Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Secret World: A History Of Intelligence

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Christopher Andrew's The Secret World: A History of Intelligence. 

At hand is a truly magisterial work, a sweeping history that stretches from the biblical era to the present. Christopher Andrew is the leading academic intelligence historian of our time. A professor at the University of Cambridge, he has written a veritable shelf of books on intelligence.

“The Secret World” is a must-read for any person with a serious interest in intelligence. But be forewarned. The more than 800 pages of text require more than a casual scan, but are well worth the investment of serious time.

His evidence, buttressed in 111 pages of documentation sources, is rich with anecdotes and opinions of world leaders who relied on — or ignored — intelligence as a tool of office.

Despite his overall admiration of the intel trade, Mr. Andrew is coldly objective about instances where matters were flubbed. Consider, for instance, Israeli spies who scouted Canaan as the Promised Land centuries ago. The Canaanites, they claimed, “included giants who made them feel no bigger than grasshoppers.” He also notes that some glitches are timeless, citing a biblical operation where spies ended up in a brothel, thus melding “the two oldest professions.”

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Charles Manson At The Whisky: The Bizarre Night When Manson Partied With Hollywood Royalty offers an interesting excerpt from Jeff Guinn’s outstanding biography, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson.

The excerpt deals with the time in 1968 when Charles Manson partied with the Beach Boys' drummer and other music industry celebrities at the Whisky on Sunset Boulevard, known as "the Strip,' in Los Angeles.  

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of Jeff Guinn's Manson via the below link:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Frederick Forsyth: The Strange Case Of the Russian Spies

Frederick Forsyth, author of the classic thriller The Day of the Jackal and the memoir The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue, in his column in the British newspaper the Express offers his take on the suspected GRU agents who allegedly attempted to murder a former Russian GRU officer in London

We all believe in giving credit where it is due and there are two officers in the London Met who deserve a lot of it. It seems this duo have a very special talent: the capacity to recognize a face if they have ever seen it once before. 

Novichok suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov have admitted that they were in Salisbury because their friends had been telling them for a long time to go and visit the 'wonderful town'.

Since the Moscow-directed attacks with novichok nerve agent in Salisbury these four eyes have been scanning thousands of hours of CCTV tapes going back months. Mostly they concentrated on the weeks before the attacks and the days immediately after. And finally they got ’em. 

I mean of course the two GRU agents whose faces and passport details have been exposed far and wide, along with the details of their journeys from Moscow to Salisbury and back.

Frederick Forsyth in his column also weighs in on one aspect of Bob Woodward’s new book on President Trump.

One suspects we have all noticed the news from Washington about the devastating book, Fear, by ace investigative journo Bob Woodward – he of Watergate fame – about what he calls the Crazytown in the White House. One of his revelations is that Donald Trump allegedly called for the targeted “termination” of Syrian tyrant Bashar al Assad. This is held up as a terrible thing to suggest.

Just hold the phone a second. The US does actually have a “kill list” of names of those who may be “whacked” without arrest or trial. These terminations are usually of terrorist chiefs in isolated buildings by a drone overhead and make a short paragraph on the inside pages of our papers. But occasionally the US gets up close and personal.

Osama bin Laden received the attention of a team of US Navy Seals in the bedroom of his villa deep inside Pakistan which just happens to be a sovereign state. And for the record, Assad with his chemical bomb attacks on women and children has killed more innocent humans than Osama bin Laden. So..?

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Frederick Forsyth via the below link:

Saturday, September 15, 2018

A Look Back At Samuel Fuller's Classic Crime Film. 'Underworld USA'

Lee Pfeiffer at offers a review of a crime film I loved as a kid, Samuel Fuller’s Underworld USA. The crime classic is now out on DVD.
Samuel Fuller (seen in the below photo) is today regarded as a revered name among directors. Unlike his peers- John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Howard Hawks, to name but a few- Fuller didn't get much respect when he needed it, at least from critics and studio heads who regarded his talents as workmanlike. 

Consequently, this talented director, screenwriter and occasional novelist and actor, toiled under meager budgets and scant support from studio executives. Fuller was typical of directors of his generation who had come of age during the Great Depression and World War II. 
He had a tough guy persona and had learned to survive on the mean streets of Manhattan where he worked as a crime reporter in the 1930s. Fuller could have landed a cushy job in the military during the war but eschewed the opportunity in favor of volunteering for combat duty in the European campaign. His scripts were tightly-written, no-nonsense affairs and his direction was direct and to-the-point. 

Fuller cut a larger-than-life figure with an out-sized personality and his penchant for indulging in cigars that were so large they looked as though they were inspired by cartoons. Despite the budgetary limitations on his films and the fact that he never enjoyed a career-defining breakaway hit, Fuller's movies have stood the test of time and before he died in 1997, he had witnessed his work being favorably reassessed by a new generation of directors and critics.
"Underworld U.S.A." is one of Fuller's true gems. A 1961 film noir crime story, the movie gave an early career boost to Cliff Robertson but its significance goes much deeper. Although viewed as a typical low budget crime thriller back in the day, the movie is a a true classic of the genre.
The film opens with 14 year-old Tolly Davlin (David Kent), a street-wise product of a crime-infested unnamed big city, witnessing the beating death of the father he idolized by a pack of enforcers from a mob syndicate that he had crossed. Tolly's dad, himself a low-life who was teaching his son how to survive in the urban jungle by being more cunning and ruthless than the competition. Tolly, now orphaned, finds the only friend he has is Sandy (Beatrice Kay), a tough-as-nails saloon owner who takes a maternal interest in Tolly, though he rarely heeds her advice. Tolly is consumed with avenging his father's death. He arranges intentionally builds up a criminal record leading to him being criminal record leading to him being incarcerated in a juvenile detention center- but all the while he is painstakingly following leads about who his father's murderers were and who employed them. 
The story jumps ahead and we find Tolly now a young man in his late twenties (played by Robertson) having been incarcerated in a prison that houses one of the killers, a man who is literally on his death bed in the hospital ward. That doesn't stop Tolly from smothering him with a pillow and making it look like natural causes. When Tolly is released from jail, he reunites with Sandy and has a chance encounter with  a sexy gun moll who is nicknamed Cuddles (Dolores Dorn) who has been marked for death for having failed to carry out a mission for the mob. Tolly saves her life and secretes her in Sandy's apartment while he begins his pursuit of two other men who killed his father that fateful night. Having succeeded in getting his street justice, he goes for bigger game: the syndicate bosses.
You can read the rest of the review via the below link:
Note: I’d also recommend Samuel Fuller’s other great films, such as House of Bamboo, Merrill's Marauders, and The Big Red One 

Shaken: Drinking With James Bond And Ian Fleming

The website looks at Shaken, the new book on Ian Fleming’s iconic character James Bond and his drinking pleasures.

Shaken explores James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s writings on the pleasures of drinking, the stories behind the Bond phenomenon and drinks inspired by 007 and his creator.

From the first Ian Fleming James Bond novel Casino Royale (1953) in which agent 007 invents the now famous Vesper Martini, to the immortal lines, ‘shaken and not stirred’, which first appeared in print in Diamonds Are Forever (1956) strong, carefully crafted cocktails are at the glamorous heart of every Bond story. Shaken explores James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s writings on the pleasures of drinking, the stories behind the Bond phenomenon and drinks inspired by 007 and his creator.

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

You can also go to to read about the book. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Corrupt Retired Master Chief Pleads Guilty In ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy Scandal

Geoff Ziezulewicz at the Navy Times offers a piece on the latest case in the U.S. Navy’s ‘Fat Leonard’s bribery and fraud scandal.
A retired master chief pleaded guilty in San Diego last week to taking kickbacks and became the latest casualty in the Navy’s ongoing “Fat Leonard” public corruption scandal. 
Ricarte I. David, 61, copped to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud on Sept. 5, less than a month after prosecutors unveiled a grand jury indictment against him, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
As part of his plea deal, David confessed to receiving luxury hotel stays and envelopes stuffed with cash from the ship servicing contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its portly Malaysian magnate, Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, between 2005 and 2009.
In exchange, David signed off on inflated invoices for water, trash and other port services for vessels in the Japan-based 7th Fleet.
David held key logistics positions in the west Pacific between 2001 and 2010, including stints on the amphibious warship Essex and the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk and George Washington.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Fat Leonard scandal via the below link:

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Former New England Mob Boss 'Cadillac Frank' Salemme Sentenced To Life In Prison reports that the former New England Cosa Nostra crime family boss, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme (seen in the above FBI mugshot), has been sentenced to life in prison.

BOSTON –  Former New England Mafia boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme was unrepentant Thursday as he was sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 killing of a nightclub owner, declaring that the "real story" will come out one day.

Salemme, the 85-year-old onetime head of the New England family of La Cosa Nostra, looked down at the table in front of him and read a document while the children of the man he's convicted of killing described the pain of losing their father and not knowing his whereabouts for more than two decades.

"While there is closure in this case, for me the healing is just beginning," Steven DiSarro's daughter, Colby, told the court. "This is not a movie. This is and has been our life: the story of a family who was robbed of the love and affection of their father."

Salemme and his co-defendant, Paul Weadick, were found guilty in June in the slaying of DiSarro, whose remains were discovered in 2016. Weadick also received a mandatory life sentence on Thursday.

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

Secretive Russian GRU Tests Trump With Brazen Tactics

Morgan Chalfant at The Hill offers a piece on the Russian GRU.
 Russia’s secretive military intelligence agency, the GRU, is testing the limits of Western countries with its aggressive tactics and bold operations, prompting action from the Trump administration and some European allies as they seek to counter its behavior.
The Trump administration has sanctioned several GRU officers for launching cyberattacks and has expelled dozens of suspected Russian intelligence officers operating in the U.S. in response to the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in England this year. The Effort to thwart the GRU is part of a broader push by the U.S. government to take a firm stance against Russian aggression, one that has at times been overshadowed by President Trump's contradictory statements about Russian interference in the 2016 election and his overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
The operations of the shadowy military intelligence directorate, the modern version of which was founded in the early 1990s, exceed traditional espionage and span a spectrum of aggressive activity. The GRU conducted one of its most brazen operations in 2016 by breaching servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and, according to U.S. intelligence officials and prosecutors, orchestrated the release of hacked emails as part of a broader, coordinated plot by Moscow to interfere in the presidential election.  
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Vice President, DoD Leaders Honor Pentagon’s 9/11 Sacrifices

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

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2018 — The terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, sought not just to take the lives of U.S. citizens and crumble buildings; they hoped to break America’s spirit, Vice President Mike Pence said at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial observance here today. They failed, he said. 

“The American people showed on that day and every day since, we will not be intimidated,” the vice president said. “Our spirit cannot be broken.”

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva hosted Pence for the annual remembrance for families and friends of those who fell at the Pentagon. 

Seventeen years ago, terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. One hundred eighty-nine people perished -- 125 service members and civilians working in the building, and 59 men and women and children aboard the flight.

The losses at the Pentagon, combined with those at New York City’s World Trade Center and in a field crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, totaled 2,977 men, women and children.

A Special Burden

“To the families of the fallen gathered here and all those looking on, the cherished final moments you shared with your loved ones no doubt seem like just yesterday: a goodbye kiss, a tender embrace, or one last wave,” Pence said.

“Just know that your nation understands that, while we all suffered loss that day, we know you bear a special burden,” he added. “But we gather here in the shadow of the building where your loved ones departed this life to say that you do not bear that burden alone. The American people stand with you and we always will.”

The vice president said that even before the smoke cleared and the fires were put out, Americans began to answer the call and step forward to serve the nation. 

“It's amazing to think in the 17 years since that day, nearly 5.5 million Americans volunteered to serve in the armed forces of the United States,” he added. “Those courageous men and women turned a day of tragedy into a triumph of freedom.” 

Hatred Will Not Prevail

Mattis told the families and friends of victims that, “[In] the shadow of our rebuilt Pentagon, we are all part of your larger family. We stand with you every day in honored tribute of the fallen, of your loved ones.”

In that spirit, the secretary added, “this morning we commit ourselves to remembering and honoring the lives that might have been. We keep faith with the innocent who perished. We take solace in their deaths were not in vain, for in their passing they empowered us forever with our enduring sense of purpose. And we remember that hatred disguised in false religious garb to murder innocents will not prevail.”

We remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who fell here in America, and then on far-flung battlefields, he said.

“We salute the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines who nailed our colors to the mast, giving their last full measure of devotion, declaring proudly that Americans do not scare,” Mattis said. 

Strength and Resilience

Together with the families of the fallen, we remember all that is good, true, and beautiful about those we have lost, “And if we remember them, if we honor them by living as they would have us live, if we in the Department of Defense do our best every day to protect America's promise to the world, then we keep our promise to them and to ourselves and to future generations,” the secretary said.

Selva told the audience today’s ceremonies across the country, “inspire us to reflect not only on the nation's strength and resolve after those brutal attacks, but also on the strength and resilience of individual people who continue to carry on, even to thrive, in spite of the pain of losing a loved one.”

The vice chairman said all should take comfort in knowing that those who died imparted a legacy of selfless service, courage and patriotism, and a belief in the high ideals, all of which continue to inspire a new generation of grateful Americans who have answered the call to serve. 

“So today, let us reaffirm the commitment that as long as we have breath to breathe, our military members will defend this nation,” the vice chairman said. “We will ensure that future generations of America are able to enjoy the same freedoms and liberties that we inherited.”

My Counterterrorism Magazine Piece On The 9/11 Attack On The Pentagon

Remembering the horrendous 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the attack of the Pentagon via the below link:

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At A New York Cop's 9/11 After Action Report

 Below is my Crime Beat column on 9/11, which originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine:  

I covered the Police-Security Expo in Atlantic City in June and heard Joseph Dunne, the former New York deputy police commissioner during 9/11, speak to the attendees. 

Sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police, the theme of the expo was to prepare to act and respond to terrorism. Previous to 9/11, counterterrorism was largely a federal responsibility, but now police officers have become front line soldiers.

I sat in on a seminar conducted by Joseph Dunne, who retired as New York's deputy police commissioner. He gave what we used to call in the military a commander’s "after-action report" on the 9/11 attack. 

Dunne played tapes of some of the 911 emergency calls, one of which had the voice of a young woman on the 110th floor pleading with the operator to tell her what she should do. The woman paused and told the operator that she was pregnant. The audience was a tough group of cops and security people, but most of them were touched by the woman’s frantic call for help.

While standing near the towers, Dunne said he thought debris was falling around him, but he discovered that it was people. This, he said, left an indelible image in his mind.

"Consider the state of mind of the people who elected to jump and end their lives," Dunne said. "What awful choices these poor people had."

Dunne said that the Port Authority and NYPD quickly closed tunnels and bridges and kept the lines open for rescue personnel. This quick action saved countless lives, he said.

Dunne recalled hearing a plane overhead and tensed up, "Don’t worry," someone told him. "It’s one of ours." Before 9/11, a conversation like that took place only on a foreign battlefield.

"The people in the buildings were innocent victims and rescue officers voluntarily rushed in," Dunne said, proud of his officers.

Dunne spoke of one officer who was filling out his retirement papers when the call came in. He left the retirement papers on his desk and rushed out to help. Like 22 other NYPD officers, he lost his life that day.

Dunne rolled out some gruesome stats: 19,000 body parts were signed into the morgue and they collected 12,622 DNA samples.

"No one signs on to policing to deal with the collection of bodies and body parts," Dunne said sadly.

By Dunne’s account, 25,000 lives were saved thanks to the NYPD’s rapid and skilled response.

"As memories of September 11th fade, we have to remain resolved," Dunne advised. "It’s going to happen again."

9/11 was perhaps America’s worst disaster, but the acts of heroism and humanity that followed the attack lead me to believe that we have the resolve to win the war on terrorism.

Note: The above photo shows the Statute of Liberty and beyond it the World Trade Center on fire on 9/11. The photo beneath is of Joseph Dunne.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

My Washington Times Review Of 'Inspector Oldfield And The Black Hand Society: America's Original Gangsters And The U.S. Postal Detective That Brought Them To Justice'

The Washington Times published my review of Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the Postal Detective That Brought Them to Justice.

 “On the night of April 18, 1908, in the railroad town Bellefontaine, Ohio, eighteen-year-old Charles Demar walked into the fruit shop he owned with his uncle, Salvatore Cira, and put a bullet into his uncle’s head,” opens the story of a Post Office inspector who investigated Black Hand criminals — with a suitable bang.

When the police arrived, the victim appeared not to speak English, which was not uncommon among the roughly six million Italian immigrants across the United States at the time. Although the Italians were preyed upon by the violent extortionists who called themselves “La Mano Nera,” the Black Hand, the victims also feared and mistrusted the police.

The Bellefontaine police were glad to find two letters written in Italian in the victim’s pocket, as they could now hand off the murder case to the local Post Office Inspector, who had jurisdiction due to the letters.

The police brought the letters to the U.S. Post Office in Columbus and handed them to Inspector Frank Oldfield, a diminutive man in a well-fitting suit, who was chomping on a cigar.

Oldfield pushed some papers and files aside and opened the letters. He made a quick visual scan of the documents with his magnifying glass. A satisfied smile appeared on his face.”

So begins “Inspector Oldfield and the Black Hand Society: America’s Original Gangsters and the U.S. Postal Detective That Brought Them to Justice.” The book was written by William Oldfield, the great-grandson of the late Post Office inspector, and journalist Victoria Bruce.

Mr. Oldfield discovered a trunk of his great-grandfather’s, which offered documents, letters and photos about his major Black Hand case. Victoria Bruce mined modern digital tools and came up with additional information about the case and the time.

The authors tell us that since arriving in Columbus in 1901, 40-year-old Inspector Frank Oldfield had become one of the most aggressive and successful Post Office inspectors in the service, According to the authors, “he’d run down safecrackers, exposed a corruption ring between a U.S. Congressman and a New York City assistant district attorney, and busted crooks on the railroads for robbing the mail.”

But there was nothing Oldfield wanted more than to “run to earth” what he believed was an international organized crime ring spanning America all the way to Palermo, Sicily: Truly bad guys whose members called themselves The Black Hand Society.’

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

Friday, September 7, 2018

North Korean Regime-Backed Programmer Charged With Conspiracy To Conduct Multiple Cyber Attacks And Intrusions

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
A criminal complaint was unsealed today charging Park Jin Hyok (박진혁; a/k/a Jin Hyok Park and Pak Jin Hek), a North Korean citizen, for his involvement in a conspiracy to conduct multiple destructive cyberattacks around the world resulting in damage to massive amounts of computer hardware, and the extensive loss of data, money and other resources (the “Conspiracy”). 
The complaint alleges that Park was a member of a government-sponsored hacking team known to the private sector as the “Lazarus Group,” and worked for a North Korean government front company, Chosun Expo Joint Venture (a/k/a Korea Expo Joint Venture or “KEJV”), to support the DPRK government’s malicious cyber actions. 
The Conspiracy’s malicious activities include the creation of the malware used in the 2017 WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware attack; the 2016 theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank; the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE); and numerous other attacks or intrusions on the entertainment, financial services, defense, technology, and virtual currency industries, academia, and electric utilities. 
The charges were announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, First Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California Tracy Wilkison and Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
In addition to these criminal charges, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced today that the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Park and KEJV under Executive Order 13722 based on the malicious cyber and cyber-enabled activity outlined in the criminal complaint.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates the FBI’s unceasing commitment to unmasking and stopping the malicious actors and countries behind the world’s cyberattacks,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.  “We stand with our partners to name the North Korean government as the force behind this destructive global cyber campaign.  This group’s actions are particularly egregious as they targeted public and private industries worldwide – stealing millions of dollars, threatening to suppress free speech, and crippling hospital systems.  We’ll continue to identify and illuminate those responsible for malicious cyberattacks and intrusions, no matter who or where they are.”
 “The scale and scope of the cyber-crimes alleged by the Complaint is staggering and offensive to all who respect the rule of law and the cyber norms accepted by responsible nations,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “The Complaint alleges that the North Korean government, through a state-sponsored group, robbed a central bank and citizens of other nations, retaliated against free speech in order to chill it half a world away, and created disruptive malware that indiscriminately affected victims in more than 150 other countries, causing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars’ worth of damage.  The investigation, prosecution, and other disruption of malicious state-sponsored cyber activity remains among the highest priorities of the National Security Division and I thank the FBI agents, DOJ prosecutors, and international partners who have put years of effort into this investigation.”
“The complaint charges members of this North Korean-based conspiracy with being responsible for cyberattacks that caused unprecedented economic damage and disruption to businesses in the United States and around the globe,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison. “The scope of this scheme was exposed through the diligent efforts of FBI agents and federal prosecutors who were able to unmask these sophisticated crimes through sophisticated means. They traced the attacks back to the source and mapped their commonalities, including similarities among the various programs used to infect networks across the globe. These charges send a message that we will track down malicious actors no matter how or where they hide. We will continue to pursue justice for those responsible for the huge monetary losses and attempting to compromise the national security of the United States.”
“We will not allow North Korea to undermine global cybersecurity to advance its interests and generate illicit revenues in violation of our sanctions,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  “The United States is committed to holding the regime accountable for its cyber-attacks and other crimes and destabilizing activities.”
Park is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 
About the Defendant Park and Chosun Expo Joint Venture
According to the allegations contained in the criminal complaint, which was filed on June 8, 2018 in Los Angeles federal court, and posted today:  Park Jin Hyok, was a computer programmer who worked for over a decade for Chosun Expo Joint Venture (a/k/a Korea Expo Joint Venture or “KEJV”).  Chosun Expo Joint Venture had offices in China and the DPRK, and is affiliated with Lab 110, a component of DPRK military intelligence.  In addition to the programming done by Park and his group for paying clients around the world, the Conspiracy also engaged in malicious cyber activities.  Security researchers that have independently investigated these activities referred to this hacking team as the “Lazarus Group.”  The Conspiracy’s methods included spear-phishing campaigns, destructive malware attacks, exfiltration of data, theft of funds from bank accounts, ransomware extortion, and propagating “worm” viruses to create botnets.
The Conspiracy’s Cyber Attacks, Heists, and Intrusions
The complaint describes a broad array of the Conspiracy’s alleged malicious cyber activities, both successful and unsuccessful, and in the United States and abroad, with a particular focus on four specific examples. 
Targeting the Entertainment Industry
In November 2014, the conspirators launched a destructive attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) in retaliation for the movie “The Interview,” a farcical comedy that depicted the assassination of the DPRK’s leader.  The conspirators gained access to SPE’s network by sending malware to SPE employees, and then stole confidential data, threatened SPE executives and employees, and damaged thousands of computers.  Around the same time, the group sent spear-phishing messages to other victims in the entertainment industry, including a movie theater chain and a U.K. company that was producing a fictional series involving a British nuclear scientist taken prisoner in DPRK.
Targeting Financial Services
In February 2016, the Conspiracy stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank.  As part of the cyber-heist, the Conspiracy accessed the bank’s computer terminals that interfaced with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) communication system after compromising the bank’s computer network with spear-phishing emails, then sent fraudulently authenticated SWIFT messages directing the Federal Reserve Bank of NY to transfer funds from Bangladesh to accounts in other Asian countries.  The Conspiracy attempted to and did gain access to several other banks in various countries from 2015 through 2018 using similar methods and “watering hole attacks,” attempting the theft of at least $1 billion through such operations.
Targeting of U.S. Defense Contractors
In 2016 and 2017, the Conspiracy targeted a number of U.S. defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, with spear-phishing emails. These malicious emails used some of the same aliases and accounts seen in the SPE attack, at times accessed from North Korean IP addresses, and contained malware with the same distinct data table found in the malware used against SPE and certain banks, the complaint alleges. The spear-phishing emails sent to the defense contractors were often sent from email accounts that purported to be from recruiters at competing defense contractors, and some of the malicious messages made reference to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system deployed in South Korea. The attempts to infiltrate the computer systems of Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the THAAD missile system, were not successful.
Creation of Wannacry 2.0
In May 2017, a ransomware attack known as WannaCry 2.0 infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world, causing extensive damage, including significantly impacting the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.  The Conspiracy is connected to the development of WannaCry 2.0, as well as two prior versions of the ransomware, through similarities in form and function to other malware developed by the hackers, and by spreading versions of the ransomware through the same infrastructure used in other cyber-attacks.
Park and his co-conspirators were linked to these attacks, intrusions, and other malicious cyber-enabled activities through a thorough investigation that identified and traced: email and social media accounts that connect to each other and were used to send spear-phishing messages; aliases, malware “collector accounts” used to store stolen credentials; common malware code libraries; proxy services used to mask locations; and North Korean, Chinese, and other IP addresses.  Some of this malicious infrastructure was used across multiple instances of the malicious activities described herein.  Taken together, these connections and signatures—revealed in charts attached to the criminal complaint—show that the attacks and intrusions were perpetrated by the same actors.  
Accompanying Mitigation Efforts
Throughout the course of the investigation, the FBI and the Department provided specific information to victims about how they had been targeted or compromised, as well as information about the tactics and techniques used by the conspiracy with the goals of remediating any intrusion and preventing future intrusions.  That direct sharing of information took place in the United States and in foreign countries, often with the assistance of foreign law enforcement partners. The FBI also has collaborated with certain private cybersecurity companies by sharing and analyzing information about the intrusion patterns used by the members of the conspiracy.
In connection with the unsealing of the criminal complaint, the FBI and prosecutors provided cybersecurity providers and other private sector partners detailed information on accounts used by the Conspiracy in order to assist these partners in their own independent investigative activities and disruption efforts.
The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendant will be determined by the assigned judge.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephanie S. Christensen, Anthony J. Lewis, and Anil J. Antony of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, and DOJ Trial Attorneys David Aaron and Scott Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance throughout this investigation, as did many of the FBI’s Legal Attachés, and foreign authorities around the world.
The charges contained in the criminal complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Burt Reynolds, Movie Star Who Played It for Grins, Dies at 82

Actor Burt Reynolds has died. He was 82.  

He showed he could be a true and good actor in Deliverance, but he often preferred to make “good ole boys” comedy-actions films. I didn’t care much for these films, but they were hugely popular. 

I liked Burt Reynolds in TV’s Gunsmoke and later in Deliverance, and I liked him in Shamus, Stick, Sharkey’s Machine and several other crime films and a few westerns.

You can read about his life and work in his memoir But Enough About Me. 

And you can read about Burt Reynolds in a Hollywood Reporter piece via the below link:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Inside The Aquarium: The Sinister Kremlin Organization That Burns Traitors In A Furnace - How The GRU Has Its Own 25,000 Strong Special Forces Army, Helped Bring Down MH17 And Is Secretly On The Ground In Ukraine And Syria

Michael Burleigh at the Daily Mail offers a piece on the history and current activities of the Russian military intelligence organization the GRU.  

The GRU may have been founded during the Russian Civil War a century ago, but today it has found favour with Vladimir Putin as the perfect organization to carry out his 21st century military tactics.

As we have seen in Ukraine, the US and in Salisbury, Russia is turning away from conventional displays of force and towards what has been dubbed ‘non-linear warfare’.

This uses a combination of covert special-forces operations, spying, cyber attacks and internet trolls to destabilize enemy nations. Because Russia always stops short of outright aggression, the West has struggled to come up with an effective response to this provocation.

 It started as an intelligence-gathering agency for Trotsky’s Bolshevik Red Army, and Lenin insisted it remain separate from the other intelligence organization.

Today it still sits apart from the SVR, the external spying service, and the domestic FSB (the equivalents of Britain’s MI6 and MI5), which were created when the notorious KGB was split in 1991.

As a subordinate branch of Russia’s armed forces rather than a self-contained agency, the GRU answers to Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu and to Valeri Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff.

It is based in a headquarters nicknamed The Aquarium on an airbase near Moscow and is very large, deploying six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR. These are typically embedded in Russian embassies as military attaches and work on recruiting foreign double agents as well as monitoring military installations and new weapons systems.

It has its own special forces, known as Spetsnaz. The GRU in 1997 was believed to have 25,000 Spetsnaz special forces soldiers, such as these operating in Dagestan in September 1999 hunting for Islamic militants 

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

Note: If you want to learn more about the GRU, I suggest you read Viktor Suvorov's book Inside the Aquarium: The Making of a Top Soviet Spy. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Happy 79th Birthday To George Lazenby, The Actor Who Portrayed James Bond In 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'

Happy 79th birthday to George Lazenby, the actor who portrayed James Bond in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service is one my favorite James Bond films. Although not a traditional Christmas film, I watch the film every Christmas season, as the film takes place in Switzerland during Christmas.

Considering that George Lazenby had not acted before, I thought he gave a fine performance. He looked like Ian Fleming's Bond and he did the fight and action scenes very well.  

On Her Majesty's Secret Service  was directed by Peter Hunt, the great editor of the previous Bond films. Hunt was faithful to Fleming's novel and made one of the best Bond films, in my view.

The film also offered Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the beautiful Diana Rigg as Tracy, Bond's tragic lover. 

Although I would have preferred a European actor to portray the mad, evil criminal genius, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Telly Salvalas was very good in the role. Salvalas had a great sense of command and madness and I believe he was the best Blofeld in the film series. 

The beautiful and alluring Diana Rigg was also very good as Bond's doomed girlfriend, and briefly, his wife.

Lastly, John Barry's musical soundtrack is truly outstanding.

It is a pity that George Lazenby did not continue in the series, as I believe he would have grown into the role and given Connery a run for his money. And we would have been spared the decade of Bond-lite with Roger Moore portraying a lighthearted, comical Bond.

Navy's 'Fat Leonard' Case Implodes

Mark D. Faram at the Navy Times offers a piece on the U.S. Navy’s “Fat Leonard” bribery and fraud scandal.

NAVAL STATION NORFOLK, Va. — With the close of the Navy’s first “Fat Leonard” court-martial trial, the defendant is going to the brig but he escaped the most serious charges and potentially jeopardized future federal fraud cases against a string of past and present sailors.

Cmdr. David Morales was found guilty of only two of the five charges he faced — conduct unbecoming an officer and failing to report foreign contacts on his security clearance renewal.

After closing arguments on Friday, the Navy trial judge, Capt. Charles N. Purnell, deliberated overnight and delivered a verdict that stripped out the conspiracy, bribery and making a false official statement charges.

On Saturday, Purnell sentenced the fighter pilot to 165 days of confinement, forfeiture of $30,000 in pay over the next five months and an additional $5,000 fine.

Morales faced 17 years behind bars if he was convicted on the original charges. After Purnell gutted the most serious remaining specifications on Saturday he was still staring at a maximum term of two-and-a-half years in the brig.

He ended up with less than six months in prison.

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


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

Marshall Center Course Highlights Combating Transnational Criminals

Christine June at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies offers the below piece:

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, Sept. 4, 2018 — Transnational criminal organizations have benefitted from globalization, said the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict.

Thomas Alexander (seen in the above photo) spoke to 88 participants from 54 countries as the keynote speaker for the Program on Countering Transnational Organized Crime at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies Aug. 24. The Marshall Center is a German-American international security and defense studies institute based here.

National Security Concerns

“Overlapping networks enable transnational criminal organizations to move illicit shipments quickly throughout the world,” Alexander said. “They also face little risk of detection, due to the sheer volume of global trade coming into container ports or the emerging trend of trafficking drug precursor chemicals directly to customers via the internet and global mail.”

Held twice a year, the CTOC course emphasizes how transnational organized crime threatens nations’ national security. Lectures and case studies examine the major methods by which transnational criminal organizations engage in illegal activities. Seminar activities focus on methods to combat this threat through the development of CTOC strategies, and whole-of-government and inter-regional solutions.

Professor Joe Vann, CTOC program director, said he and his staff focus on teaching course participants how to develop strategies to combat the activities of drug cartels, terrorists and transnational criminal organizations.

“We try to give our participants executive development skills so that when they go home they will be able to adapt and modify these skills and improve their ability to make a difference in their countries,” Vann said “We want them to become senior decision makers who can help develop and direct countering transnational organized crime strategies in their countries.”

He added, “We teach them to think critically in order to assess complex problems. These skills are required in order to develop solutions and strategies to disrupt the activities of transnational criminal organizations.”
Course Participants

Course participants included military and civilian government officials and practitioners who are engaged in policy development, law enforcement, intelligence and interdiction activities aimed at countering illicit narcotics trafficking, terrorist involvement in criminal activity and the associated elements of transnational crime and corruption.

“The Marshall Center does a fabulous job pulling the right officials from the right countries and have them strategize together because that’s ultimately what they are going to have to do when they go back home,” Alexander said.

In 2014, the Marshall Center was designated by the Department of Defense as a center of excellence for transnational security studies due to its countering transnational organized crime program, as well as its programs on countering terrorism and cyber threats.

Developing Strategies

“In my country, I am a member of the group that is writing how to combat money laundering and finance terrorism as part of our national strategy,” said Madina Adam Sere, financial analyst with the Ministry of Finance in the Ivory Coast.

She added that they have one year to write this portion of the country’s national strategy. In two years, that strategy will be due for evaluation, she added.

“That’s why it was important that I participated in this course because now I have more knowledge on how to write this strategy and to consider more aspects of countering money laundering and finance terrorism than I had considered before,” Sere said. “This is because the lectures covered many aspects of transnational organized crime, and I was able to ask direct questions from experts in the field.”

Sere and her fellow course participants heard from faculty and invited subject matter experts who are experienced in different areas of combating transnational organized crime such as narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, weapons trafficking, cybercrime and money laundering.

Sharing Information

“I also have a lot of contacts outside of my country that I didn’t have before attending this course,” Sere said. “Now, I have people from more than 50 countries that I can ask if I need more information while I am helping to write this part of our national strategy.”

The Marshall Center’s alumni network consists of more than 13,000 security professionals from 154 nations. Sere said she feels comfortable contacting those in this network because of the Marshall Center connection.
“I am becoming more and more convinced that nowhere in the world will you have an opportunity to sit in a group of 80 to 90 people from around the world with this level of experience and be able to share information and learn from each other,” Vann said to the participants at the beginning of the course.

Valuable Connections

“What you learn here will be very important for when you go home, but also the connections you make here will be equally important,” Vann continued. “We see that every day when someone reaches back to a participant they had opportunity to be in class with and actually solve investigations or problems.”

He added, “Don’t lose sight of that. Please appreciate it. Don’t take for granted the magic that really happens here.”

During the last week of the program, participants strategized together in their seminars to develop a CTOC strategy and present it to the plenary right before graduation. Alexander was able to review these presentations and ask questions.

In his address, Alexander listed the two key parts of strategizing as understanding the enemy and building relationships.

“Your readiness can be attributed to the Marshall Center’s hands-on approach to teaching,” he said. “The center’s talented staff realizes that when pursuing our adversaries, good CTOC strategists strive to outsmart and stay one step ahead.” 

Note: The above DoD photo of Thomas Alexander was taken by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn