Friday, February 28, 2014

Drugs, Guns And The Torment Of His Only Son: The Sad Life and Death Of James Bond Author Ian Fleming's Son

In light of the BBC dramatization of James Bond author Ian Fleming's life, Natalie Clark at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a piece on the sad life and death of Ian Fleming's son.

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can learn more about the life of Ian Fleming and Caspar Fleming by reading Andrew Lycett's biography of Ian Fleming.   

Is The Mob Dead In Philly?

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia offers a piece in the Philadelphia City Paper on the possible demise of La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia.

Mob boss Joe Ligambi is back in his stylish corner townhouse in Packer Park, the one with the black, front-door awning embossed with a bold, white letter “L.” The 74-year-old crime boss has also been spotted, on occasion, driving around South Philadelphia in a late-model black Cadillac sedan, his car of choice for years. 
But is the veteran wise guy in the driver’s seat when it comes to the local crime family? More important, does he — or anyone for that matter — want to be? 
History indicates that the job of Philly mob boss leads to a jail cell or a coffin. Of the six mob bosses who preceded Ligambi, two were brutally murdered and the other four ended up doing long prison terms.
It’s the smart thing to say. But does he mean it? That’s what everyone is wondering. 
“The problem for all these guys,” says Steve LaPenta, a retired law enforcement investigator who tracked the mob first as a member of the Philadelphia Police Department and later as an investigator with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, “is that it’s not like the old days. The money just isn’t there. Used to be there might be 20 guys sharing a pie big enough for 40. Now, you got 20 guys trying to get a piece from a pie that’s only big enough for four or five.” 
Will everyone play nice and share? Or will someone get greedy?
Greed in the underworld leads to violence. That hasn’t changed. That’s what everyone is watching for as South Philadelphia wise guys from two different generations find themselves back on the streets. Ligambi has had a foot in both camps and is perhaps the one mobster who can bridge the divide. But if he is stepping down, then who will play that role? 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

A Cop-Killer's Flack

The New York Post Editorial Board offers a piece on the Senate confirmation of Debo Adegbile.

As director of litigation for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Debo Adegbile put himself at the center of a public campaign on behalf of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Now President Obama has nominated this man to head the civil-rights division at the Justice Department.

And all that stands between Adegbile and his appointment is a Senate confirmation.

Let’s start at the beginning. In 1981, Abu-Jamal murdered Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. The evidence against him was overwhelming. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

The facts have never really been in doubt. But the left painted Abu-Jamal as the victim of a racist justice system, and over the course of three decades of appeals he became a cause célèbre.

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

You can also read my column on Officer Faulkner's widow's book via the below link:

And you can read my Crime Beat column on the Abu Jamal case via the below link:

Sicilian Mafia Sent Hit Man To Whack Giuliani

Andy Soltis at the New York Post offers a piece on the Sicilian Cosa Nostra's assassination plans for Rudy Giuliani.

The head of the Sicilian mafia sent a hit man to America to arrange the murder of Rudy Giuliani in the 1980s, Italian news media reported.

“Boss of bosses” Salvatore Riina targeted Giuliani because of his friendship with an anti-mafia judge in Sicily, Giovanni Falcone.

The plot to kill Giuliani, while he was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, came to light during a trial in Sicily in which former Italian government officials are accused of agreeing to a peace pact with the mob in the 1990s.   

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

John Bingham: The Spy Who Turned Hitler’s British Supporters Into Unwitting Double Agents

Hayley Dixon at the British newspaper the Telegraph offers a piece on John Bingham.

A “genius” spy who pretended to be a German agent duped British Nazi sympathisers into revealing their secrets during the Second World War, newly released documents show.

The deception by John Bingham, the MI5 agent who partly inspired John le Carré’s character George Smiley, is disclosed in National Archive files released 25 years after his death. He fed the sympathisers’ secrets back to MI5 so it could prepare for acts of sabotage.
The documents also show that MI5 drew up plans to issue the sympathisers with badges of the Union flag to be worn in the event of an invasion; supposedly to identify them as friends to the Germans, but, in fact, to enable them to be swiftly rounded up by the police.
Prof Christopher Andrew, the former official historian of the Security Service, said: “This is a revelation that, alongside the extremely well known double cross system in which we actively sent false information to the Germans, there was a small but interesting way of preventing accurate information getting to them.”

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

You can also read an earlier post on the late John Bingham and Michael Jago's book on him via the below link: 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Admiral McRaven: Special Ops Ready for Post-2014 Afghanistan

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. at the American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2014 - Special operations forces will be prepared for any decision made on the post-2014 U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command told Congress today.

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, Navy Adm. William H. McRaven cited "great strides" in dealing with current conflicts, preparing for future conflicts, and with the state of his workforce.

"Socom continues to provide the world's finest warriors to the fight in Afghanistan," he said. "As we approach the end of 2014, your special operations forces will be able to adjust to whatever decisions are made regarding our future employment in that country."

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon leaders to prepare for the possibility of a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year if a signed bilateral security agreement is not in place.

"Globally, we are developing plans to better serve the geographic combatant commanders, who, owing to the past 12 years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, have gone under-resourced with special operations forces," McRaven said.

The admiral referred to Socom as the Defense Department's "synchronizer for the planning of the war on terrorism," noting the work special operations forces are doing to better coordinate activities locally, regionally and globally with both the geographic combatant commanders and the U.S. ambassadors.

"I believe the future of special operations will be in helping to build partner capacity with those willing nations who share our interests," he said.

This will mean strengthening existing allied relationships, McRaven said, and building new ones. "No nation alone can stem the rise of extremism," he said. "We need our friends and allies more now than ever before."

The admiral said Socom's future is "inextricably linked" to the general-purpose force and government agencies outside DOD.

"The past 12 years have shown us that a whole-of-government effort is required to be successful," McRaven said. "In special operations, we have always known that without our fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, we are destined to fail."

McRaven said the command has also gone to great lengths to take care of what he called his most precious resource: his people.

"The preservation of the force and family ... has already seen a marked improvement in the morale and well-being of those who serve in [special operations forces]," he said. While there are still issues to be addressed, McRaven acknowledged, he expressed confidence in the health of the force and their families going forward.

"I believe that we have laid the foundation for keeping our force, and their families, strong and resilient into the future," he said.

Fort Benning Employee Allegedly Steals Military Identities to Commit Multi-Million Dollar Tax Refund Fraud

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

Tracy Mitchell, a resident of Phenix City, Ala., was indicted for her involvement in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme, Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally of the Justice Department's Tax Division and U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. for the Middle District of Alabama announced today following the unsealing of the indictment.
Mitchell is charged with eight counts of wire fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft.  According to the indictment, Mitchell worked at the hospital on the Fort Benning Army Base in Georgia, where she had access to the means of identification of military personnel, including soldiers who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Mitchell stole the identities of military personnel and used those identities to file over 1,000 false tax returns from her home.  These false tax returns claimed over $2.2 million in fraudulent refunds. 
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the defendant faces a statutory maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count and a statutory mandatory two-year sentence for each aggravated identity theft count.  The defendant is also subject to fines, forfeiture and restitution if convicted.
The case was investigated by special agents of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Army – Criminal Investigation Division.  Trial Attorney Michael Boteler of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Brown are prosecuting the case.   

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio Unloads On Dem Senator For Praising Cuban Communism

Noah Rothman at offers a piece on Senator Marco Rubio's response to hign praise of the Cuban Communist dictatorship.

Upon returning from a trip to Cuba, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) appeared on the floor of the U.S. Senate and delivered a speech praising the Cuban government for what he called their advanced health care system and socialized education system. Upon hearing this speech, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) responded with a blistering attack on Cuba’s repressive government and his colleague’s credulous acceptance that tyrannical government’s pronouncements.

Rubio began by noting that a variety of the statistics Cuba purports to show that it is an advanced state when it comes to health services are massaged. “I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba,” Rubio said of his Iowa colleague. “I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States, because they defected. Because in Cuba doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor.”

... What they are really good at is repression,” Rubio continued “They have exported repression in real time, in our hemisphere, right now.”

Rubio went on to discuss the violence being carried out against anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela and asserted that this violence was being carried out by a government propped up by Cuba. “But you want us to reach out and develop friendly relationships with a serial violator of human rights, who supports what’s going on in Venezuela and every other atrocity on the planet?” the senator asked of his Democratic colleagues. “On issue after issue, they are always on the side of the tyrants.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video of Senator Rubio's speech via the below link:

NSA Watchdog: Snowden Should Have Come To Me

Darren Samuelsohn at offers a piece on the National Security Agency's Inspector General, who says that NSA leaker Edward Snowden should have come to him.

The National Security Agency’s top watchdog slammed Edward Snowden on Tuesday for failing to follow official protocol in relaying his concerns about wayward intelligence gathering and also faulted Congress for not vetting the details of post-9/11 surveillance programs.

“Snowden could have come to me,” George Ellard, the NSA’s inspector general, said during a panel discussion hosted by the Georgetown University Law Center.

Ellard, making his first public comments in seven years working for NSA, insisted that Snowden would have been given the same protections available to other employees who file approximately 1,000 complaints per year on the agency’s hotline system.

“We have surprising success in resolving the complaints that are brought to us,” he said.

In Snowden’s case, Ellard said a complaint would have prompted an independent assessment into the constitutionality of the law that allows for the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata. But that review, he added, would have also shown the NSA was within the scope of the law.

“Perhaps it’s the case that we could have shown, we could have explained to Mr. Snowden his misperceptions, his lack of understanding of what we do,” Ellard said.

And if Snowden wasn’t satisfied, Ellard said the NSA would have then allowed him to speak to the House and Senate intelligence committees.

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

You can also visit the NSA IG page via the below link: 

Note: I've said this from the beginning of the Snowden scandal. For a good number of years during my time as a Defense Department civilian employee, one of my assigned security duties was investigating and reporting on DoD Inspector General "Hotline" complaints. Mr. Ellard is correct, but I don't believe that Snowden was interested in righting wrongs. I believe he was interested in his own glory.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

But He's One Of Us: British MI6 Chiefs Tried To Protect Notorious Cambridge Spy Ring Double Agent Kim Philby As They Thought He 'Couldn't Possibly Be A Traitor'

I enjoyed watching a clever and funny British TV comedy series years ago called Yes, Minister. The show was about a bumbling political hack turned government minister who was aided (and foiled) by his assistant, a professional bureaucrat.

The show was later called Yes, Prime Minister, as the hack was voted in as the British Prime Minister.

I recall in one episode of Yes, Prime Minister where the head of the Secret Intelligence Service, or SIS (commonly called MI6), told the Prime Minister that despite claims by the press and other politicians, he didn't believe that an accused SIS officer could possibly be a Soviet spy.

"Why not?" asked the Prime Minister.

"Why, he's one of us!" replied the SIS chief as he stuffed his pipe.

"One of us?"

"Yes, Prime Minister. He is one of us."

Hugo Gye at the British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a piece on a new book on British traitor and spy Kim Philby that claims MI6 chiefs tried to protect the double agent because he was "one of us" - a member of the British establishment.

British spy bosses repeatedly tried to protect Soviet double agent Kim Philby because they believed he 'couldn't possibly be a traitor', according to a new book which was banned by MI6.  

Tim Milne, an MI6 spy who was Philby's oldest friend, has revealed the extraordinary lengths to which intelligence officials went in order to protect the notorious figure.

Philby came under suspicion when two other members of the Cambridge spy ring fled to Moscow - but despite a 12-year investigation, he was never brought to justice and was eventually allowed to defect to the USSR.

MI6 chiefs refused to believe that he could be guilty because of his apparently distinguished service and Establishment background, and shielded him from an MI5 probe.

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

Scarfo Family's Troubled History Now Part Of FirstPlus Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering Philadelphia-South Jersey mob trials for

He was nearly killed in one of the  most infamous gangland shootings in the violent history of the Philadelphia mob.

His older brother has changed his name to get out from under the family stigma.

A younger brother tried to commit suicide for the same reason and has been comatose for 25 years.

That's part of the depressing personal history of Nicodemo S. Scarfo, a story that has made its way into testimony in the now seven-week old racketeering and fraud trial playing out in federal district court in Camden.

Scarfo, 47, is the lead defendant in the case. He and Salvatore Pelullo, a 45-year-old Mafia wannabe, are charged with orchestrating the secret takeover of a Texas mortgage company in 2007 and then ripping it off to the tune of $12 million.

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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

End Of American Military Dominance

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz offers a piece in the Washington Free Beacon on the military reductions proposed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (seen in the above DoD photo).

President Barack Obama will sharply cut ships, aircraft, and troops as part of a major reduction of U.S. military forces that will face even steeper downsizing in 2016, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Monday.

The defense cuts, to be announced formally in the president’s budget proposal next month, would reduce U.S. ground forces to their lowest level since World War II at a time when world threats are increasing.
...American Enterprise Institute scholar Mackenzie Eaglen said the latest defense cuts will continue to weaken the U.S. military and its technological edge.

“President Obama is submitting another defense budget that essentially seeks to cash in a peace dividend in a world with little peace,” she said. “His own director of national intelligence recently told Congress that in over a half century, he has not experienced a time when the U.S. has ‘been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.’”

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

FBI Suspected Iconic 1964 Ali-Liston Fight Was Rigged By Mob

Thom Loverro at the Washington Times offers a piece on the FBI's suspicions of the famous 1964 fight between Ali and Liston.

Fifty years ago today, Muhammad Ali “shocked the world” and beat one of the most fearsome fighters ever to put on a pair of boxing gloves, heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

But what if that storied fight was not what it seemed?

It happened Feb. 25, 1964, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The film clip and sound bite have now become part of the American story — Liston quitting his stool before the eighth round, a young Cassius Clay, as Ali was known then, bouncing around the ring, waving his hands, yelling to the reporters at ringside who thought he would be killed by the more veteran boxer. “I’m king of the world! I’m king of the world!” Ali proclaimed.

... Maybe it wasn’t such a shock, as 4-decade-old documents released to The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act show the FBI suspected the fight may have been fixed by a Las Vegas figure tied to organized crime and to Liston. The documents show no evidence that Ali was in on the scheme or even knew about it. And nothing suggests the bureau ever fully corroborated the suspicions it investigated.

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

Hundred Days: The Campaign That Ended World War I

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a review in the Washington Times of Nick Lloyd's Hundred Days: The Campaign That Ended World War I.

By the spring of 1918, both sides in World War I were reeling, with a “final chance” German offensive only adding to the hundreds of thousands of casualties already suffered on the battlefield. The defeat started serious discussions among German officials that perhaps it was time to sue for an end to the deadlocked war.

The allied armies, similarly battered, managed to muster enough strength to launch their own attempt to win the war, in what historians now call the Hundred Days Offensive. However, unlike the Germans, whose manpower pool for replacements had essentially gone dry, the Allies could rely upon the resources of a late entrant to the war, the United States military.

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

He Made Me Laugh: Harold Ramis, Chicago Actor, Writer And Director, Dead At 69

I was sorry to hear of Harold Ramis's death. He made me laugh when he was an actor and writer for the old SCTV comedy show. I loved that clever, funny show.

Ramis later made me laugh as an actor, writer and director of  such classic comedy films as National Lampoon's Animal House, National Lampoon's Vacation and Caddyshack.  He shall be missed.

Mark Caro at the Chicago Tribune offers a piece on the Windy City resident.

Harold Ramis was one of Hollywood’s most successful comedy filmmakers when he moved his family from Los Angeles back to the Chicago area in 1996. His career was still thriving, with "Groundhog Day" acquiring almost instant classic status upon its 1993 release and 1984's "Ghostbusters" ranking among the highest-grossing comedies of all time, but the writer-director wanted to return to the city where he’d launched his career as a Second City performer.

"There's a pride in what I do that other people share because I'm local, which in L.A. is meaningless; no one's local," Ramis said upon the launch of the first movie he directed after his move, the 1999 mobster-in-therapy comedy "Analyze This," another hit. "It's a good thing. I feel like I represent the city in a certain way."

Ramis, a longtime North Shore resident, was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis said. He was 69. 

... Ramis leaves behind a formidable body of work, with writing credits on such enduring comedies as "National Lampoon's Animal House" (which upon its 1978 release catapulted the film career of John Belushi, with whom Ramis acted at Second City), "Stripes" (1981) and "Ghostbusters" (in which Ramis also co-starred) plus such directing efforts as "Caddyshack" (1980), "National Lampoon's Vacation" (1983), "Groundhog Day" and "Analyze This."

Previously he was the first head writer (and a performer) on Second City's groundbreaking television series "Second City Television (SCTV)" (1976-79). More recently he directed episodes of NBC’s "The Office."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:,0,2259309.story

Churchill's First War: Young Winston At War With The Afghans

Gary Anderson offers a review in the Washington Times of Conn Coughlin's Churchill's First War: Young Winston at War With the Afghans.

With the possible exception of his archenemy Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill saw more front-line combat than any leader of the 20th century as a young man. Con Coughlin’s excellent new book chronicles young Winston's first real taste of battle and its formative influence on one of the great leaders of the British Empire.

Churchill had mapped out his life at an early age, and with his legendary sense of purpose, he achieved and exceeded his early ambitions.

... Acting as a soldier-journalist, he got his chance for combat, in a brief and brutal campaign with the Malakand Field Force’s punitive expedition against Pashtun insurgents on the northwest frontier with Afghanistan.

The climax of the book is the battle of Shahi-Tangi, where Churchill came very close to being killed in close combat, but he was “mentioned in dispatches” for heroism. It was the next best thing to getting a medal. Although he would become much better known for his adventures in the South African Boer War, Churchill had begun the reputation as a soldier-journalist that would be the springboard to his political career.

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Her Majesty's Secret Service Recap: A 007 Outlier With A Truly Human Bond

Stuart Heritage at the British newspaper the Guardian looks back at the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service.   

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS) had a lot to live up to. As far as the entire world was concerned, Sean Connery was James Bond. And here was some impostor – worse, an impostor from the colonies, George Lazenby, whom nobody had heard of – waltzing in to take his place. It wasn't right. It wouldn't do. To rub everyone's noses in it even further, On Her Majesty's Secret Service deliberately stuck closely to the book, which meant no audience-pleasing whizz-bang gadgets. And what's with the bummer of an ending? No wonder the film only took half of the amount of You Only Live Twice at the box office.

And yet I will fight anyone who dares to tell me that they don't like On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Because they are flat out wrong. In the 45 years since it was released, it stands out as one of the best 007 films ever. Possibly even the best. It has the best soundtrack. It pushes the character into difficult new places. And that ending: that's not just a great James Bond ending, it's probably in the top 10 film endings of all time. If you've never seen On Her Majesty's Secret Service, you should watch it. If you've seen On Her Majesty's Secret Service before, you should watch it again. And if you don't like it, I'm serious about fighting you.

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

Note: I agree. I watch the film every Christmas season, as the film takes place during the Christmas holiday and has a winter backdrop in Switzerland. I think the novel was one of Ian Fleming's best and director Peter Hunt was faithful to the novel, unlike most Bond films.

You can read an earlier post on the film via the below link:

And you can read my Crime Beat column on Cinema Crime Wave, which touches on Her Majesty's Secret Service, via the below link:

U.S. Government Statement On The Apprehension Of Mexican Drug Lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman

The U.S. Justice Department released the below:

Today Mexican authorities announced the capture of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera, the alleged leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. The Sinaloa Cartel is designated a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker by the U.S. Government.
Attorney General Holder stated:  "Today's apprehension of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera by Mexican authorities is a landmark achievement, and a victory for the citizens of both Mexico and the United States.  Guzman was one of the world's most wanted men and the alleged head of a drug-running empire that spans continents.  The criminal activity Guzman allegedly directed contributed to the death and destruction of millions of lives across the globe through drug addiction, violence, and corruption. We salute the Government of Mexico, and the professionalism and courage of the Mexican authorities, for this arrest.  We are pleased that we were able to work effectively with Mexico through the cooperative relationship that U.S. law enforcement agencies have with their Mexican counterparts.  We look forward to ongoing cooperation, and future successes."
Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson stated: "The operation led by the Mexican government overnight to capture Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera is a significant victory and milestone in our common interest of combating drug trafficking, violence and illicit activity along our shared border. We congratulate our Mexican partners in this achievement and we will continue to work collaboratively with them to ensure a border region that is safe and secure, for the communities and citizens of both our nations."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

More Problems Ahead For South Philly Auto Shop Don

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering organized crime trials for

Ron Galati, the Don Corleone of the South Philadelphia auto repair business, was arraigned earlier this week on murder-for-hire, conspiracy and witness intimidation charges.

The wannabe wiseguy pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail pending trial. He is also the target of two other investigations, an insurance fraud probe in Philadelphia and another murder-for-hire and fraud case in New Jersey.

Galati, if the District Attorney's allegations prove true, has apparently turned an insurance fraud pinch that could have landed him in jail for from five to six years into an attempted murder-witness intimidation fiasco that could result in a prison sentence of up to 30 years. That's not a pleasant prospect for the 63-year-old mob associate who underworld sources say always talked a better game than he played.

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

World's Most Powerful Drug Lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Captured

The New York Post offers a piece on the capture of the notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

MEXICO CITY — The head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel who was the world’s most powerful drug lord was captured overnight by US and Mexican authorities at a condominium in Mazatlan, Mexico, The Associated Press learned Saturday, ending a bloody decades-long career that terrorized swaths of the country.

A senior US law enforcement official said Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was taken alive overnight by Mexican marines in the beach resort town. The official was not authorized to discuss the arrest and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Guzman, 56, was found with an unidentified woman. The US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Marshals Service were “heavily involved” in the capture, the official said. No shots were fired.

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

NPR Books: A Cure For Sochi-Fatigue, Shaken Not Stirred

To combat Sochi-fatigue, Lev Grossman recomends reading one of the best of Ian Fleming's James Bond thrillers On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The Sochi Winter Olympics haven't been short on drama: The Russians upset the South Koreans in figure skating; the Dutch upset us in speed-skating; everybody got upset about Bob Costas's eye infection. But after two weeks and a great deal of curling, a certain amount of Sochi fatigue is setting in. So it might be refreshing to look back at one of the iconic heroes of winter sports: Agent 007 himself, James Bond.

Bond's career as a winter athlete peaks in Ian Fleming's 11th novel, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond's nemesis Blofeld, having spent his ill-gotten gains on an alp, has set himself up in a remote, super-exclusive ski resort near St. Moritz (which happens to be the site of both the 1928 and 1948 winter Olympics). Bond decides to infiltrate the place. It doesn't hurt that the resort doubles as a health spa for ski bunnies who appear to be suffering from chronic sexiness.

... On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the epitome of mid-century Alpine glamor, full of apres-ski trysts and flasks full of schnapps and blonds in tight sweaters and exciting-sounding Swiss-German ski terminology like langlaufing. But what makes it truly great is that unlike the Bond films, it's not a hymn to human invulnerability. Bond's knees tremble; his ankles ache; he's constantly worrying about his outdated skiing style and lousy form — "keep forward, you bastard!" he tells himself. "Get your hands way in front of you!"

You can read the rest of the piece and listen to the NPR broadcast via the below link:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mafia Is Down - But Not Out

Sean Gardiner and Pervaiz Shallwani at the Wall Street Journal offer a piece on the current status of  La Cosa Nostra organized crime in New York.

For more than two decades, New York City's five organized-crime families were plagued by convictions brought on by strengthened federal laws and the increasing habit of higher-ranking members cooperating with the government.
Those years of high-profile decline created a perception that the city's mafia is on the verge of extinction. But law-enforcement officials and mob experts say the five families, while not the force they once were, are far from sleeping with the fishes. They have survived, the experts said, because of their persistence and ability to adapt.
"I don't know that I'd say La Cosa Nostra was what it was in its heyday but I wouldn't say by any means it's gone away," said Richard Frankel (seen in the above FBI photo), special agent in charge of the Criminal Division for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office.
You can  read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Philadelphia Woman Sentenced for Her Role in Deadly Firebombings

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

Kidada Savage, 31, of Philadelphia, was sentenced today to life in prison for her role in the Oct. 9, 2004, firebombing that killed six members of a federal witness’s family. Savage is the sister of Kaboni Savage, who ordered the firebombing and who was sentenced to death for 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, United States Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division made the announcement.

Kidada Savage was convicted on May 13, 2013, of six counts of murder in aid of racketeering, all related to the firebombing of Eugene Coleman’s family home.   Coleman was a federal witness at the time.   Six people, including four children, were killed in the arson.   Kaboni and Kidada Savage were also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, retaliating against a witness by murder and using fire to commit a felony.

Kidada Savage acted as a go-between for her brother, who was in federal custody awaiting a drug trial, and Lamont Lewis, who committed the firebombing.   Lewis pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.   Robert Merritt and Steven Northington were also convicted in the case.  Northington was sentenced to life; Merritt is awaiting sentencing.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Maple Shade Police Department in New Jersey.   The United States Bureau of Prisons, United States Marshals Service and the Philadelphia / Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force also assisted in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Steve Mellin of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David E. Troyer and John M. Gallagher.

You can also read an earlier post on Kaboni Savage:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Crime Report: FBI Releases Preminary Semiannual Crime Statistics For 2013

The FBI released the preliminary semiannual criem statisitics for 2013.

Statistics released today in the FBI’s Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report reveal declines in both the violent crime and the property crime reported in the first six months of 2013 when compared with figures for the first six months of 2012. The report is based on information from 12,723 law enforcement agencies that submitted three to six months of comparable data to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program for the first six months of 2012 and 2013.

You can read the rest of the piece and the crime report via the below link:

Note: The photo of FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. was released by the FBI.

FBI: The Fight Against Gangs In Los Angeles, The Gang Capital Of The World

The FBI web site offers a two-part series on combating the gangs of Los Angeles.

At 5 a.m., the command post in our Los Angeles Division was buzzing with activity. It would be a day of reckoning for nearly two dozen members of MS-13, the violent street gang that over the years has brought drugs, murder, and misery to countless Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Before the sun came up, teams of FBI agents and their partners from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) began making arrests. In short order, the large video monitors in the command post started to show the words “in custody” next to the images of the subjects—many of whom were wanted on federal drug charges and were the gang’s leaders, or “shot callers,” in the parlance of the street.

Los Angeles — often referred to as the gang capital of the world—it was just another day for the men and women of the FBI who work to protect the community from hundreds of area gangs. But locking up these criminals is only part of the story. Together with our law enforcement and community partners, the Los Angeles Division is taking a leadership role in the fight against gangs with innovative programs designed to bring healing as well as justice to neighborhoods ravaged by violence and intimidation.

“You can’t arrest your way out of the gang problem,” explained Robert Clark, an assistant special agent in charge in our Los Angeles Division. “Looking at the statistics prior to 2007 and in the seven years since I’ve been here,” he said, “there’s been upwards of a 300 percent increase in arrests, but the gang problem still exists.”

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

And you can read part two of the series via the below link: 

Note: The above photo was released by the FBI.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Barrio Azteca Lieutenant Who Ordered the Consulate Murders in Ciudad Juarez Found Guilty on All Counts

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

The Barrio Azteca Lieutenant who ordered the murders of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee was found guilty by a jury on all counts charged announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas, FBI Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division Ronald T. Hosko and Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, aka, “Benny,” aka “Farmero,” aka “51,” aka “Guero,” aka “Pecas,” aka “Tury,” aka “86,” 35, of Chihuahua, Mexico, was formally extradited to the United States from Mexico on June 28, 2012.  Today, at the conclusion of a trial before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division a jury found Gallegos Castrellon guilty to five counts of racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics importation, murder in a foreign country and money laundering conspiracies and six counts of murder.

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that the defendant was a leader in the Barrio Azteca, or “BA,” a violent street and prison gang that began in the late 1980’s and expanded into a transnational criminal organization.  According to information presented in court, the BA formed an alliance with “La Linea,” which is part of the Juarez Drug Cartel.  The Juarez Drug Cartel is also known as the Vincente Carrillo Fuentes Drug Cartel, or “VCF.”  The purpose of the BA-La Linea alliance was to battle the Chapo Guzman Cartel and its allies for control of the drug trafficking routes through Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.  The drug routes through Juarez, which is known as the Juarez Plaza, are important to drug trafficking organizations because it is a principal illicit drug trafficking route into the United States.

In addition, prosecutors presented evidence that the defendant was in charge of Barrio Azteca teams of assassin which he helped create and supervised in 2008 through 2010.  Testimony and other evidence at trial established that his teams killed up to 800 persons between January and August 2010, reaching a total of nearly 1600 in a multi-year period.

Trial evidence also showed that the defendant ordered the March 13, 2010, triple homicide in Juarez, Mexico, of U.S. Consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another U.S. Consulate employee.  The jury also heard evidence that the defendant was the mastermind of the July 15, 2010, car bombing in Juarez, Mexico, which targeted Mexican Federal Police.

A total of 35 defendants were charged in the Third Superseding Indictment and are alleged to have committed various criminal acts, including the 2010 Juarez Consulate Murders in Juarez, Mexico, racketeering, narcotics distribution and importation, retaliation against persons providing information to U.S. law enforcement, extortion, money laundering, murder, and obstruction of justice.  Of the 35 defendants charged, 26 have been convicted, one committed suicide before the conclusion of his trial, and six are awaiting extradition.  U.S. law enforcement officials are actively seeking to apprehend the two remaining fugitives in this case, including Eduardo Ravelo, an FBI Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph A. Cooley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Trial Attorney Brian Skaret of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and AUSA John Gibson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas - El Paso Division.  Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Offices of International Affairs and Enforcement Operations.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s El Paso Field Office, Albuquerque Field Office (Las Cruces Resident Agency), DEA Juarez, and DEA El Paso.  Special assistance was provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the U.S. Marshals Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Federal Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Diplomatic Security Service; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; El Paso Police Department; El Paso County Sheriff’s Office; El Paso Independent School District Police Department; Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission; New Mexico State Police; Dona Ana County, N.M., Sheriff’s Office; Las Cruces, N.M., Police Department; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility and Otero County Prison Facility New Mexico. 

Fusing Counterterrorism, Crime And Natural Disasters: My Piece On The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center In Philadelphia

My piece on the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

"The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC) will provide tangible security benefits for our region," said Philadelphia Mayor Nutter during a tour of the $20 million dollar site. "At the most basic level, any first responder in the field with a radio will have the ability to connect with the DVIC and share real-time information with a host of agencies. This is a key step for our City and region, the sixth largest metro region in the Nation, in preparing to respond to emergency situations."

Located on the site of a former Defense Department logistics center in South Philadelphia, the stated primary mission of the DVIC is to collect, integrate, evaluate, analyze and disseminate intelligence about all types of hazards, including terrorist threats, criminal activity and weather events. The DVIC was established to house all of the region's assets together for counterterrorism, crime and natural disasters.

You can read the rest of the piece below:

Add caption

Note: The above photo is of Philadelphia Police Inspector Walt Smith, the Executive Director of the DVIC.  

You can click on the above photos to enlarge.     

The Ames Mole Hunt: My Q & A With Sandra Grimes, Former CIA Officer, Mole Hunter, And Author Of "Circle Of Treason"

My interview with Sandra V. Grimes, one of a team of CIA officers who helped uncover spy and traitor Aldrich Ames, appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

Circle of Treason is an account of the "Ames Mole Hunt" written by two former CIA officers who were key members of the CIA team that conducted the hunt for a spy within the CIA.

Sandra V. Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille were two of the five principals of the CIA team tasked with hunting one of their own and were directly responsible for identifying Ames as the mole, leading to his arrest and conviction.

Aldrich Ames has been called one of the most destructive traitors in American history and the CIA's notorious traitor. The CIA officer provided information to the Soviet Union that contributed to the deaths of at least ten Soviet intelligence officers who spied for the United States.

You can read the interview below:

Note: The above photos were provided by the Naval Institute Press. 

You can click on the above photos to enlarge.

Happy Birthday To Lee Marvin

As notes, today is the birthday of one of my favorite actors, the late Lee Marvin.

Actor Lee Marvin was born on February 19, 1924, in New York City. He eventually earned lead roles when his aggressive nature was perceived by such directors as Edward Dmytryk, Fritz Lang, and John Boorman. Marvin appeared in about 70 films between 1951 and 1986. He first branched out into sympathetic film roles in the early 1960s, partly thanks to his role in TV's M Squad. He died on August 29, 1987, in Tucson, Arizona.

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

Note: There are a good number of films with Lee Marvin that I watch again and again, such as The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Marvin, a combat Marine in WWII, was a fine actor.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Racketeering And Arson Charges Against Members Of Ironworkers Union In Philadelphia

The U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvana, released the below information today:

PHILADELPHIA- An indictment was unsealed today, and arrests made, in a case charging ten members of Ironworkers Local 401 with allegedly participating in a conspiracy to commit criminal acts of extortion, arson, destruction of property, and assault, in order to force construction contractors to hire union ironworkers. Specifically, the indictment charges RICO  conspiracy, violent crime in aid of racketeering, three counts of arson, two counts of use of fire to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit arson.

Eight of the ten individuals named in the indictment are charged with conspiring to use Ironworkers Local 401 as an enterprise to commit criminal acts. Joseph Dougherty, 72, of Philadelphia, the Financial Secretary/Business Manager of Local 401, was one of the eight individuals charged with racketeering conspiracy.

The indictment details incidents in which the defendants threatened or assaulted contractors or their employees, and damaged construction equipment and job sites as part of a concerted effort to force contractors to hire and pay Local 401 workers, even when those workers performed no function. Among the criminal acts set forth in the indictment is the December 2012 arson of a Quaker Meetinghouse under construction in Philadelphia.

Charged with Dougherty are: business agents Edward Sweeney, 55, of Philadelphia; Francis Sean O’Donnell, 43, of Warminster, PA; Christopher Prophet, 43, of Richboro, PA; William O’Donnell, 61, of Cherry Hill, NJ; union members James Walsh, 49, William Gillin, 42, Richard Ritchie, 44, Daniel Hennigar, 53, and Greg Sullivan, 49, all of Philadelphia.

The charges were announced today by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger, FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Edward J. Hanko, Special Agent-in-Charge John Spratley with the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, and Special Agent-in-Charge Sam Rabadi with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

According to the indictment, the defendants had a network of individuals, friendly to the Ironworkers Local 401, to help identify construction projects and job sites where work was being performed without using Local 401 members. 

The indictment alleges that business agents would approach construction foremen at those work sites and imply or explicitly threaten violence, destruction of property, or other criminal acts unless union members were hired.  The defendants relied on a reputation for violence and sabotage, which had been built up in the community over many years, in order to force contractors to hire union members.  It is alleged that the defendants created “goon” squads, composed of union members and associates, to commit assaults, arsons, and destruction of property.  One such squad referred to itself as the “The Helpful Union Guys,” “T.H.U.G’s.” 

In the December 2012 arson of the Quaker Meeting House, the indictment alleges that after the contractor refused to hire union ironworkers, defendants Walsh, Gillin, and Hennigar went to the construction site at 20 East Mermaid Lane, in Philadelphia. They set a crane on fire and cut steel beams and bolts. 

In another episode set forth in the indictment, members of Local 401 picketed a construction site near King of Prussia Mall between May and June of 2010 because the contractor did not hire union workers. It is alleged defendant Richard Ritchie and three others later resorted to violence when they assaulted some of the non-union workers with baseball bats.  In the July 2013 episode, the indictment alleges that defendants Sweeney and O’Donnell, under Dougherty’s direction, set up a picket line and threatened the contractor of an apartment complex under construction at 31st and Spring Garden Streets, if he did not hire Local 401 members.  According to the indictment, the contractor relinquished his profits and turned the job over to a union-affiliated contractor as a result of the threats. 

“While unions have the right to legally advocate on behalf of their members, my office will not tolerate the conduct of those who use violence to further union goals,” said United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. “Union officials and members who commit arson, destroy property, use threats of physical harm, and engage in other acts of violence to extort victims on behalf of their union need to be criminally prosecuted. Today’s indictment makes that clear.”

“The strong-arm tactics we have seen in this case are outrageous and brazen – and an unfortunate blow to the worthy intentions of unionism,” said Hanko. “The fight for workers’ rights may sometimes call for tough tactics, but violence, intimidation, arson, and sabotage are crimes which won’t be tolerated. This investigation has been wide-ranging, but it is far from over. Now that this indictment has been unsealed, we expect to hear from more victims and will aggressively pursue all other leads we receive.”

If convicted of all charges, defendants Dougherty, Sweeney, Walsh, and Gillin each face a mandatory minimum term of 35 years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 130 years; defendant Hennigar faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 40 years; defendant Sullivan faces a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison up to a statutory maximum of 40 years; defendants Prophet and Ritchie face a statutory maximum of up to 40 years in prison; defendants Francis and William O’Donnell each face a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison.

The case was investigated jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, with assistance provided by the Philadelphia Police Department Corruption Task Force, East Whiteland Township Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Employee Benefit Security Administration. 

 It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Livermore with legal assistance from Gerald Toner, Acting Deputy Chief for Labor-Management Racketeering, Organized Crime and Gang Section at the Department of Justice.

An Indictment, Information or Criminal Complaint is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  

Jefferson And Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged A Nation

Veteran journalist and author Joseph G. Goulden offers a review of John Ferling's Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation in today's Washington Times.   

Poisonous feuds have long been a hallmark of Washington politics. Consider the open hatred between President Lyndon Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy during the late 1960s. More than once, in private gatherings, I heard LBJ refer to Kennedy as “that little (expletive).” Kennedy could be equally scornful, according to journalistic scuttlebutt.

However, LBJ versus RFK was a schoolyard spat (the issues being Vietnam and political rivalry) compared to the hostility between Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson during the early years of the United States.

Their issues were far more important — nothing less than the future shape of the country. Should America build a modern economy — industrialized and with a viable financial system and a sensible military? Or should it be an agrarian society dependent on the individual yeoman with a minimum commerce, protected from adversaries by a citizen militia?

John Ferling, arguably the best historian of the period, recounts with engaging, authoritative prose the decades-long struggle that traces the parallel careers of Jefferson, the scion of Virginia gentry, and Hamilton, born out-of-wedlock on Nevis in the British West Indies. In a nutshell, Jefferson was handed a fortune and “farmed” with slave labor. Hamilton made his way to New York as a penniless teen, worked as a clerk for a merchant and became a prosperous lawyer.

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

"Justified" Rides Toward Its Last Roundup

Oriana Schwindt at TV Guide offers a piece on the final season of one of my favorite TV series, Justified.

The sun is quickly setting on Justified.

As the contemporary Western's cast and crew shoot a scene for the show's penultimate season, the light is going, even though it's only 4:15pm. But in the mountains of California's Angeles National Forest — which are standing in for the deep, dark hills of Kentucky, the show's setting — the sun rises late and sets early.

The crew is set up in front of Audrey's, the bar and brothel that's seen plenty of action — of all kinds — throughout the show's five seasons. The aboveground pool shot up by Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olphant) in the Season 5 premiere sits near one of the trailers as director Michael Dinner tries to salvage the shot, one in which Raylan tells a DEA agent (guest star Eric Roberts) to "f--- off," as Olyphant puts it.

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

Monday, February 17, 2014

Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch Character Returns In November 2014 in "The Burning Room"

Michael Connelly's web site announced that his popular LAPD detective character Harry Bosch character will return in November in the novel The Burning Room.

You can read about the upcoming crime novel via the below link:  

You can also read an earlier post on the Harry Bosch mini-series on Amazon via the below link: