Monday, November 19, 2018

From The CIA With Love: A Look Back At Ian Fleming, The Man Behind The World's Most Famous Spy

While serving as the assistant to the director of British naval intelligence in WWII, Commander Ian Fleming (seen in the above photo) wrote a memo that served as a blueprint for the creation of an American WWII intelligence agency. 

And as we all know, Ian Fleming went on to write the James Bond thrillers.

In gratitude for his contribution to American intelligence, the CIA website offers a piece on Ian Fleming’s life, work and that certain memo.

You can read the piece via the below link: 

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Ian Fleming’s intelligence gathering commando unit via the below link   

Saturday, November 17, 2018

From Rolex With Love: Extremely Rare 1954 Stainless Steel Watch Made Famous By Sean Connery In Dr No Is Set To Fetch £250,000 At Auction

I’ve wanted a Rolex Submariner diver’s watch since I first saw Sean Connery portray Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond in Dr No when I was 12-years-old in 1963. My dream came true when a beautiful young woman gave me a Rolex Submariner for my 30th birthday. 

I married her a month later.

Joel Adams at the Daily Mail offers a piece on the Rolex Submariner 6538 model, which has cult status since Dr No and its now known as 'the James Bond.'

An extremely rare Rolex watch made famous by the first James Bond film has emerged for sale for £250,000.

The 1954 Rolex Submariner 6538 acquired cult status after one was worn by Sean Connery in the 1962 classic film Dr No.

Bond subsequently wore the same model in several follow-up films, leading it to become one of the most sought-after Rolexes. 

The 55-year-old Rolex, valued at a quarter of a million pounds, has a black dial and a crystal reverse so the owner can see the finely-engineered Swiss movement.

The timepiece is generating furious interest under the hammer at auctioneers William George & Co, of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.The auction house has estimated the watch will go for around £200,000 to £250,000.

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

Happy Birthday To Martin Scorsese, Director Of Classic Crime Films 'Goodfellas,' 'Casino,' 'Raging Bull,' And 'Mean Streets'

As notes, today is Martin Scorsese's 76th birthday. 

Although he has directed fine films in other genres, he is most known for his classic crime films, such as Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull and Mean Streets. I'm looking forward to watching his upcoming crime film, The Irishman, on Netflix.

You can read about the director's life and work and watch a video clip via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Martin Scorsese via the below link:

Friday, November 16, 2018

My Washington Times Review of Michael Connelly's 'Dark Sacred Night'

The Washington Times published my review of Michael Connelly’s crime thriller, Dark Sacred Night.

In Michael Connelly’s crime thriller “The Late Show,” he introduced us to a new character, Renee Ballard, an attractive, 30-ish dedicated and smart Los Angeles detective who was working the night shift.

Renee Ballad was transferred to the night shift from the more prestigious Robbery-Homicide Division after she filed a complaint against her lieutenant for making a crude, physical pass at her. The complaint went nowhere, as her partner did not back her up, so she was sent to the night shift, an undesirable job called the “late show” by the cops.

In my review of “The Late Show” here, I noted that although I found Renee Ballard to be engaging and interesting, I missed his other, better known character, Harry Bosch.

So I was pleased that in his following crime novel, “Two Kinds of Truth,” Harry Bosch was once again front and center. Now, in Mr. Connelly’s current and 32nd crime novel, “Dark Sacred Night,” we see Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard team up.

The books are written in actual time, so Harry Bosch has retired from the LAPD and in “Dark Sacred Night” he volunteers as a reserve officer for the San Fernando Police Department, tackling cold cases.

One 9-year-old cold case is personal, as he helped Elizabeth Clayton recover from drug addiction while pursuing the case of her 15-year-old runaway daughter who was brutally murdered and tossed in a dumpster. When he seeks information at his old LAPD station, he runs into Detective Ballard, who becomes interested in the case as well. She considers the murder a “hobby case,” something she can pursue when things are quiet on the late show.

As Detectives Ballard and Bosch look through files from the time of the girl’s murder, they discover the possibility of other murders. Many of the murdered girls were runaways and/or prostitutes. Was there, is there, a serial killer?

Harry Bosch is also working on the cold case of a murdered gang leader in San Fernando. The victim, a Latino San Fers gang leader, was shot while walking his dog. Although not as well known as MS-13, the San Fers are one of San Fernando’s oldest and most violent street gangs. Harry Bosch’s investigation leads to a clash with the gangbangers.

I interviewed Mr. Connelly for my online Crime Beat column a while back and he told me that fiction goes down its own path from reality.

“My job here is to write a thriller — to be entertaining and keep the pages turning — but you always have an opportunity to say something or open up a window on something happening in the world,” Mr. Connelly said. 

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

You can also read my Crime Beat interview with Michael Connelly via the below link:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Best Of Enemies: The Last Great Spy Story Of The Cold War

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review of Best of Enemies: The Last Great Spy Story of the Cold War for the Washington Times.

A quiet but deadly game is constantly waged in Washington and environs between CIA and FBI officers and their Russian counterparts.

The goal is to persuade the adversary to switch sides in the age-old game of spying. How often do such overtures succeed? Such secrets are safely sequestered in vaults.

That such contests could evolve into friendship is perhaps unspeakable. But at hand is a truly remarkable account of one such bonding, with an outcome of international significance — a highly readable work that is headed for Hollywood.

At first glance, John “Jack” Platt and Gennady Semyovich Vasilenko were an unlikely match. Born in San Antonio, Texas, Platt served a hitch in the Marines before joining the CIA. His daily western garb earned him the nickname “Cowboy.” A self-described third generation alcoholic, he knocked back 12 to 14 beers daily — plus nips of harder stuff — during a series of agency jobs.

Boisterous and profane, Platt, had a knack for recruiting that propelled him up the ranks, with assignments abroad. A study of defector motivation created a list of vulnerabilities stated in the acronym MECMAFO — “Money hunger, Ego, Criminal acts, Midlife crisis, Addiction, Family trouble and Outcast loners.”

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

El Chapo's Trial Opens With Chilling Details

The New York Post offers a piece on the beginning of the trial of “El Chapo” Guzman.
Opening statements finally began Tuesday in the trial for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — with prosecutors describing some of the notorious accused drug lord’s most heinous acts for jurors, along with his weapons of choice.
“Some of his favorites include a diamond-encrusted handgun with his initials on it and a gold-plated AK-47,” said federal prosecutor Adam Fels.
He recounted how Guzman allegedly ordered hits on his own loved ones and used a small private army — consisting of hundreds of men “armed with assault rifles” — to take out his rivals.
“He ordered his hit men to locate, kidnap, torture, interrogate, shoot and kill those rivals,” Fels said. “Not even Guzman’s own family members were immune.”
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Counterterrorism piece on Guzman via the below link:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Former U.S. Navy Captain Pleads Guilty And Former Master Chief Petty Officer Sentenced In Sweeping U.S. Navy Corruption And Fraud Probe

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
A retired U.S. Navy captain pleaded guilty to criminal conflict of interest charges and a former U.S. Navy master chief was sentenced to 17 months in prison today on corruption charges.  The defendants are among the latest U.S. Navy officials to plead guilty and be sentenced in the expansive corruption and fraud investigation involving foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis and his Singapore-based ship husbanding company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman of the Southern District of California, Director Dermot F. O’Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) made the announcement.
Jeffrey Breslau, (seen on the left in the above 2012 photo) 52, of Cumming, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conflict of interest before U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino of the Southern District of California.  Breslau was charged in September 2018.  Retired Master Chief Ricarte Icmat David, 62, of Concepcion, Tarlac, Philippines, was sentenced by Judge Sammartino, who also ordered him to serve a year of supervised release and pay restitution of $30,000.  David was charged in August 2018 and pleaded guilty in September to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.
According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, from October 2009 until July 2012, Breslau was a captain in the U.S. Navy assigned as director of public affairs for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, headquartered in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  As part of his duties, Breslau was involved in devising the U.S. Navy’s public affairs communications strategy, and provided public affairs guidance to Pacific Fleet components and other U.S. Navy commands.  From August 2012 until July 2014, Breslau was assigned to the commanding officer for the Joint Public Affairs Support Element in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was responsible for leading joint crisis communications teams. 
Breslau admitted that from March 2012 until September 2013, while serving in the above roles for the U.S. Navy, he provided Francis with public relations consulting services, including providing advice on how to respond to issues and controversies related to Francis’s ship husbanding business with the U.S. Navy.  These included issues related to port visit costs, allegations of malfeasance such as the unauthorized dumping of waste, disputes with competitors, and issues with Pacific Fleet and contracting personnel.  During the course of his consulting agreement with Francis, Breslau authored, reviewed or edited at least 33 separate documents; authored at least 135 emails providing advice to Francis; provided at least 14 instances of “talking points” in advance of meetings between Francis and high ranking U.S. Navy personnel; and “ghostwrote” numerous emails on Francis’s behalf to be transmitted to U.S. Navy personnel.  During the course of this consulting agreement, Francis paid Breslau approximately $65,000 without Breslau disclosing the agreement to the U.S. Navy, Breslau admitted.    
As part of his guilty plea, David admitted that he was assigned various logistics positions with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet, including with the Fleet Industrial Supply Center in Yokosuka, Japan from June 2001 to July 2004; on the USS Essex from July 2004 to August 2007; on the USS Kitty Hawk from September 2007 to August 2008; and on the USS George Washington from September 2008 to July 2010.  In these positions, David was responsible for ordering and verifying goods and services for the ships on which he served, including from contractors during port calls.  Throughout this period, David received from Francis various things of value, including five star hotel rooms during every port visit, he admitted.  
David further admitted that he repeatedly facilitated fraud on the United States by allowing Francis and GDMA to inflate the husbanding invoices to bill for services never rendered.  For example, David instructed Francis to inflate invoices for the USS Essex’s anticipated November 2007 port visit to the Philippines.  As David transitioned to a new position aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, on or about May 8, 2008, Francis’s company paid approximately 84,637.00 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) for hotel reservations at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for U.S. Navy personnel assigned to the USS Kitty Hawk including 10,396 HKD for David’s four-night stay in a Harbor View Room, David admitted.
Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges, admitting that he presided over a massive, decade-long conspiracy involving “scores” of U.S. Navy officials, tens of millions of dollars in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and lavish gifts, including luxury travel, airline upgrades, five-star hotel accommodations, top-shelf alcohol, the services of prostitutes, Cuban cigars, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs.
So far, 33 defendants have been charged and 22 have pleaded guilty, many admitting to accepting things of value from Francis in exchange for helping the contractor win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by millions of dollars.
The case was investigated by DCIS, NCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher, Patrick Hovakimian and Robert Huie of the Southern District of California. 

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

James Webb's 'Fields Of Fire': A Look Back At The Finest Novel To Come Out Of The Vietnam War

Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps colonel, offers a review in the Washington Times of what I believe is the best novel to come out of the Vietnam War, James Webb’s Fields of Fire. 

“Fields of Fire” is the finest piece of literature to come out of the Vietnam War, and it has been republished on the 40th anniversary of the original. This will give a whole new generation of readers a chance to understand the reality of Vietnam vice the caricatures that have been portrayed since the fall of Saigon in 1975.

“Fields of Fire” launched the very successful literary career of its author, James Webb, who has gone on to write a number of other best-sellers. Along the way he has also served as a Reagan administration official — most notably as secretary of the Navy — and as a Democratic senator from Virginia.

Vietnam was an infantryman’s war, and Mr. Webb (seen in the below photos) describes the day-to-day experience of a Marine Corps infantry platoon in graphic and gritty detail. It is not a fun book to read, nor is it meant to be. The soldiers and Marines who comprised the bulk of our Vietnam infantry were thrown into some of the nastiest conditions ever experienced by American warriors.

Small platoons and companies spent weeks at a time in the bush fighting the Viet Cong insurgents and North Vietnamese regulars. Their only communication with the rest of the world during these sweeps was occasional helicopter resupply to bring in more ammo, food and mail as well as to evacuate the dead and wounded — of which there were many. It was not unusual for an infantry platoon to suffer over 100 percent casualties in the course of a “grunts” tour. Although the characters in the novel are Marines, Army infantry veterans of the Vietnam War will be reminded of their own experiences.

The book seems real because it is. It is a novelized version of Mr. Webb’s tour in Vietnam. The book’s characters are real people with fictional names. The Marines are a mix of ghetto kids, hillbillies and lower-middle, middle-class youngsters whose parents could not afford to get them into college and the accompanying student draft deferment. Most did not want to be there, but they got very good at what they did.

… Mr. Webb was one of the most highly decorated Marine Corps officers to come out of Vietnam. The fact that the survivors of his platoon — and later his company — remain close to him is a tribute to his leadership skills. This reissue of the book will introduce a new generation of military personnel and their civilian masters to the reality of a war that we don’t want to repeat.

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

You can read also read my Washington Times piece on the Vietnam War via the below link:

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Navy Secetary Richard Spencer’s 2018 Veterans Day Message

Below is Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer's Veterans Day message.
One hundred years ago, the guns fell silent across Europe on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, of 1918. The armistice, which ended World War One, finally ended the most horrific warfare the world had ever seen and the world began its slow march to recovery that continues to this day.
We remember this war on November 11th and we remember the toll it took on nations across Europe and in every corner of the globe, but here in the United States we also use this day as an opportunity to remember those brave young Americans who left their homes and families to fight as the popular song went “Over There” they laid their lives on the line to people they’d never ever seen in far-off countries they’d never been and they made the critical difference, which helped bring the fighting to a close.
This was not the first time American troops had gone overseas to the aid of another nation nor would it be the last.
Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, it was American Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen who stepped forward to defend the freedom in World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other challenges around the globe. And so on November 11th, we honor them as well.
The 11th day of the 11th month marks not just the anniversary of one war where American troops made the difference, but a day to remember all of the generations of warriors that came before them and after we know this is Veterans Day.
And this Veterans Day, I hope you’ll join me in thanking someone who served whether mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, neighbor or friend, and also remember those who still keep the watch and stand guard for freedom on this very day. Take a moment not only to thank them, but ask them to share with you why they chose to defend global safety and security.
We owe them a debt that can never fully be repaid, but which always must be remembered.

On This Day In History World War 1 Ended

As notes, on this day in 1918 World War 1 ended.

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside CompiƩgne, France. The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure.

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

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Birthday Challenge For The Marine Corps

Happy birthday to the U. S. Marine Corps from an old, former sailor.

Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps colonel, looks back at Marine Corps history and it’s future in a piece in the Washington Times.

Starting an organization in a bar is a risky proposition, and one of two things can happen. First, it might degenerate into a drunken brawl — the alternative is that you will end up with a very interesting organization. In the case of the U.S. Marine Corps, the second happened.

When it began recruiting at Tunn Tavern in Philadelphia following a 1775 act of the Continental Congress, the Marine Corps consisted of a few hundred qualified riflemen designated to act as shipboard policemen, provide the nucleus for boarding parties and provide snipers to fire at the crews of opposing ships. It would have taken a very prescient visionary in 1775 to envision an organization of nearly 200,000 with its own air force. Despite its present size and prestige, the Marine Corps has been on the endangered species list a number of times approaching its 243d birthday on Nov. 10. This year, its existence is not in question, but its core mission may be.

… The Marine Corps‘ official motto is Semper Fidelis (always faithful), but its unofficial motto has always been “we do windows.” That attitude has served the Corps and its nation well.

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

Note: In the above released photo U.S. Marine Sgt. Bryan Early, a squad leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, leads his squad of Marines in Afghanistan in 2013. The photo was taken by Cpl Austin Long. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Putin And Russian Election Interference? Perhaps Americans Should Be More Concerned About Crooked Politicans And Good, Ole American Voter Fraud

American intelligence officials have warned of Russia’s efforts to influence our elections, but perhaps there is a greater threat in our home-grown crooked election officials and election fraud.

We need better oversight of our election process, especially where one party has an overwhelming majority and influence. We also need to have voter ID laws enacted. 

We need ID to do the most mundane of transactions in America, yet we allow people without proper ID to elect our leaders. How many non-citizens voted this time? How many dead people?

Now the results of the mid-term elections are in, but they are being disputed and lawsuits and recounts are going forward. A center of this storm is Broward County, Florida.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn at offers a piece on the controversy surrounding the county’s supervisor of elections.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is at the center of the explosive Florida ballot-counting battle, with the state's Senate and gubernatorial elections on the line — but it's hardly her first voting controversy.

“She has had a horrible history … and all of a sudden they’re finding votes out of nowhere," President Trump, referring to Snipes, told reporters Friday.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the GOP Senate nominee locked in a tight and bitter battle for the lead against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, accused Democrats of conducting a coordinated effort to "steal" elections in a campaign of possibly "rampant fraud," in a lawsuit Thursday.

Razor-thin margins in Florida's bitter Senate and gubernatorial races are raising the specter of possible recounts, potentially prolonging two of the most closely watched contests of the nation's midterm elections. A recount is mandatory if the winning candidate's margin is less than 0.5 percentage points when the first unofficial count is verified Saturday by Florida's secretary of state, according to state law.

In an emergency complaint, Scott accused Snipes of being "unwilling to disclose records revealing how many electors voted, how many ballots have been canvassed and how many ballots remain to be canvassed," and charged that the uncertainty "raises substantial concerns about the validity of the election process."

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

A Little Night Music: Ron Carter's 'The Shadow Of Your Smile'

Ron Carter, a jazz double bassist, offers a nice version of Johnny Mandel's classic song, 'The Shadow of Your Smile."

You can listen to the song via the below link:

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Spy Who Was Left Behind: Russia, The United States, And The True Story Of The Betrayal And Assassination Of A CIA Agent

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a good review in the Washington Times of Michael Pullara’s The Spy Who Was Left Behind: Russia, the United States, and the Betrayal and assassination of a CIA Agent. 

The 1993 murder was a mystery from the start. A single rifle shot to the head killed Fred Woodruff, CIA branch chief in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, as he rode in a car on a remote mountain road.

The driver was the body guard for Eduard Shevardnadze, formerly foreign minister under Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Once the USSR dissolved, he became chair of Georgia’s governing State Council.

Woodruff was in Georgia to help Shevardnadze form a protective security force. The country was suffering political and social turmoil, with crime syndicates running the equivalent of a shadow government. And the Soviets were trying to regain control of Georgia.

Author Michael Pullara, a Houston attorney, became interested in the murder because he had known the Woodruff family as a boy in the small town of Searcy, Arkansas.

Early press reports blamed the killing on a Georgian soldier, Anzor Sharmaidze, 19, who was angered when the car carrying Woodruff ignored his wave for help with his own broken-down car.

Although Sharmaidze claimed he was tortured into falsely confessing, a judge found him guilty and sentenced him to six years in prison.

A veteran trial lawyer, Mr. Pullara doubted that the full truth was told. The military had fuzzed the truth about the death of his father In Vietnam, thus he was no stranger to official fibbing.

He wanted to know more. As he writes, “I wondered what I can do with a law license, a passport and a credit card.” Thus began an odyssey for the truth that consumed almost 20 years. 

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Anthony Horowitz: James Bond and Me – Reading and Writing in 007’s Shoes

I’m not big on continuation novels, as some writers, like Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming, have a unique style that truly can’t be imitated. But I understand that their iconic characters, Philip Marlowe and James Bond, are so popular that their loyal readers want to read more about them, just as they enjoy watching the characters on TV and at the movies   
Anthony Horowitz, creator of the TV series Foyle’s War, which I liked very much, perhaps comes closest to Ian Fleming. 
He’s a huge Fleming aficionado, like me, and he knows a good bit about Ian Fleming and James Bond. So, having read his previous Bond continuation novel, Trigger Mortis, I plan to read the new one, Forever and a Day, and review the book for the Washington Times.
Anthony Horowitz explains his fondness for Ian Fleming and his attempt to honor the late, great thriller writer in a piece at
Some books really do change your life. For me, it was Dr. No, not the first James Bond novel but the first to be turned into a movie in 1962. I read it when I was ten years old, stuck in an all-boys boarding school in North London, the sort of grim institution that the British do so well (Ian Fleming himself had a pretty rough time at Eton College).
The book opened up a whole world to me: tropical islands, exotic food, adventure, excitement…and, of course, beautiful women. That famous scene, when Ursula Andress emerges from the ocean in a white bikini, seemed like a fabulous dream and her character, Honeychile Ryder, would stay in my mind for the next thirty years. 

… I'm in awe of Fleming's writing style. Look at the opening chapter - Reflections in a Double Bourbon (nobody has ever done better chapter headings). Bond is at Miami Airport, in a contemplative mood, remembering a recent mission.   

“Below the indigo sky the flare paths twinkled green and yellow and threw tiny reflections off the oily skin of the tarmac.” 
Even when he’s not writing action, Fleming captures mood and atmosphere in a way that is much more sophisticated than it seems.
I know because, twice now, I’ve tried to imitate him.
I was thrilled when the Ian Fleming estate contacted me back in 2014 and asked me to be the fourth modern author – after Sebastian Faulks, Jeffrey Deaver and William Boyd – to write a James Bond novel. It really was like being handed the keys to the candy store, and although I was thrilled to grab hold of them, I was also nervous. People go a little bit mad when it’s Bond. The scrutiny you get as a writer, the press interest, the sense of expectation…it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: