Wednesday, May 31, 2023

A Comedy Of Errors: My Broad + Liberty Piece On A Look Back At Watergate

Broad + Liberty ran my piece on a look back at Watergate.

You can read the piece via the below link or the below text:

Paul Davis: "The White House Plumbers," a look back at Watergate ( 

The late comedian Redd Foxx once joked, “I call my wife Watergate — ’cause she bugs me.”

I was a young man and Nixon supporter during the Watergate scandal, and I followed the daily unfolding news closely. The unsuccessful break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Committee’s offices at the Watergate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972 led to President Nixon’s resignation after he had been reelected overwhelmingly against his Democratic challenger, Senator George McGovern.

I’ve been reliving those dramatic times by watching HBO’s “The White House Plumbers.”

“This five-part limited series imagines the behind-the-scenes story of how Nixon’s political saboteurs, E. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux), accidentally toppled the presidency they were zealously trying to protect… and their families along with it,” states in describing “The White House Plumbers.” “Chronicling actions on the ground, this satirical drama begins in 1971 when the White House hires Hunt and Liddy, former CIA and FBI, respectively, to investigate the Pentagon Papers leak. After failing upward, the unlikely pair lands on the Committee to Re-Elect the President, plotting several unbelievable covert ops — including bugging the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex. Proving that fact is sometimes stranger than fiction, White House Plumbers sheds light on the lesser-known series of events that led to one of the greatest political scandals in American history.”

READ MORE — Paul Davis: From China, with love

Curiously, the most absurd scenes in the series are completely historically accurate. Although Liddy was a former FBI special agent and prosecutor and Hunt was a veteran intelligence officer who enlisted his former CIA Cuban-American veteran operatives, their failures are spectacularly farcical. While the scandal was unfolding, Nixon can be heard on his White House recorded tapes calling the burglary “a comedy of errors.”

I’m enjoying the series, but my one complaint is that the families of Liddy and Hunt are portrayed in the series. This is uncalled for and unfair, as the families committed no crimes, and they are not public figures.

“The White House Plumbers” is based in part on Egil “Bud” Krogh’s memoir, “Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House.” Krogh was the boss of the White House’s Special Investigations Unit, informally called the “Plumbers,” as their goal was to stop the leaks to the press.   

At first, the White House described the Watergate break-in a “third-rate burglary.” But as new evidence surfaced and the Nixon White House attempted to cover up the crime, this third-rate burglary elevated to a national scandal.

Although Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are often credited for cracking the Watergate case, it was the FBI and the federal prosecutors who investigated the case and prosecuted those involved. The Post’s reporters merely published the information provided to them by Mark Felt, a senior disgruntled FBI official who believed he had been passed over. Woodward and Bernstein called their source “Deep Throat.”

Felt gave the reporters inside information from the FBI’s investigation — an illegal act, and one that hurt the defendants’ constitutional right to a fair trial.

Woodward went on to publish best-selling nonfiction books and Bernstein went on to become a frequent commentator on CNN and other liberal networks, offering his mantra, “This is worse than Watergate” when describing various Trump actions.

(Greg Gutfeld on Fox News’ “Gutfeld!” has played a funny video montage of Bernstein repeating his mantra “Worse than Watergate” time and again).

I thought that Hunt and Liddy, two first-time offenders with fairly accomplished careers as government employees, received harsh prison sentences. Non-political people convicted of similar crimes with similar backgrounds would have been given a much less harsh sentence. 

In the case of Hunt, he had just lost his wife in a plane crash, effectively leaving his four children parentless when he entered prison. Hunt, a prolific writer of spy and crime thrillers, wrote a memoir called, “American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate & Beyond.”

“I’ve been called many things since the foiled break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex, including a criminal mastermind, a bungling burglar, and even a bad spy novelist,” Hunt wrote in the introduction. “I don’t know which accusation hurts most. Two are outrageous overstatements and one is a matter of opinion. Need I explain which is which?

“Whatever the case, none of them describe the whole man, and all disregard over two decades of service to the United States, first as a sailor in World War II, then as an OSS (Office of Strategic Services) operative, segueing into many years as a CIA agent.”

Once the Nixon White House tapes were released following a court order, Nixon was exposed as attempting to cover up the crime. Threatened to be impeached, Nixon resigned, and he was later pardoned by his successor, President Gerald Ford. The pardon prompted Ford to state, “Our long national nightmare is over.” The pardon, which was a bold and brave move for Ford to take, probably caused him to lose to Jimmy Carter.

Even worse, in my view, the exit of Nixon from the White House in effect greenlighted the North Vietnamese Army to invade South Vietnam. After the 1973 Paris agreement that ended America’s combat role in the Vietnam War, Henry Kissinger stated that Nixon told him to convey to the North Vietnamese that he would “nuke” the North Vietnamese if they invaded the South. The Communists believed him.

But after Nixon resigned, President Ford was unable to get the Democrat-led Congress to provide material support to the South Vietnamese (he did not ask for American ground troops), and the South fell to the Communists.

It bears noting the North Vietnamese did not defeat the American military. The Communists never won a battle against American troops over company strength during the entire war. When the North Vietnamese invaded the south, there were no American combat troops there, only support troops. The North Vietnamese defeated the South Vietnamese, not America.

Had Watergate not happened, and Nixon remained in office, I believe Vietnam would look much like North and South Korea. But after Nixon resigned after attempting to cover up Watergate, America lost the political will to contain the North Vietnamese.

In my view, Watergate led to the fall of South Vietnam.

Here’s another old Watergate joke I recall from MAD magazine: The burglars could not find Ellsberg’s file, as they looked under “L.”

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the On Crime column for the Washington Times.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Illegal Agents Of The PRC Government Charged For PRC-Directed Bribery Scheme: John Chen And Lin Feng Allegedly Furthered The PRC Government’s Transnational Repression Campaign Against The Falun Gong By Bribing A Purported IRS Official

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

A federal court in the Southern District of New York today unsealed a complaint charging two individuals with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as unregistered agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), conspiring to bribe and bribing a public official, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the complaint, John Chen, aka Chen Jun, 70, a Los Angeles resident and former citizen of the PRC, and Lin Feng, a Los Angeles resident and PRC citizen, allegedly participated in a PRC Government-directed scheme targeting U.S.-based practitioners of Falun Gong — a spiritual practice banned in the PRC. Chen and Feng were arrested today in the Central District of California.

“The Chinese government has yet again attempted, and failed, to target critics of the PRC here in the United States,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “We allege the defendants in this case attempted to bribe someone they thought was an IRS agent in order to further the Chinese government’s campaign of transnational repression in the United States. But the individual they attempted to bribe was in fact an undercover law enforcement agent, and both defendants were arrested this morning. The Justice Department will continue to investigate, disrupt, and prosecute efforts by the PRC government to silence its critics and extend the reaches of its regime onto U.S. soil. We will never stop working to defend the rights to which every person in the United States is entitled.”

“The Department of Justice continues to expose the Chinese government’s brazen attempts to perpetrate transnational repression, this time through attempted bribery,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “As highlighted by today’s arrests and charges of conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering, we will not tolerate efforts by the PRC or any foreign government to intimidate, harass, or undermine the rights and freedoms enjoyed by all who live in the United States.”

“China’s government has once again shown its disregard for the rule of law and international norms,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI will not tolerate CCP repression — its efforts to threaten, harass, and intimidate people — here in the United States. We will continue to confront the Chinese government’s efforts to violate our laws and repress the rights and freedoms of people in our country.”“No other nation poses as severe a threat to the democratic values of the United States as the government of the People’s Republic of China,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “The FBI will not stand by as the PRC attempts to weaponize our institutions and programs and attack the rights of those on U.S. soil. Any attempt to repress or harass individuals runs directly counter to the ideals our nation was founded upon, and it simply will not be tolerated. The FBI and our partners remain committed to confronting the illegal conduct of the PRC government that threatens our national security and freedom.”

“John Chen and Lin Feng allegedly waged a campaign at the behest of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to influence a U.S. Government official in order to further the PRC Government’s repression of practitioners of Falun Gong,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “Efforts to manipulate and use the arms of the U.S. Government to carry out the PRC Government’s autocratic aims are as shocking as they are insidious. My office will work vigorously to protect against malign foreign influences.”

The complaint alleges that from at least approximately January 2023 to May 2023, Chen and Feng worked inside the United States at the direction of the PRC government, including an identified PRC government official (PRC Official-1), to further the PRC government’s campaign to repress and harass Falun Gong practitioners. The PRC Government has designated the Falun Gong as one of the “five poisons,” or one of the top five threats to its rule. In China, Falun Gong adherents face a range of repressive and punitive measures from the PRC government, including imprisonment and torture.                 

As part of the PRC government’s campaign against the Falun Gong, Chen and Feng allegedly engaged in a PRC government-directed scheme to manipulate the IRS’s Whistleblower Program in an effort to strip the tax-exempt status of an entity run and maintained by Falun Gong practitioners (Entity-1). After Chen filed a defective whistleblower complaint with the IRS (the Chen Whistleblower Complaint), Chen and Feng paid $5,000 in cash bribes, and promised to pay substantially more, to a purported IRS agent who was in fact an undercover officer (Agent-1), in exchange for Agent-1’s assistance in advancing the complaint. Neither Chen nor Feng notified the Attorney General that they were acting as agents of the PRC government in the United States.

In the course of the scheme, Chen, on a recorded call, explicitly noted that the purpose of paying these bribes, which were directed and funded by the PRC government, was to carry out the PRC government’s aim of “toppl[ing] . . . the Falun Gong.” During a call intercepted pursuant to a judicially authorized wiretap, Chen and Feng discussed receiving “direction” on the bribery scheme from PRC Official-1, deleting instructions received from PRC Official-1 in order to evade detection, and “alert[ing]” and “sound[ing] the alarm” to PRC Official-1 if Chen and Feng’s meetings to bribe Agent-1 did not go as planned. Chen and Feng also discussed that PRC Official-1 was the PRC Government official “in charge” of the bribery scheme targeting the Falun Gong.

As part of this scheme, Chen and Feng allegedly met with Agent-1 in Newburgh, New York, on May 14.  During the meeting, Chen gave Agent-1 a $1,000 cash bribe as an initial, partial bribe payment. Chen further offered to pay Agent-1 a total of $50,000 for opening an audit of Entity-1, as well as 60% of any whistleblower award from the IRS if the Chen Whistleblower Complaint were successful. On May 18, Feng paid Agent-1 a $4,000 cash bribe at John F. Kennedy International Airport as an additional partial bribe payment in furtherance of the scheme. Chen allegedly obtained funding from the PRC government to make bribe payments during his trips to the PRC in the course of the scheme.

Chen and Feng are each charged with (1) one count of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General and to bribe a public official, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; (2) one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the Attorney General, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; (3) one count of bribing a public official, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; and (4) one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The FBI New York and Los Angeles Field Offices and Counterintelligence Division are investigating the case with valuable assistance provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shiva H. Logarajah, Qais Ghafary, Michael D. Lockard, and Kathryn Wheelock for the Southern District of New York and Trial Attorney Christina A. Clark of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

The charges in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Max Allan Collins' True Detective: A Private Eye In Prohibition-Era Chicago

Back in April, I interviewed Max Allan Collins about his historical crime thriller The Big Bundle in my On Crime column in the Washington Times. 

The Big Bundle is the 18th novel in the series featuring Nathan Heller, a Chicago private detective who interacts with historical figures and becomes involved in actual crimes and scandals.


I asked Max Allan Collins to describe The Big Bundle.


“In many respects, it’s a private eye thriller in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane,” Mr. Collins replied. “I was moving to a new publisher, Hard Case Crime, and knew their audience was steeped in hardboiled fiction and might be put off by the famous crimes I usually look at in a Nathan Heller novel. The real-life case in ‘The Big Bundle,’ quite well known in the 1950s but forgotten now, allowed me to put the emphasis on the noir aspect of the Heller novels and not be accused of teaching a “history lesson.”


I also asked him how he would describe Nathan Heller.


“Heller is a businessman who starts out in a small office where he sleeps on a Murphy bed and winds up with a coast-to-coast detective agency. He is not the typical Phillip Marlowe-style modern-day knight who would never take a bribe or seduce a virgin — Heller has done both and often indulges in situational ethics. Unlike most fictional private eyes, he marries (more than once) and is a father and had a father and mother and even grandparents. He ages with the years. At any age, Heller recoils at injustice in society and serves up rough justice when he feels it necessary. He not only knows where the bodies are buried, he has buried more than his share.”


I had not read any of Max Allan Collins previous Nathan Heller novels and I mentioned to him that I’d like to read the first one in the series, True Detective (not to be confused with the HBO series with the same name).


He mailed me a copy and I read the novel and thoroughly enjoyed it.


True Detective opens with Heller working as a young police detective in Prohibition-era Chicago. He quits the force and becomes a private detective. He becomes involved with Frank Nitti, Al Capone and other gangsters, as well as professional boxer Barney Ross, actor George Raft and federal agent Elliot Ness of The Untouchables fame.


The plot revolves around the assassination of Chicago Mayor Cermak while he was on stage with President Franklin Roosevelt.   


"I knew Chicago during Prohibition was supposed to be both dangerous and exciting, and now I know why. . .  A terrific read," wrote Donald E. Westlake

"One of the best stories I have ever read," wrote Mickey Spillane.

Like those two legendary crime writers, I too found True Detective to be a fine crime novel. I plan to read more of the Nathan Heller novels in the future.

You can purchase True Detective via the below link:

 True Detective: Collins, Max Allan: 9780312820510: Books

And you can read my On Crime column on The Big Bundle via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: A Private Eye Witness To History: My Washington Times On Crime Column On Max Allen Collins 'The Big Bundle' 

Always Remember: Memorial Day 2023

Sunday, May 28, 2023

On This Day In History Ian Fleming, The Creator Of James Bond, Was Born

On this day in 1908 the late, great thriller writer Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, the world’s most famous fictional spy, was born. 

Fleming died of a heart attack at age 56 in 1964. 

As notes, Ian Lancaster Fleming was born into a well-to-do family in London on May 28, 1908.

"As an adult, he worked as a foreign correspondent, a stockbroker and a personal assistant to Britain’s director of naval intelligence during World War II–experiences that would all provide fodder for his Bond novels. The series of novels about the debonair Agent 007, based in part on their dashing author’s real-life experiences, spawned one of the most lucrative film franchises in history.  

"The first Bond book, Casino Royale, was published in 1953. In all, Fleming wrote 12 novels and two short story collections about Agent 007, which together sold more than 18 million copies. According to The New York Times: “Bond himself, Fleming said, was ‘a compound of all the secret agents and commandos I met during the war,’ but his tastes– in blondes, martinis ‘shaken, not stirred,’ expensively tailored suits, scrambled eggs, short-sleeved shirts and Rolex watches–were Fleming’s own. But not all the comparisons were ones the author liked to encourage. Bond, he said, had ‘more guts than I have’ as well as being ‘more handsome. 

"The first Bond film, Dr. No, was released in 1962; it starred the Scottish actor Sean Connery in the title role. Connery played Bond in six films altogether; From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964) were the only ones made during Fleming’s lifetime. Since that time, five other actors—George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig—have played the superspy in some two dozen films from EON Productions."

You can read three of my Crime Beat columns on Ian Fleming via the below links: 

Paul Davis On Crime: WWII's Great Deception Plan: My Crime Beat Column On Ian Fleming And 'Operation Mincemeat'

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: The Ian Fleming and James Bond Phenomenon

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: A Look Back At Ian Fleming's Iconic James Bond Character

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Ian Fleming in WWII via the below link: 

Paul Davis On Crime: My Piece On The 30 Assault Unit, The British WWII Commando Group Created By Ian Fleming, The Creator Of James Bond

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Friday, May 26, 2023

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Protect Yourself From Microsoft Tech Support Scams

Microsoft offers a primer on tech support scams.

Tech support scams are an industry-wide issue where scammers use scare tactics to trick you into unnecessary technical support services to supposedly fix device or software problems that don't exist.

At best, the scammers are trying to get you to pay them to "fix" a nonexistent problem with your device or software. At worst, they're trying to steal your personal or financial information; and if you allow them to remote into your computer to perform this "fix," they will often install malware, ransomware, or other unwanted programs that can steal your information or damage your data or device.

Scammers may call you directly on the phone and pretend to be representatives of a tech company. They might even spoof the caller ID so that it displays a legitimate support phone number from a trusted company. They'll probably ask you to install applications that give them remote access to your device. Using remote access, these experienced scammers can misrepresent normal system messages as signs of problems.

Scammers might also initiate contact by displaying fake error messages on websites you visit, displaying support numbers and enticing you to call. They may also put your browser in full screen mode and display pop-up messages that won't go away, apparently locking your browser. These fake error messages aim to scare you into calling their "technical support hotline".

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video about how to avoid tech support scams via the below link:

Protect yourself from tech support scams - Microsoft Support 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Sir Roger Moore Knew Who Should Replace Daniel Craig As Next James Bond: Moore Said Aidan Turner Had Some Similarities To The First-Ever James Bond Star, Sean Connery.

Callum Crumlish at the British newspaper the Express offers a piece on the late Sir Roger Moore, who back in 2016 endorsed Aidan Turner as the next actor to portray Ian Fleming’s iconic Bond character.

Crumlish noted that May 23, 2023 marked the sixth anniversary of Sir Roger Moore’s death. Moore died in 2017, aged 89. Moore portrayed James Bond in seven movies from 1973 to 1985.

 But, Crumlish wrote, even long after he had hung up his tuxedo for the last time, Moore was eager to discuss the 007 role and who ought to be involved in the franchise going forward.

“Back in 2016, he opened up on who he would want to take over from Daniel Craig after his tenure finally came to an end,” Crumlish wrote. “While there have always been some major British actors in Hollywood who have always been touted as possibly Bond favorites - such as Henry Cavill, Tom Hardy, Moore instead opted for a more reserved actor from the BBC.”

"I think Aidan Turner would make a very good Bond," Moore told the Daily Star.

"I like Aidan. I think he's doing a wonderful job as Ross [Poldark]. He looks great and has a brooding presence. He's registered enormously with the public, and that's terrific." Moore even went on to compare Turner to the first and most recognizable James Bond of all time: Sean Connery.

"I think he'd be an excellent Bond. Aidan is a good actor, and the first 007, Sean Connery was a very good actor. Aidan is quite capable of doing that part," he continued. "Good luck to him if he gets it," Moore said. "I'll be very pleased for him."

As would I.

Aidan Turner, best known for portraying Captain Ross Poldark, also portrayed a tux-wearing killer in And Then There Were None, which in my view, was sort of an audition for Bond - which he nailed.

You can read my post on Turner as Bond via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: The Actor Who Should be Bond: Watch Aidan Turner Do A Sort Of James Bond Audition In 'And Then There Was None'

Monday, May 22, 2023

A Look Back At Martin Scorsese' World Of Crime

With Martin Scorsese (seen above in the white shirt with his Goodfellas actors) being hailed at this time as the director of Killers of the Flower Moon, I thought readers might like to look back at previous crime films from the famed director. 

I’m a huge fan of Mean Streets, Raging Bull and Casino. And I think Goodfellas is one of the greatest crime films ever made.

Below is a link to my Crime Beat column on Scorsese’s The Departed, and his earlier films:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Beat Column: Martin Scorsese's Film World of Crime

You can also read my Washington Times On Crime column on Scorsese’s The Irishman (which I called Oldfellas) via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: Oldfellas: Frank Sheeran, 'The Irishman' And 'I Heard You Paint Houses': My First Washington Times Weekly 'On Crime' Column 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Corleone: The Sicilian Town Trying To Break Free Of Its Mobster Past

As I’ve noted here before, back in 1975 I was a student of crime, an aspiring crime writer and a sailor stationed on a U.S. Navy tugboat at the American nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland. 

Undecided if I wanted to go home to the USA or stay in the Navy and get stationed in Italy, I visited Naples, Italy and Palermo, Sicily before I made my decision. 

Being half-Italian on my mother's side, I wanted to see where the Guardino clan came from in Sicily. And having read Mario Puzo's The Godfather several times and having seen Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and The Godfather, Part Two films several times, I simply had to visit the Sicilian town of Corleone. 

I spent a day in Corleone, a quaint and quiet town that belies its' rich history of blood, murder and organized crime. Corleone is the town where The Godfather’s fictional Vito Corleone came from, and Corleone was also the town where true-life Cosa Nostra bosses, such as Salvatore "Toto" Riina, also came from. 

I enjoyed my time in Naples, Palermo and Corleone, but I decided to leave the Navy and go home. 

Lorenzo Tondo at the Guardian offers a piece on modern-day Corleone and how the Sicilian town is trying to break free of it mobster past.

If it weren’t called Corleone, this small, quaint town would appear to visitors as one of many others of the Sicilian hinterland: groups of elderly people strolling in a semi-deserted square, rows of low sand-coloured houses and a 16th-century church on the highest hill. 

It would be difficult to imagine that for almost half a century it was the stronghold of the mafia’s bloodiest and most powerful clan, and the fiefdom of Italy’s most feared mobster, Totò Riina. Immortalised in cinema and literature by The Godfather, it became synonymous with organised crime, even if the bosses who once governed it – Riina, Luciano Leggio and Bernardo Provenzano – are now dead.

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

Corleone: the Sicilian town trying to break free of its mobster past | Mafia | The Guardian 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

An Appetite For Crime: A Look Back At Mark Bowden's 'The Vanishing Blonde And Other True Crime Stories'

I’m reading Mark Bowden’s latest nonfiction book, Life Sentence: The Brief and Tragic career of Baltimore’s Deadliest Gang Leader. 

I plan to interview Mark Bowden, as I have in the past, and cover the book in my Washington Times On Crime column.


Back in 2020, I interviewed him and covered his The Case of the Vanishing Blonde and Other True Crime Stories.


You can read the column via the below link or the below text:

Learning crimes behind Mark Bowden's 'The Case of the Vanishing Blonde and Other True Crime Stories' - Washington Times


Mark Bowden (seen in the above photo) is perhaps best known for his book “Black Hawk Down” and his other books about the American military, such as “Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam,” and “Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.” But in his latest book, “The Case of the Vanishing Blonde and Other True Crime Stories,” he returns to his roots as a crime reporter.  


Mr. Bowden, who received a lifetime achievement award from the International Thriller Writers organization, offers six true crime stories he had written previously for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Vanity Fair and Air Mail. The stories range from a case of a campus rape at the University of Pennsylvania in 1983, to three stories involving cold cases investigated by a Long Island private detective named Ken Brennan, as well as a fascinating case of a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into a 26-year-old murder that leads to one of their own.


“Newspaper reporting hones an appetite for crime,” Mr. Bowden writes in the introduction to the book. “When I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, back in its heyday, when it had reporters based all over the region, nation, and the world, we reporters competed vigorously for the paper’s limited news hole. You learned fast that a good crime yarn was a shortcut to page one.”


Mr. Bowden notes that crime has been part of his work ever since. Three of his books, “Doctor Dealer,” Finders Keepers,” and the “Last Stone” (which I reviewed here), are about crime, and he wrote that “The Finish” and “Killing Pablo,” his books about the hunt for bin Laden and Pablo Escobar, are arguably about crime as well.  


“For a writer like me, audio and video recordings are like a gift from God,” Mr. Bowden writes. “When I started as a newspaper reporter in the 1970s, it was rare to have a photo or recording of anything I wrote about. Today it is rare not to have such material. In fact, there is often so much of it that it poses new challenges.”

I reached out to Mark Bowden and I asked him why out of all the many stories he has written for newspapers and magazine, he chose these particular stories for the book.  

“I chose these stories because they are my favorites from the long-form crime stories I have written over the years,” Mr. Bowden told me. “I think they are because most — although not all — deal with issues that transcend the immediate drama. The fraternity rape story deals with changing attitudes toward sexual violence, the sexual predator story with entrapment, the Stephanie Lazarus story the tendency of institutions to protect their own, the Euhommie Bond story with racial divisions and attitudes. 

"I think the Ken Brennan stories are the most memorable, because they showcase his skill as an investigator, and each unravels a mystery that stumped local police. Ken contacted me out of the blue, and told me, in brief, the story that became "The Case of the Vanishing Blonde.' I loved him as a character, and we have stayed friends. Some years later, over lunch, he told me the story of "The Body in Room 348," and again, years later, over lunch in Florida, he told me the 'Euhommie Bond' story.       

Thursday, May 18, 2023

From China With Love: My Broad + Liberty Piece On Drug Trafficking From China

Broad + Liberty ran my piece From China With Love today.

You can read the piece via the below link or the below text:

Paul Davis: Drug trafficking from China, with love (

The late, great thriller writer Ian Fleming, author of such classic James Bond thrillers as From Russia With LoveGoldfinger and Dr. No, also wrote a short story about drug smuggling called Risico.

In Risico, James Bond is given the assignment to break up a drug smuggling ring in Italy. M, the chief of the British Secret Service in the Bond stories, tells Bond drug trafficking can be an instrument of psychological warfare, as drug addiction saps a country’s strength. He stated that subversion and not money may be at the back of it.

“In this pizniss is much risico,” the drug smuggler Kristatos tells James Bond at the beginning of the short story.

The Italian criminal Enrico Colombo, who smuggles cigarettes and other items — but not drugs — aids Bond in destroying a cache of Kristatos’s drugs. Colombo tells Bond that the drug shipment they had just destroyed was a gift from Russia. He explained that Kristatos ran the drug ring that smuggled heroin into the United Kingdom, but the Soviet Union provided him with the drugs.

Ian Fleming (seen in the above photo) admitted that the plots in his novels were fantastic (the films much more so), but he also said they were based on the real world of intelligence.

Fleming, a naval intelligence officer in WWII, and a journalist who covered espionage for Reuters prior to WWII and the London Sunday Times post-war, knew his subject well. 

I thought of Ian Fleming’s Risico when I read the remarks by Matthew Millhollin — the assistant director of Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department of Homeland Security — at a hearing on combating transnational criminal organizations and the trafficking of humans, narcotics, and firearms.

Appearing before the committee on May 3, Millhollin (seen in the below photo) spoke of the Chinese connection to the Mexican cartels who import heroin and other drugs, including the lethal drug fentanyl, which are devastating and killing drug addicts in Kensington, other parts of Philadelphia, and across the country. 

"As the principal investigative component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), HSI is responsible for investigating transnational crime. In collaboration with its partners in the United States and abroad, HSI special agents develop evidence to identify and advance criminal cases against transnational criminal organizations (TCOs); terrorist networks and facilitators; and other criminal elements that threaten the homeland,” Millhollin told the committee. “HSI works with prosecutors to arrest and indict violators; execute criminal search warrants; seize criminally derived money and assets; and take other actions with the goal of disrupting and dismantling TCOs operating throughout the world.”

Millhollin added that TCOs have evolved beyond insular entities and have sought out partnerships with competing TCOs in furtherance of their criminal activities.

“For example, the illicit collaboration between Chinese TCOs and Mexican cartels have created a complex criminal ecosystem that is fueling money laundering and narcotics trafficking, specifically illicit fentanyl, operations into and within the United States. Chinese money laundering organizations (MLOs) have developed sophisticated networks in the United States, Mexico, China, and throughout Asia to facilitate three money laundering schemes,” Millhollin explained.

“These organizations utilize their vast global infrastructure to clean illicit proceeds for various criminal organizations, including Mexican cartels. Moreover, as Mexican cartels have taken over fentanyl production and operate on an industrial scale, they are procuring precursor chemicals from China and synthesizing these chemicals in Mexico to produce fentanyl. Mexican cartels then smuggle the fentanyl into the United States in either powder or pill form for distribution.” 

Millhollin stated that HSI was attacking this illicit narcotics supply chain through an intelligence based counternarcotics operation that blends traditional investigative and analytical techniques with interagency collaboration, industry partnerships, and computer-based tools. 

“Chinese criminal organizations also facilitate the trafficking and distribution of illicit fentanyl pills. The most common is fake oxycodone pills, which are made to look identical to prescription oxycodone but are laced with deadly fentanyl. These fake pills are responsible for thousands of overdose fatalities, as the user believes they are taking a real oxycodone pill and unknowingly receives a lethal dose of fentanyl. In order to manufacture these pills, Mexican cartels require industrial pill press equipment to turn powdered fentanyl into pill form. The Mexican cartels are purchasing these pill presses directly from Chinese manufacturers who are producing the equipment specifically for illicit activity. 

“HSI is actively disrupting the pill press supply chain, and to date has seized over 1,200 pill presses and parts used to make deadly fentanyl-laced pills. Moreover, TCOs, particularly those along the Southern Border, have employed a multipronged illicit business model encompassing the importation of narcotics into the United States and exportation of illicit firearms and ammunition to Mexico.”

Millhollin stated further that HSI has developed a multidiscipline approach to combating the flow of illicit drugs into the United States which includes countering the flow of illicit firearms and ammunition into Mexico. 

Mexican President López Obrador also claimed fentanyl is being bought by Mexican gangs from suppliers in China. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning denied the claim and stated there was no such thing as illegal trafficking of fentanyl between China and Mexico.

“China has not been notified by Mexico of the seizure of scheduled fentanyl precursors from China,” she said. 

This was plainly a dodge, as drugs listed in “schedules” are legal shipments subject to a number of official government restrictions, while “unscheduled” — smuggled by criminals — are not. 

Mao Ning said the widespread fentanyl abuse in the US was a problem completely made in America. 

Although Millhollin spoke of Chinese transnational crime organizations, he did not suggest the Communist Chinese Government was involved in the exporting of fentanyl or turned a blind eye. But others have, and I suspect it is so.

Just as the Soviet Union was the villain providing drugs to traffickers so that drugs would undermine the United Kingdom in Ian Fleming’s Risico, I wonder if the Communist Chinese Government allows their criminal gangs to ship fentanyl to Mexico and then on to the United States in an effort to undermine America.

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the On Crime column for the Washington Times.