Sunday, March 31, 2013

Watching The History Channel's 'The Bible' On Easter

As I've noted here in previous years, my wife and I like to watch our DVD copy Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ when family and friends have left our house after Easter dinner.
This year we watched Mel Gibson's brilliant film yesterday and tonight we plan to watch the final installment of the History Channel's The Bible as part of our Easter celebration.
We have enjoying watching the series these past weeks and we are looking forward to watching the end tonight. I've read that the TV ratings for the series are high and it is good to know that millions of other people are also watching The Bible. 
You can read my column on Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ via the below link:
Note: We'll watch the season premiere of The Game of Thrones later in the week on HBO On Demand.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Former U.S. Soldier Charged With Conspiring To Use RPG While Fighting With Al Qaeda-Affiliated Group in Syria

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information on March 28th:

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was arrested and charged with conspiring to use a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) while fighting with the al Nusrah Front, an organization commonly referred to as “al Qaeda in Iraq” and designated as a foreign terrorist organization since October 2004.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.

Harroun, a U.S. citizen who served with the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2003, was charged by criminal complaint with conspiring to use a destructive device outside of the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, if convicted. Harroun made his initial appearance today in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan.

The al Nusrah Front is one of several aliases used by the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist organization, and since November 2011, the group has claimed responsibility for nearly 600 terrorist attacks in Syria.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Harroun allegedly crossed into Syria in January 2013 and fought with members of the al Nusrah Front against the Bashar al Assad regime in Syria. The affidavit alleges that Harroun was trained to use an RPG by members of the terrorist organization and that he fired an RPG and posted online multiple photographs of himself carrying or posing with RPGs and other military weapons. Harroun allegedly participated in attacks led by the al Nusrah Front and was part of an RPG team, for which he carried anti-personnel and anti-armor rockets.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Peterson, Carter Burwell, and Lynn Haaland are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States, with assistance from the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Mark Twain And Bermuda

The Bermuda web site offers a piece on Mark Twain and "Our Friends the Bermudians."

Along with such works as Marco Polo’s account of his journey to China, Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” — among the first publications to introduce Bermuda to Americans as a holiday destination —  has been named as one of the top travel books ever written by a Smithsonian Institution writer.

“Smithsonian Magazine” contributor Tony Perrottet this month [Mar. 20] ranked “The Innocents Abroad” — Mark Twain’s account of an 1867 “Great Pleasure Excursion” on board the chartered vessel “Quaker City” through Europe and the Holy Land — as fourth on what he calls a “brazenly opinionated short-list of travel classics .. that have inspired armchair travellers to venture out of their comfort zone and hit the road.”

Bermuda was the last port of call on the five-month “Quaker City” voyage, among the first extended pleasure cruises of its kind ever undertaken.

Mark Twain [1835–1910] — then a journalist and commentator — joined the “Quaker City” cruise with the intentions of sending back dispatches about his travels to various newspapers.

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

I've long been an admirer of Mark Twain and I've also become a fan of Bermuda, having taken a cruise to the beautiful island last October.

You can read my previous post on Bermuda and view a few photos via the below link:

Leader Of Jewelry Theft Ring Pleads Guilty In Virginia To Racketeering Conspiracy

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

The leader of a violent and highly sophisticated jewelry theft ring pleaded guilty today for his participation in a racketeering conspiracy, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride; and James Newman, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Washington Field Division.

Alexander Cuadros-Garcia, aka “Alex,” “Brujo,” “Aleto” and “Manuel Gonzalez”, 37, of Richmond, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tommy Miller in the Eastern District of Virginia, Newport News Division, to racketeering conspiracy.

According to court documents, Cuadros-Garcia led an organized criminal group that stole more than $4.6 million in jewelry from victims in Virginia and at least six other states.  In March 2012, Cuadros-Garcia was charged along with seven other individuals who were members of the Richmond-based ring that regularly conducted lengthy surveillance on jewelry stores to identify vulnerable individuals and then follow their targets back to the individuals’ hotel or home.
In most of the robberies, several men would suddenly appear as the victims approached or entered their car, punch out the car’s windows, threaten the victims at knife-point and steal the victims’ merchandise.  In addition, the robbers would puncture the victims’ car tires and steal their cell phone to reduce the chance of pursuit or apprehension.  After a successful robbery, members of the ring would travel to New York to sell the merchandise to businessmen, who coordinated re-selling the stolen property or melting it down for future use.

At sentencing, scheduled for June 19, 2013, Cuadros-Garcia faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

 Cuadros-Garcia’s co-defendants Raul Antonio Escobar-Martinez, William Leandro Herrera-Bohorquez and Juanita Diaz previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the theft ring.  Escobar-Martinez and Herrera-Bohorquez were sentenced on March 7 and March 14, 2013, respectively, to serve 87 months in prison.

 The investigation of this case was led by the ATF’s Washington Field Division, with the assistance of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the police departments in Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Henrico County, Chesterfield, Prince William County and Fairfax County in Virginia, along with the Virginia State Police; the Baltimore County, Md., Police Department; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; the New York City Police Department; and the police departments in Rutherford, N.J., and Gwinnett County, Ga.; and the Morris County, N.J. Prosecutor’s Office.

 Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Hurt of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome M. Maiatico of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Defense Secretary Commemorates Vietnam Veterans Day

The American Forces Press Service offers the below:

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who'd served in Vietnam as an Army noncommissioned officer, today issued a statement commemorating Vietnam Veterans Day.

The secretary's statement reads as follows:

"Today and this weekend, communities across the country commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day.

"This year we also mark forty years since the end of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam. On March 29, 1973, the last of our combat forces departed the country and the final release of American prisoners of war drew to a close.

"When Vietnam veterans reached their hometowns, many were not greeted with the appreciation and respect they very much deserved. In our time we must take every opportunity to thank all veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.

"More than 1,600 service members remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Their families still seek answers. Today, the Department of Defense reaffirms its commitment to take all steps to account for our missing personnel and bring closure to their families. And we salute and thank our Vietnam veterans and their families."

Vietnam Veterans Day, 2013

As we celebrate Vietnam Veteran's Day, Id like to offer a look back at the Vietnam War via the below links:

Former FBI Special Agent And Stolen Art Expert Doubts Philly Mob's Art Connection

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia offers a piece in on the story that possibly the Philadelphia mob has the stolen art from the famous Gardner Museum theft (see the above photo).

The bottom line is that the Philadelphia  mob has always been a bottom-line kind of outfit.

So if mob boss Joe Ligambi or any of his associates had information about the art work  stolen from a Boston museum 23 years ago, they would have cashed that info in for the $5 million reward.

That, at least, is the view of Robert Wittman, a retired FBI agent who specialized in art theft and who spent the bulk of his career working out of the FBI’s Philadelphia office.

“I sat next to the organized crime squad guys,” Wittman said in a telephone interview from his suburban Philadelphia office this week. “If they had heard anything, I would have known about it. We didn’t hear a thing.”The FBI in Boston announced last week that it now knew who was behind the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum back in 1990. But authorities did not disclose the names of the suspects.
Instead, they hinted at mob connections to both the heist and attempts to move the $500 million in priceless art work that was stolen. The take included  a Vermeer, a Manet, three Rembrandt's and five works by Degas.
The FBI announcement included speculation that the art was being “shopped” in the Philadelphia area 10 years ago and that some local mobsters were trying to expedite the sale. 
Wittman said he’s “skeptical.”
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can read an earlier post on the art theft via the below link:
You can also check former FBI Special Agent Robert Wittman's book Priceless: How I Went Undercover To Rescue The World's Stolen Treasures. 

Keen Birdwatcher To Also Watch Terrorists, Spies And Criminals As He Becomes Head Of MI5

The British newspaper the Telegraph announced that Anthony Parker would be the new head of MI5.

Andrew Parker, a keen bird watcher, was named as the new Director General of MI5 and will take over at the security service when Sir Jonathan Evans steps down next month.

He has been deputy director for the last six years but before that was responsible for combating international terrorism, especially Islamic fundamentalists.

His team's success, including foiling a plot to blow up transatlantic airlines with liquid bombs in 2006, led to him being promoted to number two in the service in 2007.

The appointment yesterday of Mr Parker, 50, was welcomed by security sources.

He is a career spy with 30 years service in MI5, which included work in the Middle East, counter espionage, Northern Ireland terrorism and serious and organised crime.

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

To learn more about MI5 I suggest you read Christopher Andrew's The Defense of the Realm: The Authorized Official History of MI5.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Office Of Naval Intelligence, America's Longest-Serving Intelligence Agency, Celebrates 131st Anniversary

The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) released the below information today:

SUITLAND, Md. (NNS) -- Office of Naval Intelligence personnel paused to mark a milestone for America's longest-serving intelligence agency during a ceremony for the 131st anniversary of ONI's establishment, March 22.

Presiding at the event, Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox, commander, ONI praised the command's intelligence professionals for their long record of accomplishments.

He said the ceremony offered an opportunity to celebrate the shared experiences of everyone who participated in some way to naval intelligence. Cox said the achievements include the sacrifices, hardships and all the great work that have built the legacy that has been handed down over the years.

Seventeen civilian and military awards were presented at the ceremony during which Cox lauded ONI's civilians for providing the long-term, in-depth expertise that he said has always been critical to successful intelligence production.

Cox noted historical examples of strong relationships between commander and intelligence officer.

"When Julius Caesar established the first military intelligence organization, he was very clear that 'the spy reports to me,'" said Cox.

The death last October of retired Rear Adm. Donald Showers marked the end of an era in naval intelligence, Cox said. As a junior officer, Showers played an important role in the World War II Battle of Midway as one of the Navy's "Station Hypo" code breakers at Pearl Harbor who warned Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz that a Japanese attack was imminent. Under the command of Cmdr. James Rochefort, then-Ensign Showers helped predict the Japanese navy's moves.

"That bond of trust in intelligence was present at the Battle of Midway, and it was the key factor in Nimitz being able to take the proper action based on intelligence," Cox said. "I would argue that that relationship between the military intelligence personnel and the commander held true through the Cold War, through today, and is still the fundamental issue of what this is all about."

"Our primary purpose today is to provide recognition and honor to some of our stellar performers at ONI, both military and civilian, who are building on the legacy of all that came before," he continued. "In the military, we roll in and out, back and forth, and the way you achieve the long dwell time on the target is through our civilian analysts.

"I would actually argue that in our particular case, these (civilian) analysts who have been working the targets for 20, 30 years in some cases, (are) the main battery of ONI, and that's what makes this organization really work," he said.

Military members honored at the ONI anniversary ceremony were:

- Lt. Jeffrey Vanak, ONI Junior Officer of the Year

- Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (IDW/EXW/SA) Bryan Judicki, ONI Sailor of the Year (Sea)

- Yeoman 1st Class (IDW/SW/AW) Tanja Smith, ONI Sailor of the Year (Shore)

- Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (EXW) Abby Randleman, ONI Reserve Sailor of the Year

- Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class (IDW) Billy Kingry, ONI Junior Sailor of the Year (Sea)

- Information Systems Technician 2nd Class (IDW/SW/AW) Geneva Hume, ONI Junior Sailor of the Year (Shore)

FBI Top Ten Fugitive Now In Custody

The FBI announced that they now have in custody one of their Ten Most Wanted fugitives:

FBI Denver Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Olson announces the return of FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive Edwin Ernesto Rivera Gracias to Denver, Colorado.

Rivera Gracias, wanted in Jefferson County, Colorado, for an August 17, 2011 murder of a long-time family acquaintance of his girlfriend, voluntarily returned to the United States to face charges. In coordination with Salvadoran authorities and the FBI’s San Salvador Legal Attaché Office, the United States sent an aircraft to transport Mr. Rivera Gracias to Denver, Colorado.

Upon landing, Rivera Gracias, accompanied by FBI Denver special agents, was turned over to local authorities for processing. Rivera Gracias has been charged and will have his first appearance in court for state charges.

Although a reward of up to $100,000 had been offered for information leading to the capture of Rivera Gracias, further reward information will not be made public.

“We appreciate the media and public’s assistance in providing useful information following the naming of Rivera Gracias as a Top Ten Fugitive,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge, Steve Olson. “This outcome provides assurance for victims and prosecutors throughout the United States that those who commit egregious crimes will be pursued around the globe.”

The FBI has legal attaché offices in over 70 key cities worldwide, providing coverage for more than 200 countries, territories, and islands. Each office is established through mutual agreement with the host country and is situated in the U.S. embassy or consulate in that nation.

The public is reminded that all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

Al Shabaab Operative Sentenced To 11 Months in Prison For Conspiring To Support And Receive Military-Type Training From A Foreign Terrorist Organization

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 Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 111 months in prison for conspiring to provide material support to and to receive military-type training from al Shabaab, a terrorist organization based in Somalia. The U.S. Department of State has designated al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed traveled thousands of miles to align himself with al Shabaab, to aid their campaign of terror, and to learn their ‘ways of war.’ Today, his journey ends in prison and marks the latest victory in our constant effort to protect Americans from terrorism at home and around the world.”

According to the Superseding information filed in Manhattan federal court, and prior court filings:

Al Shabaab has used violent means to destabilize the government of Somalia and to force the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. The group has recruited foreign fighters to join in its “holy war” in Somalia, resulting in men from other countries, including the United States, traveling there to engage in violent jihad. Al Shabaab has also made numerous public statements demonstrating its intent to harm the United States.

In early 2009, Ahmed left his home in Sweden and traveled to Somalia in order to support and receive military-type training from al Shabaab. While in Somalia, Ahmed contributed approximately 3,000 Euros to al Shabaab, received training and instruction with respect to bomb-making and bomb-detonation, and purchased an AK-47 rifle, additional magazines, and two grenades. Ahmed subsequently provided the rifle and magazines to an al Shabaab military commander.

* * *

In addition to the prison term, an order of judicial removal was signed, and Ahmed will be deported upon completion of the sentence. He was also ordered to pay a mandatory $200 special assessment.

Ahmed, 38, a native of Eritrea and a lawful resident of Sweden, was arrested in Nigeria in November 2009. On March 6, 2010, Ahmed was transferred to the custody of the United States and subsequently transported to the Southern District of New York for prosecution.

Ahmed pled guilty in June 2012 to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (al Shabaab) and one count of conspiracy to receive military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization (al Shabaab).

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force based in Manhattan—which principally consists of special agents of the FBI and detectives of the New York City Police Department. He also expressed gratitude to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, the Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. Department of State for their extraordinary assistance in the case. Mr. Bharara also thanked the governments of Sweden and Nigeria for their assistance in this matter.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Naftalis, John P. Cronan, and Rachel P. Kovner are in charge of the prosecution.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

'Game Of Thrones' More Brutally Realistic Than Most Historical Novels

Like millions of other TV viewers, I look forward to the new season of HBO's Game of Thrones.
So I read with some interest a piece by historian Tom Holland in the British newspaper the Guardian on how Game of Thrones is more brutally realistic than most historical novels.
Although Hilary Mantel is apparently yet to begin the third volume of her trilogy of novels about Thomas Cromwell, we can be confident of several plot twists that it will not feature. Cromwell will not precipitate a civil war. He will not betray the husband of his foster-sister, with whom he is in love. He will not escape the executioner's block. His downfall is scripted. The history books cannot be cheated. Mantel's Cromwell is as bound to the inevitability of his doom as any prisoner to a rack.
In the hands of a great writer, of course, the fact that we already know a character's fate can serve to heighten rather than diminish tension. For all that, though, the pleasure to be had in following a narrative and not knowing what will happen is a primal one. Next week sees the return to our television screens of a series that, like Mantel's two Tudor Booker prize winners, charts the pleasures and perils of political ambition. In a trailer for Game of Thrones, the voice of the actor Aiden Gillen can be heard defining chaos as a ladder: "The climb is all there is."
Gillen's character, Petyr Baelish, certainly knows whereof he speaks. The world he inhabits is one that will seem perfectly familiar to readers of Wolf Hall: courtly, treacherous and full of people having their heads chopped off with axes. Politics is portrayed as a game, in which only the most skilful can hope to win. Baelish himself has risen from humble beginnings to a position of understated influence and power. In the first series of Game of Thrones, he is shown serving a warrior king gone to seed and oppressed by serious marital problems. Baelish's talent is for keeping his spendthrift master in cash. "Within three years of coming to court he had been made master of coin and a member of the small council, and today the crown's revenues were 10 times what they had been under his predecessor."
If Baelish sounds more than a little like Thomas Cromwell, then perhaps that is not entirely a coincidence. He may inhabit a world, Westeros, which features dragons, walking corpses and a 700ft wall of ice – yet it is far from wholly fantastical. George RR Martin, whose series of novels inspired the HBO drama, has woven a tapestry of extraordinary size and richness; and most of the threads he has used derive from the history of our own world.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read the Guardian's beginners guide to the HBO series via the below link:

Whodunit? CNN's Peter Bergin Asks Who Really Killed Bin Laden? offers a piece by Peter Bergen that disputes the account of "the Shooter," the former Navy Seal who was interviewed by Esquire and claimed he shot bin Laden.

The Shooter went on to complain that after leaving the Navy he had no health benefits or pension.

As nearly all veterans like myself are aware, one has to put in 20 years in the military to receive continuing health benefits and a pension. I find it hard to believe that the Shooter was unaware of this fact.

Now other parts of his story are being questioned, including the claim that the Shooter was in fact the Navy SEAL who shot and killed bin Laden.

Peter Bergen says he interviewed another Navy SEAL who participated in the bin Laden. His story matches the former Navy SEAL who wrote an account of the bin Laden raid in No Easy Day.  

In February, Esquire magazine published a lengthy profile of "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden." The story did not identify the killer by his real name, referring to him only as "the Shooter."
The Shooter told Esquire that the night bin Laden was killed he had encountered al Qaeda's leader face-to-face in the top-floor bedroom of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden had been hiding for more than five years.

The Shooter explained that when he found bin Laden in his bedroom the al Qaeda leader was standing up and had a gun "within reach" and it was only then that the Shooter fired the two shots into bin Laden's forehead that killed him. That account was in conflict with the account from another raid participant in a wildly successful book "No Easy Day."

Now, another member of the secretive SEAL Team 6, which executed the bin Laden raid, tells CNN the story of the Shooter as presented in Esquire is false. According to this serving SEAL Team 6 operator, the story is "complete B-S."
You can read the rest of the story via the below link:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Edward J. Hanko Appointed To Head Philadelphia FBI Division

Below is the FBI announcement that Edward J. Hanko was selected to head the Philadelphia FBI Division:

Director Robert S. Mueller, III has named Edward J. Hanko as the special agent in charge of the Philadelphia Division. Mr. Hanko most recently served as the chief of the Cincinnati Division and was responsible for FBI investigations in central and southern Ohio.

Mr. Hanko joined the FBI in 1986 and was assigned to the Springfield Field Office. In 1990, he was transferred to the Newark Field Office, where he conducted organized crime and drug investigations. In October 1995, he was promoted to supervisory special agent and oversaw drug trafficking investigations.

Three years later, Mr. Hanko transferred to the Scranton Resident Agency, where he worked drug, organized crime, and political corruption investigations. He was promoted to supervisory senior resident agent in August 2002 and managed investigations across all investigative programs. In 2005, Mr. Hanko transferred to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where he instructed new agents, police officers, and Command Staff College attendees.

He became an assistant special agent in charge of the Detroit Field Office in October 2007 and had program management responsibility for the violent crime, organized crime, gangs/criminal enterprise, and critical incident response programs. In October 2009, Mr. Hanko was promoted to the ranks of the Senior Executive Service.

From 2009 to 2011, Mr. Hanko served as chief of the Operational Support Section in the Criminal Investigative Division and was responsible for the undercover, budget, and admministrative programs.

A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Mr. Hanko earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore in 1985. He served as an officer in the Baltimore City Police Department from 1981-86.

Mr. Hanko is married and has three adult children.

The Birth Of Bond: The 60th Anniversary of Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale' To Be Celebrated At University Of Illinois

The University of Illinois  plans to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication of Ian Fleming's first James Bond thriller, Casino Royale.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.” That’s the opening line of “Casino Royale,” the novel that introduced secret agent James Bond to the world, launching a franchise of books and blockbuster movies that continues to this day. April 13 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of “Casino Royale,” and the University of Illinois will recognize the event with a collaborative celebration hosted by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Spurlock Museum, and the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

Titled “The Birth of Bond: Ian Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’ at 60,” the event will feature a collection of first editions, manuscripts and Fleming ephemera at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library; a film festival and display of Bond movie costumes and props at the Spurlock Museum; a collection of audio recordings, photographs and sheet music (including the original 2006 “Casino Royale” score) at the Sousa Archives; and a performance of music from the Bond movies and books by the U. of I. Concert Jazz Band.

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

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

Victor Davis Hanson answers the question of why we invaded Iraq in his piece in the National Review.

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the back-and-forth recriminations continue, but in all the “not me” defenses, we have forgotten, over the ensuing decade, the climate of 2003 and why we invaded in the first place. The war was predicated on six suppositions.
1. 9/11 and the 1991 Gulf War. The Bush administration made the argument that in the post-9/11 climate there should be a belated reckoning with Saddam Hussein. He had continued to sponsor terrorism, had over the years invaded or attacked four of his neighbors, and had killed tens of thousands of his own people. He was surely more a threat to the region and to his own people than either Bashar Assad or Moammar Qaddafi was eight years later.

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

Philip Leonetti On Killing The Myth Of Whitey Bulger


Philip Leonetti. the one-time underboss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey Cosa Nostra organized crime family, and author of Mafia Prince: Inside America's Most Violent Crime Family and the Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra, offers a piece in the Huffington Post on his recollections of Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

During one of these meetings, a guy I knew as a mob associate who was affiliated with the Genovese crime family in New York introduced me to another mob associate from Providence. The two of them wanted to buy an old hotel in Atlantic City and re-develop it into a caberet style nightclub and restaurant and wanted the blessing of our family. After several meetings and after getting the green light to proceed from my uncle who was in jail, I arranged to meet with caporegimes from both the Genovese and Patriarca crime families to ensure that everything was done in accordance with the rules of La Cosa Nostra, i.e., that everyone knew where the money was to be sent. 
In this case, monthly envelopes would be sent to Vincent "Chin" Gigante, boss of the Genovese, through his underboss Venero "Benny Eggs" Mangano, Raymond Patriarca, boss of the Patriarca's, through his underboss Gennaro "Jerry" Angiulo, and my uncle, Nicky Scarfo, boss of the Philadelphia/Atlantic City mob, through me. 
As things progressed with our proposed joint venture, I first heard the name "Jimmy Bulger" from one of the Boston guys during a dinner meeting. Bulger I would learn, was an Irish drug-dealer and low-life punk from South Boston who was paying the Patriarca's tribute money to stay in business. The problem with Bulger was that he wasn't paying enough and was balking at efforts to pay more.
What's worse I would learn, was that Bulger had reportedly murdered a woman, had once been charged with rape, and may have worked as a male prostitute when he was younger.
The kicker was, he was also suspected of being an informant.

"You gotta kill em," I told the Boston guy, "Immediately. You can't do business with someone like him. I'm disgusted just hearing you talk about him."

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

You can also read my Q&A with Philip Leonetti via the below link:

Gone But Not Forgotten: Raymond Chandler Died On This Date in 1959 notes that the late great crime writer Raymond Chandler died on this date in 1959.

Raymond Chandler, the creator of the wise-cracking, tough guy private detective Philip Marlowe, was born on July 23, 1888. His novels included such crime classics as The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye.

You can read about Raymond Chandler at via the below link:

You can also read about Raymond Chandler's influence on crime novels and crime films via my Crime Beat column via the below link:

Monday, March 25, 2013

U.S. Defense Department Releases Best Military Photos Of 2012

The Defense Department released some of their best photos from 2012. The photos, taken by military men and women, show the good but dangerous work our military people perform every day.

The men and women of the U.S. military serve in operations around the world. They also are family members, athletes and sports fans who embrace life. Military photographers provide a visual record of their activities. In this review, Year in Photos 2012, we offer a selection of some of the most compelling pictures they produced.

You can see all of the photos via the below link: 

In the above photo taken by through a night-vision device during an air assault mission, U.S. Army paratroopers and Afghan soldiers travel aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during an air assault mission in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, May 4, 2012.

The photo was taken by Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

Note: I began in military journalism, writing news and features for U.S. Navy and Defense Department publications, and over the years I worked with many fine and professional military and DoD civilian photographers.   

A Portrait Of Organized Crime In Italy

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia reviewed Petra Reski's book on organized crime in Italy, The Honored Society: A Portrait of Italy's Most Powerful Mafia for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Honored Society is part memoir, part polemic by the German-born journalist who has lived in Italy since 1989 and carved out a career writing about and trying to understand the Italian underworld.  

To her, the Mafia is any one of four Italian organized crime syndicates - Cosa Nostra in Sicly, 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, Camorra in Naples, and the Sacra Corona Unita in Puglia. Reski has built her book around profiles of mobsters, informants, crusaders, and coconspirators whose lives and stories offer insights into the how and why of the Mafia.  rest o f the

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

George De Stefano at the New York Journal of Books also reviewed the book.

Petra Reski’s The Honored Society purports to be, and is being marketed as, an exposé of the ’Ndrangheta, the criminal organization based in the southern Italian region of Calabria that has expanded its operations throughout Europe.

But it’s really a Mafia romance. 
A German journalist who has covered the organized crime beat for newspapers and in books, Ms. Reski details the economic and political power, and the horrific violence, of the ’Ndrangheta, and of Sicily’s La Cosa Nostra and Naples’ camorra gangs.

But her up close and personal accounts of some of Italy’s most notorious gangsters often betray not only a morbid fascination with these violent men and their crimes but also admiration for, and even infatuation with them. They—mafiosi, camorristi, ’ndranghetisti—do terrible things, but they’re bold, clever and enterprising, as well as rich and powerful.

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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Happy Birthday To Steve McQueen, A Former U.S. Marine, A Fine Actor And One Very Cool Guy

Happy birthday to Steve McQueen.

A former U.S. Marine, a fine actor and one very cool guy, Steve McQueen appeared in several of my favorite films, including Bullitt, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles and Tom Horn.

Comcast Cable is offering The Magnificent Seven on Demand and I plan to watch this great film again later today in honor of Steve McQueen's birthday.

The web site offers more on McQueen:

Steve McQueen was born on March 24, 1930, in Beech Grove, Indiana. His career break-through came in 1958, with the TV western Wanted: Dead or Alive. In the 1960s, he starred in several successful films, including The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. In 1971, he formed First Artists Productions. During the 1970s, McQueen appeared in the films Bullitt and The Getaway. He died on November 7, 1980, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

You can read more via the below link:   

Japan Finally Convicts Powerful Yakuza Crime Boss

Jake Adelstein at the Daily Beast offers a piece on the conviction of a Japanese yakuza crime boss.

On March 22nd, the second most powerful gangster in Japan, and for several years the de facto head of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest mafia group (39,000 members), was sentenced to six years in prison for extortion, according to the Japanese media and police sources. The Kyoto District Court handed down the verdict today on March 22. The defense is expected to appeal the sentence, which came years after an initial investigation initiated by the Kyoto Police in late 2009.

Kodo-kai faction and the second in command of the Yamaguchi-gumi itself, was convicted of extorting cash totaling over 40,000,000 yen (approximately $422,000) from a 67-year-old president of a construction industry in Kyoto under the pretext of "protection money."

Mr. Takayama has a reputation as being a cunning and ruthless leader. He is a well-known figure in the country and on the cover of numerous publications about the yakuza. He was injured in his youth, allegedly in a sword fight, which resulted in his right eye being half-closed and giving him a frightening appearance. While feared and respected by many in the underworld, his unusually antagonistic attitude towards the police gained him criticism within and outside his own group. For decades, the police and the yakuza had semi-cordial relationships; cops would visit yakuza at their offices and they would casually talk to each other. The 3rd Generation leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi once served as the Honorary Police Chief Of The Day in the Kobe area in the 60s. When yakuza were caught for a crime they committed, they would quickly confess. If there were a gang war, those who committed violent acts of retaliation in the conflict would turn themselves into the police. Under Mr. Takayama, Yamaguchi-gumi members became more adversarial towards law enforcement and would not generally allow detectives into their offices, nor cooperate with investigations, nor confess to crimes.

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

You can also read an earlier Jake Adelstein piece on Japanese organized crime via the below link: 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Masterworks, Murder And Mobsters, A Philadelphia Story?


Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trials in Philadelphia for
Is jailed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi or any other member of his organization a secret "patron of the arts?"

That question surfaced this week as the FBI in Boston said it was close to solving a $500 million art heist that may have had a Philadelphia underworld connection.

In a week full of wild speculation, rumor and innuendo about the 1990 robbery -- one bizarre and unfounded report had some of the masterpieces stashed in the backroom of a South Philadelphia bar -- the story of mobsters and stolen masterworks was getting lots of traction.

In more mundane courtroom developments, meanwhile, two major players from the crime family, underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino and mob soldier Damion Canalichio are scheduled to be sentenced in May following their convictions last month on racketeering conspiracy charges. Each faces a potential double-digit prison term, given the nature of the charge and their lengthy criminal records.

Canalichio, 41, has two prior federal drug convictions. Massimino, 62, has been jailed on drug dealing and racketeering charges.

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

You can also read an earlier post on the Philly connection to the Gardner Museum theft via the below link:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Japan's Number Two Yakuza Jailed For Extortion

The Inquirer News in the Philippines reports on the arrest of the number two yakuza in Japan.

TOKYO — A “one-eyed” gangster, the number-two man in Japan’s biggest yakuza crime organization, was convicted of extortion on Friday, winning a high-profile victory for the country’s anti-mob police.

Kiyoshi “Mekkachi” Takayama, 65, who reputedly lost the use of his eye in a swordfight early in his career, was jailed for six years. His underworld nickname of “Mekkachi” means “one-eyed” in the dialect of western Japan.

Takayama is second in command of the Yamaguchi-gumi, a vast organized crime syndicate that had 27,700 members at the end of 2012, according to the National Police Agency.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on the yakuza and Jake Adelstein's Toyko Vice: An American Reporter On the Police Beat in Japan via the below link:

Philly Mob Connection To Boston's Gardner Museum Heist

There is a clever bit in the 1963 film Dr No, the first James Bond film based on Ian Fleming's iconic character.

James Bond is captured on Crab Key by Dr No's thugs and he is invited to dine in style with the evil and mad doctor. As he is about to sit and eat, Bond, portrayed by the great Sean Connery, does a double take and glances at a painting.

Although many film viewers did not catch it at the time, the painting was Goya's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, which had been stolen from the British National Gallery just prior to the filming in 1962.

Very clever, Mr filmmakers.

Perhaps I'll come upon a Rembrandt painting hanging in a local South Philly bar.

Kevin Cullen in his Boston Globe column writes about the possible Philadelphia organized crime connection to the Gardner Museum robbery.

So, 23 years after the ­Gardner Museum gets robbed, the feds think the art heist was pulled off by a combination of wiseguys from Boston and Philadelphia. Makes sense to me. There was always a symbiotic relationship between the Mafia in Boston and Philadelphia.

Larry Baione, who used to be the number two man in the Mafia around here, positively gushed over the Philly mob. That’s because, like the Philly boys, Larry loved to shoot people. 

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

You can also read an earlier post of the robbery via the below link:

Murder On Marine Base: Shooting At Quantico Marine Corps Base Leaves 3 Dead

The U.S. Marine Corps Quantico Public Affairs Office offered the below brief statement:
Marine Corps Base Quantico (March 22) --
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – A fatal shooting occurred at Officer Candidate School around 11 p.m. on March 21. The Provost Marshals Office responded with assistance from Prince William County police department.
The shooter, an active-duty Marine, has been pronounced dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound by law enforcement at the scene. Two other victims, also active-duty Marines, were pronounced dead at the scene.
The identities of the victims will be withheld until after primary next of kin notification. The incident is under investigation.
Marine Corps Base Quantico has returned to normal operations.    

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Alleged Al Qaeda Operative Charged In New York For Terrorism Offenses Against Americans Overseas

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

BROOKLYN—A six-count indictment was unsealed today in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, also known as “Spin Ghul,” with conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan, conspiracy to bomb American diplomatic facilities in Nigeria, conspiracy to provide material support to al Qaeda, providing material support to al Qaeda, and related firearms and explosives counts. The indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York on February 21, 2012, and relates to Harun’s alleged activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa beginning in 2001.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.

According to court documents, Harun, who was born in Saudi Arabia but claims citizenship in Niger, was extradited from Italy to the United States on October 4, 2012, and arraigned in a sealed proceeding in federal court in Brooklyn, New York on October 5, 2012. The case is scheduled for a public status conference before United States District Judge Edward R. Korman at the United States Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York, on March 22, 2013, at 2:30 p.m.

Harun is charged with crimes related to his alleged terrorist activities on behalf of al Qaeda beginning in 2001. According to the indictment and other court documents, beginning in 2001, the defendant traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan with the intent to fight violent jihad. He arrived in Afghanistan shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks. He then joined al Qaeda, received military-type training at al Qaeda training camps, and ultimately fought against United States and Coalition forces in Afghanistan with an al Qaeda fighting group based in Pakistan. According to the indictment, Harun allegedly attempted to kill United States military personnel in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2003. In 2003, in Pakistan, Harun received further al Qaeda training and traveled to Africa with the intent to conduct attacks on United States diplomatic facilities in Nigeria. While in Nigeria, Harun allegedly conspired with others to bomb such facilities.

According to the indictment and other documents, after the arrest of a co-conspirator, the defendant traveled to Libya, en route to Europe, but was apprehended in early 2005. The defendant then remained in Libyan custody until June 2011, when he was released by the Libyan government. He was then arrested by Italian authorities after assaulting officers on board a refugee ship bound for Italy. As noted, the defendant was indicted in the United States on February 21, 2012, and charged with (1) conspiring to murder United States nationals; (2) conspiring to bomb United States government facilities; (3) conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; (4) providing material support to al Qaeda; (5) using firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence; and (6) using explosives in furtherance of one or more felonies.

On July 5, 2012, the Naples Court of Appeals found the defendant extraditable to face the charges in the indictment pending against him in U.S. federal court, pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and Italy. On September 14, 2012, the Italian Minister of Justice ordered the defendant extradited. Federal agents took the defendant into custody in Italy on October 4, 2012, and he arrived in the United States on that same day.

If convicted of all the charges in the indictment, Harun faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.

“As alleged in the indictment, the defendant was a prototype al Qaeda operative, trained by al Qaeda in terrorist tradecraft, deployed to fight American servicemen, and dispatched to commit terrorist attacks throughout the world,” said United States Attorney Lynch. “Whether they try to attack our servicemen on the battlefield or scheme to kill our diplomats and citizens in embassies abroad, terrorists will find no refuge. The United States will use every tool at our disposal to protect our nation’s security and stop terrorist attacks before they happen.” Ms. Lynch expressed her gratitude to the law enforcement personnel who took part in the investigation, including Department of Defense Army investigators. She also thanked the Italian Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office in Palermo, Italy, and other Italian police authorities in their support of the investigation and extradition of the defendant.

“The indictment unsealed today seeks to hold accountable an alleged al Qaeda operative who targeted U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities across two continents. His arrest and extradition to the United States are important milestones in our ongoing counterterrorism efforts. I thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who brought about this significant case,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Carlin.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos said, “Vowing allegiance to al Qaeda and training to commit violent jihad are not the worst of Harun’s alleged crimes. The allegations include actually attacking U.S troops and plotting to use explosives to kill U.S. diplomats. As alleged, Harun not only intended to but did commit acts of terrorism against Americans. Now he is subject to the American justice system. We remain committed to protecting the safety of Americans and our national security.”

Police Commissioner Kelly said, “As more al Qaeda operatives continue to be flushed from hiding, the NYPD remains vigilant to the fact that terrorists have repeatedly since 9/11 plotted to kill more Americans. We are determined not to let that happen. I want to commend our federal partners and the U.S. Attorney in the prosecution of this important case.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Bitkower, Shreve Ariail, and Amanda Hector of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Assistance was provided by Alamdar Hamdani, Joseph Kaster, and Annamartine Salick of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division and by William Nardini of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

DefendantIbrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, also known as “Spin Ghul”
Age: 43

A Macabre Mystery: Gosnell Abortion-Murder Trial Focuses On Jars Of Preserved Fetus Feet

Joseph A. Slobodzian at the Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the strange abortion-murder trial in Philadelphia.

It's one of the macabre mysteries in the case of Kermit Gosnell: Why did the West Philadelphia abortion doctor keep the severed feet of fetuses preserved in specimen jars?

In testimony Tuesday, Adrienne Moton, a former worker at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society, told a Philadelphia jury that Gosnell once explained that he did so in case patients requested them for future identification or DNA samples.

But an expert on fetal development, testifying Wednesday at Gosnell's abortion-murder trial, said that was news to him.

"Do you think there is any medical reason to save the foot of a baby?" Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron asked.

"In my practice, we would have no reason to save the foot, and I've never seen that done," replied Daniel H. Conway, a physician and neonatologist at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Iraq In Retrospect

The Wall Street Journal offers a look back at the Iraq War.

It was 1998, and Iraq and the U.S. were edging toward war.

The Iraqi dictator, President Clinton warned that February, "threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region, and the security of all the rest of us. Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal." In October, the Iraq Liberation Act, which made regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy, passed 360-38 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate. In December, Mr. Clinton ordered Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombardment of Iraq with the declared purpose of degrading Saddam's WMD capability.

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, justifying the case for military action on the eve of Mr. Clinton's impeachment.

Whatever else might be said about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which began 10 years ago, its origins, motives and justifications did not lie in the Administration of George W. Bush. On the contrary, when Mr. Bush came to office in January 2001 he inherited an Iraq that amounted to a simmering and endless crisis for the U.S.—one that Saddam appeared to be winning.

... Today's conventional wisdom is that the Iraq war was an unmitigated fiasco that squandered American lives and treasure for the sake of a goal that wasn't worth the price. It's certainly true the Iraq war is a cautionary tale about the difficulty democracies have in sustaining lengthy military campaigns for any goal short of national survival.

What's also true, however, is that the war came about because the crisis of Iraq was allowed to fester for a decade, because Saddam was a real menace, and because a world in which he had been allowed to survive would have been far worse for America and the region. The men and women who fought and died removed a grave threat to the Middle East and to America.

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

Note: Above is a Defense Department map of Iraq and the Middle East.

Southern Command's Marine General Warns Of Potential Crime-Terrorism Nexus In Latin America

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

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 - A potential connection between crime syndicates and terrorists in Latin America would constitute a clear danger to the region, U.S. Southern Command's senior leader told reporters at the Pentagon today.

Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly said the increase in Iranian influence in Latin America is worrisome, and an example of the peril that the combination of criminal networks and states that sponsor terrorism, like Iran, could pose.

Kelly, who took over U.S. Southern Command in November, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference that in the past six years Iran has tried to increase its influence in Central and South America. The Iranian government, he said, has built embassies and cultural centers in the region.

"The concern is that ... they're looking ... for influence -- say for votes in the U.N. on sanctions," he said. "But also, and I've ... made mention to some of our friends in the region that these guys are very, very good at what they do, and very, very skilled at what they do, and that people should just be careful as to who they're dealing with."

The general stressed he is not accusing Iran of sponsoring terrorism in Latin America, but he noted that Iran is involved in terrorism in other areas of the world.

"We do know that some terrorist organizations are able to skim off fairly substantial sums of money from the drug profits," Kelly said. "And so there has to be kind of a network for that to happen."

The criminal networks in Latin America are very sophisticated and very well financed, he said.

Drugs are the basis for this wealth and the drug-related money coming out of the United States "is astronomical," Kelly said.

"I mean palettes of money," he said. "For a buck, anything can get on the [drug transport] network."

That network, Kelly said, transports tons of drugs into the United States and Europe and moves bales of money back out.

"The point of it all is the network is a very dangerous thing to have working as effectively as it does, because anything can get on it," he said.

Kelly said his command is working to build military-to-military contacts throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The good news about Latin America and my part of the world is that there are no wars," he said.

And most Latin American countries, including Brazil -- the world's fifth-largest economy -- want the United States as a partner, Kelly said.

The countries of the region don't ask for much, the general said.

"When I go down and visit, they're not asking for an awful [lot] -- they're not asking for money," Kelly said. "They're willing to pay their own way."

What the Latin American countries need is expertise, the general said. For example, Peru is asking for help in getting its separate military services to work together better. Colombia needs help in countering improvised explosive devices that the terror group FARC and criminal syndicates use to protect coca fields and factories. Other nations need medical expertise.

Turning to another topic, Kelly noted that sequestration will hit his command hard. He said there will be fewer vessels to interdict cocaine shipments, and fewer troops to operate with partner militaries.

8 Stories Of Heroism From The Iraq War

Katherine Miller at the Washington Free Beacon offers eight stories of heroism from the Iraq War.

The United States invaded Iraq ten years ago today—on March 20, 2003—a conflict in which 4,486 U.S. service members gave their lives and more than 32,000 were wounded.

The Washington Free Beacon has put together eight stories of tremendous acts of heroism performed by U.S. service members in Iraq—though there are hundreds more stories of heroism, bravery, and kindness shown by those who served in Iraq, as well as by those Americans who have served in the ongoing war in Afghanistan (and the 68,000 Americans who are serving in Afghanistan today).

You can read the stories via the below link:

Through A Thriller-Writer's Eye: Ian Fleming's Nonfiction books 'Thrilling Cities' And 'The Diamond Smugglers' Are Available On Amazon

The James Bond web site MI6 reports that the two Ian Fleming nonfiction - non James Bond - books are now available on Amazon.

Reprints of two of Ian Fleming's non-007 publications are now available in the USA from Amazon Publishing, the same imprint that re-released his James Bond novels in paperback in 2012. Travelogue "Thrilling Cities" (1963) and "The Diamond Smugglers" (1957) will be published in the US on 26th March 2013.
Thrilling Cities

Join the creator of James Bond on an adventurous tour of the world's most exciting, exotic and sinful cities.

"On November 2nd armed with a sheaf of suitcase...and my typewriter, I left humdrum London for the thrilling cities of the world..."

In 1959, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was commissioned by the Sunday Times to explore fourteen of the world's most exotic cities. Fleming saw it all with a thriller writer's eye. From Hong Kong to Honolulu, New York to Naples, he left the bright main streets for the back alleys, abandoning tourist sites in favour of underground haunts, and mingling with celebrities, gangsters and geishas. The result is a series of vivid snapshots of a mysterious, vanished world.
The Diamond Smugglers

The fantastic true story of the world's greatest smuggling racket, as told by the creator of James Bond.
"One day in April 1957 I had just answered a letter from an expert in unarmed combat writing from a cover address in Mexico City, and I was thanking a fan in Chile, when my telephone rang."

The Diamond Smugglers is the true story of an operation responsible for smuggling millions of pounds worth of precious gems out of Africa. Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, drew on interviews with the reluctant hero of the diamond companies' counter-attack to explore the world of the real master criminals of his time. The result rivals Fleming's greatest spy novels.
You can read this piece and others on Ian Fleming and James Bond at 
You can also read my Crime Beat column on Fleming's Thrilling Cities and The Diamond Smugglers, as well as my interview with Fergus Fleming, Ian Fleming's nephew and a director of Ian Fleming Publications (IFP), via the below link:

Family Photos Show Firebomb Victims: The Kaboni Savage Drug Kingpin Trial In Philadelphia

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

The family photos brought tears to the eyes of government witness Eugene Coleman.

His mother, Marcella, 54, smiling in her living room. His sister, Tameka Nash, 34, hugging her 10-year-old daughter, Khadjah. Another photo of Khadjah smiling impishly. A nephew.
Tahj Porchea, 12, standing tall and proud. And Coleman's infant son, Damir Jenkins, 15-months, laughing in his father's arms.

Each color photo was flashed on large television screens in the eighth floor courtroom where Coleman was testifying in the racketeering-murder trial of drug kingpin Kaboni Savage.

Family members in happier times.

Family members killed when their North Sixth Street rowhouse was firebombed in the early morning hours of Oct. 9, 2004, on the orders, authorities allege, of Savage.

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

Happy Belated Birthday To Patrick McGoohan

Happy belated birthday to the late great actor, writer and television producer Patrick McGoohan, who was born on March 19th in 1928. He died on January 13, 2009 at the age of 80.

Patrick McGoohan starred in a good number of films like Ice Station Zebra and Braveheart, but he is mostly known for two classic television series in the 1960s.

He first starred as John Drake in the intelligent, clever and realistic Danger Man (called Secret Agent the U.S.) and later as the captive secret agent called "Number 6" in the brilliant and innovative The Prisoner. I was a huge fan of both series when I was a teenager in the 60s and I remain one today.

You can read McGoohan's obituary in the Los Angeles Times via the below link:,0,3951859.story  

You can also read an earlier post on Patrick McGoohan via the below link:   

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Defense Secretary Hagel Honors Sacrifices On 10th Anniversary Of Iraq War's End

The American Forces Press Services offers the below:

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 - On the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement today honoring the sacrifices made by service members, their families and the Iraqi people.

Here is the text of the secretary's statement:

This week marks the ten year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. While that conflict has been brought to an end, we must never lose sight of the tremendous sacrifices our brave men and women in uniform made during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Every one of the more than one million service members that deployed to Iraq, often for multiple tours of duty, deserves our highest praise and deepest debt of gratitude. They served with valor and met every challenge - from the streets of Fallujah and Sadr City to outposts in Ramadi and Mosul - always watching out for their brothers and sisters in arms.

The American people will always honor the sacrifices of the 4,475 U.S. service members who died in Iraq, and the more than 32,000 who came home wounded. Every man and woman who served in Iraq carries with them the scars of war. As we remember these quiet heroes this week we are also reminded of their families and their sacrifices, as we also honor and thank them.

Our reflections include the Iraqi people - the Iraqi soldiers and police officers who died alongside our own, the men and women who were caught in the crossfire, and those who still struggle today to secure and govern their nation. The Iraqi people will determine the future of Iraq and the United States will continue to support their efforts for a peaceful, secure, free, and prosperous nation.

Pumping The Block: The Kaboni Savage Drug Kingpin Trial In Philadelphia

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

They called it "pumping the block" or "getting the block jumping."

It was the underworld equivalent of a retail "loss leader." The idea was to give something away for free in order to attract customers.

In this case, the product was drugs -- cocaine, marijuana and a methamphetamine concoction known as "wet."

Lamont Lewis had taken over a corner at 8th and Venango Streets in North Philadelphia, government witness Eugene Coleman said from the witness stand, and the kingpin he worked for, Kaboni Savage, decided they had to do something to "get the block jumping."

"We did this to let people know there was drugs on that corner," said Coleman, who took the stand this morning in the racketeering-murder trial of Savage and three co-defendants.
Coleman was a key Savage associate through most of the 1990s before pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreeing to testify for the government. Prosecutors contend that Savage ordered the October 2004 firebombing of Coleman's mother's home on North Sixth Street in retaliation.

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

Defense Contractor In Hawaii Charged With Communicating Classified National Defense Information To Chinese Woman

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii released the below information yesterday:

HONOLULU – Benjamin Pierce Bishop, 59, a former U.S. Army officer who works as a civilian employee of a defense contractor at U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Hawaii, has been arrested on charges of communicating classified national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information.
The arrest and charges were announced by Florence T. Nakakuni, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii; John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Vida G. Bottom, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Honolulu Division; Dwight Clayton, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Hawaii Field Office; and U.S. Navy Captain Patrick McCarthy of USPACOM.
Bishop, a resident of Hawaii, was arrested Friday without incident at his workspace at USPACOM in Hawaii and made his initial appearance on Monday in federal court in Honolulu. The criminal complaint filed in the District of Hawaii charges him with one count of willfully communicating national defense information to a person not entitled to receive such information and one count of unlawfully retaining documents related to the national defense. If convicted, he faces a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Bishop currently works as an employee of a defense contractor that has a contract with USPACOM, whose command is based in Oahu, Hawaii. Bishop has held a Top Secret security clearance since July 2002 and held access to Secure Compartmented Information from November 2002 to April 2012. As a person holding a Top Secret security clearance, Bishop has been subject to multiple security briefings on restrictions regarding the disclosure of classified national defense information, as well as the handling, marking and storage of such information.
According to the affidavit, between May 2011 through December 2012, Bishop willfully communicated classified national defense information on multiple occasions to Person 1, an individual not entitled to receive such information. The affidavit alleges that Person 1 is a 27-year-old female citizen of the People’s Republic of China who is residing in the United States on a visa and who does not possess, nor has ever possessed, a U.S. security clearance, and thus is not entitled to receive U.S. classified information.
According to the affidavit, Bishop and Person 1 originally met in Hawaii during a conference regarding international military defense issues. Since June 2011, Bishop and Person 1 have allegedly been involved in a romantic relationship. Despite a Defense Department directive requiring personnel, like Bishop, who maintain a U.S. security clearance to report to the U.S. government any contacts with foreign persons, Bishop has affirmatively hidden his relationship with Person 1 from U.S. government officials, the affidavit alleges.
The affidavit alleges that Bishop communicated information classified at the Secret level to Person 1 on several instances. According to the affidavit, the national defense information that Bishop passed to Person 1 included information relating to nuclear weapons; information on planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems; information on the ability of the United States to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of foreign governments; and information on the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim.
The affidavit further alleges that a court-authorized search of Bishop’s residence in November 2012 revealed approximately 12 individual documents each with classification markings at the Secret level. Bishop’s residence is not an authorized location for the storage of classified information and Bishop was not authorized to remove and retain those documents.
This case is being investigated by the FBI Honolulu Division and the NCIS Hawaii Field Office in coordination with USPACOM and the U.S. Army. The prosecution is being handled by Kenneth Sorenson, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii, and Robert E. Wallace Jr., Senior Trial Attorney in the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The charges contained in the criminal complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.