Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Attorney General Sessions Announces DEA Surge To Combat Prescription Drug Diversion

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced yesterday that, over the next 45 days, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will surge Special Agents, Diversion Investigators, and Intelligence Research Specialists to focus on pharmacies and prescribers who are dispensing unusual or disproportionate amounts of drugs. To intensify the fight against prescription drug diversion, DEA will utilize data from approximately 80 million transaction reports it collects every year from prescription drug manufacturers and distributors. DEA will aggregate and analyze this data, which includes distribution figures and inventory of prescription drugs, to identify patterns, trends, and statistical outliers that can be developed into targeting packages.

“Our country is in the midst of a drug abuse crisis, enabled and worsened by rampant drug trafficking and prescription drug diversion,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This surge of resources by the Drug Enforcement Administration will help us make more arrests, secure more convictions, and reduce the number of diverted or unnecessary prescription drugs causing addiction and overdose.”

The surge announced yesterday is the latest in a series of efforts by the Department of Justice to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic and reduce the inevitable violent crime that accompanies widespread drug trafficking. In August, the Department announced a new data analytics program, the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which uses data to identify and prosecute individuals who are contributing to the opioid epidemic. The Department has also assigned experienced prosecutors to opioid hot spot districts to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud, and the DEA has reorganized its field divisions for the first time in nearly 20 years to increase its effectiveness nationwide.

On This Day In History The Viet Cong Attacked The U.S. Embassy During The Tet Offensive

As noted, on this day in 1968 the Viet Cong attacked the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

On this day in 1968, as part of the Tet Offensive, a squad of Viet Cong guerillas attacks the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The soldiers seized the embassy and held it for six hours until an assault force of U.S. paratroopers landed by helicopter on the building’s roof and routed the Viet Cong.

The Tet Offensive was planned as a massive, simultaneous attack on the major cities and provincial capitals of South Vietnam. It was scheduled to take place during Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year celebration, which was traditionally a time of decreased fighting. In December 1967, following an attack on the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh, 50,000 American troops were sent in to defend the area, thereby weakening U.S. positions elsewhere. This American response played into the Viet Cong’s strategy to clear the way for the surprise Tet Offensive, in which Communist forces attacked Saigon, Hue (the imperial capital) and over 100 other urban areas.

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine Q&A with Mark Bowden, author of Hue 1968, via the below link:

John Kelly Says Teacher Who Called Military ‘Lowest Of Our Low’ Ought To ‘Go To Hell’

Sally Parsons at the Washington Times offers a report on retired Marine general and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly stating that the teacher who insulted military members “ought to go to hell.”

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

Note: General Kelly’s son, a young Marine officer, lost his life in combat.

Navy Officer Pleads Guilty To Trading Info For Entertainment, Sex In ‘Fat Leonard’ Scandal

Matthew M. Burke at the Stars and Stripes offers a piece on another Navy officer taken down with the “Fat Leonard’ bribery and fraud scandal.

Another Navy officer has fallen under the specter of the ever-growing “Fat Leonard” fraud and corruption scandal.

Former Cmdr. Troy Amundson (seen in the above Navy photo on the right), 50, of Ramsey, Minn., pleaded guilty Tuesday in District Court in San Diego to one federal charge of conspiracy to commit bribery for trading “confidential, proprietary U.S. Navy information” for entertainment expenses and prostitutes, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.

Amundson is the 20th of 29 defendants to plead guilty in the scandal and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charges stem from a decade-long conspiracy where foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis of the Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia traded bribes and gifts — from cash to Spanish suckling pigs and luxury travel — to a slew of top Navy officers across the Pacific in exchange for information on ship movements and contracts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent over-billing.

Francis (seen in the above photo) pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges.

“Amundson deliberately, methodically, and repeatedly traded his public office for entertainment expenses and the services of prostitutes, and in so doing, aligned himself with a foreign defense contractor over his Navy, his colleagues and his country,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in the statement. “We are pressing forward in this investigation until we are certain that all involved have been held accountable.”

Amundson was in a unique position to aid Francis and GDMA as the officer in charge of the Navy’s joint military exercises in the region from May 2005 to May 2013, the statement said. He was responsible for maintaining relationships with foreign navies.

As part of his plea, Amundson admitted that from September 2012 through October 2013 Francis paid for meals, drinks, transportation, other entertainment expenses and prostitutes for Amundson and other Navy officers.

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

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

President Trump Calls For Ending Sequester, Keeping Guantanamo Open In State Of The Union Address

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2018 — The United States faces myriad dangers from rogue regimes and global competitors, and the nation must have a strong defense to discourage these rivals and forge a world of peace, President Donald J. Trump said in his State of the Union address tonight.

The president said these regimes – including China and Russia – “challenge our interests, our economy our values.”

A strong defense is necessary to deter adversaries, the president told a joint session of Congress. “For this reason, I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military,” Trump said.

Sequestration is a provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that imposes across-the-board spending cuts if Congress and the White House cannot agree on more targeted options.

The president stressed that the United States must modernize and rebuild the nation’s nuclear triad to make it so powerful that it will deter any thought of aggression by any country. “Perhaps someday in the there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly.”

Campaign to Defeat ISIS

Trump also discussed the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. 

“Last year, I also pledged that we would work with our allies to extinguish ISIS from the face of the Earth,” he said. “One year later, I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated very close to 100 percent of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria and in other locations as well. But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.”

The president singled out Army Staff Sgt. Justin Peck, who fought against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria. Peck was part of a team clearing a hospital of improvised explosive devices when one exploded, seriously wounding Navy Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy. Peck “bounded into the booby-trapped building and found Kenton in bad shape,” the president said. “He applied pressure to the wound and inserted a tube to reopen an airway. He then performed CPR for 20 straight minutes during the ground transport and maintained artificial respiration through two and a half hours of emergency surgery.

“Kenton Stacy would have died if not for Justin's selfless love for his fellow warrior,” Trump continued. “Tonight, Kenton is recovering in Texas. Raqqa is liberated. And Justin is wearing his new Bronze Star, with a "V" for valor. Staff Sergeant Peck: All of America salutes you.”

ISIS placed the bombs in the hospital to kill and maim, and the president called them plain evil. “When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them,” he said. “When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them.”

Re-Examination of Terrorist Detention Policy

Terrorists are not merely criminals, the president said, but unlawful enemy combatants. “And when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are,” he said. “In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield, including the ISIS leader, [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi -- who we captured, who we had, who we released.”

Trump said he had just signed an order directing Defense Secretary James N. Mattis to re-examine the military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. “I am asking the Congress to ensure that, in the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida, we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists -- wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them,” he said. “And in many cases, it will now be Guantanamo Bay.”

The president also touted the fact that forces in Afghanistan have new rules of engagement and will work even more closely with Afghan forces. “Our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans,” he said.

The president also called on Congress to address “the fundamental flaws” in the Iran nuclear deal.

“But no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” he said. “North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from ever happening.”

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Punji Trap: Luke Hunt On Pham Xuan An, The Vietnam Spy

Dan Boylan at the Washington Times offers a Q&A with Luke Hunt, author of The Punji Trap – Pham Xuan An: The Spy Who Didn’t Love Us.

Luke Hunt, award-winning Australian war reporter and frequent Washington Times stringer, is the author of “The Punji Trap — Pham Xuan An: The Spy Who Didn’t Love Us,” the story of a North Vietnamese operative whose hidden hand shaped the way America saw the Tet Offensive which began 50 years ago Tuesday. The charismatic Pham Xuan An served as a correspondent for Time Magazine and Reuters — and the North’s super spy in Saigon.

Mr. Hunt spoke to The Times just ahead of the American publication of “The Punji Trap.” What follows is an edited Q&A:

Question: “The Punji Trap” was a long time in the making. Why?

Answer: It took almost 30 years for a number of reasons. During my childhood, I became fascinated with Vietnam as the war played out on television and a family friend died there, which really left its mark. While at university in the 1980s, I wrote an undergrad thesis on An way back when his role was still a secret. I then managed to interview him several times and realized there was certainly a book in him, but he insisted that much of the material was “off the record” until after his death, which was in 2006.

Q: How did An pull off one of the 20th century’s most successful covert propaganda efforts?

A: Americans were always interested in beating themselves up about the lies that came from the White House, but never the lies that came from the North Vietnamese, who told three major fictions. One: [North Vietnamese leader] Ho Chi Minh convinced the world that the conflict was a national war of liberation — but really the ethnic Viets were trying to colonize the entire Southeast Asian peninsula. Two: An convinced the world that the Tet Offensive was a victory for the Communists, which militarily it was not. Three: The North pledged not invade the South, but they did in 1975 and have spoon-fed communism to the population every day since.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on An, the Vietnam spy, via the below link:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Attorney General Sessions Announces New Tool To Fight Online Drug Trafficking

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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced a new resource to help federal law enforcement disrupt online illicit opioid sales, the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team.

“Criminals think that they are safe on the darknet, but they are in for a rude awakening,” Attorney General Sessions said.  “We have already infiltrated their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice.  In the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in American history, the FBI and the Department of Justice are stepping up our investment in fighting opioid-related crimes.  The J-CODE team will help us continue to shut down the online marketplaces that drug traffickers use and ultimately that will help us reduce addiction and overdoses across the nation.”

J-CODE will more than double the FBI’s investment in fighting online opioid trafficking.  The FBI is dedicating dozens more Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, and professional staff to J-CODE so that they can focus on this one issue of online opioid trafficking.

In July 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced the seizure of the largest dark net marketplace in history.  This site hosted some 220,000 drug listings and was responsible for countless synthetic opioid overdoses, including the tragic death of a 13 year old.

In August 2017, Attorney General Sessions ordered the creation of a new data analytics program, the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, to focus specifically on investigating opioid-related health care fraud.  The same day, he assigned a dozen prosecutors to “hot spot” districts—where opioid addiction is especially prevalent—to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud.

In November, Attorney General Sessions ordered all 94 U.S. Attorney offices to designate an opioid coordinator who will customize federal law enforcement’s anti-opioid strategy in their district.

This Is Your Military: The Defense Department Launches Initiative To Inform Americans of Military Life

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2018 — It is a sign of America’s disconnect with its military that there are those who believe that when a person joins the military, that person cannot have a spouse or children or pets, said Amber Smith, the deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for outreach.

This misperception may be extreme, but there are other and it’s one reason why DoD is launching an outreach program on Feb. 1 called “This Is Your Military.” The program is designed “to inform and educate the American public on who is serving in the military today,” Smith said during a Pentagon news conference today.

Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military and the number of Americans with firsthand experience with service members or veterans has declined precipitously since the beginning of the all-volunteer military in 1973.

‘A Force for Good’

“We want to show [Americans] how the military is relevant to their everyday lives; we want to show how innovative the military is and how we are a force for good,” she said.

The initiative will highlight the lives of those serve and give a balanced view of military service and life, said Smith, noting the initiative will be primarily a digital program.

Smith said she wants to reach out to people who know little about the military. The department already has a robust social media presence and she expects to use that to get the information, articles, videos, tweets and more to the 99 percent of Americans who haven’t served in the armed forces.

“We are working very closely with the services and some of the programs that they have in place that reach all the way to the installation and community level programs that have been successful,” she said.

Some of the community level programs she hopes to piggyback on include Fleet Week, Marine Week and Know Your Army.

“It has always been in the best interests of DoD to engage with the American public,” Smith said.

Recent surveys demonstrate the divide between the military and the public it serves is growing. This disconnect “threatens the viability and sustainability of the all-volunteer force, which does pose some long-term national security risks,” Smith said. In 1995, 40 percent of young adults had a direct connection to a service member or a veteran in their families. Today, it is around 15 percent.

Correcting some of the misperceptions will be one part of the Know Your Military initiative, she said. One of the most pernicious is the majority of American youth think if a person serves in the military a person will leave with a physical, psychological or emotional issue.

Each month the initiative will have a different theme, and when it starts on Thursday the theme will be We Are Connected. The website for the initiative is The hashtag is #KnowYourMil.

For 'Skinny Joey' Merlino, Racketeering Trial His Chance To Put Feds Under Microscope

Veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia offers a piece on Joseph Merlino’s racketeering trial in New York for

Different venue.

Philadelphia’s only celebrity gangster, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, goes on trial this week in federal court in Manhattan for racketeering and conspiracy charges that could land him in jail for a good part of the rest of his life.

He’s been there before.

But this time the stakes seem even higher.

Merlino is 55 and has spent about a third of his adult life in jail or on supervised release. He has two daughters in college who have grown up for the most part without him. And he was recently treated for a heart condition – “two significant blockages,” according to a court document – that belie his devil-may-care attitude.

Yet Merlino has rejected plea deals that could have resulted in a prison sentence of two to three years.

“He’s not pleading guilty,” said a close associate. “He says he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

What’s more, that associate and others familiar with Merlino’s thinking say the flamboyant South Philly mobster who now makes his home in Boca Raton, Florida, sees the trial as a chance to hold federal law enforcement accountable for actions that border on criminal.

“If I had done what they did, I’d be indicted,” Merlino has reportedly told friends while explaining why he refused to take a plea deal.

Jury selection begins Monday morning in the federal courthouse on Pearl Street in Manhattan. The trial is expected to last about a month.

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

Hey Fredo - Bring Out The Peppers And Sausage: Ralph Cipriano Looks At The New Philadelphia Media Network Newsroom

These days I’m a regular contributor to the Washington Times, and even though I didn’t always agree with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s liberal viewpoint, I’m proud to have been a contributor to the newspaper for nearly 20 years.

My last piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer was a full page Q&A with producer and actor Chazz Palminteri. The piece also ran in the Philadelphia Daily News.

So I was interested in reading veteran reporter and former Inquirer staffer Ralph Ciprano’s take on today’s Philadelphia Media Network newsroom, which is comprised of the two daily newspapers and

Last week, I took a virtual tour of the new merged Inquirer-Daily newsroom, thanks to a brand new feature on their website that's accessible to even hardcore non-subscribers like myself.

It's been 20 years since my last day at the Inquirer, when I was escorted out of the building by an editor. So, I figured I was due for a return visit. But I emerged from my virtual tour feeling like Frank Pentangeli.

Remember the scene in Godfather II where crusty old Frank [AKA "Frankie Five Angels" and "Frankie Pants"] attends the first communion of the late Don Corleone's grandson. It's a big fancy party on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Nevada back in 1958; quite a contrast with the old-fashioned Sicilian wedding scene set on Long Island  back in 1945 that opened the original Godfather.

"Hey Fredo," Frank says, "What's with the food around here?"

"A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker, and uh, chopped liver, he says canapés  I say uh, uh, can o' peas my ass, that's a Ritz cracker and chopped liver! . . . Bring out the peppers and sausage."

Then, Frank jumps on stage to take issue with the slow music that the boys in the orchestra are playing.

"I can't believe, out of 30 professional musicians, there isn't one Italian in, in the group here," Frank says. "Come on, let's have a tarantella."

That's how I felt after I toured the new merged Inky newsroom.

On "The Newsroom" page at the bottom of the website, they show the same old reporter's notebook that I used to carry in my back pocket when I was an Inky reporter for more than a decade. Then, they introduce more than 100 reporters who explain their new beats at the new merged Inky.

There's some old familiar faces in the crowd, people I used to work with, but the new Inky newsroom seems more devoted to remaking society rather than reporting the news.

"We've recently reorganized our beats and coverage teams to ensure that we focused on the issues, ideas and institutions that matter most to people of our region," it says. "Here's what we're covering and how to reach us."

On the Inquirer's new "justice and injustice" team, they've got a reporter who covers "unjust systems." He'll never run out of material in this town. They've got a reporter who writes about "violent crimes," and another reporter who writes about "victims."

So, theoretically in any crime story, say, one that involves a purse-snatching, it may take two reporters to write it. One to report on the violent nature of the crime, and another to write about the story from the victim's point of view.

But let's say the assailant comes from a disadvantaged background, and may have been discriminated against in the past. Or he or she is possibly an immigrant, or somebody who may be a minority person living in a neighborhood simmering with ethnic, racial and cultural tensions. Or the purse-snatcher is someone who perceives that they live in an unjust society.

Fortunately, in the new Inky newsroom, there's a vast array of specialists to draw on who can flesh out the cultural, racial and societal aspects of that purse-snatching.

… Hey Fredo, does anybody still cover the freaking City Council? Is anybody down at the Roundhouse, seeing what the cops are up to? Does anybody still cover the courts?

From the online description, the new Inky newsroom is a relentless parade of PC warriors who meet every day to march around the Rizzo statue, and plot Big Frank's demise. But we're not done yet.

In the new Inky newsroom, they have a "class" reporter who writes about "aspects of poverty, wealth, and the middle class relating to both economic and social issues." There's a reporter who covers immigration, and another reporter who covers "neighborhoods and gentrification," specifically "characters, tensions and issues."  On the "policy and solutions" team, there's a  reporter who writes about "fairness," particularly "economic equity issues, including school funding, and affordable housing." They also have a full-time reporter who covers "the commerce of cannabis."

In the Inky's new world order, they've got four metro columnists. It's a perfectly diverse team, featuring a couple of white guys and a couple women of color. Of course, all the columnists, local, suburban and national, are liberals who hate Trump. Of the more than 100 reporters working in the new Inky newsroom, if there's a conservative in the bunch, or a Libertarian, or a contrarian, you'd never know it by reading the paper.

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

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer Q&A with Chazz Palminteri via the below link: 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Illegals Commit Crimes At Double The Rate Of Native-Born: Study

Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times offers a piece on a report of on illegal immigrants and crime. 

The crime rate among illegal immigrants in Arizona is twice that of other residents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday, citing a new report based on conviction data.

The report, from the Crime Prevention Research Center, used a previously untapped set of data from Arizona that detailed criminal convictions and found that illegal immigrants between 15 and 35 are less than 3 percent of the state’s population, but nearly 8 percent of its prison population.

And the crimes they were convicted of were, on the whole, more serious, said John R. Lott Jr., the report’s author and president of the research center.

His findings also challenge the general narrative that immigrants commit fewer crimes. Those past studies usually don’t look at legal versus illegal populations, Mr. Lott said.

Mr. Lott said the Arizona data is able to peek behind that curtain, and the differences between the populations were stark.

“There appears to be a huge difference between the two groups,” Mr. Lott said. “The type of person who goes through the process to legally immigrate in the United States appears to be very law-abiding versus even the U.S.-born population. The reverse is true for undocumented immigrants — they are committing crimes, and more serious crimes.”

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

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Defense Secretary Mattis Describes North Korea Regime As ‘Threat To The Entire World’

Lisa Ferdinando at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2018 — The regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un remains a danger to the world, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said yesterday in Honolulu, while emphasizing diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

The goal remains the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Mattis told reporters at U.S. Pacific Command’s headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, with South Korea Minister of Defense Song Young-moo.

“The Kim regime is a threat to the entire world,” Mattis said. “It’s an international problem that requires an international solution.”

He noted three unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolutions on North Korea.

“Our response to this threat remains diplomacy led, backed up with military options available to ensure that our diplomats are understood to be speaking from a position of strength,” the secretary explained.

U.S.-South Korea ‘Ironclad and Irreplaceable’ Alliance

Mattis and Song reaffirmed the strength of their countries’ alliance and America’s pledge to defend South Korea and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S.-South Korean alliance is “ironclad and irreplaceable,” Mattis said.

“Our combined militaries stand shoulder-to-shoulder ready to defend against any attack” on South Korea or the United States, he said.

Mattis praised South Korea’s “steadfast action upholding United Nations sanctions at sea,” noting South Korea has impounded two ships that were found violating the U.N. Resolutions using ship-to-ship transfer at cargo at sea.

South Korea “leads by example in carrying out the United Nations’ sanctions,” Mattis said, adding North Korea is reminded that “risking its economy to boost its rockets makes it less secure, not more.”

Enduring Pacific Power

Mattis said Song is always welcome at the Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu. This was the last stop of the secretary’s trip that also took him to Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Here in beautiful Hawaii we’re reminded that America is an enduring Pacific power -- five of our states plus territories all touch on this shared ocean,” he said.

Reckless Rhetoric, Dangerous Provocations

Mattis said the United States and South Korea welcome the Olympic Games talks between North Korea and South Korea, but at the same time, “remain steadfast with the international economic pressure campaign to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

The talks for the Olympics, Mattis explained, do not address the overarching problems with North Korea.

“Diplomacy should repose reason on Kim’s reckless rhetoric and dangerous provocations,” he said.

North Korea is sending athletes, including hockey players for a unified South Korea-North Korea team, to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The games begin Feb. 9.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Communist Chinese Company Sinovel Wind Group Convicted Of Theft of Trade Secrets

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

A manufacturer and exporter of wind turbines based in the People’s Republic of China was convicted today of stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based company formerly known as American Superconductor Inc., announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Following an 11-day trial, a jury sitting in Madison, Wisconsin, convicted Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd., dba Sinovel Wind Group (USA) Co. Ltd. (Sinovel) of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud.  Sentencing is set for June 4.

“Sinovel nearly destroyed an American company by stealing its intellectual property,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “As today’s jury verdict demonstrates, this type of conduct, by any corporation – anywhere – is a crime, and won’t be tolerated.  The Department is dedicated to helping foster innovation and growth in our economy by deterring and punishing intellectual property theft from American companies.”

“Today’s verdict sends a strong and clear message that the theft of ideas and ingenuity is not a business dispute; it’s a crime and will be prosecuted as such,” said U.S. Attorney Blader.  “Sinovel’s illegal actions caused devastating harm to AMSC.  I commend the efforts of the investigation and prosecution team, and reaffirm the commitment of this office to protect American commerce and prosecute those who would seek to steal intellectual property.”

As proven at trial, Sinovel stole proprietary wind turbine technology from AMSC in order to produce its own turbines powered by the stolen intellectual property.  AMSC developed the technology – software that regulates the flow of electricity from wind turbines to electrical grids – in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  At the time of the theft in March 2011, Sinovel had contracted with AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services to be used for the wind turbines that Sinovel manufactured, sold, and serviced.

Sinovel was charged on June 27, 2013, along with Su Liying, the deputy director of Sinovel’s Research and Development Department; Zhao Haichun, a technology manager for Sinovel; and Dejan Karabasevic, a former employee of AMSC Windtec Gmbh, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AMSC.  The evidence presented at trial showed that Sinovel conspired with the other defendants to obtain AMSC’s copyrighted information and trade secrets in order to produce wind turbines and to retrofit existing wind turbines with AMSC technology without paying AMSC the more than $800 million it was owed and promised.  Through Su and Zhao, Sinovel convinced Karabasevic, who was head of AMSC Windtec’s automation engineering department in Klagenfurt, Austria, to leave AMSC Windtec, to join Sinovel, and to steal intellectual property from the AMSC computer system by secretly downloading source code on March 7, 2011, from an AMSC computer in Wisconsin to a computer in Klagenfurt.  Sinovel then commissioned several wind turbines in Massachusetts and copied into the turbines software compiled from the source code stolen from AMSC.  The U.S.-based builders of these Massachusetts turbines helped bring Sinovel to justice.  Su and Zhao are Chinese nationals living in China, and Karabasevic is a Serbian national who lived in Austria, but now lives in Serbia.

According to evidence presented at trial, following the theft, AMSC suffered severe financial hardship.  It lost more than $1 billion in shareholder equity and almost 700 jobs, over half its global workforce.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Madison, Milwaukee, and Boston Offices; the FBI Legal Attachés’ Offices in Vienna, Austria and Beijing; the FBI Criminal Investigative Division; the FBI Intellectual Property Rights program; the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Intelligence Service) and the Bundesministerium Fuer Justiz (Federal Ministry of Justice) in Austria; the Landeskriminalamt - Klagenfurt and the Staatsanwaltschaft - Klagenfurt (Criminal Investigative Police and State Prosecutor’s Office – Klagenfurt, Austria); and with the assistance of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Cybercrime Laboratory of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS).

Senior Counsel Brian L. Levine of CCIPS and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy M. O’Shea and Darren Halverson for the Western District of Wisconsin prosecuted the case, with substantial assistance from CCIPS Trial Attorney Joss Nichols and Digital Investigative Analyst Laura Peterson.

The Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property (IP Task Force) contributed to this case.  The IP Task Force is led by the Deputy Attorney General to combat the growing number of domestic and intellectual property crimes, to protect the health and safety of American consumers, and to safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation, and hard work.  To learn more about the IP Task Force, go to  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

My Washington Times Review of 'The Last Man In Tehran'

The Washington Times published my review of Mark Hemshaw’s The Last Man in Tehran.

 Mark Henshaw, the author of the “The Last Man in Tehran” and the three previous spy thrillers in his “Red Cell” series, is a veteran CIA analyst who served in the CIA’s Red Cell Unit.

As Mr. Henshaw wrote in his debut novel, “Red Cell,” the unit is an alternative analysis unit set up by then-CIA Director George Tenet on Sept. 13, 2001 to ensure that the CIA didn’t suffer another surprise like the Sept. 11 attack. The Red Cell’s job is to play devil’s advocate and think out of the box. The unit was to discover possibilities that other analysts might overlook or dismiss.

“The Last Man in Tehran” opens on Nov. 4, 1979 outside of the American Embassy, where the embassy employees have been taken prisoner by students in support of the Iranian Islamic revolution. Sitting on a bench in Honarmandan Park is an Israeli Mossad officer named Gavi Ronen. The Israeli intelligence officer was meeting his counterpart in SAVAK, the ousted Shaw’s secret police. The two intelligence officers lament the current events and say their goodbyes.

Kyra Stryker, a case officer brought in from the cold due to a fiasco in Venezuela and assigned to the Red Cell unit in the first novel, has been recently promoted to be chief of the Red Cell unit. In her first days as the Red Cell chief a radioactive “dirty bomb” is detonated in the Port of Haifa in Israel.

Suspecting the Iranians, the Mossad counterattack with a campaign of sabotage and assassinations. The CIA then discovers that someone in the CIA is helping the Israelis wage the covert war. The FBI is brought in to find the CIA mole and Kyra Stryker is assigned to work with the FBI.

... According to the publisher, the dirty bomb attack on Haifa was based on a fictional event which occurred in a war game that Mr. Henshaw organized and ran for the CIA. All of the historical events referenced in the novel are true and the descriptions of CIA headquarters and other locations are accurate. This realism adds to the suspense and believability of the story.

“The Last Man in Tehran” is a suspenseful and action-packed novel that spy thriller fans will enjoy.

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

 You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with CIA analyst and author Mark Henshaw (seen in the above photo) about spies in fact and fiction via the below link:

A Little Night Music: Back To The Summer Of Love and the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival With Eric Burton And the Animals' 'Monterey'

You can listen to Eric Burton and the Animals, one of my favorite groups from the 1960s, perform Monterey, a song about the 1967 "Summer of Love" and the Monterey Pop Festival, via the below link:

Two Men Charged With Conspiring To Illegally Obtain Technology And Computer Chips That Were Sent To Communist China

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

Federal authorities arrested Yi-Chi Shih, 62, and Kiet Ahn Mai, 63, on Jan. 19, on federal charges that allege a scheme to illegally obtain technology and integrated circuits with military applications that were exported to a Chinese company without the required export license.

The announcement was made by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente; U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna for the Northern District of California; Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of IRS Criminal Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Richard Weir of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, Los Angeles Field Office.

“According to the complaint, the defendants allegedly schemed to illegally export semiconductors having military and civilian applications to a Chinese company,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.  “Protecting this type of technology and preventing its illegal acquisition by our adversaries remains a key priority in preserving our national security.”

“This case outlines a scheme to secure proprietary technology, some of which was allegedly sent to China, where it could be used to provide companies there with significant advantages that would compromise U.S. business interests,” said U.S. Attorney Hanna.  “The very sensitive information would also benefit foreign adversaries who could use the technology to further or develop military applications that would be detrimental to our national security.”

“The FBI, working jointly with our law enforcement partners, remains committed to bringing to justice those who seek to illegally export some of our nation’s most sensitive technologies to the detriment of our national security and hard-working United States companies,” said Assistant Director in Charge Delacourt.  “Rest assured, the FBI will continue to diligently pursue any and all leads that involve the illegal exportation of U.S. technology which will cause harm to our long-term national security interests.”

”Today’s actions serve as a reminder that the government will hold individuals accountable who fraudulently procure and export unlawfully protected United States technology and attempt to conceal their criminal activity through international money laundering,” said Special Agent in Charge Rowe.  “The IRS plays an important role in tracing illicit funds through both domestic and international financial intuitions. The IRS is proud to partner with the FBI and Department of Commerce and share its world-renowned financial investigative expertise in this investigation.”

“Today’s arrests demonstrate the Office of Export Enforcement’s strong commitment to enforcing our nation’s export control and public safety laws,” said Special Agent in Charge Weir.  “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify, deter, and keep the most sensitive U.S. origin goods and technology out of the most dangerous hands.”

Shih, an electrical engineer who is a part-time Los Angeles resident and a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Taiwan, and Mai who resides in Pasadena, California and is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Vietnam, were arrested on Jan. 19, without incident by federal agents.

Shih and Mai, who previously worked together at two different companies, are named in a criminal complaint unsealed on Jan. 19, that charges them with conspiracy.  Shih is also charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a federal law that makes illegal, among other things, certain unauthorized exports.

The complaint alleges that Shih and Mai conspired to illegally provide Shih with unauthorized access to a protected computer of a U.S. company that manufactured specialized, high-speed computer chips known as monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs).  The conspiracy count also alleges that the two men engaged in mail fraud, wire fraud and international money laundering to further the scheme.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Shih and Mai executed a scheme to defraud the U.S. company out of its proprietary, export-controlled items, including technology associated with its design services for MMICs.  As part of the scheme, Shih and Mai accessed the victim company’s computer systems via its web portal after Mai obtained that access by posing as a domestic customer seeking to obtain custom-designed MMICs that would be used solely in the United States.  Shih and Mail allegedly concealed Shih’s true intent to transfer the U.S. company’s technology and products to the People’s Republic of China.

The victim company’s proprietary semiconductor technology has a number of commercial and military applications, and its customers include the Air Force, Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  MMICs are used in electronic warfare, electronic warfare countermeasures and radar applications.

The computer chips at the heart of this case allegedly were shipped to Chengdu GaStone Technology Company (CGTC), a Chinese company that established a MMIC manufacturing facility in Chengdu.  Shih was the president of CGTC, which in 2014 was placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, according to the affidavit, “due to its involvement in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interest of the United States – specifically, that it had been involved in the illicit procurement of commodities and technologies for unauthorized military end use in China.”  Because it was on the Entity List, a license from the Commerce Department was required to export U.S.-origin MMICs to CGTC, and there was a “presumption of denial” of a license.

The complaint outlines a scheme in which Shih used a Los Angeles-based company he controlled – Pullman Lane Productions, LLC – to funnel funds provided by Chinese entities to finance the manufacturing of MMICs by the victim company.  The complaint affidavit alleges that Pullman Lane received financing from a Beijing-based company that was placed on the Entity List the same day as CGTC “on the basis of its involvement in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Mai acted as the middleman by using his Los Angeles company – MicroEx Engineering – to pose as a legitimate domestic customer that ordered and paid for the manufacturing of MMICs that Shih illegally exported to CGTC in China, according to the complaint.  It is the export of the MMICs that forms the basis of the IEEPA violation alleged against Shih.  The specific exported MMICs also required a license from the Commerce Department before being exported to China, and a license was never sought or obtained for this export.   

Shih and Mai are expected to made their first court appearances on Jan. 19, in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, Mai faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and Shih faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.  The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is being investigated by the FBI; the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement; and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Judith A. Heinz, Melanie Sartoris and Khaldoun Shobaki of the Northern District of California, and Trial Attorney Matthew Walczewski of the National Security Division Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Does It Matter If James Bond’s Character Is Black Or White? Yes, it does.

Nola Ojomu at the British web site offers her take on the idea of a black actor portraying Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond character.

James Should a black actor be the next James Bond? Does it matter if his character is white or black? Those are the questions that have been on everyone’s lips ever since the Sony leaks revealed producers were interested in getting Idris Elba to play 007 – and opinion has been extremely divided.

Don’t get me wrong, someone like Idris Elba has the talent, looks and charm to play the world’s most iconic spy. I can totally understand why so many people would love to see him or another black actor suited and booted, wooing the ladies and saving the world in style. But the fact he is a black man means he simply isn’t suited for this particular role.

Idris Elba seems to be the people’s choice for the next James Bond. The character of James Bond was created back in 1953 by Ian Fleming (seen in the above photo) with a very clear description and back story. Fleming described his character as a Scottish man in interviews and his parentage was made pretty clear in the 1964 book You Only Live Twice, where his mother was revealed to be Swiss and his father was Scottish: a Highlander from near Glencoe.

Fleming himself has Scottish roots and spent a lot of his childhood in Glencoe and we saw how important Bond’s history is in the latest films Skyfall and Spectre. Plus Fleming used many of his own interests to shape Bond. His love of scrambled eggs, golf and gambling all come from Fleming’s own tastes and Bond uses the same toiletries and cigarettes Fleming loved.

Small details like this that helped to shape the spy we know today make it harder to understand how that can suddenly change in order to allow a black man to play the part.

While a character like Doctor Who has the power to regenerate into a completely different person, Bond is meant to be a normal man. Yes, I know we’ve already let go of some of the realism attached to the story by having different actors portraying him over the years but changing his ethnicity won’t work without having to start tweaking important parts of the character and his story.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on the idea of a black James Bond via the below link:

FBI Releases Preliminary 2017 Data On Crime In The United States

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

The Federal Bureau of Investigation today released the 2017 Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, a part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). The report, which covers January-June 2017, suggests that the violent crime increases that occurred in 2015 and 2016 may have begun to level off. The number of violent crimes decreased by 0.8 percent nationwide in the first half of 2017 when compared with the same period in 2016. The nationwide violent crime rate (the number of violent crimes per 100,000 people in the U.S.) increased by a total of nearly 7 percent during 2015 and 2016, (3.3 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively), the largest two increases in a quarter of a century.

“When President Trump took office, he ordered the Department of Justice to prioritize the reduction of violent crime, and that is what we have done every day since,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Last year, we charged more defendants with violent crime offenses than in any year in decades. We convicted hundreds of human traffickers, arrested thousands of violent gang members, and charged hundreds of people suspected of contributing to our opioid abuse epidemic. Working with our state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners, we are making a difference and protecting our communities. These data are encouraging, because it is essential that drastic increases in violent crime not become the new normal. We are dedicated to ensuring they do not.”

The data released by the FBI today also show that murders increased by 1.5 percent nationwide during the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016. This suggests a significant leveling off of the previous increase. In the first half of 2016, murders increased by 5.2 percent. Other categories of violent crime, including rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, all decreased in the first half of 2017 (by 2.4 percent, 2.2 percent, and 0.1 percent, respectively). All three categories increased during the same period in 2016. The FBI’s 2017 Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report is based on information received by the FBI from 13,033 law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Alger Hiss’s Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life Of A Soviet Spy

John Ehran at the CIA web site offers a review of G. Edward White’s Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy.
Somehow, the Hiss case never goes away. The basic question—whether Alger Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union during the 1930s and 1940s—was finally settled during the 1990s, as Cold War archives opened and documents proving his guilt became available. But other issues remained uncertain. Unlike many other Soviet spies who confessed their guilt, Hiss went to his grave in 1996 claiming to be innocent; he left no record of why he had committed espionage or why he denied it publicly for almost 50 years. Now, in Alger Hiss’s Looking-Glass Wars, G. Edward White, a law professor at the University of Virginia and son-in-law of one of Hiss’s lawyers, provides a convincing analysis of Hiss’s reasons.

Born in 1904, Alger Hiss graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School, worked as a secretary for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and, like many educated liberals, migrated toward the radical left during the Depression. He moved to Washington in 1933 to work in the New Deal and, after serving in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and on the legal staff of the Nye Committee’s investigation of US munitions sales during World War I, he joined the State Department in 1936. Hiss rose high at State, eventually serving as an aide to Secretary of State Stettinius at the Yalta conference in 1945 and then as Secretary General of the UN organizing conference at San Francisco.

Although it is unclear when he was recruited by the Soviets, Hiss may have been working for them as early as 1933. While at the State Department, he routinely passed documents to Whittaker Chambers, an American communist working for Soviet intelligence, who photographed them and delivered the film to the Soviets. In 1938, Chambers stopped working for Moscow and, after the announcement of the Hitler–Stalin Pact, secured an appointment with Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle and told him of the espionage ring’s activities. At the time, however, the government was more concerned with German and Japanese threats. The FBI did not interview Chambers until 1942, and it was not until after the war that it took Chambers’s story seriously enough to begin an investigation. Although the inquiry did not produce enough evidence to prove that Hiss was a spy, it raised enough questions that Hiss was forced to leave the State Department in 1946.

The case became public in August 1948 when Chambers, called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, named Hiss as a communist, although he said nothing about his espionage. Hiss denied the charge and challenged Chambers to repeat it in public, without the immunity of testimony; Chambers did so, and Hiss filed a slander suit. Chambers, in a deposition for the suit, revealed Hiss’s spying and then produced papers and microfilms of documents he said Hiss had provided. Because the statute of limitations covering espionage during the 1930s had expired, Hiss was indicted instead for lying to a grand jury when he had denied his activities. After two dramatic trials—the first ended in a hung jury—Hiss was convicted and served 44 months in federal prison.

 In Alger Hiss’s Looking-Glass Wars, White presents several factors that he judges gave Hiss a predisposition for espionage. From a financially and emotionally troubled family, Hiss practiced deception at an early age, developing impressive self-control and discipline to create a persona that belied his origins—to Hiss’s associates, he seemed to be from a secure upper-class background. In addition to documenting Hiss’s various deceptions, White points out that Hiss had a controlling nature and, even as a young man, enjoyed manipulating others and compartmentalizing his life. At the same time, he had an altruistic nature and was frustrated by the slow pace of social reform during the New Deal. White contends that Hiss enjoyed the intellectual challenge not only of the “details of spying, but the details of constructing a carapace of misinformation, half-truths, and lies to cover one’s espionage activity.” [1] His portrait of Hiss’s personality is consistent with the behavior often found in spies. That he may have, in addition, seen himself as working to alleviate human suffering must have made him an easy recruit for the Soviets.

The author’s main interest, however, is shedding light on why Hiss denied his espionage after he was exposed, lying continuously to his family, friends, and supporters for almost 50 years. White suggests that Hiss may initially have simply underestimated the strength of the case against him and thought he could lie his way out of trouble—a good bet, given that the State Department investigation had been inconclusive. Not expecting Chambers to have hard evidence, Hiss used what White terms a “reputational” defense—presenting himself as man of sterling character, a pillar of the establishment, in contrast to Chambers, a confessed former communist and spy. This strategy failed as the government chipped away at his denials with witnesses and physical evidence, forcing him to keep adjusting his story until he lost his credibility.

Once convicted, Hiss was determined to be vindicated. White is at his best as he charts Hiss’s evolving strategy. Since he had no new evidence or legal grounds on which to build a case, he sought to shift the focus of the debate from his acts to those of others. While in jail, Hiss took on the persona of a martyr: He appeared to accept the injustice of his fate, was stoic and never complained, and gained the respect of his fellow inmates as a prisoner who never sought favors or turned informer. White details how, after his release, Hiss made these characteristics the foundation of a new public personality and recast his story as a human drama. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hiss presented himself as an innocent victim of Cold War hysteria and the malevolence of Chambers, Richard Nixon, and FBI Director Hoover. A key part of this effort, says White, was Hiss’s decision to cooperate with a sympathetic psychiatrist, Meyer Zeligs, who wrote a book portraying Chambers as a deeply disturbed man, driven to frame an almost saintly Hiss by “the shiftings of his guilt-divided, tortured sense of his own being.” [2] Hiss’s claims and Zeligs’ book were nonsense; nonetheless, as White points out, together they gradually made Hiss a more human and sympathetic figure.

Hiss’s effort paid large dividends in the late 1960s and the 1970s. The Vietnam War, social upheaval, and Watergate discredited many of the institutions of American politics and society, and especially called into question much of what had been believed about the Cold War. White shows how Hiss in this period shifted his narrative, emphasizing his claim to be the victim of a government conspiracy. To many of the disillusioned, distrustful young people in the early and mid-1970s, his claim seemed credible. Hiss became a popular speaker on campuses. He also managed to expand his appeal beyond students—White documents that many older, prominent people who once had believed him guilty became unsure of their views. Hiss’s campaign for vindication reached its peak in 1975 when Massachusetts restored his license to practice law.

Soon after, however, Hiss’s campaign stalled. The crucial event was the publication of historian Allen Weinstein’s book on the case, Perjury (1978). Exhaustively researched, the book made a damning case for Hiss’s guilt—and, in its updated edition, it remains the standard account of the case.

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