Thursday, September 19, 2019

Shift And Certain Punishment: My Washington Times Piece On The Return Of The Federal Death Penalty

The Washington Times published my piece on the return of the federal death penalty.

What kind of man rapes and murders a 16-year-old girl and then dismembers, burns and disposes of her body in a septic pond?

The kind of man, in my view, who ought to be executed.

Thankfully, President Trump and his attorney general agree.

On July 25, 2019, Attorney General William M. Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt a proposed Addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol, which clears the way for the federal government to resume capital punishment after nearly two decades. The order will deliver final justice to the victims of the most horrific crimes and their families. 

According to a Justice Department statement, “the Attorney General also directed the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society — children and the elderly.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” noted Mr. Barr in the statement. “Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Conservative Satire Magazine The Babylon Bee: SNL Fires Comedian Accused Of Telling Funny Joke

I learned of an online conservative satire magazine in today's Washington Times.

The Babylon Bee, the right's answer to the Onion, offers a funny take on the comedian that Saturday Night Live hired and then fired for telling offensive jokes (which SNL, when it was funny years ago, used to do every week).

Fake News You Can Trust!

You can read the piece via the below:

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

United States Files Civil Lawsuit Against Edward Snowden For Publishing A Book In Violation Of CIA And NSA Non-Disclosure Agreements

The United States Justice Department released the below information:
The United States today filed a lawsuit against Edward Snowden, a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), who published a book entitled Permanent Record in violation of the non-disclosure agreements he signed with both CIA and NSA.
The lawsuit alleges that Snowden published his book without submitting it to the agencies for pre-publication review, in violation of his express obligations under the agreements he signed. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Snowden has given public speeches on intelligence-related matters, also in violation of his non-disclosure agreements.
The United States’ lawsuit does not seek to stop or restrict the publication or distribution of Permanent Record. Rather, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, Snepp v. United States, the government seeks to recover all proceeds earned by Snowden because of his failure to submit his publication for pre-publication review in violation of his alleged contractual and fiduciary obligations. 
The lawsuit also names as nominal defendants the corporate entities involved in publishing Snowden’s book. The United States is suing the publisher solely to ensure that no funds are transferred to Snowden, or at his direction, while the court resolves the United States’ claims. Snowden is currently living outside of the United States. 
“Edward Snowden has violated an obligation he undertook to the United States when he signed agreements as part of his employment by the CIA and as an NSA contractor,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “The United States’ ability to protect sensitive national security information depends on employees’ and contractors’ compliance with their non-disclosure agreements, including their pre-publication review obligations. This lawsuit demonstrates that the Department of Justice does not tolerate these breaches of the public’s trust.  We will not permit individuals to enrich themselves, at the expense of the United States, without complying with their pre-publication review obligations.”
“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This lawsuit will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”
This lawsuit is separate from the criminal charges brought against Snowden for his alleged disclosures of classified information. This lawsuit is a civil action, and based solely on Snowden’s failure to comply with the clear pre-publication review obligations included in his signed non-disclosure agreements. 
This matter is being handled by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. 
The claims asserted by the United States are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Cop Writer: At 82, Joseph Wambaugh, Author Of ‘The New Centurions,’ ‘The Onion Field,’ 'The Choirboys' And Other Classics, May Be Done Writing, But His Influence Endures

John Wilkens at the San Diego Union-Tribune offers a good piece on Joseph Wambaugh, one of my favorite writers.

Joseph Wambaugh laughed at the question.

“Am I done writing?” he said. “Hell, I’m almost done living. I’m 82.”

His last book, “Harbor Nocturne,” came out in 2012. It was the fifth of his Hollywood Station novels, full of the bawdy insider cop talk that first made him famous and populated with memorably quirky characters like the badge-wearing surfers Flotsam and Jetsam. A couple of TV studios are looking at turning the books into a series.

“I’d be thrilled to see that happen before I kick the bucket,” he said.

This is not the first time Wambaugh has seemingly stopped writing. He went six years in between “Floaters,” a 1996 novel set in San Diego during the America’s Cup, and “Fire Lover,” a 2002 non-fiction account of a serial arsonist. And then it was another four years before he published “Hollywood Station.” But then he wrote four more novels, all in a period of six years.

So it seems like a fair question: Maybe some story will come along that moves him to add to his catalog?

“Not this geezer,” he said.

Even if he is done, his influence will continue. Legions of crime novelists in San Diego and elsewhere cite Wambaugh among their earliest influences. That’s because he broke the mold, moved police officers from the “Dragnet” realm of clean-cut heroes into the real world of complicated, flawed human beings.

"All I did was turn things around,” he said. “Instead of writing about how cops worked the job, I wrote about how the job worked on the cops.”

Wambaugh came to that approach naturally. His dad was a policeman, and then he became one, too, after a stint in the Marines. He rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department to detective sergeant. In his off-hours, he pursued English degrees in college and nurtured a passion for writing.

His first novel, “The New Centurions,” came out in 1971 and follows police newbies as the idealism they had in the academy evolves into a street-wise cynicism. 

… Ask him how he’d like to be remembered, though, and he has a quick answer. Short, too.

“Cop writer,” he said. “That will work.” 

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

You can also read my Washington Times review of Joseph Wambaugh’s last novel, Harbor Nocturne, via the below link:

And you can read my Q&A with Joseph Wambaugh - Semper Cop - via the below link: 

Note: Joseph Wambaugh inspired me. Not to be a cop, like so many others, but rather he inspired me to be a writer who covers the cops fairly and accurately. 

I’m thankful that I was able to interview him several times and occasionally correspond with him.

Let’s hope he doesn’t, as he put it in the piece, “kick the bucket” any time too soon. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Netflix's 'Unbelievable' Is A Dramatic Story About Rape, The Aftermath And the Police Investigation

My wife and I recently watched the eight-part Netflix series Unbelievable.

The series, based on a true story, is a serious study of rape and aftermath, as well as a fascinating and dramatic police investigation, was outstanding. 

Kaitlyn Dever portrays “Marie,” an 18-year-old woman raised in the foster care system in Washington State, who was raped in her apartment. Confused and traumatized, she offers conflicting statements about the rape and she is disbelieved by the detectives investigating the rape. 

The detectives have her recant her story and later charge her for false reporting the rape to the police. 

Dever, whose performance was excellent, shows Marie’s subsequent spiral downfall.

The series also depicts the two women detectives, portrayed by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, who investigate other rapes that they tie to a serial rapist in Colorado.

Dever, Collette, Wever and the other cast members are first-class, as are the direction and writing of this initially sad and depressing, but ultimately uplifting series. 

If one is looking for a fine drama series to watch, I recommend Unbelievable

You can read the article that the series was based on via the below link:

You can read my Crime Beat column on the Philadelphia Police's Sex Crimes Unit via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of Kaitlyn Dever. The next photo is of Toni Collette and Merritt Wever.

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'Lincoln's Spies: Their Secret War To Save A Nation'

The Washington Times published my review of Lincoln’s Spies: Their Secret War To Save a Nation:

Much has been written about the Civil War and students of military history know much about the great battles and the generals who led and fought those bloody battles.

But perhaps less well known are the Civil War spies who fed those generals the intelligence they required to engage their enemy. Douglas Waller, a former reporter for Time magazine and Newsweek, and the author of “The Commandos: The Inside Story of America’s Secret Soldiers,” “Wild Bill Donovan: The Spymaster Who Created the OSS and Modern American Espionage” and other books on intelligence and the military, offers a comprehensive look back at the men and women who risked their lives to provide vital intelligence to the Union Army during the Civil War.      

In Mr. Waller’s “Lincoln’s Spies: Their Secret War to Save a Nation,” readers learn about the Civil War’s military intelligence officers, counter-intelligence officers, secret agents and informants. Although there are numerous historical characters portrayed in the book, Mr. Waller stated he wanted to write an ensemble biography of four Union spies during the Civil War. According to Mr. Waller, two of the spies were heroes, one was a failure and one was a scoundrel.

Lincoln’s Spies” is the story of Allan Pinkerton, Lafayette Baker, George Sharpe and Elizabeth Van Lew — important Union agents who operated mainly in the Civil War’s Eastern Theater, which included Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The U.S. government, of course, ran intelligence operations elsewhere — against Confederates in the Deep South and the western campaigns, for example, and to root out pro-Confederate subversives in the northeastern and northwestern states. To cover all the spying that went on in the Civil War would consume several volumes,” Mr. Waller writes in his note to readers.

“This book focuses on the espionage and counter-espionage of these four operatives in what became a crucial region for the war. The Eastern Theater, in which these agents fought in secret and the Union Army of the Potomac battled the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the open, included the capitals for the two belligerents, Washington and Richmond. On its fields and in its towns and cities were waged many of the largest, costliest, and most consequential battles, which helped determine the outcome of this tragic conflict and the fate of a nation.”

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Washington Times Review of 'Land Of Wolves'

The Washington Times published my review of Craig Johnson’s Land of Wolves. 

I first became acquainted with Craig Johnson’s fictional modern-day Western sheriff by watching the A&E TV series “Longmire,” which is based on Mr. Johnson’s novels. (The show is now on Netflix).

Australian actor Robert Taylor portrayed Walt Longmire and Katee Sackhoff portrayed his deputy, Victoria “VicMoretti, a transplanted South Philly Italian-American and former Philadelphia cop. Lou Diamond Phillips portrayed Henry Standing Bear, Longmire’s best friend, and the series also offered a good number of other fine cast members.

I liked the Walt Longmire character, a big man who is tough, taciturn, intelligent, fair, and possesses a dry sense of humor. I also liked the rural crime stories, so I began reading the series of novels.

In his last outing in the novel “Depth of Winter,” Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, headed to Mexico to take on Tomas Bidarte, the head of a vicious drug cartel, who had kidnapped the sheriff’s daughter. He rescued her and killed the drug lord in a brutal fight, which left the sheriff’s body, as well as his mind, scarred.

In “Land of Wolves” we find a thinner, weaker and more reticent sheriff, who loses himself in moments of staring off into space. But the hanged body of a migrant Chilean shepherd, Miquel Hernandez, which may be a case of suicide or murder, moves the sheriff and his deputies to investigate. 
… “When you see a wolf, you can’t help feeling impressed,” Walt Longmire, the novel’s narrator tells us. “Maybe it’s because we’re so used to being around their more domesticated cousins, but this animal is something else. Aside from all the crap that you see on TV and in the movies or even in badly written books, they’re not the slathering beasts just outside the glow of the campfire; there’s only one word that comes to mind when I’ve ever seen one in the wild: empathic.

“It’s like they’re reading your mind, because they have to know what you’re thinking to simply survive.”

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

Pentagon Flag On The Anniversary of 9/11

In the above photo an American flag is displayed over the west wall of the Pentagon at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial at dawn on the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2019. 

The U.S. Navy photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paul L. Archer.

My Washington Times Piece On The Defense Of Border Patrol Agents

The Washington Times published my piece on the defense of Border Patrol agents.

While visiting San Antonio, Texas, a few years back, I had a couple of drinks with an off-duty Border Patrol agent in a local bar.

I mentioned that as a young sailor long ago I had often crossed over the border from San Diego to Tijuana and I had witnessed the Border Patrol agents at work.

Like many of the cops and agents I’ve known over the years, the agent was an entertaining and enlightening storyteller. At first, he talked about his odd and amusing experiences, but later he became solemn and talked about the tragedies he had witnessed on the border, and the dangers he and his fellow agents faced every day, especially with the increase in illegal border crossings.

I thought of the Border Patrol agent when I came across a July 4 statement from the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) executive committee that stated Border Patrol agents were being unfairly criticized.

The NBPC, an organization that represents and supports non-supervisory Border Patrol agents and support personnel, stated, “The men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol have been unfairly scrutinized, criticized and attacked by radical members of Congress, Immigrant Rights groups, the Fake News Media and the general public.

“These groups have made some ridiculous allegations against Border Patrol agents, going as far as saying that Border Patrol agents make detainees drink water from toilets, that Border Patrol agents engage in child abuse with detainees, and that Border Patrol agents engage in inhumane behavior with those that come into our custody.

“These allegations are without merit and are not based in fact. To attack Border Patrol agents without evidence does a disservice to the American Public, the rule of law, and law enforcement nationwide. Border Patrol agents work tirelessly to keep our country safe and are honorable, decent and hardworking public servants that risk their lives day in and day out. These groups should be ashamed for trying to demonize us, dehumanize us and for attempting to turn public sentiment against us.”

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

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At A New York Cop's 9/11 After Action Report

Below is my Crime Beat column on 9/11, which originally appeared in the Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine:  

I covered the Police-Security Expo in Atlantic City in June and heard Joseph Dunne, the former New York deputy police commissioner during 9/11, speak to the attendees. 
Sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police, the theme of the expo was to prepare to act and respond to terrorism. Previous to 9/11, counterterrorism was largely a federal responsibility, but now police officers have become front line soldiers.
I sat in on a seminar conducted by Joseph Dunne, who retired as New York's deputy police commissioner. He gave what we used to call in the military a commander’s "after-action report" on the 9/11 attack. 

Dunne played tapes of some of the 911 emergency calls, one of which had the voice of a young woman on the 110th floor pleading with the operator to tell her what she should do. The woman paused and told the operator that she was pregnant. The audience was a tough group of cops and security people, but most of them were touched by the woman’s frantic call for help.

While standing near the towers, Dunne said he thought debris was falling around him, but he discovered that it was people. This, he said, left an indelible image in his mind.
"Consider the state of mind of the people who elected to jump and end their lives," Dunne said. "What awful choices these poor people had."
Dunne said that the Port Authority and NYPD quickly closed tunnels and bridges and kept the lines open for rescue personnel. This quick action saved countless lives, he said.

Dunne recalled hearing a plane overhead and tensed up, "Don’t worry," someone told him. "It’s one of ours." Before 9/11, a conversation like that took place only on a foreign battlefield.

"The people in the buildings were innocent victims and rescue officers voluntarily rushed in," Dunne said, proud of his officers.

Dunne spoke of one officer who was filling out his retirement papers when the call came in. He left the retirement papers on his desk and rushed out to help. Like 22 other NYPD officers, he lost his life that day.

Dunne rolled out some gruesome stats: 19,000 body parts were signed into the morgue and they collected 12,622 DNA samples.

"No one signs on to policing to deal with the collection of bodies and body parts," Dunne said sadly.
By Dunne’s account, 25,000 lives were saved thanks to the NYPD’s rapid and skilled response.
"As memories of September 11th fade, we have to remain resolved," Dunne advised. "It’s going to happen again."

9/11 was perhaps America’s worst disaster, but the acts of heroism and humanity that followed the attack lead me to believe that we have the resolve to win the war on terrorism.
Note: The above photo shows the Statute of Liberty and beyond it the World Trade Center on fire on 9/11. The photo beneath is of Joseph Dunne.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Look At The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

As tomorrow is the anniversary of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, readers might be interested in viewing the Pentagon 911 Memorial.

On Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon, killing all 64 people on the plane and 125 people in the Pentagon. The Pentagon Memorial is the first national memorial dedicated to honoring the 184 people whose lives were lost at the Pentagon that day, their families, and all those who sacrifice so that we may live in freedom.

The Pentagon Memorial captures a specific moment in time - 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, when 184 souls were lost. The $22 million memorial sits on two acres of land right outside where the jetliner struck the building.

There are 184 memorial benches dedicated to each of the victims, and they’re organized in a timeline of their ages, from the youngest victim, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, to the oldest, 71-year-old John Yamnicky. 

You can read more about the memorial and view photos and videos via the below link:
You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the attack on the Pentagon via the below link: 

Sunday, September 8, 2019

A Little Humor: A Stingy Man

A stingy man worked all his life and had saved all of his money. 

He was a real miser when it came to his money. 

He loved money more than just about anything, and just before he died, he said to his wife, “Now listen, when I die I want you to take all my money and place it in the casket with me. I want to take all my money to the afterlife.”

So he got his wife to promise him with all her heart that when he died, she would put all the money in the casket with him. 

The day he died, while he was stretched out in the casket, the wife was sitting there in black next to their best friend. 

When they finished the ceremony, just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, the wife said, “Wait a minute!”

She had a shoebox with her. She came over with the box and placed it in the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket and rolled it away. 

Her friend said, “I hope you weren’t crazy enough to put all that money in there with that stingy old man.” 

She said, “Yes, I promised. I’m a good Christian, I can’t lie. I promised him that I was going to put that money in that casket with him.”

“You mean to tell me you put every cent of his money in the casket with him?”

“I sure did,” said the wife. “I got it all together, put it into my account and I wrote him a check.” 

Note: The above photo is of the late, great comedian Jack Benny, who portrayed a stingy man in his act.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Defense Contractor Sentenced To Three Years In Prison For Conspiracy To Defraud U.S. Department Of Defense, Conspiracy To Violate Arms Export Control Act, And Income Tax Evasion

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
The owner of two defense contracting firms was sentenced to 36 months in prison for providing non-conforming parts for military equipment, illegally sharing sensitive technical information and evading income taxes Assistant Attorney General John Demers and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Roger Sobrado, 49, of Marlton, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman to an information charging him with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, and income tax evasion. Judge Hillman imposed the sentence on Sept. 4, 2019, in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Sobrado was the owner of two companies: Tico Manufacturing Inc. (TICO), a purported manufacturing company, and Military and Commercial Spares Inc. (MCS), a defense contracting company, both in Berlin Township, New Jersey.
Sobrado admitted that between January 2011 and December 2015, MCS obtained contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) by falsely claiming that the military parts it contracted to provide would be exactly as described and provided by authorized manufacturers. The DoD contracts specified that the parts were critical application items for military equipment, including fighter jets and helicopters. Sobrado recruited various family members to participate in the scheme by establishing companies that contracted with the DoD.  Those companies also obtained contracts with the DoD by falsely claiming that the military parts they contracted to provide would be the exact product described and would be provided by authorized manufacturers. In fact, Sobrado used TICO to contract with local manufacturers to supply non-conforming parts to MCS and his family members’ companies at a significantly reduced cost. The non-conforming parts supplied by Sobrado were shipped from New Jersey to various DoD locations around the country.
DoD paid Sobrado and his family members’ companies for the non-conforming parts. The family members then paid Sobrado for the non-conforming parts. Sobrado admitted that he deposited some of his business receipts into his personal bank account and that he paid for personal items from his business account without telling his accountant. For tax years 2011 through 2014, Sobrado reported a total taxable income of $1,608,372. He failed to report additional income of $1,182,405, which caused a loss to the United States of $509,962.
Sobrado also admitted that in August 2005 and in November 2010 he submitted to the DoD a fraudulent application for access to export controlled drawings and technical data on behalf of a family member’s company. Sobrado acknowledged that access to the controlled drawings and technical data was limited to citizens of the United States and to those lawfully in the United States. Sobrado said he submitted the application because his family member told him that he needed access to drawings and that he could not get them because he was not a U.S. citizen.
Sobrado agreed that on July 28, 2011, and at various times between January 2013 and November 2015, the family member, who is illegally in the United States, accessed or downloaded hundreds of drawings that were sensitive in nature and that required special access.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hillman sentenced Sobrado to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $8,043,977 in restitution.
Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Leigh-Alistair Barzey; special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael; special agents of IRS - Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur; special agents of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John S. Grasso; and special agents of the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Jason M. Richardson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden and Trial Attorney David Recker of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Sentence Is Death'

The Washington Times published my review of Anthony Horowitz’s The Sentence Is Death.

In Anthony Horowitz’s previous novel, “The Word Is Murder,” readers were introduced to a character named Anthony Horowitz.

The fictional Anthony Horowitz shares the British writer’s background as a screenwriter and novelist who has written the Alex Rider mystery series for children, several British TV mystery series, including “Foyle’s War” (a favorite of mine), and two James Bond continuation novels and two Sherlock Holmes continuation novels.

In “The Word Is Murder” the fictional Anthony Horowitz acted as a modern-day Watson to a modern-day Holmes, a former Scotland Yard detective-turned private detective named Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, unconventional and immensely unlikable investigator.

Like Doctor John Watson, who was Sherlock Holmes’ assistant and biographer, fictional Anthony Horowitz became a somewhat reluctant chronicler and assistant to Daniel Hawthorne when he agreed to write a biography of the detective.       

In “The Sentence Is Death,” Mr. Horowitz once again follows the detective as he investigates another unusual murder in London.

The novel opens with Anthony Horowitz on the set of “Foyle’s War” as the TV mystery series is filming on a London Street. This season of the program was set in 1947 and Mr. Horowitz explains to the readers the difficulties of filming a period piece on the streets of London.

“Shooting in London is always a horrible business, prohibitively expensive and fraught with difficulties. It often seems that the entire city is deliberately doing everything in its power to stop the cameras turning. Planes will fly overhead. Pneumatic drills and car alarms will burst into angry life. Police cars and ambulances will race past with their sirens blaring,” writes Mr. Horowitz.

Despite these difficulties, the TV crew was filming when a 21st century taxi rolled onto the set with a Justin Timberlake song blasting from the vehicle. Cut!

A man stepped out of the taxi, seemingly unconcerned by the crowd of people around him, many of whom where in period dress.

“He had a sort of cheerful self-confidence that was actually quite cold-blooded, utterly focused on his own needs at the expense of everyone else’s. He was not tall or well built but he gave the impression that, by whatever means necessary, he would never lose a fight. His hair, somewhere between brown and gray, was cut very short, particularly around the ears. His eyes, a darker brown, gazed innocently out of a pale, slightly unhealthy face. This was not someone who spent a lot of time in the sun,” Mr. Horowitz writes. “He was dressed in a dark suit, a white shirt and a narrow tie, clothes that might have been deliberately chosen to say nothing about him. His shoes were brightly polished. As he moved forward, he was already searching for me and I had to ask myself — how had he even known I was here?”

The man called out to Anthony Horowitz and the director asked the writer if he knew the man.

“Yes, I admitted. His name is Daniel Hawthorne, He’s a detective.”

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

My Washington Times Piece On How California Law Enforcement Just Got More Dangerous

The Washington Times published my piece on how California law enforcement just became more dangerous.

Many years ago, when I was a crime reporter for a Philadelphia weekly newspaper, I attended the Philadelphia Police Department’s pilot session of the Civilian Police Academy and wrote an 11-part series on police training and operations.

Like actual police recruits, the civilian “recruits,” a collection of lawyers, clergy, community leaders and others, took a turn at the FireArms Training Simulator (FATS). The simulator put a stand-alone weapon in the recruits’ hand that interacted with a large-screen video scenario. One scenario had a man rush by the recruit, failing to heed the recruit’s order to stop. Following immediately, another man rushed out of the door with a handgun raised in the air. He stopped and said the first man had just robbed his store.  

Afterward, the sergeant asked me why I didn’t fire at the two men and I replied that the first man posed no threat as he rushed by, and the second man posed no threat as he had his gun pointed up in the air.

“Good,” the sergeant said. “That sweet, elderly woman before you “smoked” ’em both.”

FATS training is useful, then and now, as it helps to prepare the officer for scenarios he or she may encounter on the street when a split-second decision may mean life or death for them and others.  

Making split-second decisions on the street just got somewhat harder for police officers in California with the passing of AB 392, which California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Aug. 19.  

The measure would prohibit officers from using deadly force unless it is “necessary” to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or bystanders. The previous standard allowed officers to use deadly force if they had “reasonable” fear they or others are in imminent danger. Police critics believe that the previous standard made it highly unlikely that officers who use deadly force could be charged with murder and unlikely that juries would convict them.

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

Sunday, September 1, 2019

My Washington Times Review of Ben Macintyre's 'The Spy And The Traitor'

The Washington Times published my review of Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War.

John le Carre, the author of the classic spy thrillers “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold,” called Ben Macintyre’s book “The best true spy story I have ever read.”

Now out in paperback, Mr. Macintyre’s “The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War” is the true story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB colonel who spied for the British and later defected to the United Kingdom in 1985.

Oleg Gordievsky was born into the KGB: Shaped by it, loved by it, twisted, damaged, and very nearly destroyed by it. The Soviet spy service was in his heart and in his blood. His father worked for the intelligence service all his life, and wore his KGB uniform every day, including weekends. The Gordievskys lived amid the spy fraternity in a designated apartment block, ate special food reserved for officers, and spent their free time socializing with other spy families. Gordievsky was a child of the KGB,” Mr. Macintyre writes in the beginning of the book.

The author notes that the KGB — the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnnosti, or Committee for State Security — was the most complex and far-reaching intelligence agency ever created. The KGB had the role of both foreign and domestic intelligence gathering, as well as internal security enforcement and state police. The KGB controlled every aspect of life in the Soviet Union.

Gordievsky moved up the chain in the KGB to become the “rezident,” the senior KGB intelligence officer in London, working out of the Soviet embassy. For more than 10 years he was also working as a double agent for the British.       

As Mr. Macintyre points out in his outstanding book, Gordievsky became disillusioned with Soviet communism while posted in Copenhagen. The Soviet police state paled in comparison to the freedom of the West. His disillusionment became total after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 and he decided to spy for the British.  

His intelligence was so valuable that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan were given briefings on Gordievsky’s insights into the KGB and Soviet political leadership. The CIA was not told who the Brit spy was, so they launched an investigation to learn who the valuable British asset was. 

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

Friday, August 30, 2019

A Little Humor: Dinner Date

I was feeling grouchy that evening, but as I had arranged a dinner date with a fine woman, I met her outside of a upscale restaurant.

When we entered the restaurant, the host asked, “Good evening, sir. A table for how many?” 

I looked at my dinner date, looked down at my shoes, and then looked back at the host and said, “I don’t know. I can’t count this high either.”

We were seated at a table and feeling festive for my date’s sake, I yelled out, “Waiter! A bottle of Dom Perignon champagne!” 

“Very good, sir,” the waiter replied. “What year?”

“This year,” I said somewhat irritated. “Now!”

The service took a while, so when a waiter passed by, I said to him, "Excuse me, are you our waiter?

"Yes, Sir, I am."

"Funny," I replied. "You don't look a day older."

When after a period of time we had still not seen our waiter with our dinner, I said to my date, "Do you know why they are called waiters? It is because they make you wait and wait."

But when the meal finally came, it was good, and I dug in and cleaned my plate.

When we had finished eating, the waiter handed me the check and walked away. 

I took a couple of bucks out of my wallet and tossed them on the table. 

"You’re supposed to leave 15 per cent,” my date whispered to me.

“I’m sorry, but I was really hunger, so I eat it all!”

Then I looked at the check and handed it to my date.

“This bill is outrageous,” I told her. “I wouldn’t pay this if I were you…”

Note: The above photo is of Groucho Marx from A Night at the Opera.

My Washington Times Review Of 'If: The Untold Story of Kipling's American Years'

The Washington Times published my review of If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years.

As a teenager in the 1960s I was caught up in the spy craze created by the James Bond films. In addition to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, I read many other spy thrillers and I watched spy stories on TV and at the movies. But it was as a pre-teen in the 1950s that I read my first great spy story, which was Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim.”

I later met many military and civilian intelligence officers who also read and loved “Kim.”

In Kipling’s 1901 novel, the son of an Irish soldier in India named Kimball O’Hara, known as Kim, is a wayward street urchin living in Lahore. He meets Mahbub Ali, a horse trader and spy, who has Kim deliver a secret message to a British military intelligence officer. And so Kim’s adventures in espionage and what Rudyard Kipling coined “The Great Game” began.

Although “Kim” takes place in India, where Kipling was born and later worked as a newspaper reporter and short story writer, he wrote the first draft of “Kim” in America.

In Christopher Benfey’s “If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years,” we learn of Rudyard Kipling’s affection for America and his life here.

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865 and educated in England. Readers have always associated this towering writer with colonial India, where he spent his early childhood and his literary apprenticeship, and with England, where he lived, in relative isolation, during the final decades of his life. Few readers are familiar with his exuberant American years, however, during the heart of the American Gilded Age. 

And yet Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book,” “Captain Courageous,” the first draft of “Kim,” his first “just so stories,” and some of his greatest poems on the crest of a Vermont hillside overlooking the Connecticut River, with a view of Mount Monadnock “like a gigantic thumbnail pointing heavenward,” Christopher Benfey writes in his prologue. “A principal aim of this book is to introduce today’s readers to a largely unfamiliar writer: The American Kipling.”

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

Note: The top photo is of Rudyard Kipling and the above photo is of actor Christopher Plummer as Rudyard Kipling in John Huston’s fine film adaption of Kipling’s story, The Man Who Would Be King. Flanking Plummer are Michael Caine and Sean Connery.   

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Assange Is A Spy Not A Journalist: The Case Against WikiLeaks Founder Juilan Assange

Counterterrorism magazine published my piece on the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

You can read the piece above and below:

My Q&A With Chief Inspector Daniel MacDonald, Chief Of The Philadelphia Police Department's Intelligence Bureau

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with Chief Inspector Daniel P. MacDonald, the Chief of the Philadelphia Police Department's Intelligence Bureau.

You can read the piece below:

Why I Carry

You can watch actor William Shatner facing an armed robber from Boston Legal via the below link:

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At Mad Magazine

As one who grew up on Mad magazine, I was saddened by the news this past July that Mad would no longer sold on newsstands by the end of the year and future issues will no longer offer new content. I shall miss it.
In my January 3, 1997 Crime Beat column in the South Philadelphia American, I wrote about Mad. 

“Prison inmates are treated to cable TV, hot meals and a college education, while on the outside some people can only afford these things through a life of crime,” Alfred E. Neuman says in the latest issue of Mad.
Educating my nine-year-old daughter is one of my most important tasks in life. I try to compliment her Catholic school education by reading to her and passing on my views and values.
Although I am helping to build her self-worth, I am also advising that she should not take life, and herself, too seriously. In addition to telling her a lot of bad jokes, I have reinforced this notion by giving her a subscription to Mad magazine (which I also read).
Mad, founded in 1952 by William Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman, is a premier satirical magazine that influenced several generations of readers. Who could resist the self-depreciating advertisement that asked readers to “spread the holiday stupidity?” 
Despite a corporate takeover some years ago, the humor magazine’s contributing artists and writers (called “the usual gang of idiots”) can still pack a punch line. The magazine’s price, $2.50, is still listed as “cheap” and Alfred E. Neuman – “What me worry?” – remains the grinning, gap-toothed spokesperson.
I was about my daughter’s age when I began reading the satiric magazine and like many of my generation, I was influenced deeply by its irreverent humor.
I loved the movie and TV parodies, especially the crime films and TV shows, and the magazine’s look at the lighter side of life. I also liked the political humor, which perhaps initiated, and certainly slanted, my lifelong interest in politics.
And crime, in fact and fiction, was always a topic of satire, such as a look at the realistic police shows we’ll soon be seeing on TV in a piece called From Badge to Worst, and their classic parody of The Godfather. Mad also had a lot of fun satirizing the James Bond movies over the years. 

In their parody of Dr. No, called Dr. No-No, a man at a casino asked another man if the dark and dangerous man (Sean Connery) at the table was THE James Bomb?

"Yes..." the other man replied. "The famous secret agent with the incredible knowledge of women, food, and especially wine! I understand that he can not only tell you the vineyard and year - but also the name of the gal who stomped the grapes!"

"Waiter," James Bomb called out. "I'd like a Chateau Nov Ka Pop 1951, stomped by Fat Harriet La Clute!"  
The current issue offers the obituaries of comic strip characters, such as the U.S. Army’s oldest private, Beetle Bailey, and Charlie Brown, who died of a football injury after attempting to kick a football held by a neighbor, Lucy Van Pelt. Dilbert, 43, was found dead in a cubicle and Blondie, 71, died of toxic hair poisoning after years of blonde hair dye abuse.
Malcom Muggeridge, the British editor of another great humor magazine, Punch (which I was devoted to while serving in the Navy in Scotland), once said that the world was so ridiculous that it was difficult for a humorist to compete.
I believe our deep-rooted irreverence is an intrinsic part of the American character. Our inclination to ridicule our political leaders and others in the news is one of the reasons we will never lose our freedom.
Mark Twain explained the meaning of satire in a speech he gave in 1888. “Ours is a useful trade, a worthy calling,” Twain said. “With all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it – the deriding of shames, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of styled superstitions out of existence; and who so is by instinct engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties, nobilities, privileges and kindred swindlers, and the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”
In South Philly, with our earthy attitudes and lack of verbal restrain, we know something about using humor and sarcasm to deflate an overbearing ego.