Wednesday, September 20, 2017

'Raging Bull' Boxing Legend Jake LaMotta Dead At 95


Bob Fredericks and Laura Italiano at the New York Post report that former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta has died. LaMotta, the author of Raging Bull: My Story. was 95.

Boxing great Jake LaMotta – who was memorably portrayed by actor Robert De​ ​Niro in the flick Raging Bull — has died at the age of 95, his family announced.

“Rest in Peace, Champ,” De Niro [CQ] told ABC News.

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




My Washington Times Review Of Nelson DeMille's 'The Cuban Affair'


The Washington Times published my review of Nelson DeMille’s The Cuban Affair.

In October 2015 author Nelson DeMille and his wife toured Cuba. Mr. DeMille made good use of his field research trip and in his new action-adventure novel “The Cuban Affair” we are offered his wry observations and running commentary on Cuba via his fictional character, Daniel “Mac” MacCormick.

Mac, a U.S. Army veteran who served as a combat infantry officer in Afghanistan, has settled in Key West, Florida. Mac, like Mr. DeMille’s other well-known character, John Corey, is an irreverent, laid back and wisecracking tough guy.

Like Ernest Hemingway’s Key West character Harry Morgan in his novel “To Have and Have Not,” Mac is a charter boat captain. And like Harry Morgan, Mac’s boat is hired for a trip to Cuba by some shady characters.

Ernest Hemingway looms large in this novel, as Mac discovers that the late, great writer is revered publicly in communist Cuba and there are statues, signs, T-shirts and photos of him in nearly every bar and restaurant he was said to have frequented when he lived there in the 1940s. So much so, that one Havana bar advertised proudly that Mr. Hemingway, “did not” drink there.

… Mac is asked to join a Yale University tour of Cuba with Sara, who offers the boat captain 50,000 dollars to also have his first mate take his boat to join a fishing tournament in Cayo Guillermo, Cuba.

“It was a favorite deep-sea fishing place of Ernesto,” Carlos tells Mac. “Hemingway, not Guevara.” Must be an old Cuban joke, Mac thinks.

In addition to the charter fee, she offers Mac two million dollars if he will travel with her on the tour and help her recover the 60 million dollars her Cuban grandfather banker hid in a cave in Cuba before he fled Castro’s revolution. Once they’ve recovered the money, her plan is to meet up with his boat and escape from the island with the loot. Mac and Jack sign on.

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



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The U.S. Defense Department Celebrates Constitution Week


Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2017 — The Defense Department, along with all other federal agencies, celebrated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day Sept. and is celebrating Constitution Week Sept. 17-23.

The Constitution was signed in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787.

"The U.S. Constitution has withstood the test of time for more than two centuries as our nation's charter of government and the guarantor of our liberties," Stephanie Barna, assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, said in an Aug. 31 memo to all service assistant secretaries for manpower and reserve affairs.

"This founding document reflects our core values and enshrines the truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence: that we are each endowed with certain unalienable rights," she added.

Section 11l(a) of Public Law 108-447 requires all federal agencies to commemorate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by offering education and training to new and current employees and making duty time available for this activity.

Citizenship, Constitution Online

To help DoD and the military services meet statutory requirements for the observances, the department hosts an online U.S. Constitution course and provides information on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and Constitution Week on a special website.

The website has a range of information on the observances and hosts an interactive short course the Constitution, in which visitors can test their Constitutional knowledge or play the "You Be the Judge Game" and earn certificates, DoD officials noted.

The course is designed to provide interesting and educational information about events leading to the Founding Fathers' creation of the Constitution and the document's evolution through the 19th and 20th centuries, they added.

Website visitors can watch a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and access governmentwide resources that include a center for educational civics material.

Commemoration Highlights

This year the department is highlighting links to the Department of Defense Education Activity, the Defense Privacy, Civil Liberties and Transparency Division, and a Navy website that offers more resources and highlights the commemorative events.

"Please join me in making Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week, a time for DoD personnel to reflect on and reaffirm their rights and obligations as citizens," Barna wrote in the memo, "and to honor the commitments and sacrifices made by DoD personnel in defense of our nation." 

On This Day In History 'Goodfellas' Opened in Movie Theaters


As History.com notes, on this day in 1990 Martin Scorsese’s classic crime film Goodfellas opened in movie theaters.  

On this day in 1990, the Martin Scorsese-directed Mafia film Goodfellas, starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco and Joe Pesci, opens in theaters around the United States. The movie, which was based on the best-selling 1986 book Wiseguy, by the New York crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, tells the true story of the mobster-turned-FBI informant Henry Hill (Liotta), from the 1950s to the 1980s. Goodfellas earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as the psychotic mobster Tommy DeVito.

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



Monday, September 18, 2017

My Q&A With Robert O'Neill, The Navy SEAL Who Shot And Killed Osama Bin Laden, America's Enemy Number One


Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden, the planner of the horrendous 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the world’s most wanted man.

Robert O’Neill is the author of The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama Bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.

You can read the interview below:






Saturday, September 16, 2017

Inky Readers Hit Paywall: If You Want To Read The Philadelphia Inquirer (And Philadelphia Daily News) Online, You'll Have To Pay


From 1999 until recently, I was a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The newspaper cut way back on freelance contributors, so I’ve moved on to the Washington Times and other publications.

Another change at the Inquirer, known also as the “Inky,” is that you will have to pay to read the newspaper online.

Ralph Cipriano, a former Inquirer staffer, offers his take on the newspaper paywall at Bigtrial.net. 

Philadelphia At 10:30 a.m. on the Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend, visitors to philly.com ran into a big surprise -- a brand new paywall.

If you were one of those readers who had already read 10 stories on philly.com that month, you were out of luck. No more freebies. Your only option, besides hopping on another computer, or accessing the site from another web browser, was to sign up for "unlimited digital access for 99 cents for four weeks, and $2.99 per week thereafter."

… So, as a free service to all those former visitors to philly.com who are now restricted from the site, here's what you missed.

Today, the Inquirer's PC posse led the webpage with three different stories about the city's ongoing statue wars.

First, Tirdad Derakshani, an Inquirer staff writer, breathlessly reported the big news that the city's PC Mural Arts program had just installed right behind that racist Frank Rizzo statue a new statue of a 12-foot high steel Afro-pick, topped by a fist raised in a black power salute.

Take that, Big Bambino.

Next, Solomon Jones, an Inquirer columnist, visited the two statues and found the Afro-pick statue to  be empowering. But not empowering enough the columnist said, to combat the continuing racism emanating from the Rizzo statue. So, for the umpteenth time, the courageous Inquirer columnist called for the removal of the racist Rizzo statue.

Climaxing the newspaper's blanket coverage of the statue wars, former Inquirer fashion columnist Elizabeth Wellington weighed in to say that she also visited both statues and found the Afro Pick statue to be not empowering.

This was a major development, and in shocking contrast to Jones's stance.

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

Note: It is a shame that newspapers and other publications can't seem to come up with a way of financing themselves through online advertising. This is, after all, the information age. So what better way to offer information to all than through free online access?  

USS Iwo Jima Offers Humanitarian Assistance Following Hurricane Irma's Landfall At Key West


In the above U.S. Navy photo the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) is seen from Landing Craft Unit 1643, attached to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, during humanitarian assistance efforts following Hurricane Irma's landfall in Key West, Florida.

The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the lead agency, in helping those affixed by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering and as one component of the overall whole-of-government response efforts.

The photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Lehman.

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

Harry Dean Stanton, Quintessential American Actor, Dies At 91


The Hollywood Reporter offers a piece on the life and work of Harry Dean Stanton, one of my favorite character actors, who has died.

Harry Dean Stanton, the character actor with the world-weary face who carved out an exceptional career playing grizzled loners and colorful, offbeat characters in such films as Paris, Texas and Repo Man, has died. He was 91.

Stanton, who also was memorable in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (1981) and John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink (1986) — in fact, what wasn’t he memorable in? — died Friday afternoon of natural causes at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his agent, John Kelly, told The Hollywood Reporter.

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



Note: Below is a link to a brief video clip from Repo Man, where Harry Dean Stanton offers his view of “ordinary people.” Classic:

Friday, September 15, 2017

John le Carre: Why I Brought Back Guillam, Smiley And The Cold War


Nick Miller at the Brisbane Times offers on a piece on spy novelist John le Carre ad why he wrote a Legacy of Spies.

Recently, John le Carre found himself sitting in the bleak banality of an old Stasi interrogation room in Berlin. It wasn't much to look at: small, peeling linoleum, plain furniture. The horror comes from imagining the psychological torture inside those walls a generation ago.

Le Carre went to the headquarters of the secret police of the former East Germany to remind himself. Partly he wanted to check details – he hates those smug letters from readers informing him that, for example, the church in his latest novel should have faced west. For the same reason he tracked down the old Berlin safe houses he remembered from his time working for MI6 in Germany in the '60s – one he found ("much tarted up"), the others he had to go to the old Stasi files to track down, much to his amusement.

But at Stasi HQ he wanted more than just geography.

"I had time alone in those horrible little rooms," he says. "It gave me back the smells, and the fear. And also – which can easily go missing – the justification for what we did. Because this was a foul regime."

This trip down nightmare lane was not for old times' sake. Le Carre was researching his new book, A Legacy of Spies.

It's a companion piece to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, revisiting and (literally) interrogating the events from those two classics of spy fiction. Peter Guillam, loyal lieutenant to the legendary George Smiley, is called to account over their old schemes by a new generation of spies for whom the Cold War is a story, not a life's work.

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



You can also read my Washington Times review of A Legacy of Spies via the below link:



And you can read my Washington Times review of John le Carre: The Biography via the below link:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Anatomy Of Terror: From The Death Of Bin Laden To The Rise Of The Islamic State


Joshua Sinai offers a review of Ali Soufan’s Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State in the Washington Times.

Al Qaeda’s horrendous attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 represented a transformative moment in the history of international terrorism, with a foreign terrorist group daring to deploy its operatives from its training camps in Afghanistan to inflict catastrophic damage on its adversary’s soil, and with America deciding to counter this terrorist threat with all means necessary, including pursuing such terrorists wherever they operate.

With the 9/11 tragedy commemorated this week, we are fortunate to have Ali Soufan’s “Anatomy of Terror,” a comprehensive and interesting account of al Qaeda’s history and the emergence of its equally genocidal offshoot, the Islamic State (ISIS). Mr. Soufan is a highly regarded former FBI special agent who was one of the first to investigate al Qaeda prior to 9/11. He is currently head of The Soufan Group, a consultancy on these issues in New York City.

There is much to commend in this important account, beginning with the author’s discussion of the key individuals responsible for the evolution and current state of al Qaeda and ISIS.

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

Mob Talk Sitdown 5: On Latest 'Mob Talk' Episode: Conflict Brewing Among Philly Factions?


The online publication PhillyVoice offers a piece and a link to veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratweiser’s latest Mob Talk Sitdown.

You can read the piece and watch the video via the below link:

DHS Statement On The Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act


Dave Lapan, the Department of Homeland Security’s press secretary, offered the below statement:

 WASHINGTON - Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke applauds the U.S. House of Representatives on its passage of the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. This bill promotes public safety by denying criminal alien gang members admission into the United States and allowing law enforcement officers to quickly remove them from the United States when they are encountered here.

This legislation will greatly help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to target and dismantle transnational gangs, like MS-13, who pose a direct threat to public safety.

MS-13 gang members are notorious for exploiting the communities in which they live and operate – victimizing community members through violence and intimidation, extorting local business owners, recruiting young children into the gang lifestyle, and creating a magnet for violence from rival gangs.  Their members are involved in myriad criminal activities, including murder, extortion, narcotics and weapons trafficking, human smuggling and human trafficking, and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

This legislation will help DHS in its continued efforts to identify, arrest, imprison and/or remove transnational gang members and to suppress violence and prosecute criminal enterprises. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Frank Vincent, Actor Who Portrayed Mobsters In 'The Sopranos,' 'Goodfellas,' Casino' And 'Raging Bull," Dies


The Hollywood Reporter offers a piece on the death of Frank Vincent, a fine actor who portrayed convincingly mobster ‘Billy Batts’ in Martin Scorsese’s crime classic Goodfellas and other mobsters in Scorsese’s Raging Bull and Casino, as well as a mobster on HBO's The Sopranos, has died. .

Frank Vincent, who played the vicious mob boss Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos, has died. He was 78.

Vincent died Wednesday of complications from heart surgery in New Jersey, according to reports from The Blast and TMZ.

Vincent also portrayed tough guys for director Martin Scorsese in Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) — as the real-life Gambino gangster Billy Batts, he with the memorable line, "Go home and get your shine box!" — and Casino (1995). On HBO's The Sopranos, Leotardo often butted heads with James Gandolfini's Tony Soprano as he eventually rose to become boss of the Lupertazzi crime family.  

Note: Frank Vincent was also the author of A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man. 

On This Day In History Francis Scott Key Penned The Star-Spangled Banner


As History.com notes, on this day in 1814 Francis Scott Key penned the Star-Spangled Banner from the deck of a British ship as the British attacked Baltimore.

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there."


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



Note: If you want to learn more about Key and the battle in the War of 1812 that inspired Key, you should read Steve Vogel's Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved the Nation.

A Little Night Music: Roger Whittaker's Sea Ballad 'The Last Farewell'


Roger Whittaker’s The Last Farewell came out in 1971 when I was serving aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

The British folk singer’s powerful historical sea saga evoked time-honored naval traditions and an older time when sailors took to sea and war. 

You can listen to the bittersweet song and watch the video via the below link:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Federal Officials Decline Prosecution In The Death Of Freddie Gray


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

The Justice Department announced today that the independent federal investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, Jr., on April 19, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland, found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal civil rights charges against six Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers.

Overview

On May 1, 2015, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) charged BPD Officers Caesar Goodson, William Porter, Garrett Miller, and Edward Nero; Lieutenant Brian Rice; and Sergeant Alicia White with criminal offenses related to Gray’s arrest and death. The charged offenses included reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, and second degree depraved heart murder. Ultimately, four out of the six officers took their cases to trial, and in each instance, the prosecution was unable to secure a conviction. The SAO’s first trial, which was against Porter, resulted in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. In the next three trials, Nero, Goodson, and Rice were acquitted on all charges following bench trials. After the fourth trial ended in acquittal on July 18, 2016, the SAO dismissed the remaining counts against Porter, Miller, and White, ending all state prosecutions related to Gray’s death.

The Department conducted a comprehensive independent investigation of the events surrounding Gray’s death and carefully reviewed the materials and evidence generated by BPD and the SAO. Career prosecutors examined evidence from numerous sources, including surveillance videos from closed circuit cameras (CCTV) that captured various sites where Gray was taken while in custody; cell phone videos taken by civilian witnesses at the time of Gray’s arrest; numerous witness interviews (transcripts, audio, and video recordings); photos; maps; medical reports; an autopsy conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland; police dispatch recordings; reports concerning DNA and blood stain evidence; BPD documents related to Gray’s arrest and the investigation of his death; personnel files and background materials for the subjects; BPD policies and training materials; phone records; demonstrative evidence; the SAO’s investigative file concerning the incident; trial transcripts; and trial court verdicts and findings of fact. Additionally, the FBI and federal prosecutors conducted witness interviews of BPD personnel in order to clarify procedural questions with respect to police investigative practices.

Applicable Law

The Department examined the facts in this case under all relevant criminal statutes. The principal criminal statute applicable to these facts is Title 18, United States Code, Section 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. In order to proceed with a prosecution under Section 242, prosecutors must first establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a law enforcement officer deprived an individual of a constitutional right. Prosecutors considered multiple theories of liability, based on multiple constitutional provisions, including theories of false arrest, excessive force, and deliberate indifference to the risk of serious harm to Gray.

Additionally, to prove that any police encounter violated section 242, the government must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer acted willfully. This high legal standard – one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law – requires proof that the officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids. It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident, or even exercised bad judgment.

Although Gray’s death is undeniably tragic, the evidence in this case is insufficient to meet these substantial evidentiary requirements. In light of this, and for the reasons explained below, this matter is not a prosecutable violation of the federal civil rights statutes.

Factual Summary

While this summary is based on, and consistent with, all facts known to the government, it does not include or discuss every fact learned or gathered during the thorough investigation.

At approximately 8:39 am on April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was standing on a street corner with another male when he made eye contact with Lieutenant Brian Rice, a uniformed police officer who was on bicycle patrol in BPD’s Western District. After making eye contact with Lieutenant Rice, Gray ran. In response, Rice chased Gray and radioed that he was pursuing a suspect. Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, both of whom were also on bicycle patrol, joined Lieutenant Rice in pursuing Gray. After approximately one minute, near Presbury and Mount Street, Gray surrendered to Officer Miller after Miller drew his Taser and threatened its use. The officers handcuffed and frisked Gray, leading to their discovery of what appeared to be an illegal switchblade knife in Gray’s pocket. Miller placed the knife on the ground, and Gray attempted to move toward it. In response, Officer Miller placed Gray, who was sitting on the ground, on his stomach. Gray began to flail his legs, and Miller placed Gray into a leg lace, which is a leg lock technique designed to stop the legs from moving. Officer Caesar Goodson then arrived with an empty police wagon for the purpose of transporting Gray. Video evidence shows that a small crowd of civilians gathered near the wagon and angrily protested Gray’s arrest. As the officers led Gray to the vehicle, he yelled about his wrists. Also, according to statements the officers later made to investigators, Gray would not walk on his own power, causing his feet to drag on the ground. Nonetheless, video shows that he stood by himself on the ledge of the wagon before entering. Officers Miller and Nero were assisted by another officer in placing Gray on a bench on the right side of the rear cabin. Gray faced a hard partition that completely separated the right and left sides of the wagon. The officers did not seat belt Gray. One of the officers later testified that they did not do so for reasons of officer safety, given the gathering angry crowd.

Once Gray was placed inside of the wagon and the doors were shut, witnesses could hear him banging against the wagon and yelling. At the direction of Lieutenant Rice, Goodson drove Gray in the wagon from the location of the arrest (Stop 1) to a location down the street at Mount and Baker Street (Stop 2), so that the officers could place leg shackles on Gray away from the civilians. Officers Miller, Nero, and Lieutenant Rice met Goodson at Stop 2, along with Officer William Porter and others. While at Stop 2, Gray resisted efforts of the officers to remove him from the wagon and place him into shackles. In response, Miller and Rice pulled Gray out of the wagon while he yelled and flailed. While the officers were placing new restraints on Gray, a crowd of up to nine civilians formed near the wagon and began to angrily yell at the officers about Gray’s arrest. Some yelled that the officers had injured Gray. Officer Porter assisted with crowd control. Lieutenant Rice and Officers Miller and Nero attempted to place Gray back into the rear of the wagon. As they did so, Gray went limp, and according to the officers, refused again to walk on his own power. This prompted Lieutenant Rice to enter the wagon and lift Gray inside head-first by pulling Gray’s shoulders while Nero lifted Gray’s legs. Lieutenant Rice left Gray on the floor of the wagon on his stomach with Gray’s head facing toward the front of the wagon and his hands cuffed to the rear. No officer seat-belted Gray. Once the wagon doors were shut, Rice, Miller, Nero, Porter, and multiple civilian witnesses heard Gray yell and bang against the wagon from the inside, causing it to visibly shake. Lieutenant Rice instructed Goodson to drive Gray to central booking, and at approximately 8:53 am, Goodson left Stop 2 and drove in that direction. Medical experts have agreed that sometime during the approximately 25 minutes that followed, while Gray rode in the rear of the police wagon, he sustained a fatal neck and spinal injury in a manner that is largely unknown.

Video indicates at around 8:56 am, while Officer Goodson was transporting Gray in the back of the wagon from Stop 2 to central booking, he made a wide right turn onto Freemont Avenue from Riggs Street, and briefly crossed over the double yellow line in the roadway. He then made an unannounced stop near Freemont Avenue (Stop 3). While there, Goodson got out of the wagon, walked to the rear of the vehicle, and disappeared from camera view for approximately 10 seconds. Goodson then got back in the van and drove away. It is unclear whether Goodson had any interaction with Gray at the back of the wagon at this stop, or what Goodson might have observed or heard. Goodson declined to provide a statement to state investigators about Gray or about that day. There is no other evidence of what occurred at Stop 3.

At approximately 8:59 am, after leaving Stop 3, Officer Goodson radioed to request that a police unit meet him at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street (Stop 4) for the purpose of checking on Gray. Officer Porter answered Goodson’s call and later provided two statements to investigators. He also testified at trial about his version of events. As Goodson has never given a statement in the criminal case, and could not legally be compelled to do so, Porter’s accounts offer the only evidence of what occurred at Stop 4. According to Porter, when he arrived at Stop 4, he met Goodson at the rear of the wagon, and Goodson opened the doors without discussion. There, Porter observed Gray lying on his stomach on the floor of the wagon with his head toward the front of the wagon, his feet toward the door, and his hands cuffed behind him. Gray asked for “help,” prompting Porter to ask what was wrong with him. According to Porter, Gray did not immediately reply, and then stated, “Help. Help me up.” In one of his statements to investigators, Porter is alleged to have also heard Gray say “I can’t breathe,” although he later denied having heard that.

After Gray asked for help, Officer Porter entered the wagon, pulled Gray up, and placed him on the bench. According to Porter, Gray used his own legs to assist Porter in placing him on the bench. Once there, Gray sat normally and supported his own head. Porter asked Gray if he wanted to go to the hospital, and Gray replied that he did. Gray did not complain of pain or of a specific injury, and Porter did not see any visible injury. Gray spoke in a regular tone of voice and breathed normally. According to Porter, because there were no signs of genuine medical distress, Porter did not believe that Gray was actually injured, despite Gray’s complaints. Porter allegedly believed that Gray was either lethargic from banging against the wagon, or was feigning a medical issue in order to avoid going to jail. However, because of Gray’s complaints, Porter told Goodson, who was standing at the rear of the wagon, that Gray was not going to “pass medical” at central booking. Goodson agreed, and Porter suggested that Goodson take Gray straight to the hospital. However, at that moment, at approximately 9:07 am, Lieutenant Rice radioed a request for available police units and a police wagon to respond to a different location. In response, Porter left the wagon, got back into his car, and responded to Rice’s dispatch. Goodson responded to Lieutenant Rice’s request as well and did not take Gray to the hospital. Again, neither officer seat-belted Gray.

Video surveillance reveals that the wagon arrived at Lieutenant Rice’s location (Stop 5) at approximately 9:11 am. When Goodson arrived, he parked the wagon near Lieutenant Rice and Officers Miller and Nero, who were standing on the sidewalk with a new handcuffed arrestee. It was decided that the new arrestee would be transported in the wagon back to the Western District police station for questioning. The doors to the rear of the wagon were opened, and at some point, another officer who had arrived at Stop 5 observed Gray kneeling in the wagon in a posture that resembled a praying position while facing the bench. In addition, Sergeant Alicia White arrived in order to investigate a complaint that an anonymous caller had made earlier that day about an altercation in the area. According to a statement later made by Sergeant White, she looked into the wagon, and while she could not see Gray’s face, she saw him kneeling on the wagon floor, facing away from her, and leaning over the bench with his head down. White attempted to question Gray, believing that he might know something about the complaint she was investigating. He gave no verbal response, but made an audible noise. White interpreted Gray’s silence as an indication that he did not want to cooperate with the police. Porter also attempted to speak to Gray at Stop 5, and asked Gray again if he wanted to go the hospital. Gray answered, “Yes.” According to Porter, he told Sergeant White that Gray wanted a medic, and in response, Sergeant White told Porter to follow the wagon back to the Western District to drop off the new arrestee, and then escort Gray to the hospital. At 9:16 am, Goodson left for the Western District station with Gray and the new arrestee in tow. The new arrestee later told investigators that the ride to the police station was smooth and lacked rapid accelerations, decelerations, or turns. The arrestee also stated that he heard loud banging from the other side of the wagon, and that he believed, based on the sound alone, that Gray was knocking his head against the wagon’s middle partition.

Upon Gray’s arrival at the Western District station (Stop 6), at approximately 9:18 am, Officer Porter, Sergeant White, and another BPD officer found Gray to be unconscious. Porter noted that Gray’s eyes were shut, his neck was limp, and he appeared not to be breathing. Sergeant White observed that Gray was drooling. Two officers, one of whom was Sergeant White, called for paramedics. Once the paramedics arrived, they observed that Gray was not breathing, had a small amount of blood coming from his nose, and had frothy vomitus discharge around his mouth. Gray also smelled of feces, indicating incontinence.

The paramedics took Gray to the hospital, where he remained comatose for days. During that time, he underwent multiple rounds of surgery. CT and MRI scans revealed that he suffered from a fractured neck and pinched spinal cord. Medical experts who analyzed the injuries later determined that they were akin to those sustained by a person who dives into a shallow pool and hits his head on the bottom, causing the neck to break when his head rotates forward. Those experts largely concluded that sometime in between Stops 2 and 6, Gray’s head forcefully impacted the interior surfaces of the wagon, such as the walls or doors, causing the injury. On April 19, 2015, Gray died as a result of medical complications accompanying those injuries.

Discussion

Lieutenant Brian Rice, Sergeant Alicia White, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, and Officer Edward Nero each provided detailed statements to local investigators offering their version of what happened near the time of Gray’s fatal injury. Officers Porter, Miller, and Nero also testified about the matter in state criminal trials. In order to pursue any prosecution in this case, the government would have to disprove these accounts and establish that the officers’ actions or inactions with respect to Gray constituted a willful violation of Gray’s Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment rights. During a detailed and thorough investigation, the Department reviewed and analyzed numerous interviews of witnesses to the events surrounding Gray’s injury. In determining whether it was possible to disprove the officers’ statements beyond a reasonable doubt, the Department took into account all of the evidence in the case, including, among other things, all witness statements, any video and audio evidence, medical evidence, and other relevant documents. The Department considered all of the evidence in light of the legal standards for proving criminal cases of false arrest, excessive force, and deliberate indifference.

With respect to a false arrest charge, the Department determined that it could not disprove the officers’ statements regarding the events leading to the arrest. According to the officers, Gray was detained after he made eye contact with Lieutenant Rice and then immediately ran from him. At the time, the bicycle officers were conducting proactive enforcement in an area known for drug sales. Once the officers stopped Gray, they admitted to securing him with handcuffs and then performing a cursory search for weapons, which yielded an illegal knife. A test of that knife later revealed that it opened with a spring-assist, which corroborates Officer Miller’s determination that it was a switchblade knife. In light of the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the thresholds for reasonable suspicion and probable cause, prosecutors concluded that a false arrest under the Fourth Amendment was not supported by the facts. Gray’s unprovoked flight from Lieutenant Rice, which occurred in an area known for drug sales, gave the officers reasonable suspicion to briefly detain him. Miller’s discovery of a knife that appeared to be an illegal switchblade supplied probable cause to arrest Gray.

In order to fully assess whether the officers used unreasonable force when arresting Gray, the Department closely examined medical evidence, video recordings, and witness accounts. The legal standard for such a prosecution would require the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an officer’s use of force during Gray’s arrest was objectively unreasonable based on all of the surrounding circumstances, and thereby violated the Fourth Amendment. The law requires that the reasonableness of an officer’s use of force on an arrestee be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the added perspective of hindsight.

The evidence in this matter overwhelmingly contradicted reports from some civilian witnesses that Gray was either tased or beaten by the officers. The doctor who performed Gray’s autopsy and testified for the state concluded that there was no medical evidence indicating that Gray’s injuries were caused by excessive force during the arrest, and no medical evidence showing that Gray had been tased. In fact, all medical professionals who testified at the state trials agreed that Gray was injured sometime after Stop 2 while he was being transported in the wagon. BPD investigators analyzed all of the subjects’ Tasers after Gray’s arrest and confirmed that none of the subjects had deployed their Tasers that day. One witness who claimed to have seen Gray tased later recanted that assertion at trial. Additionally, at least two civilian witnesses reported that they did not see any officer strike, punch, or kick Gray, and at least one such witness denied that officers placed Gray into the wagon forcefully. None of the video evidence established that Gray was struck, tased, or otherwise subjected to unreasonable force. Finally, all officers who were present for Gray’s arrest, and gave formal statements, denied ever seeing anyone use excessive force against Gray. To be sure, Officer Miller admitted to using a leg lace on Gray in order to temporarily immobilize Gray’s legs, but Miller’s assertion that he did so in response to Gray’s flailing is unrebutted by the evidence. Based on this assertion, his use of a leg lace cannot be proven unreasonable, and the medical evidence does not establish that the leg lace resulted in injury to Gray.

The Justice Department also considered whether the evidence established that Officer Goodson intentionally gave Freddie Gray a “rough ride” in the back of the wagon, thereby using excessive force in violation of the Due Process Clause. Pursuing this charge would require the government to prove that Officer Goodson gave Gray a ride that objectively harmed him, and that Goodson did so “maliciously and sadistically” in order to cause Gray harm. The evidence could not bear this burden. In spite of the fact that video evidence shows Goodson making a wide right turn and briefly crossing the double yellow line prior to arriving at Stop 3, neither that video, nor the other evidence, conclusively established that Goodson drove recklessly. An expert on retaliatory prisoner transport practices who testified at trial for the state acknowledged that he had seen no evidence that Goodson made abrupt starts, stops, or turns, and that he was not sure whether Goodson had given Gray a “rough ride.” Goodson provided no statement to investigators that would illuminate how he operated the wagon, and an arrestee who was placed in the wagon at Stop 5 described the drive to Stop 6 as a “smooth ride.” In addition, the medical evidence does not conclusively establish that Gray’s injuries were caused by reckless driving, or even by poor driving. There is no evidence that Officer Goodson harbored any animus toward Gray or desired to harm him. Goodson’s failure to seatbelt Gray, without more, does not prove intent to harm. The evidence cannot disprove exculpatory explanations for failing to seatbelt Gray, explanations having nothing to do with intent to harm.

In order to determine whether the officers’ failure to seatbelt Gray constituted deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm to Gray in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, federal investigators paid particular attention to the law enforcement witness statements, training records, and BPD policies. Under the law, it would not be enough to show that an officer merely had an awareness of some risk of serious harm or that an officer should have had such an awareness. The law would require the government to prove that the officers actually knew that transporting Gray without a seatbelt created a substantial risk of serious harm, and that they actually knew that their actions were inappropriate. The officers made no admissions that would allow us to prove that any of the officers were actually aware that transporting Gray without a seatbelt in back of a police wagon would create a substantial risk of serious harm. The Department also cannot prove that the officers received training regarding substantial risks or harms associated with the transportation of un-seat-belted detainees. The Department reviewed longstanding BPD polices for seat-belting that were in effect until just days before Gray’s arrest, and those polices afforded officers the discretion to refrain from seat-belting detainees if the officers believed there were security risks involved. Given the angry crowds at Stops 1 and 2, and in light of Gray’s combative behavior once inside the wagon, the Department cannot prove that the officers believed that their failure to seatbelt Gray was an inappropriate balancing of the safety risks involved. Accordingly, to the extent that the officers violated department policy in failing to seatbelt Gray, those failures suggest civil negligence rather than the high standard of deliberate indifference.

The Justice Department also considered whether the officers were deliberately indifferent to Gray’s serious need for medical care. The relevant medical evidence does not conclusively establish that Gray had already sustained his fatal neck injury by the time Officers Porter, Goodson, and White observed him at Stops 4 and 5. Medical experts who examined Gray’s death were sharply split during the state trials as to whether Gray suffered this injury sometime between Stops 2 and 4, or sometime between Stops 5 and 6. Experts who testified for the officers maintained that the neck injury Gray suffered would have caused near instantaneous (rather than progressive) paralysis, loss of breathing, and loss of speech. Given that testimony, and Porter’s unrebutted statement that Gray was speaking at Stops 4 and 5, the Department cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gray had already suffered his neck injury by the time officers saw him at those stops. Even if Gray had already been injured, the evidence does not prove that the officers were aware of the serious nature of that injury. At Stop 4, Gray was talking, able to maintain a seated position, and supported his own neck. At Stops 4 and 5, he was breathing and conscious. There is no evidence that he was bleeding or had any other visible injury. He was not drooling, had no liquid discharge around his mouth, and was not incontinent at that point. At Stop 6, Gray exhibited symptoms of medical distress that he did not exhibit earlier. There appears to have been a consensus among the medical experts who testified at the state trials that Gray’s injuries manifested themselves internally and would not have necessarily had visible signs. The Department is mindful of the fact that Gray asked for medical assistance and appeared lethargic at Stops 4 and 5, however, the evidence does not disprove Porter’s statement that he delayed Gray’s requests for a medic because he believed Gray was fatigued after banging himself against the wagon and might have been feigning injury. Regardless of whether Sergeant White or Officer Porter acted negligently by not calling a medic prior to Stop 6, it would be impossible to prove that either deliberately ignored Gray’s needs.

In light of the above analysis, the evidence gathered during this investigation is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers violated Gray’s Fourth Amendment rights against false arrest and unreasonable force, or his Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from excessive force and deliberate indifference.

In analyzing a potential charge under section 242, the Department also considered whether the evidence was sufficient to prove the statutory element of willfulness. To establish that the officers acted willfully, the government would be required both to disprove the officers’ account of their interaction with Gray and to affirmatively establish that the officers instead acted, or failed to act, with the specific intent to violate Gray’s rights. At a minimum, this would require proof that the officers knew that they were treating Gray in a wrongful manner, yet chose to do so anyway. For many of the same reasons described above, the evidence is insufficient to prove willfulness and cannot bear this heavy burden.

Conclusion

After an extensive review of this tragic event, conducted by career prosecutors and investigators, the Justice Department concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero, Lieutenant Brian Rice, or Sergeant Alicia White willfully violated Gray’s civil rights. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.

In this case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Maryland, the Civil Rights Division, and the FBI each devoted significant time and resources to investigating the circumstances surrounding Gray’s death and to completing a thorough analysis of the evidence gathered. The Justice Department remains committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all serious allegations of civil rights violations are thoroughly examined. The Department aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so. 

David French: The 'Idiots' Were Right, Mr. Bannon - Trump’s Newly Ousted Chief Strategist Says He Has ‘Total And Complete Contempt’ For The Members Of George W. Bush’s Foreign-Policy Team. They Deserve Better.


David French at National Review responds to Steve Bannon’s criticism of President George W. Bush’s security and foreign policy team on 60 Minutes.

How quickly some of us forget. How arrogant some of us have become.

Those of you old enough to remember the shock and horror of September 11, answer me this: If I had told you that the George W. Bush’s anti-terror policies would be so effective that after that terrible day jihadist terrorists would kill only three Americans on U.S. soil for the remainder of his term, would you judge his policies a success, or would you call him an “idiot” and hold him and his foreign-policy team in “complete contempt?”

I know my answer. I know the fair answer. In the days and weeks after 9/11, fear gripped America. We knew al-Qaeda possessed an immense safe haven in Afghanistan. We had no idea of what other plots might unfold next. After all, our intelligence agencies had just missed the worst attack on American soil since the British burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. We believed that the 9/11 attacks were the first of a series of assaults to come. That they never came is to the eternal credit of Bush and his team. Steve Bannon has a different answer, and it’s ridiculous. On 60 Minutes last night, the man credited with shaping Trump’s “America First” brand of politics clearly and unequivocally declared his disdain for George W. Bush and Bush’s entire national-security team, calling them “idiots” and saying that he holds them “in contempt, total and complete contempt.”

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



You can also read an earlier post on President Bush and the Iraq War via the below link:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mattis, Dunford Honor Pentagon’s Fallen, Survivors, Families 16 Years After 9/11


Cheryl Pellerin at the DoD News  offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 — During a Pentagon remembrance today on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford honored those who died, the survivors and the families left behind.

On that day, 184 people lost their lives in the halls of the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77, Dunford said in remarks he made before introducing the secretary.

“Sixteen years ago, when terrorists attacked the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and as they attempted other attacks in Washington, D.C., they did so with a sense of purpose. They were attacking symbols that reflect our way of life and our values,” the general said.

The terrorists believed that the attacks would shake U.S. commitment to those values, he added, and quoted then-President George W. Bush, who hours after the attacks said the terrorists thought they could frighten Americans into chaos and retreat. But they were wrong.
Renewed Commitment

“Instead of retreat, the tragedy of 9/11 produced in us an unyielding resolve,” Dunford said.

“Instead of hopelessness, mourning turned into action. And we have strengthened our commitment to the idea that the freedom of many should never be endangered by the hatred of a few.”

Recalling the events of 9/11, the general said that it’s appropriate for those who still serve the nation to remember and honor those who died, those who still suffer from injuries sustained that day, and those who were left behind.

“If we truly want to honor those remembered today, each of us will walk away from this ceremony with a renewed sense of commitment to our values in the cause of freedom,” he said.

“Each of us will walk away from this simple ceremony reminded that the war is not over and that further sacrifice will be required, and each of us will walk away with resolve to strengthen our personal commitment to protect their family, friends and fellow citizens from another 9/11.”
Boundless Compassion

In his remarks Mattis welcomed the 306 family members gathered at the Pentagon to remember their loved ones lost 16 years ago today.

“We are here to honor those 2,977 lives claimed by the brutal attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, -- the men and women who woke that day, never anticipating an attack on their place of work or against this country, innocents who hailed from 90 nations and all walks of life,” the secretary said.

Heroism and compassion were boundless on 9/11, he added. Patriots from all backgrounds and all walks of life responded with speed, courage and compassion.

“In the aftermath of the attack,” Mattis said, “our service members -- our nation -- rallied together as one. For, while we had never asked for this fight, we are steadfastly committed to seeing it through, as President [Donald J.] Trump has made abundantly clear, and with no more temporizing, as our example of leadership galvanized other nations to stand united against this threat to all humankind.”

The secretary said that “maniacs” disguised in false religious garb thought that hurting Americans would scare them that day.

“But we Americans are not made of cotton candy, we are not seaweed drifting in the current, we are not intimidated by our enemies,” the secretary added.

“And Mr. President, your military does not scare,” Mattis told Trump, who also spoke at the ceremony.

Protect and Defend

The men and women of America’s armed forces have signed a blank check to protect the American people and to defend the constitution, a check payable with their lives, Mattis said.
“Your military stands ready and confident to defend this country, this experiment in democracy,” the general added. “And we will continue to do so using all means necessary and as long as necessary.”

On this 16th anniversary of 9/11, Mattis said, “We remember the loss of so many in New York City, in a somber field in Pennsylvania, and here in this very building behind me, and in many battles since. And some of those battles are still raging.”

To the families of those who perished, the secretary added, “The loss you have endured drives us in our mission today and every day.” 

Note: In the above DoD photo Pentagon workers unfurl a large American flag over the west side of the Pentagon at sunrise on Sept. 11, 2017, on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The DoD photo was taken by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley. 

The Nation Grieves With 9/11 Survivors, Trump Tells Pentagon Victims’ Families


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

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 — When the United States came under attack on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans turned their sorrow “into an unstoppable resolve to achieve justice” in the names of the fallen, President Donald J. Trump said at this morning’s Pentagon 9/11 Memorial observance.

“It was the worst attack on our country since Pearl Harbor, and even worse because this was an attack on civilians -- innocent men, women, and children whose lives were taken so needlessly,” the commander in chief said.

Trump noted that for the more than 300 family members at the Pentagon anniversary today, not a single day goes by when they don’t think about the loved ones stolen from their lives. “Today, our entire nation grieves with you and with every family of those 2,977 innocent souls who were murdered by terrorists 16 years ago,” he said.

Sanctified Grounds Prove Unity

“The [sanctified] grounds on which we stand today are a monument to our national unity and to our strength,” Trump said. “For more than seven decades, the Pentagon has stood as a global symbol of American might -- not only because of the great power contained within these halls, but because of the incredible character of the people who fill them. They secure our freedom, they defend our flag, and they support our courageous troops all around the world.”

Among the 184 Americans who perished at the Pentagon were young enlisted service members, dedicated civil servants who had worked In the Pentagon for decades and veterans who served the U.S. in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, he said, adding that all of them loved their nation and pledged their lives to protect it.

“That September morning, each of those brave Americans died as they had lived: as heroes doing their duty and protecting us and our country. We mourn them, we honor them, and we pledge to never, ever forget them,” Trump said.

Flight 77 Passengers Remembered

Trump also paid tribute to those who boarded American Airlines Flight 77 at Washington Dulles International Airport that morning, minutes before it slammed into the Pentagon’s west side.

“Every one of them had a family, a story and beautiful dreams. Each of them had people they loved and who loved them back. And they all left behind a deep emptiness that their warmth and grace once filled so fully and so beautifully,” he said.

The living, breathing soul of America wept with grief for every life taken on that day, Trump said. “We shed our tears in their memory, pledged our devotion in their honor, and turned our sorrow into an unstoppable resolve to achieve justice in their name.”

The terrorists who attacked the United States thought they could incite fear and weaken the spirit of the nation, he noted, adding, “But America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will soon join the long list of vanquished enemies who dared to test our mettle.”

Terrorists Can’t Break U.S. Resolve

Terrorists tried to break Americans’ resolve when they attacked the Pentagon, Trump said, adding, “But where they left a mark with fire and rubble, Americans defiantly raised the Stars and Stripes -- our beautiful flag, that for more than two centuries has graced our ships, flown in our skies, and led our brave heroes to victory after victory in battle; the flag that binds us all together as Americans who cherish our values and protect our way of life.”

Woven into the American flag is the story of the nation’s resolve, he said.

“We have overcome every challenge -- every single challenge, every one of them -- we've triumphed over every evil, and remained united as one nation under God. America does not bend. We do not waver. And we will never, ever yield,” Trump said.

At the Pentagon 9/11 memorial, he said, with hearts both sad and determined, the nation honors every hero who keeps Americans safe and free, and they pledge to work together, to fight together, and to overcome together every enemy and obstacle in the country’s path.

“Our values will endure,” Trump said. “Our people will thrive. Our nation will prevail. And the memory of our loved ones will never, ever die.”

Note: In the above DoD photo, taken by Air Force Tech Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley,  from left, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald J. Trump face the flag during the 9/11 Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, 2017.