Monday, November 30, 2015

On The Trail Of Mark Twain

Chris Leadbeater at the Telegraph visits places associated with Mark Twain on his birthday.

Few figures in the annals of literature can have generated more words than Mark Twain. If it was not the many works that this fabled giant of letters created during his 74-year lifetime, it was the reams of praise that have come afterwards.

Whether or not the man born – and known to his family – as Samuel Langhorne Clemens ranks as the greatest of all American novelists is perhaps an issue that can only be settled by a debate in some celestial bar with the spirits of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck also in attendance (all of whom might decide that the answer to the question is still on terra firma in the shape of Harper Lee). But there can be no doubt that, over a century on from his death, Twain’s reputation in the literary firmament is still lofty indeed, his most important books – notably The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) – still in position as cornerstones of art in the English language.

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

Happy Birthday To Mark Twain


Happy birthday to Mark Twain. He was born on this date in 1835.

You can read about Mark Twain's life and watch a video via the below link:

My Crime Beat Column: Seeing 'Spectre'

I saw the new James Bond film Spectre yesterday.

The film was not as bad as I thought it would be, or as bad as Skyfall, the previous Bond film.

But I thought the film was too long and had a thin and undramatic plot. I also didn't care much for the phony total surveillance versus 00 license to kill debate. And despite some fine action scenes, I thought the film's pacing was a bit slow. The film could have used the editing skills of the late Peter Hunt, who edited the early Bond films and directed On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The film could have also used a better music soundtrack to provide the proper thriller atmosphere, like the late John Barry's Bond soundtracks. Thankfully, Barry's famous 007 theme was used prominently throughout the film.

The Bond film makers ought to end the endless homage to earlier Bond films and just go with a straight story. And call me traditional, but I think that M, Q and Moneypenny belong in the office setting of headquarters and should not be traipsing around in the field with 007. Who was running the rest of British intelligence?
Like most old-school Bond fans and Ian Fleming aficionados, I still have trouble accepting anyone other than the great Sean Connery as James Bond, but I have to admit that Daniel Craig did a good job under the circumstances.

Craig does not look anything like Ian Fleming's James Bond (Fleming thought Connery looked like his character), but I thought he carried himself throughout the film like Bond and he did the fight and the action scenes well.

Spectre is no Dr No, From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, the classic Bond films I grew up with, but if you are looking to be entertained by a well-made thriller with a good cast, then go see this film.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Look Back At W.C. Fields On The 75th Anniversary Of His Great Film, 'The Bank Dick'

Martin Chilton at the British newspaper the Telegraph offers a look back at W.C. Fields and The Bank Dick.

W. C. Fields, a most defiantly disreputable comedian, has fallen out of the public consciousness, but the 75th anniversary of his masterpiece film The Bank Dick seems like a good time to salute one of the 20th-century's most original comic talents. Fields was doing Python-esq things long before Python, admits John Cleese. 
William Claude Dukenfield has not been entirely forgotten since his grim alcoholic's death on Christmas Day in 1946, aged 66, of course. He is one of the faces on the cover of iconic album Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and he even pops up in an episode of The Sopranos: Tony does an imitation of Fields after watching The Bank Dick. Cleese believes that Fields "had the courage and brilliance to make riskier and more profound jokes than Chaplin and Keaton”, and that's certainly true of the subversive humour of The Bank Dick.
At a time when Hollywood was offering a cloying version of family life (such as MGM's Andy Hardy movies), Fields showed the family as a festering hotbed of resentments. In the Bank Dick, written by Fields under the glorious nom de plume Mahatma Kane Jeeves, his character Egbert Sousè is at war with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law. With Fields, there is usually a subtle malice in play about family life, masked by mock affection: "Did you warble my little wren?" he says to his grim-faced wife Agatha. His status-minded wife insists that Sousè "is pronounced Sou-sè. Accent grave over the ‘e’”. 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Frederick Forsyth: Where Were All The Have-A-Go Heroes In Paris?

Frederick Forsyth, author of the classic thriller The Day of the Jackal and The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, wonders in his column in the Sunday Express why no one rushed the terrorists in Paris

Some weeks ago on a train speeding from Brussels to Paris an IS inspired thug emerged from the lavatory with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, virtually a light machine-gun.
He entered the first compartment he came to and intended to conduct a massacre. In a carriage full of French and Belgians only four men rose from their seats without thinking things over, and charged him.
He fired, his gun jammed – unusual but possible in the hands of a nervous shooter. Maybe he neglected to flick off the safety catch. All four men hit him.
As he went down he pulled a craft knife and sliced the thumb of one of those pounding him to the ground. Within seconds he was flat, with a large male backside on his head.
Duly trussed up, he was handed to the French authorities and now resides in a French jail where he will hopefully stay for life. Those who charged him down were lucky but fortune sometimes favours the brave or we would not have a regiment with the motto: Who Dares Wins.
But even if he had got off one slug into a man’s chest the other three would have flattened him. Here is part of my puzzle.
All four were Anglo-Saxons, three Americans and a British businessman. Two weeks ago three IS thugs strolled through the Bataclan rock club in Paris among a thousand Frenchmen.
Eight hundred must have been muscular young men. The gunmen fired. Paused, turned their backs, reloaded, fired again. It took 30 minutes and they killed more than 80 victims.

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

Philippine Protests Likely After Verdict In U.S. Marine Murder Trial

Paul Alexander at Stars and Stripes offers a piece on the murder trial of a U.S. Marine in the Philippines.

Protests are likely in the Philippines no matter what verdict is issued Tuesday in the trial of a U.S. Marine accused of killing a transgender woman whom he picked up in a bar and took to a hotel for sex.
The case — which has been heard sporadically since March in a courtroom in Olongapo City, about an 80-mile drive from Manila — has cast a pall over the renewal of military relations between the U.S. and the Philippines, providing fodder for those who object to any American presence.
Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton is charged with killing Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, 26, on Oct. 11, 2014. The two met in a disco in a red-light district of Olongapo — the main city along Subic Bay — while Pemberton was bar-hopping with other Marines after joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises. They checked into a nearby hotel, and Laude’s strangled body was later found in the bathroom.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Amazing Life Of Fredrick Forsyth

Elise Cooper at the American Thinker offers an interview with Frederick Forsyth, author of the classic thriller The Day of the Jackal and The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue. 

When reading Frederick Forsyth's The Outsider, people may wonder if art imitates life or if it is the other way around.  This memoir is not an autobiography of the prolific writer, since it is a series of recollections and not a chronological narration.  It's as if a family member is sitting there, telling his life experiences.  Unfortunately, this will be Forsyth's last book, because he is retiring.  American Thinker had the privilege of discussing with Forsyth his life and the book based upon it.

Although this book reads more like a thriller, readers get a glimpse of those events and personalities Forsyth has come in contact with.  He noted to American Thinker, "I consider myself a journalistic writer, keeping to the facts and making sure they are accurate.  I do not write much emotional stuff or fancy language.  My books were all contemporary current affairs based on what I had seen.  Hell, I made mistakes and have done so many things I chose to write about them, or maybe not."

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

Feds Again Fail To Make Their Case In A Big Mob Trial

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia offers a look at the recent "Goodfellas" federal trial and other federal trials of reputed organized crime figures at

Have the feds lost their mojo when it comes to the mob?

That's certainly a reasonable question after another organized crime prosecution ended with a not guilty verdict last week. The acquittal of Vince Asaro, an 80-year-old reputed mob capo, in a case in federal court in Brooklyn, is the latest example of federal authorities coming up short in a high profile Mafia trial.  

The same could be said for the last three Mafia prosecutions in Philadelphia where, at best, the feds could only claim partial victories.  

Asaro, an alleged member of the Bonanno Crime Family, was charged with murder, extortion and robbery, including being one of the organizers of the infamous Lufthansa Airline heist celebrated in the movie Goodfellas. Mobsters made off with more than $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewelry after hitting a storage facility at JFK Airport in 1978.

While the robbery was allegedly set in motion by mob associate James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke (Robert DeNiro played a character based on Burke in the film), no one had ever been charged with the crime until Asaro was indicted two years ago. By then most of the others involved were dead. Burke died in prison after being convicted of other offenses.

The Asaro trial was billed by the New York Times as the last big mob trial in New York, a development based in part on the steady demise of the American Mafia and in equal part on a shift in prosecutorial interest to terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sailors, Marines Enjoy Thanksgiving At Sea

The Defense Department released the below information and the above photo.

Officers and staff noncommissioned officers with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, serve food to Marines and sailors aboard the Makin Island on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 2014. 

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the embarked 11th MEU are deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. 

Note: The above U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Laura Y. Raga

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Modern-Day Slavery: My Piece On How ICE's Homeland Security Investigators Are Combating Human Trafficking

The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security Interantional published my piece on HSI and human trafficking.

You can read the piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

My Q&A With Bryan Denson, Author Of 'The Spy's Son: The True Story Of The Highest Ranking CIA Officer Ever Convicted Of Espionage and the Son He Trained to Spy for Russia'

The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International published my interview with Bryan Denson, the author of The Spy's Son.

You can read the interview below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

FBI: Protect Your Wallet And Your Information This Holiday Season

The FBI released the below information:

As the holiday shopping season officially gets underway, the FBI would like to take this opportunity to warn shoppers to be aware of the increasingly aggressive techniques of cyber criminals who want to steal your money and your personal information.
For example, watch out for online shopping scams—criminals often scheme to defraud victims by offering too-good-to-be-true deals, like brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or gift cards as an incentive to buy a product. Beware of social media scams, including posts on social media sites that offer vouchers or gift cards or that pose as holiday promotions or contests. Always be careful when downloading mobile applications on your smartphone—some apps, disguised as games and offered for free, maybe be designed to steal personal information. And if you’re in need of extra cash this time of year, watch out for websites and online postings offering work you can do from home—you may actually become the victim of an advance fee, counterfeit, or pyramid scheme, or become an unknowing participant in criminal activity.
Here are some additional steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud this season:
  • Check your credit card statement routinely, and ensure websites are secure and reputable before providing your credit card number;
  • Do your research to ensure the legitimacy of the individual or company you are purchasing from;
  • Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited e-mails;
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information;
  • Never click on links contained within unsolicited e-mails;
  • Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them directly;
  • Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, especially unsolicited e-mails—the files may contain viruses; and
  • Be leery if you are requested to act quickly or told there is an emergency (fraudsters often create a sense of urgency).
If you suspect you have been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, contact law enforcement, and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

William F. Buckley's Life In Photos (Happy Birthday & RIP)

National Review, the conservative magazine founded by the late, great William F. Buckley, offers a selection of photos of Buckley on his birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: National Review's founding father and longtime editor, William F. Buckley Jr., was a prolific author and syndicated columnist; the frequently imitated but inimitable host of Firing Line; an indefatigable public speaker; and sailor, skier, and joyous friend to uncounted numbers of people. On his birthday, November 24, here's a selection of photos chronicling a fraction of his activities over the years.

You can view the photos via the below link:

As a teenager in the 1960s I read Buckley's magazine, books, columns and articles and watched him on TV.

I'm thankful that later in my life Frank Wilson, my friend and former editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, assigned me to review two of Buckley's books.

You can read the book reviews below:  

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

How Hemingway's 'A Moveable Feast' Has Become A Bestseller in France

Adam Chandler at reports that Ernest Hemingway's memoir of life in Paris has become a bestseller in France following the terrorist attacks. Y

The horrific attacks in Paris earlier this month, which killed 130 people and stirred transcontinental riptides, has also set off a renaissance for Ernest Hemingway’s book, A Moveable Feast.
The Paris memoir, published posthumously in 1964, holds the top spot on Amazon’s French site, has sold out of stock at a number of bookstores and, as Le Figaro reports, has become a fixture among the flowers in memorials across the city. 

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

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Piece Of U.S. Navy History: For Sale, A Beautiful Rolex Submariner Watch Owned By The Commander of Sealab III

Stephen Pulvirent at offers a piece on the Rolex Submariner once owned by the Commander of Sealab III.

Military provenance is one of the easiest ways to add tons of value to a vintage Rolex. While this Submariner didn't belong to James Bond himself, it was on the wrist of the commander of the U.S. Navy's Sealab III mission, and now it's hitting the auction block. 
Commander Jackson Maxwell Tomsky hailed from San Francisco and enlisted in the Navy during World War II. After the war ended, he bounced around a few diving-related Navy jobs before he ended up running the Sealab III mission in 1969. The third installment of a Navy research program placed a habitable capsule 600 feet below the ocean (note the 660ft depth rating on this Submariner) that aquanauts could live in for two-month stints.

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

Note: My Rolex Submariner is my most prized possession.

DEA Intelligence Report: United States: Areas of Influence of Major Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) offers an unclassified report on the areas of influence of major Mexican transnational criminal organizations.

Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States; no other group is currently positioned to challenge them. These Mexican poly-drug organizations traffic heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana throughout the United States, using established transportation routes and distribution networks. They control drug trafficking across the Southwest Border and are moving to expand their share, particularly in the heroin and methamphetamine markets.

You can read the rest of the report and view the maps via the below link: 

‘Disciples: The World War II Missions Of The CIA Directors Who Fought For Wild Bill Donovan

James Srodes offers a review in the Washington Times of Douglas Waller's Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan.

This book will make a dandy holiday gift for the spy story buff who eats up yarns about the dark side of the world of intelligence and those masters of intrigue who exist inside the web.
This is an authoritatively researched and smoothly written tale of four future directors of the Central Intelligence Agency who began their careers in America’s World War II covert action service, the Office of Special Services (OSS) headed by the charismatic Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan.
The four profiles of Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby and William Casey are linked by their ties to Donovan, but their lives also intersected with each other. This presents author Douglas Waller with the tricky task of telling their stories while keeping Donovan in the foreground even after he had been set down as the nation’s spymaster by President Harry Truman 90 days after Japan’s surrender.
Mr. Waller carries it off, however. A former Washington correspondent for both Time and Newsweek magazines, he is a seasoned reporter of the intelligence scene and the author of a respected 2012 biography of Donovan and, in 2004, of Gen. Billy Mitchell. None of these profiles is the last word on Donovan or the four disciples, as Mr. Waller calls them. There are biographies galore of all of them and the four were prolific writers themselves. But as an entertaining read for the armchair spymaster it is a good primer about the OSS and the controversy over whether it really made much difference in the outcome of the war.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Laid Up With Crippling Gout Flare Up

I've not posted in a while as I've been suffering with a gout flare up in my feet and knees.

I've been laid up at home for some time and last night a Philadelphia Fire Rescue ambulance rushed me to the Methodist Hospital's Emergency Room in South Philadelphia.

I was treated by Doctor Lopez, an ER doctor who is also a gout sufferer. Dr Lopez, compassionate as well as professional, placed me on new medication and today I'm in much less pain.

Crippled and in great pain, I could not have made back from the hospital without the help of my stepson, my daughter and her boyfriend. I can't thank them enough.

I also can't thank my wife enough. She has cared for me during my gout flare ups over the past five years, as well as when I was crippled with spine and nerve damage some 12 years ago.

I hope to post more in the near future as I recover.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Philadelphia Inquirer Review Of 'Hangman's Game'

The Philadelphia Inquirer published my review of Bill Syken's Hangman's Game today.

I've read scores of crime novels in which the protagonist is a cop, a crook, or a crime reporter - but a pro football player, let alone a punter? That's the case in Bill Syken's Hangman's Game, set against the backdrop of Philly professional football. Syken, a staff reporter and editor at Sports Illustrated and a Philadelphia resident, knows both football and Philly.
Nick Gallow, the narrator, is an injured college star quarterback who switches to punting to make it to the pros. "I figured it out once," he tells us at the outset. "I calculated the time I spend actually performing the task that gives my job title, and it came out to fifty-one minutes per year. Not even an hour. And that calculation is generous, believe me. That total grows if I include practices, but, still, that leaves me with a lot of anticipation to chew through."
It also leaves Gallow a lot of time to investigate the murder of a fellow football player.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Defense Secretary Ash Carter: United States Stands With France In Wake of Attacks

The DoD News offers the below report:

WASHINGTON November 13, 2015 — The United States stands with France in the wake of today’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.

"This evening’s horrific and barbaric attacks in Paris were more than an attack on the nation or people of France,” Carter said in a statement. “They were an assault on our common human dignity.”
Estimates of the number of people killed vary in reports, but range in the dozens.
Carter noted the close relationship between the United States and France, including their roles in the NATO alliance and in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Strengthened Resolve
“As NATO allies, as leaders of the counter-ISIL coalition, as nations working shoulder to shoulder from West Africa to the Indian Ocean, the United States and France will only strengthen our resolve,” the secretary said. Earlier, President Barack Obama pledged U.S. assistance to French authorities and vowed to join France and other nations to bring the terrorists to justice and to “go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.”

“As the president said tonight, in this moment of tragedy the United States stands with the people of France and its vibrant, multi-cultural democracy,” Carter said in his statement. “For more than 200 years, the United States and France have stood together in friendship. We have stood for the common good and security of all nations. We have never stood closer than we do now. Vive la France."

Ex-FBI Agent: Weak Evidence Doomed Case Against 'Goodfellas' Lufthansa Heist Suspect Philip Messing

Philip Messing at the New York Post offers a piece on the trial of Vincent Asaro.

The retired FBI supervisor who led the federal probe into the Lufthansa heist told The Post on Thursday that he “had a feeling” the case might be too threadbare to convict accused mobster Vincent Asaro.
“My gut feeling was that they didn’t have enough evidence,” said Stephen Carbone, 74, who spent countless hours probing the infamous Dec. 11, 1978, rip-off.
“When I realized that the only witness was the cousin, I didn’t feel that would be enough to convict,” he said.
Carbone, who is long retired from the bureau, said he monitored the trial’s developments by reading daily newspaper accounts and spoke with federal officials before the trial started.
He insisted that he had “no inside knowledge” on whether Asaro was guilty of plotting the heist with Jimmy “The Gent” Burke, as the government charged.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Member Of Colombian Terrorist Organization Sentenced To 27 Years In Prison For Hostage-Taking Of Three U.S. Citizens

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

WASHINGTON—Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran, 43, a member of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (FARC) terrorist organization, was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to 27 years in prison on hostage-taking charges stemming from the 2003 kidnappings of three U.S. citizens in Colombia.
The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Division.
Navarrete Beltran was extradited from Colombia to the United States in November 2014 to face charges in a superseding indictment that was returned in February 2011. He pleaded guilty on Aug. 26, 2015, to three counts of hostage-taking. He was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia. Navarrete Beltran is among three FARC leaders who have been convicted for their roles in the hostage-taking.
“Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran participated in the hostage-taking and captivity of three Americans by the FARC, a Colombian terrorist organization,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “This case underscores our resolve to hold accountable those who target our citizens with violence anywhere in the world, no matter how long it takes.”
“Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran and other FARC guerillas ruthlessly subjected their American hostages to constant threats of violence while holding them in one camp after another in the remote jungles of Colombia,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “For over 16 months, this defendant was among the armed guards who prevented their escape. Today’s 27-year sentence provides justice for the three victims who were subjected to repeated barbaric abuse by the defendant and others while part of this terrorist organization.”
“Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltran now faces a long time behind bars for his participation in the hostage-taking of three U.S. Citizens in Colombia,” said Special Agent in Charge Piro. “To all hostage-takers the message is clear: target our citizens with violence anywhere in the world and we will hold you accountable for your actions.”
According to a statement of offense submitted as part of the plea hearing, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia, formed in 1964 as the armed wing of the Colombian Communist Party. It has evolved into a major armed force financed by drug trafficking, hostage-taking and extortion. International human rights organizations have repeatedly accused the FARC of serious crimes, including kidnapping, murder, use of land mines, threats, the recruitment of minors, forced displacement and hostage-taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.
As described in the statement of offense, Navarrete Beltran was a member of the First Front in the FARC’s Eastern Bloc.
In his plea, he admitted taking part in the hostage-taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes and Keith Stansell. These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on Feb. 13, 2003, by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia. Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.
For the next five and a half years, according to the statement of offense, Gonsalves, Howes, Stansell and many others were held prisoners by the FARC and used to bargain with the Colombian government. Along with about a dozen Colombian hostages, they were forced to march from one site to another to prevent their rescue. They were threatened, chained and forced to participate in proof-of-life videos. In early October 2006, the hostages were delivered to the FARC’s Eastern Bloc’s First Front and were held prisoners by the First Front of the FARC.
From October 2006 through mid-June 2008, according to the statement of offense, Navarrete Beltran and other guerillas kept the hostages under the control of the FARC’s First Front. In particular, Navarrete Beltran often served as an armed guard of the American hostages.
In July 2008, the Colombian military conducted an operation which resulted in the rescue of the hostages. All told, members of the FARC held the Americans hostage for 1,967 days.
This investigation is being led by the FBI’s Miami Field Division. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Kohl and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez of the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Cora of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.
Substantial assistance in the case was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the department’s Judicial Attachés in Colombia, the FBI’s Office of the Legal Attaché in Colombia and the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meet Richard Ross, Philly's Next Top Cop

David Gambacorta and Dana DiFilippo at the Philadelphia Daily News offers a piece on the new Philadelphia Police Commissioner.

Come January, the entire city - and a police force of 6,500 men and women - will be watching Ross' every move, analyzing every quote, trying to determine what kind of leader he will be.

Ross knows he is inheriting the top job at a pivotal and difficult moment in the history of law enforcement. Police departments across the country are grappling with an unprecedented identity crisis in the face of growing calls to reform their policies and procedures, and to commit to never-before-seen levels of transparency.
But Ross brings something to the table that might make him uniquely qualified to navigate these choppy waters: a willingness to listen.
But what does that actually mean, as Ross prepares to take over for retiring Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, whose popularity with Philly residents and the law-enforcement community casts an impossibly long shadow?
According to Ross, it means he will be reaching out to rowhouse dwellers and rank-and-file cops alike, at town-hall meetings and in small gatherings, to find out what they need from him.
"In my view, if a police commander thinks he knows what every community wants, it's a tragic error," he said.
"You don't know what people need unless you listen to them. And that holds true for police officers, too. You need to have a dialogue with the men and women you ask to do this job. If you don't include them in the process, you're really headed for trouble."
Ross' journey to the top of the fourth-largest police department in America began in the Fern Rock section of North Philadelphia, where his parents, Richard and Virginia Ross, raised a house full of kids.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The History Of Veterans Day

Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Thanks Veterans for Their Service to Communities, Nation

Jim Garamone at DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, November 11, 2015 — The world had never seen a conflict like the one that ended November 11, 1918.
World War I, the “war to end all wars,” claimed more than 17 million lives and left more than 20 million wounded. It was a cataclysm that claimed a generation.
In the following years, nations celebrated the day when the guns finally fell silent as Armistice Day.
But, sadly, World War I begat World War II and wars have continued to the present day. And Armistice Day became Veterans Day.
“Each year, on November 11th we honor all the men and women who have served our country in uniform,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a video message to the force to commemorate Veterans Day.
Veterans Day recognizes the contribution that veterans have made throughout American history. There are 21.5 million veterans in America now.
It’s a day “to reflect on their dedication and sacrifice, and that of their families and to reaffirm our commitment to keep faith with those who’ve served,” the chairman said. “More importantly, it gives us an opportunity to say, ‘Thanks.’”
But the general’s appreciation for veterans isn’t limited to their military service. Veterans also serve their communities and states. They are the volunteer fire fighters and baseball coaches. Veterans return home to teach, to open new businesses and to work in hospitals.

“To all veterans, I want thank you for your service – not just for your time in uniform, but also for the leadership you are providing in your communities every day,” Dunford said. “You continue to make a difference across our nation and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

'Goodfellas' Turncoats Are Despicable Liars, Attorney Says

Selim Algar is covering the Vincent Asaro trial for the New York Post.
Painting them as “despicable … liars” looking for government paydays, an attorney for accused “Goodfellas” mobster Vincent Asaro urged jurors to dismiss the testimony of mob canaries during her closing argument Monday in Brooklyn federal court.
“These are despicable people,” lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio said of the cooperating witnesses the government used against the Bonanno capo over the last three weeks to implicate him in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa cargo heist and the murder of a suspected mob rat.
“They are accomplished liars,” she said.
The gray-haired gangster, 80, faces life in prison if convicted in the murder and the more than $6 million Kennedy Airport heist, which was immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film “Goodfellas.”
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Prosecutor Calls Vincent Asaro 'Ultimate Tough Guy' At Close Of 'Goodfellas' Trial

Selim Alagar is covering the Vincent Asaro trial for the New York Post.

Hoping to finally slam the legal door on one of the most iconic crimes in American history, a prosecutor squarely accused “Goodfellas” goon Vinny Asaro of key involvement in the famed 1978 Lufthansa heist — immortalized in the classic 1990 film — during her final statement to jurors Friday.
Calling him “the ultimate tough guy,” prosecutor Alicyn Cooley portrayed Asaro, now a grandfatherly 80-year-old with slicked-back gray hair, as a violent hoodlum with a manic appetite for ill-gotten gains.
“He lived by and personally enforced the Mafia’s code — death before dishonor,” Cooley said. “He’s the ultimate tough guy.”
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

FBI: Navy Engineer Sentenced for Attempted Espionage - Passed Information on Latest Aircraft Carrier to Undercover Agent

The FBI offers the below report:

In the fall of 2014, civilian engineer Mostafa Ahmed Awwad provided schematics of the U.S. Navy’s newest nuclear aircraft carrier—the USS Gerald R. Ford—to an individual he thought was an Egyptian intelligence officer. At the time, Awwad was an employee of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, and had access to naval nuclear propulsion information.
His actions could have potentially compromised the safety of some 4,000 American sailors who will be serving on the USS Gerald R. Ford after it joins the fleet of Navy vessels sometime next year—and the security of our nation in general. Fortunately, Awwad’s Egyptian contact turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. And last month, Awwad was sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to attempted espionage.
After joint investigative efforts between the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), an undercover Bureau agent reached out to Awwad by telephone in September 2014 and, speaking Arabic, asked to meet with him. Without asking any questions, Awwad agreed.
The pair met the next day in a park in nearby Hampton, Virginia. During the meeting, which was audio and video recorded, our agent identified himself as being a representative of the Egyptian government. Awwad told our agent that he wanted to use his position at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to obtain military technology for use by Egypt, including the designs of the USS Gerald R. Ford. The two discussed how they would remain in future contact—through coded e-mail communications and dead drops in a concealed location in the park.
In October 2014, at Awwad’s request, the two men met in a hotel room in Norfolk. During that meeting, which was also recorded, Awwad gave the undercover agent electronic copies of schematic drawings of the USSGerald R. Ford, which clearly contained numerous markings warning against disseminating the information publicly. Awwad said he planned to obtain additional information concerning the tools and the technology necessary to build the carrier and also pointed out on the schematics vulnerable areas where a strike could cause an explosion significant enough to sink the carrier.
During this same meeting, Awwad described for the agent his plans to circumvent Navy computer security by installing software on his restricted computer that would enable him to copy documents without triggering a security alert. He also asked for money to buy a pinhole camera, which he intended to use throughout the shipyard to take pictures of restricted material.
And finally, Awwad told the agent that going forward, the two would communicate primarily through e-mail. The engineer, admittedly fearful of being caught by the FBI, instructed the agent to create 24 fake e-mail accounts that should be used only once and then deleted. He also asked for an escape plan in the event his activities were detected by the FBI.
Over the next month or so, Awwad and the undercover agent e-mailed numerous times and met again in a hotel. Awwad was also recorded servicing the dead drop location in the Hampton park, picking up $3,000 left by the agent at Awwad’s request so he could purchase a laptop and dropping off an external hard drive of additional schematic drawings and two photos to be used for producing a fraudulent passport.
All the while, there was no doubt that Awwad understood that the “Egyptian representative” he was dealing with would be passing the stolen information to the Egyptian government.
Why did he do it? Awwad told our undercover agent that he was motivated to use his position to steal nuclear and defense secrets from the U.S. to aid Egypt in building a more robust defense. And at one point, he said he wanted to go to Egypt to meet personally with high-ranking intelligence and military officials to get a better idea on exactly what information they would want him to collect.
But he never got the chance. Awwad was taken into custody on December 5, 2014, following another meeting with our undercover agent.
The USS Gerald R. Ford is still under construction, but when completed, it will be the most advanced aircraft carrier in the world and the first in a new class of carriers. As a result of the joint FBI/NCIS efforts in this case, according to FBI Assistant Director Randall Coleman, “We prevented the loss of billions of dollars in research costs and the exposure of potential vulnerabilities to our newest generation of nuclear aircraft carrier.”
Note: The top FBI photo shows the dead drop area in a Virginia park that was used by Navy civilian engineer Mostafa Ahmed Awwad to pass sensitive information on the USS Gerald R. Ford, a new aircraft carrier currently under construction. The other FBI photo is a surveillance photo that shows Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, left, meeting with an FBI undercover agent he believed was an Egyptian intelligence officer.