Saturday, August 30, 2014

FBI: Corruption In A Small Texas Town - Investigation Dismantles Family-Run Criminal Operation

The FBI web site offers the below piece:
Public corruption arrests and convictions in major metropolitan areas usually garner a great deal of national attention. But big cities don’t have a monopoly on crooked politicians—they can be found anywhere.

Like Progreso, Texas, a small town a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. For almost a decade—from 2004 to 2013—several members of the same family, all Progreso government officials, used their positions to exact bribes and kickbacks from city and school district service providers. Through their illegal activities, they distorted the contract playing field, cheated the very citizens they purported to serve, stole education money from the children whose educations they were supposed to ensure, and lined their own pockets in the process.

Until the FBI got wind of what was going on, that is, and opened a case. Our investigation—which included confidential sources, undercover scenarios, financial record examinations, and witness interviews—collected plenty of evidence of wrongdoing and ultimately led to guilty pleas by the defendants. And on August 11, 2014, they were all sentenced to federal prison terms.

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Notorious Cold War Spy John Walker Dies In Prison

Denise M. Watson at the Virginian-Pilot offers a piece on the death of Cold War spy John Walker.

John A. Walker Jr, the mastermind who for years operated one of America’s most devastating spy rings out of Norfolk, has died.

Walker, 77, was fewer than nine months away from his expected release from federal prison in Butner, N.C. He had been sentenced in 1986 to two life terms, plus 10 years, but his actual prison stay was to have been much shorter because of federal parole guidelines at the time.

He died Thursday, according to prison officials. He had suffered health issues in recent years, including throat cancer.

For 18 years, Walker sold U.S. secrets to the Soviets, both as a cryptologist in the Navy and after he retired. He eventually enlisted espionage help from his brother Arthur; his son, Michael; and a Navy friend, Jerry Whitworth. Arthur Walker died last month.

The security breach was considered one of the biggest in the nation’s history.

Robert Hunter, the FBI agent who arrested John Walker, described the ring’s leader as one of the most treacherous men he’d ever met.

“I think the man was pure evil,” said Hunter, who is retired and living in Virginia Beach.

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

You can also read my On Espionage column on John Walker via the below links:

Note: The above photo of John Walker was provided by the FBI.

Army General Votel Takes Charge of Special Operations Command

Claudette Roulo at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2014 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today presided over the U.S. Special Operations Command change of command ceremony in Tampa, Florida, where Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III (seen in his offical DoD photo above) assumed command from Navy Adm. William H. McRaven.

McRaven, who's served as the command's chief since Aug. 8, 2011, has been named as the next chancellor of the University of Texas. Votel most recently served as commander of Joint Special Operations Command. A full account of McRaven's career has yet to be written, Hagel said in his prepared remarks. "When it is, it will have to be heavily redacted," he joked. "But his legacy in the special operations community is already secure. He is a warrior-leader that generations of special operators from across the branches of service will strive to emulate," Hagel said.
 Career milestones McRaven (seen in his official DoD photo above) has been deeply intertwined with the history of special operations in this country, the defense secretary said. "He helped establish and was in the first graduating class of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict curriculum at the Naval Postgraduate School," Hagel said of McRaven.

"He literally wrote the book on special operations -- I'm told that his graduate school thesis at one point outranked even Clausewitz on Amazon's list of military strategy bestsellers. "As the commander for special operations in Europe, he was the driving force behind the creation of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre," the defense secretary continued, "and under his leadership, the Joint Special Operations Command carried out perhaps the most important mission in their history -- hunting down and killing Osama bin Laden."

Socom's transition

McRaven led the special operations community as it transitioned from the era of post-9/11 conflicts and into confronting the next generation of dynamic, dispersed, and networked challenges, Hagel said. "Special operators have long been the vanguard of our military's global engagement, epitomizing the kind of far-reaching work that our military will be called upon to do in the future," the defense secretary said. "What special operators do every day not only helps make America safer, it also directly contradicts the uninformed and false narrative that the United States is pulling back from the world,"

Hagel said. Special operations forces deployed into more than 150 countries under McRaven's command, he noted. "In fact, Socom and the entire U.S. military are more engaged internationally than ever before -- in more places and with a wider variety of missions," the defense secretary added.

Special operations missions under McRaven included delivering life-saving relief after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, Hagel said. "They helped Peruvian forces successfully target two senior members of the Shining Path rebel group. They're working with African partners to help counter the terrorist activities of Boko Haram," he said.

In Iraq, special operations forces are helping strengthen Iraqi security forces in their fight against terrorist forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the defense secretary noted. "And in Eastern Europe, they are reinforcing NATO allies in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine," he said.

A more agile force

During his time in command, McRaven organized Socom's forces to be more agile, flexible and responsive, Hagel said. "He has better integrated Socom with the geographic combatant commands, and issued the first-ever Global Campaign Plan for Special Operations," he said. "He has deepened our relationships abroad, working more closely with allies and partners to better anticipate and counter threats. "

As a testament to the growing demand for special operators," the defense secretary continued, "Socom has grown by almost 8,000 people over the past three years -- and its growth will continue even as other parts of our military draw down.". Repeated deployments have dealt the special operations community a heavy burden, Hagel said, but McRaven and his wife Georgeann have worked tirelessly to help alleviate some of the strain. "[McRaven] established initiatives to address the physical and mental well-being of his force, offer support to family members, and provide more predictability on deployments.

He modified Socom's definition of readiness to include families as a vital part of the equation, something the entire Department of Defense can learn from," he said. And Georgeann has been a consistent advocate for special operations families, personally supporting many of these important initiatives, the defense secretary said. "The McRavens live by the [special operations] community's saying ... 'Our people are more important than our hardware,'" Hagel added.

Incoming commander

Votel is a worthy successor to McRaven, the defense secretary said. "[His] quiet, decisive leadership -- combining both operational and strategic expertise -- is precisely what this command will need as we confront the next generation of threats to our national security," Hagel said.

Both men know that an institution is only as strong as its people, Hagel said before thanking the special operations community for their sacrifices, particularly over the past 13 years. "Your skill, your agility and your dedication are what make you so often the force of choice for our highest priority missions," the defense secretary said. "And a special thank-you to your families, who make untold sacrifices and never get the amount of recognition and appreciation they deserve."

"In a complicated and combustible world, this community is a precious national asset," Hagel said. "All Americans are inspired by your strength, determination, and devotion to duty."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elmore Leonard Shoots His Way Into The Library Of America

Neely Tucker at the Washington Post offers a piece on the late great Elmore Leonard's novels published by the Library of America.

The new Library of America volume of four Elmore Leonard novels from the 1970s has a winner on just about every page.

Flipping . . . let’s see . . . here.

From "Fifty-Two Pickup": Harry Mitchell’s lawyer is asking him about his mistress, an affair for which he’s being blackmailed:

“You score that night?”

“Jim, we were having a nice time, that’s all. I didn’t even think about it.”

“Well, when did you start thinking about it?”

“I guess when I saw her without any clothes on.”

“That could do it.”

See that deadpan thing? In the middle of murderous blackmail?

That’s not easy, brother. Maybe in one line, one book. But to build dozens of violent crime novels based on character, not plot, with a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, often as funny as it is frightening?
It didn’t do anything less than change (and elevate) the way the modern American crime novel is written, and today Leonard’s influence is everywhere from the films of Quentin Tarantino to FX’s hit series "Justified". The release of the book on which it was based — one year after Leonard died at 87 — coincides with the opening Friday of “Life of Crime," starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins, which is based on "The Switch," also included in this edition.

... It should serve as a reminder of both the depth and longevity of Leonard’s career that only seven authors have more volumes dedicated to their work by the Library — including Henry James, Mark Twain, Philip Roth, William Faulkner and Edith Wharton. The Library, a nonprofit organization founded in 1979, publishes its distinctive black-jacketed volumes to preserve the nation’s “best and most significant writing.”

Gods of crime and mystery, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, each have two volumes.

“He’s the giant figure who looms in the second half of the 20th century” in crime fiction, says Max Rudin, Library of America’s publisher. “He’s the one who recharged the American crime novel.”

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Elmore Leonard via the below link:

Footage From Secret Meeting Reveals Spread Of Calabrian ’Ndrangheta Mafia Into Switzerland And Germany

Tony Patterson at the British newspaper the Independent offers a piece on the Italian gangsters operating in Switzerland.

The scene could have been lifted straight from The Godfather. In a dimly lit restaurant back room, 14 thickset men sit huddled around a table listening attentively to their boss as he lectures them on the importance of dignity, honour, respect – and extortion.

Yet the sinister meeting is not from Hollywood. It is real life – a gathering of the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta gun and drugs Mafia held recently in the small Swiss town of Frauenfeld, north of Zurich. The event was clandestinely filmed by Swiss and Italian police during a two-year investigation.

“You can work in everything – extortion, cocaine, heroin,” insists the Mafia boss as he welcomes what are believed to be new recruits to his criminal organisation. “There is everything, 10 kilos, 20 kilos a day. I will bring it to you personally but then I don’t want to know anything more about it.”

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

FBI: Investment Con Man Pleads Guilty

The FBI web site offers the below piece:

It’s an age-old scam: A smooth-talking individual offers an amazing investment opportunity—with promises of large returns—that turns out to be completely bogus. But because there are always people willing to accept these kinds of claims at face value and hand over their hard-earned money, it’s a scam that continues to be effective.

Consider a recent case in Orange County, California, where just-convicted David Rose duped more than 75 doctors and dentists from around the country into shelling out more than two million dollars for him to invest in companies involved in researching and developing emerging medical technologies. But the investment money, despite what he promised, never made it any further than Rose’s own bank accounts.

From at least March 2005 to around May 2011, Rose solicited mainly doctors to invest money with him through his company, M.D. Venture Partners. In many instances, he recruited investors by placing ads in medical publications, but he also got additional business through referrals from doctors who had already signed with him.

In his promotional material and in conversations and e-mails with prospective clients, Rose claimed that investor funds would be pooled and used to invest in companies developing new medical technology—an area that of course was of great interest to physicians. Rose even prepared for each client a private placement memorandum (PPM), a document commonly used in investments that fully lays out how invested funds will be used and what the risks are. The PPM also stated that Rose would receive a 2.5 percent “management fee.”

To keep his clients engaged in the scam, Rose periodically consulted with them to solicit their medical expertise and bounce ideas off them. But they never saw any return on their investment.

In 2011, he began another scam, this one involving recruiting dentists and orthodontists into giving money to his new company, Technology Innovation Partners. He claimed that their funds would be pooled and invested in a company developing technology that would remove wisdom teeth in children without surgery. Like his previous scam, Rose targeted a certain group of people and relied heavily on referrals. He tapped into the medical expertise of his investors to keep stringing them along. He also prepared phony PPMs for his clients—only this time, he upped his “management fee” to 10 percent.

But by 2013, after several complaints to the FBI from his victims—the Bureau began investigating Rose and his investment activities. And through numerous interviews with victims and other witnesses and detailed examinations of Rose’s financial records—tracking where the money actually went—we were able to gather enough evidence for a federal indictment against him.

Where did investors’ money end up? Investigators found that Rose used it to rent pricey homes in California and purchase an $80,000 powerboat, luxury vehicles, expensive jewelry, college tuitions, and even shares of stock in a professional football team.

If you are contemplating investing your hard-earned money, here are a few tips to help you do it as safely as possible:
  • Be extremely cautious about unsolicited offers to invest.
  • Don’t believe everything you’re told. Take the time to do your own research on the investment’s potential and on the person making the offer.
  • Be wary of investment opportunities that offer unusually high yields.
  • Check with a trusted financial adviser, broker, or attorney about any investments you are considering.

Philadelphia Political Consultant Pleads Guilty for His Role in Attempting to Conceal Campaign Finance-Related Fraud

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

Political consultant Gregory Naylor, 66, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty today to making false statements to federal agents and misprision of a felony in connection with his role in attempting to conceal two campaign finance-related fraud schemes.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zane Dane Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Special Agent in Charge Edward Hanko of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Akeia Conner of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.   The plea was entered by U.S. District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

According to court documents, the charges stem from Naylor’s participation in two campaign finance-related schemes initiated by a long-time friend and former employer, identified in the information as Elected Official A.   In the first scheme, Naylor helped conceal the theft of federal grant funds and private charitable funds that were used to repay an illegal campaign debt incurred by Elected Official A during a 2007 campaign for elected office.

Specifically, Naylor was aware that large amounts of money from an unexplained source were being spent on Elected Official A’s campaign, and Naylor helped to conceal the source of those funds by preparing a false invoice for services rendered by his consulting firm.   Naylor subsequently learned that Elected Official A and others orchestrated the theft of federal grant funds to repay the outstanding balance of the campaign debt, and he agreed to the falsification of campaign finance reports to further conceal Elected Official A’s activities.

Also according to court documents, in the second scheme, Naylor conspired with Elected Official A to pay down portions of the college debt of Elected Official A’s son using federal and local campaign funds.   Some of the payments originated directly from the local campaign fund, and some were illegally sourced from Elected Official A’s federal campaign election committee and passed through the local campaign fund account to Naylor.   

Naylor made approximately $22,000 in improper payments between August 2007 and April 2011 at Elected Official A’s request.   Naylor also falsely claimed on IRS forms that the payments made towards the college debt were earned income to Elected Official A’s son for services rendered as an independent contractor to Naylor’s consulting firm.   

When confronted by federal agents in investigative interviews about the payments, Naylor lied on two occasions and repeated his cover story that the son of Elected Official A was an independent contractor working for his political consulting firm.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 2, 2014.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the IRS-CI with assistance provided by the NASA Office of the Inspector General.   This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul L. Gray of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Trial Attorney Eric L. Gibson of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section.       

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Newspaper Vs. Newspaper: Philadelphia Daily News Reporter Wendy Ruderman Answers Her Philadelphia Inquirer Critics, a journalism web site I visit every day, offers links to Philadelphia Daily News reporter Wendy Ruderman (seen on the left in the above photo) as she answers her Philadelphia Inquirer critics via Facebook, as well as other related pieces.

You can read the Romenesko piece via the below link: 

You can also read the Philadelphia Inquirer piece via the below link:

And you can read my interview with Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker via the below link:

Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty To Major Fraud Against The Government

The U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, offers the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – Kenneth Narzikul, 59, of Media, PA, pleaded guilty today to charges of major fraud against the United States, obstruction of a federal audit, and making false claims to the government, in connection with operation of his business, NP Precision, Inc., a machine tool business located in Folcroft PA.  U.S. District Court Judge L. Felipe Restrepo scheduled a sentencing hearing for November 25, 2014.

Narzikul was President and 85% owner of NP Precision, responsible for all aspects of NP Precision’s business, which included contracting with federal agencies to produce critical hardware components used in military helicopters and other aircraft.  At the guilty plea hearing, Narzikul admitted to misusing progress payments on contracts with the United States, by failing to pay subcontractors and requesting progress payments under the contracts for costs that NP Precision had not actually incurred, and without the intention of using the progress payments for the costs and contracts at issue, in violation of Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).  

Narzikul admitted that he schemed to fraudulently divert and steal approximately $1.2 million in progress payments that the United States paid NP Precision under two contracts to produce drive shaft couplings for the U.S. Army helicopter Model CH-47, commonly known as a Chinook helicopter. Consequently, as Narzikul admitted, the United States received a very belated and many times incomplete product, far later than required under the delivery schedules. 

In addition, Narzikul admitted that he made false statements and caused others at NP Precision to make false statements to government auditors, and made false claims to falsely reflect progress on numerous Army and Air Force contracts and to continue to receive progress payments from the United States. 

Narzikul admitted further that he used the diverted funds to pay outstanding obligations on other contracts and other business and personal expenses of the defendant and his family.

Narzikul faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $1.5 million fine, and a $300 special assessment.  Full restitution of as much as $1.2 million also may be ordered.    

The case was investigated by the Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU) of the United States Army Criminal Investigative Command (Army CID), the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); and the United States Air Force Office of Special Inspection (Air Force OSI).  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary E. Crawley.

Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Jack Devine's Good Hunting: An American Spymaster's Story for the Washington Times.

When an expert such as Jack Devine, a three-decades-plus veteran of the CIA Clandestine Service, warns about myriad world troubles stretching into the foreseeable future, serious citizens should take heed — and those now running the agency, both in-house and as elected officials, should give “Good Hunting” a careful read in light of what can be done to protect the country.

In Mr. Devine’s expert opinion, the solution should be the wide — and intelligent — use of covert action. As do many CIA veterans, he decries the militarization of the agency in recent years, and its subordination to the post of Director of National Intelligence, created in the do-something fever that inflamed Congress after Sept. 11, 2001. He feels that the result has been a “muddled new intelligence bureaucracy with less coherence and more fractured leadership.” He urges that “Congress should revisit its utility and perhaps curtail its staffing and tasking.”

The capstone of Mr. Devine's career was overseeing the largest CIA covert operation ever, to run the Soviet military out of Afghanistan, a venture inaccurately termed “Charlie Wilson’s War” by the media. Although he and other agency officials praise the now-deceased Texas congressman’s tenacity in obtaining money and arms for the war, Mr. Devine’s colleague Milton Bearden is quoted as quipping, that it was “‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ only in Charlie Wilson’s mind.” In any event, the operation drove the Red Army out of Afghanistan.

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blood Brotherhoods: A History Of Italy's Three Mafias

Aram Bakshian offers a good review of John Dickie's Blood Brotherhoods: A History of Italy's Three Mafias for the Washington Times.

The resultant bourgeois monarchy, dominated by the cynical, economically powerful northerners, was never fully accepted by millions of impoverished Neapolitan, Calabrian and Sicilian peasants for whom unification meant yet another layer of bureaucracy and taxation — and an alien one at that — on top of everything they had endured under their own Bourbon dynasty.

Thus, while Italy emerged from the Risorgimento as a superficially unified, modern state, the unity was more apparent than real, especially in the south. There, in the poorest, most backward parts of the country, and in the absence of a strong sense of nationhood, a parallel power structure — a real sub-rosa state beneath the official, but unreal one — quickly developed: the mafia. Or, to be more accurate, the mafias, since three distinct criminal societies emerged in Southern Italy: the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the ‘ndrangheta in Calabria and the camorra in and around Naples.

All three mafias grew and flourished thanks to, rather than in spite of, the unification of Italy. Where the old, authoritarian southern regime of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had commanded some local loyalty and had no legal restraints on its efforts to maintain order, the new constitutional monarchy with its elected parliament and local and provincial offices, was fertile soil for criminal bosses to act as ward heelers for their more respectable allies in the local landowning and business communities.

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

Note: I read John Dickie's Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia and I thought it was an interesting and informative book. I look forward to reading Blood Brotherhoods. 

Great Scot: Happy 84th Birthday To Sean Connery

As notes, today is actor Sean Connery's birthday. He is 84.

Sean Connery was born on August 25, 1930, in Fountainbridge, Scotland.

In the 1950s, he was cast in numerous films and television programs. In the early 1960s, he landed the lead role of James Bond in Dr. No.

He continued to work regularly in film thereafter, and in 1987, won an Academy Award. Connery appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1990. In 2003, he starred in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

You can watch read the rest of the piece and watch a film clip of Sean Connery's bio via the below link:

You can also watch a video of Sean Connery in his introduction as James Bond in Dr No via the below link:

And you can read an earlier post on Sean Connery's top ten films via the below link:

Note: The above photo shows the cover of Sean Connery's book On Being a Scot.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Remembering A Checkered Battle in The War Of 1812

John Timpane, who edited my first Philadelphia Inquirer piece back in 1999, offers an interesting piece in the Inquirer about the anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg.

Was it a brave, last-ditch effort to defend the country? Or a humiliating military disaster, with U.S. forces taking to their heels before the bloody British?

Sunday is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg, down in Maryland, in which an overwhelmingly volunteer American force stood between Washington and the most powerful army in the world.

We lost, of course. And that same day, the young capital in the miasmal swamp went up in flames.

Thus, the questions about one of the more puzzling battles in our history.

A pretty puzzling war, that War of 1812. Not that well-known. Maybe because, face it, it's one we didn't win.

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

Note: I happen to being reading Steve Vogel's Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved The Nation, which covers the War of 1812 and how Francis Scott Key wrote what would become our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. This interesting book also offers a detailed account of the Battle of Bladensburg.

The battle was not our finest hour, but we later stopped the British from taking Baltimore and we went on to win the Battle of New Orleans.    

Feds Hope Wiseguy-Wannabe Ronald Galati Is Ready To Turn

Jeremy Roebuck at the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a piece on organized crime in South Philadelphia.

Andrew Tuono's new girlfriend came with a warning.

Dating Tiffany Galati, daughter of an auto mechanic with long-held ties to the Philadelphia mob, would one day get him killed, friends advised.

That prediction nearly proved prescient last year, with an attack that left Tuono alive, but with three bullets in his gut - and his girlfriend's father accused of ordering the hit.

Now, the details of that attempt on Tuono's life, sketched in government court filings this month, offer the latest account of one facet of Ronald Galati's deepening legal morass. As additional allegations ranging from witness intimidation to insurance fraud have piled up against him, a portrait of the 63-year-old auto-shop owner has emerged.

Friends and law enforcement sources describe Galati as a mob hanger-on, eager to cozy up to Mafia dons and trade quips from Goodfellas, his favorite film.

... And though no "made man" himself, Galati's recent legal problems have authorities salivating. Longtime friendships with current and former Philadelphia mob bosses like Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and Joseph Ligambi make Galati a valuable target to turn.

Now that he faces three separate cases - the Tuono charges in Camden and counts related to insurance fraud and witness intimidation in Philadelphia - officials wonder whether Galati finally has incentive to cooperate.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

U.S. Defense Department: Employ Multi-Prong Strategy to Confront ISIL

Amaani Lyle at the DoD News offers the below link:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2014 - The Defense Department believes the best way to confront the threat presented by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists will require a regional, international, and interagency approach, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today.

Part of the mission in thwarting ISIL now involves "supporting, advising, assisting, helping Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces blunt the momentum," Kirby said.

"We believe we've succeeded in blunting that momentum. But it's also about protecting U.S. personnel and facilities, including some of the airstrikes that we're conducting inside Iraq."

Kirby acknowledged that ISIL's swift growth in capability stems from the group's criminal activity resourcing, as well as donations, ransoms and the group's sanctuary in Syria. He said the U.S. military should be one of many components in use to prevent ISIL from leveraging those resources.

"You're not going to see the answer to all ISIL problems through a military lens," Kirby said. "We are conducting operations inside Iraq against this group, in support of Iraqis and Kurdish forces, but we're not going to be the only tool in the toolbox that can or should be used."

Assessment teams will continue to monitor ISIL's activities, Kirby said. "It's what led us to where we are today," he said, "which is that we believe it does pose an imminent threat, and it's a threat that we need to take seriously."

U.S. Defense Department Registers Concern to China for Dangerous Intercept

Amaani Lyle at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2014 - The Defense Department has expressed its concern to Chinese diplomatic officials about an Aug. 19 incident in which an armed Chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today.

The aircraft was on a routine mission when the intercept took place over the Pacific Ocean about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace, Kirby said. "We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept, which posed a risk to the safety and the well-being of the aircrew, and was inconsistent with customary international law," he said.

Kirby also noted that DoD officials believe the Chinese jet made several passes and crossed under the aircraft with one pass having only 50-100 feet of separation.

"The Chinese jet ... passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 Poseidon, we believe to make a point of showing its weapons load out," Kirby said. "They flew directly under and alongside the P-8, bringing their wingtips ... to within 20 feet and then conducted a roll over the P-8, passing within 45 feet."

The admiral asserted that the incident undermines efforts to continue developing military-to-military relations with the Chinese military. "This kind of behavior, not only is unprofessional, it's unsafe," Kirby said, "and it is certainly not keeping with the kind of military-to-military ... relations that we'd like to have with China."

On April 1, 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft -- the P-8 Poseidon's predecessor aircraft -- that was flying a routine mission in international airspace over the South China Sea. Wang Wei, the Chinese pilot whose fighter jet collided with the EP-3, was killed. The damaged EP-3 made an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island, where its crew was held by Chinese authorities and eventually released.

Note: The above U.S. Navy shows a P-8 Poseidon in flight.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Operation Jawbreaker: A Look Back At The CIA's Bin Laden Hunters

A while back I covered Gary Berntsen, the former CIA field commander in Afghanistan at the start of the war, and Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, for Counterterrorism magazine when they came to speak at the Philadelphia Free Library.

I later contacted Gary Berntsen and interviewed him for the piece.

You can read my piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Former CIA Terror Fighter Warns That Americans "Will Die" Because Of Open Border

S.A. Miller at the Washington Times offers a piece on former CIA officer Michael F. Scheuer's view of the lack of security on the Mexican border.

Michael F. Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden unit, said Thursday that the best way to protect Americans form terrorists is to secure the border.

“What we could have done after 9-11 if we really wanted to improve U.S. security … was to close the southern border and perhaps even spots on the northern border with Canada,” Mr. Scheuer said on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”

“At least you secure the continent in that way. Right now we’re exposed, not only internationally, but we don’t know who is in our country,” he said. “It seems to me that [it is] a simple conclusion of logic: Close the border, protect America.”

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Michael Scheuer
 via the below link: 

Tainted Justice: Why An Accused Philadelphia Police Officer Is Still On The Force

Mike Newall and Aubrey Whelen at the Philadelphia Inquirer offer a piece on why a Philly cop remains on the force after being accused of several crimes that were covered in a Philadelphia Daily News series and subsequent true crime book called Busted.

The woman in the emergency room at Frankford Hospital told the detective that the police officer who sexually assaulted her was named Tom. After the attack, she said, the officer scrawled his cellphone number on a torn piece of paper and handed it to her.

Through personnel records, police traced the number to a 10-year veteran of the force, Thomas Tolstoy. Within hours of the alleged assault on Oct. 16, 2008, the officer was pulled off the street.
Three women who did not know one another would eventually accuse Tolstoy of assaulting them under strikingly similar circumstances. Of the three cases, only the one involving the woman from Frankford Hospital led to a full-blown inquiry.

The allegations were investigated by the Philadelphia Police Department's Internal Affairs bureau, the FBI launched an exhaustive inquiry, and the U.S. Attorney's Office convened a grand jury, yet no criminal charges were filed. When news broke this year that there would be no prosecution after years of investigation, many expressed outrage.

The city has paid $227,500 to settle lawsuits brought against the officer by two women who accused him of groping their breasts. But unless city prosecutors determine that there is sufficient evidence to file charges against Tolstoy in the Frankford woman's case - the only one in which the statute of limitations has not expired - he soon could be cleared to return to street work.

An Inquirer review of an extensive investigative file - along with detailed interviews of people directly involved in or familiar with the case - reveals how Tolstoy emerged from a joint local and federal investigation unscathed.

The documents show that in seven interviews with investigators, the then-24-year-old woman, from Frankford, never wavered on the central tenet of her story: that she had been sexually assaulted, and that an officer was responsible.

But the woman's case presented a challenge from the start. DNA evidence did not match Tolstoy, according to the documents. The woman was fearful of police, initially lied about her name and criminal history, and at one point changed certain details of the assault - all of which could be used to undermine criminal prosecution of her assailant.

The documents also show that actions the victim ascribed to two Philadelphia Daily News reporters who wrote about her assault further undermined the criminal case by damaging her credibility and complicating a federal investigation.

The woman told investigators that the reporters - whose account of the assault and other police abuses would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 - provided her with gifts, paid her bills, offered her money to hire a lawyer, and told her that she could collect a financial windfall if she talked to them and not to law enforcement officials, according to the documents.

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

I reviewed Busted for the Washington Times and I interviewed the Daily News reporters.

You can read my interview with the reporters via the below link: 

The Assets: ABC's Dropped Drama Based On The True Story Of The Uncovering of CIA Spy And Traitor Aldrich Ames Now On ABC On Demand

I was sorry to learn that ABC canceled The Assets, which dramatized the CIA's search for a spy and traitor who gave up all of the top Soviet "assets," after only two episodes.

The spy and traitor turned out to be CIA officer Aldrich Ames. Many of the assets, also known as agents, Ames betrayed were later executed by the Soviet KGB.

I suspect ABC expected to bring in ratings like the fictional espionage series The Americans and were disappointed when they did not.

Thankfully, ABC On Demand is now offering the rest of The Assets on Comcast Cable. I watched the rest of the series and I enjoyed it.

So if you have ABC On Demand and you're interested in the history of espionage and/or enjoy a good true spy story, then you might want to watch The Assets.

One of the spy hunters, and the co-author of Circle of Treason, the book the series is based on, is former CIA officer Sandra Grimes.

I interviewed Sandra Grimes for Counterterrorism magazine before the TV series aired. You can read my interview with her via the below link:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Krauthammer: Time To Stop ISIS

Charles Krauthammer offers his take on President Obama and the terrorist army ISIS in his column at National Review.

Baghdad called President Obama’s bluff and he came through. He had refused to provide air support to Iraqi government forces until the Iraqis got rid of their divisive sectarian prime minister.

They did. He responded.

With the support of U.S. air strikes, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have retaken the Mosul dam. Previous strikes had relieved the siege of Mount Sinjar and helped the Kurds retake two strategic towns that had opened the road to a possible Islamic State assault on Irbil, the capital of Kurdistan.

In following through, Obama demonstrated three things: the effectiveness of even limited U.S. power, the vulnerability of the Islamic State, and, crucially, his own seriousness, however tentative.

The last of these is the most important. Obama had said that there was no American military solution to the conflict. This may be true, but there is a local military solution. And that solution requires U.S. air support.

It can work. The Islamic State is overstretched. It’s a thin force of perhaps 15,000 trying to control a territory four times the size of Israel. Its supply lines are not just extended but exposed and highly vulnerable to air power.

... These are the worst people on earth. They openly, proudly crucify enemies, enslave women, and murder men en masse. These are not the usual bad guys out for land, plunder, or power. These are primitive cultists who celebrate slaughter, glory in bloodlust, and slit the throats of innocents as a kind of sacrament.

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

It's A Cruel, Cruel Summer: Once Again In The Hospital

I've not posted anything today, as I spent the day at the Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

After spending most of July and August in the Methodist Hospital in South Philadelphia (Methodist Hospital is part of the Jefferson Hospital organization), I reported to Jefferson early this morning to have a kidney stone removed.

The surgical procedure was successful, I'm happy to report.

I'm in a bit of pain this evening, but I'm glad to be home and I'm glad that my medical issues and hospital visits may finally be over.

Last month I reported to the Methodist to have the kidney stone removed, but my left knee was swollen and very painful. I was rushed from the OR to the ER, where the knee was drained (a very painful procedure) and the source of the pain and swollenness was discovered to be a flare of gout rather than inflection.

Had the knee been infected, I would had what is known as a "wash-out" surgical operation.

That I have gout explains the problems I've been having with swollen and painful feet for some time.

I suspected arthritis from my sport and work activity over the years, as I also suffer from arthritis in my back along with my nerve and spine damage caused by sports, work and life's "wear and tear."

Thankfully, the gout can be treated with medication and I'm now seeing a specialist. I hope to soon be able to take long walks again.

I returned to the Methodist this past Monday morning to have the kidney stone removed and after waiting for more than 10 hours, I was informed that I lost my OR time to a life and death emergency.

I was not happy to be bumped after such a long wait, but I was thankful that my medical condition, although painful, was not a life or death case. I prayed for the other patient to make it.

Today was "third-time lucky" - in a sense - for me.

I'd like to thank the fine doctors, nurses and staff at Jefferson and Methodist for their care and professionalism these summer months as I suffered from a serious kidney infection and other medical issues that landed me in the hospital for three extended stays, as well as the out-patient visits.

I'd also like to thank my beautiful wife for standing beside me and helping me to endure these past two God-awful months. And I'd like to thank my family and friends for their love, support and prayers.

Now back to work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

FBI: Counterfeit Goods Smuggling Ring Dismantled

The FBI web site offers an interesting piece:

When Ning Guo was sentenced to prison earlier this year, it marked one of the final chapters in a massive international counterfeit goods smuggling case—one of the largest ever charged by the Department of Justice—in which criminals attempted to flood the U.S. market with bogus cigarettes, handbags, and sneakers from China that would have been worth $300 million on the retail market.

From November 2009 through February 2012, the smugglers and their conspirators attempted to import hundreds of shipping containers full of counterfeit Nike shoes, Gucci handbags, cigarettes, and other items from China into the U.S. through the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey.

When a multi-agency force took down the operation in 2012, nearly 30 individuals were arrested and charged with various counts of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, as well as other crimes—including money laundering and drug trafficking.

“This was a complex case,” said Special Agent Ron Pascale, who worked the investigation from our Newark Division. “But over time, we identified the entire conspiracy and dismantled it.”

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

A Man Of Courage And ISIS's Face Of Evil

Tom Rogan at National Review offers his take on the brutal murder of journalist James Foley.

The video released yesterday depicting the Islamic State’s beheading of American journalist James Foley proves two things: the character of an immensely courageous man and the purely evil nature of the Islamic State.

Recording this brutal beheading, the jihadist group thinks it’s being strategic. Its leaders — who likely hold a number of other Western hostages, and appeared to show one of them in the video — hope the video will terrorize America into leaving them alone. They believe that when we see Foley’s death in a barren wilderness, we’ll cede them their empire of death. Tellingly, and simultaneous with the video’s release, Islamic State supporters began tweeting associated threats.

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

Russian Roulette - A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Giles Milton's Russian Roulette - A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot in today's Washington Times.

To Great Britain, the threat issued by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov — better known by his revolutionary name of Lenin — was clarion clear. In November 1917, soon after his Bolshevik faction seized control of Russia, he called on the “oppressed masses” of Asia to follow Russia’s example and throw off colonial rule.

He named as an early target India, the “jewel in Britain’s imperial crown.” Lenin declared, “England is our greatest enemy. It is in India that we must strike them hardest!” For emphasis, Lenin tore up the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention that laid out spheres of influence in Central Asia, specifically protecting India’s northern frontiers from Russian intrusion.

... As Mr. Milton documents, the British intelligence service flooded Moscow with swarms of agents soon after the Bolsheviks seized power. The tasks were many. Could the Bolsheviks be overthrown and replaced by the ousted Kerensky government? Did the new government have the political will (and military capability) of continuing the fight against Germany?

The story of British machinations in Moscow has been related by both operatives and histories, ranging from Sidney (“The Ace of Spies”) Reilly to Somerset Maugham. Through skilled use of recently declassified files of Indian political intelligence, Mr. Milton gives a gripping account of how the Reds tried to carry out Lenin's threat.

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reclaiming John Wayne: The Duke's Ten Best Films

Timothy Mangan at looks back at the late great actor John Wayne.

John Wayne was a great actor. There, I said it.

It may get me thrown out of certain intellectual circles, it may cause some to wonder about my politics, but that’s my premise and I’m sticking with it.

Sooner or later (usually sooner), anyone who writes about Wayne has to face the topic.

“For years,” writes Scott Eyman in his new biography “John Wayne: The Life and Legend,” “the debate about Wayne centered around the ridiculous question of whether or not he could act, with liberals generally taking the negative position.” That’s a big part of the problem in assessing Wayne’s acting skills. His personal politics (conservative) got in the way of seeing the acting clearly, much in the same way that Mel Gibson’s loopiness or Woody Allen’s family troubles get in the way of seeing them.

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

You can also read an earlier post on John Wayne via the below link:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Security of Mosul Dam Critical to Iraq's Infrastructure

Claudette Roulo at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2014 - President Barack Obama has announced that Iraqi forces, aided by on-going U.S airstrikes, have recaptured Mosul Dam from ISIL terrorists.

U.S. military officials said American aircraft had conducted a total of 68 targeted airstrikes since Aug. 8, the majority directed at setting the conditions for Iraqi security forces to retake the dam.

"These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense forces as they work together to combat ISIL, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts," a release from U.S. Central Command said.

The attacks are aimed at preventing ISIL forces from receiving reinforcements, Pentagon Spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said, as well as reducing their defenses. This "will allow [Iraqi security forces] to conduct maneuvers around the dam," he explained.

No U.S. military personnel were involved in the ground operations, the colonel said. "We do have U.S military overhead in these aircraft that are conducting airstrikes and of course in our [joint operation centers]," Warren said.

The Mosul Dam captures the flow of the Tigris River, providing flood control, water and electricity to Mosul's 1.7 million residents. First opened in 1986, it is the fourth-largest in the Middle East.

"If the Mosul Dam were to fail, that would lead to a humanitarian disaster," Warren said.

And failure is a real concern, he added.

The dam's location was "chosen for reasons other than geologic or engineering merit," according to a 2007 report by the Army Corps of Engineers.

While the report found that the dam itself was well-constructed, the underlying geology is a cause for "intense concern about the safety of the structure." The dam's bedrock foundation consists of water-soluble rocks, such as gypsum, marl and limestone, and the presence of the dam's reservoir is hastening subsurface dissolution.

The geologic conditions under the dam necessitate "extraordinary engineering measures to maintain the structural integrity and operating capability of the dam," the report said.

A constant program of maintenance is needed to ensure the dam is not undermined, which could unleash a floodwall that would travel southward down the Tigris River valley all the way to Baghdad, nearly 300 miles away.

A letter sent by President Barack Obama to Congress yesterday said the dam's failure would endanger the lives of large numbers of civilians, U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.

Note: The above U.S. Army photo of the Mosul Dam was taken by Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens.

Admiral Rogers: Cybercom Defending Networks, Nation

Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News offers the below piece:

FORT MEADE, Md., Aug. 18, 2014 - U.S. Cyber Command continues to expand its capabilities and capacity, Navy Adm. Mike Rogers said Aug. 14.

The U.S. Cyber Command commander and director of the National Security Agency was speaking during an interview at the NSA headquarters building here.

"The decision to create [U.S. Cyber Command] was a ... recognition of a couple things. No. 1, the increasing importance of the cyber domain and the cyber mission set in Department of Defense operations in the 21st century," Rogers said.

Such a command would add to the department's ability to protect and defend its networks, and give policymakers and operational commanders a broader range of options, he said.

The second consideration involved DoD's mission to defend the nation, coupled with the potential of nation-states, groups and individuals to conduct offensive cyber activities against critical U.S. infrastructure.

In that scenario, the admiral said, defense officials thought it was likely the president would "turn to the secretary of defense and say, 'In your mission to defend the nation, I need you to do the same thing here in the cyber arena against this mission set critical to U.S. infrastructure, and I need an organization capable of doing that.'"

These conditions led the department to realize the need to create a traditional warfighting organization capable of executing a spectrum of cyberspace missions, Rogers said.

And, he added, they knew they needed to do so "with a dedicated professionalized workforce. This is not a pickup game where you just come casually to it."

Rogers said he focuses on five priorities for Cybercom.

These are to build a trained and ready cyber force, put tools in place that create true situational awareness in cyberspace, create command-and-control and operational concepts to execute the mission, build a joint defensible network, and ensure Cybercom has the right policies and authorities that allow it to execute full-spectrum operations in cyberspace.

Making progress is important to Rogers, who characterized his ultimate goal as bringing U.S. Cyber Command to a level where it's every bit as trained and ready as any carrier strike group in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility or any brigade combat team on the ground in Afghanistan.

"My objective during my time as the commander, first and foremost," the admiral said, "is to ensure that we have brought to fruition the operational vision in cyber ... [to make sure] it's something real, it's something tangible, and it is operationally ready to execute its assigned missions."

That is happening as Cybercom brings its warfighting capability online, with the services generating a total cyber mission force of about 6,000 people by 2016, all trained to the same high standard and aligned in 133 teams with three core missions:

-- The Cyber National Mission Force, when directed, is responsible for defending the nation's critical infrastructure and key resources.

-- The Cyber Combat Mission Force provides cyber support to combatant commanders across the globe; and

-- The Cyber Protection Force operates and defends the DoD information network, or DoDIN.

Defending the DoDIN is the focus of a partnership in progress with the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA.

The agency provides command and control and information-sharing capabilities and a globally accessible enterprise information infrastructure to warfighters, the president and national leaders, and other mission and coalition partners. DISA, Rogers points out, is also a combat support agency.

The agency reports to acting DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen, and its director is Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr. "I have always believed ... that we need to integrate operations and networks and our defensive workforce into one team," Rogers said, "and that you are more effective in operating a network and in defending a network when you do it with one integrated approach."

As a result, Rogers' team decided they needed to create a relationship with DISA, he said, adding, "At the moment there's no formal [command and control] line between us, but we're in the process of creating one." As part of that process Rogers collaborates with Halvorsen and Hawkins. "What I think we need to do," he said during their meeting, "is create an operational construct that creates a direct linkage [between] U.S. Cyber Command, DISA and U.S. Cyber Command service components." It's critical that the relationship includes the service components, Rogers said,

"Because, under the current network structure today, those networks are largely run by [the] services. So we've got to create a relationship between DISA and the services that is very operational because you've got to maneuver networks, you've got to react to changes, and you can't do that in a static kind of environment." He added,

"We're in the process of doing that and I expect to roll it out in the fall. ... You'll hear it referred to as JFHQ DoDIN," he said, or Joint Force Headquarters DoD Information Networks. Rogers said that he, Halvorsen and Hawkins agree, this is the future of DISA. "[DISA] will operate on the networks.

They'll be part of our defensive effort so they will be out operating on the networks just like us," he added. "One of the core missions is the defense of the DoDIN," Rogers said. "The forces associated with that mission will be assigned to DISA, to the services [and] to the combatant commanders." So, he added, DISA will have some operational control over the cyber mission force to help execute their mission. Another of Rogers' priorities for Cybercom is to help develop a common situational awareness of "what's happening in DoD networks," he said.

The commander highlighted the need for speed and agility in the cyber arena, adding, "If you can't visualize what you're doing ... you're not going to be fast or as agile, and thus arguably not as effective as you need to be." Rogers said, "As an operational commander I am used to the idea of walking into a command center, looking at a visual depiction that through symbology, color and geography enables me to very quickly come to a sense of what's happening in this space. We are not there yet in the cyber arena."

Establishing situational awareness in the cyber realm is a combination of technology and capability, the admiral said, and determining what knowledge is needed and what elements contribute to that. "Is what U.S. Cyber Command needs to know about what's going on in the network world the same thing as a strike group commander needs in the Western Pacific?

The same thing an Air Force air wing needs in Minot, North Dakota? The same thing a brigade combat team needs in Afghanistan? It will vary, so we've got to create a system that you can tailor to the needs of each commander," he said. Rogers noted there are many ongoing efforts to improve situational awareness, pointing out the need to work collaboratively to fix the problem. "We do have some tools right now," he added. "They're just not as mature and comprehensive as I'd like them to be."

Cyber is foundational to the future, the admiral said, and he often comments to his fellow operational commanders that cyber is a mission they have to own. "The wars of the 20th century taught most warfighting professionals that, no matter what you do, a good foundational knowledge of logistics is probably going to stand you in good stead," Rogers explained.

In the 21st century, he added, operational commanders may find that, regardless of their mission, they will need a sense of what's going on in their networks, where they're taking risk, and the impact of network structure and activities on their ability to execute the mission. "It's not something you turn to your communications officer ... or your CIO and say, 'I don't really understand this. Go out and do some of that for me.' That isn't going to get us where we need to go," the admiral said.

Rogers elaborated on the need for Cybercom to be ready. During his time as Cybercom commander, he said he expects that a nation-state, group or individual will attempt to engage in offensive, destructive capability against critical U.S. infrastructure, from the power grid to the financial sector.

The Presidential Policy Directive for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience outlines 16 designated U.S. Critical Infrastructure sectors. Rogers says he tells his team they have to be ready to respond to such a call. But for an attack on the United States, Cybercom will support the Department of Homeland Security, which is the lead agency for broader security protections associated with critical infrastructure, and partner with the FBI, which is the lead agency for domestic attacks and law enforcement.

"Our biggest focus really is going to be bringing our capabilities to bear to attempt to interdict the attack before it ever gets to us," the admiral said. "Failing that," he continued, "we'll probably also have some measure of capability that we can provide to work directly with those critical infrastructure networks to help address the critical vulnerabilities and where the networks could use stronger defensive capability."

To prepare for such interagency collaboration in the event of a domestic cyberattack, the command trains as it will fight, Rogers said. "In the military I'm used to the idea that you train like you fight. So we exercise [and] we replicate the things we think are going to occur in a combat scenario," the admiral said. "I want to do the exact same thing with the same set of teammates I'm going to operate with if we get the order to do so." The department and Cybercom already do internal exercises, he said, as well as ongoing interagency exercises such as Cyber Guard, in which elements of the National Guard, reserves, NSA and Cybercom exercise their support to DHS and FBI responses to foreign-based attacks on simulated critical infrastructure networks.

The whole-of-government exercise, completed June 17, was designed to test operational and interagency coordination and tactical-level operations to prevent, mitigate and recover from a domestic cyber incident.

Cyber Guard is a good example, Rogers said, "but I want to build on that. DHS and FBI were there but I think we can do even more." Information sharing and partnerships with the critical infrastructure sectors is an important aspect of enabling Cybercom to more effectively interdict and stop an attack, if directed to do so by the president and defense secretary, he added. The cyber threat is growing increasingly complex, the Cybercom commander said, and a more diverse set of actors is involved in the mission set, "from nation-states that continue to increase their capabilities, to groups, to individuals." In broad terms, he added, "you don't see a crisis in the world today that doesn't have a cyber aspect to it." For that reason and others, the ultimate construct of U.S. Cyber Command must be flexible, the admiral said.

"If you want to develop full-range capabilities and generate the maximum flexibility for their application, you've got to build a construct that recognizes we're going to be supported sometimes, we're going to be supporting other times, and sometimes we're going to be doing both simultaneously," Rogers said.

In one scenario Cybercom might be helping the commander in the Pacific, he said, and "at the same time we might be driving efforts to secure the U.S. financial infrastructure ... and trying to support U.S. Central Command. "It's just the nature of things," Rogers said, "because cyber is so global and so foundational." 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sean Connery Voted Best James Bond Actor In CBS Poll offers a piece on the poll taken on which actor best portrayed Ian Fleming's iconic James Bond character.

Over the past 50 years there have been 23 official James Bond films, and the character has been portrayed by six different actors. So who was the best Bond?

Americans strongly favor the first man to portray the character in film, with 51 percent picking Sean Connery as the best James Bond.

Connery originated the role in the 1962 film "Dr. No." He would go on to star in five more Bond adventures, in addition to the non-official 1983 Bond film, "Never Say Never Again."

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

You can also watch Sean Connery's introduction as Bond in Dr No via the below link:

Note: I agree that Sean Connery was the best James Bond, but I would rank Timothy Dalton as the second best and George Lazenby as the third best.

Timothy Dalton offered film viewers a harder, more serious Bond than the previous Bond, Roger Moore, and although their were some silly bits in his two Bond films, I thought they were well done.

George Lazenby was a good Bond, in my view, considering that he had never acted before, and he had to follow Sean Connery. He looked like Ian Fleming's Bond and he did the fight scenes very well. Had he continued as Bond he might have grown into a very good Bond. I also think On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one of the best Bond films. 

As for Pierce Brosnan, he had some good moments as Bond, but I was not too thrilled with the films he starred in.

As for Roger Moore, I liked him as the Saint on TV when I was a teenager, but I didn't like his light-hearted portrayal of Bond and I didn't like the silly films he starred in.

Lastly, I'm glad that the film producers have returned to making Bond films thrillers, instead of silly comedies, and Daniel Craig is a good Bond, even he does not look like Fleming's Bond.

I think the producers should have hired Clive Owen instead of Craig. Owen would have perhaps offered a Bond to rival Sean Connery.

I'm looking forward to seeing who the next Bond actor will be.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

FBI: Health Care Fraud Enterprise Dismantled

The FBI web site offers a piece on the take down of a health care fraud criminal enterprise.

It was a combination health care fraud and drug distribution scheme on a massive scale. It involved 26 Michigan pharmacies, nine doctors, and two health care agencies. There were bribes and kickbacks aplenty and thousands of illegal doses of sought-after drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. And fraudulent billings to Medicare and Medicaid totaled more than $60 million, not to mention additional amounts to private insurers.

But the case began on a much smaller scale. In 2008, the Bureau learned that a single Michigan pharmacy was allegedly sending phony bills to Medicare and private insurance companies for prescription drugs. During the ensuing joint investigation with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, however, we were able to connect a wide array of other pharmacies—and subjects—to this illegal activity. We also uncovered the illegal diversion of controlled substances to people who didn’t medically need them, as well as billings to the government and private insurers for millions of dollars of non-controlled medications that were never dispensed to patients.

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

You can also read my column on the FBI's fight against health care fraud via the below link: 

Covert Inspiration: Sly Instances of Kim Philby On Film

Ben Macintyre, author of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, offers a look at the films based on Kim Philby at Word & Film.

Kim Philby, the most notorious and successful spy of modern times, has inspired myriad films for cinema and television. Some are broadly factual, others factual, and most others somewhere in between - which is appropriate, since the gray area between truth and untruth, reality and deception, is where Philby spent his entire life.

Philby's long and ongoing role in film is easy to explain, for his is the essential spy story: the man who appears, on the outside, to be the perfect English gentleman, but on the inside is someone else, playing for the other side, smiling and betraying. The moral uncertainty here is irresistible to dramatists, going all the way back to Shakespeare, who noted man's ability to "smile and smile and be a villain." Philby's very charm was his armor.

The Philby story, and its numerous spin-offs, enables filmmakers to ask the essential questions: Who do you trust? What is friendship? Is it possible to love your betrayer?

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