Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Face Of Terror, Inc: The Crimes Of Qassem Suleymani, Iran's Top Terrorist

Kenneth R. Timmerman offers a piece in the Washington Times on Iran’s top terrorist, Qassem Suleymani.

He might not be a household name in America — at least, not yet. But throughout the Middle East, Qassem Suleymani makes the righteous and the innocent tremble.

To the righteous — meaning, from his perspective, the Shiite zealots who believe the Islamic state of Iran should establish the caliphate and dominate the world — he is an awe-inspiring figure.

He is powerful. He is brash. He brazenly shows up on the battlefield to encourage his troops. In Iraq, he has become the maker of prime ministers and governments, and commands a militia of 100,000 men.

To his innocent victims, he is the face of Terror, Inc. As head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), Qassem Suleymani is Iran’s top terrorist.

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

Line Handling Aboard The USS Bonhomme Richard in Sasebo, Japan

The U.S. Navy released the above photo and below caption:

SASEBO, Japan (Feb. 27, 2017) Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Jose Garcia, center, and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Steve Sarsaba heave a mooring line on the fantail of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as the ship prepares to depart Sasebo, Japan. 

Bonhomme Richard is on a routine patrol, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to serve as a forward-capability for any type of contingency. 

The above photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan.

Note: The photo brings back memories. I visited Sasebo, Japan in 1971 when the USS Kitty Hawk pulled in for R&R during our WESTPAC Vietnam cruise. I later did my share of line handling while serving aboard the harbor tugboat USS Saugus at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.

You can click on the photo to enlarge. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Little Night Music: Lucia Micarelli

You can listen to the very talented Lucia Micarelli on the violin via the below link:


And Lucia Micarelli with Chris Botti:


The Guardian's 100 Best Nonfiction Books: No 56 – 'Life on the Mississippi' by Mark Twain (1883)

Robert McCrum at the British newspaper the Guardian offers his pick of Mark Twain’s Life On the Mississippi for number 56 in the 100 best nonfiction books.

When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient.”

Here is the unmistakable voice of America’s greatest and most original, prose writer describing the childhood that would inspire his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Mark Twain (for it is he) goes on:

“When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first negro minstrel show that came to our section left us all suffering to try that kind of life; now and then we had the hope that, if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn, but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained.”

Life on the Mississippi is not just the brilliant sketch that precedes the vaster and more colourful canvas of a celebrated novel, it expresses the heart and soul of Samuel Clemens, the alter ego of Mark Twain. Alongside The Innocents Abroad (1869) and Roughing It (1872), this tour de force of unreliable reportage, spliced with travel, history and memoir, provides a deep insight into Huckleberry Finn as well as a key to its author and his outrageous originality. As his most recent biographer, Ron Powers, has put it: “Twain’s way of seeing and hearing things changed America’s way of seeing and hearing things. He was the Lincoln of American literature.”

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

Krauthammer: Foreign Policy Of Good Cop Vs. Bad Cop

Charles Krauthammer offers his take on President Trump's foreign policy in a column published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

At the heart of Donald Trump's foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction.

On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment, and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945. Practically every member of the team - the heads of State, Homeland Security, the CIA, and most especially Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster - could fit in a cabinet put together by, say, Hillary Clinton.

The commander in chief, on the other hand, is quite the opposite - inexperienced, untraditional, unbounded. His pronouncements on everything from the "one China" policy to the two-state (Arab-Israeli) solution, from NATO obsolescence to the ravages of free trade, continue to confound and, as we say today, disrupt.

The obvious question is: Can this arrangement possibly work? The answer thus far, surprisingly, is: perhaps.

The sample size is tiny but take, for example, the German excursion. Trump dispatched his grown-ups - Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - to various international confabs in Germany to reassure allies with the usual pieties about America's commitment to European security. They did drop a few hints to Trump's loud complaints about allied parasitism, in particular shirking their share of the defense burden.

Within days, Germany announced a 20,000-man expansion of its military. Smaller European countries are likely to take note of the new setup. It's classic good-cop, bad-cop: The secretaries represent foreign policy continuity but their boss preaches America First. Message: Shape up.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

How Two Badass Sheriffs Tamed The Most Dangerous Town In The West

Nick Poppy at the New York Post offers a piece on Tom Clavin’s book on Dodge City, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson

Any man fool enough to look for trouble in 1870s Dodge City could count on two things: finding it, and finding himself knocked over the head by the butt of a gun. And if he was especially unlucky or stupid, he could find a third thing: himself full of lead.

The infamous Kansas cow town had bloody beginnings, and violence, or the threat of it, was rarely far from mind. It started with buffalo. The seemingly endless herds on the nearby plains, coupled with demand for skins and tongues (considered a delicacy back East), birthed a buffalo hunting industry. And that industry, in turn, created a leathery class of buffalo hunters — skilled marksmen who could shoot from the saddle, subsist in harsh conditions and not shy from the sight of blood.

Out of these hunters’ ranks came two of the most fabled lawmen of the American West: Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, whose fascinating careers are brought to life in Tom Clavin’s “Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West.”

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Secret life Of The SS-GB Spymaster: How Author Len Deighton, Who Lived Next Door To A Nazi Spy In The War, Created A Nightmare Vision Of Britain Under The Jackboot

Nicole Lambert at the Daily Mail offers a piece on one of my favorite writers, Len Deighton, the author of The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, Bomber and SS-GB, which has been adapted for TV and is now airing on the BBC.

He has dined with everyone from Nazi criminals to the cream of British society; from rock’n’roll royalty to eminent philosophers. He has lived all over the world and known spies and traitors. Some say he would have made a successful intelligence agent himself.

But he is also a man of many parts. Author, film producer and successful artist, published cook — who made it cool for men to be in the kitchen — and eminent historian: Len Deighton is all of these.

As a writer, he changed the way the world looked at spies with The Ipcress File, the 1962 thriller about a working-class spook (un-named in the book but christened Harry Palmer for Michael Caine’s screen portrayal) who is as interested in getting his expenses signed as in catching enemies of the state.

He also created a fascinating and terrifying alternative world in his 1978 book SS-GB, now adapted by BBC1 for peak-time Sunday viewing, set in a wartime England that has been invaded by the Germans and is under Nazi rule, with prime minister Winston Churchill executed and King George VI imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Deighton, who turned 88 last weekend, has dreamt up many fascinating characters in his novels but few are more intriguing than the reclusive man himself.

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

Note: SS-GB is one of my favorite Deighton novels. I look forward to watching the TV series when it airs in America.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Admiral Rogers Discusses Near Future Of U.S. Cyber Command

Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News offers the below report:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2017 — Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, the chief of U.S. Cyber Command, discussed the command’s future over the next five to 10 years yesterday at West 2017, a sea services event in San Diego co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute.

AFCEA is the international information technology, communications and electronics association for professionals in government, industry and academia.

Rogers, also director of the National Security Agency, fielded questions from moderator retired Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, who’s now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He’s also chairman of the board of the U.S. Naval Institute and a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Topics included integrating cyber at the tactical level of warfare, modeling Cybercom after the structure used by the Special Operations Command, the Cybercom workforce, and the relationship between Cybercom and the private sector, all in the five-to 10-year horizon.

“Here's what we need to build toward -- in the immediate near term, elevating Cyber Command to a combatant command,” Rogers said, adding, “I think the potential for that happening in the near term is high.”

Cybercom today is a component of U.S. Strategic Command.

Tactical Cyber

Over the next five to 10 years the admiral said he would like to see cyber integrated offensively and defensively “down to the operational tactical level.”

Offensive cyber in some ways is treated like nuclear weapons, he added, “in the sense that their application outside a defined area of hostilities is controlled at the chief-executive level and is not delegated down.”

Rogers said he hopes that over the next five to 10 years Cybercom can engender enough confidence in decision makers and policymakers that they feel comfortable pushing offensive cyber activities to the tactical level.

“We should be integrating [cyber] into the strike group and on the amphibious expeditionary side. We should view this as another toolkit that's available … as a commander is coming up with a broad schema of maneuver to achieve a desired outcome or end state. That’s what I hope,” the admiral said.

Special Operations Model

Rogers and Stavridis likened the journey of cyber to that of special forces, whose members in earlier times were called in only for special occasions and their use was highly controlled. Today, they said, combatant commanders have component commands from each service and from special operations.

“I would create Cyber Command much in the image of [U.S. Special Operations Command],” Rogers said. “Give it that broad set of responsibilities where it not only is taking forces fielded by the services and employing them; it's articulating the requirement and the vision and you're giving it the resources to create the capacity and then employ it.”

SOF also provides a theater special operations commander across all nine combatant commands, said Rogers, adding, -- that’s “a model I think we should drive to.”

Fighting for Talent

The cyber force, based on Cybercom billet structure, is about 80 percent military, 20 percent civilian, Rogers said. On the NSA side, he added, it’s 60 percent civilian, 40 percent military. Recruiting and retention, he said, is “a little bit harder on the civilian side.”

On the military side, the Cybercom leadership is finding that what motivates a young man or woman to be a Marine Corps rifleman, to work the flightline in the Air Force or to be a deck seaman in the Navy also motivates cyber warriors.

They want to be part of something bigger than themselves, they like the ethos and culture of the military, he said.

“That's a real selling point for us right now,” the admiral said. “The self-image of this workforce is that they are the digital warriors of the 21st century. The way they look at themselves -- we're in the future, we're the cutting edge, we're doing something new, we're blazing a path.”

As a leader, Rogers said, “you cannot underestimate the value of that.”

Rogers says he reminds recruits that as cyber warriors they’ll be able to do things in uniform, within the defense and Law of Armed Conflict application, that they can’t do anywhere else, and they’ll gain responsibility as they show proficiency in the job.

“Everybody responds well to that,” he said. “Retention is good right now.”

Public-Private Cooperation

In its work with the private sector over the next five to 10 years, Rogers said he would like to see Cybercom and tech companies “get to a level of integration where we have actual physical collocation with each other.”

The admiral says that in his military experience, “when we create [command-and-control] structures, when we create analytic and command-and-control nodes … we try to bring all together as much data, as many different perspectives and as many different elements in the broad enterprise that are necessary to achieve the outcome. I think we need to do the same thing” with the tech sector.

Rogers said he’d like to see Cybercom, for one thing, take advantage of the sector constructs that are in place for the 16 segments in private industry that Presidential Policy Directive 21 designates as infrastructure critical to the nation.

These sectors are chemicals, commercial facilities, communications, critical manufacturing, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, health care and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors and materials, transportation systems and water and wastewater.

“How do we take advantage of that and integrate at that level? Because as an execution guy, my experience teaches me that you want to train, you want to exercise, you want to simulate as many conditions as you can before you actually come into contact with an opponent,” Rogers said.

Help from the Tech Sector

On the cyber defense side, the admiral said, he’d like help from the technology sector to get to machine learning at speed and automation, and through this technology to help Cybercom free-up human capital. He’d also like the sector’s help with human capital development.

“People love to talk about the technology, but our greatest edge isn't technology; our greatest edge is that motivated man or woman with the intellectual capacity to anticipate, to be innovative and to be agile,” Rogers said. “Because ... what we’re dealing with is driven by a man or woman somewhere in the world sitting at a keyboard. There's a human dimension in all of this. It's not just about the machine.”

On the offensive side -- speaking for himself rather than the department, he said -- there are things Rogers is trying to come to grips with.

“In the application of kinetic functionality -- weapons -- we go to the private sector and say, ‘Build this thing we call a [joint directed-attack munition], a [Tomahawk land-attack munition].’ Fill in the blank,” he said.

“On the offensive side, to date, we have done almost all of our weapons development internally,” Rogers said. “And part of me goes -- five to 10 years from now is that a long-term sustainable model? Does that enable you to access fully the capabilities resident in the private sector? I'm still trying to work my way through that, intellectually.”

Note: You can click on the above DoD photos to enlarge.

Contractor At U.S. Military Bases Admits Paying Bribes And Kickbacks

The U.S. Attorney's Office District of New Jersey released the below information:

NEWARK, N.J. – A Pennsylvania man who operated a construction company that did work at construction projects at two military bases in New Jersey today admitted paying bribes and kickbacks to get the contracts, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

George Grassie, 54, of Covington Township, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit bribery and one count of providing unlawful kickbacks.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Grassie owned a business that did construction, excavation and landscaping and did work as a subcontractor at Picattiny Arsenal (PICA) and Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst (Ft. Dix). He admitted that from December 2010 to December 2013, he paid bribes valued at $95,000 to $150,000 to an individual employed by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in New Jersey to obtain and retain subcontracts and other favorable assistance at PICA and Fort Dix. He also admitted that he paid kickbacks valued at $40,000 to $95,000 to Shawn Fuller and James Conway, who were then project managers for a prime contractor at PICA and Fort Dix.
Conway previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and accepting unlawful kickbacks on August 2016. Fuller previously pleaded guilty to accepting unlawful kickbacks in November 2015.
The conspiracy charge to which Grassie pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The charge for making unlawful kickbacks to which Grassie pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. Both charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss associated with the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for May 31, 2017.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher; the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Craig R.Rupert, Special Agent in Charge, DCIS Northeast Field Office; and the U.S. Army, Major Procurement Fraud Unit, Criminal Investigation Command, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Larry Scott Moreland, with conducting the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.  
The government is represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie Faye Schwartz, of the United States Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Llanes, Deputy Chief, General Crimes Unit, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Criminal Division, in Newark.     

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Littoral Combat Sailors Go For A Swim

The U.S. Navy released the above photo and the below caption:

Sailors assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) swim in the South China Sea. Coronado is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region's littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing the U.S. 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. 

The above photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amy M. Ressler.

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge. 

Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' Crime Film Heads To Netflix From Paramount

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Martin Scorsese's upcoming film The Irishman, starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and other fine actors, will heading to Netflix.

You can read the piece via the below link:


The film is based on the true crime book I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran and Closing the Case On Jimmy Hoffa, by Charles Brant. You can read my Crime Beat column on the book and the story via the below link:


You can also read an earlier post on the South Philly connection to the story via the below link:


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On This Day In History President George Washington Was Born

As History.com notes, on this day in 1732 President George Washington was born.

You can read about our founding father, general and first president via the below link:


Note: If you would like to learn more about George Washington, our greatest president, (as well as Benedict Arnold, our greatest traitor), I recommend Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Italian Police Arrest Alleged Mafia Mobsters Who Held Secret Meetings Inside A Giant Fridge

Nick Squires at the British newspaper the Telegraph offers a piece on Cosa Nostra members who were arrested after holding meetings in a large fridge.

It was intended as a cunning ruse to evade surveillance by anti-mafia police.

When a bunch of alleged mobsters held their meetings inside a giant fridge in a town in Sicily, they were convinced that the thick insulating walls would protect them being eavesdropped on by police.

But detectives had got wind of the secret summits that were regularly held in the fruit and veg lock-up and had planted recording devices inside, in an operation they code-named “Freezer”.

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

Note: If you would like to learn more about the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, you should read John Dickie's Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia.

On This Day In History CIA Spy And Traitor Aldrich Ames Was Arrested

As History.com notes, on this day in 1994 CIA officer Aldrich Ames was arrested for spying for the Soviet Union.

You can read about the spy and traitor via the below link:


You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Sandra Grimes (seen above on the left of the photo), one of the CIA officers who brought Aldrich Ames down.


Monday, February 20, 2017

My Washington Times Review Of Gosnell: The Untold Story Of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer

The Washington Times published my review of Ann McElhinney and Phelin McAleer's Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer

I followed the Kermit Gosnell murder trial in 2013, which was covered by the local Philadelphia media, but ignored largely by the national media.

Now journalists and documentary filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer offer a book on the life and crimes of the Philadelphia abortion doctor who was convicted of three counts of murder by using scissors to sever the spinal cords of babies delivered alive, as well as various other crimes.

As the authors note, Gosnell destroyed records and often came in on Sundays without his staff and performed numerous illegal late-term abortions, so there is no telling just how many babies he murdered in this fashion and by other means — hence the book’s subtitle, “America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer.”

The case began, the authors explain, with a drug bust.

“It wasn’t a homicide case — until it was. Originally the authorities weren’t investigating murder, or even illegal late-term abortions. They were just trying to bust a prescription drug mill,” the authors write. “But they wound up discovering something far worse.”

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

The Duke's Code From 'The Shootist'

In John Wayne's last film, The Shootist, a young man portrayed by Ron Howard asked the old, dying gunfighter why he had been in so many gunfights in his life.

The Duke replied that he lived by a code (see above).

Great film, great performance by John Wayne, and not a bad code to live by.

Note: You can click on the above two photos to enlarge.

Happy President's Day

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Richard Lyon, First Navy SEAL To Become Admiral, Dies At 93

The Navy Times reports that Admiral Richard Lyon dies at 93.

SAN DIEGO — Richard Lyon, the first Navy SEAL to rise to the rank of admiral, has died at 93. 

Lyon served four decades in the Navy, including World War II and the Korean War, and was among the first U.S. troops to enter Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped. He went on to work as a Scout intelligence officer in northern China and later served in Korea.

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, called Lyon a legend who was honored with the title "Bullfrog" for being the oldest-serving SEAL. Lyon regularly attended the graduation ceremonies of SEALs. 

... Lyon died Friday surrounded by family and friends at his beachfront home in Oceanside, north of San Diego, said lifelong friend Kelly Sarber, who met Lyon as a child because her father was also a SEAL. 

Sarber recalled photos of Lyon and other SEALs swimming with knives during the elite military team's beginnings.

"He reminded me of James Bond," she said. "I never saw him lose his cool. I never saw him be nothing but kind and treat people with manners. He was a real class act."

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


Georges Simenon's Maigret Novels: A Game Of Pretend With A Gallic Soul

John Domini offers a review Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret released novels for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

When the bad news arrives, it's always with a kink. For Jules Maigret, chief inspector, a case might begin with a desperate call from a stranger. Before the Paris detective can get his name, the poor man's corpse has been dumped on the street. Then again, Maigret may hear his own name bandied about, unfathomably, in connection with a murder far to the south, on a Mediterranean island.

Whatever bizarre twist sets the inspector on a killer's trail, in these classic mysteries from Georges Simenon, Maigret won't go long without stopping into a bistro. "He knew," we're told in Dead Man, "he would not be able to resist the temptation of going for a drink in the Caves du Beaujolais." Oh, and he'll take a plate andouille, as well. Down on the Cote d'Azur, he'll have the bouillabaisse.

Naturally, the fine dining never interferes with the job. Just the opposite. While the detective savors his fish pie, his calvados, he's often struck by some revelation; he cracks the case. The Maigret novels can be thought of as "police procedurals," in that they take an officer through both discovery and bureaucracy - along with some serious chills - but that procedure seems worlds apart from the system in the States. An American cop reading these novels might find himself enthralled, like so many before him, but he'll wonder whether he's working in the wrong country and century.

Simenon polished off these three Maigrets in the late 1940s. Enjoying them now, among the first of Penguin Classic's series of new translations, a reader swings from nodding at familiar predators and prey, caught in familiar snares of love or money, to feeling as though he has landed on another planet.

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


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Welcome To Hell: Omar Abdel-Rahman, 'Blind Sheikh,' Dies In Prison

Andrew Blake at the Washington Times reports that Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as the "Blind Sheikh" and the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, died in prison.

You can read the piece via the below link:


On This Day In History Mark Twain Published 'The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn'

As History.com notes, on this day in 1885 Mark Twain published his classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

You can read about Mark Twain and the novel via the below link:


You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain's Raucous and Redemptive Round-The-World Comedy Tour via the below link:


My Crime Beat Column: Bond Vs The Mob: A Look Back at Ian Fleming's Visit To Saratoga Springs To Research ‘Diamonds Are Forever’

In 1971 I was a 19-year-old sailor stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, which was home-ported in San Diego, California after a nearly year-long deployment to Southeast Asia and combat operations off the coast of Vietnam.

I was a "short-timer," eagerly awaiting my separation from the U.S. Navy when I and a couple of friends from the ship went to a movie theater in San Diego to see Sean Connery as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. 

Considering that George Lazenby had never acted before and he had the dubious honor of replacing Connery, I thought he had done a fine job as James Bond in the previous film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  But I was pleased that Connery was back as Bond in the new film.

Prior to seeing the film, I had read the novel, as well as all of Ian Fleming's novels, as I've been a Fleming aficionado since my early teens. I came away disappointed in the film, as it was not faithful to Fleming's novel, as On Her Majesty's Secret Service had been.

The producers made Diamonds Are Forever as an action-comedy rather than a thriller, and this led the way for the lighthearted and amusing Roger Moore-Bond films that followed throughout the 1970's and into the 1980's.

In Fleming's novel Diamonds Are Forever James Bond is pitted against American organized crime.

From London, Bond goes undercover as a diamond smuggler and he encounters American mobsters in New York and later in Las Vegas. And in between Bond visits Saratoga Springs, where the mob has arranged to pay off Bond via a crooked horse race.

Fleming's novel was influenced by Senator Estes Kefauver's committee hearings on organized crime in America. The hearings were televised in the early 1950's and America and the world got to see American gangsters such as Tony Accardo, the mob boss of Chicago who once worked for Al Capone, Frank Costello, known as the New York "Prime Minister of Crime," Meyer Lansky, and a sultry Virginia Hill, the former girlfriend of Ben "Bugsy" Siegal.  

In Saratoga Springs Fleming captured the atmosphere of the race track, the gambling fever that surrounds horse racing, and the presence and influence of organized crime. I recall vividly the brutal scene in the mud baths where the crooked jockey is tortured by mobsters.

I thought this was a great passage in a great thriller, and Raymond Chandler, perhaps our greatest crime novelist, agreed.

Unfortunately, the film didn't use any of this material. Perhaps one day the Bond producers will remake Diamonds Are Forever as a thriller and use Fleming's Saratoga Springs story.

All of this came to mind when I happened to come across a piece in the Saratogian (a newspaper Bond read in the novel) that covers Fleming's 1954 visit to Saratoga Springs to research his novel.

The piece offers generous passages from the novel:

“Saratoga Springs was the Coney Island of the underworld until the Kefauvers put their show on the television. It frightened the hicks and chased the hoodlums to Las Vegas. But the mobs exercised dominion over Saratoga for a long time. It was a colony of the national gangs and they ran it with pistols and baseball bats.”

The piece is also about a thoroughbred horse trainer by the name of H. James Bond.

You can read the piece via the below link:


The film Diamonds Are Forever is well-made and amusing, but if you're interested in a great thriller, I suggest you read Fleming's novel.

Note: You can also read two of my previous Crime Beat columns on Ian Fleming and James Bond via the below links:



Thursday, February 16, 2017

U.S. Navy Commander Charged As Part of Expanding "Fat Leonard" Navy Bribery Scandal

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

A current U.S. Navy Commander was charged in a complaint unsealed today with accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and services of prostitutes from foreign defense contractor Leonard Francis in exchange for classified and internal U.S. Navy information.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Director Dermot F. O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) made the announcement.
Mario Herrera, 48, of Helotes, Texas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with interactions with Leonard Francis, the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contracting firm based in Singapore.  Herrera was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, this morning and is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in the Western District of Texas.  The United States will seek removal of Herrera to San Diego to face charges.
According to the complaint, Herrera participated in a bribery scheme with Francis in which he accepted luxury travel and entertainment expenses and the services of prostitutes in exchange for helping to steer lucrative U.S. Navy contracts to Francis and GDMA.  Herrera provided Francis with internal, proprietary U.S. Navy information and intervened on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes.  According the complaint, Herrera directed ships to take alternative routes that benefitted GDMA on two separate occasions, costing the U.S. Navy $3.6 million.    
To date, a total of 17 individuals have been charged in connection with the scheme; of those, 13 have pleaded guilty, including: Admiral Robert Gilbeau, Captain Michael Brooks, Commander Bobby Pitts, Captain Daniel Dusek, Commander Michael Misiewicz, Lt. Commander Todd Malaki, Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, former NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau and U.S. Petty Officer First Class Daniel Layug.
Brooks, Gilbeau and Sanchez await sentencing.  In May 2016, Pitts was charged and his case is currently pending.  On Jan. 21, 2016, Layug was sentenced to 27 months in prison and to pay a $15,000 fine.   On Jan. 29, 2016, Malaki was sentenced to 40 months in prison and to pay $15,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $15,000 fine.  On March 25, 2016, Dusek was sentenced to 46 months in prison and to pay $30,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $70,000 fine.  On April 29, 2016, Misiewicz was sentenced to 78 months in prison and to pay  $95,000 in restitution to the Navy and a $100,000 fine.  On Oct. 14, 2016, Beliveau was sentenced to 12 years in prison and to pay $20 million in restitution.  On Dec. 2, 2016, Simpkins was sentenced to 72 months in prison, to pay $450,000 in restitution, to forfeit $150,000 and pay a $50,000 fine.  
A criminal complaint is merely an accusation, and the accused is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
DCIS, NCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency are investigating the case.  Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.  
Anyone with information relating to fraud or corruption should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at www.ncis.navy.mil or the DOD Hotline at www.dodig.mil/hotline, or call (800) 424-9098.

Aircraft Carrier Gerald R. Ford Heads To Sea Next Month; Commissioning Later This Year

Megan Eckstein at USNI News offers a piece on the new aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

You can read the piece via the below link:


America's newest carrier is named after the late President Gerald R. Ford, who was a naval officer in World War II.

Lt. Commander Ford served aboard the light aircraft carrier USS Monterey (CVL-26) during the war.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

George Anastasia On The Mob And A Former New Jersey Top Cop

Veteran journalist and author George Anastasia offers a look at former New Jersey cop Bob Buccino, the author of New Jersey Mob, Memoirs of a Top Cop at jerseymanmagazine.com.

Back in the 1980s, the wife of a South Philadelphia mobster had firsthand knowledge of her husband’s involvement in two gangland murders. This did not make for a happy marital abode.

She came to believe that her life was in jeopardy, so she filed for divorce and eventually became a government witness against her former spouse. While living in protective custody, she took up with one of the FBI agents assigned to guard her and married him.

Looking for some personal insights, I asked her what the difference was between the cops and the wiseguys.

Without missing a beat, she replied, “The cops have badges.”

I thought about that while reading Bob Buccino’s self-published book New Jersey Mob, Memoirs of a Top Cop. Buccino’s highly acclaimed law enforcement career was built around his crusade to take down the mob in his native New Jersey. But he frankly admits that as a teenager, he was on a different path and could have easily ended up as a made member of one of the seven organized crime families that operate in the Garden State.

Fate, happenstance and a young wife who made it clear she’d have nothing to do with him if he didn’t change his ways led him to take the New Jersey State Police exam two years after he graduated from high school in Orange, the town where he grew up and where he cut his teeth running with a teenage gang, collecting numbers bets for mobsters and bouncing in and out of trouble.

“I saw wiseguys and recognized the Mafia long before the FBI even acknowledged their existence,” Buccino says of his childhood and teenage years in 1950s North Jersey. “You could place a horse bet or a wager on almost any sport contest in almost every candy store and luncheonette.”

As a teenager, he was fascinated with the life and wanted to be a part of it.

“I started running numbers, selling football pools, and ran small nickel and dime card games,” he writes. “I always had money in my pocket. I idolized wiseguys like Little Pussy Russo in his pink Cadillac convertible. I admired that way of life. No one messed with made guys in the neighborhood.”

Street smart and never afraid to mix it up, Buccino had all the attributes that the organization valued. But instead of turning to a life of crime, he used those same character traits to build a career in law enforcement. In many ways he epitomized what the woman in South Philadelphia recognized intuitively. The attitude, the swagger, the willingness to take risks and live life on the edge were part of the wiseguy ethos. But they could also be part of what made someone a good cop.

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

FBI: Online Romance Scams Break Hearts And Bank Accounts

The FBI released the below report:

They met online. He said he was a friend of a friend. The woman, in her 50s and struggling in her marriage, was happy to find someone to chat with. “He was saying all the right things,” she remembered. “He was interested in me. He was interested in getting to know me better. He was very positive, and I felt like there was a real connection there.”

That connection would end up costing the woman $2 million and an untold amount of heartache after the man she fell in love with—whom she never met in person—took her for every cent she had.

It’s called a romance scam, and this devastating Internet crime is on the rise. Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. But they are also emotionally vulnerable. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.

Trolling for victims online “is like throwing a fishing line,” said Special Agent Christine Beining, a veteran financial fraud investigator in the FBI’s Houston Division who has seen a substantial increase in the number of romance scam cases. “The Internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be. You can be anywhere in the world and victimize people,” she said. “The perpetrators will reach out to a lot of people on various networking sites to find somebody who may be a good target. Then they use what the victims have on their profile pages and try to work those relationships and see which ones develop.”

“The Internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be.”
Christine Beining, special agent, FBI Houston

In the case of the Texas woman who lost everything, it was her strong Christian faith—which she happily publicized on her Facebook profile—that gave “Charlie” an incredible advantage when he began courting her.

“I’m very active on Facebook,” said the woman, who agreed to share her story in the hopes that others might avoid becoming victims. “I thought it was safe.” After she friended Charlie—without verifying his bogus claim that they had a mutual friend—“he would read my wall, I would read his wall. We would post things, he would like things. Then it got to where we would share e-mails. We started sharing pictures.”

According to Beining, this is standard operating procedure for romance scammers, who assume other people’s identities to trick their victims. “They make themselves out to be average-looking people,” she said. “They are generally not trying to build themselves up too high.”

The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, gain trust, and propose marriage. He will make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, he will ask for money.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet-facilitated crimes, romance scams—also called confidence fraud—result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes.

In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3 (nearly 2,500 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million. The states with the highest numbers of victims were California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. In Texas last year, the IC3 received more than 1,000 complaints from victims reporting more than $16 million in losses related to romance scams.

‘I was Looking for Happiness’

When she first encountered Charlie in 2014, the Texas woman recalled, “I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, and things had not been good for probably at least 10 years.” Her new online friend seemed to come along at just the right time. “I was looking for happiness,” she said. “I thought I could find that with Charlie.”

Romance scammers often say they are in the building and construction industry and are engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person—and more plausible when they ask their victims for help. They will suddenly need money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee. “They promise to repay the loan immediately,” Beining said, “but the victims never get their money back.”

Charlie claimed to be in the construction field. “He was trying to finish up a job in California,” the woman said, “and he needed some money to help finish the job. I thought about it long and hard. I prayed about it. I’ve always been a very giving person, and I figured if I had money … I could send him some [money]. And he promised to have it back within 24 to 48 hours. I thought, ‘I could do that.’ It was kind of a statement of faith, too.”

She wired him $30,000. A day passed and then another, and she didn’t get her money back. “I still thought everything was okay,” she said, “just that he was the victim of some bad luck.” And then Charlie needed another $30,000.

Empty Promises
For the next two years, the woman believed Charlie’s stories after each new request for funds. Everything he said made sense, and, after all, they were in love. Eventually, the woman’s financial adviser became alarmed about her steadily dwindling accounts and, suspecting fraud, urged her to contact the FBI.

The subsequent investigation led by Beining resulted in the arrest of two Nigerians posing as South African diplomats who had come to the U.S. to collect money from the woman on behalf of Charlie, who claimed he was paid $42 million for a construction project he completed in South Africa. The woman believed she would be paying to have the money—including the repayment of her $2 million—transferred to the U.S. from South Africa, where Charlie was still supposedly working.

In July 2016, the two Nigerian co-conspirators pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the scam, and a federal judge sentenced them each to 36 months in prison last December. But Charlie is still at large, presumably in Nigeria, and there may be little hope of bringing him to justice.

“This is a very difficult crime to prove,” Beining said. “When someone is using a computer to hide behind, the hardest thing to find out is who they are. We can find out where in the world their computer is being used. It’s identifying who they actually are that’s the hard part. That is why this individual remains a fugitive.”

It also explains why romance scams are on the rise: It’s a lucrative and easy crime to commit, and easier still to remain anonymous and beyond the reach of authorities. “It’s not like going in a bank and holding a gun to the teller,” Beining explained, “because there are so many leads that you provide law enforcement when you do that. Even if you are able to get out of the bank, we can probably find out who you are and track you down. But with an Internet crime like this, it’s much more difficult.”

As for the Texas woman, she came forward “because I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. I not only invested money in this man but there is a big, huge piece of my heart that I invested in him,” she said. “It’s not just the finances, it’s the emotional part, too—being embarrassed, being ashamed, being humiliated.”

“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. I not only invested money in this man but there is a big, huge piece of my heart that I invested in him.”
Romance scam victim

Even now, though, she remains conflicted. A part of her still wants to believe that Charlie is real and that their relationship was real—that the e-mail exchanges about church and the phone calls when they sang together and prayed together meant as much to him as they did to her. She even holds out hope that one day Charlie will repay her, as he promised to do so many times.

Otherwise, there is no doubt that he is a heartless criminal who robbed her and broke her heart—and who is almost certainly continuing to victimize other women in the same way.

“I can’t even imagine a man, a person, that could be this bad,” she said. “I can’t think of him that way. … There can’t be a man in this world that could be this horrible to have purposefully done what he’s done to me.”

Don’t Become a Victim

The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do. They spend hours honing their skills and sometimes keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them.

“Behind the veil of romance, it’s a criminal enterprise like any other,” said Special Agent Christine Beining. “And once a victim becomes a victim, in that they send money, they will often be placed on what’s called a ‘sucker list,’ ” she said. “Their names and identities are shared with other criminals, and they may be targeted in the future.”

To stay safe online, be careful what you post, because scammers can use that information against you. Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites. If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following:

Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
Go slow and ask lots of questions.

Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.

Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.

Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally. “If you don’t know them, don’t send money,” Beining said. “You will see what their true intentions are after that.”

If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. And if you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.