Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On This Day In History Western Novelist Louis L'Amour Was Born

As notes, on this day in 1908 Louis L’Amour, author of Hondo, How the West Was Won and other classic western novels, was born.

He died at age 80 in 1988.

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

You can also visit the Louis L'Amour website via the below link:

‘Untalented’ Crime Writers Respond To Their No 1 Critic: 13 Thriller Writers Take William O’Rourke To Task For Dismissing Them And Their Readers

Martin Doyle at the Irish Times offers the response of 13 crime writers who take issue with a professor who claimed crime novelists had a “fatal lack of talent.”

Last Friday, William O’Rourke, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, came to The Irish Times to praise his former protégé Michael Collins and, almost as an aside, to bury the entire crime fiction genre. Cause of death? “Fatal lack of talent.”

“Michael [Collins] has too much talent to succeed as a crime writer,” wrote O’Rourke. “He doesn’t possess the fatal lack of talent required. America really doesn’t possess enough of a literary culture anymore to maintain a writer like Michael.”

Retribution by crime writers on social media was swift. Think the denouement to Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Ian Rankin, bestselling author of the Rebus series, tweeted: “One needs a ‘lack of talent’ to be a crime writer. Nice...” Melanie McGrath reacted: “WTAF? Had to read this twice before I could take it in. After which I just laughed like a drain. Claire McGowan’s response was perhaps the best: “Someone needs to produce an anthology called ‘A Fatal Lack of Talent’.”

A piece I saw recently, which described crime fiction as fast food in contrast to the nourishment provided by literary fiction, was similar: an unprovoked attack.

The canard that crime fiction is inherently inferior to “serious literature” should be a dead duck by now. American literary critic Leslie Fiedler’s 1969 essay Cross the Border – Close the Gap was one of the first to challenge and fill in the perceived gap between “high art” and “popular art” or “pulp fiction”. But every now and then, an attempt like this is made to reopen the rift and sometimes 140 characters is not sufficient to tease out an issue. So I asked some of the finest Irish and international criminal minds, or crime writers at any rate, to respond in detail to O’Rourke’s dismissal of their genre, quoted here in full.

… John Banville: Lack of talent? Georges Simenon; Margery Allingham; Raymond Chandler; Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark; James M Cain; Dashiell Hammett; Ngaio Marsh; Jim Thompson; Edmund Crispin . . . and that’s only a handful of the dead ones. I rest my case.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FBI: Craigslist Robbers - California-Based Thieves Targeted Big-Money Items And Sellers

The FBI released the below report:

For the high-end jewelry sellers on the popular online classifieds site Craigslist, it must have seemed like their ship had come in: A prospective buyer in California offered not only their asking price but would fly them into town and have a limo waiting.

“The individual would think they were going to the jewelry store to meet with the actual buyer,” said Special Agent Darin Heideman, who works out of the Oakland Resident Agency of the FBI’s San Francisco Division, “when in fact, a co-conspirator would take them to a predetermined location, assault them, and then basically rob them of all their items.”

The crew of robbers, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is estimated to have stolen more than $500,000 in jewelry from victims who traveled from more than six states between November 2012 and December 2013. Five men were charged in 2014 in connection with the violent robberies during which, among other items, a $90,000 Cartier watch, a $14,000 Rolex watch, and a $19,000 engagement ring were stolen. The last member of the crew to be sentenced, Michael Anthony Martin, 42, of Tracy, California, was handed a term last December of 30 years in prison.

The case illustrates how the FBI and police work together on cases that may at first appear to be local or isolated, but on closer investigation can span multiple jurisdictions. In this case, a Bay Area detective’s efforts to solve a “snatch-and-grab” robbery at a Fremont, California coffee shop ultimately led him to more than 20 similar robberies of victims from as far away as Wisconsin and Florida. Fremont Police Department Det. Michael Gebhardt’s legwork also uncovered the scheme’s mastermind: a prison inmate who personally called Craigslist targets—purporting to be a successful record producer—and assigned his co-conspirators to carry out the plans.

“It’s definitely a tale of something that started small and just mushroomed into this massive investigation,” said Gebhardt.

It all started in 2012 with the brazen robbery of a Bay Area man who was selling his watch. The seller and the purported buyer, both local, arranged to meet in Fremont in a public place—a coffee shop. “As they are talking, the potential buyer just grabs the Rolex and takes off running,” Gebhardt said.

“It’s definitely a tale of something that started small and just mushroomed into this massive investigation.”

Video surveillance and the so-called buyer’s cell phone number turned up an identity that police were able to link to two more robberies in Bay Area cities. In each case, the victims were selling Rolex watches and the prospective buyers grabbed the goods and ran. “The M.O. [modus operandi] is the same,” Gebhardt recalled thinking. “He’s targeting people on Craigslist for Rolexes.”

Two months later, the detective received word that police in Oakland were investigating five similar robberies, including one they witnessed firsthand during a separate investigation. Oakland police officers arrested three men, who it turned out were associates of the watch thief Gebhardt was investigating for the 2012 coffee shop heist. With some digging, Gebhardt learned his subject was taking directions from his father, an inmate at the California Men’s Colony state prison. The father was using a number of relatives, including his son and a cousin in Texas, to lure prospective Craigslist sellers with flights and limos and then have co-conspirators rob them once they were captive.

For the sellers, it might have seemed a safe bet when prospective buyers offered plane tickets and limos. “That’s exactly what they want,” said FBI Special Agent Paul Healy, who also worked the case out of Oakland. “They’re being told everything’s being taken care of.”

Heideman said it was a relatively small investment for the robbers. “You have to think—what does a plane ticket cost? Probably $400 to $500. A limo is going to cost a couple hundred bucks,” he said. “If you're traveling with a $30,000 diamond, that’s just a drop in the bucket to what they are going to steal. They were able to build these personas and build trust where there should not have been trust.”

Gebhardt learned of a Wisconsin woman who flew to St. Louis to sell the $19,000 diamond ring she had listed on Craigslist but ended up getting robbed instead. When Gebhardt saw a picture of the suspect, he recognized it was the same guy he’d been trying to run down—the son of the prison inmate. Still other cases—from Florida, Oregon, and Colorado—started to point back to the same prime suspects and associates.

“So we needed one big agency to basically be able to charge this thing,” Gebhardt said. The detective called the FBI, and agents from the Oakland Resident Agency helped set up a sting. They posted an ad on Craigslist hoping to attract the attention of the robbery crew’s leader in prison. And it worked.

“He calls me from prison and we set up a deal to sell my Rolex to him,” Gebhart said. “I would be flying in from Texas to the Oakland airport. He would have a driver pick me up.”

As that plan was coming to fruition, the FBI discovered that another Craigslist seller from Los Angeles was to arrive—with his Rolex—in Oakland on the same day.

“Obviously we couldn't let him get robbed, but we also didn’t want to tip him off because we didn't want him to call the guy that was going to rob him,” said Heideman. So the investigators posed as Craigslist buyers, contacted the seller in L.A., and outbid the robbery crew. They met him in a bank parking lot in Oakland. “We basically pulled him aside and said, ‘Here’s what you were about to walk into,’” Gebhardt said. “He was obviously relieved.”

“They were able to build these personas and build trust where there should not have been trust.”
Special Agent Darin Heideman, FBI Oakland Resident Agency

Meanwhile, on the same day of the sting in Oakland—December 16, 2013—two other simultaneous operations took down the robbery crew’s mastermind in prison and arrested his son, who was in hiding in Alabama.

The arrests led to federal indictments in 2014 against five defendants who have since received sentences ranging from 41 months to 30 years. The father, who cooperated with investigators, was given an addition seven years in prison for his role.

Looking back, the robbery crew was so prolific and violent they had no choice but to expand beyond their local area, agents said. Even limo drivers stopped working with them. “They would literally wear out a jurisdiction,” said Healy. “So they would go 40 miles away—or 400 miles away—to another town to do it.”

Tips for Staying Safe

The Craigslist website offers tips on personal safety when meeting someone for the first time. The site states, “With billions of human interactions, the incidence of violent crime related to craigslist is extremely low.”

Among the personal safety tips:

Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe, bank, or shopping center.
Do not meet in a secluded place or invite strangers into your home.
Be especially careful buying/selling high-value items.
Tell a friend or family member where you're going.
Take your cell phone along if you have one.
Consider having a friend accompany you.
Trust your instincts.

Meanwhile, some jurisdictions have moved to create “Safe Lots” for exchanging items from online classifieds. Det. Gebhardt says his department suggests on social media that if people are going to meet, they should meet in their local police department’s parking lot.

“If somebody says, ‘I don't want to meet there,’ then that’s probably a red flag about the person you’re meeting,” he said.

'Last Don Standing' Dives Into Philly Mob Hit Man Ralph Natale's View Of His Boss' Execution From Prison

The New York Daily News offered an excerpt from Larry McShane and Dan Pearson's book about former Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Ralph Natale. 

Philadelphia mob hit man/union fixer Ralph Natale reported directly to the family boss, Angelo Bruno — until Natale landed behind bars on arson and drug charges.

On the night of March 21, 1980, in an act of treachery that sent the Mafia family into a death spiral, consigliere Anthony (Tony Bananas) Caponigro targeted longtime Philly mob head Bruno in a shotgun street hit.

In this excerpt from “Last Don Standing: The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale,” Bruno’s right-hand man Natale recounts learning about the execution while locked inside a Florida jail.

You can read the excerpt via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on Ralph Natale via the below link:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Washington Times Review of 'Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, And The Wickedest Town In The American West'

The Washington Times published my review of Tom Clavin's Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West.

For those of us who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, popular TV programs were our introduction to Dodge City and Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, two of the Wild West town’s legendary lawmen.

As a kid I was a huge fan of Hugh O’Brian’s portrayal of Wyatt Earp and Gene Barry’s portrayal of Bat Masterson. I was also a fan of the long-running TV series “Gunsmoke,” which featured Dodge City as the town where James Arness’ fictional U.S. Marshall Matt Dillon had his many adventures. A new generation of fans now watch and enjoy the old reruns of these shows on cable stations.

Although the TV shows were entertaining, as I grew older and read history I learned that the shows about Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were historically inaccurate and they were based in large part on books that had exaggerated their life stories. Mr. Earp and Mr. Masterson in their golden years also told exaggerated tales about themselves and each other.

The odd thing is that no exaggeration was truly necessary, as the true exploits of Mr. Earp and Mr. Masterson are certainly dramatic and interesting enough, as we learn from Tom Clavin’s excellent book, “Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West.”

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

Newspaper Columnist And Author Jimmy Breslin Dies At 88

Mark Moore at the New York Post reports that legendary New York newspaper columnist and author Jimmy Breslin has died.

Jimmy Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who chronicled life in New York City for more than five decades and became known as the champion of the common man, died Sunday. He was 88.

Breslin, who may be best-remembered for interviewing John F. Kennedy’s gravedigger, passed away at his Manhattan home after suffering from a number of “problems stemming from pneumonia,” his wife, Ronnie Eldridge, said.

“He had a great life … he died just like that,” Eldridge, 86, a former city councilwoman, told The Post, snapping her fingers for emphasis.

“I’m going to miss him terribly.”

The Queens-born Breslin — who authored the books “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?” about the hapless 1962 Mets, and “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” about the Mafia — was known for his work on several New York daily newspapers: including Newsday, the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Post.

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

Note: Growing up I wanted to be a newspaper columnist and write crime fiction (which I've accomplished to some degree). Although I didn’t subscribe to Jimmy Breslin's politics and worldview, I used to read and enjoy his columns. I liked the humor and the sidelong observations. I also liked his novels, especially his organized crime comedies, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight and I Don’t Want to Go To Jail. He will be missed.

A Little Night Music: The Late David Bowie Performing 'Absolute Beginners'

You can see and hear the late David Bowie performing Absolute Beginners with a good back-up band via the below link:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Chronicling Ernest Hemingway's Relationship With The Soviets

Nicholas Reynolds, author of a new book on Hemingway, was interviewed on NPR.

CIA archivist Nicholas Reynolds discusses his new book, Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures. It describes Hemingway's relationship with Soviet intelligence.


You'd think it might be hard to find new insights into one of the most famous lives in literature, but Nicholas Reynold's new book does just that - "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures," which reveals a secret that a writer who stripped them from the lives of others concealed in his own - that he'd offered to be a spy for Soviet intelligence and tried to spy for the U.S., too, during World War II.

Nicholas Reynolds, a former historian at the CIA Museum, joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

NICHOLAS REYNOLDS: It's my pleasure.

SIMON: I'll explain in the interest of full disclosure, I'm on the Hemingway Council. Now, Hemingway is perhaps the best known American novelist. And even before he wrote "For Whom The Bell Tolls," he went off to witness the Spanish Civil War and crossed from being a journalist into a participant, didn't he?

REYNOLDS: Absolutely. So Hemingway before the Spanish Civil War was largely apolitical. And it was only in the Spanish Civil War that he starts to develop his own signature brand of politics. And if I had to characterize them in two or three words, I'd say anti-fascism is the governing idea there.

SIMON: And that wound up putting him in touch with elements of the Soviet espionage establishment?

REYNOLDS: That's exactly right. In Spain, on the anti-fascist side, the only serious support was from the Soviet Union. On the fascist side, that is, the nationalists, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were supporting Francisco Franco.

You can listen to the interview and/or read the rest of the transcript via the below link:

Will Bush Be Vindicated? A Case For The Iraq War

Jeff McIntyre offers a piece in the National Observer in defense of President Bush and the Iraq War.

In the lead-up to the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, all six of the world’s major external intelligence agencies, as well as prominent politicians and senior officials in the U.S. Democrat and Republican parties, were persuaded, by their respective pieces of intelligence evidence, that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In this article, Jeff McIntyre argues the case for President Bush’s military action in Iraq.

One of the most interesting books ever to be published about the war in Iraq was written by Douglas Feith, Under-Secretary of State in the George W. Bush Administration, and is called War and Decision. Unlike many journalists or political opponents of the war, Feith was inside all the decisions and thinking of the Administration at the highest levels, from the inception of the Administration. He was able to draw on personal dairy notes and recollections from the meetings of the key Administration officials, beginning with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Feith recalls the very first assessments done about America’s role in a post-9/11 world — assessments carried out with senior Administration officials, as they returned to the US on a military plane from Russia, to get around the global grounding of civilian airlines. Part and parcel of that process was a series of thorough and frank analyses concerning the existential threats posed to the US and its interests. An integral part of these analyses dealt with the threats posed by Iraq.

Feith posits that the containment policy through the 1990s to constrain Saddam Hussein had not been successful, that Saddam Hussein had both used and coveted weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), that he had supported terrorists, and that he had a singular history of aggression. In the post-9/11 world, the possibility of terrorism on a massive scale greatly sharpened the Administration’s thinking.

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

Note: I agree with Mr. McIntyre. Douglas Feith's War and Decision is one of the best books on the Iraq War. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the war and aftermath.

The U.S. Military and our allies defeated Saddam Hussein's Iraqi military in an amazing display of speed and precision combat. I believe General Tommy Franks and the Iraq campaign will be viewed favorably by future military historians.

Sadly, the war's swift and successful conclusion was overshadowed by the post-war occupation of Iraq. Douglas Feith rightly lays most of the blame on Paul Bremer, who made a number of critical errors. Most egregious was the dismantling of the Iraqi army and dismissing Iraqi Baath Party government officials, which made the country largely ungovernable and fueled the revolt against the occupation forces and the new Iraqi government. Mr. Bremer would have done well to have studied General Douglas MacArthur’s successful occupation of post-war Japan and the allied occupation of post-war Germany.   

Later, thanks to the urging of retired U.S. Army General Jack Keane, Senator John McCain, and others, President Bush changed the Iraqi strategy and ordered what has been called the "surge."

The new military campaign, headed by U.S. Army General David Petraeus, soundly defeated the insurgents and persuaded the sharply divided Iraqi factions to come together and govern the country.

Unfortunately, President Obama could not negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi government to have U.S. troops remain there and he withdrew all U.S. forces. Without an American military presence to balance the power and referee, the Iraqi factions battled each other and this gave birth to ISIS and a new insurgency.

I'm hopeful that President Trump's new military team will defeat ISIS in Iraq and elsewhere.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Intelligence Wars: A Discussion with General Michael Hayden About the CIA And NSA

I covered a World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (WAC) discussion with former CIA director and retired Air Force General Michael Hayden (seen in the above Air Force photo) last evening for Counterterrorism magazine.  

The WAC offered the below announcement prior to the meeting:

General Michael Hayden, a retired United States Air Force four-star general and former Director of the National Security Agency, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is the only person ever to helm both the CIA and NSA.

For 10 years, General Hayden was a participant in some of the most telling events in the annals of American national security, and now, at a time of heinous new threats and wrenching change, General Hayden joins the World Affairs Council to present an unprecedented high-level narrative of America's intelligence wars.

In his book, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror, he argues that playing to the edge means playing so close to the line that you “get chalk dust on your cleats,” and that by playing back, you may protect yourself, but you will be less successful in protecting America. "Play to the edge" was Hayden's guiding principle when he ran the National Security Agency, and it remained so when he ran CIA. It is an unapologetic insider's look told from the perspective of the people who faced awesome responsibilities head on, in the moment.

Established in 1949 as a forum for discussing differing points of view, the WAC is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to informing and engaging people of all ages on matters of national and international significance. The Council provides its members and the greater Philadelphia community with influential speakers.

General Hayden offered a frank, lively and provocative discussion on U.S. intelligence operations since 9/11 as well as the Russian cyber campaign during the past presidential election.

 I’ll provide a link here to my piece on General Hayden when it comes out.

Spies, Affairs And James Bond...The Secret Diary Of Ian Fleming's Wartime Mistress

The British newspaper the Telegraph offers excerpts from A Constant Heart: The War Diaries of Maud Russell, 1939-1945. 

Maud Russell (seen in the below photo) was a British socialite who was the mistress of Commander Ian Fleming (seen in the above photo), a Royal Navy intelligence officer and the future author of the James Bond thrillers.  
Long before he created James Bond, a young Ian Fleming had a remarkably close – and secretive – relationship with an older woman, Maud Russell, a fashionable society hostess.

They met in 1931 when Russell was 40 and Fleming just 23. There was a strong mutual attraction, and Fleming quickly became a regular guest at Mottisfont, Russell’s 2,000-acre estate in Hampshire, and at the glamorous parties she threw in her Knightsbridge home, attended by Cecil Beaton, Lady Diana Cooper, Clementine Churchill, Margot Asquith and members of the Bloomsbury Group.

To Fleming, Russell was a sophisticated and impeccably connected mentor who found him first a job in banking, introduced him to members of the Intelligence Corps and, later, paid for his Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye, where his 007 novels were written. To Russell, Fleming (named ‘I.’ in her diaries) was the dashing, charismatic young spy who became her close friend, her confidante – and her lover.

These entries from Russell’s private diary take place towards the end of the Second World War, when Fleming worked in naval intelligence and Russell, then 52, was recently widowed; it was a time when, despite the food shortages and air raids, the tide of the war was gradually turning in the Allies’ favour – and, despite his other liaisons, the couple spoke of marriage.

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

FBI: Charges Announced In Massive Cyber Intrusion Case - Two Of The Perpetrators Believed To Be Russian Intelligence Officers

The FBI released the below report:

Four individuals—two Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and two criminal hackers—have been charged by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California in connection with one of the largest cyber intrusions in U.S. history, which compromised the information of at least 500 million Yahoo accounts.

One of the criminal hackers was arrested yesterday by Canadian authorities. The two FSB officers and the second hacker, last known to have been in Russia, are currently fugitives wanted by the FBI. 

The indictments were announced today by U.S. Department of Justice Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, FBI Executive Assistant Director Paul Abbate, and Northern District of California U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch during a press conference in Washington, D.C.

The FSB is an intelligence and law enforcement agency of the Russian Federation, and it’s believed that the two FSB officers work in an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cyber crime matters. According to McCord, “The involvement and direction of FSB officers with law enforcement responsibilities make this conduct that much more egregious—there are no free passes for foreign state-sponsored criminal behavior.”

According to the indictment, from about April 2014 up to at least December 2016, FSB officers Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin directed this cyber intrusion conspiracy—which involved malicious files and software tools being downloaded onto Yahoo’s network—that resulted in the compromise of that network and the theft of subscriber information from at least 500 million accounts. This stolen information was then used to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google, and other webmail providers.

The indictment says that Dokuchaev and Sushchin paid, directed, and protected two known criminal hackers who took part in the scheme—Alexsey Belan, a Russian national and resident, and Karim Baratov, born in Kazakhstan and a naturalized Canadian citizen and resident. Belan, who has been indicted twice in the U.S. in the past for cyber-related crimes, is currently on the FBI’s Cyber’s Most Wanted list and is the subject of a Red Notice for Interpol nations, which includes Russia.

“This is a highly complicated investigation of a very complex threat. It underscores the value of early, proactive engagement and cooperation between the private sector and the government.”
FBI Executive Assistant Director Paul Abbate

The information stolen from the 500 million user accounts came from Yahoo’s proprietary user data base, which contained information such as users’ names, recovery e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and certain information needed to manually create account authentication web browser cookies.

What were the alleged perpetrators after? In part, they used access to Yahoo’s networks to identify and access accounts of possible interest to the FSB, including those of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials, and employees of U.S., Russian, and other providers whose networks the conspirators sought to exploit. Additional victim accounts belonged to private sector employees of financial, transportation, and other types of companies.

However, the co-conspirators were not above using the information they stole for personal financial gain. For example, Belan allegedly searched Yahoo user communications for credit card and gift card account numbers. He also leveraged the contact lists obtained from at least 30 million Yahoo accounts to perpetrate his own spam scheme.

Computer intrusions, by their very nature, are international in scope, so they require an international effort to unmask the worldwide hacking networks responsible for them. And this case was no different. Abbate expressed the Bureau’s gratitude to our international partners for their assistance and support leading up to these criminal charges today—specifically mentioning the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Toronto Police Service, and the United Kingdom’s MI5.

Another important aspect of this case involved the victim companies—including Yahoo and Google—coming forward and working with law enforcement. This collaboration ultimately resulted in countering the malicious activities of state actors and bringing criminals to justice. It also illustrates that the FBI can successfully work these kinds of investigations with victim companies while respecting the various concerns and considerations businesses might have about the impact of going public.

“This is a highly complicated investigation of a very complex threat,” said Abbate. “It underscores the value of early, proactive engagement and cooperation between the private sector and the government.”

Among the FBI’s major investigative priorities are to protect the U.S. against foreign intelligence operations and espionage and to protect the U.S. against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes. This case involved both. And it doesn’t matter to us whether the perpetrators of such crimes are run-of-the-mill criminals or sophisticated foreign states and their agents. With the help of our partners here and/or abroad, we will identify those responsible and hold them accountable for their actions.

Note: In the above USDOJ photo FBI Executive Assistant Director Paul Abbate and DOJ Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord announce the indictments in the Yahoo intrusion a March 15, 2017 press conference in Washington, D.C.  

Al Qaeda Operative Convicted Of Multiple Terrorism Offenses Targeting Americans Overseas

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

Today, a jury returned its verdict convicting al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, 46, of multiple terrorism offenses including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan and conspiracy to bomb the U.S. embassy in Nigeria. Harun traveled to Afghanistan in the weeks before Sept. 11, 2001 where he joined al Qaeda, trained at al Qaeda training camps and participated in attacks on U.S. and Coalition troops in Afghanistan in which two American service members were killed and others were seriously wounded in 2003. Harun also received training in explosives from an al Qaeda weapons expert and traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria intending to attack U.S. government facilities there.

The guilty verdict was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord for National Security, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD.

“Harun is an al Qaeda operative who targeted U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities across two continents. The evidence presented at trial established that the defendant and other jihadists attacked a U.S. military patrol in Afghanistan, resulting in the death of two American soldiers and the serious injury of others. Today’s guilty verdict ensures that the defendant will be held accountable for his acts of terrorism,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors whose hard work and dedication made this result possible.”

“As demonstrated by this case, the United States will be tireless in its efforts to hold al-Qaeda members accountable when they target American citizens serving their country abroad. We are firmly committed to bringing such terrorists to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rohde. Ms. Rohde expressed her grateful appreciation to the Department of Defense Army investigators, the Office of Military Commissions, the Italian Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office in Palermo, Italy, the Italian National Police, Guardia di Finanza and Carabinieri authorities for their support and assistance.

“We hope the verdict today shows the public the FBI New York JTTF and our law enforcement partners are still arresting, charging and trying operatives for al-Qaeda 15 years after 9/11 because we won’t give up the obligation to bring terrorists to justice,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney. “It should also prove to anyone who wishes to harm our country, we will not stop, and we will never forget.”

“Al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun pledged allegiance to a known terrorist organization, conspiring to kill coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and even bomb a U.S. embassy in Nigeria,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “Today’s conviction holds the defendant responsible for the terror he waged overseas. I am thankful to the detectives, agents, and more than 50 partner agencies on the Joint Terrorism Task Force here in Manhattan and to the prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York who continue bring rigorous terrorism cases in federal court.”

Harun, also known as “Spin Ghul,” “Abu Tamim,” “Esbin Gol,” “Isbungoul,” “Joseph Johnson” and “Mortala Mohamed Adam,” was convicted on all five counts presented to the jury, which include conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals; conspiracy to bomb a government facility; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, al Qaeda; providing and attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda; and use of explosives in connection with terrorist activities.

During the two-week trial, the government established that Harun, purportedly a citizen of Niger, traveled from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in late summer of 2001 to join a jihadist group. There, he moved into an al Qaeda guesthouse – a registration center for new al Qaeda recruits – where he was living on Sept. 11, 2001. Immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, al Qaeda military leaders sent Harun to training camps in Afghanistan, in anticipation of an American invasion. At these camps, he learned how to use weapons and explosives, met top al Qaeda leaders and received his “kunya” (nom de guerre) “Spin Ghul,” meaning the, “White Rose.” Harun then traveled to Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas region of Pakistan, where he operated under Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, one of bin Laden’s deputies who was al Qaeda’s top military commander in Afghanistan at that time.

On April 25, 2003, Harun and fellow al Qaeda jihadists ambushed a U.S. military patrol from Firebase Shkin. Harun fired machinegun rounds and threw grenades at American soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akhbar” or “God is Great.” Two U.S. servicemen were killed in the attack, Private First Class Jerod Dennis, 19, of Oklahoma, and Airman First Class Raymond Losano, 24, of Texas. Several other soldiers were seriously wounded. Harun was also wounded but escaped to Pakistan. A pocket-sized Koran recovered at the scene contained Harun’s fingerprints and a journal describing the attacks contained Harun’s alias.

While recovering from his wounds in Pakistan, Harun met with senior al Qaeda officials – including Abu Faraj al-Libi (Abu Faraj), then al Qaeda’s external operations chief – and expressed his desire to engage in acts of terror against U.S. interests outside of Afghanistan, specifically attacks similar to 1998 al Qaeda bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Harun also swore “bayat” – or formal allegiance – to bin Laden through bin Laden’s military commander Abdul Hadi.

In summer of 2003, Harun traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria, where he planned to bomb the U.S. Embassy. He recruited accomplices, scouted the Embassy and other potential Western targets, and sent an accomplice to find explosives. He also met with local terrorist leaders to build up al Qaeda’s network in West Africa.

In 2004, Harun directed a co-conspirator to travel from Nigeria to deliver information and materials to al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. After learning that the co-conspirator had been arrested in Pakistan, Harun fled Nigeria. At approximately the same time, the FBI obtained a hard drive containing a letter written from Harun’s al Qaeda handler to Harun, providing him with detailed instructions on how to attack Americans in Nigeria. The letter specifically instructed Harun to target Americans – whom he described as “the head of the snake” – at “locations where Americans congregate,” such as embassies, hotels and “places where they gather for fun.” The al Qaeda handler also instructed Harun to obtain one ton of explosives for the bombing operation in Nigeria.

Harun then traveled to Libya where he planned to surreptitiously enter Europe to carry out terrorist attacks against Western interests. In early 2005, however, he was arrested by Libyan authorities and held in custody until his release in June 2011. Subsequently, Harun was arrested on June 24, 2011 by Italian authorities.

Harun was indicted in the U.S. on Feb. 21, 2012, and the Italian Minister of Justice ordered his extradition on Sept. 14, 2012 to face the charges pending in the Eastern District of New York.

When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan on June 22, Harun faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shreve Ariail, Melody Wells and Matthew J. Jacobs of the Eastern District of New York, and Trial Attorney Joseph N. Kaster of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How The Soviets Once Recruited Ernest Hemingway To Be A Spy

Robert Rorke at the New York Post offers a piece on a new book about Ernest Hemingway and how he was recruited by the Soviets to be a spy.

A provocative article about US veterans killed during a deadly 1935 hurricane in the Florida Keys brought Ernest Hemingway, journalist and best-selling author of “The Sun Also Rises” and “A Farewell to Arms,” to the attention of Soviet intelligence. The veterans had been hired by the Roosevelt administration to build a bridge, and Hemingway, a Key West resident who had been an ambulance driver in Europe during World War I, discovered their corpses while cruising in his boat, named Pilar.

“Hemingway had not seen so many dead men in one place since 1918,” writes Nicholas Reynolds in his new book, “Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy.” Hemingway was so outraged by the way they were treated, their rotting bodies left in the water, he wrote an incendiary article about the debacle for the niche Marxist magazine New Masses. The piece also got noticed by Soviet intelligence, which tracked potential foreign sympathizers to the Communist cause.

Reynolds’ book describes Hemingway’s “conversion experience” as a result of this tragedy. From the Spanish Civil War to the end of World War II, he would become a champion of the oppressed, using his reputation as a celebrated novelist and journalist to fight fascism. It was a stance that made him a desirable candidate for both Soviet espionage and American intelligence operations. And Hemingway — maintaining his status as a free agent while stoking his ego — flirted with both sides.

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

Note: Like another favorite writer of mine, Dashiell Hammett, Hemingway was attracted foolishly to the Soviets because of his anti-Fascist stance. Of course, the Soviet Union later made a pact with Hitler and the Nazis, and they confused the issue for the American leftists.

But in Hemingway's favor, in his novel about the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls, he offered passages on the atrocities committed by both sides. This was looked at unfavorably by the Soviets.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Life On An Aircraft Carrier

The website We the Mighty offers a brief video of what it is like serving on an aircraft carrier.

You can watch the video via the below link:

It was basically the same when I served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War - 1970-1971 - when I was a young man.

Note: The top photo is of the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower and the above photo is of the USS Kitty Hawk.

FBI: Binary Options Fraud - A Word of Warning to the Investing Public

The FBI released the below report:

Stock options. It’s a pretty common investment term meaning, in general, that one party sells or offers to another party the opportunity to invest by buying a particular stock at an agreed upon price within a certain period of time. All perfectly legal and highly regulated—and if the investor takes advantage of the opportunity and the stock performs well, there’s money to be made. And if the stock doesn’t perform well, the investor knew the risk.

But here’s another similar-sounding financial term that the public should be wary of—binary options. While some binary options are listed on registered exchanges or traded on a designated contract market and are subject to oversight by U.S. regulators like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), much of the binary options market operates through websites that don’t comply with U.S. regulations. And many of those unregulated websites are being used by criminals outside the U.S. as vehicles to commit fraud. 

Binary options fraud is a growing problem and one that the FBI currently has in its crosshairs. In 2011, our Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received four complaints—with reported losses of just more than $20,000—from binary options fraud victims. Fast forward five years, and the IC3 received hundreds of complaints with millions of dollars in reported losses during 2016. And those numbers only reflect victims who reported being fleeced to the IC3—the true extent of the fraud, which has victims around the world, isn’t fully known. Some European countries have reported that binary options fraud complaints now constitute 25 percent of all the fraud complaints received.

What exactly is a binary option? It’s a type of options contract in which the payout depends entirely on the outcome of a yes/no proposition, typically related to whether the price of a particular asset—like a stock or a commodity—will rise above or fall below a specified amount. Unlike regular stock options, with binary options you’re not being given the opportunity to actually buy a stock or a commodity—you’re just betting on whether its price will be above or below a certain amount by a certain time of the day.

For example: You expect the price of an individual stock will be above $80 at 3:30 p.m. today. So you buy a binary option that allows you to place this bet at a cost of $60. If, at 3:30 p.m., the stock price is $80.01, your payout is $100, for a profit of $40. If the price of the stock at 3:30 is $79.99, you lose your $60. Of course, you can buy multiple binary options, which can significantly increase your winnings as well as your losses.

So where does the fraud come into it? The perpetrators behind many of the binary options websites, primarily criminals located overseas, are only interested in one thing—taking your money. Complaints about their activities generally fall into one of three categories:

The perpetrators behind many of the binary options websites, primarily criminals located overseas, are only interested in one thing—taking your money.

Refusal to credit customer accounts or reimburse funds to customers. This is usually done by cancelling customers’ withdrawal requests, ignoring customer phone calls and e-mails, and sometimes even freezing accounts and accusing the customers themselves of fraud. 

Identity theft. Representatives of binary options websites may falsely claim that the government requires photocopies of your credit card, passport, driver’s license, utility bills, or other personal data. This information could potentially be used to steal your identity.

Manipulation of trading software. Some of these Internet trading platforms may be reconfiguring the algorithms they use in order to purposely generate losing trades, often by distorting prices and payouts. For example, if a customer has a winning trade, the expiration time is extended until the trade becomes a loss. 

Fraudulent binary options website operators go to great lengths to recruit investors. They advertise their platforms—often on social networking sites, various trading websites, message boards, and spam e-mail—with big promises of easy money, low risk, and superior customer service. Potential investors are also cold-called from boiler room operations, where high-pressure salespeople use banks of phones to make as many calls as possible to offer “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities.

What’s being done to combat binary options fraud? The FBI currently has a number of ongoing binary options fraud cases, working with partners like the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). And this past January, the Bureau organized the 2017 Binary Options Fraud Summit held at Europol in The Hague, bringing together law enforcement and regulators from throughout North America and Europe to discuss the growing binary options fraud problem.

Special Agent Milan Kosanovich, who works out of our Criminal Investigative Division’s Complex Financial Crimes Unit, was one of the FBI’s representatives at this gathering. “The summit,” he said, “gave all of us the chance to sit down and talk about what we’ve discovered through our respective binary options fraud investigations, where the challenges are, and how we can all work together.” 

One of the biggest challenges law enforcement faces, according to Kosanovich, is the fact that the scammers are sophisticated and have operations spanning multiple countries. “So the key to addressing this type of fraud,” he continued, “is national and international coordination between regulatory agencies, law enforcement, and the financial industry.”   

Another important factor, said Kosanovich, is investor awareness and education. “Investors need to be aware of the significant potential for fraud on binary options websites, and they need to make sure they do their due diligence before ever placing that first trade or bet.”

What Can You Do to Avoid Being Victimized

Make sure that the binary options trading platform you’re interested in has registered its offer and sale of its products with the SEC. (Registration provides investors with key information about the terms of the products being offered). To do this, you can use the Security Exchange Commission’s (SEC) EDGAR Company Filing website.

Check to see if the trading platform itself is registered as an exchange at the SEC’s Exchanges website.

Ensure that the trading platform is a designated contract market by checking the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CTFC) Designated Contract Markets website. Thousands of entities promote binary options trading in the U.S., but only two are currently authorized to do so by the CFTC.

Check out the registration status and background of any firm or financial professional you are considering dealing with. You can do this through the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency’s BrokerCheck website and the National Futures Association Background Affiliation Status Information Center.

Take a look at the CFTC’s RED List, which contains the names of unregistered foreign entities that CFTC has reason to believe are soliciting and accepting funds from U.S. residents at a retail level for, among other things, binary options.

Finally, don’t invest in something you don’t understand. If you can’t explain the investment opportunity in a few words and in an understandable way, you may need to reconsider the potential investment.

U.S. Charges Russian FSB Officers And Their Criminal Conspirators For Hacking Yahoo And Millions Of Email Accounts

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

A grand jury in the Northern District of California has indicted four defendants, including two officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), for computer hacking, economic espionage and other criminal offenses in connection with a conspiracy, beginning in January 2014, to access Yahoo’s network and the contents of webmail accounts. The defendants are Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and resident; Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and resident; Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, aka “Magg,” 29, a Russian national and resident; and Karim Baratov, aka “Kay,” “Karim Taloverov” and “Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov,” 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada.

The defendants used unauthorized access to Yahoo’s systems to steal information from about at least 500 million Yahoo accounts and then used some of that stolen information to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies. One of the defendants also exploited his access to Yahoo’s network for his personal financial gain, by searching Yahoo user communications for credit card and gift card account numbers, redirecting a subset of Yahoo search engine web traffic so he could make commissions and enabling the theft of the contacts of at least 30 million Yahoo accounts to facilitate a spam campaign.

The charges were announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions of the U.S. Department of Justice, Director James Comey of the FBI, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord of the National Security Division, U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch for the Northern District of California and Executive Assistant Director Paul Abbate of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

“Cyber crime poses a significant threat to our nation’s security and prosperity, and this is one of the largest data breaches in history,” said Attorney General Sessions. “But thanks to the tireless efforts of U.S. prosecutors and investigators, as well as our Canadian partners, today we have identified four individuals, including two Russian FSB officers, responsible for unauthorized access to millions of users’ accounts. The United States will vigorously investigate and prosecute the people behind such attacks to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Today we continue to pierce the veil of anonymity surrounding cyber crimes,” said Director Comey. “We are shrinking the world to ensure that cyber criminals think twice before targeting U.S. persons and interests.”

“ The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cybercrime matters, is beyond the pale,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “Once again, the Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world can and will be exposed and held accountable. State actors may be using common criminals to access the data they want, but the indictment shows that our companies do not have to stand alone against this threat. We commend Yahoo and Google for their sustained and invaluable cooperation in the investigation aimed at obtaining justice for, and protecting the privacy of their users.”

 “This is a highly complicated investigation of a very complex threat. It underscores the value of early, proactive engagement and cooperation between the private sector and the government,” said Executive Assistant Director Abbate. “The FBI will continue to work relentlessly with our private sector and international partners to identify those who conduct cyber-attacks against our citizens and our nation, expose them and hold them accountable under the law, no matter where they attempt to hide.”

 “Silicon Valley’s computer infrastructure provides the means by which people around the world communicate with each other in their business and personal lives. The privacy and security of those communications must be governed by the rule of law, not by the whim of criminal hackers and those who employ them. People rightly expect that their communications through Silicon Valley internet providers will remain private, unless lawful authority provides otherwise. We will not tolerate unauthorized and illegal intrusions into the Silicon Valley computer infrastructure upon which both private citizens and the global economy rely,” said U.S. Attorney Stretch. “Working closely with Yahoo and Google, Department of Justice lawyers and the FBI were able to identify and expose the hackers responsible for the conduct described today, without unduly intruding into the privacy of the accounts that were stolen. We commend Yahoo and Google for providing exemplary cooperation while zealously protecting their users’ privacy.”

Summary of Allegations

According to the allegations of the Indictment:

The FSB officer defendants, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere. In the present case, they worked with co-defendants Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to obtain access to the email accounts of thousands of individuals.

Belan had been publicly indicted in September 2012 and June 2013 and was named one of FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted criminals in November 2013. An Interpol Red Notice seeking his immediate detention has been lodged (including with Russia) since July 26, 2013. Belan was arrested in a European country on a request from the U.S. in June 2013, but he was able to escape to Russia before he could be extradited.

Instead of acting on the U.S. government’s Red Notice and detaining Belan after his return, Dokuchaev and Sushchin subsequently used him to gain unauthorized access to Yahoo’s network. In or around November and December 2014, Belan stole a copy of at least a portion of Yahoo’s User Database (UDB), a Yahoo trade secret that contained, among other data, subscriber information including users’ names, recovery email accounts, phone numbers and certain information required to manually create, or “mint,” account authentication web browser “cookies” for more than 500 million Yahoo accounts.

Belan also obtained unauthorized access on behalf of the FSB conspirators to Yahoo’s Account Management Tool (AMT), which was a proprietary means by which Yahoo made and logged changes to user accounts. Belan, Dokuchaev and Sushchin then used the stolen UDB copy and AMT access to locate Yahoo email accounts of interest and to mint cookies for those accounts, enabling the co-conspirators to access at least 6,500 such accounts without authorization.

Some victim accounts were of predictable interest to the FSB, a foreign intelligence and law enforcement service, such as personal accounts belonging to Russian journalists; Russian and U.S. government officials; employees of a prominent Russian cybersecurity company; and numerous employees of other providers whose networks the conspirators sought to exploit. However, other personal accounts belonged to employees of commercial entities, such as a Russian investment banking firm, a French transportation company, U.S. financial services and private equity firms, a Swiss bitcoin wallet and banking firm and a U.S. airline.

During the conspiracy, the FSB officers facilitated Belan’s other criminal activities, by providing him with sensitive FSB law enforcement and intelligence information that would have helped him avoid detection by U.S. and other law enforcement agencies outside Russia, including information regarding FSB investigations of computer hacking and FSB techniques for identifying criminal hackers. Additionally, while working with his FSB conspirators to compromise Yahoo’s network and its users, Belan used his access to steal financial information such as gift card and credit card numbers from webmail accounts; to gain access to more than 30 million accounts whose contacts were then stolen to facilitate a spam campaign; and to earn commissions from fraudulently redirecting a subset of Yahoo’s search engine traffic.

When Dokuchaev and Sushchin learned that a target of interest had accounts at webmail providers other than Yahoo, including through information obtained as part of the Yahoo intrusion, they tasked their co-conspirator, Baratov, a resident of Canada, with obtaining unauthorized access to more than 80 accounts in exchange for commissions. On March 7, the Department of Justice submitted a provisional arrest warrant to Canadian law enforcement authorities, requesting Baratov’s arrest. On March 14, Baratov was arrested in Canada and the matter is now pending with the Canadian authorities.

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

The FBI, led by the San Francisco Field Office, conducted the investigation that resulted in the charges announced today. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, with support from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

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

Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, was an officer in the FSB Center for Information Security, aka “Center 18.” Dokuchaev was a Russian national and resident.
Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, was an FSB officer, a superior to Dokuchaev within the FSB, and a Russian national and resident. Sushchin was embedded as a purported employee and Head of Information Security at a Russian investment bank.

Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, aka “Magg,” 29, was born in Latvia and is a Russian national and resident. U.S. Federal grand juries have indicted Belan twice before, in 2012 and 2013, for computer fraud and abuse, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft involving three U.S.-based e-commerce companies and the FBI placed Belan on its “Cyber Most Wanted” list.  Belan is currently the subject of a pending “Red Notice” requesting that Interpol member nations (including Russia) arrest him pending extradition. Belan was also one of two criminal hackers named by President Barack Obama on Dec. 29, 2016, pursuant to Executive Order 13694, as a Specially Designated National subject to sanctions.

Karim Baratov, aka “Kay,” “Karim Taloverov” and “Karim Akehmet Tokbergenov,” 22. He is a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada.

Victims: Yahoo; more than 500 million Yahoo accounts for which account information about was stolen by the defendants; more than 30 million Yahoo accounts for which account contents were accessed without authorization to facilitate a spam campaign; and at least 18 additional users at other webmail providers whose accounts were accessed without authorization.

Time Period: As alleged in the Indictment, the conspiracy began at least as early as 2014 and, even though the conspirators lost their access to Yahoo’s networks in September 2016, they continued to utilize information stolen from the intrusion up to and including at least December 2016.

On This Day In History Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Opens

As notes, on this day in 1972 The Godfather film was released in in theaters.

Francis Ford Coppola’s film was adapted from the best-selling novel by Mario Puzo.

You can read about the film via the below link:

U.S. Navy Admiral And Eight Other Officers Indicted For Trading Classified Information In Massive International Fraud And Bribery Scheme

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

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless and eight other high-ranking Navy officers are charged in a federal indictment with accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and services of prostitutes from foreign defense contractor Leonard Francis, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), in exchange for classified and internal U.S. Navy information.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson of the Southern District of California, Director Dermot F. O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) made the announcement.

Including today’s defendants, a total of 25 named individuals have been charged in connection with the corruption and fraud investigation into GDMA, a defense-contracting firm based in Singapore. Of those charged, 20 are current or former U.S. Navy officials and five are GDMA executives. To date, 13 have pleaded guilty while several other cases are pending.

“The defendants in this indictment were entrusted with the honor and responsibility of administering the operations of the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which is tasked with protecting our nation by guarding an area of responsibility that spanned from Russia to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “With this honor and awesome responsibility came a duty to make decisions based on the best interests of the Navy and the 40,000 Sailors and Marines under their care who put their lives at risk every day to keep us secure and free. Unfortunately, however, these defendants are alleged to have sold their honor and responsibility in exchange for personal enrichment.”

“This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, and it was allegedly carried out by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Robinson. “The alleged conduct amounts to a staggering degree of corruption by the most prominent leaders of the Seventh Fleet – the largest fleet in the U.S. Navy - actively worked together as a team to trade secrets for sex, serving the interests of a greedy foreign defense contractor, and not those of their own country.”

“The allegations contained in today’s indictment expose flagrant corruption among several senior officers previously assigned to the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet. The charges and subsequent arrests are yet another unfortunate example of those who place their own greed above their responsibility to serve this nation with honor‎,” said Director O’Reilly. “This investigation should serve as a warning sign to those who attempt to compromise the integrity of the Department of Defense that DCIS and our law enforcement partners will continue to pursue these matters relentlessly.”

“Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in concert with our partner agencies, remains resolved to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and to help hold accountable those who make personal gain a higher priority than professional responsibility,” Director Traver. “It's unconscionable that some individuals choose to enrich themselves at the expense of military security.”

Nine defendants were arrested today on various charges including bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators when confronted about their actions. Four of the defendants are retired captains: (1) David Newland, 60, of San Antonio, Texas, (2) James Dolan, 58, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, (3) David Lausman, 62, of The Villages, Florida, and (4) Donald Hornbeck, 56, a resident of the United Kingdom. The other defendants arrested today included: (5) Colonel Enrico Deguzman, 48, of Honolulu, Hawaii, (6) retired Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch, 48, of Virginia Beach, Virginia (7) retired Rear Admiral Bruce Lovelace, 48, of San Diego, California, (8) active duty Lieutenant Commander Stephen Shedd, 48, of Colorado Springs, Colorado and (9) active duty Commander Mario Herrera, 48, of Helotes, Texas.

The defendants were arrested early this morning in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Colorado and Virginia. The United States will seek to move all of these cases to federal court in San Diego, California. Admiral Loveless was taken into custody at his home in Coronado and was expected to make his first appearance in federal court this afternoon.

According to the indictment, the Navy officers allegedly participated in a bribery scheme with Leonard Francis, in which the officers accepted travel and entertainment expenses, the services of prostitutes and lavish gifts in exchange for helping to steep lucrative contracts to Francis and GDMA and to sabotage competing defense contractors. The defendants allegedly violated many of their sworn official naval duties, including duties related to the handling of classified information and duties related to the identification and reporting of foreign intelligence threats. According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly worked in concert to recruit new members for the conspiracy, and to keep the conspiracy secret by using fake names and foreign email service providers. According to the indictment, the bribery scheme allegedly cost the Navy – and U.S. taxpayers – tens of millions of dollars.

In addition to the nine defendants charged today, the 11 Navy officials charged so far in the fraud and bribery investigation are: (1) Admiral Robert Gilbeau, (2) retired Captain Michael Brooks, (3) Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, (4) Captain Daniel Dusek, (5) former Department of Defense civilian employee Paul Simpkins, (6) Commander Michael Misiewicz, (7) Lieutenant Commander Gentry Debord, (8) Lieutenant Commander Todd Malaki, (9) Petty Officer First Class Daniel Layug, (10) Naval Criminal Investigative Service Supervisory Special Agent John Beliveau and (11) Commander Bobby Pitts.

Gilbeau, Brooks, Sanchez, Dusek, Simpkins, Misiewicz, Debord, Malaki, Layug and Beliveau have pleaded guilty. Gilbeau, Brooks, and Sanchez await sentencing. On March 25, 2016, Dusek was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay a $70,000 fine and $30,000 in restitution to the Navy. On Dec. 2, 2016, Simpkins was sentenced to 72 months in prison. On April 29, 2016, Misiewicz was sentenced to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and $95,000 in restitution to the Navy. On Jan. 12, 2017, Debord was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and $37,000 in restitution to the Navy. On Jan. 29, 2016, Malaki was sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and $15,000 in restitution to the Navy. On Jan. 21, 2016, Layug was sentenced to 27 months in prison and a $15,000 fine. On Oct. 14, 2016, Beliveau was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $20 million in restitution to the Navy. Pitts was charged in May 2016 and his case is pending.

Additionally, to date, five GDMA executives have been charged: (1) Alex Wisidagama, (2) Francis, (3) Edmund Aruffo, (4) Neil Peterson and (5) Linda Raja. Three have pleaded guilty: Wisidagama, Francis and Aruffo. On March 18, 2016, Wisidagama was sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay $34.8 million in restitution to the Navy. Francis and Aruffo await sentencing. Peterson and Raja were extradited to the United States from Singapore in September 2016 and their cases remain pending.

The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

DCIS, NCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency are investigating the case. Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information relating to fraud or corruption should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at or the DOD Hotline at or call (800) 424-9098.