Thursday, November 30, 2017

Attorney General Sessions Statement On The Verdict In People Of the State Of California Vs. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate AKA Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez

The U.S. Justice Department released Attorney General Sessions comments on the verdict in the Kate Steinle case:

“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk. San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle. While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death—a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer—the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm. The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens. I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers.”

On This Day In History Mark Twain Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1835 the late, great American author and humorist Mark Twain was born.

You can read about Mark Twain’s life and work via the below link:

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

Attorney General Sessions And Acting DEA Administrator Patterson Announce New Tools To Address Opioid Crisis

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

Continuing to follow President Trump’s strong leadership on combatting the deadly opioid crisis, Attorney General Sessions today announced new resources and stepped up efforts to address the drug and opioid crisis.

Joined by Acting DEA Administrator Robert Patterson, Attorney General Sessions announced the following efforts during a press conference at the Department of Justice: over $12 million in grant funding to assist law enforcement in combating illegal manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin, and prescription opioids; the establishment of a new DEA Field Division in Louisville, Kentucky, which will include Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, a move meant to better align DEA enforcement efforts within the Appalachian mountain region; and a directive to all U.S. Attorneys to designate an Opioid Coordinator to work closely with prosecutors, and with other federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement to coordinate and optimize federal opioid prosecutions in every district.

“Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  “That’s why, under President Trump’s strong leadership, the Department of Justice has been taking action to make our drug law enforcement efforts more effective. Today we announce three new initiatives to do just that.  First, we will invest $12 million in funding for our state and local law enforcement partners to take heroin and methamphetamine off of our streets. Second, we will restructure DEA's Field Divisions for the first time in nearly 20 years. Third, we will require all of our federal prosecutors' offices to designate an Opioid Coordinator who will customize our anti-opioid strategy in every district in America. These steps will make our law enforcement efforts smarter and more effective—and ultimately they will save American lives."

“DEA continually looks for ways to improve operations and interagency cooperation and more efficiently leverage resources,” said Acting DEA Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “By creating a new division in the region, this restructuring places DEA in lockstep with our partners in the area to do just that. This change will produce more effective investigations on heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid trafficking, all of which have a significant impact on the region.”

COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Grants and Anti-Meth Program

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office is awarding a total of $7.19 million in FY 2017 funding through the Anti-Heroin Task Force Program (AHTF).  AHTF provides two years of funding directly to law enforcement agencies in states with high per capita levels of primary treatment admissions for heroin and other opioids. This funding will support the location or investigation of illicit activities related to the distribution of heroin or the unlawful distribution of prescription opioids.

The COPS Office will also award a total of $5.03 million in FY 2017 funding through the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP).  The state agencies receiving funding today have demonstrated numerous seizures of precursor chemicals, finished methamphetamine, laboratories, and laboratory dump seizures. State agencies will be awarded two years of funding through CAMP to support the investigation of illicit activities related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine.

The complete list of Anti-Heroin Task Force Program (AHTF) award recipients, including funding amounts, can be found here.

The complete list of COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP) award recipients, including funding amounts, can be found here.

Establishment of DEA Louisville Field Division

The DEA will establish the Louisville Field Division – its 22nd division office in the United States – on Jan. 1, 2018.  It will include Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.  This action converts the existing Louisville District Office into a field division in an effort to enhance DEA enforcement efforts within the Appalachian mountain region and unify drug trafficking investigations under a single Special Agent in Charge.  DEA anticipates that this change will produce more effective investigations on heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid trafficking, all of which have a significant impact on the region.  The division will also better align DEA with the U.S. Attorney’s Office districts in those areas, similar to current ATF and FBI offices, and also to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program.

The Louisville Division will be led by Special Agent in Charge D. Christopher Evans, who comes from the Detroit Field Division where he served as Associate Special Agent in Charge.

Designation of Opioid Coordinators

Every U.S. Attorney will designate an Opioid Coordinator by the close of business on Dec. 15, 2017. Each USAO Opioid Coordinator will be responsible for facilitating intake of cases involving prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl;  convening a task force of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to identify opioid cases for federal prosecution, facilitate interdiction efforts, and tailor their district’s response to the needs of the community it serves; providing legal advice and training to AUSAs regarding the prosecution of opioid offenses; maintaining statistics on the opioid prosecutions in  the district; and developing and continually evaluating the effectiveness of the office’s strategy to combat the opioid

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Washington Times Review of 'Vets And Pets: Wounded Warriors And the Animals That Help Them Heal'

My review of Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris’s Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals That Help Them Heal ran in the Washington Times.

Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris, the authors of “Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed,” have published another fine book about wounded veterans and their supporters.

In their previous book they offered stories about the love and sacrifices the mothers — “The Mighty Moms” — of wounded veterans made in order to help their sons and daughters heal and adjust.

In their new book they offer stories about others who help the wounded veterans. The others are dogs, cats, birds, horses and even a potbellied pig.

In “Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals That Help Them Heal” the authors offer 15 stories about suffering veterans and the service and companion animals they bond with.

“For many of us, coming home to or cuddling with a beloved pet is one of life’s great joys. No matter how your day has gone, the unbridled excitement of your pet when you walk in the door really can make your problems seem a little less grim,” former first lady Barbara Bush writes in the foreword to the book. “Now, imagine for a moment the power of that same bond between our military veterans and their pets. For years we’ve all heard stories of how that relationship not only changes but saves lives. Their pets can make dark days brighter, the helpless feel helpful, the lonely feel loved.

“It was a love story begging to be told.”

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ahmed Abu Khatallah Found Guilty Of Terrorism Charges In September 2012 Attack In Benghazi, Libya

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

Ahmed Abu Khatallah, aka Ahmed Mukatallah, 46, a Libyan national, was found guilty by a jury today of federal terrorism charges and other offenses stemming from the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya.  Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. government personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the attack at the Mission and the nearby Annex in Benghazi.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, Assistant Director Grant Mendenhall of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.

“Ahmed Abu Khatallah's arrest and prosecution were critical steps in our efforts to identify and hold accountable those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, Libya.  Our work is not done.  We will not rest in our pursuit of the others who attacked our facilities and killed the four courageous Americans who perished that day,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.

“The jury has now held Ahmed Abu Khatallah accountable for his role in the terrorist attack that destroyed the U.S. Mission in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Liu.  “During that attack and the one that followed, four American heroes lost their lives and others were seriously wounded. We will never rest in our efforts to bring to justice those who commit terrorism abroad.”

“Ahmed Abu Khatallah is being held responsible for executing a brazen terrorist attack against the United States.  That attack resulted in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.  This investigation demonstrates the FBI's ability to investigate terrorist attacks against Americans even in the most difficult conditions, determine who perpetrated the acts and bring those actors to justice,” said Assistant Director Mendenhall.  “We remain dedicated to the pursuit of justice in this case and others around the world where Americans and our allies have been victimized.”

“Ahmed Abu Khatallah was convicted for his integral role in a calculated, cold-blooded attack on a U.S. diplomatic location in Benghazi,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney.  “Our hope is Khatallah's conviction will provide some measure of justice for the honorable and heroic American victims and their families.  Our work will continue, but today's verdict serves as a reminder to those who plot terror attacks against the United States – the New York FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force's reach is global.  Working together with our partners in the intelligence community and law enforcement, our commitment to investigating acts of terrorism, capturing those responsible and ensuring justice is served will never waver.  I would like to express our appreciation for the many investigators, analysts and operators from many agencies who played a role in ensuring justice was achieved today.”

Khatallah was captured in Libya on June 15, 2014, and brought to the United States to face trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The jury found him guilty of one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists, one count of providing material support or resources to terrorists, one count of maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and one count of using and carrying a semiautomatic weapon during a crime of violence.  He was acquitted of the remaining counts against him.

The trial began Oct. 2, before a jury in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Over the next six weeks, the government presented testimony from 30 witnesses, including four from Libya. The witnesses included those who were wounded in the attack, as well as relatives of the people who died.  The government’s witnesses also included others who survived the attacks.

According to the government’s evidence, Khatallah was a leader of an extremist militia named Ubaydah bin Jarrah, which operated outside the law, and in the months prior to the attacks, he sought to incite violence by his and other militia groups against the presence of the United States in Libya.  In early September of 2012, he and other members of his group mobilized for an attack by stockpiling truckloads of weaponry.

On the night of Sept. 11, 2012, according to the government’s evidence, Khatallah directed his group to carry out the violence, striking first at the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi.  A group of men, armed with AK-47 rifles, grenades, and other weapons, swept into the Mission compound, setting fires and breaking into buildings.  During that violence, Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith valiantly tried to protect themselves when the attackers stormed into a villa, but they were fatally overcome by thick, black smoke when the attackers set a fire.  A State Department employee, who tried to guide them to safety, was injured.

Before, during and after the attack, Khatallah maintained contact with his group in a series of cellphone calls.  Also, according to the government’s evidence, for much of the attack, he positioned himself on the perimeter of the compound and kept others, including emergency responders, from getting to the scene.  The government’s evidence also showed that Khatallah made calls to leaders of other militia groups warning them not to interfere with the attack.

Following the attack at the mission, in the early hours of Sept. 12, 2012, the violence continued at a nearby CIA annex, first with gunfire and then with a precision mortar attack.  Mr. Woods and Mr. Doherty died in the mortar attack, and a State Department employee and U.S. government security specialist were seriously wounded.

Khatallah faces statutory maximums of 15 years in prison on each of the two terrorism offenses, 20 years for maliciously damaging and destroying dwellings and property, and life imprisonment for the firearms offense.  The firearms offense also carries a mandatory minimum consecutive term of 10 years.  A sentencing date has not yet been set.

The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes. The sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case was investigated by the FBI New York Field Office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force with substantial assistance from various other government agencies, including the two victim agencies, the CIA and the Department of State.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Crabb, Jr., Michael C. DiLorenzo, Julieanne Himelstein and Opher Shweiki, all of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.  Assistance was provided by Trial Attorney C. Alexandria Bogle of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Kohl and David Mudd of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Assistance also was provided by Victim/Witness Advocate Yvonne Bryant and Paralegal Specialists Rayneisha Booth, Jessica Moffatt and Legal Assistant Matthew Ruggiero, all of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

The Real Godfather: The True Story Of The Italian Cosa Nostra Boss Known As "The Tractor"

This week I watched an interesting BBC documentary on Netflix about Bernardo Provenzano, the then-73-year-old boss of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra who was finally arrested in April 2006 after 43 years as a fugitive. The hunt for Provenzano was one of the world's longest manhunts.

As the BBC noted, Provenzano was a teenage assassin for Cosa Nostra in the 1950s and rose swiftly through the ranks. His reputation for violence was so prolific that he became known as "The Tractor" because, as an informant put it, "he mowed people down."

You can read about Provenzano’s life and death in a piece in the British newspaper the Guardian via the below link:

Monday, November 27, 2017

U.S. Charges Three Chinese Hackers Who Work At Internet Security Firm For Hacking Three Corporations For Commercial Advantage

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

An indictment was unsealed today against Wu Yingzhuo, Dong Hao and Xia Lei, all of whom are Chinese nationals and residents of China, for computer hacking, theft of trade secrets, conspiracy and identity theft directed at U.S. and foreign employees and computers of three corporate victims in the financial, engineering and technology industries between 2011 and May 2017.  The three Chinese hackers work for the purported China-based Internet security firm Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company Limited (a/k/a “Boyusec”).

Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Robert Johnson of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division announced the charges.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to hack into private corporate entities in order to maintain unauthorized access to, and steal sensitive internal documents and communications from, those entities’ computers.  For one victim, information that the defendants targeted and stole between December 2015 and March 2016 contained trade secrets.

“Once again, the Justice Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world who are seeking to steal our companies’ most sensitive and valuable information can and will be exposed and held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.  “The Justice Department is committed to pursuing the arrest and prosecution of these hackers, no matter how long it takes, and we have a long memory.”

“Defendants Wu, Dong and Xia launched coordinated and targeted cyber intrusions against businesses operating in the United States, including here in the Western District of Pennsylvania, in order to steal confidential business information,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Song.  “These conspirators masked their criminal conspiracy by exploiting unwitting computers, called ‘hop points,’ conducting ‘spearphish’ email campaigns to gain unauthorized access to corporate computers, and deploying malicious code to infiltrate the victim computer networks.”

“In order to effectively address the cyber threat, a threat that respects no boundaries and continues to grow in both its scope and complexity, law enforcement must come together and transcend borders to target criminal actors no matter where they are in the world,” said Special Agent in Charge Johnson.

Summary of the Allegations

According to the allegations of the Indictment:

Defendants Wu, Dong, Xia, and others known and unknown to the grand jury (collectively, “the co-conspirators”) coordinated computer intrusions against businesses and entities, operating in the United States and elsewhere. To accomplish their intrusions, the co-conspirators would, for example, send spearphishing e-mails to employees of the targeted entities, which included malicious attachments or links to malware.  If a recipient opened the attachment or clicked on the link, such action would facilitate unauthorized, persistent access to the recipient’s computer.  With such access, the co-conspirators would typically install other tools on victim computers, including malware the co-conspirators referred to as “ups” and “exeproxy.”  In many instances, the co-conspirators sought to conceal their activities, location and Boyusec affiliation by using aliases in registering online accounts, intermediary computer servers known as “hop points” and valid credentials stolen from victim systems.

The primary goal of the co-conspirators’ unauthorized access to victim computers was to search for, identify, copy, package, and steal data from those computers, including confidential business and commercial information, work product, and sensitive victim employee information, such as usernames and passwords that could be used to extend unauthorized access within the victim systems.  For the three victim entities listed in the Indictment, such information included hundreds of gigabytes of data regarding the housing finance, energy, technology, transportation, construction, land survey, and agricultural sectors.

Defendants:  At all times relevant to the charges, the Indictment alleges as follows

Wu Yingzhuo, aka “mxmtmw,” “Christ Wu” and “wyz,” was a Chinese national and resident of Guangzhou.  Wu was a founding member and equity shareholder of Boyusec.
Dong Hao, aka “Bu Yi,” “Dong Shi Ye” and “Tianyu,” was a Chinese national and resident of Guangzhou.  Dong was a founding member and equity shareholder of Boyusec, who held the title of “Executive Director and Manager.”
Xia Lei, aka “Sui Feng Yan Mie,” was a Chinese national and resident of Guangzhou.  Xia was, at certain times relevant to the charges, an employee of Boyusec.

Victims: Moody’s Analytics, Siemens AG (“Siemens”) and Trimble, Inc. (“Trimble”).

Time period: As alleged in the Indictment, the conspiracy began at least as early as 2011 and continued to May 2017.

Crimes: Eight counts as follows (all defendants are charged in all counts).

Maximum Penalty
Conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse
18 U.S.C. § 1030(b)
10 years
Conspiring to commit trade secret theft
18 U.S.C. §§ 1832(a)(5)
10 years
Wire fraud
18 U.S.C. § 1343
20 years
Aggravated identity theft
18 U.S.C. §§ 1028A(a)(1), (b), (c)(4), and 2
2 years (mandatory consecutive)

Any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Summary of Defendants’ Conduct Alleged in the Indictment

Criminal Conduct

In 2015 and 2016, Trimble was developing a Global Navigation Satellite Systems technology designed to improve the accuracy of location data on mobile devices.  In January 2016, while this project was in development, Wu accessed Trimble’s network and stole files containing commercial business documents and data pertaining to the technology, including Trimble trade secrets.  In total, between December 2015 and March 2016, Wu and the other co-conspirators stole at least 275 megabytes of data, including compressed data, which included hundreds of files that would have assisted a Trimble competitor in developing, providing and marketing a similar product without incurring millions of dollars in research and development costs.

In 2014, Dong accessed Siemens’s computer networks for the purpose of obtaining and using employees’ usernames and passwords in order to access Siemens’ network. In 2015, the co-conspirators stole approximately 407 gigabytes of proprietary commercial data pertaining to Siemens’s energy, technology and transportation businesses.
Moody’s Analytics

In or around 2011, the co-conspirators accessed the internal email server of Moody’s Analytics and placed a forwarding rule in the email account of a prominent employee.  The rule directed all emails to and from the employee’s account to be forwarded to web-based email accounts controlled by the conspirators.  In 2013 and 2014, defendant Xia regularly accessed those web-based email accounts to access the employee’s stolen emails, which contained proprietary and confidential economic analyses, findings and opinions.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The FBI, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Air Force Office of Special Investigations conducted the investigation that led to the charges in the indictment.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Kitchen of the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Cyber Counsel Jessica Romero and Trial Attorney Jennifer Kennedy Gellie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

What Was the Inspiration for Agatha Christie's “The Murder on the Orient Express”?

Although I’m not a fan of Agatha Christie (seen in the below photo) and “cozy” murder mysteries in general, I was interested in reading Natale Escobar's piece on the backstory of Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express in the Smithsonian magazine.  

In Agatha Christie’s crime novel Murder on the Orient Express, the well-mustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solves the grisly stabbing of an American tycoon traveling on a long-distance passenger train. While the 1934 story, adapted for a new movie, of murder and revenge on a stuck, snowed-in train is of course a work of fiction, Christie pulled parts of her story straight from the headlines.

In Christie’s story, Poirot is on the Orient Express, from Syria to London, when a man named Ratchett asks Poirot to investigate the death threats he’s been receiving. Poirot declines, telling Ratchett he doesn’t like his face. The next morning, a snowdrift stops the train in its tracks, and Ratchett is found stabbed to death in his compartment.

When Poirot steps back into his detective role and searches Ratchett’s compartment for clues, he finds a scrap of burnt paper that reads “–member little Daisy Armstrong.” He deduces that Ratchett is really a mobster named Cassetti, who kidnapped the 3-year-old heiress Daisy Armstrong and collected $200,000 in ransom from her parents before her dead body was discovered. A wealthy man, he was able to escape conviction and flee the country. The narrative of the book centers around who on the train murdered Ratchett.

Daisy Armstrong’s fictional case probably rang familiar to readers in the mid-1930s, who had followed national coverage of the kidnapping of the baby son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Christie’s official website confirms that the author lifted the idea for the subplot from the true-life tragedy. On March 1, 1932, the 20-month-old child disappeared from his crib. A ransom note affixed to the nursery window of their New Jersey home demanded $50,000.

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

Note: The Lindbergh backstory makes the novel/film more interesting.

I've never been much of an Agatha Christie fan but I read the book in 1974 or 75 while I was in the Navy in Scotland just before I saw the Sidney Lumet, Albert Finney, Sean Connery Murder On The Orient Express film.

I was about to watch a film at the theater in Glasgow when the Murder On the Orient Express film was advertised on screen.

My Scottish girlfriend asked me if I wanted to see it and I said no.

She said she was surprised, as I was interested in crime and I was a fan of the great Scot actor, Sean Connery.

Yes, and I like the director, Sidney Lumet, I told her.

But I don't like these kinds of murder mysteries, as I always guess the murderer right off the bat.

She challenged me to do so and we agreed to see the film the following week.

The next day I bought the book.

I thought I would discover who the murderer was in the book and then point out the guilty character as he or she appeared on the screen.

Good plan?

Spoiler Alert!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you have not read the book or seen the previous films, don't read any further!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, as one may know if one has read the book or seen the films, everyone of the characters had a hand in killing the victim.

I had to confess to my girlfriend. She called me a "Cheeky bastard." 

Tis The Season For Christmas Songs: Why I Love Christmas Carols

Christmas carols are being aired on a good number of radio stations now and I hear the usual complaints of it being too early for Christmas carols and how some people truly hate the holiday music.

A few years back I had tried to answer these seasonal complaints with a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on why I love Christmas carols.

You can read the piece below:

Note: Above is the cover of a CD my daughter bought me a few years back. The CD offers some great, classic Christmas carols.

You can click on the above to enlarge.

The Foundation Of The CIA: Harry Truman, The Missouri Gang, And the Origins Of The Cold War

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a review in the Washington Times of Richard E. Schroeder's The Foundation of the CIA: Harry Truman, The Missouri Gang, and the Origins of the Cold War. 

Although Harry S. Truman ranks high on my list of admired presidents, one of his earliest decisions was an outright blunder — but fortunately, one that he quickly corrected.

No sooner had the guns of World War II fallen silent than Mr. Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), created as America’s first attempt at a unified intelligence organization.

The 1,655 member OSS research and analysis staff was shuffled off to an unwelcoming State Department. The 9,000 persons working in espionage and counterintelligence went to the Army.

The OSS’ wartime successes fell victim to Washington bureaucratic jealousies, from both J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI and the military services. Mr. Hoover especially objected to the rival agency.

Sensing that OSS faced a bleak post-war future, Director William Donovan had convinced President Franklin Roosevelt that the need for centralized intelligence would continue in peace. He wrote a plan for an independent intelligence authority under presidential supervision.

Critics pounced. The anti-FDR Chicago Tribune columnist Walter Trohan — to whom the plan was leaked — claimed that Donovan planned a “super Gestapo agency.” There was another factor: An early CIA historian wrote that Roosevelt likely had grown “weary and disenchanted with the flamboyant and ambitious Donovan.”

But even Mr. Truman’s naval aide, Clark Clifford, a fellow Missourian who became a Washington lawyer/wise man, felt that HST acted “prematurely, abruptly and unwisely” in terminating OSS. Mr. Clifford would write in his memoir that Mr. Truman was “persuaded by bitter critiques from army intelligence inspired by jealousy.”

Retired CIA officer Richard E. Schroeder relates how Mr. Truman moved to create a new intelligence organization from the wreckage of OSS and replaced it, first with the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) and then the Central Intelligence Agency. By coincidence, the chief players in the revival hailed from Mr. Truman’s home state:

In addition to Mr. Clifford, “The Missouri Gang” included one-time grocery chain executive Sidney Souers, a wartime rear admiral and intelligence officer; and a career naval officer, Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter, who had long experience in intelligence.

The first move, a stopgap, was the creation, by presidential order, of the Central Intelligence Group, initially headed by Mr. Souers. Thus Mr. Truman was given a single agency to produce what he called his “daily newspaper.”Tyler McCarthy at Fox News offers a piece on the best Thanksgiving-themed sitcoms.

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Italian Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Says Mafias Now Cooperating

The Miami Herald offers a piece on Italian organized crime and international drug trafficking.

MILAN - Italy's new national anti-mafia prosecutor said Thursday that Italian organized crime gangs are increasingly cooperating to control international drug trafficking.

Prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho told an anti-mafia conference in Milan that the Italian mafias "are not isolated. By now, they move together. The 'ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra, Camorra, also the groups from Puglia" work together, coordinating, for example, ports they use for heroin and cocaine shipments.

"They are able to change the commander on a ship in Panama, and insert their own commander, so the ship can handle a big transport of drugs," Cafiero De Raho said, illustrating their reach.

While in southern Italy organized crime "occupies the entire territory," in the north the mafia is making inroads by entering the real economy by preying on business people in difficulty who accept financial help to keep their business alive, until eventually they are forced out.

Cafiero De Raho urged Italian law enforcement and magistrates to cooperate on exchanging data and other information, saying it was "the first step in the strategy" to defeat organized crime.

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

Socialism's Predictable Outcomes: Murder, Misery And Refugees

Robert Knight offers his take in the Washington Times on socialism in light of a survey that many young people prefer socialism to capitalism.

Despite several horrifying current examples of nations in the grip of socialism, many of America’s millennials are happily skipping down the socialist Yellow Brick Road toward an Oz that could never be.

It isn’t just Bernie Sanders’ young legions of admirers. A recent survey showed that a whopping 44 percent of young people favor socialism over capitalism, with seven percent opting for outright communism and seven percent more for fascism. It adds up to a majority wanting total government control over the economy — and their lives, if they stop to think about it.

The more than 100 million murdered in communist nations and by the Nazis during the 20th century? Ancient history that has gone down a memory hole.

The poll was highlighted in the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism,” which also found that old, dead commies are still quite popular. Thirty-one percent of the young people polled have a favorable view of Fidel Castro’s favorite executioner, Che Guevara, 32 percent Karl Marx, 23 percent Vladimir Lenin and 19 percent Mao Zedong.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Best Thanksgiving Sitcom Episodes To Watch This Year

Tyler McCarthy at Fox News offers a piece on the best Thanksgiving-themed sitcoms.

Thanksgiving is upon us and that means that it’s time for family, food, festivities and, of course, TV.

Over the years, sitcoms have provided us with a hilarious, often heartfelt, sometimes too realistic look at the holiday tradition. As people across the country gather to eat, drink and fall asleep on the couch next to their loved ones, they might as well do so with some Thanksgiving-themed sitcoms playing in the background.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Another South Philly Politician About To Bite The Dust?: FBI Probes Rep. Bob Brady Over Payments To Get Dem Challenger To Quit Campaign

Unfortunately, Philadelphia is a one-political party town with the Democrats dominating the Republicans in all but a few Northeast Philly wards and the 26th Ward in South Philly, where the registered Democrats often vote Republican.

Political dominance leads to arrogance and corruption and several of Philadelphia's elected Democrats have been sentenced to prison on corruption charges. The most recent was another powerful Congressman, Chaka Fattah Sr. and our District Attorney, Seth Williams.

And now the Washington Times reports that Philadelphia Democratic Congressman Bob Brady is under investigation by the FBI.

PHILADELPHIA — The FBI has reason to believe U.S. Rep. Bob Brady unlawfully concealed a $90,000 payment made by his campaign to get an opponent to quit a 2012 primary race, according to court documents that confirm the Philadelphia Democrat is under investigation in a widening campaign finance probe.

In unsealed court documents made public Monday, the FBI requested a search warrant and has obtained data from an email account belonging to Brady. The FBI agent who filed the warrant wrote that there is probable cause Brady violated contribution limits and produced false documents, and there is evidence that he and others knowingly circumvented campaign finance rules.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on past corrupt Philadelphia politicians via the below link: 

Note: The above FBI photo shows South Philly Congressman Ozzie Meyers (who held the seat currently occupied by Bob Brady) taking money in the Abscam FBI sting in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Congressman Meyers offered the much quoted saying, "Money Talks, bullshit walks."  

From Puppy To Protector: How The Air Force Raises Military Working Dogs

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lane Plummer with the 27th Special Operations Wing offers the below piece:

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., Nov. 22, 2017 — Candy is a military working dog with six deployments under her collar, and on Nov. 9, she was finally able to rest her paws when she officially retired from duty during a ceremony here.

Her career, like hundreds of canines before her, serves as a reminder of how powerful a four-legged airman can be.

For most of these working dogs, it all starts across the Atlantic Ocean. The Military Working Dog Buying Program will travel to European kennels to purchase canines for the Defense Department. In some cases, however, MWD’s are born and raised at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where training occurs for both canines and their aspiring handlers. The way to tell the difference between foreign and domestic canines is in their name. For example, if their title is “MWD Kkeaton” or “MWD Ttoby,” the double consonant will signify they’re a dog raised through Lackland’s Puppy Program. Names without the double consonant are for all other adopted dogs.

After being adopted, the dogs live with foster families before the initial training regimen begins when they are 18-24 months old. Once they enter the training program, the dogs have 120 days to graduate.

Training Dogs, Handlers

During this training, they learn all the basics. Basic commands such as down, sit and stay are the starting point. Once they learn these commands, the canines begin learning more advanced techniques such as patrol work, detection and more. Successfully completing the four-month program means they’ll graduate and be assigned their base.

Simultaneously, aspiring dog handlers are training nearby. It was an experience that, for Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Pethtel, a dog handler with the 27th Special Operations Security Forces, was fun and filled with challenges for both canine and handler.

“It felt hard at times because you didn’t know how much work it takes to become [a handler],” Pethtel said. “I remember how nervous we’d be [when] pulling our first working dog.”

Before they get to handle their first working dog, the handlers must also learn the basics and proper commands. Not only that, they also must learn how to groom the dogs and keep them fit to fight.

When the newly trained dogs arrive at their first assignments, they will be assigned a handler and begin learning more advanced techniques.


From there, it’s all about strengthening the bond between handler and canine. Just like airmen in an office, team chemistry is a vital component for these working dog teams to accomplish the mission. Between base patrols and deployments, the bond only strengthens each time they put their bulletproof armor on.

“When we do convoys, canines lead,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Paul Little, a 27th SOSFS dog handler. “When we’re downrange, dog teams lead the way. It’s one of the most vital components to any mission they’re involved in.”

It’s an honor that Candy, one of the most experienced and decorated military working dogs in the DoD, had one last time before she traded in those heavy vests for a simple collar and leash. After eight years of service, she received an Air Force Commendation Medal and retired to her new home in Colorado with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Fehringer, one of her former handlers.

From puppy to airman, the career cycle of these canine service members is long and arduous and requires as much sacrifice as the thousands of human airmen they serve and protect.

Note: The above U.S. Air Force photos were taken by 1st Class Lane Plummer.

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At The Assassination Of President John F. Kennedy, The Crime Of The 20th Century

The below column originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2002:
Despite the passing of decades and competing tumultuous world events to stimulate our interest, we remain fascinated with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

We still see a cottage industry of articles, documentaries, books and movies that deal or refer to the tragic death of the U.S. President.

Even Cuban dictator Fidel Castro – one of the usual suspects – got into the act a few years ago when reports came out of Cuba that he was personally conducting a one-man Warren Commission into the shooting of Kennedy.

Although Castro has considerable personal experience in shooting people, usually with a wall behind his victim and a complementary blindfold, I lean more towards the FBI’s more scientific tests that conclude that there was only one shooter – Lee Harvey Oswald.

As a lifelong student of crime and crime writer, I too have maintained an interest in what is no doubt the Crime of the 20th Century.

Conspiracies abound, then and now, that accuse forces within the U.S. government of killing Kennedy to avenge his failure to fully support the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and his supposed plan to abandon South Vietnam.

I don’t subscribe to this theory. Had agents of the government been involved in the shooting, I believe they would have missed John and hit Jacqueline.

A government operation of this magnitude would have ended up, like we used to say when I was in the Navy, in a SNAFU (situation normal, all fucked up).

We should also take note that in our free and open society, the government has never been very good at keeping secrets (The Pentagon Papers, leaked and published in newspapers, is one of many examples of this).

Considering the long line of spies reporting to Moscow during the Cold War and the "Deep Throats" who routinely leak to the media, surely some substantial testimony or evidence of government involvement would have surfaced by now. Human nature makes us all blabbermouths.

Joseph Wambaugh, a former LAPD Sgt. and one of our best crime novelists, covered this well in his recent true crime book, Fire Lover.

He wrote that "the vast-government-conspiracy theories floated in hundreds of books and films have never failed to produce howls of laughter when mentioned at law-enforcement gatherings, especially in the aftermath of JFK, when the vast government conspiracy included the FBI, CIA and all the other three-letter agencies staffed by bureaucrats who are mostly loathed and distrusted by street cops. Those with an alliterative flair call them grandstanding government geeks in penny loafers, or bumbling back-stabbing bureaucrats who wouldn’t conspire to peek inside a girlfriend’s underwear without the approval of a U.S. attorney and a search warrant.

"But what really brings down the station house," Wambaugh continued, "is when, in order to make the JFK conspiracy work, all the revisionists had to include the Dallas Police Department. And that does it every time. Cops get to knee slapping and falling out of their chairs over the thought of it. Because everyone who’s ever worn a badge knows the moment a cop gets a real secret, the drums start beating and the asphalt jungle wireless starts humming, and the first leggy news chick with tits out to here will be blabbing the secret on the news at ten even before the cop wives get to tell it to the gang at the office and the girls at the gym."

Kennedy, as some conspiracy buffs and revisionist historians would have us believe, was attempting to rein in the covert operators when they struck him down in retaliation. I don’t buy this.

Kennedy, a WWII naval officer who read and promoted Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, gave new birth to the Army’s Green Beret Special Forces and ordered the Navy to expand the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) frogmen into today’s SEALs (Sea, Air and Land).

He was the special operators’ champion and had used them to counter communist insurgencies around the world, much as the Special Operations groups of today are combating terrorism.

Patriotism was and continues to be the special operators’ prime motivation for doing dangerous and thankless work. To these men, killing a president, especially Kennedy, would be downright un-American.

Another popular conspiracy is that organized crime was behind the assassination of Kennedy to halt Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s war on crime.

The theory goes that the mob was upset with Kennedy’s ingratitude, considering the mob’s large donations and their assistance in wide spread voter fraud in Cook County, Illinois. It seems that some Illinois residents were so enamored with Kennedy that they rose from the dead to vote for him. Some even voted twice! Some political analysts believe the voter fraud threw the election to Kennedy.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that the mob killed Kennedy. American organized crime leaders decided very early in their development that the killing of public figures like politicians, policemen and reporters was bad for business (I particularly appreciate the ruling on reporters).

This ruling was not based on morality or civic duty; it was based on the idea that the ensuing public outrage would bring on a crackdown of criminal operations and a loss of revenue. The mob, then and now, is all about making money.

The mob strictly enforced this rule in 1935 by killing one Arthur Flegenheimer, aka, "Dutch" Schultz," when he threatened to kill prosecutor Thomas Dewey. Based on their history and transcripts of wiretaps, I don’t think they would have violated this very practical tradition by killing a president.

The so-called "Men of Honor" in Sicily have discovered what Salvatore "Charlie Lucky" Luciano and the other old time crime bosses warned against. The Sicilian criminals, having boldly murdered crusading prosecutors and priests, lost most of their public acceptance and now face the wrath of the Italian National police and the Pope.

And not one of the many mob guys who have become cooperating government witnesses over the years have provided any serious evidence of organized crime involvement in the assassination.
Like many of the military, intelligence and security people I knew when I served in the Navy and later as a Defense Department civilian, I used to believe that Castro killed Kennedy.

President Johnson shared this belief.

Kennedy attempted to kill Castro with plots derived by "Operation Mongoose." Castro told reporters at the time that he was going to turn the tables on Kennedy. Oswald’s communist past and ties also point decidedly leftward.

And - although it is often glossed over - prior to the Kennedy assassination, Oswald attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker (Ret), a controversial conservative figure in the early 1960s. Why would the mob, the CIA, the military and all of the usual suspects want Walker dead?  

Today I have doubts about any and all conspiracies, left or right. Gerald Posner’s Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK initially sparked my change of mind and heart. Posner answers a number of questions about the assassination, effectively disputes testimony of so called "witnesses" and proves that a number of coincidences were just that – coincidences.

Posner also points out that science has made great advancements since 1963 and by putting the old evidence through modern scientific tests, he dispels many of the conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space to go into detail, so I suggest you read Posner’s book.

I now lean towards what I call the "Two Nuts" theory. Simply put, Oswald was a nut and the man who shot him, Jack Ruby, was also a nut. So unless further evidence concerning the Crime of the 20th Century is uncovered, for me, the case is closed. 

On This Day In History President John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated

As notes, on this day in 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

You can read about the assassination via the below link:

Harpoon: Inside The Covert War Against Terrorism's Money Masters

Joshua Sinai at the Washington Times offers a review of Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel M. Katz’s Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters.

Terrorist groups like ISIS raise hundreds of millions of dollars to finance their activities and attacks through illicit means. The Islamic Republic of Iran bankrolls its Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah proxies with large flows of cash. Hezbollah raises additional funds by engaging in criminal enterprises such as narco-trafficking across several continents.

Hamas, from its base in the Gaza Strip, smuggles funds to its operatives in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. These and other terrorist groups also raise funds from their supporters in Europe and the United States, which are sent back through illicit means to their safe havens in the Middle East.

Terrorist groups’ activities, such as sustaining their organizational structures, acquiring weapons, organizing terrorist operations, as well as managing their non-terrorist activities such as managing their social-welfare and educational services, are dependent on continuous funding streams. Counterterrorism agencies, therefore, understand that their terrorist adversaries’ funding sources represent an important center-of-gravity to significantly weaken their overall warfare effectiveness.

In “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel Katz shed light on previously classified accounts of how Israel, facing wide-ranging terrorist attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah and others, forged its intelligence, military, police and diplomatic services into an effective task force — code-named Harpoon — to counter terror-based financing around the world.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Vietnam Veterans Challenge Ken Burns On The Accuracy Of His Epic Documentary

Jennifer Harper at the Washington Times reports on a group of Vietnam veterans, historians and others who are challenging the Ken Burns PBS series The Vietnam War.

They just aren’t comfortable with “The Vietnam War,” the ambitious documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns, which debuted last month with much fanfare and is still being featured on many PBS stations. Vietnam Veterans for Factual History — a Texas-based interest group which includes military veterans, historians and authors in its membership — is challenging both the content and tone of the 10-episode, 18-hour epic.

“Many in the Vietnam veteran community were deeply offended by the series. It correctly sees that war as the origin of the current cultural polarization in American society, and the intention was for the film to help bridge that divide. Unfortunately, its significant factual inaccuracies, omissions, and distortions deliver a message that is very negatively slanted against both the nation of South Vietnam and American involvement,” the group wrote in an open letter to Mr. Burns and his co-producer Lynn Novick, along with PBS and Bank of America, which financed the project.

“The film portrays U.S. support for South Vietnam as blustering, blundering jingoism and the choice of music, graphics, and interviewees demonstrates a bias in favor of the militant leftist anti-war cliches of the 1960s. It demonstrates a prejudice against the more than 90 percent of U.S. Vietnam War veterans who are proud of their Vietnam service.

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

You can also read my Washington Times piece on The Vietnam War series via the below link: