Monday, July 31, 2017

U.S. Bombers Conduct Bilateral Flights After North Korea ICBM Launch

The DoD News offers the below information:

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, July 31, 2017 — In response to North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs and as a part of the continuing demonstration of ironclad U.S. commitment to its allies, two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers under the command of U.S. Pacific Air Forces joined their counterparts from South Korea and Japan in sequenced bilateral missions yesterday.

The missions were in direct response to North Korea's escalatory launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 3 and July 28, officials said.

"North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability," said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, the Pacific Air Forces commander. "Diplomacy remains the lead; however, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario. If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing."

Training Opportunity

After taking off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the B-1s flew to Japanese airspace, where they were joined by two Japan Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi F-2 fighter jets. The B-1s then flew over the Korean Peninsula where they were joined by four South Korean Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter jets. The B-1s then performed a low-pass over Osan Air Base, South Korea, before leaving South Korean airspace and returning to Guam.

Throughout the approximately 10-hour mission, the aircrews practiced intercept and formation training, enabling them to improve their combined capabilities and tactical skills, while also strengthening the longstanding military-to-military relationships in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. Pacific Command maintains flexible bomber and fighter capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater, retaining the ability to quickly respond to any regional threat in order to defend the U.S. homeland and in support of allies.

Note: An Air Force B-1B Lancer is shown in the above U.S. Air Force photo taken by Airman 1st Class Gerald Willisan.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Former Government Contractor Sentenced To 60 Months For His Participation In Bribery Conspiracy

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

A former owner of a government contracting company that serviced the Military Sealift Command (MSC) was sentenced to 60 months in prison, and to pay a $15,000 fine, for his participation in a bribery conspiracy from approximately 1999 to 2014, in which he provided a contracting official at MSC with almost $3 million in bribes.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen today sentenced Joseph P. Allen, 56, of Panama City, Florida, following his guilty plea on April 19, to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

According to the statement of facts included in Allen’s guilty plea, Allen conspired with a government contracting official, Scott B. Miserendino, Sr., 58, formerly of Stafford, Virginia, to use Miserendino’s position at MSC to enrich themselves through bribery.  Specifically, beginning in about 1999, Miserendino used his position and influence at MSC to facilitate and expand Allen’s company’s commission agreement with a third-party telecommunications company that sold maritime satellite services to MSC.  Unknown to MSC or the telecommunications company, throughout the scheme, Allen paid half of the commissions he received from that telecommunications company to Miserendino as bribes.

For his role in the scheme, Miserendino was charged in a five-count indictment on May 4, with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, one count of bribery, and three counts of honest services mail fraud.  His trial is currently scheduled for October 31, before U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.  The charges and allegations against Miserendino contained in the indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  

The Norfolk offices of the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Sean F. Mulryne and Molly Gaston of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Haynie of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

On This Day In History Fire Ravaged Aircraft Carrier Off Vietnam

As notes, on this day in 1967 fire sweep across the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal off the coast of North Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin.

It was the worst U.S. naval disaster in a combat zone since World War II. The accident took the lives of 134 crewmen and injured 62 more. Of the carrier’s 80 planes, 21 were destroyed and 42 were damaged.

You can read more about the incident via the below link:

Mob Talk Sit Down Video Looks At The Case Against Joey Merlino

Veteran organized crime reporter George Anastasia at offers a video with him and veteran Fox 29 organized crime reporter Dave Schratwieser discussing reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Joey Melino and his upcoming racketeering case.

He's beaten the feds in court more often than they've beaten him.

Still he's spent close to half his adult life either in jail or on supervised release.

Today Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, 55, is prepping for another battle. Mob Talk, the one-time weekly feature on Fox 29 in Philadelphia, has a new life as Mob Talk Sitdown. Our first video report takes a look at how the case against Skinny Joey is shaping up.

You can watch the video via the below link:

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Spectacular Rise And Fall Of The Real-Life 'Last Tycoon'

Michael Riedel at the New York Post offers a piece on Irving Thalberg (seen in the below photo), the Hollywood legend whom the late, great writer F. Scott Fitzgerald modeled his character on in his last novel, The Last Tycoon.

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald (seen in the above photo) dragged himself back to a place he hated “like poison” — Hollywood.He’d tried his luck in sunny California twice before, earning fat paychecks but accomplishing little. 

He’d tried his luck in sunny California twice before, earning fat paychecks but accomplishing little. It was hackwork, he thought, and he wasn’t good at it. But he had no choice. After the disappointing sales of his 1934 novel “Tender Is the Night,” he was drowning in debt. He needed movie money “as an emergency measure.”hackwork, he thought, and he wasn’t good at it. But he had no choice. After the disappointing sales of his 1934 novel “Tender Is the Night,” he was drowning in debt. He needed movie money “as an emergency measure.”

So he returned to the poisoned well for a third time.

MGM put him under contract at $1,000 a week, but he didn’t do much more than polish (badly) other people’s scripts. He had time on his hands and he began thinking about a novel that would capture the allure — and bone-crushing brutality — of the movie business. His inspiration was the one studio executive who had been kind to him the past, Irving Thalberg, the legendary head of production at MGM.

Fitzgerald never finished his novel, “The Last Tycoon,” before dying in 1940. But its six chapters contain some of his finest writing. Amazon has turned those scraps into a nine-part miniseries streaming on Friday. Matt Bomer plays Monroe Stahr, the brilliant, enigmatic and tragic movie executive modeled on Thalberg.

“He was a genius,” said celebrated screenwriter Ben Hecht (“Nothing Sacred,” “Notorious”) of Thalberg. “He had a flair for telling stories like comedians have for telling jokes. He lived two-thirds of the time in a projection room. He saw only movies. He never saw life. But he knew what shadows could do.”

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

Note: It is a shame that Fitzgerald never finished The Last Tycoon. It would have perhaps matched his great novel, The Great Gatsby. I've not yet watched the TV series, but I liked the film version with Robert De Niro as Stahr.

F. Scott Fitzgerald also wrote a series of Hollywood stories about a hack screenwriter that I love called The Pat Hobby Stories.

Federal Gun Prosecutions Up 23 Percent After Sessions Memo

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

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that, following the memorandum from Attorney General Sessions to prioritize firearm prosecutions, the number of defendants charged with unlawful possession of a firearm increased nearly 23 percent in the second quarter of 2017 (2,637) from the same time period in 2016 (2,149).

“Violent crime is on the rise in many parts of this country, with 27 of our biggest 35 cities in the country coping with rising homicide rates,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Law abiding people in some of these communities are living in fear, as they see families torn apart and young lives cut short by gangs and drug traffickers. Following President Trump’s Executive Order to focus on reducing crime, I directed federal prosecutors to prioritize taking illegal guns off of our streets, and as a result, we are now prosecuting hundreds more firearms defendants. In the first three months since the memo went into effect, charges of unlawful possession of a gun – mostly by previously convicted felons – are up by 23 percent. That sends a clear message to criminals all over this country that if you carry a gun illegally, you will be held accountable. I am grateful to the many federal prosecutors and agents who are working hard every day to make America safe again.”

In February, immediately after the swearing-in of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump signed an Executive Order that directs the Attorney General to seek to reduce crime and to set up the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The Task Force has provided Sessions with recommendations on a rolling basis. In March, based on these recommendations, Attorney General Sessions sent a memorandum to Department of Justice prosecutors, ordering them to prioritize firearms offenses.

In the three months immediately following the Attorney General’s memo – April, May and June – the number of defendants charged with unlawful possession of a firearm (18 U.S.C. 922) increased by nearly 23 percent compared to those charged over the same time period in 2016. The number of defendants charged with the crime of using a firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking (18 U.S.C. 924), increased by 10 percent.

Based on data from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), in Fiscal Year 2016 (starting October 1), 11,656 defendants were charged with firearms offenses under 18 U.S.C. 922 or 924. EOUSA projects that in Fiscal Year 2017, the Department is on pace to charge 12,626 defendants with these firearms crimes. That would be the most federal firearms cases since 2005.  It would also be an increase of eight percent from Fiscal Year 2016, 20 percent from 2015, and an increase of 23 percent from 2014.

Note: In my view, this is true gun control. Target illegal guns used by criminals, and not legal gun owners.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Announces Public Safety Officers To Be Awarded Medal Of Valor

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

Today Attorney General Jeff Sessions is honored to award the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to the following law enforcement officers and first responders for their heroic and extraordinary services:

Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner of the United States Capitol Police and Officers Nicole Battaglia, Kevin Jobe, and Alexander Jensen of the Alexandria Police Department for their heroic efforts on the morning of June 14, 2017. President Donald J. Trump presented these officers with the medals today at a White House ceremony.
Recipients approved by the Attorney General to receive the 2015-2016 Medal of Valor at a future ceremony are:

Corporals Rafael Ixco and Chad Johnson and Deputies Shaun Wallen and Bruce Southworth (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department), and Officers Nicholas Koahou and Brian Olvera (San Bernardino Police Department) for their heroic efforts to end the December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

Lieutenant William Buchanan (Avery County Sheriff's Office, North Carolina) and Emergency Medical Technician Sean Ochsenbein (Putnam County Rescue Squad, Tennessee) for their poise in rescuing a trapped driver from a burning car in February 2016.

Firefighter/Harbor Patrol Officer David Poirier Jr. (Redondo Beach Fire Department, California) for single-handedly rescuing three injured people from dangerous surf in February 2016.

Chief Douglas Schroeder (Hesston Police Department, Kansas) for ending a deadly workplace assault by a gunman in February 2016.

Engineer Stephen Gunn (Peoria Fire-Medical Department, Arizona) for rescuing a man from a burning house without regard for his own safety in April 2016.

Patrolman Andrew Hopfensperger Jr. (Antigo Police Department, Wisconsin) for saving many lives during a gunman’s assault on students at a prom in April 2016.

These recipients were recommended by the Medal of Valor Review Board and approved by the Attorney General. The Medal of Valor is the highest national award for public safety officers and is given to recognize an act of extraordinary valor above and beyond the call duty. 

Brutal Battles Of Vietnam: America's Deadliest Days

Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps colonel, reviewed Brutal Battles of Vietnam: America's Deadliest Days for the Washington Times.

During the Paris Peace talks in the early 1970s, American Col. Harry Summers was talking to his North Vietnamese counterpart during a break. Summers reportedly told the Vietnamese that we had won every battle in the war. The Vietnamese replied, “That is true, but it is also irrelevant.” It is not irrelevant to the surviving veterans who fought those battles or to the families of Americans who did not return.

With the exception of Hue City and Khe Sanh, most of the big battles have faded into history. We are as far in time from Vietnam today as we were from World War I in 1967, and the sacrifices of those who fought the war are in danger of being forgotten by the majority of the American people. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) strive mightily to keep those memories alive. “Brutal Battles of Vietnam” is an attempt to recreate those desperate battles largely in the words of those who fought them.

The book is the culmination of a seven-year project of articles from the VFW magazine. Each chapter focuses on a specific battle and there are separate chapters on the naval and air wars. The book is edited by Richard K. Kolb, who wrote the majority of the magazine articles that make up the anthology. Each chapter is painstakingly researched and the interviews with participants of the battles represent primary sources in a way that has not been done in any of the literature of the war that I have come across. In addition to some excellent photographs, this readable volume lists the award winners of the highest medals for heroism.

When Americans think of Vietnam, they generally see it as a tragic mistake. A few years ago, I talked with a former Soviet-era Russian general who had another view. He told me that the fact that we had fought for so long to contain communism in Vietnam, and recovered so quickly that in four years we would wage a counterattack against the Soviet incursion in Afghanistan, had a profoundly sobering effect in the Kremlin, and may well have contributed materially to the decline of the Soviet Union. At least someone was paying attention.

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

CIA On Chinese Cyberspying

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz offers a piece in the Washington Times on Communist Chinese cyberespionage and other national security items.

A senior CIA analyst said China is continuing to conduct aggressive cyberespionage operations against the U.S., contrary to claims by security experts who say Beijing curbed cyberattacks in the past few years.

“We know the Chinese are very active in targeting our government, U.S. industry and those of our partners through cyberespionage,” said Michael Collins, deputy assistant CIA director and head of the agency’s East Asia Mission Center.

“It’s a very real, big problem, and we need to do more about it,” Mr. Collins told a recent security conference in Aspen, Colorado.

Mr. Collins said solving the problem of Chinese cyberattacks will require an “all-of-government, all-of-country approach to pushing back against it.”

The comments contradict a number of cybersecurity experts who have said Beijing’s digital spying and information theft decreased sharply as a result of the 2015 agreement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two leaders announced the cyber deal with great fanfare and said both countries had agreed to curtail cyberespionage against businesses.

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DA Candidate Beth Grossman Promises To Combat Democratic Corruption In Philadelphia

CBS Philly offers a piece on Beth Grossman (seen in the above photo), the Republican candidate for the DA in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Republican candidate for District Attorney in Philadelphia, Beth Grossman, discussed her campaign with Chris Stigall on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, saying she changed parties and decided to seek the office because she is tired of seeing the misdeeds of the Democrats in the city.

“For many many years, all my life, I was a Democrat and in 2013, I switched parties because I got tired of the Philadelphia Democratic corruption that was going on within the party and, since that time, we have had 12 judges, over half a dozen State Reps, Chaka Fattah, a Congressman, Kathleen Kane, our Attorney General, and now Seth Williams, our former District Attorney, for whom I worked, all who are Democrats. My entire career has always been a local focus, I’m a local prosecutor, that’s what I’ve done. But as a Philadelphia taxpayer and a resident and somebody who took her oath of office very seriously, I’ve had it. That was enough.”

You can read the rest the piece and listen to the clip via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Philadelphia political corruption via the below link:

Aide Pleads Guilty, says Philadelphia Congressman Brady's Campaign Paid Primary Challenger To Quit

Jeremy Roebuck and Chris Brennan at the Philadelphia Inquirer offer a piece on Philadelphia Congressman Bob Brady (seen in the above photo).

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s campaign secretly paid a 2012 primary rival $90,000 to abandon his race and that the city’s longtime Democratic power broker later tried to derail an FBI investigation into the payoff by coaching a witness.

Those accusations, in court filings made public for the first time, emerged with the disclosure that an aide to Brady’s challenger, senior Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, had admitted her role in the payoff scheme and pleaded guilty to conspiring to conceal it.

Neither Brady nor Moore has been charged with a crime. Nor were they identified by name in the court documents that outlined the plea by Moore’s former political aide, Carolyn Cavaness. But a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia about her guilty plea made clear the crime was related to the 2012 primary campaign for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which Brady has represented for nearly two decades.

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

You can also read an earlier post on Carolyn Cavaness via the below link:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Washington Times Review Of 'MacArthur's Spies'

The Washington Times published my review of Peter Eisner's MacArthur's Spies: The Soldier, The Singer, and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II.

The Bataan Death March in the Philippines in World War II that was orchestrated by the occupying Imperial Japanese Army is well documented.

The forced march of Americans and Filipinos who surrendered to the Japanese caused the death of thousands. The prisoners were denied proper food and water and stragglers were shot or bayoneted to death. Those who survived the death march were placed in military camps under inhuman conditions.

In Australia, Gen. Douglas MacArthur announced that he had been ordered by President Roosevelt to break through the Japanese blockade of the Philippines and travel to Australia in order to mount a campaign against the Japanese.

 “I came through,” the general famously told the crowd that greeted him. “And I shall return.”

But before he was able to return triumphantly to the Philippines, the general required intelligence and an organized resistance to the Japanese occupiers.

Not as well known as the Bataan Death March and Gen. MacArthur’s departure and return to the Philippines, is the story of the Americans and Filipinos who refused to surrender to the Japanese and headed to the hills to form guerrilla bands. These guerrillas and intelligence operatives defied the Japanese and performed acts of sabotage and espionage. Despite the brutal efforts of the Japanese army and the dreaded Kempeitai, the Gestapo-like Japanese military police, they were able to provide crucial intelligence to Gen. MacArthur. These brave and resourceful men and women played an important role in the war.

In Peter Eisner’s “MacArthur’s Spies: The Soldier, the Singer and the Spymaster Who Defied the Japanese in World War II” we learn about the guerrillas and spies, with an emphasis on three of them. 

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

Philadelphia Woman Pleads Guilty To Charges Of Causing False Statements To the Federal Election Commission

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

A Philadelphia woman pleaded guilty to a criminal information unsealed today charging her with causing false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in connection with a 2012 congressional primary election. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made the announcement.

According to the plea memorandum filed today, Carolyn Cavaness, 34, engaged in a falsification scheme involving payments to a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the plea memorandum, those payments came from the campaign committee of the candidate’s political opponent for the purpose of removing the candidate from the 2012 Democratic race for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District. Cavaness was a member of the candidate’s campaign staff.

As set forth in the criminal information and the government’s plea memorandum, Cavaness admitted that in or about February 2012, her candidate withdrew from the primary election pursuant to an agreement with his opponent, who promised to pay the candidate $90,000 from his campaign funds to be used to repay the candidate’s campaign debts.  Cavaness admitted that she was aware that under the applicable law, a contribution from one authorized campaign to another could not exceed $2,000 for the primary election, and that the FEC required campaigns to file periodic reports itemizing the campaign’s contributions and expenditures during the reporting period. However, in order to conceal the fact that his opponent’s campaign committee paid his campaign debts, according to the  plea memorandum, the candidate instructed Cavaness to create a company whose sole purpose would be to receive the funds from his opponent’s political campaign and repay the candidate’s campaign debts. As described in the plea memorandum, Cavaness admitted that she did so, and that the payments were then routed through two political consultants, who created false invoices to generate a paper trail intended to justify the payments from the candidate’s opponent’s campaign committee.

According to the plea memorandum, Cavaness used the money from the opponent’s campaign committee to repay the candidate’s campaign debts and for personal expenses, but failed to disclose this information to the FEC. Instead, according to the plea memorandum, Cavaness knowingly and intentionally caused the candidate’s campaign committee to file false reports with the FEC which did not disclose or reference the funds received from his opponent’s campaign committee, did not mention the companies of the political consultants through which the payments were routed and  falsely listed the same debts owed by the candidate’s campaign that had been disclosed on earlier reports, despite the fact that those debts had been repaid using funds paid to the candidate by his opponent’s campaign committee.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson and Trial Attorney Jonathan Kravis of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. 

Passing The Carriers at Norfolk

In the above U.S. Navy photo sailors watch as the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) passes the aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

The Eisenhower departed Naval Station Norfolk for the maintenance phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP).

Note: The above photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dartek Williams.

You can click on the above photo to enlarge. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Kansas Man Sentenced 30 Years In Plot To Explode Car Bomb At Fort Riley

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

John T. Booker Jr., 22, of Topeka, Kan., was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for attempting to detonate a vehicle bomb on the Fort Riley military base in Manhattan, Kan. On Feb. 3, 2016, Booker pleaded guilty to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempted destruction of government property by fire or explosion.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall of the District of Kansas and Special Agent in Charge Darrin E. Jones of the FBI’s sKansas City Division made the announcement.

“With this sentence, John Booker is being held accountable for his plan to kill U.S. military personnel on American soil in the name of ISIS,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is countering terrorist threats and protecting American lives by bringing to justice those who plot to attack us. I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors who made this result possible.”

 “Violent extremism is a threat to America and all its people,” Acting U.S. Attorney Beall said. “Our goal is to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from inspiring, financing or carrying out acts of violence.”

“The investigation leading to today's sentencing illustrates the FBI's commitment to disrupting acts of terrorism,” said Special Agent in Charge Jones. “If Mr. Booker had been successful in detonating a car bomb, the results could have been dozens, if not hundreds, of casualties. The FBI and our law enforcement partners remain committed to protecting the citizens of the United States and thwarting acts of terrorism.”

In his guilty plea, Booker admitted he intended to kill American soldiers and to assist ISIS’s (Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) fight against the U.S. His plan called for constructing a bomb containing 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Booker intended to trigger the bomb himself and die in the process, and filmed a video he intended Americans to see after his death.

“You sit in your homes and think this war is just over in Iraq,” Booker said in the video. “Today we will bring the Islamic State straight to your doorstep.”

Unbeknownst to Booker, the bomb that he constructed was made with inert materials, and the two men working with him were undercover informants for the FBI.

The FBI began investigating Booker in March 2014 after he posted on his Facebook page that he wanted to commit jihad. Booker admitted that he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army in order to commit an insider attack against American soldiers like the one at Fort Hood in Texas, but his deadly plans were thwarted when he was denied entry into the Army. In October 2014, Booker began communicating with an undercover FBI informant. He told the undercover FBI informant that he dreamed of being a fighter in the Middle East, and proposed capturing and killing an American soldier.

In March 2015, Booker was introduced to another FBI informant who he believed would help him plan an attack. Booker said he wanted to detonate a suicide bomb because he couldn’t be captured, all the evidence would be destroyed, and he would be guaranteed to hit his target. On March 10, 2015, Booker made a video filmed at Freedom Park near Marshall Army Airfield at Fort Riley in which he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. That month, he rented a storage unit in Topeka where the bomb would be assembled.

On April 10, 2015, Booker and the informants drove to an area near Fort Riley that Booker believed to be a little-used utility gate where they could enter Fort Riley undetected. He was arrested when he made the final connections on the device that he believed would arm the bomb.

Mr. Boente and Mr. Beall commended the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for their investigation of this case. They also thanked Assistant Trial Attorneys Josh Parecki and Rebecca Magnone of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Mattivi of the District of Kansas, who prosecuted this case. 

Terror Suspect In 'Jihad Jane' Case Extradited To Philly

Jeremy Robuck at the Philadelphia Inquirer offers a piece on the appearance of a terrorist in a Philadelphia court.

An Algerian-born terror suspect accused of recruiting Colleen “Jihad Jane” LaRose of Montgomery County in a 2009 plot to assassinate a Swedish artist made his first public appearance on U.S. soil Friday in Philadelphia, six years after he was indicted and just hours after his extradition from Spain.

Ali Charaf Damache, 52, is the first foreigner brought to the United States to face terrorism charges under the Trump administration, whose officials – including the president himself – had previously argued that suspects like him ought to be prosecuted in military tribunals rather than civilian courts.

Prior to his removal to the U.S. this week, Damache was in the custody of Spanish authorities, who detained him in a hotel room in Barcelona after receiving a phone tip in December 2015.

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

George Anastasia's 'Mob Files': A Look Back At The Philadelphia Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Family

For a look back at the bad old days of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra organized crime family, you can read my Crime Beat column on George Anastasia's Mob Files: Mobsters, Molls and Murder, via the below link:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Special Ops Capabilities Relevant Around The World, Commander Says

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2017 — Special operations forces are relevant to most operations the U.S. military is involved with and are a good return on the investment, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado yesterday.

Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge interviewed Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III for the forum and he used the occasion to debunk some myths about the command, which is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“We are not the world’s cop, we are not a panacea, we don’t do anything by ourselves and we aren’t doing things that aren’t highly supervised, there is no off the reservation activities,” Thomas said.

But special operations forces have been at the heart of most operations against violent extremism, he said, and have been key to turning the tide against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al-Qaida wherever these groups raise the ugly heads.

“We are relevant to most if not all the national security challenges,” the general said.

The command consumes about 2 percent of the DoD budget and has about 2 percent of the personnel in the department. Some 8,000 special operators are in 80 countries around the world.

The question he gets most often -- and Herridge asked a version of it -- is whether special operations forces are being overused or overextended? “We are actively trying to work our way out of a job, whether that be in Afghanistan or against ISIS,” he said.

In Afghanistan, the general said, “we’re anxious to finish there. We’re anxious to win.”

Not the Time to Relax

That said, Socom is working with indigenous forces, proxies, allies and conventional U.S. forces to leverage special operations capabilities.

Thomas stressed that the force is having successes, but now is not the time to let up on the pressure being placed on enemy forces. He said the lesson from the Osama bin Laden operation in 2011 was, as good as it was to kill the al-Qaida leader, “if you don’t dismantle the whole network -- if you don’t address the ideology -- you’ve just killed one guy.”

The territory that ISIS controls is shrinking by the day and Syrian Democratic Forces are closing on Raqqa, the so-called capital of the ISIS caliphate. Thomas said he does not know if ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive, but if he is not dead “there is not a safe place for him on this Earth. We absolutely dismantled his network; everyone who worked for him initially is dead or gone. Everyone who stepped to the plate following [him] -- dead or gone. Down through a network where we have killed, at a conservative estimate, 60,000 of his followers -- his army.”

Baghdadi declared the caliphate and placed his army on the battlefield “and we went to war with it,” the general said.

Mosul has been liberated, but it is still “dicey” in the old city, he said. There are still pockets of ISIS fighters in Tal Afar and in western Iraq. “We are pursuing these people as hard as we can to affect the physical aspect of the caliphate while we deal with the harder part -- the ideological basis of it,” he said.

Coordinating Authority

Socom is the DoD coordinating authority for transregional terrorism and has been for going on two years, the general said. “This was a role and process that didn’t exist,” he said. “It tied together our disparate DoD efforts.”

Previously, Army Gen. Joe Votel would handle special operations in the Central Command region, and Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser would handle Africa Command and Navy Adm. Harry Harris would handle Pacific Command. “They were good, focused activities but without any synchronization at the DoD level,” Thomas said. “We were thrust into that role.”

He said he is not sitting at MacDill moving special operators around the globe, but the change enables the command “to agitate or drive an assessment at the senior DoD level of what are we trying to do, how well are we doing it, and what do we need to change in terms of strategy and resourcing.”

Previously, the only person in the department who could do such a thing was the defense secretary.

He said his mission objectives from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have changed. “It used to be 'Defeat ISIS,'” he said. “It is now, 'Annihilate ISIS.' [Mattis] put a non-doctrinal term out there to amp up the volume a bit, and we all got the message.”

Thomas wants Socom to be more agile and more networked.

He said the command has its eyes on Iran and its stated goal of building a Shia crescent through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon. Iranian officials are all throughout that area now, the general said, adding that they bear special attention.

ISIS is trying to export its “brand” through the world and they seized on Libya as a failed state, which, with its gap in governance could serve as a foothold in the region. In fact, ISIS leaders declared Libya a province in the caliphate, he said, and at its high-water mark in the country had around 2,000 fighters in and around the seaside city of Sirte. “They don’t exist anymore,” Thomas noted.

Special operations forces worked through proxies and surrogates to eliminate the ISIS threat in that area, he said. Still, the general said, Libya is another place that bears watching as some of the fighters escaped to southern Libya and are looking for a time and place to return.

The command is also invested in deterring Russia and there are special operators working with all the nations bordering Russia, Thomas said. “The people [of those nations] enjoy their freedom and want to keep it,” he added.


Herridge asked about the command’s work on the Korean Peninsula. Thomas objected to the argument that there is no military option against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he continues to build a nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. “There is always a military option,” he said. “That’s why you pay $600 billion a year. It is an ugly, ugly option, but you cannot play elements of power and then discount that there is no option."

“People say that Kim Jong Un can only put a warhead the size of the Hiroshima bomb on a missile,” he continued. “That’s not comforting to me. Everything I am hearing … is that he and the regime are inextricably tied to their nuclear program.”

For the future, the general wants Socom to be able to give decision-makers more options to choose from when a crisis develops. “My biggest concern is the need to transform,” Thomas said.

The general spoke of a senior private industry executive who visited the command and told him that though the command is getting the right people and prototyping new capabilities well, “you suck at deep learning.”

“We are still trying to digest terabytes of data, and this company is way beyond that,” Thomas said. “If we can master that, we become Socom on steroids in terms of Seeing threats, seeing opportunities [and] applying our special capabilities.” 

Note: In the top U.S. Air Force photo taken by Tech. Sgt. Angelita Lawrence U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, salutes after placing a wreath on a memorial in remembrance of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day on April 25, 2017 at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Anzac Day i marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI.

In the above U.S. Navy photo taken by Seaman Richard Miller  Army Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of, Joint Special Operations Command, participates in a riverine demonstration with members of Special Boat Team 22 at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School in Mississippi on March 12, 2015. 

On This Day In History Crime Novelist Raymond Chandler Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1888 the late, great crime novelist Raymond Chandler was born.

You can read about his life and work via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler and his influence on crime novels and crime films via the below link:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Has U.S. Navy Been Going Soft On Most Suspects In Historic 'Fat Leonard' Corruption Scandal?

Carl Prine at the San Diego Union-Tribune offers a piece on the U.S. Navy’s handling of the ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery and fraud cases.

Since 2014, federal prosecutors in San Diego have compiled a perfect 16-0 record in convicting corrupt Navy officers and defense contractors tied to the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal.

But when it comes to doling out discipline to sailors and Marines passed over by the feds, the Navy’s watchdog command targeting ethical scofflaws passes far more often than it prosecutes.

About two out of every three potential public corruption cases can’t be substantiated by military investigators, the Navy said. The service has only one ongoing court-martial, a pair of lighter nonjudicial punishment decisions and a handful of sternly written rebukes of senior officers to show for more than three years of inquiries, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s analysis of a trove of Navy files obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

When he was the Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus created the consolidated disposition authority — or CDA for short — in the wake of the still-running criminal probe into Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a now defunct Singapore-based defense contractor that was owned by Malaysian tycoon Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis (seen in the above photo).

In federal court, prosecutors have secured convictions against Francis and four of his business colleagues; nine Navy officers; an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and a civilian Department of Defense contracting supervisor.

They’ve also indicted 10 active-duty or retired service members and a trio of Glenn Defense employees.

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

Note: You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Fat Leonard case via the below link:

Hawaii Soldier Indicted For Attempting To Provide Material Support To ISIS

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

An indictment was returned July 21 charging Ikaika Erik Kang, 34, an Army sergeant first class stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Kang was previously arrested on July 8, and ordered detained pending further proceedings.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Elliot Enoki of the District of Hawaii and Special Agent in Charge Paul Delacorte of the FBI’s Honolulu Field Office made the announcement.

The grand jury indictment, which was filed on July 19, charged Kang with four counts of attempting to provide material support to ISIS, based on events that occurred in Hawaii between June 21 and July 8. The indictment and an earlier criminal complaint allege that Kang met with undercover agents of the FBI whom he believed to be affiliated with ISIS and provided military information, some of which was classified at the SECRET level. Kang is also charged with providing property (a drone,s military clothing and equipment) and training (instruction on combat techniques and weapons training which was videotaped for future use by ISIS) to undercover agents whom he believed to be affiliated with ISIS.

Kang will appear in court on July 24, for an arraignment and plea on the charges, at which time a trial date will be scheduled.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. If convicted of the charges, Kang faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each count. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ken Sorenson and Marc Wallenstein. 

'Man Our Ship And Bring It To Life': USS Gerald R. Ford Commissioned As Navy's Newest Carrier

Terri Moon Cronk at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2017 — President Donald J. Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took part in commissioning the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, named in honor of the 38th president, in Norfolk, Virginia, today.

Service members and their families, senior defense and military officials and other dignitaries, including Ford’s daughter and the ship's sponsor, Susan Ford Bales, were aboard the warship for the ceremony.

Gerald R. Ford enlisted in the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor and was commissioned as an officer in the Naval Reserve in 1942. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Monterey and participated in actions in the Pacific Theater, including at Makin Island, Kwajalein and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Ford served for 25 years as a U.S. Representative before his appointment to the vice presidency. He became president in 1974, following the resignation of Richard Nixon.

The ship named for Ford is the lead ship of a new class of supercarriers and the first new carrier design in the Navy since the USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975. The Ford is also the first aircraft carrier to join the fleet since USS George H. W. Bush in 2009. Ford is expected to be in operation in 2020.

The Navy received the Ford on May 31 after the carrier successfully completed acceptance trials on May 26. It features a new nuclear power plant, a redesigned island, electromagnetic catapults and an enhanced flight deck capable of increased aircraft sortie rates. Ford-class carriers will operate with smaller crews than their predecessors in the Nimitz-class.

‘Magnificent Warship’

Mattis called the ship a “magnificent warship [that] joins the best Navy in the world. It is named after a tried-and true member of the Greatest Generation, and that spirit will permeate this ship so long as it sails on the seas, as well as the U.S. Navy spirit of ‘We have just begun to fight,’” he said.

Addressing Trump, Mattis said, “Mr. President, you will send this ship in harm’s way and [it] will happily sail in harm’s way for you, for our nation and for what we stand for.”

Trump called the ship an American symbol of power and prestige wherever it sails in the world.
“Wherever this vessel cuts through the horizon, our allies will rest easy and our enemies will shake with fear because everyone will know that America is coming and America is coming strong,” he said.

“This ship is the deterrent that keeps us from having to fight in the first place,” Trump said. “But this ship also ensures that if a fight does come, it will always end the same way. We will win … we will never lose.”

Nation’s Strength is its People

Having the best technology and equipment is only one part of the American military dominance, he said. “Our true strength is our people. Our greatest weapon is all of you.”

America is fortunate to have warriors who are willing to serve the nation in the greatest fighting force in history, Trump said, adding, “Today, this ship officially begins its role in the noble military history of our great nation.”

He implored Congress to pass a defense budget that “provides for higher, stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs, that our fighting men and women deserve … and you will get [it], believe me,” Trump told the audience.

At the ceremony's conclusion, Ford Bales gave the order, “Man our ship and bring her to life.” 

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

My Crime Beat Column: A look Back At The Trial Of The Chicago 'Outfit' And The Deadly Family Secrets That Exposed Chicago Organized Crime

In Martin Scorsese’s classic crime film Casino, actor Joe Pesci plays a vicious mob enforcer and hitman in Las Vegas who reports to the “bosses back home,” as Pesci’s character describes them in the film’s voice-over narration.

The bosses are portrayed in the film as a group of elderly and infirm men who hang around eating, playing cards and collecting money from their criminal underlings.

Pesci’s character, based on a very real gangster named Anthony Spilotro (seen in the above photo), is brutally murdered, along with his brother Michael, in a mid-west cornfield in the film. Their murder, along with several other murders, were ordered by the bosses back home. 

"Back home" is Chicago, home of the criminal organization known as the “Outfit.”

Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob covers the Spilotro murders and much more in this revealing look at organized crime. The book, written by Chicago Tribune reporter Jeff Coen, covers the trial of the Outfit bosses in 2007.

“The scale of the case was unprecedented, for the first time naming the Chicago Outfit itself as a criminal enterprise under federal anti-racketeer laws and alleging a conspiracy that was born with Al Capone and flourished from the 1960s forward,” Coen wrote in his book. “The case included fourteen defendants, eighteen murders, and decades of bookmaking, loan sharking, extortion and violence.”

The investigation of the Outfit began in 1998 when the FBI received a letter from Frank Calabrese Jr., son of one of the Outfit’s most violent bosses, Frank Calabrese Sr (seen in the above photo).

Due to a sour relationship with his father, the son told the FBI that he was willing to wear a wire and gather evidence against his father while they were incarcerated together. The father enjoyed explaining how the Outfit worked to his son. He also allowed his son to observe how he conducted business from the prison yard.

The FBI was later able to turn Nicholas Calabrese, a hitman for his brother Frank Calabrese Sr., into the key witness against the Outfit bosses.

The FBI called the seven-year investigation “Operation Family Secrets.” According to the FBI, the list of those charged read like a “Who’s Who” of the Chicago mob.

After several mobsters pleaded guilty, the remaining five defendants were Frank Calabrese Sr., James “Jimmy Light” Marcello, the reputed boss of the outfit, Joey “the Clown” Lombardo, a tough, old school mob boss, Anthony “Twan” Doyle, a former Chicago police officer accused of leaking information to Frank Calabrese Sr., and Paul “the Indian” Schiro, an outfit enforcer.

In September of 2007 the jury convicted the five men on broad conspiracy charges.

Jeff Coen does a fine job covering the trial and he offers vivid descriptions of the defendants, the witnesses and the victims. He also offers a good portrait of the defense attorneys and the prosecutors, who were as colorful as the gangsters.

Reading this book makes you feel as if you are sitting in the courtroom. This is a very good true crime book.

Note: The above column originally appeared at in 2009.