Monday, March 19, 2018

Ignatius: Time for Putin Payback

It was no surprise that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was reelected for another six years, as there is no doubt that the election was truly rigged.

With the brazen attempted nerve agent murder of a former GRU colonel and defector in the United Kingdom and other outrageous acts around the world, the former KGB officer and Russian president is due for a bit of payback, says Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (seen in the below photo), author of The Quantum Spy and other fine spy thrillers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told NBC's Megyn Kelly this month that in using power, you "must be ready to go all the way to achieve the goals." Now, it seems, Putin has gone all the way too far.

Putin's aggressive use of covert action to settle scores hit an international tripwire after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the quiet British cathedral town of Salisbury. An outraged Britain was joined Thursday by France, Germany and America in condemning the murderous use of the banned Soviet-era toxin known as Novichok.

A joint statement denounced the attack as "the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War" and called it "a breach of international law" that comes "against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior." That strong language warrants action by NATO and the U.N..

The Trump administration, after a year of mealy-mouthed, temporizing statements, also announced sanctions Thursday against Russia's "malicious cyberattacks." The sanctions, targeting five Russian organizations and 19 people, will have little practical effect beyond those already in place. What matters is that President Trump finally seems to have ended his dubious defense of Putin. "It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it," he said of the poisoning. "We're taking it very seriously."

So how can the U.S. and its closest allies alter Putin's behavior, if they're truly serious about holding Russia to account? The answer, say several former senior CIA officials, is to use America's network of alliances to put Russia under strain. Putin has been playing a weak hand well, but the high cards remain in Western hands.

Russia's greatest vulnerability is its dependence on sales of oil and gas. Here, the U.S. is uniquely positioned for payback.

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

Note: My Q&A with David Ignatius will appear in the upcoming issue of Counterterrorism magazine. 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Deep Undercover: Former Legendary FBI Undercover Agent Joseph Pistone Introduces Netflix True Crime Series

I met and interviewed legendary former FBI undercover agent Joseph Pistone (seen in the above and below photos) some years ago and I wrote a Crime Beat column about him.

Pistone infiltrated the New York Cosa Nostra Bonanno organized crime family for six years posing as jewel thief Donnie Brasco. He wrote a book about his amazing experiences and a popular film based on his book, Donnie Brasco, starred Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Donnie Brasco is considered to be one of the most realistic organized crime films.

Now Joseph Pistone introduces stories of other undercover cops and agents who brought down drug kingpins and other criminals in the Netflix series, Deep Undercover. 

You can watch the dramatic and interesting series via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column about Joe Pistone via the below link: 

And you can watch a documentary about Joe Pistone’s undercover operation via the below link:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nominee For Top NSA Post Shares Views With Senators At Confirmation Hearing

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Ibarra at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2018 — President Donald J. Trump’s nominee to serve as the next director of the National Security Agency today promised to defend the nation and secure the future as he testified before lawmakers during his confirmation hearing here.

Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone (seen in the above official photo), the commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, spoke before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is considering his nomination to succeed retiring Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers as NSA director.

Ensuring Security

“The safeguard of our national secrets, the safeguard of our capabilities is one of the most important things the next director will continue to address,” Nakasone said, “My intent is to look to ensure the security of the enterprise and the security of the network initiatives that NSA has undertaken to date are timely, are accurate, are on target to ensure that we continue to have the safeguard of our national treasures,” he said.

He emphasized two elements that will help ensure national security.

The first focus, he said, is “continuing to hire great people that work at the NSA, not only hiring them, but also training them, developing them and ensuring that their long-term careers with the NSA are well-tended-to.”

Secondly, he said, the agency needs to continue to look at control mechanisms to provide the ability to safeguard networks and secure the environment.

If confirmed to the post, Nakasone will assume the current dual-hat arrangement of leading both U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA.

Strong Public-Private Partnership

The general emphasized the importance of working with the private sector on technology to secure the future and to continue to attract the best and the brightest to serve.

“If confirmed, I know that a strong public-private partnership will be needed to ensure this country benefits from the leading-edge technology being developed and implemented today and into the future,” Nakasone said, adding that the agency’s mission and technological advances are what sets the NSA apart from the public sector and helps to attract young talent.

“We have to continue broad abilities to continue to recruit from a very diverse population -- academia, and industry, [and] within inside our government,” Nakasone said, noting he admires the agency’s ability to look at a broad range of capabilities, including people who have disabilities, and to provide the necessary infrastructure that will support them.

Securing the Future

Nakasone addressed security concerns ranging from Russian and Chinese cyber threats to private-sector encryption platforms to soldiers wearing geolocation devices. He also touched on insider threats and how to reconsider looking at networks, data and weapons systems.

“Ten, 15, 20 years ago, we were concerned about what we said on phones. Today we’re concerned about what our soldiers wear, where they’re talking, where they’re able to be monitored,” he said. “This is indicative of how we have to approach the future. We are technologically informed -- we also have to be informed for operational security as well.”   

The Ugliest Man In Hollywood: On This Day in History Comedian Shemp Howard, One Of the Three Stooges, Was Born

Born on this day in 1895 was Shemp Howard. The American actor and comedian, one of the Three Stooges, was born in Brooklyn, New York. 

Howard, whose real name was Samuel Horwitz, died in 1955.  

TCM offers a piece on the late, great funny man.

Once described as "The Ugliest Man in Hollywood" as part of a publicity stunt concocted by his agent, comic actor Shemp Howard was an integral member of The Three Stooges for more than 70 films. Receiving his start on the vaudeville circuit, Shemp performed with his brother Moe and violinist Larry Fine alongside popular comedian Ted Healy on Broadway and in the two-reel short "Soup to Nuts" (1930) prior to venturing on to a solo career. Over the 15 years that followed, Shemp established himself as a film comedian opposite players like W.C. Fields and Abbott & Costello until the failing health of his younger brother Curly brought him back into the Stooges fold with the comedy "Fright Night" (1947). Less hyper-kinetic and childlike than Curly, Shemp's shameless mugging and trademark utterance of "Bee-bee-bee-bee!" - in addition to his willingness to take a mallet to the head or a pair of fingers to eyes - easily made him a welcome addition to the line-up. After appearing in dozens of shorts that included "I'm a Monkey's Uncle" (1948) and "Corny Casanovas" (1952), he died of a heart attack in 1955. And while replaced onscreen, the stringy-haired funny man would never be supplanted in the hearts of Stooge fans who truly appreciated what Shemp Howard and his fellow Stooges gave to the world of comedy, even if the critics did not.

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

You can also watch a video of Shemp Howard and the other Stooges as detectives via the below link:

Note: I was and am a huge fan of Shemp Howard and the other Three Stooges. I love them as a kid and I still laugh when I see them. 

Frederick Forsyth: EU Needs Britain To Keep Tabs On The Kremlin

Frederick Forsyth, a columnist for the British newspaper the Express and the author of The Outsider: My Life in IntrigueThe Day of Jackal and other classic thrillers, writes about his upcoming thriller and offers his view of Putin, a resurgent Russia and the European Union (EU).

Life can be extremely irritating. About six months ago I came up with a couple of predictions as to what was likely to happen on the world stage before very long. Foolishly for an old codger who swore he was in retirement after my last novel The Kill List and real swansong The Outsider, I mentioned the ideas to my agent. He mentioned it to my publisher and the pair of them went into spasm.

So weeks later I capitulated and agreed to make a real last novel out of it. It all meant a lot of research as usual in order to accrue the authenticity that makes a fictional story almost believable.

The trouble is, it is all happening too fast. And no, it is not Islamic State-style terrorism any more. The new peril is the increasingly aggressive attitude towards the West in general and this country in particular by Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. The other idea I will keep quiet about lest it also happens before I am ready to write.

Those of the grandpa generation lived through Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov. After the reforming Mikhail Gorbachev – who closed down world communism, abolished the Soviet Union, dismantled the KGB and liberated the six European Soviet satellites (who promptly joined the EU) – we thought all threats from Moscow might be over. It was called the Peace Dividend and we thought we could cut back on defense expenditure. So we did: a mistake, it seems.

Russia, despite an economy the size of Italy on a wet Sunday morning, is rearming furiously. The elected dictator (oh yes, it's possible if you rig the elections) is using the new income from oil and gas exports to build or re-fit massive warships, tanks, missiles and bombers. History shows us that when tyrants pile up this weaponry, they end up by using it – to invade or at least threaten.

Putin is slowly rebuilding the inner core of the old USSR. The rebellious Chechnya is back under his thumb, headed by his servant Kadyrov. Belarus does exactly what it is told under its obedient dictator Lukashenko. Crimea has been re-annexed, Ukraine invaded, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan intimidated.

He now threatens the Baltic States. But they are EU and Nato members so we have to defend them. Depend on our EU partners to do that? You might as well whistle Dixie.

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

You can also read Frederick Forsyth’s previous column on Putin via the below link:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Peace, Love And Homicide: A Look Back At The Unicorn Killer In Philadelphia

I offered a look back at Ira Einhorn, the Philadelphia “Unicorn Killer” in my 2002 Crime Beat column. 

I’ll never let you leave me. If I can’t have you, no one will.

The jilted lover turned murderer is a classic character in crime fiction and in the true annals of crime.

 "To kill what you love when you can’t have it seems so natural that strangling Rita last night seemed so right," Ira Einhorn wrote in his journal in 1962 when their love affair ended. Fortunately, she survived the attack, but a later girlfriend would not be so lucky.

Einhorn, often called Philadelphia’s "Hippie Guru," in the 1960s and 70s, was recently convicted in Philadelphia of the murder of his former girlfriend, Holly Maddux.

The long road to his conviction and life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison began in 1977 when Maddux, a young woman who left Texas to attend Bryn Mawr College, was reported missing after she broke it off with Einhorn. When the police could not find her, the Maddux family hired a private detective to search for her.

When neighbors complained about a horrible smell coming from Einhorn’s apartment in 1979, the police searched and found Maddux’s body in a locked steamer trunk in his closet. Arrested and charged with her murder, Einhorn’s attorney, former Philadelphia District Attorney and current U.S. Senator, Arlen Specter, arranged for several prominent business, social and civic leaders to testify to Einhorn’s good character. Despite the obvious fact that Einhorn kept his mummified girlfriend in a closet for 18 months, bail was set at $40,000. He skipped his pretrial hearing and fled the country.

Einhorn, a local media darling, often appeared on TV and in the newspapers during the 1960s as a counterculture hippie spokesman and in the 1970s as a "New Age activist." He was a friend of 60’s radicals Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, as well as the pet radical of some of Philadelphia’s bluest bloods and wealthiest corporate leaders (to get a better understanding of this type of odd social pairing, read Tom Wolfe’s great piece, Radical Chic).

As the name Einhorn translates to "one horn," he began to call himself "the Unicorn." He lived off of the kindness and money of gullible supporters. He was largely a media creation, it seemed to me. He was, both then and now, a sociopath and con artist.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Omar Comin!: The Wire's Creators And Actors Remember The Iconic Character Omar Little

I was a huge fan of The Wire, HBO’s award-winning crime drama. 

There series offered many interesting characters, but one notable standout was Omar Little, the shotgun-wielding robber of drug dealers, portrayed by actor Michael K. Williams (seen in the above photo).

Jonathan Abrams at, an interesting new online publication, offers a piece on The Wire and the iconic Omar character.

Early on, HBO executives asked David Simon to cut a seemingly pointless scene featuring a shadowy figure named Omar, who robbed drug dealers. His presence did not seem relevant to them in moving the story along. Simon asked them to wait. The introduction of Omar, he said, would serve as a placeholder for the character when he was reestablished later in the inaugural season.

The request paid off. Television had never seen a character as full of contradictions as Omar Little, depicted brilliantly by Michael K. Williams. The role was the first major gig for Williams, a native of Brooklyn’s East Flatbush, who had dropped out of school to pursue a dancing career. Omar wore a duster and a bulletproof vest, carried a .44 Magnum, and whistled “The Farmer in the Dell” as he stalked the streets, ringing fear in the neighborhood. Yet, he nurtured out-of-luck mothers, refrained from cursing, attended church with his grandmother, and showed a caring, tender touch with his gay lovers. As inconceivable as it sounds, Omar, too, was sourced from real-life inspirations. During his days on the force, Ed Burns found that stick–up artists roamed independently and often maintained their own set of rules, while providing accurate information. He cultivated several into his best sources. Donnie Andrews, one of the primary inspirations for Omar, positively transformed his later life, becoming a consultant on The Wire.

“The guys that I knew, the Anthony Hollies, Shorty Boyd, those type of guys, they all had a code,” Burns said. “They all lived by something, and they hunted drug dealers. That’s what they hunted. Donnie [Andrews], he was ferocious. Ferdinand [Harvin], this guy was amazing. He gave me a call one time, and says, ‘You want to hit this house.’ We got a search warrant, hit the house. It’s three guys who are in their fifties. You don’t see many guys in their fifties with shoulder holsters, with .45s in the shoulder holsters, at a table. It was a substantial amount of drugs on the table, but we didn’t find all Ferdinand said was in there.

“I went outside, and I called him up. I said, ‘We can’t find it.’ He says, ‘I don’t understand you. Every time I been at their house, I find everything.’ I said, ‘Ferdinand, I can’t put a gun down a guy’s mouth. I mean, I’m willing to talk to the guy, but I can’t do that.’”

ALEXA L. FOGEL (CASTING DIRECTOR): Michael K. had auditioned for me for Oz. You keep very good records for all your auditions. I had to figure out which character it was that he had auditioned for, and I had to go back every season and go through every page until I could find him. I knew I had wrote in my notes that he had this scar, so that’s how I refound him to have him in for The Wire. He made an impression. I knew I wanted to see him again.

MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS (OMAR LITTLE): I mean, it was odd. How many people walk around with a scar in the middle of their face? It’s a very odd thing to see. When you really think about it, on my face, you know? My face got mauled over. It’s jarring.

ED BURNS (CO-CREATOR): We picked Omar, primarily, because of the scar. His first scene was him and his partner, getting ready to go do a robbery, and the guy comes and gives him a sawed-off shotgun. He takes the shotgun and—Mike was the name of the guy who gave it to him—he starts walking away, and Michael K. says, “Excuse me.” “Yes?” “How do you open this?” “It’s a fucking shotgun, Michael.” I’m standing right next to him going, “Oh God, this is going to be so bad,” And then he goes out there and it looked like when he was in his crib, his mother gave him a shotgun.

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

I Like Ike: The Age Of Eisenhower

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of William I. Hitchcock's The Age of Eisenhower: American and the World in the 1950s.

Academic historians are giving the presidential performance of Dwight D. Eisenhower a well-deserved second look, and the results show the contemporary political pundits who derided him were either biased or blind to his accomplishments.

A 2017 poll of presidential historians ranked Gen. Eisenhower fifth, behind Lincoln, Washington and the two Roosevelts.

William Hitchcock, of the University of Virginia, spent eight years of meticulous research in newly accessible archives to produce a splendid biography that belies the image of Mr. Eisenhower as a benign do-nothing president who was more interested in golf than governing.

Mr. Eisenhower had already achieved fame as the conqueror of Germany, a feat that made him the most popular person in America.

As a military man, he had no interest in — or need for — further acclaim. Thus powerful Republicans expended much energy in convincing him to seek the presidential nomination in 1952. (Disclosure: My father was in the Texas delegation whose vote helped him defeat the early favorite, Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio.)

The slogan “I Like Ike” echoed around the country, and he won handily on a pledge to “fix the mess in Washington” resulting from 20 years of Democratic rule. He cited “unchecked inflation, a spike in taxes, and the spreading tentacles of a grasping bureaucracy.”

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

White Flag: Shadowy Terrorist Group Emerges In Iraq: Could Be ISIS 2.0 Or False Flag Operation

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz (seen in the below photo) offers a piece at the Free Beacon on an emerging terrorist group in Iraq.

A new group in Iraq called White Flag is coming under close scrutiny by U.S. intelligence agencies amid concerns the terrorist organization could become a regional successor to the Islamic State.

White Flag is an armed group operating in areas of northwestern and central Iraq since late last year and appears to be a union of Kurdish terrorists and former ISIS fighters, according to U.S. defense and military officials.

"It's kind of a hodge-podge of people and a white flag with a lion on it is their emblem," said a military official familiar with the region.

Little is known about the new organization and some reports from the region say White Flag has adopted the Islamic State jihadist ideology.

But so far the group has not conducted suicide bombing attacks, a key ISIS terror tactic, and the lack of such attacks is raising suspicions White Flag may be a front group for Iraqi factions vying for power.

The military official said intelligence on the group is sketchy but preliminary indications are it poses a threat to the areas of Iraq where it has operated. White Flag, however, does not currently have capabilities for conducting terror attacks outside the country.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

President Trump Nominates Career CIA Officer to Be CIA Director And First Woman To Head CIA

Guy Taylor at the Washington Times offers a piece on Gina Haspel, an outstanding choice to be the new CIA director. 

President Trump’s latest personnel shake-up comes with a historic first: Gina Haspel is in line to be the first woman to head the CIA.

But the low-key, highly decorated CIA veteran, whose rise through the agency’s vaunted Clandestine Service put her at the center of some the most controversial U.S. intelligence missions of the past half-century, could face a tough confirmation battle.

Human rights groups expressed outrage Tuesday over the pick of Ms. Haspel to replace Mike Pompeo. They said her involvement in one the agency’s darkest periods — the waterboarding and rendition programs in the years after the 9/11 attacks — make her an unsuitable candidate to head the agency.

However, several former high-level U.S. intelligence professionals, as well as many lawmakers, heaped praise on Ms. Haspel, saying she represents an unprecedented choice from within the CIA’s ranks and that her rise to the top is an inspiration for America’s career intelligence officials.

“It means a lot to the workforce that one of our own was able to reach the highest ranks of the agency and be promoted to be director,” former CIA Clandestine Service Officer Daniel Hoffman said in an interview. “It’s an incredible statement about how somebody can achieve great things from within. It matters a lot.”

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

Note: You can also read the earlier CIA announcement that named Gina Haspel as deputy CIA director via the below link:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Drinker, Traitor, Soldier, Spy: Ben Macintyre On Former Russian Spy And Defector Who Was Poisoned In The UK

Ben Macintyre, author of SAS: Rogue Heroes, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, and Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love and Betrayal, and other fine books on special operations and espionage, offers his take on former Russian spy and defector Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned in the UK, in his London Times column.

Drinker, traitor, soldier, spy. Agent, double agent, convict, intelligence asset and assassination target. Veteran of the Russian spy service, then its sworn enemy and now, in all probability, its victim.

Barely a week ago only a small handful of people inside the intelligence community knew the real story of Sergei Skripal, the spy who lies, mortally ill from poisoning along with his daughter, in a Salisbury hospital. Yet in a few short days he has become the most famous spy in the world, a man whose multiple lives are the subject of a huge police investigation into who he is, who he was and who tried to kill him.

Sergei Viktorovich Skripal was a child of the Cold War, born in Kiev on June 23, 1951, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. Physically strong and intensely patriotic, he chose a military career; long after becoming an intelligence officer he retained the manners and bearing of a military officer.

… In 1979 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Skripal was parachuted into Afghanistan and saw some fierce fighting under the command of Boris Gromov, commander of the 40th Army. General Gromov, one of Russia’s most highly decorated officers and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, would play a key role in Skripal’s later life as a friend and patron.

A champion army boxer with a broken nose and burly physique, Skripal looked like a military bruiser, but his appearance disguised a sharp mind. While still in the airborne division, Skripal was headhunted by the GRU (Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye, meaning Main Intelligence Directorate), the foreign military intelligence service.

The GRU was and remains one of the most powerful institutions in Russia, deploying six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, the successor to the KGB. The GRU controls more than 25,000 Spetznaz special forces troops, gathers and analyses information from Russian space satellites and answers directly to Russia’s chief of the general staff, one of three people controlling Russia’s portable nuclear control.

GRU officers are active around the world, usually operating under diplomatic cover to gather military secrets, run agents and obtain by fair means or foul anything and everything of use to the Russian military machine.

Skripal rose rapidly up the ranks and in the early 1990s was deployed to Malta as a GRU officer, where he showed himself to be “an energetic professional, capable of conducting complex recruitment of agents and extracting important information”, according to Russian media. In 1993 he was transferred to Spain, as the senior GRU officer in the office of the Russian military attaché.
His potential as a recruit to western intelligence was spotted by the CNI, the Spanish intelligence service. The Yeltsin years were lean ones for Russians serving abroad; salaries were often paid late, or not at all. Skripal was registered by the CNI as someone with “a nose for money”. He was approached by what is known in spy jargon as an “access agent”, a man calling himself “Luis” who suggested they co-operate on a business venture, selling Spanish wine. Skripal was promised large commissions in exchange for identifying possible business partners in Russia.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat interview with Ben Macinytre via the below link:

Navy Intel Chief Took Lavish Gifts From 'Fat Leonard,' But Cleared Of Consorting With Prostitutes

Craig Whitlock offers a piece in Stars and Stripes on the outcome of the Navy intel chief who was implicated in the Navy’s ‘Fat Leonard’ bribery and fraud scandal.  

After a four-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the Navy's former intelligence chief accepted extravagant meals, cigars and other illicit gifts from a corrupt defense contractor known as "Fat Leonard," but were unable to verify allegations that he also partied with prostitutes, new documents show.

The documents reveal that retired Vice Adm. Ted "Twig" Branch (seen in the above photo), a fighter pilot and aircraft carrier commander who became the steward of the Navy's secrets, enjoyed a decade-long friendship with Leonard Glenn Francis (seen in the below photo), a Singapore-based maritime tycoon who has pleaded guilty to bribing scores of military officers and defrauding the Navy of $35 million.

The nature of their relationship had been a long-running mystery. In November 2013, the Navy announced on a Friday night that it had suspended Branch's access to classified material because he was under criminal investigation by the Justice Department for his ties to Francis. The contractor's firm held lucrative deals to provide supplies, fuel and port services to Navy vessels in Asia.

For years, Navy and Justice officials remained silent about the investigation, though in private Navy leaders expressed frustration that federal prosecutors were taking so long to review the case. In an unusual twist, the Navy allowed Branch to keep serving as its intelligence boss for more than 1,000 days even though he was barred from reading, seeing or hearing military secrets. Branch retired from the military in October 2016, but the investigation into his conduct continued.

Last September, on another Friday night, the Navy announced in a brief statement that the Justice Department had referred the case to the Pentagon after finally deciding not to bring charges against the three-star admiral. Cryptically, Navy officials said they had taken "appropriate action" against Branch for unspecified wrongdoing, but would not provide details and declared the case closed.

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

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

Kingpin: New History Channel Documentary Series Begins With A Look Back At Boston Crime Kingpin James "Whitey" Bulger

I just watched the first episode of the History Channel’s new documentary series Kingpins.

The first episode looks back at Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. 

The show is interesting and informative, with dramatic reenactments and interviews with former Boston criminals, former law enforcement officials and journalists and organized crime authors, such as Howie Carr and George Anastasia.

My only complaint is that Billy Bulger, Whitey’s brother and a powerful Boston politician, was not mentioned, even though Howie Carr wrote an interesting book called The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century. 

Future episodes will cover John Gotti and Pablo Escobar.

You can watch a trailer for the series via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat interview with Dick Lehr, co-author of Whitey: The life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss, via the below link:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Attorney General Sessions Announces New Actions To Improve School Safety And Better Enforce Existing Gun Laws

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

Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced several steps in support of President Trump’s plan to prevent violence in schools.  Through these efforts, the Department of Justice is taking immediate action to protect our schools, better enforce our gun laws, support law enforcement, strengthen the firearms background check system, and improve federal law enforcement’s response to tips.  In making the announcement, Attorney General Sessions said:

"No child should have to fear going to school or walking the streets of their neighborhood.  Today, I am directing the Department of Justice to take a number of new steps that will help make schools and the American people safer from the threat of gun violence.”

“We are increasing the number of school resource officers, improving background checks and more aggressively prosecuting those who illegally attempt to purchase a firearm, and reviewing and enhancing the way our law enforcement agencies respond to tips from the public.  Under my tenure as Attorney General, we have already increased federal gun prosecutions to a 10-year high—and we are just getting started.  With these new measures in place, we are better positioned to disarm criminals and protect the law-abiding people of this country."

The Attorney General announced the following actions:

Improvements to School Safety
Hire More School Resource Officers.  The Department will help state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies hire more School Resource Officers (SROs). The COPS Hiring Program—a competitive grant that helps states and local communities hire more police officers—will prioritize applicants who intend to use the grants for SROs.

Provide Support For Firearms and Situational Awareness Training to School and Law Enforcement Personnel.  By leveraging existing assistance programs, the Department will be able to empower state and local firearms and situational awareness training for school personnel.  The Department will continue to provide emergency and crisis training to state, local, and tribal law enforcement through its National Training and Technical Assistance Center and VALOR initiative.

Fully Participate in the Federal Commission on School Safety. The Department of Justice is committed to working with our federal partners to study, evaluate, and make recommendations on how we can improve school safety. 

Aggressively Prosecuting Federal Gun Laws

 Bump Stocks. The Department of Justice is supporting President Trump’s absolute commitment to ensuring the safety and security of every American by submitting to the Office of Management and Budget a proposed regulation to clarify that bump stock type devices are machine guns under federal law, which will effectively ban the manufacture, sale or possession of these devices.

Swift and aggressive “Lie-and-Try” Prosecutions.  Attorney General Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to swiftly and aggressively prosecute appropriate cases against people who are prohibited from having firearms, and who lie in an attempt to thwart the federal background check system.

Continue to Increase Violent Crime Prosecutions. In 2017 the Department made some great strides under Attorney General Sessions' leadership, including the launch of the enhanced Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, which brings together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime.  Under this direction, the Department prosecuted more defendants on federal firearms charges than we have in a decade, and more defendants for violent crime than we have in over 25 years – since the Department started tracking a “violent crime” category.  Attorney General Sessions is dedicated to ensuring even more violent crime prosecutions, including firearms prosecutions, in 2018.

Supporting Law Enforcement
Providing Emergency Funding for the Costs of Parkland, Florida Law Enforcement Response.  The Department of Justice will provide $1 million in emergency grant funding to the State of Florida to pass through to Broward County and other responding jurisdictions’ law enforcement components.  The emergency funding is intended to defray the law enforcement overtime costs related to the response and subsequent crime scene investigation of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Improving Information Available for Firearm Background Checks

 Holding Federal Agencies Accountable. Federal agencies are required by law to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) relevant  records relating to individuals prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.  Pursuant to his authority, Attorney General Sessions is calling on all relevant agencies to certify within 45 days that they are in full compliance with the law or have a plan to become fully compliant.

Strengthening Partnerships with State and Local Law Enforcement.  The Attorney General is calling on governors and state Attorneys General to improve the reporting of state and local criminal justice data, and other information accessed by the firearms background check system. Because the FBI has identified “missing dispositions” – or arrest records that lack a final disposition – as a significant issue, the Attorney General will provide every state with their respective level of disposition completion with the goal of urging those states who do not have an adequate level of reporting to focus on this issue and improve their reporting.

Attorney General Sessions has also directed the FBI to identify local jurisdictions that are not reporting arrests to their state repositories as well as jurisdictions that are not providing all of their records identifying persons prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons.

Improving Access to State Mental Health and Domestic Violence Records.  Through the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) and NICS Act Records Improvement Program (NARIP) grants, the Department will help states provide more complete, timely, and accurate information to databases accessed by the firearms background check system.  The Attorney General has ordered that priority be given to projects that improve accessibility of criminal history records, domestic violence convictions, and information on persons who are prohibited from possessing firearms for mental-health related reasons.

Enhancements to Department Response to Public Information
Reviewing and reforming the process for handling tips.  Attorney General Sessions has ordered an immediate review of the Department’s handling of tips from the public so that they receive prompt and effective responses, especially when doing so could prevent violence.

Technical Assistance to States

Extreme Risk Protection Orders.  The Department stands ready to assist States, at their request, on establishing and implementing extreme risk protection orders. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

'Garden State Gangland: The Rise of the Mob in New Jersey'

The Washington Times ran my review of Scott M. Deitche’s Garden State Gangland: The Rise of the Mob in New Jersey.

New Jersey is unique as it is the only state in America that is home to several different Cosa Nostra organized crime families (called La Cosa Nostra by law enforcement).

In addition to the state’s homegrown DeCavalcante Cosa Nostra crime family (which the TV series “The Sopranos” was based on), all of the five New York City Cosa Nostra crime families, as well as the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime family, have branches in New Jersey that operate criminal enterprises independent of each other and in tandem.

Scott M. Deitche’s “Garden State Gangland: The Rise of the Mob in New Jersey” tells the more than 100-year-old history of organized crime in the state, from the 1900s’ Black Hand extortionists to the Prohibition-era’s Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, an Atlantic City politician and bootlegger who was the model for the main character in the “Boardwalk Empire” TV series, and onward to the powerful Jewish gangsters, like Abner “Longy” Zwillman, and the eventual control by the Cosa Nostra crime families.

A good number of New Jersey mobsters became powerful and influential national crime figures.

“To trace the start of traditional organized crime (the mob, the syndicate, the Mafia) in New Jersey, you could begin in a few cities around the state where new immigrant groups at the turn of the twentieth century fell victim to extortion gangs and police indifference,” Mr. Deitche writes in the beginning of this interesting and informative true crime book.

“It was in these tight-knit immigrant neighborhoods where the strands and threads of organized-crime groups began. But if there was one focal point, one birthplace where originated the larger, more influential crime figures who would shape both the underworld and overall history of the state through much of the twentieth century, it would be Newark.”

Mr. Deitche describes Newark as the biggest city in the state where in the early part of the 20th century the expanding industries attracted immigrants that settled in neighborhoods like the Italian First Ward and the Jewish Third Ward. Wary and suspicious of the police, these immigrants were considered easy pickings by the criminal gangs.

By preying on their own people, the criminals had little to fear from the cops. But there was one tough police officer, Mr. Deitche informs us, that went up against the Black Hand in Newark, an Italian-American detective named Thomas Adubato. The tall and imposing detective with a thick handlebar mustache, one of the many fascinating people one learns about in the book, was later killed in New York.

There are so many interesting crime stories in this book, but one story that was of particular interest to me, having grown up in South Philadelphia, was the 1980 murder of Angelo Bruno, the Philadelphia mob boss. The story illustrates the greed, treachery and viciousness of the mob.

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

Note: The top photo is of Philadelphia Cosa Nostra crime boss Angelo Bruno. The bottom photo is of “Longy” Zwillman.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Vengeance Of Vladimir Putin Knows No Bounds, Says Frederick Forsyth

Frederick Forsyth, a columnist for the British newspaper the Express and the author of The Day of Jackal and other classic thrillers, weighs in on the attempted assassination of a former GRU defector and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

There are three things we should all be very clear about regarding the events in Salisbury last Sunday. The first is that the attempt to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter was a carefully planned contracted hit. 

The second is that the level of technology and planning involved mean it could have derived only from the resources of a nation state.
And the only possibly nation state is Russia.

The third thing is that inside Russia no one would dare for one moment undertake such a contract killing without the personal sanction of the man at the very top: Vladimir Putin.

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

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

You can learn more about Frederick Forsyth via the below link:

Friday, March 9, 2018

A New Crime Novel On Mickey Spillane's 100th Birthday

Happy 100th birthday to crime writer Mickey Spillane.

Titan Books announced today a new crime novel from the late Mickey Spillane on his 100th birthday. 

When legendary mystery writer Mickey Spillane died in 2006, he left behind the manuscript of one last novel he’d just completed: THE LAST STAND. He asked his friend and colleague (and fellow Mystery Writers of America Grand Master) Max Allan Collins to take responsibility for finding the right time and place to publish this final book. Now, on the hundredth anniversary of Spillane’s birth, his millions of fans will at last get to read THE LAST STAND, together with a second never-before-published work, this one from early in Spillane’s career: the feverish crime novella A BULLET FOR SATISFACTION.

A tarnished former cop goes on a crusade to find a politician’s killer and avoid the .45-caliber slug with his name on it. A pilot forced to make an emergency landing in the desert finds himself at the center of a struggle between FBI agents, unsavory fortune hunters, and members of the local Indian tribe to control a mysterious find that could mean wealth and power – or death. Two substantial new works filled with Spillane’s muscular prose and the gorgeous women and two-fisted action the author was famous for, topped off by an introduction from Max Allan Collins describing the history of these lost manuscripts and his long relationship with the writer who was his mentor, his hero, and for much of the last century the bestselling author in the world.

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Mickey Spillane via the below link:

The Kremlin's Candidate

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Jason Matthews’ The Kremlin’s Candidate for the Washington Times.

An ever-present nightmare for an intelligence agency is the prospect of an enemy officer winnowing his or her way into a position where he or she can endanger operations.

High-level traitors are not unknown in the trade. Consider the British officer Kim Philby who spied for the Soviets while working in counterintelligence for his country’s Secret Intelligence Service.

Author Jason Matthews posits an even more audacious penetration in his delightfully-readable novel in which Russia has positioned a candidate for the position of director of Central Intelligence.

Mr. Matthews writes with the insider-authenticity of an officer who served for 33 years in the CIA’s Operations Directorate, specializing in denied-area assignments.

“The Kremlin’s Candidate” is the third book in his Red Sparrow series, with carry-over characters, but nonetheless a stand-alone work. It reinforces Mr. Matthews‘ dominance as a writer of intelligence fiction.

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

A Little Night Music: Sting Performs 'A Brand New Day,' Accompanied by Stevie Wonder On The Harmonica

You can watch Sting perform his song A Brand New Day on his 60th birthday, accompanied by Stevie Wonder on the harmonica, via the below link:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Goldeneye: 'I Wrote A Couple Of My Biggest Songs There': Rocker Sting Reveals The Unlikely Place Where He Wrote Some Of His Greatest Hits

My wife and I first visited Jamaica in 1980. We fell in love with the lush tropical island, the beautiful Caribbean Sea and the warm and friendly Jamaican people.

We have returned to Jamaica time and time again over the years. The island feels like a second home to us.

Perhaps it was on the second or three visit to Jamaica in the early 1980's that my wife overheard me asking a Jamaican where Oracabessa was, as I was much interested in visiting Goldeneye, the former vacation home of the late, great British thriller writer, Ian Fleming.

I read about Goldeneye in a biography of Fleming and in several magazine and newspaper pieces. Fleming spent two months a year at Goldeneye in Oracabessa and he wrote all of the James Bond novels at this cliff -top villa that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. Fleming had steps carved out of the cliff, which lead down to a private beach and a small cave. 
I was weaned on Fleming’s novels and I loved the early Bond films with Sean Connery as Bond, as my wife well knew. Unbeknown to me, when we returned home to Philadelphia my wife contacted a real estate agent in New York and booked a week’s stay at Goldeneye for us the following year.

When she told me we would be staying at Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye, I was delighted. Like Fleming, I went free diving in the cove and I worked at Fleming’s original Jamaican Blue Mahoe writing desk (Fleming is seen in the below photo at this desk).

Just prior to taking off for Jamaica and Goldeneye, my wife and I were watching a TV show and Sting was being interviewed. We liked Sting’s music, so we watched the interviewed, but we were taken aback as Sting noted that he had stayed at Goldeneye, where he said he wrote some of his best music at this “magical place.”

Sting recently mentioned Goldeneye and Jamaica again in an interview with the Daily Mail Australia.

Sting, real name Gordon Sumner, has revealed the unlikely place he wrote some of his biggest chart-toppers on Thursday's Project.

The former Police frontman was on the Network Ten show to promote his latest collaboration with Jamaican born singer Shaggy when he revealed that he wrote some of his most recognized songs at the desk of James Bond author Ian Fleming.

The admission came when Sting and Shaggy were talking about their latest duet, Don't Make Me Wait.

'The song is about your mutual love of Jamaica,' host Peter Helliar said. 'Shaggy, you were born in Jamaica, but Sting, what makes you love Jamaica so much? Where does that come from?

'I spent a lot of time in Jamaica in the '80s. I used to stay at Ian Fleming's house where he wrote all the James Bond books, and I used to sit at his desk ' Sting admitted.

Promoting his latest collaboration with Jamaican-born singer Shaggy, Sting revealed: 'I spent a lot of time in Jamaica in the '80s. I used to stay at Ian Fleming's house where he wrote all the James Bond books, and I used to sit at his desk '

He continued: 'I wrote a couple of my biggest songs of my career sitting at that desk. So it was my chance to make some sort of repayment of my emotional debt to the island. I love it.'

Pressing the issue, Peter asked the star what songs he composed at the famous desk to which he replied: 'Every Breath You Take, King Of Pain, Wrapped Around Your Finger....'

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video clip via the below link:

You can also watch the new Sting and Shaggy musical video via the below link:

Note: The above photo is of me at Goldeneye.