Friday, January 31, 2014

Judge Rules Reporter Can Cover Scarfo Mob Trial

Ralph Cipriano at offers a piece on fellow veteran reporter George Anastasia being allowed to cover the Scarfo trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert B. Kugler ruled today that veteran crime reporter George Anastasia is free to cover the fraud trial of Nicodemo S. Scarfo and Salvatore Pelullo.

After a 50-minute hearing at the federal courthouse in Camden, Judge Kugler decided that Anastasia's right to cover the trial under the First Amendment trumped any issue raised by the defense.

J. Michael Farrell, a lawyer for Pelullo, had listed Anastasia as a potential witness in the fraud case. The lawyer wanted the reporter to testify that prior to the issuing of a search warrant in 2006, Anastasia had never heard Pelullo's name mentioned as a member of organized crime.

The names of potential witnesses are kept on a sequestration list. They're not supposed to show up in the courtroom prior to their appearance on the witness stand. By putting Anastasia on that list earlier this month, the defense, in effect, had barred Anastasia from visiting the courtroom as a reporter. But the judge granted a motion today to take Anastasia's name off that sequestration list.

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

U.S. Combats Nexus of Terrorists And Transnational Criminal Organizations

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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2014 - U.S. national security officials have long been worried about the nexus between terrorists and transnational criminal organizations.

That's because these developed global networks also carry the potential of trafficking in weapons of mass destruction and related materials.

"The same networks and same recombinant pipelines that are used to successfully move an enormous amount of a multitude of illicit products -- from cocaine to weapons to bulk cash to human beings -- can easily be used and likely will be used for illicit proliferation purposes," said Douglas Farah of IBI Consultants. He spoke at a recent Proliferation Security Initiative table top exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command that examined ways nations can work together to combat these networks.

Transnational criminal organizations have long been a challenge in Southern Command's area of responsibility. Colombian rebels, who have fought the government in Bogota since the 1960's have used drug smuggling to finance their operations.

Hezbollah -- an Iranian-sponsored terror group -- has long been active in South America including being implicated in the deadly bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994, as well as more recent accusations of being involved in laundering drug money from the region.

In 2011, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the growth of transnational crime in Africa -- notably for drugs -- has also touched on a number of other problem areas including human trafficking and syndicates working with terror organizations. Such organized crime, Mullen said, "is not just about drugs, ... it's immigration, it's people, it's weapons."

"As criminal and terrorist networks increasingly overlap and find new and innovative ways to work together when it is mutually beneficial, the likelihood of [WMD-related trafficking] increases," Farah said.

The table top exercise in Miami brought together fourteen PSI-endorsing nations from across the Western Hemisphere, as well as Australia and Poland, united in their commitment to stopping or disrupting shipments of WMDs and WMD-related materials.

"In the Western Hemisphere, we have an opportunity to get ahead of the threat, and in Miami we saw that the region is motivated to cooperate in new ways. Interdiction -- consistent with national laws and international legal frameworks -- can have a strategic effect through cooperation," said Rebecca K.C. Hersman, (seen in the above DoD photo) deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction.

How to counter the emerging threat was another focus. Under the Proliferation Security Initiative, there is now a more systematic capacity building effort called the Critical Capabilities and Practices framework. The Miami exercise was the first presentation of this framework and an associated toolkit that provides specific measures to enhance a nation's capability to interdict -- from legal tools and rapid decision making best practices to operational training, in concert with other U.S. government programs like the U.S. State Department's Export Control and Related Border Security Program.

More than 100 countries have endorsed PSI. They cooperate to enhance interoperability and improve national capacities to act with speed and effectiveness to stop WMD, their delivery systems, and related items. PSI participants are addressing the proliferation challenge on all fronts – air, land, and sea transport of WMD, their delivery systems, and related items, financial transactions in support of proliferation, and networks of persons engaged in the deadly trade.

The next major PSI exercise, Fortune Guard 14, will be hosted by U.S. Pacific Command in August.

Navy Admiral Tabbed As Next Cyber Command Chief And NSA Director

The American Forces Press Service offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2014 - Navy Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers (seen in the above U.S. Navy photo) is President Barack Obama's nominee to become the next commander of U.S. Cyber Command, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a DOD news release issued today.

Hagel also announced that he has designated Rogers to serve as director of the National Security Agency, and chief of the Central Security Service, according to the release.

"I am pleased that President Obama has accepted my recommendation to nominate Vice Adm. Michael Rogers as Commander of U.S. Cyber Command. And I am delighted to designate him also as Director of the National Security Agency," Hagel said in a statement issued today. "This is a critical time for the NSA, and Vice Adm. Rogers would bring extraordinary and unique qualifications to this position as the agency continues its vital mission and implements President Obama's reforms."

In his statement, Hagel noted that Rogers is "a trained cryptologist" with a Navy career spanning 30 years.

Rogers currently serves as the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command commander and commander of the U.S. 10th Fleet. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will replace Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who has served as the NSA director since 2005, and the Cyber Command commander since 2010, the DOD release said.

"As commander of the Navy's 10th Fleet and U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, he has already demonstrated his leadership and deep expertise in this critical domain," Hagel said of Rogers. "I am also confident that Adm. Rogers has the wisdom to help balance the demands of security, privacy, and liberty in our digital age."

Additionally, the release said, Richard Ledgett has been selected to serve as the NSA deputy director. In his new role as the senior civilian at NSA, Ledgett acts at the agency's chief operating officer. He replaces J. Chris Inglis, who retired from the position in January.

"If confirmed, Vice Adm. Rogers will be joined by an exceptionally able Deputy Director and senior civilian leader, Rick Ledgett, whom I congratulate on his appointment today," Hagel said in his statement. "Rick brings outstanding qualifications to the job. And I know that both he and Vice Adm. Rogers join me in thanking Gen. Keith Alexander for his remarkable leadership of the NSA and Cyber Command for nearly a decade."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life And Times Of James McParland

Muriel Dobbin offers a review of Beau Riffenburgh's Pinkerton's Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland for the Washington Times.

In the West, there was the Hole in the Wall Gang, including members Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the Pennsylvania coalfields, there were the murderous Molly Maguires, and on the heels of them all pounded the legendary early American detectives from Pinkerton's National Detective Agency.

The best known Pinkerton detective was James MvParland, who launched his career when he was hired as a lawman by Allan Pinkerton in 1873. So widespread was his reputation that he became a character in a Sherlock Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Beau Riffenburgh, who dug deep into archives and libraries to chronicle the history of the agency, relates that Pinkerton himself was annoyed that Conan Doyle did not obtain his permission to fictionalize the facts of the story he heard in a train dining car, especially since the chief character was unmistakably Mcparland.

McParland, at 29, was hired to infiltrate the Molly Maguires, a brutal Irish-American group responsible for at least 16 murders in the Pennsylvania coalfields of the late 19th century. He worked undercover for two years and eventually testified in 19 trials that broke the Maguires’ brotherhood and resulted in 20 hangings.

For McParland, it was the beginning of a career that lasted more than three decades and took him from the investigation of the assassination of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg to the nation’s first case of “murder by mail.” That involved the slaying of Josephine Barnaby, a Rhode Island socialite who, in 1891, was sent a bottle of liquor with a mysterious message attached.

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

James McParland was also featured in Arthur H. Lewis' true crime book, Lament for the Molly Maguires. The film The Molly Maguires with Sean Connery and Richard Harris was based on Lewis' book and Harris portrayed McParland.

You can read my Crime Beat column on Arthur H. Lewis and Lament for the Molly Maguires via the below link:

Veteran Reporter George Anastasia Wants Off Witness List In Mob Trial

Ralph Cipriano offers a piece at on fellow veteran reporter George Anastiasia, who wants to be removed from a defense attorney's witness so he can cover the Pelullo trial.

George Anastasia would prefer to cover Salvatore Pelullo's fraud trial as a reporter, rather than having to testify as a witness in the case.

Pelullo's lawyer, however, has placed the veteran crime reporter on a potential witness list. And because potential witnesses are barred from being in the courtroom, Anastasia has been prevented from reporting on the United States of America v. Salvatore L. Pelullo et al.

Today, however, a lawyer for Anastasia filed a motion for a protective order at the federal courthouse in Camden, seeking to knock the reporter off the witness list. A hearing is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. tomorrow in Courtroom 4D before U.S. District Court Judge Robert B. Kugler.

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

Local Connection: Ian Fleming's Character James Bond Was Named After A Bird Scientist Who Worked At Philly's Academy Of Natural Sciences

Jon Caroulis at offers a piece on the man Ian Fleming "stole" his name from for his iconic fictional character, James Bond.

If you watch tonight’s BBC in America production of Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond, here’s one fact the film might omit: Ian Fleming named his master spy after a Philadelphia bird scientist who spent most of his career at Philly’s Academy of Natural Sciences. Here’s what we know about him:

The original “James Bond grew up on the Main Line, was educated in England and eventually lived in Chestnut Hill,” says Academy Senior Fellow Robert Peck, who got to known Bond during the final decades of his life.
Bond worked at the Academy from the 1920s up to his death in 1989. He was one of many ornithologists who contributed specimens from the Caribbean to the institution’s extensive bird collection. Bond even wrote a book on the region, Birds of the West Indies (1936), which is what caught Fleming’s attention when he began writing Casino Royale.

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

You can also read an earlier post on Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond via the below link:

Happy 84th Birthday To Gene Hackman

As notes, today is the birthday of one of my favorite actors, Gene Hackman.

Gene Hackman was born on January 30, 1930, in San Bernardino, California. He dropped out of high school to join the Marines, and then studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse Theatre. Hackman's breakout film was Bonnie and Clyde. His famous performances include Popeye Doyle in The French Connection and Lex Luther in Superman. Hackman has received two Oscars. He has since retired from acting.

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

You can also read an earlier post on Gene Hackman in The French Connection via the below link:

Surf Passage: Photo of Future Navy SEALs In Training

CORONADO, Calif. (Jan. 21, 2014) The above photo shows Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDs) students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
Surf Passage is one of many physically demanding evolutions that are a part of the first phase of SEAL training. Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air and land.
The above U.S. Navy photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell.

Note: You can click on photo to enlarge.

Taking On The Snowdenistas

Edward Lucas offers a piece on NSA leaker Edward Snowden in the Wall Street Journal.

Most of my media colleagues think Edward Snowden is a saint and proto-martyr. The fugitive NSA contractor has bravely exposed American spy agencies' tricks and mischief. But the theft and publication of secret documents is not a heroic campaign. At best it is reckless self-indulgence, and at worst sabotage and treason.
Mr. Snowden has not proved systematic abuse by the NSA or partner agencies. The PowerPoint slides he stole are for the most part ambiguous and out-of-date. His story has been told naively and hysterically, with a huge dose of hypocrisy.
Espionage is inherently disreputable: It involves stealing secrets. Enemies of the West—notably Russia and China—are spying on us. France runs a mighty industrial espionage service. Germany has an excellent signals intelligence agency, the Kommando Strategische Aufklärung.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Defense Department Procurement Official Sentenced For His Role In Contract Bribery Scheme

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
A Utah man was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison for his role in a bribery and fraud scheme involving federal procurement contracts, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David B. Barlow of the District of Utah.
On Oct. 24, 2011, Jose Mendez, 50, of Farr West, Utah, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and procurement fraud.  Mendez was charged in an October 2011 indictment, along with Sylvester Zugrav, 71, and Maria Zugrav, 67, owners of Atlas International Trading Company in Sarasota, Fla.  The Zugravs were sentenced on Jan. 8, 2014.
According to court documents, while Mendez worked as a procurement program manager for the U.S. Air Force at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, he conspired to enrich himself and others by exchanging money and other things of value for non-public information and favorable treatment in the procurement process.  Court records state that Mendez was offered approximately $1,240,500 in payments and other things of value throughout the course of the conspiracy.  Mendez admitted that from approximately 2008 to August 2011, he received more than $185,000 in payments and other things of value, with promises of additional bribe payments if Atlas were to receive future contracts from the U.S. government.
In return for the bribes offered and paid, Mendez admitted he gave Atlas and the Zugravs favorable treatment during the procurement process, including disclosing government budget and competitor bid information, which helped Atlas and the Zugravs in winning contracts.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Marquest J. Meeks and Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos A. Esqueda of the District of Utah. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tonight On BBC America, "Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond

Tonight On BBC America is the first part of a four-part series on the creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming.

There’s no questioning the iconic status of the man they call 007, but before his thrilling adventures hit the page or screen, they were experienced first-hand by author-to-be, Ian Fleming. Stylish and explosive – Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond tells the fascinating story of the man whose own life and escapades were the inspiration for one of the most iconic figures in modern literature – James Bond.

The new original four-part drama stars Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as Fleming, a charming and sophisticated maverick, whose pleasure-seeking life was turned around by WWII and led to the creation of the greatest spy the world has ever known. Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond premieres Wednesday, January 29, 10:00pm ET/PT as part of BBC AMERICA’s Dramaville.

You can read the rest of the piece and learn more about the series via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Ian Fleming via the below link:

And you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Fleming's war-time experience as a naval intelligence officer via the below link:

Note: As a Fleming aficionado since I was a teenager, I'm thankful that the BBC is offering a mini-series on the life of Ian Fleming. Fleming, a journalist, naval intelligence officer, world-traveler and thriller writer, led a fascinating life.

But, from I've read, the TV program spends a bit more time on Fleming's odd sexual practices than I'd care to see, and they fictionalize bits, such as his having fist fights with Nazis.

Also, Dominic Cooper looks nothing like Ian Fleming (Fleming's WWII photo appears above).

Back in the 1980s, Charles Dance, who does resemble Fleming, portrayed the author in a good film bio called Goldeneye. 

National Intelligence Director Tells Congress That NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Caused 'Massive, Historic' Security Damage

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

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 - The ongoing leaks of classified documents by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden amount to the most "massive and damaging theft of intelligence in our history," the director of national intelligence told Congress today.

James R. Clapper (seen in his official gevernment photo) delivered the assessment as he and other officials from the intelligence and law enforcement communities briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on worldwide threats to the nation, from ongoing espionage and cyber operations by an assertive Russia and a competitive China to more diversified threats posed by al-Qaida and other terror groups that have benefited from the Snowden disclosures about sources and methods, making them harder to track.

Seven months after Snowden gave documents about the NSA's highly classified metadata and eavesdropping programs to several newspapers, the nation's top intelligence officer described "the profound damage that his disclosures have caused and continue to cause," which he said has left the nation less safe and its people less secure.

"As a result, we've lost critical foreign intelligence collection sources, including some shared with us by valued partners," he said. "Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods and tradecraft, and the insights they are gaining are making our job much, much harder."

Snowden has been charged with espionage and stealing government property, and he remains a fugitive from justice in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.

Clapper would not say during today's hearing whether he believes the Russian government has gained access to the Snowden trove, saying that question should be addressed in a classified setting.

While a range of threats including counterintelligence efforts by China and Russia to a more diffuse and, therefore, harder to track al-Qaida were listed as leading security threats, concerns about the Snowden leaks overshadowed the hearing, with Clapper calling on the former contractor to return the classified documents and prevent more damage to national security.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Defense Intelligence Agency director, characterized the disclosures as "grave," with the consequences likely to prove deadly to American forces someday. "We will likely face the cost in human lives on tomorrow's battlefield or in some place where we will put our military forces," he said.

Overall, Clapper said, the leaks and the allegations of abuse of intelligence that they generated, as well as furloughs, government shutdowns and salary freezes have taken a toll on those "who have done their utmost to protect this country and do so in a lawful manner." In addition, he warned the diminished morale and resources of the intelligence community will have a corresponding effect on national security.

"The impact of the losses caused by the disclosures will be amplified by the substantial budget reductions we're incurring," he said. "The stark consequences of this perfect storm are plainly evident. The intelligence community is going to have less capacity to protect our nation, and its allies, than we've had."

The hearing also touched on risks to national security posed by the civil war in Syria, which Clapper said has "become a huge magnet for extremists" who are getting training "to go back to their countries and conduct more terrorist acts." The intelligence community estimates that more than 7,000 foreign fighters from 50 countries have gone to Syria since the start of the civil war, he said.

One issue of concern to lawmakers was security for the Winter Olympics that open in Sochi, Russia, next week, given several recent suicide bombings in the region and the history of unrest in the Caucuses in general.

National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew G. Olsen said the United States remains very focused on the problem of terrorism in southern Russia, but he characterized an uptick in threats related to the games as "what we expected, given where the Olympics are located."

The Russian government, he said, understands the threats and has devoted substantial resources to security. The greater threat is to softer targets in the greater Sochi area and in the outskirts, he said, where there is a substantial potential for a terrorist attack.

Uncle Joe Is Heading Home To An Unsettled Philadelphia Underworld

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

Mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi is being processed out of prison this morning, ending a two
and a half year stay as a "guest" of the government in the Federal Detention Center at 7th and Arch streets.

Judge  Eduardo Robreno dismissed the remaining counts pending against the 74-year-old crime leader after federal prosecutors filed a motion yesterday declaring that they would not retry Ligambi a third time on conspiracy and gambling charges.

Ligambi has been in jail since he and a dozen others were indicted on racketeering conspiracy and related gambling and loansharking charges in May 2011. He was twice denied bail.

But once federal authorities filed a motion to dismiss the remaining counts against him, bail was no longer an issue.

Most observers believe the U.S. Attorney's Office wisely opted to cut its losses and save the fight for another day. Whether that day is close at hand remains an open question. If the government comes again with a mob case, those in both law enforcement and the criminal defense bar believe, it will need a more substantial body of evidence than it had this time around.

... The two veteran mobsters returned to an underworld that is at best unsettled. Whether either will attempt to exert control and influence is a question being asked by both state and federal authorities.

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

Happy Birthday To Fellow Philadelphian And Film Comic W. C. Fields

Happy birthday to one of my favorite film comics, W.C. Fields. He was born on this date in Philadelphia in 1880.

W.C. Fields starred in such classic films as Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, The Bank Dick, David Copperfield and My Little Chickadee. He died in 1946.

Below are some of his famous sayings:

When asked what he would like his epitaph to read: "on the whole, I`d rather be in Philadelphia"

"I never vote for anyone; I always vote against."

"I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally."

"Twas a woman drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her."

You can learn more about W. C. Fields by reading his intended fine and funny autobiography, W.C. Fields By Himself, or by visiting

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Thin Ice: The Philadelphia Police Marine Unit Trains In Ice Rescue

Wal Hunter at CBS3 TV offers a piece on the Philadelphia Police Marine Unit as they practice ice rescues.

You can watch the news clip via the below link:

I covered the Marine Unit a while back for Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read my piece via the below link:

Cyber Criminal Pleads Guilty To Developing And Distributing Notorious Spyeye Malware

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

Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, a Russian national also known as “Gribodemon” and “Harderman,” has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud for his role as the primary developer and distributor of the malicious software known as “SpyEye,” which, according to industry estimates, has infected over 1.4 million computers in the United States and abroad.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia and Acting Special Agent in Charge Ricky Maxwell of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.

“Given the recent revelations of massive thefts of financial information from large retail stores across the country, Americans do not need to be reminded how devastating it is when cyber criminals surreptitiously install malicious codes on computer networks and then siphon away private information from unsuspecting consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman.  “Today, thanks to the tireless work of prosecutors and law enforcement agents, Aleksandr Panin has admitted to his orchestration of this criminal scheme to use ‘SpyEye’ to invade the privacy of Americans by infecting their computers through a dangerous botnet.  As this prosecution shows, cyber criminals – even when they sit on the other side of the world and attempt to hide behind online aliases – are never outside the reach of U.S. law enforcement.”

“As several recent and widely reported data breaches have shown, cyber-attacks pose a critical threat to our nation’s economic security,” said U.S. Attorney Yates. “Today’s plea is a great leap forward in our campaign against those attacks.   Panin was the architect of a pernicious malware known as ‘SpyEye’ that infected computers worldwide.   He commercialized the wholesale theft of financial and personal information.   And now he is being held to account for his actions.   Cyber criminals be forewarned: you cannot hide in the shadows of the Internet.   We will find you and bring you to justice.”

“This investigation highlights the importance of the FBI’s focus on the top echelon of cyber criminals,” said Acting FBI SAC Maxwell.   “The apprehension of Mr. Panin means that one of the world’s top developers of malicious software is no longer in a position to create computer programs that can victimize people around the world.   Botnets such as SpyEye represent one of the most dangerous types of malicious software on the Internet today, which can steal people’s identities and money from their bank accounts without their knowledge.   The FBI will continue working with partners domestically and internationally to combat cyber-crime.”

According to the charges and other information presented in court, SpyEye is a sophisticated malicious computer code that is designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, credit card information, usernames, passwords, PINs, and other personally identifying information.   The SpyEye virus facilitates this theft of information by secretly infecting victims’ computers, enabling cyber criminals to remotely control the infected computers through command and control (C2) servers.   Once a computer is infected and under their control, cyber criminals can remotely access the infected computers, without authorization, and steal victims’ personal and financial information through a variety of techniques, including “web injects,” “keystroke loggers,” and “credit card grabbers.”   The victims’ stolen personal and financial data is then surreptitiously transmitted to the C2 servers, where it is used to steal money from the victims’ financial accounts.

Panin was the primary developer and distributor of the SpyEye virus.   Operating from Russia from 2009 to 2011, Panin conspired with others, including codefendant Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian national also known as “Bx1,” to develop, market and sell various versions of the SpyEye virus and component parts on the Internet.   Panin allowed cyber criminals to customize their purchases to include tailor-made methods of obtaining victims’ personal and financial information, as well as marketed versions that specifically targeted designated financial institutions.   Panin advertised the SpyEye virus on online, invitation-only criminal forums.   He sold versions of the SpyEye virus for prices ranging from $1,000 to $8,500.   Panin is believed to have sold the SpyEye virus to at least 150 “clients,” who, in turn, used them to set up their own C2 servers.   One of Panin’s clients, “Soldier,” is reported to have made more than $3.2 million in a six-month period using the SpyEye virus.

According to industry estimates, the SpyEye virus has infected more than 1.4 million computers in the United States and abroad, and it was the preeminent malware toolkit used from approximately 2009 to 2011.   Based on information received from the financial services industry, over 10,000 bank accounts have been compromised by SpyEye infections since 2013 alone.   Some cyber criminals continue to use SpyEye today, although its effectiveness has been limited since software makers have added SpyEye to malicious software removal programs.

In February 2011, pursuant to a federal search warrant, the FBI searched and seized a SpyEye C2 server allegedly operated by Bendelladj in the Northern District of Georgia.   That C2 server controlled over 200 computers infected with the SpyEye virus and contained information from numerous financial institutions.

In June and July 2011, FBI covert sources communicated directly with Panin, who was using his online nicknames “Gribodemon” and “Harderman,” about the SpyEye virus.   FBI sources then purchased a version of SpyEye from Panin that contained features designed to steal confidential financial information, initiate fraudulent online banking transactions, install keystroke loggers, and initiate distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from computers infected with the malware.

On Dec. 20, 2011, a Northern District of Georgia grand jury returned a 23-count indictment against Panin, who had yet to be fully identified, and Bendelladj.   The indictment charged one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and 11 counts of computer fraud. A superseding indictment was subsequently returned identifying Panin by his true name.

Bendelladj was apprehended at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 5, 2013 and was extradited from Thailand to the United States on May 2, 2013.   His charges are currently pending in the Northern District of Georgia.

Panin was arrested by U.S. authorities on July 1, 2013, when he flew through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The investigation also has led to the arrest of four of Panin’s SpyEye clients and associates in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria.

On Jan. 28, 2014, Panin pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud.   Sentencing for Panin is scheduled for April 29, 2014, before United States District Judge Amy Totenberg of the Northern District of Georgia.

The case is being investigated by the FBI.   Assistant United States Attorney Scott Ferber of the Northern District of Georgia, Trial Attorney Ethan Arenson of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Senior Litigation Counsel Carol Sipperly of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.   Former Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas Oldham also participated in the prosecution while with the Criminal Division.

Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the following international law enforcement agencies:   The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, the Royal Thai Police-Immigration Bureau, the National Police of the Netherlands - National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), Dominican Republic’s Departamento Nacional de Investigaciones (DNI), the Cybercrime Department at the State Agency for National Security-Bulgaria and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

Valuable assistance also was provided by the following private sector partners: Trend Micro’s Forward-looking Threat Research (FTR) Team, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, Mandiant, Dell SecureWorks, Trusteer and the Norwegian Security Research Team known as “”.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Government Moves To Drop Charges Against Reputed Philly Mob Boss

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

Federal authorities have decided not to retry mob boss Joe Ligambi on conspiracy and gambling charges that two juries have soundly rejected.

In a motion filed this afternoon, the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania asked Judge Eduardo Robreno to dismiss the three remaining counts pending against the 74-year-old mob leader.

The move came two days after a jury voted to acquit Ligambi of a witness tampering charge and hung on the conspiracy count and two counts of illegal gambling.

"In this instance I agree with the exercise of judgment by the U.S. Attorney's Office," said Edwin Jacobs Jr., Ligambi's lawyer. "(Federal prosecutors) took their two best shots unsuccessfully."

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

Note: Back in January, the former underboss of the Philadelphia-South Jersey La Cosa Nostra  organized crime family, Philip Leonetti, predicted that Joseph Ligambi would beat the case, as Edwin Jacobs was his attorney.

You can read the interview via the below link:  

Jack London: An American Life

Peter Hannaford offers a review of Earle Labor's Jack London: An American Life in the Washington Times.

What a life. What a man. What a book.

Only superlatives can describe this definitive biography of the nation’s most popular and successful novelist of the early 20th century. While some of his books, such as “The Call of the Wild” have been continuously in print ever since, he is no longer the subject of critical study in college English courses, although his work is worthy of it.

Earle Labor has devoted much of a lifetime to the study of London and his works and has given us a book so meticulous in its fast-moving detail that the reader feels he is almost at London’s side.

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

Delta Force Commando Who Saved 'Numerous Lives' In Benghazi Seige Honored

Rowen Scarborough at the Washington Times offers a piece on the Delta Force commando who was awarded for saving lives in the Benghazi seize.

An Army Delata Force commando who infiltrated Benghazi to rescue U.S. diplomats, spies and security officers during a 2012 terrorist attack “was critical to the success of saving numerous lives,” according to a citation awarding him the military’s second-highest honor.

Delata Force's role was not disclosed in any public report or congressional testimony. The Army citation for the Distinguished Service Cross, posted on a website for Army personnel, provides the first detailed look at what one of the commandos, Master Sgt. David R. Halbruner, accomplished.

The Washington Times reported in November that two members of Delta Force, the Army's premier counterterrorism unit, were among seven U.S. personnel who went to Benghazi, Libya, on a rescue mission the night of Sept. 11, 2012. The second Delta member, a Marine, was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism, The Times reported.

The Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross are the second-highest military awards in precedence, below the Medal of Honor.

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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

One Tough Cop: Mike Chitwood Vs. The Scumbags

Clark DeLeon, a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, offers a column on veteran police chief Mike Chitwood.

Mike Chitwood will celebrate his 50th year in law enforcement this April, and he's still not the top cop in his hometown. Go figure.

The unspoken message in author Harold I. Gullan's new biography, Tough Cop: Mike Chitwood vs. the Scumbags, is that this son of South Philadelphia has spent decades preparing himself for the role of  Philadelphia police commissioner.

"There's a tragedy in every triumph," Gullan said in a phone interview of Chitwwood's heroic, troubled, and ultimately vindicated career  as a street cop, highway patrolman, homicide detective, hostage negotiator, and suburban and big-city chief. "He'd have made a great police commissioner.'

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

Note: I've read Tough Cop and I plan to interview Mike Chitwood in the near future. I'll post the interview here.    

American Caesar: Happy Birthday To General Douglas MacArthur

As notes, today is General Douglas MacArthur's Birthday.

General Douglas McArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on January 26, 1880. After graduating from West Point in 1903, he fought in World War I, and in World War II was the commander of Allied forces in the Pacific. When he criticized President Harry Truman's handling of the Korean War, he was relieved of his command. MacArthur died on April 5, 1964, and was buried in Norfolk, Virginia.

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

You can learn more about General MacArthur by reading William Manchester's American Caesar.

Charles "Charlie Lucky" Luciano Died On This Day In 1962

As notes, New York mobster Charles "Charlie Lucky" Luciano died on this date in 1962.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano was born Salvatore Lucania in Sicily, Italy, on November 24, 1897. Luciano split New York City into five crime families, heading the Genovese crime family himself. He also initiated The Commission, which served as a governing body for organized crime nationwide. Luciano moved to Havana and was later deported to Italy, living out his final years in Naples.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Goodfellas, Part II: A True-Life Lufthansa Crime Figure Comes To Court

Michael Daly at the Daily Beast offers a piece on the arrest of Bonanno crime figure Vincent Asaro and his connection to the Lufthansa heist via a series of recordings made by an informant.

Right out of the movie Goodfellas, Vincent Asaro strode into Brooklyn federal court along his with son Jerry and two co-defendants on Thursday afternoon.

In earlier days, the elder Asaro was often seen in the company of James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, the model for Robert DeNiro’s character in the seminal gangster movie and the reputed mastermind of the $6 million Lufthansa robbery in 1978.

Asaro and Burke were co-owners of Robert’s Lounge, model for the hangout in Goodfellas and a “personal cemetery” where a number of gangland victims were said to be buried before their bodies were moved elsewhere. 

Fans of Goodfellas who remember the scene where the Joe Pesci character shoots a kid named Spider in the foot for refusing to dance might be interested to know that Asaro is said to be the one who took the real-life victim to as neighborhood doctor afterward.

Burke died of cancer in 1996 while serving a 20-year prison term for murder, but Vincent Asaro had survived to now be charged with participating in the legendary heist at Kennedy Airport. Court papers filed on Thursday cite the lead informant in the case—an Asaro cousin identified only as CW-1—in reporting that each participant was supposed to receive $750,000, but “most did not live to receive their share (either because they were killed first or it was never given to them).”   

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

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bermuda, Through The Eyes Of Mark Twain

James Ross at the Richmond News offers a piece on Mark Twain, one of my favorite writers, and Bermuda.

Mark Twain, the ever articulate, globe-trotting American humourist once remarked, "Bermuda is the right country for a jaded man to loaf in."

It is as I'm checking into the luxurious Fairmont Hamilton Princess that I spy the familiar figure of Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain, sitting on a lobby bench behind me.

I am initially taken aback. Here was the author of my childhood favourites, The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, with his trademark bushy moustache and unruly thick head of hair, sitting relaxed, legs crossed, and arm extended along the bench's back.

I realize, as my eyes adjust, what I'm seeing is the master wordsmith immortalized by a life-size bronze statue.

Twain was a frequent guest here at the Princess, in the opulent hotel's early days. He would relax on the veranda puffing on his cigar, reciting poetry and regaling guests with tall tales.

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

Note: I visited Bermuda in 2012 and I concur with Mark Twain's opinion of the beautiful island.

I plan to visit Bermuda again this year.

You can read my post on my Bermuda trip via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Mark Twain and Bermuda via the below link:

Borgesi Acquitted, Jury Hangs On Key Charges Against Ligambi In Philly Mob Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia is covering the federal organized crime trial in Philadelphia for
In a stunning rebuke of the government's case, a jury today found mobster George Borgesi not guilty of racketeering conspiracy, acquitted mob boss Joe Ligambi of a witness tampering charge and hung on three other counts against Ligambi.

The panel of 11 women and one man had voted 10-2 to acquit Ligambi of a conspiracy charge and two gambling charges he faced.

Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., said he would file a motion next week asking for bail for Ligambi, 74, who has been jailed since he was indicted in the case back in May 2011. Borgesi, 50, was released today. The South Philadelphia capo, who is Ligambi's nephew, has been in jail since his arrest in an unrelated racketeering case in March 2000 for which he subsequently was sentenced to 14 years.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists And The Shaping Of The Modern Middle East

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Hugh Wilford's America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East for the Washington Times.

Over lunch several years ago, as chaos descended on the Middle East, a retired CIA operations officer sadly mused about the diminished role of the United States in the region. When he was station chief of a nation in the area, he said, the defense minister routinely sent him a list of officers proposed for promotion. “I could put a tick mark against the names of men I approved, or cross out the ones to whom we objected,” he said. “Simple as that.” (Given that this was a private conversation, I am not identifying the officer, now deceased, nor the country to which he referred.)

The officer’s point was obvious: In the not-too-distant past, the United States had the capability to orchestrate events in a broad swath of the Middle East, and the principals through which policy was executed were a trio of CIA officers, two of whom did their tasks well, and a third about whom more shall be said later.

... Despite the richness of his material, Mr. Wilford's book is not an easy read. His sentences tend to wrap themselves into serpentine snarls, which often had me having to start reading again. Another shortcoming is all too common among people writing about 20th-century intelligence. The subtitle suggests that the CIA, on its own, worked in secret to shape American policy in an important region, but Mr. Wilford skirts around an important link in the chain of command; namely, that the agency was acting on White House orders to execute national security policy.

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

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

I also interviewed Mr. Goulden for a Counterterrorism magazine piece on the history and mystique of espionage and you can read the piece via the below link:

Former Connecticut Resident Indicted For Attempting To Ship Sensitive Military Documents To Iran

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport returned an indictment today charging Mozaffar Khazaee, also known as “Arash Khazaie,” 59, formerly of Manchester, Connecticut, with two counts of interstate transportation of stolen property.

The indictment stems from Khazaee’s alleged attempt to ship to Iran proprietary material relating to military jet engines and the U.S. Air Force’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program that he had illegally retained from defense contractors where he had been employed.

As alleged in court documents, federal law enforcement agents began investigating Khazaee in November 2013 when officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP), assisted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, inspected a shipment that Khazaee sent by truck from Connecticut to a freight forwarder located in Long Beach, California, which was intended for shipment from the U.S. to Iran. The documentation for Khazaee’s shipment indicated that it contained household goods. Upon inspecting the shipment, however, CBP officers and HSI personnel discovered that the content of the shipment primarily contained numerous boxes of documents consisting of sensitive technical manuals, specification sheets, and other proprietary material relating to the U.S. Air Force’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program and military jet engines.

Upon further investigation, law enforcement learned that Khazaee holds Iranian and U.S. citizenship and, as recently as August 2013, worked as an engineer for defense contractors, including firms that are the actual owners of the technical and proprietary documents and materials in Khazaee’s shipment.

Khazaee, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1991 and holds a valid U.S. passport, recently moved from Connecticut to Indianapolis.

On January 9, 2014, Khazaee was arrested by HSI and FBI agents at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey after flying from Indianapolis to Newark, before he was able to board a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Khazaee’s ticketed destination was Tehran, Iran.
Khazaee is detained pending his transport to Connecticut. His arraignment is not yet scheduled.
The indictment charges Khazaee with two counts of transporting, transmitting, and transferring in interstate commerce goods obtained by theft, conversion, or fraud. Each charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that an indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney Daly stated that there is an ongoing investigation in this matter and encouraged anyone with information that may be relevant to that investigation to call HSI at 203-773-2155 or the FBI at 203-503-5000.

This matter is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations in New Haven and Los Angeles, the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service in New Haven, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service in Los Angeles, the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations in Los Angeles and Boston, and the Department of Commerce’s Boston Office of Export Enforcement.

U.S. Attorney Daly also commended the efforts of the many other agencies and offices that have been involved in this investigation, including the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Central District of California, the Southern District of Indiana, and the District of New Jersey, as well as HSI, CBP, and FBI in New Jersey and HSI, FBI and DCIS in Indianapolis.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Reynolds of the District of Connecticut and Trial Attorney Brian Fleming of the Justice Department’s Counterespionage Section (CES).

Goodfellas, Part II: Bonanno Crime Family Captain Vincent Asaro Indicted For Participation In The 1978 Lufthansa $5 Million Robbery At JFK Airport And The Murder Of Paul Katz Who Disappeared In 1969

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

BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, an indictment was unsealed charging five members of the Bonanno organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the “Bonanno family”) variously with racketeering conspiracy, including predicate acts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to murder, robbery and extortion, and other crimes. Bonanno family administration members and captains Vincent Asaro and Thomas Di Fiore, Bonanno family captain Jerome Asaro, Bonanno family acting captain Jack Bonventre, and Bonanno family soldier John Ragano were arrested earlier today and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

The charges and arrests were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

“As alleged, Vincent Asaro devoted his adult life to the Bonanno crime family, with a criminal career that spanned decades. Far from a code of honor, theirs was a code of violence and brute force. Those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement paid with their lives. Asaro helped pull off the 1978 Lufthansa robbery - still the largest bank robbery in New York history. Neither age nor time dimmed Asaro’s ruthless ways, as he continued to order violence to carry out mob business in recent months. The arrests and charges announced today are a testament to the relentless pursuit of justice by law enforcement,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the FBI for its extraordinary work in bringing these defendants to account for the charged crimes.

“These ‘goodfellas’ thought they had a license to steal, a license to kill, and a license to do whatever they wanted. However, today’s arrests of the five members of the Bonanno crime family brings an end to their violent and ruthless ways. As alleged in the indictment, Vincent Asaro and his co-conspirators were not only involved in typical mob activities of extortion and murder, but Asaro himself was in on one of the most notorious heists - the Lufthansa robbery in 1978. It may be decades later, but the FBI’s determination to investigate and bring wiseguys to justice will never waver,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos.

As alleged in the indictment and a detention memorandum filed by the government, over the last 45 years Vincent Asaro and various co-conspirators, including his son Jerome Asaro, engaged in a pattern of violence and threats of violence in order to profit from their illegal activity and evade prosecution. The indictment announced today is the result of a long-term investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that utilized, among other law enforcement techniques, consensual recordings, cooperating witnesses and confidential sources, and electronic and visual surveillance.
1978 Lufthansa Heist

Vincent Asaro is charged for his participation in the 1978 robbery at the Lufthansa Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport of over $5 million in United States currency and approximately $1 million in jewelry. Asaro, Lucchese crime family associate James “Jimmy the Gent” Burke, and their co-conspirators each expected to receive approximately $750,000 in cash and large quantities of gold jewelry from the proceeds of the robbery.

Murder of Paul Katz

Vincent Asaro is charged with the murder of Paul Katz, who disappeared in 1969, and Asaro and his son Jerome are also charged with accessory after the fact for their roles in moving Katz’s body to prevent its discovery by law enforcement. Vincent Asaro and Burke allegedly strangled Katz with a dog chain because they believed he was cooperating with law enforcement. They then buried his body in the basement of a vacant home in Queens, New York, where it remained until the mid-1980s when, alerted to a state law enforcement investigation into Katz’s murder, Vincent Asaro directed Jerome Asaro and another individual to dig up Katz’s body and move it. Almost 35 years later, in June of 2013, the FBI executed a search warrant at the Queens residence, which was still owned by the Burke family, and recovered remnants of Katz’s remains buried in the basement. Katz’s identity was confirmed through DNA testing.

Solicitation to Murder

Vincent Asaro and Jerome Asaro are charged with solicitation to murder their cousin, identified in the indictment as “John Doe #1,” because he was perceived to be a “rat” for testifying against another family member in a federal trial on fraud charges.

Armed Robberies

Vincent Asaro and Jerome Asaro are charged variously with participating in additional armed robberies and armed robbery conspiracies, including the robbery of approximately $1 million in gold salts.


All five defendants, including Thomas Di Fiore, the highest ranking member of the Bonanno family at liberty, are charged with using and conspiring to use extortionate means to collect an extension of credit from a Bonanno family associate. During an April 26, 2013, consensual recording of Vincent Asaro and John Ragano, Ragano asked Asaro, “When do we stab this guy [ ] in the neck? That’s what I want to know.” Asaro responded, “Stab him today.” Asaro continued, “I told you to give him a [ ] beating. Give him a [ ] beating, I told you that. Listen I sent three guys there to give him a beating, already, so it won’t be the first time he got a beating from me.”

The case has been assigned to United States Senior District Judge Allyne R. Ross. If convicted, Vincent Asaro faces life imprisonment, and each of his co-defendants faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole M. Argentieri and Alicyn Cooley.

The Defendants:

Age: 78
Howard Beach, New York

Age: 55
Bethpage, New York

Age: 45
Campbell Hall, New York

THOMAS DI FIORE, also known as “Tommy D”
Age: 70
Commack, New York

JOHN RAGANO, also known as “Bazoo”
Age: 52
Rockaway, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 14-CR-26 (ARR)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday To Joseph Wambaugh

Happy 77th birthday to Joseph Wambaugh, former LAPD Sgt and author of classic police novels like The Choir Boys and classic true crime books like The Onion Field.

You can read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Joseph Wambaugh's Hollywood Station via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of Joseph Wambaugh's Harbor Nocturne via the below link:

And you can read my interview with Joseph Wambaugh via the below link:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Company Man: Thirty Years Of Controversy And Crisis In The CIA

Angelo M. Codevilla offers a review of John Rizzo's Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA for the Washington Times.  

This book by John Rizzo, the CIA’s longtime top lawyer, advertises itself as “the most authoritative inside account of the CIA ever written.” The blurb from The Washington Post's David Ignatius concurs: “Think Of Tom Hagen, the Corleone family lawyer in ‘The Godfather,’ and you begin to get the flavor of what Rizzo had seen and heard if you’re interested in the inside life of the CIA, read this book.” The reader then reasonably expects an inside story on what U.S. intelligence does to collect information, how it analyzes it, what products it provides to help the president, State and Defense departments do their jobs, how it protects against foreign espionage and terrorism, etc. However, this book, just like the agency it describes, can stand as a definition of solecism. From beginning to end, it is about bureaucrats’ inward-looking concerns. Nothing more.

Although the book is not what the advertising promises, it really does provide an accurate picture of life inside CIA. Its exclusive focus on how bureaucrats jostle and feel about one another is entirely consistent with my eight years of experience dealing with CIA’s top levels on the U.S. Senate’s behalf.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Robert Gates' "Duty: Memoirs Of A Secretary At War"

Gary Anderson wrote a review of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War for the Washington Times.

Some memoirs are written to explain or apologize, and some are written to settle scores. Although Robert M. Gates' “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” settles some scores, my sense is that he wrote it to get his whole experience as secretary of defense behind him. He certainly doesn’t need to apologize. By most accounts, he is one of the best to serve as defense secretary since the post was created in the middle of the last century; he is certainly the best wartime leader we have had in the job.

Mr. Gates accepted the job from President Bush in 2006 when the war in Iraq was at its nadir and the conflict in Afghanistan was unraveling. By the time he left in 2011, Iraq was under control and Afghanistan had at least stabilized, and he dramatically improved the condition of medical care and evacuation for wounded service members. He also accomplished the near-impossible by reining in Defense Department expenditures, which had spiraled badly out of control since 2001. He did not seek the job and came increasingly to despise it. His tenure wasn’t perfect, and he owns up to his many mistakes.

What Mr. Gates obviously regrets is that the venal and self-serving nature of many in Congress and on the White House staff falls far short of the example set by our Founding Fathers and the nation’s leaders in most of our past wars.

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

Partial Verdict In Philly Mob Trial Remains Sealed

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

The jury has a partial verdict in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi.

But we don't know what it is.

And we will have to wait at least three more days before we have any chance of finding out.

The jury of 11 women and one man recessed early this afternoon after wrapping up a seventh day of deliberations that was marked by a mid morning announcement of the partial verdict.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Command Authority: Tom Clancy's Last Thriller

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Tom Clancy's Command Authority in the Washington Times.

A feeling of sad finality gripped me as I read the last of the 739 pages of Tom Clancy's 18th and final thriller. Once again, the acrid scent of cordite wafted through my imagination during the climactic gunbattle as Clancy’s characters from the world of intelligence achieved yet another victory over the forces of evil.

Clancy, who died on Oct. 1 at 66, had boosters as disparate as President Ronald Reagan, who pronounced “The Hunt for Red October,” his first of 18 books, “the perfect yarn” and “non-put-downable.” National Public Radio's Alan Cheuse called him “Faulkner in a flak suit.”

Let’s be blunt about it. Clancy
was an acquired taste — beloved by patriots who support a strong military and an effective intelligence community; mocked by leftist woo-woos who argue that a turned-cheek is the best defense against an adversary.

Clancy was an unabashed hard-liner. In his first novels, his heroes fought the USSR and its KGB. When the Iron Curtain tumbled, burying world communism under a heap of rubble, he made a seamless segue into a war against terrorism. I was one of the millions of fans who put him on the best-seller list for 17 straight books.

In “Command Authority,” Clancy 
has at it again with his original foes, correctly equating the current regime in Moscow as merely a relabeled version of what Reagan once termed “the evil empire.” The Russian president, one Valeri Volodin (somewhat rhymes with “Putin,” eh?) is threatening the military annexation of  Estonia, Ukraine and other former states of the USSR. 

Volodin's plan includes enhanced powers for the FSB, successor to the KGB as a vehicle to subvert his targets from within. He accuses the United States and other Western powers of instigating anti-Russian provocations in Estonia.

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

Note: In 1984 my wife and I visited Jamaica, our favorite vacation island. I brought along several thrillers to read, including Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October.

I had not heard of Clancy at this point, but being a Defense Department civilian employee, as well as a Navy veteran who spent two years on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War and another two years on a Navy tugboat at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland, I was drawn to the novel by the subject matter.

Reading the book on the beach and by the pool, I was surprised at how accurate the details were (he even got the nickname right of a phone dropped into the sea by surface craft to communicate with submarines), and I was even more surprised at his detailing what I believed at the time was classified information. (I later discovered that I was wrong - the information had been declassified).

I became a Clancy fan and I've enjoyed reading all of his subsequent thrillers and his nonfiction books.

Tom Clancy died far too young at 66 and he shall be missed.

Happy Birthday To Edgar Allan Poe

As notes, Edgar Allan Poe was born on on this day in 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Edgar Allan Poe was a U.S. American short-story writer, poet, critic, and editor. Edgar Allan Poe's tales of mystery and horror initiated the modern detective story, and the atmosphere in his tales of horror is unrivaled in American fiction. His The Raven (1845) numbers among the best-known poems in national literature.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Edgar Allan Poe and a tribute to Poe from today's writers via the below link:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

FBI: Beware Of Prepaid Funeral Scam

The FBI web site offers a piece on the prepaid funeral scam.

Scamming nuns. Taking advantage of the mentally disabled. Stealing from the elderly. Just when you think con men couldn’t sink any lower, they do: This time, a group of fraudsters took money from individuals who prepaid their own funerals to ease the financial and emotional burdens on their families.
Recently, a Missouri man and five others were sentenced to federal prison for their role in a Ponzi-like prepaid funeral scheme that victimized some 97,000 customers in more than 16 states. The scheme caused more than $450 million in losses, smaller or non-existent death benefits for families at their most vulnerable, and huge profits that lined the pockets of the defendants.

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

Happy Birthday To Cary Grant

As notes, today is the birthday of one of my favorite actors, Cary Grant.

Cary Grant was born January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England. He ran away from home at 13 to perform as a juggler with a comedy troupe. They later toured the U.S., where he honed his acting skills. In the 1930s he signed with Paramount Pictures. He made films well into the 1960s, establishing a debonair persona that made him a screen icon. He died in 1986, having received an honorary Oscar in 1970.

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a short video on Cary Grant's life via the below link:

Note: Ian Fleming wanted Cary Grant to portray his iconic character James Bond on the screen and Raymond Chandler wanted Grant to portray his iconic character Philip Marlowe. Watch Mr. Lucky and Notorious and you will see how Cary Grant would have played these famous characters.