Friday, February 23, 2018

Worldwide Threat Assessment Of The US Intelligence Community


Daniel R. Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, released the unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community.

You can read the assessment via the below link:

https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Newsroom/Testimonies/2018-ATA---Unclassified-SSCI.pdf

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Justice Department Coordinates Nationwide Elder Fraud Sweep Of More Than 250 Defendants


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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and law enforcement partners announced today the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history.   The cases involve more than two hundred and fifty defendants from around the globe who victimized more than a million Americans, most of whom were elderly.  The cases include criminal, civil, and forfeiture actions across more than 50 federal districts.  Of the defendants, 200 were charged criminally.  In each case, offenders engaged in financial schemes that targeted or largely affected seniors.  In total, the charged elder fraud schemes caused losses of more than half a billion dollars.  The Department coordinated its announcement with the FTC and state Attorneys General, who independently filed numerous cases targeting elder frauds within the sweep period.

Attorney General Sessions was joined in the announcement by FBI Acting Deputy Director David Bowdich; Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell; FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen; and Kansas Attorney General and President of the National Association of Attorneys General Derek Schmidt.

“The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “Today’s actions send a clear message:  we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.  When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department’s disposal – criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains.  Today is only the beginning.  I have directed Department prosecutors to coordinate with both domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors.”

The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, ranging from mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual incidences of identity theft and theft by guardians.  A number of cases involved transnational criminal organizations that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims, while others involved a single relative or fiduciary who took advantage of an individual victim.  The schemes charged in these cases caused losses to more than a million victims.

"Winners. That’s what so many of the people who received these solicitations in the mail thought they were. But they’re not. They are victims (link is external) of scams that Postal Inspectors have seen and investigated for decades. In fact, some of the same operators we encountered 20 years ago are back. But so are we. Yesterday, Postal Inspectors around the country executed search warrants on 12 locations that some of these same operators used to run their scams. We’re letting the American public know – and especially our vulnerable older Americans – that Postal Inspectors are working hard to protect them and ensure their confidence in the U.S. Mail,” said Chief Postal Inspector Cottrell.

“Over the last year, the FBI has initiated more than 200 financial crimes cases involving elderly victims who were devastated financially, emotionally, mentally and physically. Picking up the pieces of these fraud schemes can be equally as traumatizing for the caregivers of these elderly victims,” said Acting Deputy Director Bowdich.  “The FBI reminds seniors and their caregivers to be vigilant. If any person believes they are the victim of, or have knowledge of fraud involving an elderly person, regardless of the loss amount, they should report it to the FBI.”
  
Actions against mass-mailing fraud industry

As part of the initiative, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and others, brought numerous cases this past week in a coordinated strike against more than 43 mass-mailing fraud operators, including criminal charges against six individuals.  In addition, law enforcement agents executed 14 premises search warrants from Las Vegas to south Florida, served numerous asset seizure warrants, and coordinated with the Vancouver Police in Canada, who executed over 20 warrants, including search warrants on business premises.

“The defendants targeted elderly and vulnerable consumers both in the United States and abroad, using U.S. addresses and the U.S. mails to try to legitimize their fraudulent schemes,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue.  “They sold false promises of life-changing prizes that never came true.  We will pursue the perpetrators of these mail schemes wherever they are located, and hold them accountable.”

These recently filed cases particularly targeted transnational criminal actors who collectively defrauded at least a million victims out of hundreds of millions of dollars.  Indeed, just one of the schemes prosecuted criminally by the Consumer Protection Branch operated from 14 foreign countries to cost American victims more than $30 million.  Click here for map showing a transnational, single fraud scheme.

Mass-mailing fraud inflicts hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to elderly U.S. victims each year.  Department prosecutors and U.S. Postal Inspectors have taken a comprehensive approach to combatting this fraud, disrupting and prosecuting individuals who manage the schemes, artists who draft the fraudulent solicitations, list brokers who supply victim lists, and individuals who collect victim payments. Click here for fact-sheet with cases on mass-mailing fraud.
  
Actions against other elder fraud schemes

Prosecutors across the country from the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices have heeded the call to focus resources on elder fraud cases.  Over 50 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Department Components filed elder fraud cases in the last year.  A list of Elder Fraud cases is provided on this interactive map.

Some examples of the elder financial exploitation prosecuted by the Department include:

“Lottery phone scams,” in which callers convince seniors that a large fee or taxes must be paid before one can receive lottery winnings;

“Grandparent scams,” which convince seniors that their grandchildren have been arrested and need bail money;

“Romance scams,” which lull victims to believe that their online paramour needs funds for a U.S. visit or some other purpose;

“IRS imposter schemes,” which defraud victims by posing as IRS agents and claiming that victims owe back taxes;

“Guardianship schemes,” which siphon seniors’ financial resources into the bank accounts of deceitful relatives or guardians.

Many of these cases illustrate how an elderly American can lose his or her life savings to a duplicitous relative, guardian, or stranger who gains the victim’s trust.  The devastating effects these cases have on victims and their families, both financially and psychologically, make prosecuting elder fraud a key Department priority.

Public education

The Department has partnered with Senior Corps, a national service program administered by the federal agency the Corporation for National and Community Service, to educate seniors and prevent further victimization. The Senior Corps program engages more than 245,000 older adults in intensive service each year, who in turn, serve more than 840,000 additional seniors, including 332,000 veterans.

Using its vast network operating in more than 30,000 locations, Senior Corps volunteers will communicate about elder fraud to potential victims across the country and will use their skills, knowledge and experience to educate their peers and caregivers about the most prolific types of schemes and how to avoid them. Click here for information on Senior Corps’ efforts to reduce elder fraud.
  
Coordination with state officials

Kansas Attorney General Schmidt highlighted the cases filed by state Attorneys General targeting elder frauds within in the sweep period, and he emphasized efforts at the state level to combat elder abuse and protect seniors from fraud and exploitation.  He encouraged all of the state Attorneys General to devote enforcement and public education resources to preventing financial exploitation of senior citizens.

Coordination with foreign law enforcement

Exceptional assistance from foreign law enforcement partners amplified the effectiveness of the Department’s initiative.  The sweep announced today benefited greatly from the work of the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group (IMMFWG), a network of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Europol, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.  The IMMFWG is co-chaired by the U.S. Department of Justice and FTC, and law enforcement in the United Kingdom, and serves as a model for international cooperation against specific threats that endanger the financial well-being of each member country’s residents.  Attorney General Sessions expressed gratitude for the outstanding efforts of the working group, including law enforcement action taken as part of the sweep by the Vancouver Police Department in Canada to halt mass mailing schemes that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims worldwide.
  
Elder fraud complaints

Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.  The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office of Victims of Crime, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.

MS-13 Gang Members Gaining Numbers By Recruiting Illegal Immigrants: Report


Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times offers a piece on the violent gang MS-13.

The violent MS-13 gang, which was nearly eradicated by the Bush administration, has been able to rebuild its ranks on the backs of illegal immigrant recruits, according to a new think tank report Wednesday.

Nearly a quarter of MS-13 gang members arrested or charged with crimes since 2012 came to the U.S. as part of the Obama-era surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), including a staggering number who have faced murder charges, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, which looked at 506 cases.

Jessica Vaughan, the report’s author, said the Bush administration used immigration laws to go after even low-level MS-13 affiliates, and worked closely with local police — even in sanctuary cities — to try to target gang members.

The Obama administration changed the focus away from rank-and-file illegal immigrants and toward trying to make big cases, hoping to make major conspiracy cases instead.

The result was a collapse in enforcement.

“ICE officers were no longer permitted to arrest and remove foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes. Gang arrests by ICE plummeted from about 4,600 in 2012 to about 1,580 in 2014,” Ms. Vaughan wrote.

She said those changes came just as the gangs were getting an influx of new members thanks to the surge of UAC that began in 2012 and was in full bloom by 2014, drawing tens of thousands of young males from Central America into the U.S. That’s the key recruiting pool for MS-13.

“According to local gang investigators, these gangs have been aggressively recruiting recently arrived Central American children as young as 10 years old,” she wrote.

Ms. Vaughan said sanctuary cities are feeding the problem by creating a no-questions-asked environment, of which the gangs are aware.

President Trump has elevated the issue of MS-13 this year, including inviting to the State of the Union address a top-level Homeland Security investigator and the parents of two teenage girls who were victims of a gang attack.

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



You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on MS-13 via the below link:

First In War, First in Peace And First In The Hearts Of His Countrymen: Happy Birthday To America's 'Indispensable Man,' George Washington


"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen," Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee said of our late first president.

He was also, as James Thomas Flexner called him, 'The Indispensable Man." 

As History.com notes, today is George Washington’s birthday.

On this day in 1732, George Washington is born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the second son from the second marriage of a colonial plantation owner. An initially loyal British subject, Washington eventually led the Continental Army in the American Revolution and became known as the father of the United States.

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



Note: In addition to James Thomas Flexner's book, if you would like to learn more about George Washington, our greatest president, as well as Benedict Arnold, our greatest traitor, I recommend highly Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution.

A Look Back At How Ian Fleming's Naval Intelligence WWII Background Helped Him To Create His Iconic Character James Bond


Hervie Haufler at the Warfare History Network offers a piece that looks back on how the adventures of a British Intelligence officer named Ian Fleming (seen in the above and photos) during World War II fueled his creation of the iconic fictional secret agent James Bond.

Some accounts of Ian Fleming’s life make it seem that only at the age of 44, as an antidote to the shock of finally agreeing to get married, did he suddenly commit himself to the unplanned task of creating his James Bond novels. In actuality, he had declared his interest in writing thriller-type books as early as the age of 20, when he confided to his friend Ivar Bryce that this was his lifetime goal. Even that early he had begun collecting incidents and experiences that he could later weave into his 13-book saga of James Bond.

Most particularly, Fleming relied on his richly varied participation in World War II as source material for Bond’s exploits. Rather than tie his hero to history, though, he made Bond current by involving him in the Allies’ Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union.

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



You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Ian Fleming and his 30 Assault Unit commando group in WWII exploits via the below link:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mob Talk 13: Joseph Merlino, The Face Of The Philly Mob, Discussed By Mob Experts


Philadelphia Mob Boss Joey Merlino dodged another bullet in federal court when a jury failed to reach a verdict on gambling and healthcare fraud charges after a three week trial.  A mistrial was declared.  So where does that leave the 55 year old gangster?  Mob experts George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser have the latest on Merlino in the Mob Talk 13 video.

You can watch the video via the below link:

On This Day In History CIA Officer And Traitor Aldrich Ames Was Arrested For Being A Soviet Spy


As History.com notes, on this day in 1994 CIA officer Aldrich Ames was arrested for being a Russian spy.

CIA operative Aldrich Ames is arrested for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Ames had access to the names and identities of all U.S. spies in Russia, and by becoming a double agent he was directly responsible for jeopardizing the lives of CIA agents working in the Eastern bloc. At least 10 men were killed after Ames revealed their identities, and more were sent to Russian gulags.


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



You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine interview with Sandra A. Grimes (seen in the above photo in front on the left), one of the CIA officers who investigated Ames and brought him down, via the below link:

Attorney General Sessions Announces New Cybersecurity Task Force


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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the creation of the Justice Department’s Cyber-Digital Task Force, which will canvass the many ways that the Department is combatting the global cyber threat, and will also identify how federal law enforcement can more effectively accomplish its mission in this vital and evolving area.

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” Attorney General Sessions said.  “At the Department of Justice, we take these threats seriously.  That is why today I am ordering the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force to advise me on the most effective ways that this Department can confront these threats and keep the American people safe.”

The Task Force will be chaired by a senior Department official appointed by the Deputy Attorney General and will consist of representatives from the Department’s Criminal Division, the National Security Division, the United States Attorney’s Office community, the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the ATF, FBI, DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The Deputy Attorney General may invite representatives from other Department of Justice components and from other federal agencies to participate in the Task Force. He may also establish subcommittees to focus the Task Force’s efforts.

The Task Force will be responsible for issuing a report to the Attorney General by the end of June.


The Attorney General has asked the Task Force to prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections; efforts to interfere with our critical infrastructure; the use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; the mass theft of corporate, governmental, and private information; the use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement; and the mass exploitation of computers and other digital devices to attack American citizens and businesses.  The scope of the Task Force’s report is not limited to these categories.

Reputed Philly Mob Boss Joseph Merlino's Trial In New York Ends In Hung Jury


The New York Post covered the federal racketeering trial of reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Merlino in New York.

Reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino slipped through the feds’ fingers Tuesday when the jury at his racketeering trial announced it was hopelessly deadlocked despite four days of deliberations.

Manhattan federal Judge Richard Sullivan declared a mistrial at 5:30 p.m., more than seven hours after giving jurors a sternly worded “Allen charge” to try to end the stalemate the panel first revealed in a note late Thursday afternoon.

Merlino, 55, faced four charges tied to alleged loan-sharking, bookmaking and health care fraud conspiracies.

The feds say the schemes were part of a sprawling, cross-crime-family racket from Springfield, Massachusetts, to South Florida, where Merlino moved following his release from prison in 2011 and was the matire d’ at a short-lived, namesake Italian restaurant, Merlino’s, in Boca Raton.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Washington Times Piece On Liberal Democrats And Illegal Immigrants


The Washington Times published my piece on liberal Democrats and illegal immigrants.

Liberal Democrats don’t like the broad term illegal immigrants, so the joke goes, as they much prefer to think of them as undocumented future registered Democrats.

Two recently elected Democrats, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, are so enamored with illegals that they appear to favor these non-citizens over the legal citizens who obey the law, pay taxes and just happened to have elected them to their respective offices.

One of Mr. Murphy’s first acts in office was the creation of the Office of Immigrant Protection. Although the governor has been vague on the details of the new office, his spokesman told reporters that the Office of Immigrant Protection will serve as a single point of contact for any New Jersey resident facing detention or deportation, with a focus on expanding access to legal services to these residents.

During his gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Murphy vowed to ban state and local police departments from assisting the federal government in “mass deportations.” And according to his campaign website, he also vowed to make life easier for our “undocumented neighbors.” He promised to provide driver’s licenses and statewide ID to illegal immigrants, extend in-state financial aid to the “Dreamers,” those brought illegally to the U.S. as children, increase access to professional licenses for immigrants, raise the minimum wage, guarantee earned sick leave, and strengthen workplace protections.

Under the new governor, New Jersey will also join other states in a lawsuit that challenges President Trump’s authority to end a program that allows Dreamers to avoid deportation.

Across the Delaware River from New Jersey in Philadelphia, Larry Krasner, the recently elected Philadelphia district attorney, also has announced the creation of a new top position in his office that is solely dedicated to protecting the “rights” of illegal immigrants.

During his campaign for DA, which was funded in large part by a huge donation from leftist billionaire George Soros, Larry Krasner vowed to fight what he deemed to be President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda. He promised to maintain Philadelphia’s status as a “sanctuary city” and protect the Fourth Amendment rights of all residents, regardless of legal status. He stated that he would cooperate with federal authorities only to the degree required by law.

… “This guy wants to protect illegal immigrants who commit crimes and lock up cops who are just doing their jobs,” an angry Philly cop said to me during the election. “He cares more for illegal immigrants than legal citizens and crime victims. He’s more concerned with radical politics than putting the bad guys away.”

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

A Look Back At FBI Agent And Russian Spy Robert Hanssen


The International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. offers a look back at former FBI agent and Russian spy Robert Hanssen

Was the son of a Chicago police officer and a housewife. Howard Hanssen was part of a special division called the Red Unit, created to ferret out communist sympathizers during the Red Scare.

Attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, majoring in chemistry while also taking Russian as a foreign language. After being rejected for a position as a cryptographer with the NSA, enrolled in the Dental School of Northwestern University in 1966. At Northwestern, Hanssen became known for his penchant for wearing Black suits to class every day. In 1968, halfway through the Dental program, Hanssen grew tired of it and decided he would rather become a psychiatrist. After growing tired of this pursuit he returned to Northwestern and earned an MBA in accounting and information systems.
  
 Met Bonnie Wauck, a student nurse at a state mental facility in Chicago in 1965. The two married on August 10, 1968. Wauck was the daughter of a University professor and a practicing Catholic, and member of the Opus Dei organization. Four years later Robert enrolled in the Chicago Police Department and was soon assigned to a special training class for a new division of the department that focused on police corruption.

Was distrusted by many within the division, including his boss, John Clarke. Was considered a devoted family man in his community, spending time with his children, teaching them to excel at academics. He also became an enthusiastic member of Opus Dei, which was deemed a cult by many. The organization instructed its members to attend Catholic church services every day and confession once each week. Applied twice to the FBI and was accepted the second time in January 1976. Was assigned to the Bureau’s Gary, Indiana office but was transferred two years later to New York City. Living with his wife and four children in Scarsdale, New York, Hanssen was having a tough time making ends meet and decided to exploit his position with the FBI.

 Disenchanted by the lackadaisical attitude of fellow FBI agents, Hanssen approached Russian agents and offered to sell secret documents. He was rewarded famously for his efforts but was caught by his wife while counting $20,000 and writing a letter to the Soviets in his basement. Thinking he was writing a love letter to a girlfriend, she demanded to know what was going on. He admitted to her where he had gotten the money but claimed that he had only given the Soviets useless information. Instead, he had actually provided the Soviets with very valuable information , including the identity of Dmitri Polyakov, a top-level Soviet double-agent. Rather than turn him into the authorities, she convinced him to confess his actions to an Opus Dei priest. The priest instructed him to give up his activities and to donate the money he received to Mother Theresa’s charities.

Was considered a highly intelligent agent, but his tepid interpersonal skill as well as his continued preference for black suits caused many to tag him with the nickname “the Mortician.” Unfortunately, the perception that he was an aloof, introverted worker hindered his upward mobility within the Bureau. Was transferred to the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC where he was initially assigned to develop a budget for the Bureau that was to be presented to Congress. Was moved to the Soviet Analytical Unit in 1983 and given a high security clearance. After a four year stint, was transferred back to New York.

Decided to re-establish his link to the Soviets. Knew that the FBI was not conducting surveillance on Victor Degtyar, a KGB Colonel living in Alexandria, Virginia. Hanssen therefore sent a letter to Degtyar, with instructions to pass another letter on to Victor Cherkashin, the head of Soviet espionage efforts in Washington. In this letter, Hanssen offered to turn over classified and highly sensitive information to the Soviets in return for $100,000. He also provided the name of three Russian agents who were working for the United States. Two of the agents were executed and one was imprisoned.

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



Note: To Learn more about the Robert Hanssen case I suggest you read David Wise's outstanding book Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America.   

The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia And The Ghosts Of The Past


Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a review in the Washington Times of Shaun Walker’s The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past.

Fellow writers take note: Your work is being monitored every day by a Russian agency that formerly was part of the Russian SVR foreign intelligence service, successor to the KGB of the old Soviet Union.

Officers examine the world’s press, searching for instances of what they term to be “Russophobia,” loosely defined as anything critical of the regime of President Vladimir Putin.

The agency’s director, Igor Nikolaichuk, maintains what is tantamount to an enemy list, ranking other nations’ hostility to Russia. One listing he displayed to Shaun Walker, author of this insightful look into Mr. Putin’s Russia, ranked Austria as the most hostile, followed closely by the U.S.

Depicting the West — and its “controlled press” — as an enemy scheming to overthrow Russia is one of the methods enabling Mr. Putin to maintain a considerable popularity. He is essentially unopposed as he seeks a fourth term in March, which would keep him in office until 2024.

Mr. Walker, a reporter for the Guardian, a British newspaper, has worked in Russia for two decades. His portrayal of Mr. Putin’s rule is based on interviews throughout Russia, from the Pacific shores to Europe. The man has astounding courage — seeking out, for instance, Chechen thugs who would happily put a bullet into his head.

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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wheresoever She Was, There Was Eden: For Mark Twain, It Was Love At First Sight When He Saw A Photo of Olivia Langton


Richard Gunderman at the Smithsonian magazine offers a piece on Mark Twain and his wife Olivia.

The year 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of one of the great courtships in American history, the wooing of an unenthusiastic 22-year-old Olivia Langdon by a completely smitten 32-year-old Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

As I first learned while visiting Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri in preparation for teaching “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the contrasts between the two were indeed stark, and the prospects for their eventual union exceedingly poor. Olivia Langdon, known as Livy, was a thoroughly proper easterner, while Sam was a rugged man of the West. Livy came from a family that was rich and well-educated, while Sam had grown up poor and left school at age 12. She was thoroughly pious, while he was a man who knew how to smoke, drink and swear.

On Valentine’s Day, their story is a reminder of the true meaning of love. Despite many challenges, once united, they never gave up on each other and enjoyed a fulfilling 34 years of marriage.

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




An Interview With British Thriller Writer Len Deighton, The Author Of 'The Ipcress File,' 'Funeral In Berlin' And 'SS-GB'


When I was a teenager back in the 1960s I was a huge fan of American crime thrillers and British spy thrillers. I was weaned on Ian Fleming and I later read Graham Greene and John le Carre.

I also read another British spy thriller writer named Len Deighton. Today is his birthday. He is 89.



Unlike the other British spy writers, Deighton’s unnamed spy hero in his first series of thrillers was an overweight, working-class smart aleck. When Michal Caine starred as the spy in the film versions of The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, the producers called him Harry Palmer.

Over the years I’ve read nearly all of Deighton’s novels, including his WWII military novels and his clever alternative history novel, SS-GB, which takes place in a post-WWI Briton that the Nazis have defeated and now occupy.



Last February, when the BBC offered a TV series based on SS-GB, the Telegraph republished Jake Kerridge's interview with Len Deighton from 2009.      

Deighton is famously publicity-shy, and I did wonder whether getting to interview him would be what the acronym-loving secret service bureaucrats of his early spy novels would call a high D of C (Difficulty of Completion) mission. But here he is, relaxed, jolly, indecently sprightly for a man who will celebrate his 80th birthday this week, and quietly pleased that HarperCollins will, from June, be reissuing several of his novels (with new cover designs by his old friend, the Oscar-winning documentary-maker Arnold Schwartzman), culminating in a golden jubilee edition of The Ipcress File in 2012.

 “I was on holiday, I was restless, I started this story, then I put it to one side and got on with my life. And then I met a guy at a party and he said ‘I’m a literary agent.’ He was a literary agent like I was a writer, to tell you the truth.” Jonathan Clowes, his agent to this day, sold what became The Ipcress File to Hodder & Stoughton.

“It might have sunk without a ripple but Harry Saltzman had just made the first Bond film [Dr No, 1962] and it did very well, but that was really because the critics used me as a blunt instrument to beat Ian Fleming over the head.” Saltzman bought the film rights to Ipcress, and Deighton found himself a professional author.

 His first four novels are a wonderful mixture of the exciting and the amusingly humdrum, narrated by an unnamed working-class intelligence officer from Burnley who spends as much time trying to reclaim his expenses as he does searching for kidnapped scientists.

His Eton- and Oxbridge-educated superiors are usually incompetent – “what chance did I stand between the communists on the one side and the establishment on the other” – or treacherous. Much is made of the fact that he is overweight: in Billion Dollar Brain (1966) he is told he has been chosen to go on a mission to Helsinki because he is “the one best protected against cold”. Well, James Bond may be thinner, but so is his dialogue.

Deighton doesn’t see the character as an anti-hero, and stresses that he is a romantic, incorruptible figure in the mould of Philip Marlowe. “This is not the way it is now. Modern fiction is not so keen to guard the integrity of our heroes… When I started writing I had rules. One was that violence must not solve the problem, and I cannot have the hero overcome violence with a counterweight of violence.”

He hopes new readers will “get a laugh” out of his books. Does he think other spy writers are too solemn? “It’s difficult to be sure sometimes what is intended humour and what is unintended, isn’t it?”

… Deighton admits he felt bad that he did not predict how brilliant his friend Michael Caine would be as the hero (newly christened Harry Palmer) in the 1965 film of The Ipcress File; Harry H Corbett was his choice for the role. By this time Deighton was famous. He was seduced by the celebrity lifestyle for a period (becoming the travel editor of Playboy), but soon swore off interviews and parties: “Two things destroy writers: praise and alcohol.”

… “I’m seriously thinking if I can persuade my wife to live in Japan.” Any other ambitions? “I’ve always wanted to land a jet on a carrier. But I’m content. Nobody could have had a happier life than I’ve had.”

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



You can also read Len Deighton’s piece on his meeting with fellow thriller writer Ian Fleming (Deighton is on the left in the above photo and Fleming is in the center) via the below link:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ace Of Spies: A Look Back At The Late, Great Spy Sidney Reilly


Sidney Reilly is one of the most interesting characters in the history of espionage. 

I've read several books on the late, great spy, including Robin Bruce Lockhart's Ace of Spies


Lockhart, a British naval intelligence officer in World War II, was the son of R.H. Bruce Lockhart, a British spy who worked with Sidney Reilly in Russia.

Lockhart's book was the basis for the outstanding TV series Reilly: Ace of Spies, staring Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly.  


 The International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. offers a look back at Sidney Reilly.

Considered by many the greatest spy in history. His heroic missions, quick thinking and love for the ladies made him the prototype for spies.

Born Sigmund Georgievich Rosenblum in Odessa, Russia in 1874, the son of a rich Jewish landowner. Was educated briefly through grade school but was largely self-taught from thereon. Over the years, became proficient as a linguist, learning to speak at least seven languages fluently.

Left Russia at the age of 19, stowing away on a ship and traveling to Brazil. Worked in Brazil in various occupations, including as a dishwasher, a cook and a bouncer.

Served as part of an expedition through the jungle in Brazil, working as a cook for a group of British explorers. The group was attacked by cannibals and Reilly bravely grabbed a revolver and shot several of the attackers dead, driving off the rest. The grateful explorers invited Reilly to return with them to England. Impressed with his language skills, they steered him in the direction of the intelligence community.

Received training in espionage and was dispatched by the British back to Russia to gather information. Returning successfully, Reilly was given a permanent position with the British Naval Intelligence Department (NID).

Was very popular with the ladies. carrying on several affairs. Had a brief affair with noted author Ethel Voynick. Later began an affair with Margaret Callahan, the young wife of Reverend Hugh Thomas. Reilly had met Reverend THomas advising him on cures for his kidney information. When Thomas was found dead in his room at the Newhaven Harbour Station hotel. Apparently, a person claiming to be a doctor named T.W.Andrew, who bore a strong resemblance to Reilly, certified the death as a result of generic influenza and ordered no inquest be held. Despite the fact that there was no record of a doctor by that name in Great Britain at the time, Thomas’ wife Margaret inherited about £800,000. Reilly subsequently married her on August 22, 1898. At this time, he discarded the name Sigmund Rosenblum and became known as Sidney George Reilly. Was granted British citizenship soon thereafter.

Was sent by NID to Holland during the Boer War where he was to gather information on the armaments shipments being sent to South Africa. Used his innate ability for disguise to assume identities and assumed the role of a Russian arms purchaser. Under this guise, he put himself in a position to inspect the arms development at certain Dutch facilities. Once again, he returned to Britain with valuable information, impressing his superiors. He enjoyed similar success on a number of other assignments and became known within NID as one of the top agent within the agency.

Had a natural flair for his assignments, cool-headed, creative and brave. A master of disguise, he also possessed remarkable acting skills, allowing him to don almost any persona. He also possessed a confidence and bravery that prompted him to accept even the most dangerous and impossible assignments.

Was executed by firing squad on November 5, 1925 outside of Moscow and buried in an unmarked grave.

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

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the International Spy Museum and the myth, the mystique and the history of espionage, via the below link 

Defense Department Officials Highlight Work Of Special Operations Forces In House Hearing


Lisa Ferdinando at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2018 — The global successes of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the services’ special operations forces are due to their extraordinary people and the support from Congress, senior special operations officials told lawmakers yesterday on Capitol Hill.

Owen West, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, told the House Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee that funding for Socom amounts to about 1.9 percent of the defense budget, enabling a presence in 90 countries.

"This capital expenditure fuels the current fight, but it must also result in long-term competitive advantage,” West told the House panel during a hearing on the fiscal year 2019 budget request for special operations forces and Socom.

‘Outsized Effects Around the Globe’

West and the Socom commander, Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, thanked Congress for its support through funding the command and approving authorities for operations.

Socom’s budget was $11.8 billion for fiscal year 2017, Thomas said. The projected budget for fiscal 2018 is $12.3 billion, he added, noting that the figure is projected to be $13.6 billion for fiscal 2019.

The support from Congress, West and Thomas said, has allowed special operations forces to make significant contributions, such as contributing to the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

"Special operations forces played an integral role as part of the joint force in the destruction of ISIS' physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Thomas said. "We continue to have outsized effects around the globe, defeating our enemies, training, equipping and enabling our friends and allies, rapidly transforming the organization to be prepared for all future threats and caring for our fallen, wounded and ill and their families.”

Recruiting Members for Elite Forces

West said he and Thomas are partners in making the command a “more efficient enterprise that supports the National Defense Strategy and the secretary of defense.”

Explaining that only 30 percent of high school students are eligible for military service, West underscored the importance of exploring “unconventional techniques and new pools” to recruit the elite force of men and women.

"Today's battlefield has challenged the traditional definition of a combatant, successfully operating in the global contact layer demands that we build a diverse force,” he said. “The [special operations forces] entry standards are high, but America has always encouraged its pioneers." The most important capital investment is human, West said.

"The task is to remain unpredictable but expansive, pushing the competitive boundaries in ways our enemies do not expect," he added. "To sustain this expansion, we must be fiscally hawkish, reducing asymmetry by adopting a focus on return on investment."

‘Decisive Advantage’ in the People

Socom and the special operations forces are “relentlessly focused on winning our current fights and preparing for all future threats facing our nation," Thomas said. He told the subcommittee that members of the command and formations are better than they have ever been, thriving under pressure, executing the toughest missions and achieving success.

“Socom continues to enhance our role as part of the joint force in assuring allies and improving their capabilities in the face of aggressive regional hegemons, reinforcing host nation and law enforcement efforts in the Western Hemisphere in the defense of our national boundaries, and preparing for contingencies,” the general said.

The successes, he said, are directly attributable to “recruiting and training amazing Americans, outfitting with them with the best equipment and training in the world and empowering them with the requisite authorities to defeat our adversaries.”

Thomas said the people “continue to be the decisive advantage." He paid tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

"Success however has carried a high price,” he said. “In the past 10 months, we suffered the loss of 20 special operations personnel from our formation in combat, with 144 wounded and injured.”

Note: In the above Navy photo taken by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mat Murch East Coast-based Navy SEALs participate in a nighttime exercise during TRIDENT 17 on May 4, 2017 at the John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Department Of Justice Takes Action In Response To Broward County School Shooting


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

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered his condolences and support for the people of Broward County, Florida yesterday.  He also ordered the Department of Justice to assist the victims of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as the state and local agencies that are leading the investigation.

The Attorney General offered the following statement:

“It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures.

“The FBI in conjunction with our state and local partners must act flawlessly to prevent all attacks. This is imperative, and we must do better. I have ordered the Deputy Attorney General to conduct an immediate review of our process here at the Department of Justice and FBI to ensure that we reach the highest level of prompt and effective response to indications of potential violence that come to us. This includes more than just an error review but also a review of how we respond. This will include possible consultation with family members, mental health officials, school officials, and local law enforcement.

“We will make this a top priority. It has never been more important to encourage every person in every community to spot the warning signs and alert law enforcement. Do not assume someone else will step up--all of us must be vigilant. Our children's lives depend on it.”

***
  
Following are some of the resources already deployed by the Department and available to assist with the state and local response:

The FBI has approximately 250 personnel working on this matter, including personnel in Miami and at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The FBI’s Evidence Response Team is assisting in evidence collection and analysis and providing technical assistance with phone and social media investigation.

The ATF dispatched 17 special agents from the Miami Field Division to assist at the scene, and these agents continue to support the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in follow-up investigation.

14 ATF agents from ATF’s West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce Field Offices were on stand-by to assist during the scene response, and are now supporting the follow-up investigation.

ATF completed an urgent trace of a recovered firearm through its National Tracing Center.

ATF assisted in ballistics analysis through its National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, conducted witness interviews, and canvassed area federal firearms licensees for information that may assist the investigation.

Numerous components of the Department have made their victim-witness coordinators available for victim and witness assistance as needed.

The U.S. Marshals Service has deployed eight personnel—four from the Florida/Caribbean Fugitive Task Force and four from the Southern District of Florida office.  Additional personnel were staged and remain ready to respond if needed.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg remains in contact with the state prosecutor and Broward County Sheriff’s Office leadership and has made all federal resources available as needed.

Three Assistant U.S. Attorneys are currently assisting with the investigation, and one is staffing the FBI Command Post.

Through the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program, the Office for Victims of Crime has funding available to support victim-assistance activities, such as crisis intervention and grief trauma counseling, and to reimburse victims for certain expenses related to the shooting.

The Office for Victims of Crime and the Bureau of Justice Assistance stand ready to assist the state and local authorities.

This list should not be considered exhaustive.  The Department of Justice will continue to do whatever it can to help the people of Florida at this difficult time.

Federal Judge Gives Deadlocked Jury Another Day To Decide Fate Of Reputed Philadelphia Crime Boss In New York


The New York Post is covering the federal racketeering trial of reputed Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Merlino in New York.

Jurors at the Manhattan racketeering trial of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino revealed they were deadlocked Thursday, but the judge said he’d keep them deliberating at least another day.

The jury foreperson sent out a note at 3:55 p.m. that read, “We the jury are unable to come to an unanimously (sic) decision on the four counts.”

“This was a two-ish-week trial. There were long days that were pretty dense. This has not been an inordinate amount of time to be deliberating,” he said.    

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

Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals And Three Russian Companies For Scheme To Interfere In The United States Political System


The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the Internet,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed. The Department of Justice will continue to work cooperatively with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and with the Congress, to defend our nation against similar current and future schemes. I want to thank the federal agents and prosecutors working on this case for their exceptional service.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates. The conspiracy was part of a larger operation called “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta included multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in multiple countries.  

Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project.

Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American political influence operations.

To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media. 

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

After the election, the defendants allegedly staged rallies to support the President-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his election. For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the President-elect and another rally to oppose him—both in New York, on the same day.

On September 13, 2017, soon after the news media reported that the Special Counsel’s Office was investigating evidence that Russian operatives had used social media to interfere in the 2016 election, one defendant allegedly wrote, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity.... So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with my colleagues.”

The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two individual defendants.

Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.

There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

Everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. At trial, prosecutors must introduce credible evidence that is sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, to the unanimous satisfaction of a jury of twelve citizens.

The Special Counsel's investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the Special Counsel at this time.