Monday, May 25, 2020

No Sadder Song: 'Taps' Played To Honor Those Who Died For Our Country

As notes, the origins of “Taps,” the distinctive bugle melody played at U.S. military funerals and memorials and as a lights-out signal to soldiers at night, date back to the American Civil War. 

In July 1862, U.S. General Daniel Butterfield and his brigade were camped at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, recuperating after the Seven Days Battles near Richmond. Dissatisfied with the standard bugle call employed by the Army to indicate to troops it was time to go to sleep, and thinking the call should sound more melodious, Butterfield reworked an existing bugle call used to signal the end of the day. After he had his brigade bugler, Private Oliver Wilcox Norton, play it for the men, buglers from other units became interested in the 24-note tune and it quickly spread throughout the Army, and even caught on with the Confederates. 

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

You can also watch and listen to an American sailor play “Taps” via the below link:

Memorial Day 2020: A Day To Honor And Remember Those Who Gave Their Lives For Our Country

Sunday, May 24, 2020

My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column On Richard Hughes, The Foreign Correspondent Who Inspired Ian Fleming And John le Carre

The Washington Times published my On Crime column on the late Richard Hughes (seen in the above photo), a foreign correspondent and the author of Foreign Devil: Thirty Years of Reporting in the Far East. Both Ian Fleming and John le Carre based fictional characters on him in their novels. 

Later this year Casemate will publish Edward Abel Smith’s “Ian Fleming’s Inspiration: The Truth Behind the Books.”

“James Bond is possibly the most well-known fictional character in history,” Casemate Publishing notes. “What most people don’t know is that almost all of the characters, plots and gadgets come from the real-life experiences of Bond’s creator — Commander Ian Fleming.

“In this book, we go through the plots of Fleming’s novels explaining the real-life experiences that inspired them. The reader is taken on a journey through Fleming’s direct involvement in World War II intelligence and how this translated through his typewriter into James Bond’s world, as well as the many other factors of Fleming’s life which were also taken as inspiration.”

One friend who inspired Fleming was the late Richard Hughes, who was a foreign correspondent for the British Sunday Times. He was the inspiration for the fictional character Dikko Henderson in Ian Fleming’s 1964 James Bond novel “You Only Live Twice.” 

“He is a giant Australian with a European mind and a quixotic view of the world,” the late Ian Fleming said of Richard Hughes

In 1959, Fleming, then the foreign manager of the Sunday Times, was asked by the newspaper’s editor to travel to foreign cities and write about them, as Fleming notes, “through a thriller-writer’s eye.” The newspaper articles were compiled into a book called “Thrilling Cities” in 1963. 

While visiting Hong Kong and Tokyo, Fleming’s guide was Richard Hughes, whom Fleming called “Our Man in the Orient.”   

Ian Fleming later wrote “You Only Live Twice,” which featured a character named Richard Lovelace Henderson. Henderson, based on Hughes, was the British intelligence chief in Japan. He was a big, boisterous and profane Australian who understood the way of the Japanese. Fleming described him as looking like a middle-aged prize-fighter who retired and had taken to the bottle.

In the late 1970s, John le Carre visited Hong Kong while doing research for his novel “The Honorable Schoolboy,” the sequel to his novel “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” Mr. le Carre met Richard Hughes, and like Ian Fleming, he based a character on him.

In the novel, the assembled journalists at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Hong Kong were discussing the closing of the local branch of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Mr. le Carre wrote that William Craw, like Hughes, was the doyen of Asia’s foreign press corps.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story Of The Capture & Killing Of America's Most Wanted Crime Boss

The New York Post offers an excerpt from a new book on the capture and death of the notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger.

The leader of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and No. 1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Whitey Bulger was indicted for 19 counts of murder, racketeering, narcotics distribution and extortion. But it was his 16-year flight from justice on the eve of his arrest that made him a legend. In this exclusive excerpt from the new book “Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture & Killing of America’s Most Wanted Crime Boss,” authors Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge reveal how the notorious Bulger finally got caught . . . 

On the night of May 1, 2011, people around the world heard the news about the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Then-President Barack Obama made the announcement, interrupting a nationally televised baseball game between the Mets and the Phillies:

“Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” he declared.

In Santa Monica, at Barney’s Beanery on the Third Street Promenade, bar patrons broke into cheer; “USA, USA,” they shouted. At the popular Santa Monica pub Britannia, one grizzled barfly hoisted his mug in the air. “The bastard’s dead. I’ll drink to that!”

Inside apartment 303 at the Princess Eugenia Apartments, James “Whitey” Bulger sat in his living room with his girlfriend Catherine Greig, watching the announcement with a mixture of pride and dread. The patriotic side of Bulger was elated to learn that members of SEAL Team 6 had sent the terror mastermind back to his maker with a bullet above his left eye. But bin Laden’s death also meant that Bulger, 81, was now number one on the FBI’s list of most-wanted criminals. He knew the pressure to find him would intensify. 

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


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

Friday, May 22, 2020

A Little Night Music: Daryl Hall's 'I'm In A Philly Mood'

Daryl Hall met John Oates when the two budding singers and musicians were attending Temple University in Philadelphia in the 1960s.

They were influenced by the rhythm & blues of the "Philadelphia Sound."

They went on to record and perform many fine songs as Hall & Oates.

"I'm in a Philly Mood" was Daryl Hall's toast to his former home.

You can listen to the song via the below link:

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Gunman Identified In 'Terrorism-Related' Naval Base Shooting

The Washington Times offers a report on the shooting at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.

A shooting at a Texas naval air station that wounded a sailor and left the gunman dead early Thursday was being investigated as “terrorism-related,” the FBI said, but divulged few details as to why.

The suspect was identified as Adam Alsahli of Corpus Christi, according to three officials familiar with the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

At about 6:15 a.m., the gunman tried to speed through a security gate at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, opening fire and wounding the sailor, a member of base security, U.S. officials told the AP. But she was able to roll over and hit the switch that raised a barrier, preventing the man from getting onto the base, the officials said.

Other security personnel shot and killed the man. 

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

Even During Worldwide Pandemic, The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Is Underway Serving As America’s Strongest Symbol Of Resolve

The U.S. Navy released the above photo and the below piece by MCSN Askia J. Collins:

PHILIPPINE SEA - The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is underway serving as America’s strongest symbol of resolve, navigating the global pandemic as its mission endures, in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

This deployment marks USS Ronald Reagan’s (CVN 76) fifth year of service as part of U.S. forward-deployed naval forces. Reagan, along with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, represents the cornerstone of the strike group's capability to sustain presence, project power, fight and win decisively from the sea.

“In a testament to our namesake’s slogan, the Reagan crew has proven time and again that whatever challenge we face, It CAN Be Done,” said Capt. Pat Hannifin, Reagan’s commanding officer. “Our team has embraced this motto, completing in port maintenance ahead of schedule, doing our part for the health protection and warfighting readiness of the Navy, and continuing to stand the watch as America’s away team.”

To protect the health of the strike group amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Sailors completed a phased restriction of movement (ROM) with the support of several U.S. military facilities in Japan, and embarked the ship following required medical testing in compliance with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Navy and Marine Corps Public Health.

“These extraordinary measures of precaution were implemented because the health and safety of our Sailors is front and center to our warfighting readiness,” said Rear Adm. George Wikoff, commander, Carrier Strike Group 5. “I cannot overstate my appreciation for the hard work of our Sailors to protect the health of our force, and to all those who support us and enable our enduring mission.”

The ROM period allowed fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled facility, and build a safe environment for Sailors to accomplish assigned missions at sea. While participating in ROM, Sailors used their time constructively by taking online college courses, studying for advancement exams and military qualifications, catching up on hobbies and personal projects, as well as participating in services and activities provided by organizations including Fleet and Family Services, the USO and MWR.

One officer proved that you can take the Sailor out of the aircraft carrier, but you can’t take the aircraft carrier out of the Sailor.

“I cannot get enough of aircraft carriers,” said Lt Matthew Chiong of aircraft intermediate maintenance department. “Using my time in ROM, I built a 1:800 scale model of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63).”

While underway, Sailors continue to practice proper mitigation procedures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, to include social distancing, high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

To kick off deployment, Reagan onloaded more than 1,000 tons of ordnance – enough combat power to cause the ship to sit five-inches lower on the waterline – in addition to personnel and aircraft from aviation squadrons within CVW-5. With more than 5,000 crew embarked, and 60-plus aircraft, Reagan is capable of sustaining around-the-clock maritime operations.

“We are committed to the defense agreements with our allies and partner nations,” said Hannifin. “We provide regional security and stability, deter aggression from those who challenge a free and open Indo-Pacific, and maintain warfighting readiness to respond to any contingency.”

While underway, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group will work alongside allies and partners to strengthen regional capabilities, further develop warfighting concepts, and improve distributed maritime operations that provide layered defense options to protect shared interests. Together, the U.S. and its allies promote peace and prosperity by supporting international norms.

The United States remains committed to protecting the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea, and the ability of all countries to exercise those rights.

The crew and support staff of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group continue to demonstrate that no challenge is beyond reach and that together “it CAN be done.”

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world, and with the help of 35 other maritime-nation allies and partners, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 70 years, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict. 

Note: The above photo was taken by MC2 Kaila V. Peters.

Former Senior U.S. Navy Employee Charged For Role In Bribery Conspiracy And Lying To Investigators

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
The former Director of Operations of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command Office in Busan, Republic of Korea (ROK) was charged in a complaint filed today in connection with his alleged participation in a bribery conspiracy and alleged lying to federal investigators.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge David Bell of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) Far East Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Stanley A. Newell of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Transnational Operations Field Office made the announcement.
Xavier Fernando Monroy, 62, a U.S. citizen, was charged in a complaint filed in the District of Columbia with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of bribery, one count of false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice. 
The affidavit in support of the complaint alleges that Monroy engaged in a conspiracy to commit bribery with Sung Yol “David” Kim, the owner of DK Marine, a ROK-based company that provided ship husbanding services to the U.S. Navy, and James Russell Driver III, a former civilian U.S. Navy cargo ship captain, in connection with the provision of husbanding services for Driver’s ship during a December 2013 port visit in Chinhae, ROK.  In order to steer the ship’s husbanding services business to DK Marine, Driver sought, and Kim conveyed, Monroy’s directions on how to circumvent appropriate Navy procedures.
According to the affidavit, Monroy also provided Kim with confidential and other proprietary, internal U.S. Navy information.  In exchange for the steering of business and the provision of such information, Kim paid bribes to Monroy, including cash, personal travel expenses, meals and alcoholic beverages, and the services of prostitutes.  The affidavit further alleges that in July 2019, Monroy repeatedly lied to DCIS and NCIS during a voluntary interview. 
Driver pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery for his role in March 2019 before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow of the Eastern District of Michigan.  Kim pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery for his role on May 1, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith of the Eastern District of Michigan.
A complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 
NCIS and DCIS investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Jessee Alexander-Hoeppner of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is prosecuting the case. 

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain Announces Charges And Guilty Plea Of Former Philadelphia Judge Of Elections Who Committed Election Fraud

The U.S. Attorney's Office Eastern District of PA released the below:
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that Domenick J. DeMuro, 73, of Philadelphia, PA, a former Judge of Elections for the 39th Ward, 36th Division in South Philadelphia, has been charged and has pled guilty to a two-count Information charging (1) conspiracy to deprive Philadelphia voters of their civil rights by fraudulently stuffing the ballot boxes for specific Democratic candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections, and (2) a violation of the Travel Act, which forbids the use of any facility in interstate commerce (here, a cell phone) with the intent to promote certain illegal activity (here, bribery). U.S. Attorney McSwain’s video statement providing additional details about this case is available on the Office website here:

The Judge of Elections is an elective office and a paid position. In that role, DeMuro was responsible for overseeing the entire election process and voter activities of his Division. The Judge of Elections is charged with overseeing the Division’s polling place in accordance with federal and state election laws and is required to attend Election Board Training conducted by the Philadelphia City Commissioners.

The voting machines at each polling station, including DeMuro’s station, generate records in the form of a printed receipt documenting the use of each voting machine. The printed receipt, also known as the “results receipt,” shows the vote totals, and the Judge of Elections and other Election Board Officials at each polling place attest to the accuracy of machine results.

During his guilty plea hearing, DeMuro admitted that an unnamed political consultant gave DeMuro directions and paid him money to illegally add votes for certain Democratic candidates. These candidates were individuals running for judicial office whose campaigns had hired the consultant, as well as other candidates for various federal, state, and local elective offices who were preferred by this consultant for a variety of reasons.

The political consultant would solicit monetary payments from his clients in the form of cash or checks as “consulting fees,” and then use portions of these funds to pay Election Board Officials, including DeMuro, in return for tampering with the election results. After receiving payments ranging from between $300 to $5,000 per election from the consultant, DeMuro would add fraudulent votes on the voting machine – also known as “ringing up” votes – for the consultant’s clients and preferred candidates, thereby diluting and distorting the ballots cast by actual voters. DeMuro would add these fraudulent votes to the totals during Election Day, and then would later falsely certify that the voting machine results were accurate.

“DeMuro fraudulently stuffed the ballot box by literally standing in a voting booth and voting over and over, as fast as he could, while he thought the coast was clear. This is utterly reprehensible conduct. The charges announced today do not erase what he did, but they do ensure that he is held to account for those actions,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If even one vote is fraudulently rung up, the integrity of that election is compromised. I want the public to know that this investigation is active and ongoing, and my Office is taking every possible step that we can to ensure the integrity of the upcoming primary and general elections in the nine counties of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”

“This defendant abused his office by engaging in election fraud for profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s conviction makes it clear that the Department of Justice will do all in its power to protect the integrity of elections and maintain public confidence in all levels of elected government.”

“Domenick DeMuro put a thumb on the scale for certain candidates, in exchange for bribes,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “As public trust in the electoral process is vital, the FBI’s message today is clear: election interference of any kind, by hostile foreign actors or dishonest local officials, won’t be tolerated. This is an active, ongoing investigation and we're asking anyone with information on election fraud to contact the FBI.”

“The citizenry of the City of Philadelphia, as well as this Commonwealth and these United States, needs to be confident in the integrity of our elections,” said Captain Leo Hannon, Director of the Pennsylvania State Police, Special Investigations Division. As this investigation clearly illustrates, the Pennsylvania State Police will relentlessly pursue any breach of the sacred trust bestowed upon our public officials. Our agency is proud to partner with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the United States Department of Justice as a whole to root out corruption at any level of our government. Matters of public corruption and public integrity have been, and shall remain, a top priority of the Pennsylvania State Police.”

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Pennsylvania State Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Eric L. Gibson and Richard C. Pilger, U.S. Department of Justice, Director of Elections Crimes Branch, Criminal Division, Public Integrity Section.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Puglia Crimewave Points To Emergence Of 'Fifth' Italian Mafia

Lorenzo Tondo at the Guardian offers a piece on an emerging fifth organized crime group in Italy.

Alongside Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the ’Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Camorra in Naples and the Sacra Corona Unita, investigators have identified an emerging Puglia-based crime organisation that has remained under their radar for several years.

Judicial investigations had suggested mafia activity in northern Puglia, but confirmation from government authorities came after three car bombings in Foggia in January and the year’s first murder, when gunmen on a scooter shot a 50-year-old man in his car. The violence in Foggia prompted the interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, to send a team of anti-mafia investigators to Puglia.

Signs of the criminal clan’s activities predated these incidents. There was an average of one murder a week, one robbery a day and an extortion attempt every 48 hours in Foggia province in 2017 and 2018.

“The Foggia mafia is relatively young,” the head prosecutor for the city, Ludovico Vaccaro, said. “The clans that make up this organisation have been embedded in this territory for at least 30 years. We cannot compare them to the historical Italian mafia groups like Cosa Nostra and ’Ndrangheta, but it is a mafia characterised by a high degree of aggression and violence. It is what I call a primitive mafia, one that feeds cadavers to pigs so as not to leave a trace. An unrefined mafia in its actions, and for this reason dangerous.” 

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Updates To The Findings Of The Investigation Into The December 2019 Shooting At Pensacola Naval Air Station

Good morning.  I am joined today by FBI Director Chris Wray, and we are here to discuss significant developments in the FBI’s investigation of the December 6 shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station that killed three U.S. sailors and severely wounded eight other Americans.

Four months ago, I announced that this shooting was an act of terrorism.  I also publicly asked Apple to help us access the locked contents of the two iPhones belonging to the deceased terrorist Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.  It was clear at that time that the phones were likely to contain valuable information.  Indeed, Alshamrani attempted to destroy both phones, even going so far as to disengage from the gunfight long enough to fire a bullet into one. 

Within one day of the shootings, the FBI sought and obtained court orders, supported by probable cause, authorizing the FBI to search the contents of both phones as part of its investigation.  The problem was that the phones were locked and the FBI did not have the passwords, so they needed help to get in.  We asked Apple for assistance and so did the President.  Unfortunately, Apple would not help us unlock the phones.  Apple had deliberately designed them so that only the user — in this case, the terrorist — could gain access to their contents.      
Today, I am pleased to announce that, thanks to the relentless efforts and ingenuity of FBI technicians, the FBI finally succeeded in unlocking Alshamrani’s phones.  The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes Alshamrani’s significant ties to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), not only before the attack, but before he even arrived in the United States.  We now have a clearer understanding of Alshamrani’s associations and activities in the years, months, and days leading up to the attack.

Indeed, the information from the phones has already proven invaluable in protecting the American people.  A counterterrorism operation targeting AQAP operative Abdullah al-Maliki, one of Alshamrani’s overseas associates, was recently conducted in Yemen.  We will not hesitate to act against those who harm Americans.     

I would now like to turn the podium over to Director Wray, who will provide further information and an update on the FBI’s investigation.

* * *

Thank you, Director Wray.  Thank you for the outstanding work of the men and women of the FBI who stand on the ramparts protecting the American people.   

While the FBI’s hard work has led to an important breakthrough in this case that should be celebrated, I must also express my great disappointment that it took over four months and large sums of taxpayer dollars to obtain evidence that should be easily and quickly accessible with a court order. 

Apple made a business and marketing decision to design its phones in such a way that only the user can unlock the contents no matter the circumstances.  In cases like this, where the user is a terrorist, or in other cases, where the user is a violent criminal, human trafficker, or child predator, Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for public safety and national security and is, in my judgment, unacceptable. 

Apple’s desire to provide privacy for its customers is understandable, but not at all costs.  Under our nation’s long-established constitutional principles, where a court authorizes a search for evidence of a crime, an individual’s privacy interests must yield to the broader needs of public safety.  There is no reason why companies like Apple cannot design their consumer products and apps to allow for court-authorized access by law enforcement while maintaining very high standards of data security.  Striking this balance should not be left to corporate boardrooms.  It is a decision to be made by the American people through their representatives.

Privacy and public safety are not mutually exclusive.  We are confident that technology companies are capable of building secure products that protect user information and, at the same time, allow for law enforcement access when permitted by a judge — as Apple had done willingly for many years, and others still do today.

Many of the technology companies that advocate most loudly for warrant-proof encryption in the name of privacy rights are, at the same time, willing to accommodate authoritarian regimes when it serves their business interests.  For example, it has been widely reported that Apple has worked with both the Communist Party of China and the Russian regime to relocate data centers to enable bulk surveillance by those governments.  Apple also has reportedly disabled features and applications on iPhones used by pro-democracy advocates, thereby facilitating censorship and oppression.  If technology companies like Apple are willing to oblige the demands of authoritarian regimes, they certainly have no excuse for failing to cooperate with rule-of-law nations that respect civil liberties and privacy rights, and have judicial safeguards.

The developments in this case demonstrate the need for a legislative solution.  The truth is that we needed luck, in addition to ingenuity, to get into the phones this time.  There is no guarantee that we will be successful again or that a delay of four months (or longer) will not have significant consequences for the safety of Americans.  In addition, the costs in time and money of devising alternative methods of accessing encrypted information can be enormous.  This is not a scalable solution.  Right now, across the nation, there are many phones, both at the federal and state level, that law enforcement still cannot unlock despite having court authorization.  As commercial encryption becomes even more sophisticated, our odds of success diminish with each passing year.  We cannot do our jobs when companies put the ability to defeat court-authorized searches in the hands of terrorists and criminals.

When combating threats to our homeland, we need American tech leaders to work with us, not against us.  Over the past year, I have repeatedly asked tech companies to work with us to provide better solutions.  Unfortunately, no progress has been made.  For the safety and security of our citizens, we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Babylon Bee: Biden Campaign Hires Interpreter To Translate His Speeches Into English

The satirical Babylon Bee takes a shot at Joe Biden.

U.S.—The Biden campaign is facing a real communication problem as Joe Biden's speeches are growing more and more nonsensical. In order to overcome this challenge, aides have hired an interpreter to translate everything he says into normal, human-style English.

"My fellow Americans, pickle hamster meatloaf. The thing. Potato!" Biden began.

"My fellow Americans, thank you for being here this evening," the interpreter translated. 

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

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Ian Fleming's Inspiration: The Backstories Behind The James Bond Novels

The Daily Mail offers an extract from Edward Abel Smith’s new book on Ian Fleming, Ian Fleming’s Inspiration: The Truth Behind the Books.

Handsome. Witty. Suave. Irresistible to women. Bon vivant. Lover of fast cars. Intrepid traveler to exotic locations. An audacious and cunning spy. 

Qualities that are the very essence of James Bond. And yet they are not purely the stuff of fiction. To a large extent, they were attributes of 007’s creator, the novelist and journalist Ian Fleming.

A larger-than-life character who spent many years involved with the British Secret Service, Fleming often explained that his plots were taken from his own experiences, ‘no matter how bizarre they might seem’.

As a result, his James Bond novels and short stories – and the phenomenally successful films that followed – are peppered with references to Fleming’s own exhilarating days in wartime naval intelligence and to the far-flung places he visited, as well as the personal traits, and even names, of some of his glamorous high society friends.

Fleming’s first biographer, John Pearson, wrote: ‘James Bond is not really a character in the books. He is a mouthpiece for the man who inhabits him, a dummy for himself to hang clothes on… to perform the dreams of violence and daring which fascinate his creator.’

Certainly, the numerous parallels are remarkable – be it the central plot of a story, 007’s favorite food, or simply the thrill he gets when driving one of his adored luxury cars… 

A larger-than-life character who spent many years involved with the British Secret Service, Fleming often explained that his plots were taken from his own experiences, ‘no matter how bizarre they might seem’

… A lifelong philanderer who was thrown out of the Army after an ill-advised encounter with a ‘woman of dubious virtue’ in Soho, Fleming was notoriously commitment-averse, only marrying at the age of 44 after a long public affair with his married mistress, Ann O’Neill.

Their relationship was a turbulent one. The outgoing, vivacious and charming Ann is thought to have provided many of the characteristics for Viv, the narrator of The Spy Who Loved Me, including her wavy brown hair, high cheekbones and cheerful optimism.

But it was an earlier girlfriend who was arguably more influential.

Muriel Wright was a stunning model who met Fleming at the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbuhel when he was 27 and she was 26.

They began a passionate relationship, but it was not long before Fleming started seeing other women.

Muriel’s indignant brother is said to have been so angry that he turned up at Fleming’s London home with a horsewhip to punish him. 

During an early visit to his adored Jamaica, where he eventually built a home called Goldeneye, Fleming was amused to hear a neighbor’s butler announce: ‘Vespers are served.’ He was delighted to take the name of the local cocktail – a combination of ice-cold gin and tropical juice – for Bond’s glamorous sidekick in Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd.

However, consumed with guilt after Muriel was killed in an air raid in London in March 1944, Fleming became deeply sentimental about her, refusing to return to restaurants the couple had once visited.

Although he never spoke of her again, his feelings surfaced in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1963, in which he describes in anguished detail the death of the love of Bond’s life, Tracy, in a hail of bullets.

Muriel, with her kind heart, exceptional beauty and sporting prowess, is believed to have been the inspiration for many Bond girls.

Fleming relished passing on his love of fine food and wine to James Bond, who, in Casino Royale, explains to Vesper that investing time in choosing what to eat and drink provides him with pleasure, because it makes his meals more interesting. Fleming’s favorite meal was breakfast. In his Jamaican retreat, fresh eggs, fruit and coffee would follow an early swim, while lunch featured fish, steak, kidneys, liver or the local specialty of curried goat.

… The author’s biographer John Pearson described Fleming as a man with a ‘sad, sardonic smile as he clenched the Dunhill holder between his battered teeth and drew heavily upon his umpteenth Morland of the morning’. 

… The CIA is one of the best-known intelligence institutions in the world. Less well known, however, is the key role played by Fleming in creating it. 

In 1941, he visited the US with his Naval Intelligence boss John Godfrey, with the objective of forging closer intelligence links with their American counterparts. Their first stop was to meet J. Edgar Hoover, the 46-year-old founder of the FBI in New York.

The visit was not a success, with Hoover telling the British pair he had no interest in their proposals. He did, however, take them to a shooting range in the basement of the building.

This was the beginning of Fleming’s lifelong fascination with guns – their look, sound, feel and smell.

Hoover also introduced the two men to Sir William Stephenson, the legendary wartime UK-US intelligence liaison chief.

For Fleming, this was another life-changing moment.

As his biographer John Pearson wrote: ‘Stephenson was almost everything a hero should be… he was very tough… he was very rich… he was single-minded and patriotic and a man of few words.’

When Stephenson asked Fleming to write a quote for the front cover of his autobiography many years later, the author boldly claimed that Stephenson was the real-life version of James Bond.

As the man who represented British Intelligence interests in the US, Stephenson had identified that the main reason for the lack of wartime co-operation between the countries’ intelligence services was simple disorganization.

There was no central American body to co-ordinate all the intelligence – and, most importantly, to decide what to share and with whom. Instead, the Navy, Army, State Department and the FBI all fought against each other.

Fleming was invited to design the structure of a centralized new secret service for the US, using his experiences of coordinated British intelligence. Working under armed guard, he produced a comprehensive 70-page document covering every aspect of the requirements of a giant secret intelligence organization.

Four weeks later, it was announced that $10 million had been allocated to get the new service up and running.

For Fleming, what had begun as a diplomatic visit to build ties in New York and Washington, had resulted in a huge personal triumph.

In gratitude for his work, the head of the new organization, Colonel William Donovan, gave Fleming a .38 Colt revolver engraved with the words ‘for special services’.

Fleming would proudly show the weapon to his associates, telling them it was given to him by the father of the American Secret Service. 

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Washington Times: Supporting Journalism's Role In Civil Society

At the Washington Times, the conservative newspaper where my On Crime columns, book reviews and other pieces appear, there is an editorial about the necessity of newspapers. 

These days it is both common and unpleasant to hear espoused, especially by members of the elite, that the coronacrisis is helpfully accelerating the demise — if not total destruction — of sclerotic industries. One such industry, and everyone’s favorite whipping boy, if we are being honest, is the media, particularly newspapers, which seem to have now regressed from a decade-long serious condition to one in need of critical attention.

Critics on both the left and the right point to different culprits: Outmoded business models; the disruption of “new,” online media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook; shortened attention spans; a public sick of ideology masquerading as “fact,” you name it. But all of this is beside the point. Because like your local mom and pop store, or local library, or public park, journalism done well is an important part of a healthy civil society. We simply need to have it around.

And we can go further. The philosophic concepts that prop up the historical success of everything great in America — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — only move from the theoretical realm to the practical when its disseminated, discussed and debated in the public square. The roaring pamphlet debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, which all took place in the pages of newspapers, brought America as we know it into existence.

Now, one may downplay this and argue, as they do, that the death (or “evolution” if you prefer repeating a well-worn lie) of news media is just one of those things in life, akin to the move from traditional taxis to Uber. Except, of course, it’s not. Because when newspapers die, at least in this environment, there is nothing to replace them.

This is lamentable for many reasons, not least of which is the loss of the employment, our ability to hold to account corrupt business and bad government, and the innumerable feel-good, feel-bad, or just plain fact-neutral reporting that, in aggregate, tells the story of our country.

… Finally, we would be remiss if we did not remind you that, when it comes to covering national news, no one beats the men and women of The Washington Times. That goes double for our columnists. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe.

Our motto is: Reliable Reporting. The Right Opinion — we would love to see more of that across America.

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

Note: The Washington Times was President Ronald Reagan's favorite newspaper.

Honoring Those On Watch During COVID-19 Outbreak: Armed Forces Day 2020

A Little Humor: The Cop Issues Tickets

I popped into a store for only a minute and when I walked out, I saw a cop writing a parking ticket for being in a handicap spot.

I walked up to him and asked him to give a guy a break.

He just looked at me and kept on writing the ticket. 

So I called him a Nazi. 

He gave me a hard look but didn’t say anything except that he was issuing me another ticket for worn tires.

“Does giving people tickets made you feel powerful?” I asked the cop.

The cop did not respond, but the began writing a third ticket and placed it on the windshield with the other tickets.

I continued to insult the cop and he continued writing tickets. I lost count, but there must have been a half dozen on the windshield.

Finally, I threw up my hands and walked away, stealing a glance at the stack of tickets piled on the car. 

But I didn't care. 

My car was parked around the corner.

Friday, May 15, 2020

U.S. Army General To Co-Lead 'Operation Warp Speed' For COVID-19 Vaccine

David Vergun at the DOD News offers the below piece: 

President Donald J. Trump today announced that Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna, the commander of Army Materiel Command, will co-lead an effort, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, to find a vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021. 

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said the Defense Department is very excited and committed to partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services, across the government, and in the private sector to accomplish the mission. "Winning matters, and we will deliver by the end of this year a vaccine at scale to treat the American people and our partners abroad," he said.

The goal is to produce about 300 million vaccines by January, said Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, at a Pentagon press briefing today.

Hoffman mentioned that it's a goal involving a whole-of-government approach, not just the DOD.

Regarding DOD and the Pentagon, Hoffman said neither has been shut down and daily operations continue, albeit with mitigation steps that include social distancing, face masks, quarantine when necessary and telework if the situation allows.

As for increasing the number of personnel at the Pentagon, Hoffman said it will be conditions-based and informed by medical experts. The Pentagon, he said, is in consultation with the governments of the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland. Policy and decisions are currently under review and are expected to be released in a matter of weeks.

Regarding the hospital ships USNS Comfort and Mercy, Hoffman said they have completed their work in New York City and Los Angeles and are standing by if their services are needed elsewhere. 

Hoffman noted that tomorrow is Armed Forces Day. He mentioned the death yesterday of Army Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II, a Medal of Honor recipient. 

Shurer served in Afghanistan. On April 6, 2008, he was cited for valorous actions for providing medical assistance to his teammates while facing enemy fire for over six hours. 

Alleged Narcotrafficker And High-Ranking Cartel Member Extradited From Uruguay To The United States

The U.S. Justice Department released the below:
A Mexican national will have his initial appearance in federal court in the District of Columbia later today on charges related to his alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), made the announcement.
Gerardo Gonzalez Valencia, aka “Lalo,” 43, arrived at Dulles International Airport  yesterday evening after being extradited from Uruguay, where he was arrested in April 2016.  The indictment charges Gonzalez Valencia with an international conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine, intending and knowing that those substances would be unlawfully imported into the United States.  The indictment alleges that Gonzalez Valencia’s criminal conspiracy ran from 2003 to 2016.
“The Department of Justice will never waver in our commitment to disrupt and dismantle CJNG and its enablers, wherever they are found,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our law enforcement partners in Uruguay, Valencia Gonzalez now will be held to account in the United States for his alleged crimes.”
“Today’s extradition and arrest of Mr. Gonzalez-Valencia deals another blow to the leadership of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion,” said DEA Acting Administrator Dhillon. “Mr. Gonzalez-Valencia is alleged to have distributed significant quantities of cocaine and meth and will now face justice in the United States.  We are grateful for the outstanding partnership with the National Police and Government of Uruguay during this long term investigation.”
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case was investigated by DEA Los Angeles.  Trial Attorneys Brett Reynolds, Kaitlin Sahni, Cole Radovich, Kate Naseef and Acting Deputy Chief Anthony Nardozzi of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section are prosecuting the case.
The Justice Department extends its gratitude to the government of Uruguay for making the extradition possible and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) for its support.  The Criminal Division’s Office of Enforcement Operations provided assistance in support of this investigation and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from Uruguay.

The FBI Warns That Communist China Is Targeting U.S. COVID-19 Research Organizations

The FBI released the below statement:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are issuing this announcement to raise awareness of the threat to COVID-19-related research. The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by PRC-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors. These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research. The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.
The FBI and CISA urge all organizations conducting research in these areas to maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices to prevent surreptitious review or theft of COVID-19-related material. FBI is responsible for protecting the U.S. against foreign intelligence, espionage, and cyber operations, among other responsibilities. CISA is responsible for protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. CISA is providing services and information to support the cybersecurity of federal and state/local/tribal/territorial entities and private sector entities that play a critical role in COVID-19 research and response.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Director Wray Honors Fallen Law Enforcement Partners During National Police Week

The below statement was issued by FBI Director Christopher Wray:
A line of duty death, whether an officer, special agent, or professional staff employee, is personal to the FBI, and it’s personal to me as Director. I ask my team to let me know every time an officer is shot and killed in the line of duty in this country, and every time it happens, I read about his or her family, and then I pick up the phone and call the chief, sheriff, or commissioner and extend my support and condolences on behalf of the entire FBI.
The dangers of our work go beyond potentially deadly criminals. We cannot and should not forget the line of duty deaths and illnesses that we are now seeing affect our 9/11 first responders. It takes an incredibly special person to be willing to put his or her life on the line for the community, and we owe it to our law enforcement heroes to do whatever we can to make their work safer.