Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Charles Hurt On Trump's One Bad Day In Russia

Charles Hurt (seen in the below photo) offers his take on President Trump’s one bad day in Russia (and the many bad days of the previous administration) in his column in the Washington Times.

Well, that certainly was not The Art of the Deal. And that was not the tough guy from Queens we so enthusiastically elected.

President Trump is the most courageous, imaginative, and dynamic American political leader in more than a quarter-century. He is willing to tackle huge problems and fiercely pursue bold and inventive courses in search of solutions to problems that cowardly politicians have ignored for decades.

None of that was on display Monday in Helsinki.

Mr. Trump was defensive, short-sighted and small-minded in answering reporters’ questions.

He equivocated between Russian President Vladimir Putin and American intelligence officials on whether Russia tried interfering with the 2016 election. (Of course they did. They always do. And Mr. Putin is a murderous thug who’d belong in prison in a country that had the rule of law … Spoiler: Russia doesn’t.)

Instead of seeing the big picture of a hostile adversary attacking our country, President Trump was focused on defending himself from these absurd accusations he “colluded” with Russia. When he was not doing that, he used the global stage to defend the legitimacy of his 2016 victory.

No serious person cares about any of this nonsense. Nobody but the worst partisan hacks think Mr. Trump “colluded” with Russia. Nor do any serious people think his victory was somehow not legitimate.

For a guy who normally does majestic whale breaches in the open water, these were guppy flips in a tiny fish bowl. It was embarrassing and totally unworthy of the Donald Trump we know and love.

Mr. Trump is at his very best when he is standing toe-to-toe telling friends and foes alike the hard truths they don’t want to hear. That is the Art of the Deal that Americans love and that is what got him legitimately elected president.

Mr. Trump’s fearlessness in standing up to all of the worst, most weaselly politicians in both parties — kicking their teeth in when necessary — is what we love about Mr. Trump.

Still, as bad as Mr. Trump’s performance in Helsinki was, it is not nearly as bad as the performance of the entire political machine over the past decade.

For instance, it was not nearly as bad as allowing Russia to invade Ukraine.

It was not nearly as bad as, say, reneging on U.S. assurances to protect Eastern European allies with anti-missile systems.

It was not anywhere in the same galaxy as ignoring your own “red line” laid down in Syria after Syrian butcher and Putin-puppet Bashar Assad gassed his own people.

And, finally, it was no where near as bad as whispering to Russia that you will have more “flexibility” after re-election to surrender everything to Russian power.

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

Russian National Charged In Conspiracy To Act As An Agent Of The Russian Federation Within The United States

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

A criminal complaint was unsealed today in the District of Columbia charging a Russian national with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Maria Butina, 29, a Russian citizen residing in Washington D.C., was arrested on July 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C., and made her initial appearance this afternoon before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She was ordered held pending a hearing set for July 18, 2018.

According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.  This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.

The court filings detail the Russian official’s and Butina’s efforts for Butina to act as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation. The filings also describe certain actions taken by Butina to further this effort during multiple visits from Russia and, later, when she entered and resided in the United States on a student visa. The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law.

The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The investigation into this matter was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fox’s Trish Regan And Retired General Jack Keane Shred Trump Over Putin Presser: ‘He Should Have Defended Us!’

Josh Feldman at Mediaite.com offers a piece on Fox Business commentator Trish Regan and retired General Jack Keane (seen in the above photo) views on President Trump’s press conference with Russian President Putin.

Fox Business’ Trish Regan emphasized today she really, really wanted to be able to open her show by saying the media was all wrong about the Trump-Putin summit.

But she couldn’t.

“[Trump] basically said he didn’t buy what his own intelligence community was telling him,” Regan said. “This was clearly not his best performance… He should have defended us! He should have defended his own intelligence community. Or just don’t take the meeting! Don’t go to Helsinki if you can’t look the guy in the eye and tell him what’s what!”

She said the President should be able to separate Russian meddling from the collusion issue and his inability to do so is stunning.

Retired General Jack Keane, a Fox News senior strategic analyst, told Regan what happened today is “stunning and disappointing.”

He said whatever happened in private, the press conference was Trump’s opportunity to “knock the ball out of the park” and instead he “walked away from his intelligence community and did not stand behind them when they absolutely have the goods on Putin’s meddling in our election.”

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

The World Of Raymond Chandler And 'The Big Sleep'

Crimereads.com offers an excerpt and adaptation from the editor’s introduction to The Annotated Big Sleep, a book about the late, great writer Raymond Chandler’s first crime novel.

Raymond Chandler once wrote that “some literary antiquarian of a rather special type may one day think it worthwhile to run through the files of the pulp detective magazines” to watch as “the popular mystery story shed its refined good manners and went native.” He might have said, as the genre of detective fiction kicked out the Britishisms and became American. A chief agent of this transformation was Raymond Chandler himself. The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel, and it introduced the world to Philip Marlowe, the archetypal wisecracking, world-weary private detective that now occupies a permanent place in the American imagination. If Superman or John Wayne is the Zeus of American myth, and Marilyn Monroe is Aphrodite, then Marlowe is Prometheus: the noble outsider, sacrificing and enduring for a code he alone upholds.

But The Big Sleep does more than even Chandler intended it to do. Partially by design and partly by happy contingency, the novel dramatizes a cluster of profound subjects and themes, including human mortality; ethical inquiry; the sordid history of Los Angeles in the early twentieth century; the politics of class, gender, and sexuality; the explosion of Americanisms, colloquialisms, slang, and genre jargon; and a knowing playfulness with the mystery formula—all set against a backdrop of a post-Prohibition, Depression-era America teetering on the edge of World War II. For all this, The Big Sleep reads easy. And it’s a ripping good story.

In this annotated edition, we will trace the many veins of meaning folded into Chandler’s intricate novel. He didn’t think of himself as primarily a “mystery” writer—he called his stories only “ostensibly” mysteries—but consideration of his work was confined within the limitations of genre fiction during his lifetime and for decades thereafter. Chandler hated being restricted by such notions. In a late letter to publisher Hamish Hamilton he wrote: “In this country the mystery writer is looked down on as sub-literary merely because he is a mystery writer. . . . When people ask me, as occasionally they do, why I don’t try my hand at a serious novel, I don’t argue with them; I don’t even ask them what they mean by a serious novel. It would be useless. They wouldn’t know.”

Nowadays we don’t tend to be constrained by the same distinctions between “high” and “low art” that haunted Chandler. He is taught in university courses. He’s been canonized by the Library of America. Le Monde voted The Big Sleep one of the “100 Books of the Century” in 1999, and in 2005 TIME Magazine included it in its list of 100 best English-language novels since the magazine began in 1923. Before his death he would be lauded by authors as eminent W. H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh, T. S. Eliot, Graham Greene, and Christopher Isherwood. And The Big Sleep’s success moved from text to screen, with film adaptations eliciting iconic performances from two of Hollywood’s greatest leading men, Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler via the below link:

Sunday, July 15, 2018

FBI Helps Marshall Center Counterterrorism Network Stop Future Attacks

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

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, July 13, 2018 — For the past five years, Special Agents Tom and Jean O’Connor, both with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, have shared their experiences collecting evidence at terrorism sites with international participants attending the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies held twice a year at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here.

“The practical, real-life information provided by Tom and Jean on how to collect evidence can help our participants find out who the terrorists are and how they did it,” said retired Marine Corps Col. James Howcroft, Marshall Center’s PTSS director. “Then, you can figure out who are their friends, contacts and even, other members of the cell and this can help you stop a terrorist attack before it happens.”

Together, the husband-wife team has more than 40 years of experience investigating and collecting evidence at terrorist attack sites around the world. They have investigated large-scale terrorism sites such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon, as well as bombings on the USS Cole and at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and U.S. Consulate in Pakistan.

“The way we have done our training for PTSS participants is that we give a personal perspective on how to work these scenes and what investigative steps to take to locate the evidence that will help with the overall investigation,” Tom O’Connor said.

Evidence and Prosecution

The presentation they give for each PTSS program is a special evening class on evidence and prosecution. On July 9 here, they presented case studies on the incidents they have investigated or for which they collected evidence to illustrate the evidence response team’s 12-step process, from preparation to releasing the scene.

“I think PTSS has the internationally reach that I have not seen anywhere else. Case in point, we just hit up 68 potential investigators from 44 countries in one classroom,” Tom O’Connor said.  “We have been doing this twice a year since 2013. That’s a lot of countries and individuals who have been receiving this information, and a lot of potential terrorist attacks and criminal acts that are going to be able to be solved or prevented through investigative efforts.”

He added that the information provided in their presentation not only helps when the bomb goes off, but also can help before it goes off.

“When someone is doing an investigation and they come across some of the things Jean and I have talked about, they are able to put the case together and arrest individuals before the bad stuff happens,” he said.

Functionally Focused Program

The O’Connors are PTSS alumni. Tom attended in 2011, and Jean followed the next year in 2012.

“I think it’s really important to have alumni come back and share their experiences with other members of the PTSS,” Howcroft said.  “My team and I strive to make sure that PTSS is a course for practitioners, and we select speakers who offer experience and practical knowledge, and there is nobody better than Tom and Jean.”

Marshall Center’s PTSS is a functionally focused program that draws in civilian, law enforcement and military counterterrorism professionals from around the world and improves their capacity to counter terrorism's regional and transnational implications. It aims to combat terrorism in all of its manifestations nationally, regionally and globally.

The first PTSS course was in 2004, and this iteration is the Marshall Center’s 28th. It began June 27 and will finish July 26.

Real, Practical, Useful Takeaway’

“Through our teaching here at PTSS and talking to participants, we are also letting them know the capability of the FBI and that we have legal attaches based in U.S. Embassies throughout the world,” Jean O’Connor said. “This is important for them to know, because they all have evidence collection teams, and depending on what that level is in terms of training and capability, they could possibly use our assistance to collect evidence or have access to the FBI Laboratory.”

That is a real, practical and useful takeaway from the PTSS course, Howcroft said.

“The FBI has people like Tom and Jean who respond to events around the world, and they are there to help our partners to improve their capabilities to collect evidence in order to prosecute terrorists and discover their networks,” he added. “This is really important and, in fact, crucial for our participants to know that in their countries or regions, there are FBI agents who can help them.”

Marshall Center Alumni Network

The Marshall Center is a 25-year-old, German-American security partnership that has produced generations of global security professionals schooled in American and German security policies. Its alumni network has more than 12,500 security professionals from 154 nations. From the Marshall Center’s alumni network, close to 2,000 from 127 countries are PTSS alumni.
The O’Connors have contacted Marshall Center alumni when they have traveled overseas conducting investigations or participating in training.

“They do work internationally, and they have met up with alumni in many of the places they have gone to work like Kenya, Ukraine, Pakistan and Yemen,” Howcroft said. “They are really living this idea of the value of the alumni network here at the Marshall Center.”

Note: In the above DoD photo by Christine June Special Agents Tom and Jean O’Connor, both with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, talk about evidence and prosecution to 68 security professionals from 44 countries attending the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany on  July 9, 2018.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

U.S. National Pleads Guilty To The Attempted Murder Of U.S. Consulate Official In Mexico

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

A U.S. national and former medical student pleaded guilty today to shooting a U.S. diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Director Christian J. Schurman of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

Zia Zafar, 33, of Chino Hills, California, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.  Zafar entered his guilty plea before U.S District Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia.  Judge Trenga scheduled Zafar’s sentencing hearing for November, 7, 2018. 

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, on Jan. 6, 2017, Zafar armed himself with a firearm, donned a wig and sunglasses to disguise his appearance, and waited in a parking garage for a Vice Consul, who worked at the U.S Consulate in Guadalajara.  Although Zafar initially was following the Vice Consul as he walked towards his vehicle, Zafar noticed a security guard nearby, and instead moved to the vehicle exit ramp, where he waited for the Vice Consul to exit.  As the Vice Consul approached the exit in his car, Zafar fired a single shot into the vehicle, striking the Vice Consul in his chest and leaving him in serious condition.  Zafar admitted that he targeted the Vice Consul because he knew from earlier surveillance that the victim worked at the U.S. Consulate. 

“Zia Zafar surveilled and targeted a U.S. official serving in Mexico, lying in wait before shooting him in the chest in a heinous act of premeditated violence,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “Today’s guilty plea sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute those who seek to harm U.S. officials serving overseas.  The Department of Justice will continue work with our domestic and international partners to ensure that anyone who targets U.S. officials abroad will be brought to justice.”

“The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “No one should doubt the resolve of law enforcement to steadfastly investigate and apprehend those who attack us. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the many United States and Mexican law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension and return of this defendant to the United States to face justice.”

“Crime doesn’t stop at international borders, as such, the FBI works closely with international partners and security services in order to conduct complex investigations and acquire evidence from abroad for criminal prosecutions in the United States,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lasky of the Miami Field Office.  “I want to thank the Mexican government for their full support and cooperation throughout this investigation.”

"This guilty plea makes a strong statement to those who would attempt to commit such a heinous crime. The Diplomatic Security Service is dedicated to ensuring those who commit these crimes are brought to justice,” said DSS Director Schurman. “Our global presence allows DSS to work with both U.S. and foreign law enforcement to stop criminals who would attempt to murder a U.S. citizen."

FBI and DSS investigated the case in close cooperation with Mexican authorities and with valuable assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes Jr. of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case. 

The Department of Justice gratefully acknowledges the government of Mexico, to include the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Procuraduria General de la Republica, Fiscalia del Estado de Jalisco and Instituto Nacional de Migracion for their extraordinary efforts, support and professionalism in responding to this incident. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Grand Jury Indicts 12 Russian Intelligence Officers For Hacking Offenses Related To The 2016 Election

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

The Department of Justice today announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges twelve Russian nationals for committing federal crimes that were intended to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. All twelve defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian Federation intelligence agency within the Main Intelligence Directorate of  the Russian military. These GRU officers, in their official capacities, engaged in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, and released that information on the internet under the names "DCLeaks" and "Guccifer 2.0" and through another entity.

“The Internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “Together with our law enforcement partners, the Department of Justice is resolute in its commitment to locate, identify and seek to bring to justice anyone who interferes with American elections. Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide, and conquer us. So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.”

According to the allegations in the indictment, Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, Boris Alekseyevich Antonov, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev,  Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek, Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin, and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev were officials in Unit 26165 and Unit 74455 of the Russian government’s Main Intelligence Directorate.

In 2016, officials in Unit 26165 began spearphishing volunteers and employees of the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, including the campaign’s chairman. Through that process, officials in this unit were able to steal the usernames and passwords for numerous individuals and use those credentials to steal email content and hack into other computers. They also were able to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) through these spearphishing techniques to steal emails and documents, covertly monitor the computer activity of dozens of employees, and implant hundreds of files of malicious computer code to steal passwords and maintain access to these networks.

The officials in Unit 26165 coordinated with officials in Unit 74455 to plan the release of the stolen documents for the purpose of interfering with the 2016 presidential election. Defendants registered the domain DCLeaks.com and later staged the release of thousands of stolen emails and documents through that website. On the website, defendants claimed to be “American hacktivists” and used Facebook accounts with fictitious names and Twitter accounts to promote the website.  After public accusations that the Russian government was behind the hacking of DNC and DCCC computers, defendants created the fictitious persona Guccifer 2.0. On the evening of June 15, 2016 between 4:19PM and 4:56PM, defendants used their Moscow-based server to search for a series of English words and phrases that later appeared in Guccifer 2.0’s first blog post falsely claiming to be a lone Romanian hacker responsible for the hacks in the hopes of undermining the allegations of Russian involvement.

Members of Unit 74455 also conspired to hack into the computers of state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and US companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of elections to steal voter data stored on those computers.

To avoid detection, defendants used false identities while using a network of computers located around the world, including the United States, paid for with cryptocurrency through mining bitcoin and other means intended to obscure the origin of the funds. This funding structure supported their efforts to buy key accounts, servers, and domains. For example, the same bitcoin mining operation that funded the registration payment for DCLeaks.com also funded the servers and domains used in the spearphishing campaign.

The indictment includes 11 criminal counts:

Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States through cyber operations by the GRU that involved the staged release of stolen documents for the purpose of interfering with the 2016 president election;

Counts Two through Nine charge aggravated identity theft for using identification belonging to eight victims to further their computer fraud scheme; Count Ten alleges a conspiracy to launder money in which the defendants laundered the equivalent of more than $95,000 by transferring the money that they used to purchase servers and to fund other costs related to their hacking activities through crypto currencies such as bitcoin; and Count Eleven charges conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States by attempting to hack into the computers of state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and US companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of elections.

There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity or knew they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the vote count or changed 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.

This case was investigated with the help of the FBI’s cyber teams in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and San Francisco and the National Security Division. The Special Counsel's investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the Special Counsel at this time.

Cold War Navy SEAL And Che Guevara In Africa: My Q&A With Former Navy SEAL And CIA Operative James M. Hawes

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with former Navy SEAL and CIA operative James M. Hawes, author of Cold War Navy SEAL: My Story of Che Guevara, War in the Congo, and the Communist Threat in Africa.

You can read the piece below:

A Look Back At Carlos The Jackal: Once The World's Most Wanted Man

Counterterrorism magazine published my look back at "Carlos the Jackal," a terrorist who was once the world’s most wanted man.

You can read the piece below:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

FBI: Schooled in Fraud - Education Bait-And-Switch Scheme Cheated Veterans Of Tuition Benefits

The FBI released the below information:

The GI Bill provides the country’s service members and veterans a free or reduced-cost college education to those who qualify, offering them a head start on their return to civilian life. But one group of fraudsters used the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other U.S. Department of Defense educational programs for veterans as a piggy bank to line their own pockets while cheating more than 2,500 service members out of an education they were entitled to under the law.

“This was straight up stealing. Stealing money for veterans that was supposed to help them advance their careers and make themselves more marketable to employers after coming out of the military,” said FBI Special Agent James Eagleeye, who investigated the case out of the FBI’s Newark Division along with investigators from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense, and Department of Education.

The scheme was a basic bait-and-switch. A company called Ed4Mil worked with two schools: one, the private liberal arts Caldwell University in New Jersey; the other, an online correspondence school hired by Ed4Mil to develop and administer courses. Ed4Mil aggressively recruited service members and veterans, offering them free computers and gift cards to sign up for what they thought were classes taught by Caldwell University. Yet when Ed4Mil enrolled the students, they would put them in and pay for unaccredited correspondence school classes—but then charge the government the university tuition rates and pocket the difference.

At the center of the scheme was Ed4Mil founder and president David Alvey. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania resident saw a business opportunity in educating veterans with government funds but learned that when the government provides tuition and other educational benefits directly to a school, certain requirements must be met that his startup could not satisfy.

To get around the law, Alvey conspired with a Caldwell University official to use the university’s name on coursework that the VA would not have approved. The official—then an associate dean at the school—falsely certified that students were taking the same courses from the same instructors who taught on campus at Caldwell.

But the veterans were instead enrolled in online courses like archery and heavy diesel mechanics that were actually taught by the correspondence school. Students sometimes received a housing allowance for the online school, in violation of the rules governing educational benefits.

Caldwell University has publicly said that current university officials had no knowledge of the fraud, and the university cooperated fully in the investigation.

In some cases, Ed4Mil would take a one-semester correspondence course that cost less than $1,000, break the course up over several semesters, and charge the government $20,000 for the classes to make it seem as if they had been taken at a university.

Ed4Mil also failed to notify service members that they would need to pay their tuition money back to the VA if they didn’t complete a course. In the case of the fraudulent courses, Ed4Mil officials would simply fabricate a grade to make it appear as though the coursework was being completed, as they did not want the service members to complain about owing back tuition.

“This was straight up stealing. Stealing money for veterans that was supposed to help them advance their careers and make themselves more marketable to employers after coming out of the military.”

The scheme went on for about four years, until a student became suspicious of the course content. The student looked up the actual cost of the course he was taking online through the correspondence school and alerted the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG). The VA OIG approached the FBI to partner on an investigation.

As the scheme began to unravel, Ed4Mil scrambled to hide their subcontracting relationship with the correspondence school from their students and attempted to develop their own curriculum—although this curriculum still likely would not have met VA requirements for reimbursement.

Alvey pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced last month to five years in prison. He was also ordered to pay $24 million in restitution. His two co-conspirators—one of his employees as well as the associate dean—each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and were sentenced to probation.

Alvey collected most of the profits himself—more than $20 million. He bought a mansion, artwork, and high-end cars and also started other businesses. Under his plea agreement, any ill-gotten gains will have to be forfeited as part of the asset forfeiture process.

Eagleeye saw the fraudsters’ actions as a flagrant abuse of veterans’—and the public’s—trust.

“The military members were presented with this pitch from somebody they thought was from an accredited university. These salespeople were allowed on the reservist post or military base by their military superiors,” Eagleeye said. “To the soldiers, everything appeared to be legitimate.”

The FBI’s partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs was crucial to rooting out and stopping the corruption.

“This was egregious on so many fronts. The courses were overpriced, they were not high-quality classes, and they spread them out over more months than needed. They wasted the limited monthly entitlements of these veterans,” said VA OIG Special Agent Jenny Walenta. “This was a very well-run case because we worked it collaboratively. Everyone had their own expertise, but we worked together and did our part to help each other stop this fraud that was hurting veterans.” 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Spy Called Orphan: The Enigma Of Donald Maclean

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Roland Phillips’ A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean.

Even after the passage of more than half a century, anyone even vaguely familiar with national security clearances must blink at British handling of the coterie of Soviet spies known as “The Cambridge Five.”

Consider the rogue at hand, Donald Maclean. Although a blithering drunk for much of his career in the Foreign Office, he seemed on a path to be foreign minister while in his mid-30s.

Roland Phillips, who had a long career in London publishing, uses newly-released British archives to add fresh details on the oft-told story of the five Cambridge students recruited as Soviet agents the 1930s.

He also gained access to Maclean family papers.

Aside from H.R. “Kim” Philby who culminated his career as counterintelligence chief for British intelligence, Maclean was the most effective agent.

Campus communists inevitably drew the attention of Soviet recruiters. Maclean possessed four desirable qualities of a secret agent: “an inherent class resentfulness, a predilection for secretiveness, a yearning to belong, and an infantile appetite for praise and reassurance.” He was given the code name “Waise” in German, meaning “Orphan.”

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mob Talk 20: Reputed Philly Cosa Nostra Mob Boss Joey Merlino Dined With Actor Robert De Niro And Other Mob News

Veteran organized crime reporters George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser offer another video of them discussing Cosa Nostra organized crime in Philadelphia and South Jersey.

The hot summer sun may be shining on the Philadelphia Mob, but there's a cloud hanging overhead and now there's talk about a Mobster and a Movie star.

All this and more in the latest edition of Mob Talk Sit Down.

Three years worth of wiretap conversations made by one of their own has the Wiseguys on edge.  Not officially identified on paper by the feds, the made guy's audio and video recordings could spell trouble for heavy hitters in the Philly Mob in the coming months. 

So why was Mob Boss Joey Merlino dining and meeting with actor Robert De Niro in New York City?

Mob experts George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser have the inside track on that and a whole lot more this week...

You can watch the video via the below link:


Electrical Engineer Found Guilty For Intending To Convert Trade Secrets From Defense Contractor

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

A federal jury in Hartford, Connecticut yesterday returned guilty verdicts against a man for his conduct related to a scheme to convert trade secrets belonging to a defense contractor based in Groton, Connecticut, related to, among others, an innovative naval prototype being developed for the U.S. Navy, Office of Naval Research, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney John H. Durham of the District of Connecticut.

According to evidence admitted at trial, Jared Dylan Sparks, 35, of Ardmore, Oklahoma, an electrical engineer, worked at LBI Inc., a defense contractor that has designed and built unmanned underwater vehicles for the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research and deployable ice buoys used to gather weather data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  

During the course of his employment with LBI, Sparks collaborated with Charles River Analytics (CRA), a Massachusetts-based software company that developed software to be integrated into LBI’s unmanned underwater vehicles.  

In late 2011, CRA sought to expand into the hardware business and eventually agreed with the Office of Naval Research that it would complete the testing for a number of the unmanned vehicles designed and developed by LBI.  Sometime after April 2011, Sparks began exploring employment with CRA, and was eventually hired by that company in January 2012.  Before he left LBI, however, Sparks surreptitiously uploaded thousands of LBI files to his personal account with Dropbox, a cloud-based file-storage application.  Those files included LBI’s accounting and engineering files as well as photographs related to designs and renderings used to fabricate and manufacture LBI’s unmanned underwater vehicles and buoys.

On Nov. 3, 2016, a grand jury returned a 29-count indictment charging Sparks and Jay Williams of Griswold, Connecticut, with various offenses stemming from this alleged scheme.

The jury found Sparks guilty of six counts of theft of trade secrets, six counts of upload of trade secrets, and one count of transmission of trade secrets.  Each of these offenses carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. The jury found Sparks not guilty of multiple counts of the indictment, and Williams not guilty of all the counts in which he was charged. Sparks’ sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

“Jared Sparks stole thousands of documents—including proprietary designs and renderings—from his former employer when he left to work for a competitor,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan.  “Yesterday’s verdict sends a clear message that the Department of Justice is committed to protecting American intellectual property and will aggressively prosecute those who steal it.”

“In order to protect both our country’s national security and the intellectual property of Connecticut’s defense contractors, our office is committed to prosecuting those who steal trade secrets and hope to profit from the theft,” said U.S. Attorney Durham.

“Theft of trade secrets from a Defense contractor harms the U.S. taxpayer and threatens the integrity of the Defense Department's procurement system,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Northeast Field Office.  “DCIS is committed to working with the DOJ, FBI and other law enforcement partners, to investigate and prosecute those individuals who seek to profit at the expense of our national security.”

"Intellectual property theft cost U.S. businesses billions in revenue annually and robs the nation of jobs and taxes," said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Fuller. "Preventing intellectual property theft is a priority of the FBI's criminal investigative program. The key to this successful prosecution was due to linking considerable resources and collaboration of the private sector, federal law enforcement partners, the U.S. Attorney's office and the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section."

This matter was investigated by DCIS and the FBI with assistance from the Department of Defense’s Computer Forensic Laboratory.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacabed Rodriguez-Coss of the District of Connecticut and Trial Attorneys Kebharu Smith and Joss Nichols of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), with assistance from the CCIPS Cybercrime Lab. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Paving the Way For Reagan: The Influence of Conservative Media On US Foreign Policy

Aram Bakshian Jr offers a review of  Laurence R. Jurdem’s Paving the Way for Reagan for the Washington Times.

Political popularity is mostly written in sand. As personal auras fade, solid accomplishments count for more and tabloid charisma for less. Consider the cases of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. The only Americans alive today who could have voted for Ike when he ran for re-election in 1956 are in their early 80s or older. Anyone old enough to have voted for JFK in 1960 would now be 79 or older.

As long as living memory of Mr. Kennedy — the handsome, youthful president with a glamorous wife, an adoring press corps and a tragic, premature death — abided, JFK ranked high with the public, journalists and historians. This despite the scanty achievements and very mixed results of his aborted presidency.

In recent years, however, as the celebrity glow has dimmed, Mr. Kennedy’s stock has fallen. Meanwhile, Dwight Eisenhower’s standing as the brilliant World War II commander of the largest allied military effort in history and a first executive who kept America safe, prosperous, at peace and respected has steadily risen.

The Johnson and Nixon presidencies are mostly viewed as dynamic but flawed, Jimmy Carter as an embarrassing if well-intended accident. Both Bushes are widely perceived as personally upright leaders of limited vision, Bill Clinton as a clever but amoral Bubba. Barack Obama is already more remembered for breaking the color barrier on his way to the White House than for anything he accomplished after he got there. The jury is still out on the rather surreal current occupant. Donald Trump is very much a frenetic work in progress.

Which leaves us with Ronald Reagan, whose eight years in office marked the restoration of American prestige and self-confidence, not to mention the peaceful implosion of the Evil Empire. What made the Reagan presidency the success that it was?

From 1981 through 1983 I had the chance to observe the man at close quarters as his director of presidential speechwriting. To my mind Ronald Reagan had three great strengths: He was committed to a solid set of moral beliefs and principles; he was a man of character who always put his duty before personal popularity or political expediency; and he was one of those rare, rather fortunate souls whose inner qualities shine on the outside.

People saw and sensed that he was a good man who could be trusted. Ronald Reagan was everybody’s ideal grandfather, a patriarch both warm and wise.

Now independent scholar Louis R. Jurdem has produced a book that goes a long way to explaining how a man who began his adult life as a New Deal Democrat, gradually evolved — through a process of independent thinking and lots of outside reading — a humane, conservative world view. Mr. Jurdem does this by focusing on the leading roles of three small but influential publications that helped to shape and articulate Ronald Reagan’s own intuitive and practical grasp of conservatism: National Review, Human Events and Commentary.

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

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Senior Sinaloa Cartel Leader Extradited To The United States

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

Today, Mexican authorities extradited Sinaloa Cartel leader Damaso Lopez Nuñez, also known as “El Licenciado,” to the United States to face drug trafficking charges filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia, Assistant Director Robert Johnson of the FBI Headquarters Criminal Investigative Division, Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of the FBI Washington Field Office and Acting Special Agent in Charge Scott W. Hoernke of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Washington Division Office made the announcement.

Lopez Nuñez, 52, arrived in the United States this afternoon and will make an initial appearance on Monday, July 9, before U.S. Magistrate Michael S. Nachmanoff in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Lopez Nuñez is charged in a one-count indictment alleging that between 2003 and December 2016, Lopez Nuñez conspired with others to distribute significant quantities of narcotics for illegal importation into the United States.

“Until his capture, Damaso Lopez Nuñez allegedly participated in a multi-year conspiracy to distribute large amounts of cocaine, intending that the drugs be imported to the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “Lopez Nuñez’s arrest and extradition demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our partners in Mexico to the pursuit of drug traffickers who seek to flood our streets with addictive and deadly poisons, for their own illicit gain.”

“This successful extradition of a high-level target is a reflection of years of collaboration and cooperation by multiple Department of Justice units and our law enforcement partners who are all committed to combatting transnational criminal organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger.  “With thanks to the authorities in Mexico for their efforts in facilitating this extradition so the defendant can be held accountable and face justice for his alleged crimes.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and the DEA, in cooperation with Mexican and Colombian law enforcement authorities.  Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in bringing Lopez Nuñez to the United States.  The U.S. Marshals Service provided critical assistance in the location and capture of Lopez Nuñez and assisted in the extradition.

The U.S. Department of Justice thanks the Government of Mexico for its assistance in this case.

This case is also the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

Deputy Chief Amanda Liskamm, Assistant Deputy Chief Michael Lang, and Trial Attorney Cole Radovich of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel J. Grooms and James L. Trump of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The FBI And Cyber Crime: Prolific Malware Developer Responsible For Countless Computer Intrusions

The FBI released the below information:

Not that they knew him personally, but Taylor Huddleston, a 27-year-old from Hot Springs, Arkansas, was for a time very popular among the world’s cyber criminals, thanks to a malicious piece of software he created called NanoCore RAT.

That malware allowed hackers to steal sensitive information from victims’ computers, including account numbers and passwords, and even allowed them to secretly activate the webcams of infected computers to spy on unsuspecting victims.

“Basically, the malicious software compromises victim computers and steals information,” said a special agent from the FBI’s Washington Field Office who investigated the case. “The NanoCore RAT has the ability to control a victim’s computer.”

This type of malware—a Remote Access Trojan (RAT)—is all the more insidious because in most cases victims have no idea their computers have been compromised. According to court documents, NanoCore RAT was used to infect and attempt to infect more than 100,000 computers.

RATs are not only a threat to individual users but to commercial enterprises as well. And if hackers decide to target U.S. infrastructure using this malware, the agent said, “there is a potential for national security implications.”

Huddleston had the skills to develop malicious software. “There are many cyber criminals out in the world,” the agent said. “Many are not sophisticated in terms of developing a new malware. Instead, they would rather purchase malware to carry out their crimes.”

Huddleston didn’t stop with NanoCore RAT. He also developed and profited from Net Seal, a fee-based licensing software that he and his customers used to distribute NanoCore RAT and other malware.

Net Seal enabled other malware developers to license their illicit products for a fee and then use the Net Seal platform to widely distribute them. After malware buyers paid the seller, buyers received a licensing code allowing them to download the software. Like legitimate software, it could not be shared with anyone else. Such transactions are part of a huge underground economy on the Internet—known as the dark web—where criminals buy and sell illegal goods and services.

For example, court records detailed that Huddleston used Net Seal to assist one cyber criminal in the distribution of malware to approximately 3,000 people that was in turn used to infect approximately 16,000 computers.

Huddleston’s illegal activities surrounding the Net Seal platform became known to authorities, and the FBI opened an investigation in September 2015. The investigation eventually led to NanoCore RAT and ultimately to Huddleston.

Huddleston was arrested in February 2017 and charged with aiding and abetting computer intrusions. He pleaded guilty, admitting that he intended his products to be used maliciously. In February 2018, a federal judge sentenced him to 33 months in prison.

Don’t Be a Victim

Most malicious software, or malware, infects computers through some type of phishing attack, when users open an e-mail attachment or click on a link they believe—mistakenly—is from a trusted source.

Once infected by sophisticated malware, it can be difficult for the average user to know they have been compromised.

Installing anti-virus software on your computer is essential, “but anti-virus software is only as good as its updated definitions,” according to an FBI special agent who specializes in cyber investigations. “If the malware has not been detected by security companies, it will likely go undetected for some period of time.”

To avoid becoming a victim, always be vigilant about opening attachments and clicking on links contained in e-mail.

Other basic tips for practicing good cyber hygiene include:

Keep your firewall turned on: A hardware or software firewall helps protect your computer from hackers.

Enable automatic updates for your antivirus software: This offers the best protection from malware, even though it is not foolproof.

Keep your operating system up to date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to fix security holes. This ensures that your computer has the latest protection.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

On This Day In History America Declares Independence From Great Britain

As History.com notes, on this day in history the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain and its king.

The declaration came 442 days after the first volleys of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and marked an ideological expansion of the conflict that would eventually encourage France’s intervention on behalf of the Patriots.

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

Ohio Man Arrested For Attemping To Assist A Foreign Terrorist Organization With Homeland Attack Plot

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

Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, aka Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, aka Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, 48, of Maple Heights, Ohio, was charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organization.  Pitts was arrested Sunday by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The arrest and charges were announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman for the Northern District of Ohio, and Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony of the FBI’s Cleveland Division.

“Terrorists reject the ideals this nation was founded upon—the ideals we celebrate on July Fourth and which our law enforcement officers lay down their lives for every day,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “Each one of us owes a debt of gratitude to the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who work day and night to identify those who would do this nation harm, including those committed to supporting violence in the name of foreign terrorist organizations.  At the Department of Justice, we will continue to take every lawful step we can to disrupt terrorist plots and to protect our nation from foreign and domestic threats, including the dangerous threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism.”

“Together with our law enforcement partners on FBI Cleveland's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the FBI disrupted plans to attack innocent citizens – including on July 4th, a day our citizens should be able to celebrate our freedom without fear of violence," said Director Wray.  "This arrest shows the determination of the men and women of the FBI and our partner agencies to protect our communities from harm.  I extend my thanks not just to those who worked on this case, but to all those who safeguard our nation every day.”

 “Protecting our citizens and our nation remains the Justice Department’s top priority,” U.S. Attorney Herdman said. “This defendant plotted and scouted locations in downtown Cleveland for an attack on July 4th, when he knew it would be packed with people celebrating our nation’s birthday.  We will continue to do all we can to identify, arrest and prosecute those threats while working to keep our communities safe and secure.”

“Pitts, a U.S. citizen living in Ohio, pledged his allegiance to al-Qaeda, a foreign terrorist organization, and was planning to conduct an attack in Cleveland on Independence Day, the very day we celebrate the freedoms we have in this country,” said Special Agent in Charge Anthony.  “The FBI commends the public for reporting individuals that espouse their radical beliefs and/or engage in behavior that threaten the lives of our military personnel and community.”

According to an affidavit filed in the case, between 2015 and 2017, Pitts expressed anti-American sentiments and expressed a desire to recruit people to kill Americans.  The defendant expressed a desire to meet with an al Qaeda “brother” and in June he was introduced to an FBI employee acting in an undercover capacity (UCE), who Pitts believed was such a “brother.”

Pitts, a U.S. citizen, and the UCE met on June 22, in Walton Hills, Ohio, where they discussed launching an attack for al Qaeda during the July 4th holiday.

Pitts said: “I’m trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the 4th of July.”  He later stated: “What would hit them at their core?  Blow up in the, have a bomb blow up in the 4th of July parade.”

Pitts and the UCE searched Google for a map of downtown Cleveland.  After learning the fireworks would be launched from Voinovich Park, Pitts said: “Oh there you go. Oh yeah.”  He was also pleased the park was near the U.S. Coast Guard station, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Celebrezze Federal Building.

The meeting concluded with Pitts indicating to the UCE that he would travel to downtown Cleveland soon to take photographs and videotape footage as part of surveillance efforts of Voinovich Park and the U.S. Coast Guard station.  He also expressed a desire to take a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard station to gain as much information as he could about the layout of the facility.

The UCE texted Pitts later on June 22 and where he indicated al Qaeda “brothers” would provide Pitts with a bus pass and cellular phone.

On June 25, Pitts met with an FBI confidential human source (CHS) in Maple Heights, Ohio, who provided Pitts with a bus pass and a phone Pitts could use to communicate with the UCE.  The bus pass was provided to Pitts, as he requested, so he could travel to downtown Cleveland to conduct surveillance for the July 4th attack.

On June 26, Pitts contacted the UCE via text message and relayed that he had completed the reconnaissance of the designated spots in downtown Cleveland and that he desired to “destroy the government.”

Pitts also indicated he intended to travel to Philadelphia, since Philadelphia is his hometown and he knows it best.  Pitts indicated it was his “job” to “go look at the base of the ground” and that it was up to other “brothers” to complete other parts of the job.

On June 27, Pitts met with the CHS and turned over the phone that contained the reconnaissance photos and videos, so they could be provided to the al Qaeda brothers.

Later on June 27, Pitts and the UCE met in Maple Heights then drove to downtown Cleveland, where they discussed the impending July 4th bombing.

“And I’m gonna be downtown when the – when the thing go off.  I’m gonna be somewhere cuz I wanna see it go off,” Pitts said.

A search of the phone that Pitts provided to the CHS revealed that he made two videos in which he pledged allegiance.  He stated, in part: “We serve Allah . . . We fight our enemies.  We destroy them and destroy those who try to oppose…”

The phone also had four videos taken by Pitts that show him walking down East 9th Street in Cleveland, pointing out potential targets such as the federal building, the Coast Guard station and St. John’s Cathedral, which he said could be taken “off the map.”

On July 1, Pitts met with the UCE in Garfield Heights, Ohio, for Pitts to explain his plan for Philadelphia.  Pitts said he planned to travel there to conduct reconnaissance for a future attack in Philadelphia.  Pitts stated a truck bomb packed with explosives, such as the one used in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, would be the best way to cause maximum damage.

Pitts was reminded by the UCE that people would die and body parts would by flying around.  Pitts responded “I don’t care” and that he had “no regrets,” would be able to “go to sleep” and “I don’t give a (expletive).”

The defendant faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  A criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes.  If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This investigation is being conducted by the FBI-Cleveland Division’s Joint Terrorism Task.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Baeppler and Matthew Shepherd of the Northern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorney Paul Casey of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. 

Star Of The North: A Chilling Novel About The Brutal Regime In North Korea

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of D.B. John’s Star of the North for the Washington Times.

At hand is what could be termed a double-header of a book. The main story line involves the search by a Korean-born CIA officer for her twin sister, abducted as a child as part of a sickeningly nefarious plot by the country’s leader.

Yet this account is overshadowed by D.B. John’s depiction of the wretched daily lives of the Korean people under the rule of three generations of tyrants. (A personal note. I have been a “Korea watcher” for 30-odd years, since writing a book on the Korean War. And Mr. John’s depiction of life in the North is so brutal as to thrust the “thriller element” of his book into the shadows.)

The book is set in the reign of Kim Jong-il, second of the family of tyrants which has ruled since the 1940s. How does the “Dear Leader” (and his son, the current ruler, for that matter) remain in power?

In the words of an observer, “He’s a survivor, playing a poor hand with great skill. His weapons keep him safe from us. Hunger keeps him safe at home. His people think only of where their next meal is coming from, not of rebellion. And he’ll kill as many of them as it takes to stay in power.”

The portrayal of famine-induced suffering, as told in the words of an elderly shopkeeper, is so heartrending as to be unreadable. Children pick through the droppings of oxen “in search of undigested seeds to eat New graves were dug up, and the corpses vanished. Parents took food from their own children.”

This human suffering is carried out against a backdrop of giant murals that are omnipresent on every street displaying the smug face of The Great Leader — Kim il-Sung, grandfather of the current tyrant.

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