Tuesday, July 23, 2019

On This Day In History The American Crime Writer Raymond Chandler Was Born

On this day in 1888 the late, great crime writer Raymond Chandler was born.

He published his first short story, Blackmails Don't Shoot in 1933 for Black Mask and he published his first great Philip Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939.

You can read my Washington Times review of The Annotated Big Sleep via the below link:


And you can read my Crime Beat on Raymond Chandler's influence on crime films and crime novels via the below link:


Former Government Contractor Sentenced To Nine Years In Federal Prison For Willful Retention Of National Defense Information

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

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Harold Thomas Martin, III, age 54, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, to nine years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for willful retention of national defense information.
The sentence was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur, Assistant Director John Brown of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office.
“Harold Martin was entrusted with some of the nation’s most sensitive information,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “Instead of respecting the trust given to him by the American people, Martin violated that trust and put our nation’s security at risk.  This sentence will hold Mr. Martin accountable for his dangerous and unlawful actions.”
“For nearly 20 years, Harold Martin betrayed the trust placed in him by stealing and retaining a vast quantity of highly classified national defense information entrusted to him,” stated U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “This sentence, which is one of the longest ever imposed in this type of case, should serve as a warning that we will find and prosecute government employees and contractors who flagrantly violate their duty to protect classified materials.”
“Whether an individual is a federal contractor or government employee, when given the privilege of holding a security clearance, the American people expect classified information to be protected,” said Assistant Director Brown.  “That is essential to protecting our national security.  In this case, Harold Martin was a serial offender in retaining national defense information for more than two decades.  Today’s sentencing should signal that the FBI takes these violations extremely seriously and will vigorously investigate cases when people improperly handle classified information.”
“Harold Martin took an oath to preserve and protect the nation's secrets, and violated that oath repeatedly over many years, causing damage with his unlawful mishandling of classified information,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone, FBI Baltimore Field Office.  “Martin’s actions harmed Intelligence Community sources and methods.  The vitality and integrity of the Intelligence Community requires the strictest adherence to the law for handling classified information.  The FBI will be tireless in investigating cases like the Martin case.”
According to his plea agreement, from December 1993 through Aug. 27, 2016, Martin was employed by at least seven different private companies and assigned as a contractor to work at a number of government agencies.  Martin was required to receive and maintain a security clearance in order to work at each of the government agencies to which he was assigned.  Martin held security clearances up to Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) at various times.  A Top Secret classification means that unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.  An SCI designation compartmentalizes extremely sensitive information.  Because of his work responsibilities and security clearance, Martin was able to access government computer systems, programs, and information in secure locations, including classified national defense information.  Over his many years of holding a security clearance, Martin received training regarding classified information and his duty to protect classified materials from unauthorized disclosure.
Martin admitted that beginning in the late 1990s and continuing through Aug. 31, 2016, he stole and retained U.S. government property from secure locations and computer systems, including documents in both hard copy and digital form relating to the national defense, that bore markings indicating that they were the property of the United States and contained highly classified information of the United States, including Top Secret/SCI information. 
As detailed in his plea agreement, Martin retained the stolen documents and other classified information at his residence and in his vehicle.  Martin knew that the hard copy and digital documents stolen from his workplace contained classified information that related to the national defense and that he was never authorized to retain these documents at his residence or in his vehicle.  Martin admitted that he also knew that the unauthorized removal of these materials risked their disclosure, which would be damaging to the national security of the United States and highly useful to its adversaries.
In court documents and at today’s sentencing hearing, the government noted that crimes such as Martin’s not only create a risk of unauthorized disclosure of, or access to, highly classified information, but often require the government to treat the stolen material as compromised, resulting in the government having to take remedial actions including changing or abandoning national security programs.  In addition, Martin’s criminal conduct caused the government to expend substantial investigative and analytical resources.  The diversion of those resources resulted in significant costs.  
Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers and United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked the National Security Agency for its assistance.  Mr. Hur and Mr. Demers thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary A. Myers and Harvey E. Eisenberg, and Trial Attorney David Aaron of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, who prosecuted the case.

Monday, July 22, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'American Predator: The Hunt For The Most Meticulous Serial Killer Of The 21st Century'

The Washington Times published my review of American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century.

Serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer are mostly well known to the general public, but one serial killer, Israel Keyes, an organized and well-traveled predator, is likely not as well known.

Maureen Callahan’s book, “American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century,” may change that.

“The rarest form of murder is serial. Despite what we see on “CSI” or “Mindhunters” or the films and procedurals that dominate popular culture, people who kill randomly and for no reason are extremely uncommon. Its why they loom so large in our collective mindscape,” Ms. Callahan writes in the preface of her book. “It’s also why many of us think we know of every such American killer. But the subject of this book was unlike anything the FBI had ever encountered. He was a new kind of monster, likely responsible for the greatest string of unsolved disappearances and murders in modern American history.

“And you have probably never heard of him.”

A big, strong man, Israel Keyes killed at random as he traveled across the country, even to Alaska. He buried his “kill kits,” which included cash, guns, and body-disposal tools, at various locations in the states that he passed through and/or lived. He had no particular M.O., and he covered his tracks well. He killed at least 11 people, but no one knows the exact number of his victims.

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


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ernest Hemingway On Life And Being A Writer

On the anniversary of the late, great writer Ernest Hemingway’s birthday, below are some of his most famous thoughts on life and being a writer:

In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway has his character Santiago say, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” 

The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, many are strong at the broken places.

The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.

Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.

Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.

There is no friend as loyal as a book.

You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don't cheat with it.

Ernest Hemingway defined the word "courage" as "grace under pressure". When describing someone he considered to be a hero, Hemingway wrote that his hero is: "... a man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful."

You can read my previous post on Hemingway via the below link:


On This Day In History American Writer Ernest Hemingway Was Born

On this day in 1899 the late, great writer Ernest Hemingway was born.

As I noted in my Washington Times review of The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, I've been a Hemingway aficionado since I was a teenager in the 1960s.

… This collection, edited by Hemingway’s grandson, Sean Hemingway, with a foreword by Hemingway’s son Patrick, is the fourth in a series of annotated editions of his work. The book offers some of his best known stories, such as “The Killers,” “Fifty Grand,” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (three of my favorites), as well as a few unpublished stories and his early drafts and notes.

“Ernest Hemingway is widely recognized as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His writing, with its powerful, understated prose and economy of words, has influenced countless writers,” Sean Hemingway writes in his introduction to the collection. “More than any other writer of his time, Hemingway changed the course of literature and furthered the written expression of the human condition. His novels, such as ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ have entered into the canon of world literature, but it is arguably his contributions to the art of the short story that are his greatest literary achievement.”

You can read my Washington Times review of Hemingway’s short stories via the below link:


You can also read my Washington Times review of Hemingway at War via the below link:


And you can read my Crime Beat column, Hemingway On Crime, via the below link:


A Little Humor: Fun In Hell

A big, tough outlaw biker died and found himself in Hell. 

As he is wallowing in despair, he has his first meeting with the Devil.

Devil: “Why so glum?”

Biker : “What do you think? I’m in Hell!”

Devil: “Hell’s not so bad. We actually have a lot of fun down here. You a drinking man?”

Biker : “Sure, I love to drink.”

Devil: “Well, you’re gonna love Mondays then. On Mondays, that’s all we do is drink. Bombay Sapphire, tequila, Guinness, red wine, single malt scotch. We drink ’til we throw up and then we drink some more! And you don’t have to worry about getting a hangover, because you’re dead anyway.”

Biker : “Gee that sounds great!”

Devil: “You a smoker?”

Biker : “You better believe it.”

Devil: “All right! You’re gonna love Tuesdays. We get the finest cigars from all over the world, and we smoke our lungs out. If you get cancer, no biggie, you’re already dead, remember?”

Biker : “Wow…that’s awesome!”

Devil: “I bet you like to gamble.”

Biker : “Yeah, I do.”

Devil: “Good,’ cause Wednesdays you can gamble all you want. Craps, blackjack, roulette, poker, slots, whatever. If you go bankrupt, it doesn’t matter, you’re dead anyhow.”

Biker : “Cool!”

Devil: “What about Drugs?”

Biker : “Are you kidding? I love drugs!"

Devil: “Thursday is drug day. Help yourself to a great big bowl of crack or smack. Smoke a doobie the size of a submarine. You can do all the drugs you want. You’re dead so who cares.”

Biker : “Wow! I never realized Hell was such a cool place!”

Devil: “Are you gay? Do you like men?"

Biker : “Hell, no……”

Satan: “Ooooh, then Fridays are gonna be tough……”

Note: The above photo is of Jon Lovitz as the Devil appearing on People’s Court on an episode of Saturday Night Live.

'N.Y.P.D': A Look Back At A 1960s Gritty, Realistic Cop TV Series

I recently came across a video on youtube.com of N.Y.P.D., a gritty, realistic TV cop show that aired from 1967 to 1969.

I recall that I enjoyed the show when I was a teenager, and after watching three episodes, the show appears to have held up.

Jack Warden, Robert Hooks and Frank Converse (all seen in the below photo) were the stars of the show, and many young actors, such as Al Pacino, guest starred on the program and later went on to become major film stars.

The three detectives worked murders and other crimes and the show filmed at actual New York locations. Many of the shows were based on actual crime cases.

You can watch three of the show's episodes via the below links:




Saturday, July 20, 2019

'One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind': On This Day In History Neil Armstrong Walked On The Moon

As History.com notes, on this day in 1969 American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

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


Project Sindacato: Following Dirty Money Leads Police To Alleged Mafia Clan North Of Toronto Living Life Of Luxury

Andrian Humphreys offers a piece on the takedown of an Figliomento organed crime family in Toronto at the Canadian newspaper the National Post.

VAUGHAN, ONT. — Mobsters started fretting at precisely 9 p.m. on Friday  when police crashed into several gambling dens north of Toronto, seizing equipment, paperwork, money. Word then spread among better-connected gangsters that homes of Mafia members were also being raided, their friends led away in handcuffs.

And, then, the big news: one of those arrested was the alleged boss of a powerful Mafia organization with international ties.

If mobsters thought this was just another periodic gambling crackdown, which they apparently did, the news kept getting worse.

Over the weekend and into this week, raids and search warrants kept coming: real estate offices, accountants firms, a bookkeeper, a loan company, a former banker, construction companies and other businesses were all raided by police.

Even on Thursday, 400 to 500 bank accounts were frozen.

It didn’t feel like business as usual, an underworld source said. It got worse “day after f—in day.”

York Regional Police revealed the mystery behind the commotion Thursday — it was the endgame of a remarkable investigation attacking a powerful Mafia clan allegedly operating for decades, more or less with impunity, in the Toronto area and beyond.

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


Friday, July 19, 2019

Clicks Against Crime: A Look Inside The Defense Department's Cyber Crime Center

The Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center, DC3, notes that our entire lives are stored on cell phones, tablets and computers. 

You can get an inside look at the DoD Cyber Crime Center and see how forensic examiners are fighting cyber-crime in the lab via the below link:


Note: The video was made by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer LeBron.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

FBI and Italian Police Arrest 19 People In Sicily And US In Mafia Investigation

Angela Giuffrida at the Guardian offers a piece on an FBI and Italian police takedown of suspected Cosa Nostra organized crime members in Sicily and America.

Italian and US police have launched a coordinated crackdown on a Sicilian mafia family that was seeking to rebuild its power base after years of exile in the United States, Italian investigators said on Wednesday.

More than 200 police, including officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), arrested 18 people in Sicily as part of their investigation into the Inzerillo clan in the island’s capital Palermo and the allied New York-based Gambino family.

A 19th suspect was arrested in the United States.

Sicily’s organised crime group, known as Cosa Nostra (Our Thing), has been in a state of flux since 2017, when its boss of bosses Salvatore “Totò” Riina died in prison, where he had spent almost a quarter of a century.

Riina launched a ferocious mafia war on the Mediterranean island in the 1980s, chasing the Inzerillo family out of their stronghold in the Palermo suburb of Passo di Rigano and into self-imposed US exile.

But Riina’s death gave the Inzerillo family a chance to attempt to reclaim its old territory, with the help of allies in New York, said police.

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

Washington Times Editor, Columnist Wesley Pruden Dies At 83 After Remarkable Six-Decade Career

The Washington Times reports that editor and columnist Wesley Pruden has died.

Wesley Pruden would have wanted to spend his final hours at his keyboard, deftly deflating the pompous, entitled and arrogant of the political establishment, and he came awfully close.

The venerable Washington Times editor, columnist and journalism institution was found dead Wednesday morning at his home, after putting in a full day Tuesday at the newsroom on New York Avenue in Northeast D.C., where he had worked since 1982, four months after the newspaper’s founding.

He was 83. 

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

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Sinaloa Cartel leader, Sentenced To Life In Prison Plus 30 Years Drug Kingpin Was Convicted Of Running A Continuing Criminal Enterprise And Other Drug-Related Charges Including Murder Conspiracies

WThe Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released the below information:

WASHINGTON – Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera (seen in the above photo as he was arrested by Mexican police), known by various aliases, including “El Chapo” and “El Rapido,” was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan to a life term of imprisonment plus 30 years to run consecutive to the life sentence for being a principal leader of a continuing criminal enterprise – the Mexican organized crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel – a charge that includes 26 drug-related violations and one murder conspiracy. The court also ordered Guzman Loera to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture.

Guzman Loera was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 12, 2019, following a three-month trial, of all 10 counts of the superseding indictment, including narcotics trafficking, using a firearm in furtherance of his drug crimes and participating in a money laundering conspiracy.

The sentence was announced by Attorney General William P. Barr, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue for the Eastern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan for the Southern District of Florida, Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Director Christopher A. Wray of the FBI, Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Executive Associate Director Derek Benner of U.S. Immigration and Customs

Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Acting U.S. Marshal Bryan T. Mullee of the Eastern District of New York, New York City Police Department Commissioner James P. O’Neill and New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. 

The evidence at trial established that Guzman Loera was a principal leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a Mexico-based international drug trafficking organization responsible for importing and distributing more than a million kilograms of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin in the United States. The evidence included testimony from 14 cooperating witnesses, including Sinaloa Cartel members Rey and Vicente Zambada, Miguel Martinez, Tirso Martinez, Damaso Lopez and Alex Cifuentes; narcotics seizures totaling over 130,000 kilograms of cocaine and heroin; weapons, including AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher; ledgers; text messages; videos; photographs and intercepted recordings that detailed the drug trafficking activity of Guzman Loera and his co-conspirators over a 25-year period from January 1989 until December 2014.    

From the mid-1980s until his arrest in Mexico in 1993, Guzman Loera was a mid-level operative of the Sinaloa Cartel, earning a name for himself and the nickname “El Rapido” for how quickly he transported drugs from Mexico to the United States for the Colombian cartels. After he escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart, Guzman Loera formed an alliance with fugitive co-defendant Ismael Zambada Garcia and, together, they became the preeminent leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzman Loera enforced his will and maintained control of his drug empire through an army of lethal bodyguards and a sophisticated communications network.

The trial highlighted the methods Guzman Loera and his organization used to transport the cartel’s multi-ton shipments of narcotics into the United States, including fishing boats, submarines, carbon fiber airplanes, trains with secret compartments and transnational underground tunnels. Once the narcotics were in the United States, they were sold to wholesale distributors in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Guzman Loera then used various methods to launder billions of dollars of drug proceeds, including bulk cash smuggling from the United States to Mexico, U.S.-based insurance companies, reloadable debit cards and numerous shell companies, including a juice company and a fish flour company.

Guzman Loera and his organization relied upon violence to maintain its power throughout the region and beyond. Numerous co-conspirators testified that Guzman Loera directed his hitmen to kidnap, interrogate, torture and slaughter members of rival drug organizations, at times carrying out acts of violence himself. As part of its arsenal, the Sinaloa Cartel had access to weapons, including grenades and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Guzman Loera’s personal arsenal included a gold plated AK-47 and three diamond-encrusted .38 caliber handguns, one emblazoned with his initials, “JGL.”

Guzman Loera and his organization also relied on a vast network of corrupt government officials and employees to protect and further the interests of the Sinaloa Cartel. They included local law enforcement officers, prison guards, high-ranking members of the armed forces and elected office holders. In exchange, the Cartel paid these individuals millions of dollars in bribes.

“The long road that brought ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Loera to a United States courtroom is lined with drugs, death, and destruction, but ends today with justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “Thanks to the unflagging efforts of the Department of Justice and the law enforcement community over the past 25 years, this notorious leader of one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the Western hemisphere, the Sinaloa Cartel, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.”

“Guzman Loera’s day of reckoning has finally come,” said EDNY U.S. Attorney Donoghue. “Never again will he pour poison into our country, or make millions as innocent lives are lost. We cannot undo the violence, misery and devastation inflicted on countless individuals and communities as result of his organization’s sale of tons of illegal drugs for more than two decades, but we can ensure that he spends every minute of every day in prison. The same fate awaits those who would take his place. I thank the brave members of law enforcement, here and abroad, for their tireless efforts that have finally secured justice in this case.”

“The life sentence imposed today is the only just result for someone who spent a lifetime spreading his poison throughout our country,” said SDFL U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan. “The impact of keeping former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin Guzman Loera behind bars, for the rest of his life, cannot be overstated: the world will now be shielded from his brutality. Thanks to the unyielding efforts of this team, the public was finally able to see how Guzman Loera used any means necessary to control his ruthless empire, including kidnapping, corruption, torture, and murder. Our U.S. Attorney’s Offices continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to protect our citizens from the scourge of illicit drugs.”

“This sentencing shows the world that no matter how protected or powerful you are, DEA will ensure that you face justice,” said DEA Acting Administrator Dhillon. “This result would not have been possible without the dedication and determination of so many brave men and women of the DEA, who worked tirelessly to see the world’s most dangerous, prolific drug trafficker behind bars in the United States. This is a huge victory for the rule of law, for thousands of current and retired DEA agents and analysts worldwide, and for all of our law enforcement partners here, in Mexico, and across the globe.”

“Let today’s sentencing show the world that Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman has not escaped the American justice system and, now, will finally be held accountable for his many years of criminal behavior,” said NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “I want to thank the members of the DEA, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, HSI, the New York State Police and the NYPD detectives on the Drug Enforcement Task Force for their hard work on this investigation and trial.”

“With this sentencing, justice has been served,” said NYSP Superintendent Corlett. “For two decades, this individual used extreme violence, bribes, and any means necessary to bring dangerous and deadly drugs into our country and state. This sentence should serve as a reminder that no one is above the law. I applaud our partners in law enforcement for their tireless work on this case, bringing an end to the destruction this man, and this enterprise caused for decades.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gina Parlovecchio, Michael Robotti, Patricia Notopoulos and Hiral Mehta from the Eastern District of New York; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Fels, Andrea Goldbarg and Lynn Kirkpatrick from the Southern District of Florida; and Trial Attorneys Amanda Liskamm, Anthony Nardozzi, Brett Reynolds and Michael Lang of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section.

The case was investigated by the DEA, ICE HSI and the FBI, in cooperation with Mexican, Ecuadorian, Netherlands, Dominican and Colombian law enforcement authorities. 

Substantial assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Western District of Texas, Southern District of New York, Southern District of California, District of New Hampshire, District of Arizona and Eastern District of Virginia. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Criminal Division played an integral role in securing the extradition of Guzman Loera to the United States, in cooperation with authorities of the Mexican government, without which his prosecution would not have been possible. The investigative efforts in this case were coordinated with the Department of Justice Special Operations Division, comprising agents, analysts and attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section; DEA New York; DEA Miami; FBI Washington Field Office; FBI New York Field Office; FBI Miami Field Office; HSI New York; HSI Nogales; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; IRS Criminal Investigation; U.S. Bureau of Prisons; NYPD and New York State Police.

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law 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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

My Washington Times Review of 'Freedom's Detective: The Secret Service, the KU Klux Klan And The Man Who Masterminded America's First War On Terror'

The Washington Times published my review of Charles Lane’s Freedom’s Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror.

Hiram Coombs Whitley, the chief of the U.S. Secret Service under President Ulysses S. Grant, was brave and public-service-minded, yet he was also opportunistic and even, at times, criminal.

Charles Lane, a columnist for The Washington Post, offers a portrait of a man who played a major role in combating the Ku Klux Klan and major counterfeiters in the post-Civil War era. 

Mr. Lane’s “Freedom’s Detective: The Secret Service, the Ku Klux Klan and the Man Who Masterminded America’s First War on Terror” takes us back to a contentious time in the South after the Civil War, as well as further north to Washington, D.C., with its political battles, and to New York City with its criminal gangs.

The book deals with the post-Civil War Secret Service, before the federal law enforcement organization was a presidential protective service, and its role in combating the terror of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mr. Lane tells us that Whitley left his home on the Ohio frontier while still a teenager, and he worked on fishing boats out of Gloucester, Massachusetts; slung hash at a makeshift Kansas restaurant; traded sugar and molasses on the Red River of Louisiana; and served as a Union Army officer in New Orleans during the Civil War, and later served as a federal law officer.

“Through these experiences, Whitley had formed an appreciation for the American wilderness and the physical challenges it presented. He had grown from a skinny, bowlegged kid into a sinewy thirty-seven-year-old man, with piercing blue eyes, high cheekbones, and a vaguely menacing dark brown goatee,” Mr. Lane writes. “He had developed the skills with horses and firearms that helped make him useful to the government; he arrived at the Staunton River not only as a representative of the Treasury Department, but also as a deputy United States Marshal, carrying a sheaf of blank warrants authorizing him to arrest any violator of the tax law he might encounter. More than that, he had developed a thoroughly jaded view of human nature, and how it could be manipulated to his advantage, honestly, if possible — but through deception if necessary, and convenient.”

Mr. Lane describes the turmoil in Southern states after the Civil War, the politics and effects of Reconstruction, and the hostile views of most white Southerners toward the newly freed African Americans. He also offers a history of the early Ku Klux Klan, and how a former Confederate cavalry officer named Nathan Bedford Forrest took over the Klan and converted its sporadic violence into an organized terror campaign.

When Grant became president, counterfeiters flooded the nation with fake bills, many made in Canada and smuggled South. Hiram Whitley, with his record of battling moonshiners and the Ku Klux Klan, became the chief of the Secret Service and took on the counterfeiters.

Mr. Lane describes the Secret Services’ investigations of major counterfeiters, as well as the Ku Klux Klan. Whitley assigned his detectives to assume fictitious identities and infiltrate both counterfeiting gangs and the Klan, often with success. He was granted extraordinary powers and autonomy, and he made great strides against criminals, but not all were happy with his semi-clandestine national police force and his questionable investigative methods.

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


FBI: Booklet Lists Observable Indicators Of Potential Violent Extremists

The FBI released the below information:
A list of nearly four dozen observable behavioral signs that someone might be planning to commit an act of extremist violence is contained in a newly updated publication released by the country’s foremost counterterrorism organizations. 
Homegrown violent Mobilization Indicators, 2019 Edition, produced by the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Homeland Security, contains a broad list of 46 behavioral indicators listed in color-coded groupings of how clearly the indicators might demonstrate an individual’s likelihood of engaging in terrorist activity. The booklet updates a prior version published in 2017.
The agencies authored the updated publication to help law enforcement—and the public at large—recognize potentially dangerous behaviors as the U.S. faces a heightened threat from homegrown violent extremists.
“The booklet provides our partners with tools to identify concerning behavior so that it can be responsibly reported to law enforcement,” said Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. “We can’t be everywhere. We count on our partners to identify threats in their communities.”
The booklet, published on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, describes each of the behavioral indicators, organized by how easily they can be diagnosed. For example, observing someone prepare a martyrdom video could be diagnosed on its own as a mobilization indicator, while seeing an individual conduct suspicious financial transactions would be considered “minimally diagnostic” and would require other observable indicators to meet a diagnostic threshold.
The publication emphasizes that many of the indicators may involve constitutionally protected activities. But observed together, the behaviors may raise suspicions and merit reporting to authorities.
“It’s an indispensable tool in our efforts to leverage all available resources to identify terrorists before they conduct deadly attacks,” said Matthew Alcoke, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. 
Other criteria include categories of behaviors, the people who are most likely to observe them, and the time-sensitivity of potential concerns (i.e., imminent, near-term, or long-term).
The booklet encourages people to take a holistic view of situations and to put the mobilization indicators into context.
“It is important to consider the totality of circumstances when observing potential indicators, as some factors may increase the risk of violence in a given situation,” the booklet states. Risk factors that may raise additional concerns include a potential subject’s inability to cope with change or perceived failures, a history of violence, social isolation, and possession of weapons or explosives.
Last month, a Syrian man living in Pittsburgh was arrested by an FBI joint Terrorism Task Force on charges related to his alleged plot to bomb a church in the name of ISIS, a foreign terrorist group based in the Middle East. Among other things, the subject allegedly distributed propaganda materials for his cause and recorded a video of himself pledging allegiance to the leader of ISIS—observable mobilization indicators of imminent or near-term concern, according to the indicators booklet.
An FBI analysis shows that in recent years, about one in four internationally inspired terrorism plots here in the U.S. was disrupted with the help of tips from community leaders and the public. Matthew Aken, a special agent in the FBI’s Springfield Field Office, said the updated publication is an effective tool for educating the Bureau’s partners in law enforcement and the communities where they serve.
“It allows our partners to educate themselves concerning extremist behavior,” he said, “and assists them to make an informed decision on a potential international terrorism-inspired extremist and how to report it to law enforcement.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At The James Bond Film, 'License To Kill'

Thirty years ago, in July of 1989, the James Bond film, License To Kill, starring Timothy Dalton as Ian Fleming's iconic character James Bond, premiered. 

License To Kill was the 16th film in the series and the first film not to use the title of an Ian Fleming novel or short story.

Although to me, Sean Connery is James Bond, as an advertisement once proclaimed, I thought Timothy Dalton was very good as James Bond, and I rate him as the second-best Bond. 

He replaced Sir Roger Moore, whom I loved as The Saint on TV in the 1960s when I was a teenage, but I didn’t care for his casual humor and lighthearted approach to Bond. The Roger Moore-Bond films were well made, profitable and popular, but the films in the 1970s went from being thrillers with a touch of humor to action-comedy films. (To be fair, Sean Connery’s Diamonds Are Forever started this trend in 1971).  

Although Dalton lacked Connery’s élan, his big cat-like movements, and his mischievous comedic quips, Dalton looked like Ian Fleming’s James Bond; tall, dark, dangerous, handsome and athletic. 

Dalton was and is a serious actor. He reread all the Ian Fleming novels and then attempted to portray Ian Fleming's Bond. I think he largely succeeded. He portrayed Bond on the big screen as serious, quiet, cold, sardonic, tough and ruthless. 

Except for a few silly bits, I thought The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film, was a good thriller. I liked License To Kill even more. I liked that the film makers used passages from Ian Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die that were not used in the Roger Moore film based on that novel. 

License To Kill offered the bait shop passage and the brutal mauling of Bond’s friend, Felix Leiter. Like the novel, Leiter lost a part of his leg and part of his arm when he was fed to a shark.

Still alive, barely, he was left bleeding with a note attached to him that read, "He disagreed with something that eat him,” one of the rare bits of dark humor found in Ian Fleming’s novels.   

Dalton’s Bond was ruthless. He killed bad guys in cold blood and he held a gun to one woman in the film and a knife to the throat of another. 

I also liked Robert Davi’s portrayal of Franz Sanchez, the drug lord villain in License To Kill. 

Although the character was created by the screenwriters and not Ian Fleming, I thought Sanchez was close to the type of villains Fleming employed. Murderous, vicious and a bit crazed, Davi is one of the best villains since the Sean Connery-Bond films from the 1960s. 

The supporting cast is also very good, including the two women in the film, Carey Lowell and Talisa Soto, who offer strong performances as well as being very attractive. The other good supporting cast includes Anthony Zerbe as a criminal associate to Davi, and a nasty young Benicio Del Toro as Davi's henchman. David Hedison portrays Leiter, repeating the role he portrayed in Live and Let Die, and Desmond Llewellyn gives an expanded performance as "Q" as he aids Bond' in the field.   

“Being part of the most successful series of films in history and playing the main villain was – let’s face it – pretty remarkable,” Davi said to Fox News. “As a kid, you either wanted to play Bond or a Bond villain. Ask any of my friends in entertainment, whether they are actors or writers or producers or directors, and they will tell you that they’d love to play a Bond baddie. I can go anywhere in the world and I am known, it put me on the international map.”

“Ian created a character that is mythical and has become part of the pop culture iconic consciousness. I said in interviews at the time, that he is Shakespearean! ‘License To Kill’ dealt with a drug lord, and the real threat that is posed by such power,” Davi said. “I remember producer Michael Wilson researching this world diligently and this subject is as timely today as it was when the film was made. It is this approach to films that helps make them continually relevant.”

I like the exchange between Bond and Sanchez when Bond offers his services to Sanchez, stating that he helps people with problems.

“Oh, a problem solver?” Sanchez asked.

“More of a problem eliminator,” Bond responded coldly. 

Sadly, the making of Bond films was suspended for six years due to legal battles and Dalton elected not to return when the producers resumed production.

Only recently has Dalton explained why he left the series after the legal dispute was resolved and production on a new Bond film was about to begin.

Speaking with The Week, Dalton said: “Cubby Broccoli asked if I would come back, and I said, ‘Well, I've actually changed my mind a little bit. I think that I'd love to do one. Try and take the best of the two that I have done and consolidate them into a third.’” Dalton continued. 

“And he said, quite rightly, ‘Look, Tim. You can't do one. There's no way, after a five-year gap between movies that you can come back and just do one. You'd have to plan on four or five.’ 

“And I thought, ‘Oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long.’ So, I respectfully declined.”

Sadly, Timothy Dalton did not return as Bond.  

James Bond fans should take a second look at Timothy Dalton License To Kill

I believe it is one of the best Bond films.

The Spy Who Kept The Cold War From Boiling Over: Double Agent Dmitri Polyakov Was One Of The Cold War’s Greatest Spies—And Likely The Most Damaging Mole In The history Of Soviet Intelligence.

History.com looks back at the double agent known as “Top Hat.” 

In 1984, U.S. spies monitoring the Soviet press found an alarming piece in a Russian magazine. It wasn’t an expose on officials in the Soviet Union or a worrying account about Cold War attitudes toward the United States. Rather, it was a recipe for coot, a small water bird that’s common in Eastern Europe.
For CIA officials, that meant trouble. They had long had an agreement with a Russian double agent they called TOP HAT—if he wanted to get in touch with them, he’d indicate it by publishing the recipe. Was TOP HAT in danger?
As it turns out, yes. Soon after, America’s most valuable spy, Dmitri Polyakov, fell off the map entirely. For nearly 25 years, the Soviet military intelligence officer had served as the United States’ most trusted resource on the Soviet military, providing reams of intelligence and becoming a legend in the process.
Polyakov’s documents and tips informed U.S. strategy in China during the Cold War and helped the U.S. military determine how to deal with Soviet-era weapons. And Polyakov was credited with keeping the Cold War from boiling over by giving the United States secrets that gave it an inside view of Soviet priorities.
But was Polyakov a double agent…or a triple one who kept the U.S. on an IV drip of false tips and misinformation? And what happened to him after his sudden disappearance?
Polyakov was born in what is now Ukraine in 1921. After serving in World War II, he was recruited by the GRU, the USSR’s military intelligence agency. He wasn’t the type of man anyone would peg as a spy—the son of a bookkeeper, he was an unassuming father who did carpentry projects in his spare time. On the surface, he was a dutiful worker and a reliable GRU asset. But as he rose through the ranks of the agency, following protocol and living a seemingly routine life, he began to work to undermine the USSR itself.
At the time, the GRU had agents all around the world, and was tasked with learning everything possible about American life, priorities, and military assets. The United States did the same thing with the USSR, but had a harder time because of the absolute secrecy that ruled Soviet intelligence. 
Until Polyakov offered himself to the CIA as a double agent, that is. At the time, he was stationed at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations in New York. Though Polyakov was fiercely loyal to the USSR, he was increasingly disgusted by what he saw as the corruption and impending failure of Soviet leaders. So he offered his services to the United States. 
You can read the rest of the story via the below link:


Monday, July 15, 2019

FBI: Airport Terrorist Sentenced - Canadian Man Stabbed Michigan Airport Police Officer In 2017

The FBI released the below information:
When a Canadian man stabbed an airport police officer in the neck at the airport in Flint, Michigan, investigators worked quickly to find out all they could. Why did he do this? Why Flint? Was anyone helping him?
The victim was saved by other officers and a Bishop International Airport employee on the scene. The attacker, later identified as Amor M. Ftouhi, a 51-year-old Tunisian native who had lived for years in Canada, was immediately arrested.
Working closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and its Joint Terrorism Task Force pieced together information about Ftouhi’s life and the days leading up to the June 21, 2017 attack. Agents fanned out across the country and reviewed surveillance footage from locations Ftouhi had visited in the U.S. The RCMP searched Ftouhi’s home and computer. FBI linguists spent months translating the information Canadian authorities found.
Investigators learned that Ftouhi had financial and family struggles back in Canada, and he had viewed anti-Western videos online.
“Things were not going well for him in his life, and he decided to take his jihad to a different level,” said FBI Special Agent Todd Reineck, who worked the case out of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office.
Investigators found that Ftouhi had looked into how to purchase a gun in the United States and thought Michigan would be the best place for him to buy one. Ftouhi had also carefully researched how to use a gun, and he specifically had an interest in targeting police.
A few days before the attack, Ftouhi left his wife and children behind in Canada and came to the United States, crossing the border in New York before driving to Michigan. Once he arrived in Michigan, Ftouhi repeatedly tried to buy an assault rifle, but he was turned down each time because he was not a U.S. citizen.
Instead, Ftouhi bought a knife and searched his phone’s GPS for the nearest international airport—which happened to be Bishop International in Flint. He canvassed the airport, learning where the police officers were stationed. The next day, Ftouhi went back to the airport and carried out the attack. He approached the police officer, dropped his backpack, pulled out a knife, and repeatedly stabbed the victim.
“His goal was to kill law enforcement or the military, and he told us even if he killed innocent people, Ftouhi thought that was okay,” Reineck said.
Coincidentally there was a meeting of local law enforcement happening in an airport conference room, just a few feet from where the officer had been stabbed. Ftouhi had no opportunity to get away.

Ftouhi told police he worked alone, and investigators found no evidence of anyone helping him. He was convicted of terrorism charges in November 2018 and sentenced to life in prison in April 2019.
Reineck and the investigative team got to know the victim officer over the course of the investigation. They credit the officer himself, as well as an airport maintenance worker who rushed to save him, as the true heroes.
“A lot of guys here in the office now consider him a friend,” Reineck said, noting many in the FBI office already knew the officer from the local law enforcement community. “We’ve gone through this process with him, and we know he’s relieved that it’s over. There’s a sense of relief and that justice was served.”