Friday, November 29, 2013

My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of 'I Lie For A Living: Greatest Spies Of All Time'

My review of I Lie For a Living: Greatest Spies of All Time appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2006.

I Lie for a Living: Greatest Spies of All Time is a timely book that concisely presents the best spies and covert operators known to history. Published by National Geographic with the International Spy Museum, the small book contains photos an profiles of the patriots, traitors, adventurers and poets that have dealt in the dark trade of espionage. They lie, cheat, steal and sometimes kill in the name of love, country, ideology and money. Students of history and fans of spy thrillers will enjoy this book.

You can read the rest of the review below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

When It To Comes To Counterterrorism, The FBI Has The ANSIR: My Piece On The FBI's National Security Program

My piece on the FBI's Awareness of National Security Issues and Response (ANSIR) Program appeared in Counterterrorism magazine in 1997.

I interviewed Larry Watson, the national ANSIR program manager, in his office at the FBI's headquarters building in Washington D.C.  

You can read the piece below:

My Crime Beat Column: Looking Beyond 9/11, Security Insights from ASIS Convention In Philadelphia

A Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent once told me that we face a triple threat from crime, espionage and terrorism.

That statement is still true today, but of course the threat of terrorism has gone to the forefront since the horrific 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Despite the looming threat of terrorist attacks, we still face threats from spies (both traditional and industrial) and from what the British call the "ODC," the Ordinary Decent Criminal. The ODC, so named to contrast them from the politically motivated terrorists, will always be with us.

"Crime," Lawrence M. Friedman wrote in his book, Crime and Punishment in American History, "is perhaps the price we pay for a brash, self-loving, relatively free and open society."

In Philadelphia, a few city blocks from where our liberties were born, 17,650 security professionals gathered during the week of the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to discuss protecting those liberties from criminals, spies and terrorists.

I covered the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) 48th Annual Seminar & Exhibits, which was held September 10-13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

ASIS claims the gathering was the largest U.S. exhibition of innovative technologies, products and services in the security industry. There were 725 exhibiting companies with 1,960 exhibit booths that spread across the 450,000 gross square feet of the convention center’s exhibit area.

ASIS also offered 150 timely educational sessions on a variety of security related issues ranging from terrorism to cyber crime. Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar under President Clinton, was the keynote speaker.

"I’ve never seen such a gathering of the best and brightest of security professionals," McCaffrey remarked.

ASIS is a leading international organization for security professionals, with more than 32,000 members around the world. Founded in 1955, ASIS works to increase the effectiveness and productivity of security professionals by developing educational programs and materials. ASIS also advocates the role and value of the security management profession to business, the media, government and the public. I’ve written book reviews for ASIS’ fine magazine, Security Management.

In addition to numerous government and military officials in attendance, the ASIS convention was also something of a gathering of X-Men - as in ex-military, ex-government and ex-law enforcement. Being ex-Navy, I felt at home.

During the course of the week, I spoke to two former members of the Israeli security services, a former Israeli commando and two former U.S. Special Forces officers, a former U.S. Marine general, several retired police officers and many corporate security people. 

(You can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Israeli perspective of counterterrorism via the below link:  

I also discussed security issues with active duty military, state department and CIA intelligence officers, FBI special agents and various members of the alphabet soup of American law enforcement. All were in general agreement that the terrorists would soon strike at the U.S. again. It was not a question of if, they all said, but only a question of when.

On the last day of the gathering, ASIS offered a distinguished panel of security experts to assess the future of security and the war on terrorism. Retired Brigadier General Robert Disney, a former Green Beret and currently the president and CEO of Sigma International Holdings, Inc, a security consulting and business intelligence service, served as the moderator for the two-hour panel.

The speakers included James Dunne, a senior state department intelligence research analyst, and Kenneth Alibek, an expert on biological weapons who defected from the Soviet Union in 1992.

Another speaker was Steven Emerson, a former CNN reporter and the author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us.

Emerson, whose 1995 documentary film, Jihad in America warned Americans about militant Islamic terrorist groups in America, noted that in 1993, in a Philadelphia hotel not far from the convention center, the FBI secretly recorded a meeting of Islamic militant leaders.

His book and film documented a number of meetings and other indicators that pointed to a 9/11 type of attack. But he said law enforcement failed to "connect the dots."

"The war on terrorism, like WWII, is a fight for survival," Emerson warned.
Retired Vice Admiral Michael McConnell also took the stage to address the packed room of security specialists. McConnell, the former director of the National Security Agency, served as General Colin Powell’s intelligence officer during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Operation DESERT STORM.
"History did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union and it did not start with 9/11," McConnell stated.

McConnell, currently a vice president for Booz-Allen, warned that private industry, and not the military, would be the primary terrorist target in the future. He encouraged corporate security professionals to take the lead in a private/public partnership. He called for a greater sharing of government intelligence with corporate security, which brought forth a huge hand of applause.

McConnell warned that CEOs could no longer delegate security and said security had to be built into the organization.

"Security, McConnell said, "is not a sunk cost."

Another one of the speakers, retired General Eugene E. Habiger, the former Department of Energy director of security and emergency operations, seemed to sum up the seminar by stating, "Like the war on crime, the war on terrorism may never end."

The security business is good, a security consultant once told me, when the times are bad.

So the never-ending wars on crime and terrorism will no doubt continue to offer new challenges for security professionals, and remain a major cause of concern for the American public.

Note: This column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2002.

U.S. Navy Suspends Contracts With Second Firm In Bribery Scandal Over Foreign Ports

Tony Perry at the Los Angeles Times offers a piece on the on-going Navy bribery investigation of  foreign ports.

In a widening scandal, the Navy cut ties Wednesday with a second international company over "questionable business integrity" involving lucrative contracts to service U.S. ships in foreign ports.

The Navy announced that it has suspended contracts with British-based Inchcape Shipping Services Ltd. and its affiliated companies. The firm has provided "ship husbanding" services to U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean.

Navy officials said that the suspension of Inchcape is not connected to the investigation into another longtime contractor in the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia.

The investigation into Glenn Defense Marine Asia has led to criminal charges in San Diego against two Navy commanders, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, and two Malaysian business executives.

Also, two admirals have been put on leave, a Navy captain transferred to a lesser job, and another captain relieved of command of his ship.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:,0,3918434.story#axzz2m4VsKRUD

You can also read an earlier posts on the Navy bribery investigation via the below links:


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Shopper Beware: FBI Offers Holiday Shopping Tips

The FBI is offering some holiday shopping tips:

The FBI reminds holiday shoppers to beware of cyber criminals who are out to steal money and personal information. Scammers use many techniques to defraud consumers, from phishing e-mails offering too good to be true deals on brand-name merchandise to offering quick cash to victims who will re-ship packages to additional destinations. Previously reported scams are still being executed today.

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

My Q & A With Captain Dick Couch, Former Navy SEAL & Author of "The Sheriff of Ramadi'

My Q&A with Captain Dick Couch (Ret), former Navy SEAL and author of The Sheriff of Ramadi,  appeared in Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the Q&A below:

Meet The Mother Of Thanksgiving

Rich Lowry at the New York Post offers a column on the beginnings of the Thanksgiving holiday.

It was 150 years ago that Sarah Josepha Hale gave us Thanksgiving as we know it.

The influential editor was the best friend Thanksgiving ever had.

We’re accustomed, in a more jaded and secular age, to wars on various holidays; Hale waged a war for Thanksgiving. For years, she evangelized for nationalizing the holiday by designating the last Thursday of November for it to be celebrated annually across the country.

Besides plugging for Thanksgiving in her publication, Godey’s Lady’s Book, she wrote Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan about it before hitting pay dirt with Abraham Lincoln.

On Oct. 3, 1863, Lincoln urged his fellow citizens to observe the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

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

Note: The above DoD photo shows U.S. sailors aboard ship lining up for Thanksgiving "Chow."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

American Spies: Espionage Against The U.S. From The Cold War To The Present

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of retired CIA official Michael J. Sulick's American Spies: Espionage Against the United States From the Cold War to the Present.

As a bibliophile who devours several lineal feet of books on espionage and intelligence each month, both for review and for pleasure, I find it delightful to encounter a volume written by a professional who has walked the ground about which he writes. Michael J. Sulick spent 28 years with the CIA, including stints as chief of counterintelligence and then head of covert operations of the clandestine service.

His book deals with Americans who spied for our adversaries since the end of the Cold War. Albeit scholarly, it brims with details of spying that make for enjoyable reading. In a series of case studies, he focuses on the fundamental elements of espionage: the motivations that drove Americans to spying; their access and the secret they betrayed; the tradecraft of the foreign services that controlled them; the punishment meted out when they were caught; and the damage inflicted on our national security.

Mr. Sulick drives home, again and again, an important point: The demise of the old Soviet Union did not mark the end of spying against the United States (even by the old USSR, for that matter: one of Vladimir Putin’s first statements upon becoming president of Russia was that “the potential of the special services will not just be maintained, but increased.”) Thus, we suffered the treason of superspies Aldrich Ames of the CIA and Robert Hanssen of the FBI.

The Russians were not alone, though. In 2007, John Brenner, then the head of the National Counterintelligence Executive estimated that about 140 foreign intelligence services sought to penetrate the United States or U.S. organizations abroad. By 2010, Mr. Brenner wrote, “Chinese espionage had eclipsed Russian spying in the United States.”

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

I interviewed Michael Sulick about espionage and his previous book for Counterterrorism magazine a while back. You can read the interview via the below link:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bent Finger Lou Depicts Uncle Joe's Dysfunctional Philly Mob Family

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

To hear Louie Monacello tell it, his 20 years of dealing with the Philadelphia mob were part Godfather and part Family Feud.

On the witness stand for a second day in the racketeering retrial of mob boss "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and Ligambi's nephew George Borgesi, Monacello continued to offer the jury a picture of organized crime built around fear, violence, threats and extortion.

But he also spent much of today deconstructing the Ligambi-Borgesi family, portraying the gangsters as part of a dysfunctional family where greed and power trumped bloodlines and loyalty.

"Don't be fooled," he told the jury. "Him and his uncle were always at odds. They can't stand each other."

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Changing World Challenges U.S. Intelligence Community

Claudette Roulo at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 - In the past, intelligence personnel wouldn't be found participating in open forums, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said yesterday at a Brookings Institution discussion on defense intelligence.

"I think that's a sign of the times for the kinds of things that we are involved in, particularly ... [in] this open world," Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn said. "There's so much transparency going on between the intelligence community and all others, and there has to be. There has to be more of it."

The immense volume of open source information has increased commanders' intelligence needs and changed what sources they use, he said. Ten or 15 years ago, intelligence briefings were primarily composed of what is traditionally thought of as intelligence -- human intelligence, signals intelligence, imagery intelligence -- with a little bit of open source information thrown in.

"Today, it's almost 180 degrees flipped," Flynn said. "The open world -- and the knowledge that exists and is available to all of us at the push of a button -- [is] really smart. This is some really smart analysis that's out there that's being written by people that are on the ground, seeing it for how it is."

Whether that information is posted on a blog or on Twitter, he said, "We cannot sit idle ... and not pay attention to that."

Freely accessible information is just one of the two driving factors behind today's intelligence imperatives, Flynn said.

The international fiscal situation is forcing intelligence agencies to evaluate their priorities, including how they collaborate and how they invest in current capabilities versus the next generation of ideas and capabilities, he said.

Four "mega-trends" influence these factors: economic, resources, information and population, the general said. "For the most part ... these are trends that we can judge pretty accurately," he noted.

Of these four mega-trends, the rapid changes over the past 100 years in information and population trends are having the most impact, Flynn said.

Those changes were "stunning," the general said, and the world hasn't yet come to grips with many of them despite already being nearly 15 years into the 21st century.

Flynn said that about half of DIA personnel are working on the "edge" of the enterprise -- in combatant commands and forward environments -- and for him, the question is how to leverage those resources. "How do we make the edge the center?" he asked.

It's important to understand what is happening at the edge, he said, and to make it the place where the best, most relevant and most timely knowledge can be gained. "Then you bring it back to help shape the conversations that are happening [in Washington, D.C.]," Flynn added.

The general said he expects that the nation's need for special operations forces, cyber capabilities and intelligence will only increase in the coming years.

Special operations forces will not only continue their counterterrorism mission, but will become increasingly involved in foreign internal defense operations and building the capacity of partner nations, he said.

In some defense communities there's still a belief that cyber is a function of intelligence, or that intelligence and cyber are the same, but that isn't at all the case, Flynn said.

"Cyber is a capability that allows us to understand an operational environment far better," he said. "It allows us to see each other. It allows us to communicate. It allows us to defend. It allows us to exploit. It allows so many other things."

And whenever possible, Flynn said, the United States' cyber capabilities should be used to help partner nations.

"I think there's a tendency to think [cyber] is all about war fighting or some negative," he said, "and we have to look at it as how it can be turned into a positive."

For the intelligence community to succeed, it must be agile and integrated with other agencies and partners, Flynn said, and it must have a firm grasp of the operational environment.

That includes developing an understanding of social issues, he said.

"Some of the regions that are out there in the world are facing extraordinary challenges, and we have to have a much deeper operational understanding of that. That means understanding the culture, understanding just the humanity that's out there," the general said.

"I think the last key to success is about technology," he said, "but it's not to lose sight of the human being in the loop."

If intelligence's role is to provide the kind of information leaders need to be able to make better decisions, the intelligence community must not let itself be pulled along by technology, Flynn said.

Happy Belated Birthday To William F. Buckley

As notes, yesterday was William F. Buckley's birthday. He died on February 27, 2008.

William F. Buckley founded the conservative journal National Review in 1955 and added syndicated columnist to his resume in 1962. At its height, the twice-weekly column ran in more than 300 newspapers. The magazine, columns and TV’s Firing Line all made Buckley's intellectual political writings famous. His 40 books dealt with contemporary politics, and in the 1970s he turned to writing spy novels. 

William Frank Buckley, Jr. was born into a wealthy Irish-Catholic family on Nov. 24, 1925 in New York City.

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

I reviewed two of Buckley's books for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

You can read my review of Buckley's spy thriller Last Call for Blackford Oakes via the below link:

And you can read my review of Buckley's book on President Ronald Reagan The Reagan I Knew Knew via the below link:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Case Closed: The Book That Cured Me Of JFK Conspiracies Once And For All

Hector Tobar at the Los Angeles Times tells readers that his reading of Gerald Posner's Case Closed cured him of Kennedy assassination conspiracies.

For a few years after seeing Oliver Stone’s 1991 political thriller "JFK," I was an assassination buff. I bought one of the books on which the film was based: “On the Trail of the Assassins” by Jim Garrison. I reread “Libra,” Don DeLillo’s masterful 1988 novel, in which Lee Harvey Oswald, assorted New Orleans spies and underworld figures conspire to kill the president. The assassination is the greatest mystery of our times, and in those books I found clues that left me feeling tantalizingly close to solving it.

But 20 years ago I was cured of my conspiracy-theory fever forever. A single book was the antidote.
Gerald Posner’s “Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK” was published in 1993, on the 30th anniversary of the assassination. As the title suggests, its chief protagonist is Oswald, a man with the kind of lonely, tortured and eventful biography that American culture has produced pretty routinely in the decades since. In fact, I would argue that there are echoes of Oswald’s life in figures as diverse as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the two teenage boys who massacred their classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:,0,928971.story#axzz2ladTgHPE

Note: Like most of the military, intel and security people I worked with and knew during my years in the Navy and as a Defense Department civilian employee, I suspected that Fidel Castro killed President Kennedy. President Johnson also suspected Castro. But, like Hector Tobar, I too was cured of that suspicion by reading Gerald Posner's Case Closed. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Billy The Kid Was Born On This Day In 1859

As notes, today is the birthday of Billy the Kid.

He was born William Henry McCarty Jr. on November 23, 1859 in New York City. Little is known of his youth, but early on he entered a life of thievery, eventually heading west and joining a violent gang. Billy was captured and sentenced to death for the murder of a sheriff, but escaped after killing guards. The legend of Billy the Kid was created by his killer, Sheriff Garrett.

Billy the Kid was born William Henry McCarty Jr. on November 23, 1859, in New York City. Little is known about the early life of William McCarty (also known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney, an alias), but it is believed that his father died or left the family when Billy was very young, and he was orphaned at 15 when his mother died of tuberculosis. Shortly after, he and his brother got involved in petty theft.

McCarty had a slim physique, sandy blond hair and blue eyes and wore a signature sugar-loaf sombrero hat with a wide decorative band. He could be charming and polite one moment, then outraged and violent the next, a quixotic nature he used to great effect during his heists and robberies. According to legend, he killed 21 men during his days as an outlaw, one for each year of his life, though he likely killed far fewer than that number.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a short video about Billy the Kid via the below link:

The JFK Assassination: Fromer FBI Agent Recalls His Role In The Investigation

The FBI released the below piece yesterday:

On that autumn Friday 50 years ago today, when John F. Kennedy’s motorcade was turning onto Dealey Plaza in Dallas just beneath the Texas School Book Depository, Robert Frazier was at work at FBI Headquarters in Washington. The 44-year-old special agent—the Bureau’s lead firearms and ballistics examiner—had no idea that he was about to be given the most important assignment of his career.

“It was around 11:30 that morning when we first heard about the shooting,” Frazier said recently at his Northern Virginia home. Now 94, memories of events that transpired five decades ago are indelibly etched in his mind.

After learning of the assassination, the chief of the FBI Laboratory called in Frazier and two other veteran examiners. Frazier recalls the chief’s instructions: “He said, ‘I want each of you men to make separate comparisons and examinations, and then compare your notes and see if they agree.’”

By that evening, as a shocked country tried to comprehend Kennedy’s assassination, FBI agents and other federal officers had already begun delivering evidence to the FBI Laboratory—then located in Washington—including the rifle that Lee Harvey Oswald used to kill the president.

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

Bent Finger Lou back On The Stand In Philadelphia Federal Mob Trial

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

When Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello took the witness stand this afternoon in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew, George Borgesi, the tone of the three-week-old trial shifted.

This was no longer an expert gambling witness or a beleaguered bar owner with a poker machine or an FBI agent interpreting secretly recorded conversations. This was Borgesi's one-time friend and, if the government is to believed, his chief partner in crime.

Monacello and Borgesi go back 30 years. They know a lot about one another. And much of it will get laid out for the jury. As he did at the first trial, Monacello, 47, began to paint a verbal portrait of his underworld involvement with both defendants.

It's not a pretty picture.

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Q & A With David G. Major, Former FBI Counterintelligence Official & President Reagan Advisor

My Q&A with David G. Major, former FBI counterintelligence official, President Reagan advisor and founder of the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, was published in Counterterrorism magazine.

David G. Major served in the FBI and rose from a street agent to senior executive. He specialized in counterintelligence and was involved in nearly all of the major espionage cases of the past 30 years. he recruited, ran and handled agents, double agents and defectors, as well as caught spies. Major also worked against radical groups like the Black Panthers and the KKK.

Major became the first FBI official to be assigned to the National Security Council and he served as the Director, Intelligence and Counterintelligence Programs in 1985 and 1986. He briefed and advised President Ronald Reagan on counterintelligence matters and he was instrumental in an administration effort that led to to more than 80 Soviet KGB and GRU officers being expelled from the United States.

You can read the interview below:

My Piece On A Look Back At The Hunt And Capture Of The World's Most Famous Revolutionary, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

My piece on the hunt and capture of Communist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara was published in Counterterrorism magazine.

Long before the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the U.S. hunted and helped capture another notorious enemy - Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. The Argentine doctor and Communist revolutionary, who joined Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution and helped run the post-revolutionary government, was an ardent critic and foe of the United States.

You can read the rest of the piece above and below:


You can also read my Washington Times review of Hunting Che: How a U.S. Special Forces Team Helped Capture the World's Most Famous Revolutionary via the below link:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

The Kennedy Conspiracy In Plain Sight

Rich Lowry at National Reviews offers a column on the Kennedy assassination.

For all these years, they’ve hidden the truth about the Kennedy assassination.

It didn’t require a conspiracy. It just took repeating a falsehood until it became conventional wisdom. The myth about the Kennedy assassination is that President John F. Kennedy, at great personal risk, traveled to Dallas, aka the City of Hate, and was somehow murdered by an atmosphere of intolerance. The truth is that he was shot by a Communist. 

... In a news report, Timesman Manny Fernandez writes of the “painful, embarrassing memories of the angry anti-Washington culture that flourished here 50 years ago — and now seems a permanent part of the national mood.”

Get it? The rancid political culture of Dallas that was responsible for the death of Kennedy lives on today in the Tea Party, which needs to be stopped before it kills again.

There are at least two problems with all this. The first is that cities don’t kill people. Neither does political hostility. There was plenty of kookery, racism, and ugliness in Dallas circa 1963 — and much derision and abuse of Kennedy — but none of those things picked up a rifle and shot the president of the United States.

The second — and amazingly enough, saying it still carries a subversive hint of revisionism — is that Oswald was a thoroughgoing Communist.

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

One Good Reason To ReinstateThe Death Penalty: Charles Manson In Love Behind Bars

Here is one good reason to reinstate the death penalty - stories and photos about convicted murderer Charles Manson in love behind bars.

James Nye offers a piece about Manson in love with some good - if creepy - photos in the British newspaper the Daily Mail. 

You can read the piece and see the photos via the below link: 

You can also read my Washington Times review of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson Manson via the below link:  

A Look Back At The Kennedy Assassination

Today is the 50th anniversary of what must be considered the "Crime of the 20th Century," the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I wrote about the great crime in my Crime Beat column for the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2002.

You can read the column via the link below:

Long-Hidden Dashiell Hammett Stories Reveal Another Side

Eddie Muller at the San Franciso Chronicle looks at the new book of stories by Dashiell Hammett.

“When Samuel Spade knocked on the door it swung open far enough to let him see the mutilated dead face of a woman.”

That’s the opening line of “A Knife Will Cut for Anybody,” the thin slice of a never-completed novel that will draw readers to this collection of previously unpublished stories by Dashiell Hammett, creator of Sam Spade and the sire of modern crime fiction. For aficionados of the genre, the unearthing of new Hammett stories is akin to Christians discovering an epilogue to the New Testament.
Although “The Hunter and Other Stories” contains many revelations, few of them — the above line one juicy exception — are of the hard-boiled variety that forged Hammett’s reputation.

In fact, this collection, compiled and edited by Hammett scholars Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett (the author’s granddaughter), presents compelling evidence that the writer longed to shed the constraints that came with that reputation. Some of these stories are among Hammett’s best, yet they were summarily rejected by editors craving more of the violent action and snappy patter that made the creator of “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man” a household name.

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

Philly Mob Jury Gets A History Lesson

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

It was Mob History 101, a primer on the wantonly violent and consistently treacherous Philadelphia branch of Cosa Nostra.

Jurors in the racketeering conspiracy trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi got nearly four hours of the murderous and mundane today as the trial entered its third week. With mob expert and former FBI agent Joaquin "Big Jack" Garcia on the stand and Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., conducting a lengthy and detailed cross-examination, the anonymously chosen jury took a trip down a bloody memory lane.

Some highlights (or lowlights depending on your point of view):

-- Mob boss Angelo Bruno was shotgunned to death in March 1980, a hit that destabilized the once smoothly run organization. Bruno's consigliere, Antonio "Tony Bananas" Caponigro, was behind the murder of the so-called Docile Don and thought he had the approval of the New York-based Mafia Commission. He didn't. On that, Garcia and Jacobs agreed.

Caponigro was killed a short later.

"He thought he was going to be knighted as head of the family," Garcia said. "Instead he was tortured and killed and money was left in every orifice of his body."

-- South Philadelphia steak shop owner and one-time high level bookmaker Danny D'Ambrosio should have been killed, under strict mob rules, for plotting with North Jersey mobster Peter "Pete the Crumb" Caprio (who later became a government witness) to murder Ligambi, his current co-defendant and nephew George Borgesi and then crime family consigliere Steven Manzone in the late 1990s. Caprio had the approval of three of the New York crime families, who supported what was to be his takeover of the Philadelphia organization. (The plot was never carried out because Caprio was arrested.)

But today D'Ambrosio operates his steak shop about two blocks from Ligambi's Packer Park townhouse.

Garcia conceded that under typical mob protocol, D'Ambrosio should be dead.

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

American Detective: The Man Arthur Conan Doyle Called 'America's Sherlock Holmes'

Benjamin Welton at the Atlantic offers an interesting piece on an American detective.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, are almost undoubtedly the most enduring figures in the history of detective fiction. Even though the original book series first surfaced in 1887, popular TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic (BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary) are doing much to rekindle an interest in Doyle’s mystery-solving duo, while other mediums—from the Guy Ritchie films starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law to the Ian Edginton and Davide Fabbri comic series Victorian Undead (which pits Holmes and Dr. Watson against a whole bevy of supernatural creatures)—are doing their part to insure that the Great Detective and his Boswell can be found in every nook and cranny of popular culture.

Despite the fact that Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional characters, though, their cultural influence can even be discerned in the history of the world outside of the printed page. Ever since the end of the Victorian age, real detectives and police officials have often been held to the standards of fiction and have even seen their exploits re-cast as updated versions of one of Doyle’s many gaslight era tales. One American law-enforcement figure, in particular, bore the burden of living up to Holmes’s legacy: William J. Burns, an Irish-American sleuth who bore more than a passing resemblance to Doyle himself.

According to William R. Hunt’s biography Front-Page Detective: William J. Burns and the Detective Profession, 1880-1930, Burns was a friend of both President Theodore Roosevelt and Doyle—the latter of whom publicly hailed Burns as “America’s Sherlock Holmes."

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

Creepily Ever After: Convicted Murderer Charles Manson To Wed 25-Year-Old 'Manson Family' Look-Alike

David K. Li at the New York Post offers a piece on the announcement that Charles Manson plans to wed a 25-year-old.

Charlie Manson and his Susan Atkins look-alike gal pal plan to tie the knot behind bars and live creepily ever after.

“I’ll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married,” Manson’s 25-year-old girlfriend, “Star,” tells Rolling Stone.

“When that will be, we don’t know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband,” she said.
If the 79-year-old serial killer wants to take a wife, the only thing stopping him is cold feet.

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

You can also read my Washington Times review of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson  via the below link:  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Mob Toast To "All The Good Guys"

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

They ate and drank and laughed and joked.

They offered a toast "to all the good guys!"

And, the prosecution contends, they discussed mob business.

The jury in the racketeering conspiracy trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi got to listen in today to secretly recorded conversations from a four-hour lunch Ligambi shared with nine other mobsters at a posh New Jersey restaurant in May 2010.

The defense has portrayed the session as a "social" gathering. Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, the lead prosecutor in the case, calls it a "meeting of the board of directors of organized crime."

The conspiracy charge that Ligambi, 74, is fighting, could hinge on which version the anonymously chosen jury decides is accurate. 

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

The FBI Looks Back At Serial Killer Ted Bundy's Campaign Of Terror

The FBI released the below story about Ted Bundy:

No one knows when or where Theodore “Ted” Bundy killed for the first time. It could have been during his teenage years or when he was in his early 20s in the late 1960s. It might have been in Washington state, where he resided for many years, or on the East Coast, where he was born and lived as a young boy and had family ties.

But we do know that by 1974, Ted Bundy’s prolific reign of terror and murder was underway.

In Washington state, young, attractive female college students began disappearing. Local police investigated, and clues began to emerge. Witnesses pointed to a Volkswagen Beetle and a young man on crutches or with an arm in a sling.

Bundy moved to Salt Lake City that summer, and the murders continued in Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. In August 1975, police arrested Bundy for the first time after pulling him over in his Volkswagen and finding suspicious items—including handcuffs, rope, and a ski mask—that investigators later linked to missing women. In February of the following year, he was found guilty of kidnapping and assaulting a Utah teenager who had managed to escape from him, landing in prison for up to 15 years.

Meanwhile, investigators from multiple states were piecing together the string of murders.

In 1976, Bundy was charged with killing a vacationing nursing student, and he found himself in Aspen, Colorado in June 1977 for a preliminary hearing. Left alone at one point, Bundy let himself out of a second story window, jogged down Main Street, and disappeared. Extensive searches were made, and the FBI quickly began to gather and disseminate Bundy’s criminal history and identification information. Soon after, FBI agents swore out a federal arrest warrant for unlawful flight to avoid confinement, and a $100,000 reward was offered for his capture.

Bundy didn’t make it far; he was located in Aspen a few days later. But he bided his time and seized another opportunity for escape on New Year’s Eve in 1977—slipping through an opening in the ceiling of his cell and sneaking out through the jailer’s office.

A nationwide manhunt followed, and the FBI played a central role. We created a series of wanted posters and other identification material, processed latent fingerprints from around the country, provided insight from our Behavioral Analysis Unit, andas the days stretched into weeksadded Bundy to our Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on February 10, 1977.

Tragically, Bundy continued his murder spree while on the run. On the evening of January 14, he invaded a Florida State University sorority house, brutally killing two co-eds and leaving a third with serious injuries.

But the net was closing. Around 1:30 a.m. on February 15, a Pensacola police officer noticed a stolen orange Volkswagen Beetle driving west on Cervantes Street and ordered the car to pull over. Bundy resisted but was eventually taken into custody.

The officer had no idea who was inside the car, but Bundy was quickly identified with the help of the FBI’s fugitive flyer and was soon back in Colorado to face murder charges. He was eventually convicted and executed, but not before admitting to more than two dozen murders over many years. There may have been even more.

To this day, Ted Bundy remains one of the nation’s most deadly and notorious serial killers.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven Score And 10 Years Later, USS Lincoln Sailors Honor Gettysburg Address

The U.S. Navy released a piece by Captain Karl Thomas, the Commanding Officer of the USS Lincoln.

As the Commanding Officer of the proud warship USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), I am reminded every day of the sacrifices our service men and women make for their nation. I get an opportunity to interact with these great Americans on a daily basis, and witness their patriotism first hand. Every day I’m also reminded of our warship’s namesake, our 16th president, President Abraham Lincoln, and strive to pass on Lincoln’s teachings and leadership principles.  

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

Two More Defendants Pled Guilty In Manhatten Federal Court In Connection With Russian-American Organized Crime Gambling Enterprise

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

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Anatoly Golubchik pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to participating in a racketeering conspiracy in connection with his role as a member of a Russian-American organized crime enterprise.

Illya Trincher also pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court in connection with his leadership role in the operation of a high-stakes illegal sports gambling business. Golubchik and Trincher were charged in April 2013 along with 32 other alleged members and associates of two Russian-American organized crime enterprises in an indictment that included racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and various gambling offenses. They pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “With Anatoly Golubchik and Illya Trincher’s guilty pleas today, 18 of the 34 defendants charged in this case now stand convicted. We remain committed to making sure that everyone charged in connection with this alleged Russian-American organized crime ring is held to account for their crimes.”

According to the indictment, other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made at various proceedings in this case, including today’s guilty plea:

The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization is a nationwide criminal enterprise with strong ties to Russia and Ukraine. The leadership of the organization ran an international sportsbook that catered primarily to Russian oligarchs living in Russia and Ukraine and throughout the world.

The Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization laundered tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from the gambling operation from Russia and the Ukraine through shell companies and bank accounts in Cyprus and from Cyprus into the United States. Once the money arrived in the United States, it was either laundered through additional shell companies or invested in seemingly legitimate investments, such as hedge funds or real estate. Golubchik was a U.S.-based participant in the enterprise.

As part of his plea, Golubchik acknowledged that in furtherance of the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization, Golubchik laundered the proceeds of their international sportsbook and assisted in the operation of the illegal gambling business.

Trincher and co-defendant Hillel Nahmad ran a high-stakes illegal gambling business that catered primarily to millionaire and billionaire clients. Their business utilized several online gambling websites that operated illegally in the United States to generate tens of millions of dollars of sports bets each year.

The gambling operation was financed through a host of American and international bank accounts, including accounts associated with Nahmad, defendants John Hanson and Noah Siegel, a/k/a “The Oracle,” and a plumbing company in the Bronx that was acquired in repayment of a $2 million gambling debt. As part of his guilty plea, Trincher acknowledged that he was a leader and organizer of the illegal sports gambling business, he supervised the illegal gambling business, and he conducted numerous financial transactions on behalf of the illegal gambling business.
* * *
Golubchik, 57, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. As part of his plea agreement, Golubchik agreed to forfeit cash and property worth over $20,000,000.00. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Furman on March 25, 2014, at 3:00 p.m.

Trincher, 28, of Los Angeles, California, faces a maximum of five years in prison and three years of supervised release. As part of his plea agreement, Trincher agreed to forfeit cash and property worth over $6,000,000 and a black 2012 Porsche Cayenne. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Furman on March 25, 2014, at 3:45 p.m.

Golubchik is the 17th defendant in this case to plead guilty. Trincher is the 18th defendant in this case to plead guilty. The defendants who have pled to date have agreed to forfeit, in total, more than $66,000,000. The following defendants previously pled guilty and await sentencing:
  • Bryan Zuriff pled guilty to gambling charges on July 26, 2013
  • William Barbalat pled guilty to gambling charges on August 14, 2013
  • Kirill Rapoport pled guilty to gambling charges on August 16, 2013
  • Edwin Ting and Justin Smith pled guilty to gambling charges on September 4, 2013
  • Dmitry Druzhinsky and David Aaron pled guilty to gambling charges on October 4, 2013
  • Alexander Zaverukha pled guilty to gambling charges on October 10, 2013
  • Nicholas Hirsch pled guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud on October 16, 2013
  • Anatoly Shteyngrab pled guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering on October 17, 2013
  • Yugeshwar Rajkumar pled guilty to gambling charges on October 18, 2013
  • Stan Greenberg pled guilty to conspiring to commit racketeering on October 22, 2013
  • Arthur Azen pled guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiring to collect extensions of credit by extortionate means on November 5, 2013
  • Hillel Nahmad pled guilty to gambling charges on November 12, 2013
  • Vadim Trincher pled guilty to conspiring to commit racketeering on November 14, 2013
  • Eugene Trincher pled guilty to gambling charges on November 14, 2013.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York City Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harris M. Fischman, Joshua A. Naftalis, Peter Skinner, and Kristy J. Greenberg of the Organized Crime Unit are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander Wilson and Christine Magdo of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit are responsible for the forfeiture aspects of the case.

Book Review: 'Churchill's Bomb' Offers Daft Viewpoint

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers an interesting review of Churchill's Bomb in the Washington Times.

On occasion, a book crosses my desk with a viewpoint so daft that I find myself checking the dust jacket to reassure myself that it emanated from an ostensibly reliable source, not some crank who lives out under the viaduct.

Such was my reaction as I turned through the pages of  "Churchill's  Bomb,” whose author, Graham Farmelo is billed as a senior research fellow at the Science museum in London and an adjunct professor at a British university.

The core of Mr. Farmelo's argument is that Winston Churchill erred grievously when he botched a chance for the British to seize supremacy in the development of nuclear energy in the 1940s, thus ceding leadership to the United States. Better had the Brits kept atomic secrets to themselves, he writes, and developed the bomb on their own. Had he heeded the warnings of the relevant British scientists both during and after the development of the bomb, “Churchill may have still been able to avert the frightening nuclear arms race that America precipitated [sic] during the Cold War.”

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

U.S. Special Operations Command Planning For Future Missions, Admiral McRaven Says

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

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2013 - U.S. special operations forces are postured to take on the global counterterrorism challenges the nation faces in the years ahead, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said Nov. 16.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven took part in a panel discussion at the first Reagan National Security Forum at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., examining what will be required to effectively fight terrorism in 2025.

Numerous senior Defense Department officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the forum. McRaven's panel included Michael G. Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, along with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry. Washington Post national security reporter Craig Whitlock moderated the panel.

McRaven said the role of U.S. special operations forces in the coming decade-plus is "a very timely topic." Through the 1990s, he said, "the international special operations community had a lot of great [special operations] forces. And frankly, there were many that were as good, if not better, than we were."

Since 9/11 and continuing today, however, "I can tell you, there is nobody in the world who can compare to U.S. special operations forces and U.S. counterterrorism forces," the admiral said.

Thanks to the support of Congress, he reported, Socom has since 2001 doubled its people, tripled its budgets and quadrupled its capability -- not just in the areas of hardware and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, but also in noncommissioned officer training, officer education, and language and cultural studies.

The question now, McRaven said, is whether the special operations force that has evolved to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is also adaptable to today's threats. He said it absolutely is.

The admiral noted that the U.S. special operations forces now postured in Afghanistan will, as the drawdown of troops in 2014 proceeds, be available for new missions.

"A lot of what we will do as we go forward in this force is build partner capacity. ... We will always be the best in the world at rescuing Americans and taking care of threats to the nation, but a large part of what we will do [in future] is build partner capacity," he said.

U.S. forces have worked over the past decade with partners in Colombia, the Philippines, Chad and a dozen other countries around the world to strengthen their special operations programs, he said. U.S. allies and partners including NATO, the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and Asian and Latin American nations "are absolutely essential to how we're doing business," he added.

Interagency collaboration across the U.S. government is also crucial, McRaven said. "I have special operations support teams, liaison officers, in 38 agencies and departments within Washington, D.C.," he noted.

Socom's relationships with other agencies such as the CIA and FBI are "phenomenal," he reported.

"Lives are important, and the security of the nation is important, and it has brought us together," the admiral said. "My concern is that as we draw down in Afghanistan, and we don't have the opportunity that, unfortunately, war brings you to continue to work together, we've got to be careful about moving apart."

The whole-of-government approach is "absolutely crucial to getting after these threats," he said.

"At the end of the day, it doesn't make any difference to me whether it's a Department of Defense guy, or a law enforcement individual or an intelligence individual that takes care of the threat," McRaven said. "We've got to work together to make sure that those threats don't end up on our shores."

McRaven said his special operators also rely on regular U.S. forces.

"I am the biggest supporter of the conventional forces, because frankly, we can't do our special operations job without support from the big Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps," the admiral said. He added, "If we are going to have a viable force in 2025, it's all about the people."

He pointed out that 12 years of war have exacted a high price from his troops. "We have had more suicides this year than [at] any point ... in the history of special operations forces," McRaven said. While that "single data point" can't capture the overall health of his force, the admiral said, it is important.

"The stress on the force is pretty significant," he said. "We are going out of our way to work with the services to make sure that the individual soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines are healthy physically, mentally and spiritually."

Resilience within families is equally important, he said, and Socom's "preservation of the force and families" initiative is one approach the command is taking to help families learn adapting and coping skills.

"If you want a strong [special operations] force for 2025, or frankly for 2014 and 2015, we have got to take care of our force," he emphasized.

But McRaven said that overall, he is confident the nation's special operators are ready to take on current and future missions. "I think we're going to be ready to go now and in the future," he said. He noted that Socom is channeling more troops into language and cultural training that will make them effective in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

"Up to 2025, this building partner capacity is going to be important," he explained. "You can't build that partner capacity well unless you speak their language, unless you understand their culture, and unless you have gained their trust."

Such engagement is not effective if it's episodic, the admiral said. Special operations forces bring sustained engagement, backed by language and cultural knowledge, to the task of improving partner forces, he noted. "Episodic engagement with our partners will not get us to the point where they have a competent and capable force that can deal with the threat," he said. "We've got to have persistent engagement."

Vickers addressed a question from Whitlock on how the Pentagon determines who the enemy is as terrorist groups shift membership and affiliation.

"It is a governmentwide issue," he replied. While al-Qaida has many branches and all of them are considered enemies, he said, other groups claim ideological similarities with terrorist organizations while not, themselves, posing a threat to America or its allies.

Vickers said fusion of intelligence and operations, and sustained pressure on terrorist groups, are both vital to addressing counterterrorism missions effectively. During the years when America was fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, al-Qaida wasn't pressured and was able to reconstitute, resulting in significantly increased threats to the United States.

"Our government then responded quite effectively, and we've beaten those threats back," Vickers said. "But even when there have been smaller pauses in the pressure on these groups, whether it's in Yemen or Pakistan or elsewhere for, say, just months, you see them reconstituting. It emphasizes the real importance of sustained pressure, but also precision application of power."

McRaven said the best solution the United States can work toward with partners and allies in many parts of the world is to "train them to deal with their own problems." The admiral said U.S. special operations forces are currently in 81 countries. In some cases, that may mean one or two people working in an embassy, he said, while other times it may mean a couple hundred trainers on the ground.

In each case, he said, "we do a very, very thorough review, and we understand those risks ahead of time."

The State Department plays a big role in deciding what forces the U.S. military will train with, he noted. Special operations forces don't train with other nations unless the regional combatant commander, the ambassador and the country team all give the go-ahead, McRaven said.

"We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that there are forces out there that ... have questionable reputations," the admiral pointed out. "I think we need to assume some risk in helping them. Libya would be a prime example. So right now, as we go forward to try and find a good way to build up the Libyan security forces so they are not run by militias, we are going to have to assume some risks."

McRaven said the Libyan training mission, which Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today will take place in Bulgaria, will involve both conventional and special Libyan forces.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 Libyan conventional forces will take part, he said, while a U.S. special operations component will train "a certain number of their forces to do counterterrorism."