Sunday, June 30, 2013

An Officer And A Gentleman: Actor Dominic Cooper Appears As James Bond Creator Ian Fleming In Film Bio

The British newspaper the Daily Mail offers photographs of actor Dominic Cooper as he portrays James Bond author Ian Fleming, who served in British Naval Intelligence during World War II, for a film bio. (The real Commander Ian Fleming can be seen in the above photo).

You can read the piece and view the photos of Cooper as Fleming via the below link: 

And you can watch a trailer of the series  via the below link:

And you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Ian Fleming's World War II experiences via the below links:

European Parliament President Is Shocked, Shocked, To Learn of NSA Spying

I'm reminded of the late Claude Rains' police inspector character in the classic film Casablanca, who announces he is "Shocked, shocked," to discover that gambling is taking place at Rick's Cafe.

Then he is handed his winnings. reports that the President of the European Union is "shocked" to hear that the NSA is spying on them.

Emerging allegations that America's National Security Agency bugged and hacked European Union offices stoked tension Sunday between U.S. and European officials, with German prosecutors announcing they are probing the claims. 

The allegations were carried in a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel. They are the latest claims to surface regarding NSA surveillance activity, as on-the-lam leaker Edward Snowden feeds a series of sensitive documents to the media. Der Spiegel did not specifically say how it obtained the information. 

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, in response, demanded a clarification from the NSA about the alleged program. 

"I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of U.S. authorities spying on EU offices," Schulz said in a statement, according to The Wall Street Journal. "If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-U.S. relations." 

... Michael Hayden, the former director of both the NSA and CIA, said Sunday that European officials should look in the mirror before criticizing the U.S. 

"Any European who wants to go out and rend their garments with regard to international espionage should look first and find out what their own governments are doing," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." 

Hayden noted he's been out of the agency for years and said he didn't know the accuracy of the Der Spiegel report, nor could he confirm or deny it if he did. 

But he said "the United States does conduct espionage," and that the Fourth Amendment right to privacy "is not an international treaty." 

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

You can also watch the Claude Rains scene from Casablanca via the below link:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Delaware Valley Intelligence Center Opens In Old South Philadelphia Quartermaster Defense Depot

The Philadelphia Police Blog reports that the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC), located on the compound of the old Quartermaster Depot in South Philadelphia, had its official opening.

The DVIC is a regional fusion center that will combat terrorism, crime and other public safety threats.

You can read the Philadelphia Police piece via the below link:

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the planning of the DVIC via the below link:

And you can read about the history of the Quartermaster Defense Center via the below link:   

Note: The top photo of the DVIC was provided by the Philadelphia Police Department and the above photo of the Quartermaster was provided by the Defense Department.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Federal Grand Jury Returns 30-Count Indictment Related To Boston Marathon Explosion And Murder Of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier

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

A federal grand jury returned a 30-count indictment against Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev for his alleged role in using weapons of mass destruction at the Boston Marathon to kill three individuals and maim or seriously injure many others, as well as for using a firearm to intentionally kill Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Police Officer Sean Collier.

Tsarnaev, aka “Jahar Tsarni”, 19,  a U.S. citizen residing in Cambridge, Mass., was charged today by indictment with the use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and conspiracy; bombing of a place of public use resulting in death and conspiracy; malicious destruction of property resulting in death and conspiracy; use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death; carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury; interference with commerce by threats or violence; and aiding and abetting.

“This indictment is the result of exemplary cooperation between federal prosecutors and a wide range of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to investigate the horrific attacks on the Boston Marathon two months ago,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “The Department is firmly committed to achieving justice on behalf of all who were affected by these senseless acts of violence.  And today’s action proves our unyielding resolve to hold accountable – to the fullest extent of the law – anyone who would threaten the American people or attempt to terrorize our great cities.  I would like to thank our law enforcement partners, the FBI, the Department's National Security Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and every investigator, agent, officer, attorney, analyst, and support staff member whose courage and commitment continues to make our communities and our nation safer.”

“Today’s indictment is the result of the dedicated and collective efforts of law enforcement and intelligence partners, working with a sense of urgency and purpose to find those responsible for these deadly attacks,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. “These continuing efforts reflect the pursuit of justice for those who lost their lives, and for the scores of individuals who were injured.”

“Today’s charges reflect the serious and violent nature of the events that occurred on April 15th and the tragic series of events that followed,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.  “The defendant’s alleged conduct forever changed lives.  The victims, their families and this community have shown extraordinary strength and resilience in the face of this senseless violence, and it is with the hundreds of injured, as well as Krystle, Lingzi, Martin and Sean in mind that we proceed to ensure that justice is served in this case.”

“Our hearts go out to the victims of these horrendous acts of violence, and our gratitude to the courageous law enforcement officers who have given so much to protect the people of Boston and the United States,” said John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.  “We remain committed to obtaining justice in this matter and will continue to work side by side with our partners throughout the law enforcement and intelligence communities to protect the American people from future harm.”

The indictment alleges that beginning no later than February 2013 and continuing until Tsarnaev was apprehended on April 19, 2013, Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan conspired to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against people, property and places of public use.  Specifically, the indictment alleges that on April 15, 2013, during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, Tsarnaev and his brother placed IEDs  among the crowds of spectators who were cheering the runners on Boylston Street towards the marathon finish line. 

After placing the IEDs among the crowd, the indictment alleges, Tsarnaev and his brother detonated the bombs seconds apart, killing three people, maiming and injuring many more, and forcing a premature end to the marathon.   The indictment alleges that the IEDs were constructed from pressure cookers, explosive powder, shrapnel, adhesives and other items, and were designed to shred skin, shatter bone and cause extreme pain and suffering, as well as death.

The indictment also alleges that on April 18, 2013, the FBI released photographs of Tsarnaev and his brother, identifying them as suspects in the marathon bombings.  These photographs were widely disseminated on television and elsewhere.  The indictment alleges that hours later on April 18, Tsarnaev and his brother, armed with five IEDs, a Ruger P95 semiautomatic handgun, ammunition, a machete and a hunting knife, drove in their Honda Civic to the MIT campus, where they shot MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and attempted to steal his service weapon.

The indictment further alleges that shortly after Tsarnaev and his brother killed Officer Collier, they carjacked a Mercedes, kidnaped the driver, and forced him to drive to a gas station, robbing him of $800 along the way.  After the driver managed to escape, the brothers are alleged to have driven the carjacked vehicle to the vicinity of Laurel Street and Dexter Avenue in Watertown, Mass., where Watertown police officers located them and tried to apprehend them.  The indictment alleges that the brothers fired at the police officers and used four additional IEDs against them; then Tsarnaev reentered the carjacked vehicle, drove it directly at the officers, running over his brother as he managed to escape.  Tsarnaev is alleged to have hidden in a dry-docked boat in a Watertown backyard until his arrest the following night.

Seventeen of the charges authorize a penalty of up to life in prison or the death penalty.  The remainder authorize a maximum penalty of life in prison or a fixed term of years.  Tsarnaev is scheduled to be arraigned on July 10, 2013.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Middlesex County, Mass., District Attorney Marian T. Ryan; Suffolk County, Mass., District Attorney Daniel F. Conley; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Field Division; Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis; Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Kenneth J. Croke, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Boston Field Division; and Bruce M. Foucart, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) in Boston, made the announcement today during a press conference.

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Boston Division, the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, and member agencies of the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of more than 30 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the ATF, ICE-HSI, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and others.  In addition, the Watertown Police Department, the Cambridge Police Department, the MIT Police Department, the Boston Fire Department, the National Guard and police, fire and emergency responders from across Massachusetts and New England played critical roles in the investigation and response.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts' Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit, Nadine Pellegrini, Chief of its Major Crimes Unit, and Trial Attorneys of the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section and its Criminal Division.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Note: The above photo of Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev was released by the FBI.

U.S. Loses Secrets, Prestige As Russia, China Protect NSA Leaker

Dave Boyer at the Washington Times reports on the Obama administration's problems with Russia and China over the NSA leaker.

It doesn’t look good when the most powerful man in the world can’t get his hands on one of the most wanted men in the world.

Edward Snowden, the confessed National Security Agency leaker, has eluded U.S. authorities since early June, even as President Obama administration pleaded with officials in China and Russia to send the fugitive back to America.

The traditional rivals of the U.S. have even seemed to enjoy the Obama administration's distress. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Mr. Snowden “a free man” Tuesday, confirming that Mr. Snowden had been at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport since Sunday. He explicitly refused to comply with the U.S. request to turn over Mr. Snowden, noting that the two countries don’t have an extradition treaty.

The episode is making the U.S. look weak in the eyes of Russia and China, said Leon Aron, a foreign policy analyst at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

“From the point of view of the Russians and the Chinese, definitely,” Mr. Aron said. “In their systems, legitimacy comes from being treated with fear and respect. And clearly, they’re choosing not to treat the United States that way.”

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

The Whitey Bulger Trial: Saucy Survivor Tells Tales Of 'Blue Eyes'

Laurel J. Sweet at the Boston Herald is covering the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston.

Among the hit men, bookies and other characters captured on state police surveillance video of James “Whitey” Bulger’s Lancaster Street headquarters in 1980, one stood out — the only woman seen in that gangster sanctum in the images released so far, the unsinkable blond bombshell Eva “Liz” McDonough, moll of the late Mafioso Nicky Giso.

McDonough, 56, survived an unsolved hit on her life in 1984 — her cowboy hat got the worst of it.
Yesterday, decked out like a high-fashion model, McDonough turned up at U.S. District Court and flashed her first smile at Bulger, 83, in 22 years.

“Blue eyes!” she called out to the aging mobster, causing Bulger to start to turn toward her before U.S. Marshals took him away for the night.

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

You can also read my Q&A with Dick Lehr, the author of Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss via the below link:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Whitey Bulger's Informant File Gets Read For 3 Hours

Laurel J. Sweet is covering the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston for the Boston Herald. 

It’s still unclear whether James “Whitey” Bulger plans to testify, but the aging mobster couldn’t help but blurt out a retort yesterday after prosecutors opened the 700-page diary of FBI Informant BS-1544-TE in a bid to undermine his claim that he was an upstanding wiseguy.

“I am not a (expletive) informant,” Bulger, 83, grumbled in frustration, people seated near him confirmed.

From 1975 to 1990, the files indicate Bulger pinned murders on other men that his own associates now say he had a hand in; that he gave up secrets about criminal rivals and that he provided alibis for his own gang — since refuted by his former associates’ admissions after they learned he had turned on them. The files also indicate that the FBI — with disgraced Agent John Connolly Jr. as go-between — passed on false information to other law enforcement to divert attention from Bulger.

Special Agent James Marra of the Office of the Inspector General read the file for three hours.

“Dozens and dozens of people the South Boston ‘hero’ has been ratting out for years. I was laughing the entire time,” said Tommy Donahue.

You can read the rest of the story and watch a local TV news clip via the below link:

Terrorists Changing Tactics In Wake Of NSA Surveillance Program Leaks, Officials Say

Justin Fishel at offers a piece on how terrorists are changing tactics since NSA leaker Edward Snowden released information about NSA's surveillance program.

Known terrorist groups already have begun to change the way they communicate in the wake of classified leaks detailing U.S. surveillance tactics, U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials tell Fox News.

"We are already seeing indications that they are attempting to change their communications behaviors," said one senior U.S. official, speaking to Fox News on the condition of anonymity. "That is a direct result of what we are seeing in the media. That is a fact." 

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has acknowledged providing sensitive information to the media on U.S. surveillance programs. Facing federal charges in the U.S., Snowden continues to evade capture and is said to be in a Moscow airport. 

Counterterrorism officials say that although some of the basic principles of U.S. surveillance were known before the leaks, terrorist groups are now armed with new details that can help them keep their communications private. 

"They now know the scope and breadth of our abilities and our collection," one official said. 

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Book Reveals How KGB Laid Groundwork For Islamist Terrorism Against The United States And Israel

David Martosko at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a piece on a new book that points a finger at the Soviet KGB for formenting Islamist terrorism.

The Highest-ranking Soviet-bloc intelligence officer ever to defect to the West claims in a new book that anti-American Islamic terrorism had its roots in a secret 1970s-era KGB plot to harm the United States and Israel by seeding Muslim Countires with carefully targeted propaganda.

Yuri Andropov, the KGB chief for 15 years before he became the Soviet premier, sent hundreds of agents and thousands of copies of propaganda literature to Muslim countries. 'By 1972,' according to the book, 'Andropov's disinformation machinery was working around the clock to persuade the Islamic world that Israel and the United States intended to transform the rst of the world into a Zionist fiefdom.'

'Acording to Andropov, the Islamic world was a petri dish in which the KGb community could nuture a virulent strian of America-hatred, grown from the bacterium of Marxist-Leninist thought.'

Those claims come from former Romanian Lt. Gen Ion Mihail Pacepa and university of Mississippi law professor ronald Rychlak.

In their book "Disinformation," Pacepa spills the secrets he kept for decades as head of Romania's spy apparatus and secret police, the DIE, before he secured political asylum in the U.S. in 1978.

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

Happy Birthday To George Orwell, Author Of Animal Farm And Ninteen Eighty-Four notes that today is George Orwell's birthday.

Born Eric Arthur Blair in Motihari, Bengal, India, in 1903, George Orwell, novelist, essayist and critic, went on to become best known for his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

George Orwell created some of the sharpest satirical fiction of the 20th century with such works as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was a man of strong opinions who addressed some of the major political movements of his times, including imperialism, fascism and communism.

You can read more about George Orwell via the below link:

Spy: Discover The Secret World Of Espionage And Spy Technology At Philadelphia's Franklin Institue

On assignment for Counterterrorism magazine, I ventured to Philadelphia's Franklin Institue to see their new exhibit, Spy: The Secret World of Espionage. 

The exhibit offers visitors a rare view of more than 200 historical artifacts from the spy game. The artifacts are on loan from the CIA Museum and the personal collection of espionage historian H. Keith Melton.

Some of these gadgets seem to come from the fictional and fantastic James Bond films rather than history, such as Charlie the Catfish, one of two CIA robotic Catfish that were utilized to explore the use of unmanned underwater vehicles for aquatic missions.

As a student of espionage, I was also interested in seeing the Enigma Machine, a cipher machine used by the German Army to develop nearly unbreakeable codes (nearly, that is, as the British did in fact break the code in WWII).

And I was interested in viewing the ax that killed Leon Trotsky in Mexico by a Soviet agent.
There were many other items of interest there as well. It was well worth the visit.
 The exhibit will be open at the Franklin Institute until October 6th.
You can learn more about the exhibit via the below link:
Note: I later interviewed H. Keith Melton, author of Spy Sites in Philadelphia and Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda (written with Robert Wallace), about the exhibit. My magazine piece will be out in the coming months.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Whitey Bulger Trial: Bulger Angrily Denies He Spilled As Feds Open His Informant Files

Laurel J. Sweet at the Boston Herald is covering the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston.

Prosecutors threw the best book they have at James “Whitey” Bulger today — the 700-page diary of FBI Informant BS-1544 — in a bid to undermine the mobster’s insistent claim that he was an upstanding wiseguy, a gambit that forced them to reveal to jurors that the Boston FBI office had rotten agents who shielded him.

“I am not a (expletive) informant,” Bulger, 83, grumbled in frustration during a recess in the trial, people seated near him confirmed.

During his 15-year relationship with the FBI from 1975 to 1990, the files indicate that Bulger pinned murders on other men that his own associates now say Bulger and his own gang committed. He gave up secrets about criminal rivals, such as where they could be found. And he provided alibis for his own gang — since refuted by his former associates’ admissions in plea deals after they learned he had turned on them. The files also indicate that the FBI — with Agent John Connolly Jr. acting as the primary go-between — passed on false information to other law enforcement to divert attention from Bulger and his gang.

You can read the rest of the story and watch a local TV new clip via the below link:

You can also read my Q&A with Dick Lehr, the author of Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss via the below link:

The above photos of Whitey Bulger were provided by the FBI. 

Former CIA Director Woolsey: U.S. Lost Leverage In Snowden Talks

R. James Woolsey was interviewed on the BBC last week about NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The US has criticised Russia and China for allowing fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to leave Hong Kong for Moscow.

As the Obama administration warns countries around the world not to harbour Mr Snowden, who is wanted for leaking top secret intelligence documents to the media, former CIA Director R James Woolsey said that the US had lost "a great deal of the leverage" in talks with countries such Russia, China and Ecuador by being insufficiently firm in the past.

"They've said something's unacceptable, and then they accept it," Mr Woolsey said.

Mr Woolsey told the BBC's Laura Trevelyan the US must now persuade countries assisting Mr Snowden that "we're serious and their lives will not be pleasant."

You can watch the BBC news clip via the below link:

Former Navy SEAL Dick Couch On Women Serving As SEALs In The Future

Dick Couch, a retired U.S. Navy Captain, SEAL and author of several books on Special Operations training and combat (as well as fiction),  offers his view of the possibility of women serving as Navy SEALs.
You can read the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Q&A with Dick Couch in Counterterrorism magazine via the below links:
And you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on The Selling of the U.S. Navy SEALs, in which Dick Couch offers his comments, via the below links:
Note: The above photo of Dick Couch in Iraq was provided by Dick Couch.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Soprano Star James Gandolfini Defined The Modern American Mobster

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia at offers a piece on James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano and modern gangsters.

We were expecting an order of lead after the onion rings. Instead, the world faded to black, and we were left to wonder.

Now we wonder no more. Tony Soprano, as it turns out, didn't get whacked in North Jersey back in 2007. He died of a heart attack while vacationing in Rome. It happened last week, and the media went nuts.

"Tony Soprano Dead," screamed the front page of the New York Post. "Tony's Dead," countered the New York Daily News, implying that the surname was superfluous.

Even in death, at 51, James Gandolfini was treated as one with the character that defined his brief but acclaimed career. A Jersey guy born and bred, Gandolfini was a damn good character actor. But it was his role as the conflicted mob boss in The Sopranos, the cutting-edge HBO series about the Mafia and America, that made him a star.

Tony Soprano was the face of the American mob at the start of the 21st century. John Gotti, Vincent Gigante, Nicky Scarfo, and Joey Merlino might have been the real-life characters whose names showed up in headlines and at the top of racketeering indictments. But for most Americans, it was Tony.

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

The Whitey Bulger Trial: Evidence, Dirt Burying Whitey Bulger

Howie Carr, author and columnist for the Boston Herald, is covering the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston.

The feds are burying Whitey Bulger, shovelful by shovelful, just like his tubby gravedigger Kevin “Two” Weeks used to do with his boss’ 26-year-old female strangling victims. The only difference is, Whitey is being buried alive, smothered by an avalanche of facts and pictures and evidence.

Consider yesterday. The defense finally got Johnny Martorano off the witness stand, but the cops came back and released photos of more of his victims, including two guys who were shot two years apart, on the same street — Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester.The more gruesome Morrissey Boulevard photo is of Eddie Connors, former Marine, former boxer, owner of two gin mills across the street from each other on Savin Hill Avenue — Bulldogs and Connors Taverns.

He was allegedly shot to death by Whitey and Stevie Flemmi as he spoke to another Winter Hill gang boss in the phone booth at the old Texaco station on Morrissey. He’d apparently been bragging about his role in setting up one Spike O’Toole back in December 1973. Whitey’s charged with that slaying, too.Talking to strangers about a hit — no better way to rocket to the top of the Hit Parade.

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

And you can read other Howie Carr columns via the below link:

'My Life In The Bull Ring With Donald Ogden Stwart': Ernest Hemingway's Last Word From Beyond The Grave

Paul Bigneil at the British newspaper the Independant offers a piece on a Hemingway short story that Vanity Fair rejected when the late great writer was a young man.

For many aspiring writers, having a story published in a prestigious magazine could make or break a career. For most, their manuscript will be destined for an editor's wastepaper basket. Ernest Hemingway fell into this category after the US glossy magazine Vanity Fair rejected a short story he wrote as a 25-year-old.

But the American author who went on to write novels such as The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea appears to have had the last laugh from beyond the grave.

Almost 90 years after the story, entitled "My Life in the Bull Ring with Donald Ogden Stewart", was rejected by the trend-setting magazine, a request from Vanity Fair's editor-in-chief Graydon Carter to publish the story has been turned down by Hemingway's estate. The five-page story, written in 1924 and set in a Spanish bullring, is said to be faintly comical but perhaps not his best work, written as he was attempting to put the finishing touches to The Sun Also Rises and The Torrents of Spring.

Michael Katakis of the Hemingway Estate, told The Independent on Sunday: "We're very careful with unpublished material. The question is: 'If Hemingway were alive, would he want it published in a magazine like Vanity Fair, or would he want it relegated to a scholarly examination of how a writer was developing?  

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

President Nominates James B. Comey As New FBI Director

The FBI web site reports on the nomination ceremony of James B. Comey as the new FBI director,

President Barack Obama today nominated James B. Comey, Jr. to serve as the next Director of the FBI. Comey must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before taking office.

“Jim is exceptionally qualified to handle the full range of challenges faced by today’s FBI,” the president said during a ceremony held at the White House. “I am confident that Jim will be a leader who understands how to keep America safe and to stay true to our founding ideals no matter what the future may bring.”  

"I want to commend the president for the choice of Jim Comey as the next director of the FBI,” said current Director Robert S. Mueller. “I have had the opportunity to work with Jim for a number of years at the Department of Justice, and I have found him to be a man of honesty, dedication, and integrity. His experience, his judgment, and his strong sense of duty will benefit not only the Bureau, but the country as a whole.”

Comey served as deputy attorney general under the George W. Bush administration from December 2003 until August 2005, running the day-to-day operations of the Department of Justice. Prior to that, he was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he prosecuted a number of major terrorism and criminal cases. From 1996 to 2001, Comey worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. He has extensive industry experience as well, serving as general counsel and senior vice president for Lockheed Martin and general counsel for the investment firm Bridgewater Associates.

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

Note: The above FBI photo shows, left to right, Robert Mueller, James Comey and President Obama. 

U.S. Charges NSA Leaker Edward Snowden With Espionage

Peter Finn and Sari Horwitz at the Washington Post reported yesterday that the U.S. Justice Department charged the NSA leaker Edward Snowden with espionage and other charges.

Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents about top-secret surveillance programs, and the United States has asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant, according to U.S. officials.

Snowden was charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” according to the complaint. The last two charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.

The complaint, which initially was sealed, was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, a jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered and a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications. After The Washington Post reported the charges, senior administration officials said late Friday that the Justice Department was barraged with calls from lawmakers and reporters and decided to unseal the criminal complaint.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Snowden flew to Hong Kong last month after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii with a collection of highly classified documents that he acquired while working at the agency as a systems analyst.

The documents, some of which have been published in The Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, detailed some of the most-secret surveillance operations undertaken by the United States and Britain , as well as classified legal memos and court orders underpinning the programs in the United States.

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Inside The Old Philadelphia Quartermaster: Defense Center Looking For A Little Respect

Natalie Kosteini at the Philadelphia Business Journal offers a piece on the company that owns part of the old Philadelphia Quartermaster in South Philadelphia.

Joe Righter has a problem.

He’s tired of the Defense Center being treated, as he says, like "the step child to the Navy Yard.”

In 2000, Righter’s Sky Management bought a million square feet of buildings on 23 acres at 2800 South 20th St. in Philadelphia that was part of the Defense Center. The property has a unique spot in the city’s history.

The Defense Center got its start in 1880 as the Schuylkill Arsenal located at Grays Ferry Avenue and Washington Avenue. It produced clothing and other supplies for the military. The factory was eventually renamed the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot and relocated during World War I to its current location. At one point, it was called the Defense Personnel Support Center. By 1993, the facilities no longer produced clothing and the military closed the operations in 1994 and it was decommissioned. 

... Righter scored two tenants from which he believes will create some momentum for the Defense Center. The Department of Labor signed a 20-year lease on 88,000 square feet. Sky Management invested $8 million gutting and redeveloping space for the agency. Then Homeland Security signed a 20-year lease on 50,000 square feet. Skyview put up $12 million to totally renovate its space.

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

You can also read an earlier post on the history of the Philadelphia Quartermaster - and my personal history there, as I worked at the Quartermaster for 25 years - via the below link:

And you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center that is located at the old Quartermaster via the below link:

Hells Angels Members And Associates Convicted And Sentenced After Joint Investigation Uncovers Racketeering Conspiracy Dealing In Guns, Drugs, Armed Robbery, Arson, And Money Laundering

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

COLUMBIA, SC—As part of a cooperative federal, state, and local investigation, 16 members and associates of the Hells Angels were convicted in federal court of crimes related to a racketeering conspiracy (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO Act, 18 U.S.C. §1962).

Today, three full-patch members of the Hells Angels—Hells Angels Charter President Mark “Lightning” Baker, as well as “Gravel” Dave Oiler and Bruce “Bruce-Bruce” Long—were sentenced after having been convicted by a jury of racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearm offenses. United States District Judge Cameron Currie sentenced Baker to 188 months, Oiler to 200 months, and Long to 168 months.

Previously, 12 other members and associates of the Hells Angels were sentenced after having pleaded guilty. One defendant, Carlos Hernandez, remains to be sentenced.

United States Attorney Bill Nettles said, “We are pleased to partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement in response to community concerns about outlaw motorcycle gangs. Removing machine-guns, silencers, assault rifles, other illegal firearms, and drugs from our streets while disrupting the trafficking activities of violent gangs, such as the Hells Angels, is and will remain a priority of the United States Attorney’s Office.”

Members and associates of the Hells Angels South Carolina Nomads Charter operated from Lexington to Rock Hill, South Carolina. As part of the coordinated criminal activity, the group engaged in drug dealing, money laundering, firearms trafficking, use of firearms in relation to crimes of violence and drug dealing, attempted armed robbery, arson, and other offenses.

The Hells Angels’ leadership coordinated the criminal activity and received kickbacks or cuts of the illicit proceeds generated by members and associates of the Hells Angels. During the investigation, the gang’s leadership transitioned from long-time Hells Angels member “Diamond” Dan Bifield to recent inductee Mark “Lightning” Baker after the charter’s members voted Bifield out as president. Throughout, as Baker and Bifield explained in recorded conversations, members of the Hells Angels were to pay a cut of their profits from illegal activity to the Hells Angels and its leadership.

Though professing to live outside the structure of society’s laws as so-called “outlaws” or “one-percenters” (denoting that they are the one percent that refuses to abide by the law), the investigation showed the Hells Angels to have a highly organized hierarchical chain of command governed by extensive written rules.

Membership, which is limited to white males that own an American-made motorcycle, requires more than a year of association with the gang. Only full members may wear the three-piece patch with the winged death head that has become synonymous with the Hells Angels.

The investigation revealed that the Hells Angels trafficked in a wide-array of firearms, knowing that the weapons were being sold to known felons for use in armed robberies of other drug dealers. In excess of one hundred guns were trafficked by the group (including by Bifield, Long, Pryor, Keach, and others) and recovered during the execution of search warrants, including fully automatic machine-guns, silencers, assault rifles with high-capacity magazines, pistols, and sawed-off shotguns.
Members of the organization not only supplied weapons, they also supplied methamphetamine (known as “biker’s coffee”) and cocaine, along with bath salts and prescription pain pills.

The evidence showed that the defendants were responsible for more than five pounds of methamphetamine and multiple kilograms of cocaine. For example, Baker and Oiler obtained for re-distribution pounds of high-quality methamphetamine from Kerry Chitwood, a member of the Gastonia, North Carolina-based Southern Gentlemen Motorcycle Club. During their drug trafficking activities, club members traded on the Hells Angels’ infamous reputation to instill fear and obtain the drugs they wanted. Similarly, Bifield and Long distributed more than a kilogram of cocaine and bath salts obtained from a variety of sources. Other members of this drug conspiracy (including “Big” Frank Enriquez and Baker) trafficked in prescription pain pills.

“The Hells Angels are one of the most notorious biker gangs in the United States,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David A. Thomas explained. “Working with our federal, state, and local partners, we are committed to using our resources on the most significant problems facing our state. These convictions send a strong message that the coordinated efforts of law enforcement can disrupt, and hopefully dismantle, organized gang activity.”

After a month-long trial, a federal jury convicted Baker of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, and money laundering; Oiler of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, various counts of narcotics distribution and attempted distribution, money laundering, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and a crime of violence, and illegal possession of a machine-gun and silencer; and Long of racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, various counts of narcotics distribution and attempted distribution, money laundering, and sale of firearms for use in drug trafficking and a crime of violence. These three received sentences ranging from 14 years to over 16 years.

Previously, six defendants pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy and were sentenced by the court: “Diamond” Dan Bifield (210 months), David “Yard Owl” Pryor (84 months), Richard “Little Mark” Thrower (27 months), “Big” Frank Enriquez (24 months), Fred Keach (10 months), and Johanna Looper (15 months). Three defendants pleaded guilty to a narcotics conspiracy and were sentenced by the court: Kerry “Gowilla” Chitwood (240 months), “Big” Ron Byrum (51 months), and Trent Brown (24 months). Lisa Bifield pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and a crime of violence and was sentenced to 84 months in prison. James “Sonny” Rhodus pleaded guilty to money laundering, receiving five years of probation, while Bruce “Diesel” Wilson pleaded guilty to selling a firearm to a known felon and received 18 months in federal prison.

“ATF will continue to work in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies to identify organized violent criminals in our joint effort to protect the public,” said ATF Charlotte Division Special Agent in Charge Wayne Dixie, “The sentencing of members and associates of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in federal court should send a loud and clear message to anyone who chooses to engage in this type of criminal activity; it cannot and will not be tolerated and you will be held accountable.”

This multi-agency investigation led by FBI Special Agent Devon Mahoney began in response to community concerns about the infiltration of the Rock Hill community by outlaw motorcycle gangs and the brewing violence developing between members of rival outlaw motorcycle gangs. Ultimately, the investigation—through cooperating individuals, surveillance, search warrants, court‑authorized wiretaps, consensual recordings, controlled buys, stings, and other investigative
techniques—provided a window into the Hells Angels’ criminal activities that led to these arrests and convictions.

This investigative partnership—the South Carolina Hells Angels Task Force—included officers and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Lexington Police Department; Lexington County Sheriff’s Department; York County Sheriff’s Department; Rock Hill Police Department; and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Richardson and Jim May.

'No Way Back": A Broad-Brush Smear Of Americans Who Wear A Badge Along The Border

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden, a noted authority on espionage and intelligence, offers a savage review of  Andrew Gross' novel No Way Back in the Washington Times.
Given their lack of legal standing to launch libel actions, America’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies are a lush target for hack writers who concoct outlandish schemes involving nefarious agents and officials.

In this genre of books, casual murders by the CIA is a given, as is its penchant for betraying its own officers and maintaining millions of dollars in illicit offshore accounts. The FBI? An aggregation of arrogant (and ignorant) drones in dark suits and crewcuts who lord over local police and use savage interrogation techniques that would gag the Marquis de Sade.

So perhaps it was inevitable that a relatively new federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security, should fall victim to a trash writer, with sins far more dire than requiring graying grannies to doff their orthopedic shoes at airline security checkpoints. In “No Way Back,” DHS, through its adjunct, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has chosen to give a powerful Mexican drug cartel the guns it needs to destroy a competitor.

... In his fictional presentation, Mr. Gross makes a broad-brush smear of the thousands of men and women who risk their lives protecting American borders, truly one of the more dangerous jobs in the world. He writes, “It was stated that almost 30 percent of the DEA or the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) border guards were on the payroll of the cartels, paid hundreds of thousands to look the other way when shipments crossed the border.” Directing this supposed mass conspiracy was a woman who ran the important El Paso, Texas, office of the DEA.

So, what is the problem? Mr. Gross‘ novel is clearly labeled fiction, and writers are presumed to be entitled to unlimited literary license. In this instance, however, as is true of all too many “thrillers” dealing with intelligence and policing, Mr. Gross smears the reputations of anyone working for the U.S. government, especially those who wear a badge along the border.

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Mr. Goulden via the below link:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano Became TV's Favorite Mobster, Monster And Tormented Therapy Patient

Jim Shelly at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a piece on the late James Gandolfini, who died in Italy at age 51, and his popular TV character, mobster Tony Soprano.

Unlike any other mobster since Marlon Brando in The Godfather, Gandolfini's performance had two great facets: he made Tony both palpably human and compelling complex.

He could switch from a character of immense, charm, warmth and vulneability to the most intense, charmless violence in a second; from big noble bear to cold-eyed shark

You can read the rest of the story, view photos and a video clip featuring James Gandolfini in his best roles, via the below link:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Whitey Bulger Trial: Johnny's Bad, But He's Not The Real Rat, Says Boston Herald Columnist & Author Howie Carr

Howie Carr, the Boston Herald columnist and author of Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano, offers his take on John Martorano, who testified against his former partner-in-crime Whitey Bulger.

The worst word you can ever use against Johnny Martorano is “rat,” so you can bet that Whitey Bulger’s lawyers will be throwing it up against him again this morning within 30 seconds or so of resuming their cross-examination.

They’ll be trying to make him lose his cool. Good luck with that.Stipulated, I wrote a book with Martorano, and we split the profits. I get along pretty well with him. So does just everybody else I know who knows him, believe it or not.   

I’m not making excuses for the 20 murders. Neither is he.But let’s consider what a real rat is. There’s an old joke that a gangster can always close a business deal with these magic words: “I’ll kill you.”The feds have their own magic words: “You’re going to spend the rest of your life in prison.” 

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

The Whitey Bulger Trial: John Martorano Ends His Testimony Against Ex-Boss Whitey Bulger With A Smile

Laurel J. Sweet is covering the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston for the Boston Herald.

John “The Executioner” Martorano walked out of James “Whitey” Bulger’s life forever today without so much as a polite glance back — but grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

“Couldn’t care less,” Joe Martorano, the ex-enforcer’s cousin, said afterward of Martorano’s feelings about seeing his former Winter Hill Gang confederate for the first time since 1982, and testifying against him for three days as the first of the government’s three star witnesses from Winter Hill’s axis of evil — John Martorano, 72, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, 78, and Kevin Weeks, 57.

“He wants to live his life now,” Joe Martorano said. “He wants to be what he has always been: a good guy, taking care of his family. Whatever happens after that happens.”

You can read the rest of the story and watch a local TV news clip via the below link:

Note: John Martorano was the subject of a book Herald columnist Howie Carr. 

R.I.P. To Actor James Gandolfini is reporting that Soprano star James Gandolfini has died.

The actor was only 51.

I recently watched one of his fine performances in Killing Them Softly.

You can read the report via the below link:

You can also read's report on James Gandolfini's death and watch a video clip via the below link:

FBI And NYPD Offer $65, 000 Reward For Information In Search For Bomber In 2008 Armed Forces Recruiting Station Times Square Attack

The FBI released the below information yesterday:

Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department announced a reward of up to $65,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the suspect or suspects involved in the unsolved 2008 bombing of the United States Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square. Also released today are never-before-seen video of the suspect(s) and a picture of the explosive device. The suspect(s) may be connected to two other unsolved bombings in New York City—one at the British Consulate in 2005 and the other at the Mexican Consulate in 2007.

Early on the morning of Thursday, March 6, 2008, a bomb exploded in New York’s Times Square at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station. The suspect rode a blue Ross bicycle west on 37th Street, took a right up Sixth Avenue, and made a left on 47th Street before turning left down Seventh Avenue. The suspect got off his bike near the recruiting station at West 43rd Street and Seventh Avenue, placed the explosive device at the recruiting station, lit a fuse, and fled the scene on the bicycle. Although the suspect appears to be working alone, he or she may have had a lookout or surveillance team of as many as five other individuals in Times Square at the time of the attack. The suspect then rode his or her bike south on Broadway before turning left on 38th Street. The bike was later recovered in a dumpster near Madison Avenue and 38th Street. 

You can read the rest of the story, watch a video clip and view photos via the below link:

Note: The above FBI photo shows damage from the 2008 attack.

Defense Secretary Dedicates Pentagon Korean War Exhibit

Terri Moon Cronk at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today dedicated what he called a "magnificent" permanent display in the Pentagon to honor veterans of the Korean War.

The display opened in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1953 armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, and of the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

"We not only acknowledge you, we thank you," Hagel said to Korean War veterans who attended the dedication of the display, located on the first floor of the Pentagon's "A" ring. "We assure you that through this dedication today, your efforts and your noble cause will live on. You have helped shape history in a unique and magnificent way."

The exhibit comprises a collection of photographs, videos, weapons and other artifacts of the Korean War. It also highlights the advancements of women, medicine and technology and the integration of African-Americans into the U.S. military.

"The Korean War has been known in this country too long as 'The Forgotten War,'" Ahn Ho-young, South Korea's ambassador to the United States, said at the dedication ceremony. "We should change it to 'The Forgotten Victory.'"

Since the war, South Korea has made significant economic progress and a transition to democracy, Ahn said, and has an important role in global issues. "[The war] was a victory and must not be forgotten," he added.

Echoing Ahn, Hagel said the South Korean people have come far in many ways.

"I know of no other nation that has done as much in such a little bit of time to improve their people and the region, and I know of no country [that is] a better ally to the United States than the Republic of Korea," the secretary said. "We are grateful for this relationship, [and] ... what anchors it ... is that special bond of people wanting a better life, who are willing to risk anything for it."

Referencing his recent trip to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit, Hagel emphasized how the 60-year bilateral relationship between the United States and South Korea was evident in the two nations' relationships with Japan, the Philippines, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Chinese and European allies.

"This special relationship is bigger than just the Korean Peninsula or the North Asia region," the secretary said. "It has affected the world."

The secretary said he is particularly proud of the Americans who left their cities and towns and "went far away to a very bloody conflict in a distant land, where very few knew a lot about the Korean Peninsula." Yet when the veterans returned home to the United States, he added, little acknowledgment of their service awaited them.

"Very few people knew where Korea was," he said. "But ... it was just as important in any conflict we've been in. The Republic of Korea still plays a key role as a very key ally in maintaining peace, stability and security in that part of the world."

Hagel offered his gratitude to Korean War veterans on behalf of the Defense Department's men and women.

"We acknowledge your service, everything you've done, what you mean to this country [and] the world, and the model you've provided for our young men and women for generations to come," Hagel told veterans. "It will be evidenced by this great display that we are dedicating today."

Note: In the above DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, center, Ahn Ho-young, South Korean ambassador to the United States, left, and Lewis M. "Lew" Ewing, national director of the Korean War Veterans Association, cut the ribbon June 18, 2013, to dedicate a new permanent display in the Pentagon to commemorate the Korean War. Hagel

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Whitey Bulger Trial: We Were Up To Our Neck In Murders, Says Former Hitman John Martorano

Laurel J. Sweet at the Boston Herald is covering the Whitey Bulger trial in Boston.

Admitted mass murderer John Martorano testified today that the last favor he ever did for James “Whitey” Bulger — the 1982 hit in Florida on Martorano’s close friend John Callahan — was also the last time he took a human life.

“Very bad, very bad. That was the last thing I did. Just stopped there,” Martorano, 72, said when assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak Jr asked how the killing made him feel.

Martorano had been on the lam from race-fixing charges for four years when, he told the court today, Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi secretly met with him at a hotel in New York and told him Callahan had to die because he could implicate them all for the murder in Tulsa, Okla., of Roger Wheeler, the president of World Jai Alai, who was investigating Callahan for missing money.

Martorano said he balked at first, but, “They were my partners, and we were up to our necks in murder already.”

You can read the rest of the story and watch a local TV news clip via the below link:

Note: John Martorano was the subject of a true crime book by Herald columnist Howie Carr.

Federal Prosecutors In Philadephia Ask For Retrial Of Reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra Crime Boss Joseph 'Uncle Joe' Ligambi

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

Federal prosecutors want to retry mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi on racketeering conspiracy charges built around the same evidence that a jury largely rejected in the mobsters' first trial.

In a motions filed late yesterday, prosecutors argued that the issues of collateral estoppel and double-jeopardy do not apply to the conspiracy charge that is at the heart of the case. A jury in February could not decide on that charge against Ligambi and Borgesi.

Four other defendants were found guilty and one was acquitted. 

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

Surveillance Stopped More Than 50 Terror Plots, Says NSA Chief

Nick Simeone at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2013 - The director of the National Security Agency told Congress today more than 50 terrorist plots worldwide have been prevented since the 9/11 attacks through the classified surveillance programs the government uses to gather phone and Internet data, programs he said are legal and do not compromise the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who also commands U.S. Cyber Command, told the House Intelligence Committee he plans as early as tomorrow to provide lawmakers with classified details about the plots that were foiled in an effort to show how valuable the programs are to national security.

Alexander and other senior U.S. officials were called to testify in response to unauthorized disclosures to the media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed details about the agency's gathering of telephone numbers and the monitoring of Internet activity by foreigners overseas, leaks that Alexander said have caused irreversible and significant damage to the security of the United States and its allies.

Testifying alongside Alexander, Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce discussed two terrorist plots that he said the surveillance programs helped to prevent. In one, emails intercepted from a terrorist in Pakistan helped to stop a plot to bomb New York City's subway system. Another involved a failed attempt by a known extremist in Yemen who conspired with a suspect in the United States to target the New York Stock Exchange. Both cases led to arrests and convictions, Joyce said.

"These programs are immensely valuable for protecting our nation and the security of our allies," Alexander said, and added that they may have helped to prevent the 9/11 attacks themselves if the government had the legal authority, as granted by the Patriot Act, to use them at the time.

The disclosure of the NSA programs has generated a nationwide debate over what techniques the government can legally use to monitor phone and Internet data to prevent terrorism without violating the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. Alexander and other senior U.S officials emphasized that the gathering of phone numbers that already are being collected by service providers as well as the tracking of U.S-based Internet servers used by foreigners are legal and repeatedly have been approved by the courts and Congress.

"These programs are limited, focused and subject to rigorous oversight," and their disciplined operation "protects the privacy and civil liberties of the American people," Alexander said.

The details of the foiled terror plots that he plans to provide to Congress will remove any doubt about the usefulness of the surveillance in keeping the homeland safe, the NSA director told the House panel.

"In the 12 years since the attacks on Sept. 11, we have lived in relative safety and security as a nation," he said. "That security is a direct result of the intelligence community's quiet efforts to better connect the dots and learn from the mistakes that permitted those attacks."

To prevent another damaging leak such as the breach caused by Snowden's disclosures, Alexander told lawmakers, the NSA is looking into where security may have broken down and for ways to provide greater oversight for the roughly 1,000 or so system administrators at NSA who have access to top secret information.

Operation Illwind: A Look Back At A Major Military Procurement Fraud Case

The FBI web site offered a piece on June 14th that looked back at Operation Illwind, the huge military procurement fraud case from 25 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago today, a major multi-agency investigation into defense procurement fraud—later codenamed Operation Illwind, a likely reference to an old English proverb—was announced to the world via a one-page press statement.

By the time the dust had settled several years later, the case revealed that some Defense Department employees had taken bribes from businesses in exchange for inside information on procurement bids that helped some of the nation’s largest military contractors win lucrative weapons systems deals.

More than 60 contractors, consultants, and government officials were ultimately prosecuted—including a high-ranking Pentagon assistant secretary and a deputy assistant secretary of the Navy. As a monetary measure of the significance of the crimes, the case resulted in a total of $622 million worth of fines, recoveries, restitutions, and forfeitures.

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

Note: I recall Operation Illwind vividly, as I worked for a Defense Department command in Philadelphia that oversaw defense contractors at the time.

The above Defense Department photo shows an aerial view of the Pentagon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hitman John Martorano: Learning Whitey Bulger Was A Rat 'Broke My Heart'

Laurel J. Sweet at the Boston Herald offers a story on former hitman John Martorano, the subject of a true crime book called Hitman by Herald columnist Howie Carr, who testified against his former crime partner, Whitey Bulger in court.

The prolific hitman who was once willing to kill for mobster James J. “Whitey” Bulger testified today the South Boston monster and his sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi “broke my heart” when he learned they were undercover rats for the FBI.

“They were my partners in crime. They were my best friends,” the 72-year-old Cambridge native said in his opening minutes on the witness stand. “After I heard they were informants it sort of broke my heart. They broke all the trusts, the loyalties we had. I was beside myself with it,” John Martorano said in a deep, matter-of-fact voice.

Martorano and Bulger, 83, glanced at each other for the first time in more than three decades. Bulger then fixed his stare on a distant wall.

You can read the rest of the story and watch a local TV news clip via the below link:

You can also watch an 60 Minutes interview with John Martorano via the below link:

My Crime Beat Column: My Q&A With Dick Lehr, Co-Author of 'Whitey: The Life Of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss'

As I wrote in my Washington Times review of Whitey: The Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss (Crown), there have been many books written about James “Whitey’ Bulger, the Boston Irish mob boss currently on trial in Boston for 19 murders and other crimes, and up to now Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill was the best of the bunch.

But with Whitey, Lehr and O’Neill have surpassed themselves.

Dick Lehr (seen in the below photo) is a professor of journalism at Boston University and a former Boston Globe reporter. He is the co-author of Black Mass and The Underboss, along with Gerald O’Neill.
I contacted Dick Lehr and my interview with him is below:

DAVIS:  I worked for a Defense Department command in Philadelphia and for a time Boston was our regional headquarters. During those years I was a frequent visitor to Boston and I grew fond of the city.              

LEHR:  There is a small-big city feel, or a big-small city feel.

DAVIS:  I liked the bars as well.
LEHR: Then we have something else in common.

DAVIS:  I enjoyed your previous books, such as Black Mass and I enjoyed Whitey. Whitey Bulger is an interesting guy, although he is a God-awful criminal. I’ve covered organized crime for a good number of years now and I most recently interviewed Philip Leonetti, the former underboss of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime family in Philadelphia and South Jersey. He said that he killed “bad guys.” They were trying to kill him, so he killed them. He said he never killed innocent people. Whitey Bulger, on the other hand, not only killed rival criminals, he reportedly strangled and murdered two innocent women.

LEHR: His first known murder was a mistake. He intended to kill a competing gang member but he ended up killing the guy’s brother. He just shrugged it off. 

DAVIS: That’s a bad start. So it seems Bulger is in a class by himself, would you agree?

LEHR: Yes, I think it shows the extreme depravity and viciousness that you referred to when you said he was God-awful. In the last month or so, through his attorney, he is putting out a new line - it sounds like Leonetti – that the people he killed deserved to be killed and he never killed those girls. It’s just Whitey being Whitey.         

DAVIS:  That’s been a mob thing for years, saying we only kill each other.       

LEHR: Whitey is trying to take back those murders, saying that I didn’t kill those girls. I wouldn’t do that. He is trying to get himself back to being what is more gangster-respectable. His problem is that the evidence seems overwhelming against him in connection to those two murders and already federal court judges have ruled that he killed them.      

DAVIS:  His partner-in-crime, Steven “the Riflemam” Flemmi, testified that Bulger killed the girls, right?

LEHR:  Yes, and Kevin Weeks. 

DAVIS:  Philip Leonetti recently wrote a piece in the Huffington Post. He wrote that when he was the Philadelphia underboss and Nicodemo Scarfo, his uncle and the Philadelphia boss, was in prison, he met with the New England Cosa Nostra guys and they were complaining about Bulger. Leonetti said they were described him disdainfully as a drug dealer and not a mob guy or true gangster. Do you think that is an accurate view of him by the Boston mob?

LEHR: I think that is a true view of how someone in their shoes would look at someone like Whitey Bulger. He was a drug dealer in the 80’s and he made a ton of money off of cocaine. I think they underestimated him if they considered him just a nasty little drug dealer. They are underestimating or under-evaluating his position and his standing in the underworld. He was “it” in the 1980’s. So whether you are from New England or Leonetti from Philadelphia, that is a snapshot that does not capture the scope of this man’s power at the time, partly rooted from the power of the FBI watching his back. 

DAVIS: Bulger is unique in the annuals of crime in that sense as well.

LEHR: Totally, totally.

DAVIS:  Being an informant to gain police protection is not uncommon in crime and organized crime, but in that Bulger was able to manipulate the FBI agents and have them protect him so well over the years is unique, I think, in crime history.

LEHR: I think so. We say in the book that is why history will view him as one of the more significant crime figures in America. You can’t mention him without saying in the same breath, corrupt FBI.

DAVIS: How big was his crime empire? In terms of dollars and business, was he a rival and competitor to Cosa Nostra?    

LEHR: Well, certainly in the Boston branch, which reported to Providence, yes, I think so. This was unique too, in the sense that it was a cult of personality – Whitey’s. We describe it in the book as a closely-held corporation, where he surrounded himself with an immediate circle of unbelievably ruthless killers - Martorano, Weeks, and Flemmi – who were loyal and trusting. Just like his own physique, he kept it lean. He didn’t bother with some kind of extended organization.

DAVIS: Yes, it was small in numbers compared to other organized crime outfits.

LEHR:  Yes, and yet he controlled plenty because he was feared and powerful and vicious. There were all these sort of affiliates. All of these drug dealers in “Southie” were under his thumb. He had a drug operation, but they rarely saw him. There was all this insulation in between. So he ran an organization and then beyond the organization he accomplished and had the knack to intimidate major New England drug traffickers. They paid him a tax in order for them to do business. There are estimates of $10 million to $50 million, but who knows?

DAVIS:  And where is that money today?

LEHR: Exactly. That is the big final question. But he would get a half of million dollar cut out of some major pot load moving through Boston heading up New England. So that speaks to his presence in a big way, even though he had no extensive organization and no lines of succession like the mafia. It was a cult of personality.      

DAVIS: All based on his reputation that he can and will kill you, and kill you viciously. Those stories of him torturing people before he killed them.    

LEHR: Yeah, and this all reinforced the myth of Whitey being the ultimate “stand-up guy,” which was his reputation.   

DAVIS: The Robin Hood of Boston.

LEHR: He despised and hated informers. Psychologically, he was projecting. He was known for that viciousness and torturing. When he was killing an informant, a rat, he brought a special viciousness to bear. That helped feed the notion that Whitey absolutely can’t stand a rat. It was such an anathema to him, such a horror – in part because he hates himself.     

DAVIS: Where did the phrase “Whitey is a good bad guy” come from?

LEHR: The first time I heard that was from the mouth of FBI agent John Connelly back in 80’s. Isn’t that funny?  We heard that before we knew what we know today. Connelly was simply an FBI agent who was describing this kind of Robin Hood mythic Whitey Bulger crime boss. 

DAVIS:  Connelly was saying this to reporters like you?

LEHR: Yes. Looking back in hindsight, John Connelly was one of Whitey’s best marketers and PR agents. He was spinning the myth of Robin Hood. Sure he’s a bad guy, but he’s does nice things for people. And we show in the biography, it is an extension of what Whitey has always tried to project all of his life. When he went away to prison he was trying to say I don’t belong here. It jumps off the page, some of these assessments from Alcatraz. How Whitey was complaining about the vulgarity of his cell mates. Give me a break!      

DAVIS: I read Black Mass when it came out years ago and I thought it was outstanding. It was a comprehensive look at Whitey Bulger’s criminal career and his FBI connection. So why did you and your co-author decide to write a biography of Whitey Bulger? And how does the biography differ from Black Mass?

LEHR: That’s a good question. And the answer is the bulk and the focus of Black Mass is the Whitey Bulger/FBI years, basically two decades from 1975 to 1995. It has been called the “Unholy Alliance,” and the “the Devil’s Deal.” So when Whitey was captured, we realized that this guy actually now warrants a biography. Part of it was realizing that in 1975 when he cut his deal with the Boston FBI, he was already 48. He lived half a life that we barely scratched in Black Mass and no one else has. There was this whole life that had not been explored and the sense that we talked about – he’s unique now. He has a place as a significant crime figure in American history. We wanted to put the Black Mass years in a larger context of his life story, of a biography, in which we try to not just tell this dramatic and horrific story, but get more into the why and how in the making of this monster. I think the challenge of any biographer, regarding any subject, is to go behind the “he did this and he did that” and try to reveal some insight and meaning.               

DAVIS: I thought Whitey was outstanding. The prison years and the LSD tests were particularly interesting. How were you able to get Bulger’s prison records?   

LEHR: That was a huge breakthrough. In the original outline, we had one chapter for his nine years in prison. Two months later we got hold of his prison file because it has become a public record and one chapter became four, four and a half. It is fascinating.   

DAVIS: I knew he was connected to his Boston politician brother, but from your book I learned that the U.S. Speaker of the House was writing letters for Bulger as well.   

LEHR: Around here we knew that the family had a connection to House Speaker John McCormack, but that’s all we knew. But from the prison file, and also the McCormack papers at Boston University where I teach, we suddenly have all this meat and muscle to put on that skeletal fact. Whitey had a benefit in prison that no other inmate did, which is access to power like that.       

DAVIS: You’ve been covering Whitey Bulger since you were a Boston Globe reporter. How long has it been?

LEHR: Go back to the late 80’s, that’s when we started and broke the story about some kind of special thing going on between Whitey and John Connelly and the Boston FBI.

DAVIS: That was your first story?

LEHR: That was it. It was historic in the sense that it was the beginning of the end. It is another reminder how journalism can play a role in history.  

DAVIS: Have you met Whitey Bulger?

LEHR: No. I was in court when he came back to Boston and I’ve written him at least five times since he’s been back about the biography. Boy, did I want a meeting for the biography but he refused. He wants everything on his terms. He writes letters to a friend of his, a guy we mention in the book named Richard Sunday and then Sunday gives the letters to the Globe. It’s news in the sense that it is Whitey’s letters, but it is the world according to Whitey. It’s like he has open mike time. It’s not a question of anyone challenging him in any way. That’s where he puts out things like I don’t kill girls and things like that.            

DAVIS: Do you think he is going to write a book or have someone ghost a book for him?

LEHR: He was writing one while he was in Santa Monica, which I think he had stopped. I hope that it gets released because it will be fascinating to read, although not so much for its truth. I think he got almost a hundred pages out, but the government has it. He needs to find someone who will close their eyes and hold their nose.         

DAVIS: And cash the check. Are you covering the trial?

LEHR: I’ll be there and we’ll probably write a new chapter about the trial for the paperback. 

DAVIS: Do you plan on writing another Bulger book?

LEHR: I don’t think so. But I think one can get a book out of a trial that goes three months. 

DAVIS: The trial is already making headlines.

LEHR: Oh, sure. It is a big story. I’ll be there and maybe do some commentary and maybe some op-ed stuff. I’ve already written one op-ed piece.   

DAVIS: I read that director Barry Levinson is going to film Black Mass. Are you involved in the film production?     

LEHR: Yes, in a consulting way. We have heard quite regularly from Barry and his people. They finished the script and they are polishing it now. They are asking all kinds of interesting questions.

DAVIS: I heard there is also another Whitey Bulger film in the works with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.  

LEHR: We hear that it is a back burner project now.  

DAVIS: You write in Whitey that Bulger is an avid reader. Do you think he read Black Mass and Whitey?  

LEHR: We’ve been told that he had just about all of the books written about him when they raided his apartment they discovered nearly all of the books written about him in his library.

DAVIS: That's not real smart. I guess he figured that no one would raid his apartment. I read somewhere that you consider Whitey to be the third part of a trilogy with Black Mass and The Underboss, your book on the Boston Cosa Nostra. I read The Underboss a couple of weeks ago and I was curious to find that John Connelly was featured in the book in a much better light than he was in Black Mass and Whitey. Did you meet him when you were researching The Underboss?

LEHR: Yes, that was when we met all of these guys. We wrote the FBI's bugging operation of the Boston mob underboss in a series in the Globe and then expanded it into the first book. That was a "high five" moment for the FBI. The framework of The Underboss is a dramatic reconstruction of the bugging operation.  

DAVIS: At that time you had no idea that the Boston FBI was shielding Bulger.

LEHR: No. The Boston FBI cooperated for that project so they would look good. Journalistically, we interviewed the entire organized crime squad extensively, taping interviews in order to get all the details to do the drama. So we met all of these guys and fast forward a year and a half and we are going down the Whitey/FBI road. We knew all of these players and it’s no secret now, one in particular, became our source. The history-making stuff might not have happened had we not done that first story. There were unforeseen collateral benefits.  

DAVIS: Was Connelly a source?
LEHR: He was a source for a lot of reporters for what was going on in law enforcement and the Boston underworld. In Black Mass we identify the two FBI sources that confirmed our story so we could publish that special relationship fact. One was John Morris and one was a retired supervisor named Robert Patrick, who also has a book out. We could not have written that breakthrough story in 1988 without confirmation inside the FBI. Our editors wouldn’t have let us.
DAVIS: What do you think of John Connelly? 

LEHR: He still has quite a following of “free John Connelly” type of supporters. These are people who have their head in the sand. They are in denial. In my view, he desires to be in prison. He is just corrupt as they come. 

DAVIS: Well, it is not just a case of taking money, he was also convicted of setting up murders, am I right? 

LEHR: Yes. He’s taken money and he’s got blood on his hands. That’s what the Miami jury verdict was all about. He was, as the government proved in that Miami case, a member of the Bulger gang. But that said, it is doing an injustice to Connelly and to the story to say only Connelly and John Morris were the problem. We’re talking about a lawlessness that permeated at least the Boston office of the FBI for years. Too many other agents and supervisors, maybe all the way to Washington, have skated on this scandal. 

DAVIS: I know a good number of detectives and federal agents and all of them have informants and all them protect their informants as best as they can. Most criminals become informant to receive that protection, I’ve been told. What was different with Connelly and Bulger?

LEHR: I think that the detectives and agents you know would look at this relationship and they would see that the power dynamic was all off. They would never let their informants call the shots. At that is what’s become clear in the history of the Connelly/Whitey thing – Whitey was in charge. 

DAVIS: I also enjoyed reading about the history of Boston you included in Whitey. It was interesting how you included the Bulger family within that history. 

LEHR: The idea was to give the readers some context.

DAVIS: Was Whitey Bulger a unique Boston story? Do you think he could have achieved the same success in Philadelphia or New York?

LEHR: I don’t know. There was, to use a cliché, a perfect storm of events in Boston in the mid-70’s. You may have had in New York or Chicago a crime boss who has an agent from the neighborhood. I think it is possible. But it did require an unusual and unique set of factors that blended together. 

DAVIS: New York had the Westies. I can picture Bulger as a member of the Westies.

LEHR: New York is big and has five mafia crime families. There is something focused about Boston, where you have one mafia family and one unique and powerful Irish crime guy. 

DAVIS: How do you think the Bulger trial will end?

LEHR: I don’t think he’ll ever see the light of day. He’s stuck behind bars for however much time he has remaining. I can’t imagine a jury, despite the best and very creative efforts of a very able defense attorney, coming up with any other verdict other than guilty. 

DAVIS: Thank you for talking to us and good luck with Whitey and the upcoming film. 

Note: You can read my Washington Times review of Whitey (Crown) via the below link:

And you can read my interview with Philip Leonetti via the below link:

The above photos were provided by Dick Lehr and Crown Publishing.