Saturday, December 31, 2016
FBI: A Look Back At A Small Office with a Big Mission - The FBI’s World War II-Era Cover Company At Rockefeller Center
The FBI released the below piece:
Everyone knows that the holiday season is well under way when the giant Christmas tree is lit at Rockefeller Center in New York City. What is less well known, however, is the connection between Rockefeller Center and the birth of America’s civilian foreign intelligence efforts.
It was 1940 and the world had plunged into war the previous summer. Although America remained neutral at that time, it did not ignore the massive international threat, and an FBI operation—small but critical to America’s response to that threat—was centered in the heart of New York City in Rockefeller Center. It was called the Importers and Exporters Service Company and operated out of room 4332 at 30 Rockefeller Center—the RCA Building—beginning in August 1940.
Importers and Exporters was the Bureau’s first attempt to set up a long-term cover company for our covert program, the Special Intelligence Service (SIS). The SIS was the United States’ first civilian foreign intelligence service and was less than a year old. Under a 1940 agreement signed by the Army, Navy, and FBI and approved by President Roosevelt, the FBI was given responsibility for “foreign intelligence work in the Western Hemisphere.” This saw us gathering intelligence about espionage, counterespionage, subversion, and sabotage concerns—especially about Nazi activities—pertaining to civilians in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. We were to create an undercover force that would proactively protect America’s security from threats in our international neighborhood. Given that our past success was mostly in criminal matters, taking on this task would be a steep learning experience.
To begin, we wanted to center the operation away from traditional FBI facilities and wanted to anchor it in commercial efforts, because they would provide the freedom of movement and access our agents would need. Although it is not clear why the Bureau chose to establish a presence at 30 Rock, it likely had something to do with the support that Nelson Rockefeller had provided to President Roosevelt’s intelligence work. Furthermore, on multiple occasions after the SIS’s creation, our personnel were afforded cover by Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.
The RCA Building placed the FBI within a hotbed of foreign activity, both allied and enemy. The Rockefellers provided space in the same building at little or no cost to British Security Coordination, an intelligence agency/liaison service. It also hosted Italian, German, and Japanese tenants until the U.S. government detained them as enemy aliens when America entered World War II. And the Soviet Union had office space in the building as well.
Of course, the sign on the door did not read “FBI/SIS—Spies Welcome.” Instead, the Importers and Exporters Service Company—which never imported or exported anything—was supposed to be completely unidentifiable with the Bureau and would provide “backstopping” or cover identities, employment, and other necessary tools for our agents to operate undercover. With these new identities, representatives of the company were to travel throughout the hemisphere to collect intelligence and help to disrupt the Axis threat.
It looked good on paper; however, the plan took an unexpected turn because Bureau personnel had to fend off daily advances from unsuspecting salesmen and other parties knocking on the door wanting to do business with the new company. The FBI ended up shutting down the Importers and Exporters business in June 1941, but we kept the office itself open until November 1945, using it to quietly handle logistics for deploying SIS personnel.
Although the Importers and Exporters Service Company was a short-lived enterprise, its method of operation, providing what is known as “non-official cover” in the spy business, became crucial to the SIS’s intelligence activities and its subsequent successes. Learning from its Importers and Exporters experience, the Bureau—instead of maintaining one single cover company—enlisted the assistance of accommodating U.S. companies that agreed to provide cover jobs for Bureau personnel. (And in a boon for some of those companies, many of the individuals who filled these positions worked so enthusiastically that they became nearly indispensable to their cover employers.)
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Serhii Plokhy's The Man With the Poison Gun.
Top 10 Slangy Crime Novels: As Well As Masterful Exercises In Suspense And Social Realism, The Best Fiction In This Genre Is Also A Rich Repository Of Slang
Max Decharne at the British newspaper the Guardian offers a piece on the top ten "slangy" crime novels.
I've spent most of my adult life reading vintage crime novels. Often dismissed out of hand at the time they appeared, over the past century they have preserved a huge variety of slang. Not surprisingly, when researching my new book, Vulgar Tongues: An Alternative History of English Slang, it was these stories that provided the richest seam of words and phrases, initiating the reader into a world in which people order a drink by saying, “Break out another bottle of that bug spray,” or acknowledge someone’s black eye with the phrase, “Who’s been kissin’ your puss?”
Raymond Chandler famously credited Dashiell Hammett with giving murder “back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse … He put these people down on paper as they are, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes.”
Hammett learned underworld slang at first hand, working as a detective for the Pinkerton agency; few other crime writers will have had the dubious pleasure of being beaten over the head with a house brick in an alley while tailing a suspect. However, the most influential jargon over the years has probably been the laconic asides of Chandler’s own Philip Marlowe – not bad for a writer educated at Dulwich College in Edwardian London.
... 7. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (1940)“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.” Chandler’s exuberant follow-up to The Big Sleep, establishing the blueprint for the wisecracking, slightly shop-soiled private eye. People with guns say things like, “Stick up. Be very quiet and everything will be jake,” while invitations to the booze are made with the phrase, “Let’s you and me nibble one.”
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Craig Witlock at the Washington Post offers a piece on the U.S. Navy "Fat Leonard' bribery and fraud scandal.
Lloyd Sachs at the Chicago Tribune offers a review of Serhii Plokhy's The Man With the Poison Gun.
"The Man With the Poison Gun," a nonfiction book that tells the unusual story of a KGB assassin during the Cold War, once might have fallen safely into the category of "stranger than fiction." But especially in light of recent events including the on-camera assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, the exploits of Bogdan Stashinsky feel eerily relevant today.
Stashinsky was a 19-year-old university student in Soviet-occupied Ukraine in 1950 when he was conscripted by Nikita Khrushchev's secret police. They knew that Stashinsky's family had ties to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which opposed the Soviet presence, and threatened to punish or kill his family members if he didn't inform on them and their friends.
After delivering the goods, Stashinsky became a paid employee of the secret police. Still telling himself he was playing ball with the Soviets to prevent harm to his family, he underwent extensive training in the espionage arts with the MGB, a precursor to the KGB (which was established in 1954). By 1957, when he received a newfangled poison gun, his self-image had undergone a serious overhaul to go with his new alias.
According to author Serhii Plokhy, a Harvard historian, Stashinsky's unusual exploits inspired Ian Fleming's 1965 James Bond novel, "The Man With the Golden Gun," which features a weapon that squirts liquid cyanide and leaves no trace. Plokhy is no Ian Fleming. His narrative skills are a bit stodgy. But this is one story that does a good job of telling itself.You can read the rest of the review via the below link:
Monday, December 26, 2016
Joselin Kinder at the New York Post offers a piece on the dyslexic spy who couldn't spell.
When FBI special agent Steven Carr opened a package FedExed to him from the FBI’s New York office in December 2000, he assumed it would contain the typical inter-office issue. Instead, he found three letters that had been encrypted and mailed out to the Libyan consulate.
“I am a Middle East North African analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency,” the letter read. “I am willing to commit espionage against the US by providing your country with highly classified information.”
Carr then found items marked “CLASSIFIED SECRET” and “CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET” — mostly satellite images of Middle Eastern military operations. If Libya wanted more secrets, the spy wrote, it would have to take out an ad in the classified section of the Washington Post and pay $13 million.
“I will remain anonmus . . . I will be putting myself and my family at great risk,” one part read.
A US intelligence agency had a mole — and now the FBI had to figure out who he was. One detail stood out among the rest: He was a terrible speller.You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
As History.com notes, on this day in 1946 New York mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
You can read about Siegel and the event via the below link:
Sunday, December 25, 2016
The New York Post offers the below on Christmas:
From the Gospel According to Luke,
Chapter 2, Verses 1 through 20:
Chapter 2, Verses 1 through 20:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).
o be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
You can read the rest via the below link:
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Marine General Joe Dunford, The Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, USO Troupe Arrive in Baghdad for Holiday with Troops
Posted by Paul Davis at 10:21 PM
Labels: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine General Joe Dunford, DoD News, Jim Garamone, USO show in Baghdad
One may not think of a James Bond film as traditional holiday fare, but every Christmas season I watch On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
The film, which was released in December of 1969, has a Christmas setting and takes place in the snow-covered Swiss Alps.
The film, despite not having the great Sean Connery as Bond, is one the best in the series in my view.
Considering that the new Bond, George Lazenby, had to follow Connery in the role, and that he had not acted before, I believe he delivered a better than fair portrayal of Bond.
He looked like Ian Fleming's Bond and he was very good in the fight and action scenes.
The film was also graced with Diana Rigg as Tracy, a strong, yet troubled woman with whom Bond has a serious - if ultimately tragic - love affair.
Although I would have preferred a European actor to portray Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Telly Savalas was a commanding, brilliant and truly mad Blofeld. The supporting actors were also very good.
The director of this fine film was Peter Hunt. Hunt, who edited the earlier Bond films, was faithful to Ian Fleming's novel, even going with the thriller's dark ending. Peter Hunt gave us a true Bond thriller.
The film also offers a terrific soundtrack by John Barry.
You can watch a trailer of the film via the below link:
And you can listen to John Barry's great love song sung by the late, jazz great Louie Armstrong via the below link:
Merry Christmas from Bond, James Bond.
Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz offers a piece at the Free Beacon on a congressional report on NSA leaker, spy and traitor Edward Snowden (seen in the above photo).
Both the CIA and National Security Agency missed warning signs that renegade contractor Edward Snowden was a disgruntled worker who would eventually steal 1.5 million secret documents, according to a congressional study made public Thursday.
Snowden, who fled to Moscow after publicizing some of the documents through left-wing journalists, also “has had, and continues to have contact with Russian intelligence services” and voiced admiration for China during his brief career at the CIA and then NSA.
A declassified and redacted report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that Snowden’s actions resulted in the Obama’s administration’s most damaging intelligence failure.You can read he rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read an earlier post on Snowden via the below link:
As the Christmas season is upon us once again I thought I would offer a link to my short story Twas a Crime Before Christmas.
As a crime reporter and columnist, I was compelled to look into a report of a burglary of an unemployed construction worker on Christmas Eve in South Philadelphia.
The burglar or burglars broke into the home early on the morning of the 24th. They stole the family’s TV and other household goods. They also took a dozen or so wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree that were intended for the family’s two children.
I interviewed the victim, who was so devastated by the burglary that he could hardly speak. I also spoke to a detective who said he presently had no leads on the case but he planned to keep working it, and I spoke to a local priest who told me that the church was collecting donations for the poor family.
Lastly, I spoke to a man of great wisdom and experience. The jolly old fella was kind enough to pause during his special night out to talk to me about crime.
I interviewed Santa Claus as he was packing up his sleigh and getting ready to head off on his magical trip, bringing toys and goodies to good children around the world.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and the beard on his chin was white as snow. His eyes twinkled and his dimples were merry. His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. He looked like a candidate for a heart attack.
And he smoked. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath (the Surgeon General would not approve). He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot (PETA would not approve) and his clothes were tarnished with ashes and soot (Mrs. Santa would not approve). With a lumpy sack over his shoulder, he looked like a homeless person.
You can read the rest of the story via the below link:
Friday, December 23, 2016
The Spy Who Couldn't Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, An Unbreakable Code, And the FBI's Hunt For America's Stolen Secrets
Howard Schneider offers a review of Yudhijit Bhattacharjee's The Spy Who Couldn't Spell for the Wall Street Journal.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:
Thursday, December 22, 2016
In my previous post - http://www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2016/12/the-fbis-first-lady-my-q-with-jan.html - I offered my Counterterrorism magazine Q&A with Jan Fedarcyk, the former Assistant Director of the FBI's New York Office and author of Fidelity.
Below is an accompanying piece on Jan Fedarcyk:
Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.
The FBI's First Lady: My Q&A With Jan Fedarcyk, Former Assistant Director In Charge Of The FBI's New York Office And Author of 'Fidelity'
My Q&A with Jan Fedarcyk, the former Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Office and author of Fidelity, appears in the current issue of The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International.
You can read the piece below:
As History.com notes, on this day in 1775 the Continental Congress created a Continental Navy in Philadelphia.
You can read about the event via the below link:
Note: The above U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo is of a painting by W. Nowland Van Powell. The painting depicts Lieutenant John Paul Jones raising the "Grand Union" flag on the Alfred as the ship was commissioned in Philadelphia.
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Veteran journalist 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, offers a piece in Newsweek on the efforts of former Navy SEALs and intelligence officers to aid two former Russian spies.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Q&A with Bryan Denson via the below link:
Amaani Lyle at the DoD News offers the below piece:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2016 — Vietnam veteran and former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel returned to the Pentagon today to join Defense Secretary Ash Carter in officially opening an exhibit honoring the estimated 9 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War.
A two-time Purple Heart recipient, Hagel joined Carter and other Pentagon officials for the official ribbon cutting of the display, which spans a swath of a third-floor corridor.
“Today’s unveiling and the government wide commemoration that accompany it are an important part of our commitment to honor veterans from Vietnam and their families, for service, for valor, for sacrifice,” Carter said.
Carter, who served as Hagel’s deputy, described the 24th defense secretary as “one of modern America’s finest public servants.”
“From his bravery and sacrifice in Vietnam to his continued leadership in and out of elected office and here as secretary of defense, Chuck’s been dedicated to those who serve, to bringing home those still missing, and to making sure we remember the lessons of yesterday’s wars so we can ensure the continued excellence of today’s military and DoD,” Carter said.
Standing before large models of Huey helicopters and other life-size combat depictions, Carter noted that while the hallway displays celebrate some of the military’s finest accomplishments, they also aim to ensure difficult lessons learned along the way.
Hard Lessons Learned
Hagel elaborated on some of these lessons.
“This exhibit really and truly represents the service of a generation of citizens who were asked to do something for their country at a difficult time, as difficult a time as probably we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” he said.
At the war’s peak, some 500,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam. Hagel acknowledged the war’s lack of popularity, -- noting that it drove a president from office when Lyndon B. Johnson chose not to run for re-election in 1968, and that America saw the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy that same year as cities went up in flames during riots.
“There was tremendous social unrest everywhere, and that too was happening in our armed forces,” Hagel said. “It was a difficult time inside those armed forces for our officers, our enlisted and with a real question as to what the clear purpose of the war was.”
Hagel’s Reflection of War
Hagel reflected on his personal role in the conflict as a witness to uncommon courage and quiet heroes, draftees from across the country with little understanding of why they were there, though steeled with a commitment to the mission.
“It took many, many years before our country and our history was corrected … and probably most importantly, the warrior was separated from the war,” Hagel recounted. “This exhibit very much reflects all that and pays tribute to men and women who never asked for anything in return. They never came back to any expectations -- they wanted to get on with their lives and put that war experience behind them.”
Presidential Proclamation, Exhibit’s Impact
By presidential proclamation issued May 25, 2012, the 50th anniversary commemoration extends from Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2025. The Vietnam War Commemoration staff, in collaboration with the Pentagon corridor committee, Office of the Secretary of Defense graphics experts and service historians, helped to bring the exhibit project to fruition.
“Vietnam-era veterans and their families have helped America learn those lessons to ensure we never forget them,” Carter said. “Throughout this hallway, and the ongoing commemoration of the Vietnam War and those who served, future service members and civilians will continue to remember those lessons for years to come."
Note: The above photo was taken by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr.
Posted by Paul Davis at 12:09 AM
Labels: Amaani Lyle, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Pentagon exhibit commemorates 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Vietnam War
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
The FBI's Philadelphia Division offers the below warning:
The FBI’s Philadelphia Division is again warning the public to be on alert for a phone scam that spoofs, or fakes, the FBI’s name and actual telephone number on the recipient’s caller ID.
We have seen our main number (215-418-4000) spoofed in this manner, as well as the phone numbers of the division’s resident agencies:
Allentown - 610-433-6488
Fort Washington - 215-641-8910
Harrisburg - 717-232-8686
Newtown Square - 610-353-4500
Scranton - 570-344-2404
South Jersey - 856-795-9556
State College - 814-234-0341
Williamsport - 570-323-3791
Scammers have targeted residents around the region, claiming to be with the FBI; the intended victim may be told there’s a federal warrant for their arrest, which will be thrown out in exchange for immediate payment.
FBI field offices across the country have received reports of similar calls, showing local FBI phone numbers. The caller says they are an FBI agent and demands money – for school loans, back taxes, even unpaid parking tickets. The caller often knows the name, background, and personal cell phone number of the intended victim.
International students attending U.S. colleges and universities have also been targeted. The caller insists there are problems with the visitor’s financial aid, and/or student visa, and threatens deportation if payment is not made.
Please note that the FBI does not call or e-mail people to demand money or threaten arrest.
To avoid becoming the victim of a scam:
Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls
Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact
Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller makes you uncomfortable or says things that don’t sound right, hang up
Victims of phone or online scams can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.