Navy during the war; returned, and was graduated from another Jesuit school, the University of Detroit. I even taught catechism in the ’60s, although I just told stories for the most part. 
My dad might have been qualified to be pope. He worked for General Motors.  
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Jay Leno On Politicians

Jay Leno joked about politicans on The Tonight Show.

Former Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico revealed that while in office he fathered a child with the daughter of another senator, who was a friend of his. He cheated on his wife with the daughter of another senator and they had a baby. When did the Senate become "The Jerry Springer Show"?

Domenici is defending himself by saying that he is no better or worse than the next guy. And he’s right, because you know who the next guy was? John Edwards.

The former San Diego mayor, Maureen O'Connor, told federal prosecutors she went broke after gambling away more than a billion dollars she inherited from her late husband at casinos playing video poker. But to be fair, at one point, she was up 300 bucks.

Former Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. pled guilty to misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign funds for personal use, including buying a $43,000 Rolex watch. How ironic is that? All that money on a watch, and now he's going to wind up doing time.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Philadelphia's Burqa Crisis: Islamic Garb Used As An Accessory To Crime

Daniel Pipes at National Review Online reports on the disturbing trend of criminals committing crimes while cloaked in Islamic garb.

Philadelphia, the city where I live, has quietly and unassumingly become the capital of the Western world as regards female Islamic garb as an accessory to crime.

First, a tutorial on Islamic coverings, all of which tend to be called “veils” in English but fall into three main categories. Some (the abaya, hijab, chador, jilbab, or khimar) cover parts of the body, especially the hair, neck, and shoulders, but reveal the face and identity of the woman; some cover the face (the yashmak) but show the body shape; and some hide the whole body, including the identity and gender of the wearer. The lattermost — our topic here — is better described as a full-body cover than a veil: It in turn has two types, those that cover the person entirely (the chadari or burqa) and those with a slit for the eyes (the haik or niqab). By my count, the Philadelphia region has witnessed 14 robberies (or attempted robberies) of financial institutions in the past six years in which the thieves relied on an Islamic full-body cover. They took place in January 2007, June 2007, May 2008, November 2009, October 2010 (two), February 2011, June 2011, December 2011, January 2012, March 2012 (two), and April 2012 (two).

The most violent attack took place on May 3, 2008, when Police Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski was killed with an AK-47 in a shoot-out following a successful robbery in which the thieves wore burqas; the police then killed one of the criminals.

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

Punching Papa: Callaghan, Hemingway And Fitzgerald

Steve King at notes that today is Morley Callaghan's birthday and tells the story of his boxing match with fellow writer Ernest Hemingway, with F. Scott Fitzgerald as timekeeper.

On this day in 1903 the Canadian novelist and short story writer, Morley Callaghan was born. Though prolific and successful, Callaghan was so overlooked by the critics for much of his career that Edmund Wilson thought him "the most unjustly neglected writer in the English language." Much of the attention that Callaghan did receive was not for his twenty novels and story collections but for That Summer in Paris (1963), a memoir of his Lost Generation days among "a very small, backbiting, gossipy neighborhood" of Latin Quarter expatriates -- Ford Madox Ford, Robert McAlmon, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, etc. Callaghan's account of his boxing matches with Hemingway especially raised eyebrows --including those of Norman Mailer in a 1963 review entitled, "Punching Papa": "For the first time one has the confidence that an eyewitness has been able to cut a bonafide trail through the charm, the mystery, and the curious perversity of Hemingway's personality." 

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

Prosecutors Ask Judge To Keep Reputed Philadelphia Mob Boss Joseph Ligambi In Jail

John P. Martin at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the federal prosecutors who plan to retry Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi, the reputed head of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime family.

Prosecutors want a judge to keep reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi in jail pending a retrial, arguing that the mixed verdicts this month against him and others only bolster their claims about the crime family and its leaders.

Brushing aside the jury's acquittals on 46 counts and deadlock on 11 others, the trial team from the U.S. Attorney's Office noted that 10 of the original 15 defendants in the case have pleaded to or been found guilty of felonies. And that the evidence that led to the convictions showed the mob and its leaders ran bookmaking, loan-sharking, and other rackets.

"The government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt, by numerous guilty verdicts and guilty pleas, the existence and operation of the racketeering enterprise known as the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra," assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Labor, Suzanne Ercole and John Han wrote in a motion to U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno.

After a four-month trial, jurors acquitted Ligambi, 73, on five counts of loansharking, theft and bookmaking but were undecided on four other charges, including racketeering conspiracy, which accused him of leading the criminal enterprise.  

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

North Philadelphia Drug Kingpin Trial: Kaboni Savage In His Own Words

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal Kaboni Savage drug kingpin trial in Philadelphia for

Jurors got to hear more of Kaboni Savage in his own words today, but some of it came through a filter of defense attorney objections that apparently were aimed at blocking some of the more inflammatory comments uttered by the North Philadelphia drug kingpin.

Most of the afternoon session at Savage's racketeering-murder trial focused on things he had said either from the witness stand at his 2005 drug trafficking trial or in conversations secretly recorded by the FBI from phone taps or electronic listening devices planted in his prison cell.

"You a rat," Savage said on one tape in which he was describing a verbal confrontation he had had with Juan Rosado, a former associate who he suspected was cooperating with authorities. "Fuck you nigga. It's gonna cost you your life."

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wanted Dead Or Alive: Manhunts From Geronimo To Bin Laden: My Q & A With Author Benjamin Runkle

My Q&A with Benjamin Runkle, the author of Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts From Geronimo To Bin Laden, was published this week in Counterterrorism magazine.

Benjamin Runkle is a former paratrooper and presidential speechwriter with a Harvard PhD and a Bronze Star from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Washington Times noted: "In Wanted Dead or Alive, Mr Runkle accomplishes two seemingly contradictory feats. His colorful, fast-paced accounts of each manhunt appeal to those who enjoy a good adventure story, but his keen strategic insight provides ample material for further reflection."

Former Delta Force commander "Dalton Fury" noted: "Wanted Dead or Alive is a tall-boy energy drink for our modern day specops warriors."

You can read the piece below:

U.S. State Department Updates Worldwide Caution For U.S. Travelers

Jim Garamone at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2013 - State Department officials have issued an updated a worldwide caution for Americans traveling overseas.

"The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas," says the caution, published on the department's website Feb. 19.

Officials said the caution updates threats to Americans overseas since the last worldwide caution was issued in July.

Overall, al-Qaida, its affiliated organizations and other terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

"These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings," the caution says. "Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests."

Terrorists may target Americans at high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas and other tourist destinations -- in reality, just about anywhere.

"U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure," the caution says.

Al-Qaida and unaffiliated people planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations, but conducted on an individual basis, are a threat in Europe, the State Department caution says, citing as an example the Feb. 1 bombing that killed a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and many other nations in the Middle East have extremists who wish Americans ill, the caution notes. Syria is an active war zone, and Turkey, Iraq and Jordan are receiving refugees from the country.

"No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for unpredictable and hostile acts, including kidnappings, sniper assaults, large and small-scale bombings, as well as arbitrary arrest, detention and torture," the caution says.

Northern Mali remains problematic, and the border area with Algeria is dangerous. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is active and operates throughout the region. Terrorists also have targeted oil processing plants in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Al-Qaida operatives and other extremists are believed to be operating in and around Africa, the caution says. Somalia, Sudan, Chad and other countries in the Sahel region have dangers.

"U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed attacks, robberies and kidnappings for ransom by pirates," the caution says. U.S. military officials said there has not been a pirate attack for months, but that the possibility still exists.

South Asia contains representatives from the U.S. State Department's terror list. Terrorists have launched vehicle-borne explosive attacks, improvised explosive device attacks, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings.

"Such attacks have occurred in a number of South Asian states, including Pakistan, where a number of extremist groups continue to target U.S. and other Western citizens and interests, and Pakistani government and military/law enforcement personnel," the caution says.

"India has experienced terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly," the caution says. "Terrorists have targeted public places in India frequented by Westerners, including luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas."

In Central Asia, many of the same terror groups that operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan maintain cells, and nationalist groups also pose risk.

Navy SEAL 'Shooter' Author Didn't Intend Victim Narrative

Ward Carroll at offers a piece on the author of the Esquire magazine piece on the former Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden.

The feature story in the most recent edition of Esquire magazine deals with the experiences of the SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden during the historical raid and after he left the Navy. The article, titled “The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden . . . is Screwed,” has generated some controversy because of the perception among many veterans and agency officials that it gives little play to the veterans benefits unused by the subject while suggesting that the government is guilty of a “startling failure . . . to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives.”
But is the man who killed Osama Bin Laden really ‘screwed’?

“That’s not the word I would have used,” the article’s author Phil Bronstein said, explaining that the title was created by somebody on Esquire’s staff after he submitted it. “But I stand by the magazine’s use of it.”

The veteran newspaperman and war correspondent insists his goal was not to paint the former SEAL as a victim, but to highlight where the system – including the support of non-profit organizations and corporations along with the Department of Defense and the VA – falls short of giving top tier operators what they need once they elect to transition to civilian life. 

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

You can also read a previous post on the Esquire piece via the below link:

Philadelphia D. A. Bypasses Preliminary Hearing, Opts For Indicting Grand Jury In Mob Killing

Joseph A. Slobodzian at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the prosecution of a suspected mob hitman.

Anthony Nicodemo, 41, was arrested Dec. 13 in the daytime slaying of 50-year-old Gino DePietro outside his South Philadelphia home.

The killing occurred as a federal court jury was hearing evidence in the racketeering trial of seven alleged Philadelphia mobsters. Some trial observers speculated about a possible connection between trial and killing, and lawyers feared the news might taint the jury.

As policy, prosecutors do not confirm or deny the existence of a grand jury or the target of the investigation. It is thus impossible to know if some concrete threat or the usual reluctance of witnesses in organized crime cases motivated the decision.

What is known is that Nicodemo's preliminary hearing on murder and related charges was supposed to have been held Wednesday before a Municipal Court judge.

Instead, the hearing was canceled and defense attorney Brian J. McMonagle confirmed that prosecutors had elected to use an indicting grand jury.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

North Philadelphia Drug Kingpin Trial: Christmas, Cocaine And A Red Lobster Gift Certificate

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal drug kingpin trial of Kaboni Savage in Philadelphia for

Kaboni Savage worked holidays.

The North Philadelphia drug kingpin made major cocaine purchases on Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to a big-time coke dealer who testified for the prosecution this afternoon at Savage's drug trafficking/murder trial.

The fact that Savage was under house arrest and wearing a court-ordered electronic ankle bracelet at the time didn't slow him down, said Juan Rosado as he described holiday deliveries that he made to Savage's home on Darien Street in North Philadelphia in November and December 2000.
Rosado, a self-described "multi-million dollar cocaine trafficker," was the second supplier to testify for the government in the Savage trial, which is now in its third week. The trial, which is expected to last from three to four months, stems from a 12-year FBI investigation into the Savage organization.

The case includes allegations of drug dealing, money-laundering and 12 murders. Authorities allege that Savage, 38, a former boxer, used fear, intimidation and violence to control a drug network that pumped hundreds of kilograms of cocaine onto the streets of Philadelphia.

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

The Defense Clandestine Service: The World's Newest Spy Service


Marc Ambinder at The Week offers a glimbse at the Defense Department's new spy service.

The world's newest spy agency is now open for business. The Defense Clandestine Service now has its own website, a motto, and, finally, money from Congress to operate. The DCS, in its own words, "conducts human intelligence (HUMINT) operations to answer national-level defense objectives for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and senior policy-makers." DCS case officers "conduct source operations in every region of the world, alone or in teams. They use their innate intellect, flexibility and creativity — augmented by knowledge of the culture and comprehensive training — to recruit and manage HUMINT sources whose information answers national-level defense objectives."

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

And below is an Armed Forces Press Service piece on the DCS by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr:

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2012 – The Defense Department has begun a new effort to better integrate defense intelligence with the broader intelligence community and make the department a better, more versatile organization, a senior Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.

“What we’ve done here is we’ve formed a new effort here called the Defense Clandestine Service,” said Navy Capt. John Kirby, the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for media operations. “It’s essentially designed to integrate defense intelligence capabilities with the broader intelligence community by leveraging unique military capabilities.

“It’s also designed to further professionalize our intelligence workforce and offer some career progression inside the intelligence community,” Kirby added. “And we’ll also provide general direct support, not only to DOD collection, but also to the intelligence community’s collection.”

Kirby said the intent is to use “existing capabilities and existing personnel to better focus on this particular kind of intelligence.”

He noted this new, joint effort, which has already began, is intended to be complementary to other intelligence efforts.

“I think the practical result will be a rebalancing of our efforts and our focus on the human side of intelligence collection,” Kirby said. “We’re very, very proficient at the technical side of intelligence collection and I think this will help us get a little bit better at the human intelligence effort.”

Another benefit of this new effort, according to Kirby, will be better career progression for military officers in the intelligence community as “another professional track for they can pursue.”

Kirby noted while the Defense Clandestine Service is a DOD initiative, it will be in support and complementary to the Director of National Intelligence’s work.

“Yes, there are other intelligence communities who do this and they will continue to do this,” Kirby said. “This isn’t about supplanting anybody, it’s not about taking over anything, it’s not about militarization of intelligence collection; it’s about making us better contributors to the overall team effort.”

Kirby emphasized this initiative will build upon the best intelligence practices and lessons learned during the past decade.

“We’re a learning organization and we’ve learned a lot over the last 10 years,” he said, “and one of the things we’ve learned is that we can do better in this realm and we can contribute better to the intelligence community across the interagency in this realm.”

Damn Few: Former Navy SEAL On Military's Top Secret Unit Coming Out Of The Shadows

ABC News offers an interview with former Navy SEAL Rorke Denver.

It used to be that Navy SEALs didn't just operate in the shadows. They trained in them too. Their whole story stayed shrouded in mystery. Their secret missions stayed secret to the rest of us.
But when they got Osama Bin Laden, snatched back an American cargo ship taken by pirates and rescued two air workers held hostage in Somalia, then suddenly, it seemed that SEALs were headline-makers.

Add to that some SEALs wrote books about SEAL adventures and even acted in a movie about the SEAL experience using live ammunition when they made "Act of Valor." They can't quite be called "the military unit that no one ever talked about" any longer.

Rorke Denver played Lt. Commander Rorke in "Act of Valor," a film that used dozens of SEALs and went on to gross $80 million at the box office. Now, with the help of a writer, Denver is doing some pretty decent storytelling in a new book, "Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior."

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

$50 Million Dollars Heist Of Diamonds At Brussels Airport

The British newspaper the Daily Mail reports on the robbery of $50 million dollars worth of diamonds at Brussels airport.

You can read the report, see the photos and view video via the below link:

U.S. Officials Addressing Cyber Threat At 'Highest Levels' With China, On Heels Of Hacker Report

Barnini Chakraborty at offers a report on the cyber threat from China.

Obama administration officials said Tuesday they have "serious concern" with China's alleged cyber-snooping and are raising the issue "at the highest levels" in Beijing, on the heels of a report that claimed China's People's Liberation Army had stolen data from 115 U.S. companies over a seven-year period.

U.S. officials would not comment directly on the report. But they said the U.S. is bulking up its cyber-defenses while stressing a new -- albeit controversial -- White House executive order aimed at helping protect computer networks of crucial American industries from cyber attacks.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stopped short of saying whether the U.S. was in a cyber-war with China.

But she and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said U.S. officials have started a dialogue with the "highest levels" of the Chinese government, including with "officials in the military."
"It is a major challenge for us in the national security arena," Carney said, adding that it is known that foreign countries and companies "swipe" sensitive U.S. information.

Pentagon spokesman George Little also said the U.S. is a "victim of cyber-attacks from various places around the world," and continues "to shore up our cyber defense which this department is doing."

He acknowledged that "cyber threats do emanate from China."

The comments come on the heels of allegations made Monday that a group linked to the Chinese government has been hacking into the online accounts of U.S. businesses. U.S. firm Mandiant Corp. said in a 74-page report that the group affiliated with China's People's Liberation Army had stolen data from 141 companies, 115 of which were in the U.S., over a seven-year period starting in 2006. While Mandiant didn't name the specific companies that were hacked, the report did say those targeted included information technology, aerospace and energy companies.

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

You can also read David M. Ewalt's piece on the China cyber threat at via the below link:

Note: The above emplem is of China's People's Liberation Army from Wikipedia. 

The Rice Paddy Navy: U.S. Sailors Undercover In China

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden wrote a good review of an interesting book, The Rice Paddy Navy: U.S. Sailors Undercover in China.

The U.S. Navy conducting intelligence operations in the inner regions of China? Including arming and directing guerrilla bands to fight the Japanese?

As far-fetched as that might sound, such is exactly what happened in World War II, in what was one of the best kept secrets of the war. Although several books have been published about the “rice paddy navy,” Linda Kush's book is the most thorough exploration of the work of an extraordinary joint venture, the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO).

Two conflicts were being waged in China in the 1940s — the struggle against Japanese invaders and the civil war between communist insurgents and the government of Chiang Kai-shek.

The driving force behind SACO was Comdr. Milton “Mary” Miles, who had served for eight years in China in the 1920s and 1930s on river parole boats. (His feminine nickname was bestowed on him by Annapolis classmates, a takeoff on the name of the popular silent screen actress Mary Miles Minter.)

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

Whitey: The Life of America Most Notorious Mob Boss

Chuck Leddy offers a review of Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss at the Boston Globe.

Much has been written about Whitey Bulger in the past three decades, but in “Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss’’ Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill (who already wrote about Bulger and his unholy alliance with the FBI in “Black Mass”) have put together a comprehensive life and times of the mobster, beginning with his 19th-century Irish ancestors to his present perch in the Plymouth County Correctional Facility awaiting trial.

In recounting this epic, horrific tale, the authors have mined a rich vein of sources that include Bulger’s federal prison file, interviews with Bulger associates, government documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests, court records, and more.

Lehr, a former Globe reporter, and O’Neill, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Globe editor, make it clear that Bulger’s life and career were shaped by a multitude of factors that begin with an upbringing in a dysfunctional family and an apparent personality disorder amid a South Boston culture of tribalism, violent internecine struggles in the heyday of Boston mobs, and morally-bankrupt FBI agents.

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

You can also read the Daily Mail's coverage of the book via the below link:

Note: Dick Lehr and Gerald O' Neill's Black Mass was a very good book and I look forward to reading Whitey.

Happy Belated Birthday To Thriller Writer Len Deighton

Yesterday was Len Deighton's birthday.

I happen to rereading one of Deighton's spy thrillers from the 1960s, The Billion Dollar Brain. I enjoyed his spy stories when I was a teenager in the 1960s and I came across a couple of old paperback copies of The Funeral in Berlin and The Billion Dollar Brain.  

I like his unnamed narrator in the early novels (called Harry Palmer in the Michael Caine films). He is sort of a British Philip Marlowe working the espionage beat.

I have in my library several of Deighton's hardback books, including his Bernard Sansom spy series.

I recall in the sixties that some critics and reviewers called Deighton's working class hero the "anti-Bond," but I like both Fleming and Deighton. Their thrillers were different, but both were well done in their own way.

I also liked the Michael Caine films made from Deighton's novels and the later TV series starring Ian Holm as Bernard Sansom. 

You can read Jake Kerridge's 2009 interview with Len Deighton in the British newspaper the Telegraph via the below link:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Where The Money Is: Philadelphia Has A Busy Stretch In A Slow Town For Bank Robbery

John P. Martin at the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a piece on the upswing of bank robberies in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has never really been a bank-robbery town.

Some cities have that reputation, deserved or not. Think Los Angeles, home to spectacularly violent heists, a region that once logged 2,600 bank robberies in a year.

Philadelphia bandits are not known for flash or firepower, even smarts. Many are drug addicts, clumsily picking targets in their own neighborhoods, hiding under a cap or hoodie, and brandishing nothing more than a nasty note.

Most get caught.

Still, last week was an unusually busy stretch in an unusually busy season for unauthorized withdrawals. Robbers hit five city banks in six days, upping the total to 14 in barely a month. After fewer than 75 attempts each of the last two years, it seemed like a surge.

FBI Special Agent John Kitzinger and Philadelphia Police Lt. Joseph Del Grippo see the stretch as part of the ebb and flow of crime. But the men, supervisors on the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, say the uptick is peculiar, even confounding.

There is no serial robber, organized crew, or clear pattern. Only one suspect has been identified.
Still, last week was an unusually busy stretch in an unusually busy season for unauthorized withdrawals. Robbers hit five city banks in six days, upping the total to 14 in barely a month.

After fewer than 75 attempts each of the last two years, it seemed like a surge.

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

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Krauthammer: In Defense Of Obama's Drone War

Charles Krauthammer defends President Obama's drone war in his column in the Washington Post.

The nation's vexation over the morality and legality of President Obama’s drone war has produced a salutary but hopelessly confused debate. Three categories of questions are being asked. They must be separated to be clearly understood.

1. By what right does the president order the killing by drone of enemies abroad? What criteria justify assassination? 

Answer: (a) imminent threat, under the doctrine of self-defense, and (b) affiliation with al-Qaeda, under the laws of war.
Imminent threat is obvious. If we know a freelance jihadist cell in Yemen is actively plotting an attack, we don’t have to wait until after the fact. Elementary self-defense justifies attacking first.

... Once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protections of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war — no more and no less than those of your foreign comrades-in-arms.

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

Friday, February 15, 2013

Justice Rolls Slowly In Alleged 9/11 Suspects Case

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

FORT MEADE, Md., Feb. 15, 2013 - The latest round of pre-trial hearings for the alleged 9/11 mastermind and four accomplices wrapped up yesterday at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, much as it started: with hours of wrangling over legal and privacy issues and continued protests by the defense team that the system is rigged.

Army Col. James Pohl, the commission judge, concluded four days of pre-trial hearings in the case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (seen in the above photo at the time of his capture), and accomplices Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.

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 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. The prosecution has since requested that the conspiracy charge be dropped.

Among the most significant developments during this week's proceedings was the revelation that microphones as well as cameras have been hidden in several locations around the detention facility -- including inside what looked like smoke detectors in rooms where defense attorneys meet with their clients.

Detention officials told the court these measures were taken for security reasons only, and prosecutors insisted that they have never eavesdropped on privileged conversations between the defendants and their counsel. The defense, however, called the mere presence of the microphones an ethics violation that undermines their ability to provide a valid defense.

Pohl ordered that the microphones be removed from rooms where the attorneys meet with clients, and agreed to a defense request that they be held so they can be inspected later, if the defense wishes to.

Defense attorneys also charged that the defendants' property, including confidential mail from their lawyers, had been seized from their cells this week while they appeared in court. Bin Attash, who was among those who reported missing items, stood up and began to address the judge about the matter. Pohl threatened to have him removed from the courtroom if he did not sit down, but assured him he would have an opportunity to speak later, under oath.

Navy Lt. Cdr. George Masucco, the detention facility's assistant staff judge advocate, told the court that the guards seized what they believed to be contraband materials during routine safety inspections earlier this week. Among the suspect material was a photo of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a metal pen, toilet paper that had English writing on it and mail that had not been properly marked to indicate it had been reviewed for content.

Masucco confirmed during cross examination that some of the challenged materials, including the photo, did, in fact, have the proper markings. However, he noted that some of those stamps didn't conform to established detention center requirements, such as the reviewer's initials.

Defense Attorney Cheryl Bormann argued that repeated inspections of the same materials by guards who rotate through assignments at Guantanamo Bay amounts to harassment. This led to a long discussion about the difference between an inspection and a search, and who needs to be present when one is conducted.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, told the judge the camp commander would conduct an investigation to determine facts regarding the latest seizures. That information will be reported to the court within seven days, he said.

In addition, Pohl gave the defense a week to come up with recommended language about inspection protocols, and said the prosecution will get a week to comment on it. Based on that input, the judge said he will make a ruling to clear up future confusion.

In another matter, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, one of the defense attorneys, told the judge he had not received the support he needed within the timeframe he needed it, including security clearances for the translator he had requested.

Retired Navy Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the convening authority for the commissions, disputed Ruiz' claim, telling the court during testimony delivered via teleconference that he had complied with the defense's requests. MacDonald said he will step down from his three-year appointment when it expires March 21, before the next series of pre-trial hearings, scheduled for April.

All five defendants appeared in the courtroom yesterday. Mohammed, with a bright red beard, wore a traditional white turban and, in a concession the court granted at an earlier pre-trial hearing, a camouflage vest.

Saving Lincoln: A Well-Acted, Charming And Gripping Film

This is a good year for Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents.

First we have Stephen Speilberg's film Lincoln heading for success at the Oscars and airing this Sunday on the National Geographic Channel is Killing Lincoln, based on Bill O'Reilly's book. And then there is the film Saving Lincoln.

Gene Santoro at wrote a review of Saving Lincoln.

Hard on the heels of Steven Spielberg's justly acclaimed Lincoln, with its Hollywood stars and megabudget, comes Salvador Litvak's Saving Lincoln, an independent flick with heart and brains.

Like Spielberg's movie, Saving Lincoln peels back myths and preconceptions to expose the complex, earthy man, with his love of language, raunchy frontier humor, and delighted willingness to plunge into bruising political scrums. Here we see Lincoln (Tom Amandes) through the sympathetic, watchful eyes of US Marshal Ward Hill Lamon (Lea Coco). Lincoln's long-time friend turned bodyguard, Lamon is the movie's narrator. He gives us an intimate view of Honest Abe, from his rise in Illinois politics to just before his assassination, when Lincoln, peacefully fatalistic about dying now that his mission to restore the Union is accomplished, orders Lamon to go Richmond over his furious protests.

The Virginia-born Lamon is an inveterate joker and a banjo picker with a head full of old-timey tunes and a dislike of slavery, all of which immediately endears him to Lincoln.

.. Saving Lincoln is well researched and historically credible. Its narration and dialog come from period sources. Its striking sets are actually vintage photos made three-dimensional by a suite of techniques the director calls CineCollage; the actors were shot on a green-screen stage. The results are generally very effective, though there is one small technical glitch: backdrops can go slightly out-of-sync when the actors are riding in a buggy or train. Well-acted, charming and gripping, Saving Lincoln is a small, shining gem.

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

Note: I'd also like to watch again the TV movie Lincoln, which was based on Gore Vidal's fine book.