Friday, June 30, 2023

Loyalty: My Washington Times On Crime Column On Lisa Scottoline's Historical Thriller About The First Sicilian Cosa Nostra Crime Family

The Washington Times ran my On Crime column on Lisa Scottoline (seen in the below photo) and Loyalty, her historical thriller about the first Sicilian Cosa Nostra crime family. 

I was drawn to “Loyalty,” Lisa Scottoline’s historical novel about Sicily, because I’ve enjoyed her novels in the past, and because I’m half Sicilian on my late mother’s side and I visited that beautiful island many years ago. I remember Sicily’s wonderful scenery, food and people, and as a student of crime, I was and remain fascinated with Sicily’s darker side.


Speaking to her last year, I discovered that we are originally from the same Italian American neighborhood in South Philadelphia, and we lived around the corner from each other when we were young.


I contacted her and asked how she would describe “Loyalty,” and why she chose that title for the historical novel.


“I think ‘Loyalty’ is a fast-moving historical thriller about the first Mafia family of Sicily and the young crusading lawyer who sets out to oppose them and find justice for a young, kidnapped boy,” Ms. Scottoline replied.


“I entitled the novel ‘Loyalty’ because loyalty is such a wonderful concept, in that it can be a double-edged sword, in that it’s a virtue until it’s taken too far. Writers have a saying that ‘the villain is the hero of his own story,’ and I think that’s true in the novel, because even the characters who do bad have convinced themselves that they are doing good, because they are loyal to a person or principle. I leave it to the reader to decide which is which, because I respect my readers so much.”


How did you research “Loyalty”?


I visited Sicily and traveled all over, setting unique locations for the novel, like a convent that is also a bakery, an underground church where a secret society met, and the awful sulfur mines in the center of the island. I even filmed videos, so readers could see them on my website as a companion piece to the novel. I also steeped myself in Sicilian culture and literature, reading di Lampedusa, Verga and Vittorini, among many others.


Was your character Franco Fiorvanti based on a real Sicilian criminal in history? How would you describe him?


Franco was not based on any mafioso in particular, but I read everything I could about the history of the Mafia and was amazed to learn that the term mafioso is a Sicilian term that means bold, brave, and essentially, having swagger. As soon as I learned that, it clued me into Franco’s character, because he starts the novel as a lemon grower in a feudal society that oppresses him, and partly because he is unable to move up in that society and enjoy the freedoms that Americans like us take for granted, especially in modern times.


Did the evolution of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra take place like you describe in the novel?


The history of the Mafia as depicted in “Loyalty” is exactly true to the facts. I’m a former lawyer and adjunct law professor, and so I am very aware that many people get their ideas about law, justice, and crime and punishment through fiction. I always feel like I have a special responsibility to get the facts right, and frankly they were fascinating here.


I was amazed to see that the Mafia was born in the lush lemon groves of Palermo and came into being largely because lemons became such a valuable crop when the British navy kept contracting scurvy. Lemon crops were so valuable that they needed protection, and armed guards like Franco protected them, but that protection soon turned into what is known as a modern-day protection racket.


Your character Gaetano Catalano was a member of Beati Paoli, which was a real organization. How would you describe the group?


I was astounded to learn about the blessed Society of St. Paul, or the Beati Paoli, which really was a secret organization in Palermo in the 1800s. It was composed of aristocrats who felt compelled to fight injustice for the common man, even though they benefited from the feudal system that tilted the law in their favor.

They were guided by their faith in God and specifically the teachings of St. Paul, and it struck me as so brave of them and forward-thinking. In addition, it informs the backdrop of the novel in that religion and law can give all of us a way to conduct our lives that affords dignity and respect to everyone.


Other than having been entertained, what takeaways would you like your readers to glean from “Loyalty”?


“I have written 35 contemporary thrillers in as many years, and I have been president of the Mystery Writers of America, so I think I bring my thriller chops to bear in historical fiction, especially “Loyalty.” I really think of the novel as impossible to put down, with fast-paced drama, riveting action, and even romance set against the ruggedly beautiful island of Sicily.”


Paul Davis’ On Crime column covers true crime, crime fiction and thrillers.

Lisa Scottoline

Putnam, $28, 432 pages.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

It's A MAD World

In my previous post, I offered an old MAD magazine joke.  

I noted in the post that I grew up reading the humor magazine and MAD’s clever, funny and irreverent humor was a big influence on me. 

I wrote about MAD magazine (and Malcome Muggeridge and Mark Twain) in 1997 in my column in the South Philadelphia American.

 You can read the column below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

You can also read my previous post via the below link:     

Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Humor: MAD Magazine's Class Clown Replies To Teacher 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A Little Humor: MAD Magazine's Class Clown Replies To Teacher

Note: I grew up reading the funny, clever and irreverent MAD magazine.

As a former class clown who often offered sarcastic asides and jokes that irritated the teachers and amused most of the students, and spent more than a few hours in detention myself, I laughed out loud at the above.

You can read my post on a seasoned class clown via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: A Little Humor: Pi R Squared 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Another Take On Broken Windows Theory: My Broad + Liberty Piece On Car Break-Ins

Broad + Liberty posted my piece on car window break-ins. 

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

Paul Davis: Car break-ins and another take on broken window theory (

 The “broken windows” theory from the 1980s promoted the idea that visible signs of crime and civil disorder lead to more serious crimes. The theory promotes the idea that the police should target quality-of-life crimes such as vandalism, broken windows, public drinking and drug taking, public urination, and loitering. 

The theory is called broken windows, as one of its tenets is that a single un-repaired broken window in a home, store or building clearly signals that no one cares, and so more windows will be broken, and other, more serious crimes will follow, bringing the neighborhood — and eventually the city — down. 

The broken windows theory was written in 1982 by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling and put into practice in the 1990s by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York City police commissioner William Bratton. 

Although the broken windows theory has its proponents and detractors then and now, there can be no debate that Mayor Giuliani and his police commissioner cleaned up New York City. I’m sure that many New Yorkers would like to see a return to those good old days.  

Today in Philadelphia we see a new take on the broken windows theory, and that is the broken windows of parked cars after thieves have broken it and stolen the car owners’ valuables.

A few years back, someone broke into my parked car on our South Philly street overnight. The thief or thieves took some items that my wife planned to return to a store. I called the police and a police officer showed up to take a report. I told the officer that there were several cameras on the block that could identify the thief or thieves.

But for such a minor crime, the officer said, shaking his head, no detective would be assigned to investigate it.

Minor crime to you, perhaps. But not to me or to the many victims of “theft from auto,” more commonly known as car-break-ins.

Several local TV news stations have recently interviewed on camera a good number of irritated residents in various neighborhoods that have seen a spike in car break-ins.

Matt Petrillo at CBS News interviewed several angry victims on camera. He noted that during the weekend of June 17th, there were 100 reported car break-ins citywide, and according to the Philadelphia Police, there have been 5,949 car break-ins thus far this year.         

I recently spoke to a veteran Philadelphia detective who said car break-ins were preventable.

“Car break-ins, or smash and grabs, are crimes of opportunity,” the detective told me. “Many victims leave valuables in their parked cars, such as shopping bags, a briefcase, a cell phone or a laptop, and that creates an opportunity for a thief. If you must leave something in your car, hide it under the seat or under a blanket. Keep it out of plain sight.”

The detective explained that thieves go out looking for opportunities to steal, so if they see something in a parked car, they will smash a car window to grab the item. The thieves move quickly, grabbing the item or items, and then they run far away from the parked car. The detective added that when parking your car in a parking lot, ensure the lot has an attendant and the parking lot is well lit.

The detective admitted sadly that the police don’t generally investigate car break-ins due to higher priorities and a shrinking police force, and the district attorney’s office rarely prosecutes the thieves. So not only is the car owner out of whatever was stolen, and stuck with repairing the broken window, the thief continues to operate unencumbered.

In my view, the police and the district attorney’s office should crack down on this so-called minor crime, which is a quality-of-life crime that can, according to the broken window theory, lead to more serious crime, such as car theft and burglaries. 

A task force of detectives should be assigned to scan home security cameras to identify the thieves who break into cars, and then go out and arrest the thieves. And the district attorney’s office should prosecute them as vigorously as they can. Although the thieves will not be put in prison for long stretches, at least they will know that the city residents truly care about their cars being broken into, and that law enforcement will track them down and arrest them.      

“Most thieves are stupid and lazy, and drunk or high,” the detective explained. “So city residents should take common sense crime prevention measures such as lock your car doors, activate your car alarm, and don’t leave valuables in your car, not even in your trunk.” 

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

Note: You can watch the CBS video report on car break-ins in South Philly via the below link:

Police Investigating Rash Of Vehicle Break-ins In South Philadelphia - YouTube 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Michael G. Vickers: From Green Beret To CIA Covert Operations: A Fascinating Career

Gavin Newsham at the New York Post offers a piece on former Green Beret, CIA officer and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G Vickers (seen in the bottom photo) and his new memoir.  

Michael G. Vickers was 17, he decided he might like a career in the CIA.

“I imagined myself doing things that only a James Bond could do,” he writes in “By All Means Available – Memoirs of a Life in Intelligence, Specials Operations, and Strategy” (Alfred A. Knopf).

“Diving headfirst through a window and coming up shooting.”

Fast forward half a century, and Vickers can look back at a remarkable career in the intelligence services, where he served under six Presidents, including two years working directly for George W. Bush and six with Barack Obama as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

From his time as a Green Beret to taking charge of the CIA’s covert operations against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the book recounts his extraordinary life and career, including the operation to find and eliminate the al-Qa’ida leader Osama Bin Laden.

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

 From Green Beret to CIA covert operations: A fascinating career ( 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Drugs, Death And Guns: My Philadelphia Weekly 'Crime Beat' Column On Chief Inspector Christopher Flacco, The Commanding Officer Of The Philadelphia Police Department's Narcotics Bureau

I recently drove past Kensington and once again saw the sad zombie-like drug addicts stumbling about or squatting on the litter-filled sidewalk. 

Philadelphia, like other cities around the country, has a serious drug problem. 

I recall interviewing Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Christopher Flacco about the drug problem for my Philadelphia Weekly Crime Beat column back in 2021. 

You can read the column below or the below text:

"Most of your crime is associated with drugs. The stealing and the shootings, the robberies and the home invasions, are committed by people trying to get money for drugs," Philadelphia Police Officer Greg Barber told me some years ago.

Barber explained the effects of drugs as I accompanied him and his partner, Theresa Weaver, and other officers from the Philadelphia Police Narcotics Field Unit South officers as they raided drug houses in Southwest Philly.

I recently spoke to Chief Inspector Christopher Flacco, the commanding officer of the Philadelphia Police Narcotics Bureau, and I asked him if the COVID-19 lockdown has changed the drug scene in Philadelphia.

“It’s remained the same. People still need their narcotics to fill their habits, and they still are selling on the street corners,” Flacco said.

I asked if the introduction of fentanyl has made an impact. 

“The problem with fentanyl is that sometimes people are buying what they think is heroin and it has fentanyl mixed in with it. Their body doesn’t have any resilience to it, and that’s where you get the ODs from,” Flacco said. 

“But when addicts hear about somebody overdosing on a particular street-name drug, like ‘Green Stamp,’ they will flock to buy it because they are chasing that better high. They want the purer, better drug.” 

He said that heroin and fentanyl are addictive and dangerous, as one has to inject it, but fentanyl also comes in pill form, which a user can simply crush and snort. 

Flacco explained that the Narcotics Bureau consists of three parts. One is the Strike Force, which has uniformed officers who patrol either in radio patrol cars or on bikes. They are responsible for suppressing street-level sales. The second part is the Narcotics Field Unit, which has plainclothes officers who are responsible for enforcing narcotics trafficking in drug houses. The third part consists of officers who are assigned to federal and state task forces, such as the FBI, the DEA and the Attorney General’s Office. He said the Narcotics Bureau has an excellent relationship with its state and federal partners.

Dealing with narcotics is incredibly dangerous, Flacco noted, and he mentioned the narcotics operation that resulted in a shootout on 15th Street in August of 2019 that attracted nationwide news coverage. Narcotic officers served a warrant on a man who then barricaded himself in the home and began firing on the officers. Eight police officers were shot in the standoff before the man surrendered. 

“Narcotics bring in a hell of a lot of money, and the dealers are trying to protect their turf with force and weapons. It is a very dangerous business,” Flacco said. 

“When we serve search warrants on houses where illicit drugs are being sold, it is not unusual to find numerous illegal weapons in that house, from rifles and shotguns to handguns. 

“Drug dealing and guns go hand-in-hand.”

Flacco said there are various drug organizations that control different corners in the city. He noted that one part of Kensington Avenue is controlled by one organization, and half a block away there is another drug organization. He said there are numerous drug organizations operating in the city, as well as numerous organizations that bring drugs into the city.

“The sale of narcotics is devastating to the community. Neighborhoods are under siege because they have drug dealers out on their street. Neighbors can’t walk on the street and the family can’t sit on the front step,” Flacco said. 

“Drugs are also detrimental to businesses because people don’t want to come into the neighborhoods anymore. And people are afraid of the violence that comes with narcotics. It is a damn disgrace.” 

“Narcotics bring in a hell of a lot of money, and the dealers are trying to protect their turf with force and weapons. It is a very dangerous business.”

Flacco said one can buy drugs anywhere in the city, but the East Division is the genesis. He said the vast majority of the drugs sold in Philadelphia enter and pass through the city through the East Division. The East Division is also the nexus for drugs leaving the city to be sold in outside communities. He added that the drugs in the East Division act as a magnet for homeless addicts who erect makeshift enclosures and use the street as a toilet.

“There is an addicted homeless population of about 400 to 600 in the East Division, which is the 24th and 25th Districts. That’s a problem the city is working very hard on rectifying.” 

Flacco said the Narcotics Bureau seized more than 500 illegal guns and $72 million in street value in illegal narcotics in 2020. They also seized more than $14 million in U.S. currency, despite the COVID-19 epidemic.

“There is too much profit in the drug game for them to care about a world pandemic,” Flacco said. 

“Dealing narcotics is a felony, and it needs to be treated with stiff prison sentences and forfeitures.” 

Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Federal Jury Convicts Three Defendants Of Interstate Stalking Of Chinese Nationals In The United States And Two Defendants Of Acting Or Conspiring To Act On Behalf Of China

The Justice Department release the below information:

Yesterday a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, convicted three defendants on multiple counts of a superseding indictment charging them with acting and conspiring to act in the United States as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), without prior notification to the Attorney General. 

Michael McMahon, 55, of Mahwah, New Jersey, was convicted of acting as an illegal agent of the PRC, conspiracy to commit interstate stalking and interstate stalking; Congying Zheng, 27, of Brooklyn, was convicted of conspiracy to commit interstate stalking and interstate stalking; and Zhu Yong aka Jason Zhu, 66, of Queens, New York, was convicted of conspiracy to act as an illegal agent of the PRC, acting as an illegal agent of the PRC, conspiracy to commit interstate stalking and interstate stalking.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, McMahon – a retired NYPD sergeant working as a private investigator – and Zhu knowingly acted at the direction of the PRC government officials to conduct surveillance and engage in a campaign to harass, stalk and coerce certain residents of the United States to return to the PRC as part of a global and extralegal repatriation effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt.” Zheng engaged in interstate stalking of the same victims, leaving a threatening note at their residence. 

Today’s verdict follows a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen. McMahon faces up to 20 years in prison, Zhu faces up to 25 years in prison, and Zheng faces up to 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

“The defendants engaged in a campaign of harassment and coercion on behalf of the PRC to force the victim’s repatriation to China from the United States, including by threatening family members,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Department of Justice will hold accountable those who would help repressive regimes violate the fundamental freedoms of people in the United States.”

“The jury’s verdict confirms that defendants McMahon and Zhu knowingly acted at the direction of a hostile foreign state to harass, intimidate and attempt to cause the involuntary return of a resident of the New York metropolitan area to the People’s Republic of China, and that defendant Zheng harassed and intimidated that same person and his family,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York. “It is particularly troubling that defendant Michael McMahon, a former sergeant in the New York City Police Department, engaged in surveillance, harassment, and stalking on behalf of a foreign power for money. We will remain steadfast in exposing and undermining efforts by the Chinese government to reach across our border and perpetrate transnational repression schemes targeting victims in the United States in violation of our laws.”

“The conviction of these three defendants – including a retired NYPD sergeant – is yet another powerful reminder of the Chinese government’s ongoing, pervasive, and illegal behavior here in the United States,” said Assistant Director Suzanne Turner of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “At the direction of the PRC’s Ministry of Public Security, the defendants engaged in increasingly egregious efforts at repression, from stalking to outright threats and intimidation tactics undertaken at the victim’s family home. This will not be tolerated within our borders, plain and simple. If you or someone you know have been targeted in this manner, we urge you to contact the FBI – and to all those engaging in such repression tactics, stand forewarned.”

As proven at trial, between approximately 2016 and 2019, the defendants participated in an international campaign with members of the PRC government as part of “Operation Fox Hunt” to threaten, harass, surveil and intimidate John Doe #1 and his family, in order to force John Doe #1 and his wife, Jane Doe #1, to return to the PRC. In or around 2015, the PRC government caused the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), an inter-governmental law enforcement organization, to issue “Red Notices” for John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1, alleging that both persons were wanted by the PRC government on corruption-related charges.

Zhu hired McMahon who obtained detailed information about John Doe #1, his wife, and his daughter from a law enforcement database and other government databases, then reported back to Zhu and others, including a PRC police officer, what he had learned. McMahon also conducted surveillance outside the New Jersey home of John Doe #1’s sister-in-law and provided Zhu and PRC officials with detailed reports of what he had observed. The operation was supervised and directed by several PRC officials, including co-conspirators Hu Ji, a PRC police officer with the Wuhan Public Security Bureau and Tu Lan, a PRC prosecutor with the Wuhan Procuratorate.

In April 2017, Tu Lan and Hu Ji transported John Doe #1’s then-82-year-old father from the PRC to the New Jersey home of John Doe #1’s sister-in-law to attempt to convince John Doe #1 to return to the PRC. The testimony established that John Doe #1’s father was brought by a PRC doctor and charged co-conspirator, Li Minjun, and that while John Doe #1’s father was in the United States, his daughter was threatened with jailing in the PRC. A co-conspirator conducted surveillance of the home during the visit, wearing night-vision goggles provided by the PRC doctor and the PRC prosecutor. McMahon tailed John Doe #1 from the meeting with his elderly father, back to his home, and provided John Doe #1’s address – which was previously unknown – to the PRC operatives.

In October 2016 and April 2017, McMahon emailed himself a China Daily News article titled “Interpol Launches Global Dragnet for 100 Chinese Fugitives,” which stated, “Amid the nation’s intensifying antigraft campaign, arrest warrants were issued by Interpol China for former State employees and others suspected of a wide range of corrupt practices. China Daily was authorized by the Chinese justice authorities to publish the information below.” The article provided a list of photographs and identifying information about Operation Fox Hunt targets by the PRC government, including those of John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1.

On Sept. 4, 2018, Zheng drove to the New Jersey residence of John Doe #1 and Jane Doe #1 and pounded on the front door. He and a co-conspirator attempted to force open the door to the residence, then left a note that stated “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!” 

Previously, three other defendants pleaded guilty in connection with their roles in the PRC-directed harassment and intimidation campaign.

Zebin pleaded guilty in March 2022 to interstate stalking conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing. Hongru Jin pleaded guilty in June 2021 to conspiring to act as an illegal agent of the PRC and interstate stalking conspiracy and is awaiting sentencing. Tu Lan, Hu Ji and Li Minjun are fugitives.

The FBI New York Field Office investigated the case with valuable assistance provided by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Craig R. Heeren, Meredith A. Arfa and Irisa Chen for the Eastern District of New York and Trial Attorney Christine A. Bonomo of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are in charge of the prosecution, with valuable assistance provided by Paralegal Specialist Mary Clare McMahon.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

From Russia With Love: How Putin Tried To Assassinate A Former Russian Intelligence Officer in Miami In 2018

The British newspaper the Daily Mail offers a piece on how Russian dictator Vladimir Putin attempted to assassinate a former Russian intelligence officer in 2018. 

Vladimir Putin tried to assassinate a Kremlin intelligence officer turned American spy in a move that led to a series of retaliations between U.S. and Russian spy agencies, a new report revealed on Monday.


Putin tried - and failed - to eliminate Aleksandr Poteyev, who had been a high-ranking Russian intelligence official more than a decade earlier, in Miami in 2018.

It was a part of Putin's greater plan to eliminate turncoats and defectors. Poteyev's betrayal was particularly grating as it led to the United States arresting 11 spies living undercover in cities across America, including the red-haired Russian honeypot Anna Chapman.


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

Vladimir Putin tried to assassinate turncoat Kremlin intelligence officer in Miami | Daily Mail Online


You can also read my Washington Times piece on the history of Soviet assassins via the below link or the below text:

How Russia's long history of assassinations can guide a Western response - Washington Times

In Ian Fleming’s 1957 thriller “From Russia With Love,” his finest novel in my view, a psychopath assassin named Donovan “Red” Grant is sent by Soviet intelligence to the West to kill British operative James Bond.


The late Mr. Fleming (seen in the bottom photo), a naval intelligence officer during WWII and a journalist who covered espionage cases both before and after the war, acknowledged that his thriller plots were fantastic, but yet, he added, that they were often based on the real world of intelligence. He said that on occasion a news story would “lift a corner of the veil” and reveal the real world of spies, assassins and commandos.


For example, Mr. Fleming noted the case of Russian assassin Capt. Nikoly Khokhlov, who was ordered to murder a Russian dissident in Germany in 1954. Khokhlov was equipped with an electrically operated gun fitted with a silencer and concealed in a gold cigarette case. The gun fired bullets tipped in cyanide, which were designed to lead a pathologist to rule the cause of death to be heart failure.


While today the United Kingdom, the U.S. and other Western nations condemn Russia for the attempted murder of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, the brazen poisoning and attempted murder of him and his daughter in the United Kingdom was by no means the first of its kind.


The Russians in the bad old days of the Soviet Union sent forth a good number of assassins to the West to murder Soviet “enemies of the state.” The Russian government under Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB officer, appears to be carrying on the old tradition.


“It has long been known that the Soviet state security service (currently the KGB) resorts to abduction and murder to combat what are considered to be actual or potential threats to the Soviet regime,” stated a 1964 CIA report that was declassified in 1993.


“These techniques, frequently designated as ‘executive action’ and known within the KGB as ‘liquid affairs’ (Mokryye Dela), can be and are employed abroad as well as within the borders of the USSR. They have been used against Soviet citizens, Soviet emigres, and even foreign nationals. A list of those who have fallen victim to such action over the years would be a very long one and would include even the co-founder of the Soviet state, Leon Trotsky. Several well-known Soviet assassination operations which have occurred since the rise of Khrushchev attest to the fact that the present leadership of the USSR still employs this method of dealing with its enemies.” 

The CIA report stated that large numbers of former Soviet citizens, as well as Imperial Russia, living abroad who protested against the Soviet regime have been at risk since the early 1920s.  

Monday, June 19, 2023

The Reality Of Convicted Leaker Reality Winner

Broad + Liberty posted my piece on the reality of convicted leaker Reality Winner.

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

Paul Davis: The reality of convicted leaker Reality Winner (

With former President Trump pleading not guilty to a 37-count indictment in court on Tuesday, June 13, many commentators have weighed in with their view of the historical and contentious upcoming trial, and reporters have reached out to numerous others for comment.

NBC News reached out to Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor and Air Force veteran who was the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration for leaking a top-secret document on Russian hacking to an internet publication. She was subsequently convicted and sentenced to five years in federal prison.

Now out of prison, Winner, 31, told an NBC reporter she was “blown away” by the Trump indictment. “This is probably one of the most egregious and cut-and-dry cases,” Winner, who is not a lawyer, told a reporter in a phone interview with NBC News.

Even if Trump is found guilty of all counts, his case is very different from Winner’s. She released a classified document to The Intercept, which in turn published the document as they received it, with sensitive sources and methods attached.

Revealing sources and methods have gotten people killed in the past.

Among other charges, Trump is charged with willful retention of national defense information, which is part of the Espionage Act. There is no evidence that Trump released the classified information to the press or to a foreign nation.

Coincidentally, I watched the HBO Max film “Reality,” which is about the interrogation and subsequent arrest of Reality Winner, only days before I read her comments on Trump’s case. 

The film is interesting, as it covers the 104-minute interrogation of the 25-year-old translator by two FBI special agents in her home before they arrested her. The FBI agents suspected Winner of having released a classified document about Russian interference in the 2016 election to The Intercept. Having known and interviewed many FBI agents, I found their portrayal to be believable and fair. 

The film is based on writer-director Tina Satter’s 2019 play “This is a Room,” which like the film, features dialogue pulled directly from the transcript of the FBI interrogation of Winner.

The film and the good actress who portrayed Reality Winner almost made me feel sorry for her. 


Having spent a good part of my life protecting classified information and briefing, debriefing and training others on protecting classified information, first as a young sailor in the U.S. Navy and later as a civilian Defense Department employee, I felt that Reality Winner got what she deserved. 

I followed the Winner case closely as it unfolded. Winner, a former U.S. Air Force translator, was employed as a National Security Agency contractor in May 2017 when she decided to print out a classified document and sneak it out of the federal building in Georgia. She then mailed the classified document to The Intercept. Winner later said she was motivated as she believed the American people were being misled. She said she meant no harm.

Intelligence is a complicated business, and no military, Defense Department civilian employee, or contractor has the right to decide what classified information can be released to the press and the public, unless they have the proper declassification authority to do so.

When I was an eighteen-year-old sailor serving on an aircraft carrier off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970 and 1971, I had a top-secret security clearance and I handled highly sensitive wartime messages. Like many senior and junior military people at the time, I didn’t agree with the way the Vietnam War was being conducted, with restricted rules of engagement, a war of attrition with the enemy and the containment of the communist North Vietnamese Army. Like many of the military people I served with, I felt we should go all out and win the war, using the massive air power of the aircraft carrier and other military means.

But my strong personal views did not propel me to take a seabag full of classified documents off the warship at Hong Kong or other ports of call and sell them, like Michael Walker (son of Navy spy John Walker) did in 1985, or release them to the press, like Reality Winner did in 2017.

Reality Winner was sentenced to five years and three months in prison on August 23, 2018.

“This defendant used her position of trust to steal and divulge closely guarded intelligence information,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine at the time of the sentencing. “Her betrayal of the United States put at risk sources and methods of intelligence gathering, thereby offering advantage to our adversaries.”

“When obtaining Top Secret clearance as a government employee or contractor, the handling of top-secret information is clearly spelled out along with the ramifications of mishandling such information,” added Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Filed Office J.C. Hacker. “Revealing sources and methods to the advantage of our adversaries and to the detriment of our country will never be acceptable.”

While others may regard classified leakers like Reality Winner, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and former Army Private Manning as heroic whistleblowers, I regard them as criminals who recklessly endangered American lives and national security. 

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.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

My Crime Fiction: 'Boots On The Ground'

The below story about Navy Boot Camp is chapter seven in my crime thriller Olongapo, which I hope to publish this year.  

Boots On the Ground

By Paul Davis 

Prior to going on watch in the USS Kitty Hawk’s message processing center as we were operating on "Yankee Station" in the South China Sea off the coast of North Vietnam in 1971, I was standing in line in the galley waiting for chow to begin being served.

Standing in line with me was Willie Henry, a bulky 25-year-old black sailor from Houston who worked with me in the aircraft carrier’s Communications Radio Division. Henry was wondering what was going to be served.

“If I can’t put it between two pieces of bread, I ain’t eating it,” Henry explained.

“I guess soup is out,” I said.

In the past, I’d seen him place a large piece of meatloaf between two pieces of sliced white bread, and another time I saw him slap a thick steak between slices of white bread. I even once saw him place a mound of mashed potatoes between slices of white bread and squash it down.

“Gangway! Prisoners!” 

We moved aside when we heard the Marines yell as they marched the dozen or so brig prisoners past us to the head of the chow line.

“That’s Lupre,” I said, pointing towards the brig prisoners. 

I recognized the tall and lanky black sailor, his head shaved, marching in close order with the other brig prisoners, toe-to-heel and crotch-to-ass. 

“You know Louie Lupre?” 

 “Yeah. He was my friend in Boot Camp.” 

Henry told me that he met Lupre in Olongapo. Henry said that this was Lupre’s second time in the brig. Lupre, usually a low-key guy, was working as a mess cook when he assaulted a petty officer who threw a mop at him and ordered him to swab the deck. Lupre hit the petty officer with the mop.     

Henry said that Lupre had previously punched out a petty officer who was stupid enough to raise his voice at him. Henry also told me a story of Lupre in the “Jungle” section of Olongapo, where black sailors preferred to hang out away from the white sailors.       

“Two brothers were razzing Lupre about being a dumb, country-ass fool,” Henry said. “Lupre didn’t say anything back. He just punched them both out. One, then the other. That crazy brother hits hard.”

I liked Lupre and I felt bad for him. As I stood in the chow line, I thought of our time together in Boot Camp.


The road to Olongapo for me began on a platform at the North Philadelphia train station on February 9th in 1970 when I was 17 years old. My mother and father were with me as we waited for the train to take me to Chicago and then on to the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois.

Salvatore Lorino was also there, standing alone a few feet from me. I recognized him from our South Philly neighborhood, and I was surprised to see him there. I nodded to him, and he nodded back.

We later spoke on the train as we barreled towards Chicago. Sitting in the diner car, I looked at the menu, thinking I was worldly and cool like actor Sean Connery as James Bond on the Orient Express train in the film From Russia With Love. The waiter disabused me quickly of this notion, as he told us that as Navy recruits, our meals were planned and prepaid.

Lorino told me over dinner that a judge ordered him to join the military or go to prison, so he decided to enlist in the Navy. He wondered if he had made the right choice.

I told Lorino that I needed to use the restroom and I went off in search of one. The train was rocking hard from side to side as it sped on, and I tried with some difficulty to keep my feet firmly on the restroom’s floor and keep my stream of urine directed at the center of the toilet as I swayed uncontrollably from the train’s motion. I recall hoping that my aim would be better on the Navy’s rifle range.

When we reached Chicago, all of the recruits transferred to a bus that took us to the Navy base, arriving late in the evening. It was bitter, bone-chilling cold, as we stepped off of the bus. As we emerged from the bus, we were greeted by a screaming wild man. The wild man yelled out that he was Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Petty Officer Calhoun, our company commander. Calhoun had a pronounced rural Southern accent, and he cursed us as he herded us into the barracks like we were cattle. 

The barracks, built in WWII, was decrepit and dreary. And very cold. The two-tier bunks, called racks, appeared to be even older than the barracks.

Calhoun was a muscular 6-footer with close-cropped blonde hair. He berated us and hurled insults ranging from “fucking pussies” to “candy-ass pukes.”

Navy recruit basic training was informally called “Boot Camp” and recruits were called “Boots.” We were in the U.S. Navy, but for the next three months we would not go aboard a ship or go to sea. First, we Boots had to be trained as sailors and military men ashore at Boot Camp. We were, in a sense, Boots on the ground.

Once in the barracks, Calhoun informed us that in the U.S. Navy’s order of things, Boots like us were less than human and we would be treated accordingly. Calhoun had us line up in front of our assigned racks. He informed us that we were in a temporary barracks and in one week’s time we would be “crossing the river” to our new barracks.

The following day we were issued uniforms and had our heads shaved. We spent that first week at Boot Camp marching, running, doing calisthenics and extreme exercises with a 12-pound M-1 rifle. As punishment for infractions, the recruit offender had to extend his arms outward and hold the rifle horizontally at shoulder’s length. 

Sounds easy? Try it for a half-hour, as I did on several occasions.   

I hated the company commander, as we all did, even though as the son of a former Navy chief, and a voracious reader about the Navy and the military, I knew that these extreme basic training conditions were meant to instill military discipline and teamwork. Still, I thought the company commander went way overboard, and he appeared to truly enjoy torturing the recruits.

That first week in Boot Camp we had to memorize the 11 General Orders of a Sentry, and we had to recite them to any drill instructor who happened to visit us while on watch. We stood security watches across from the company commander’s office, at the head of the passageway between the rows of bunks in the barracks. While on watch, we stood at parade rest, our right hand on our M-1 rifle as it leaned forward at our side, and the left hand placed behind our back, with our legs spread apart. 

While standing watch one early morning as the recruits were asleep, Calhoun snuck up on me. He looked me up and down, shook his head in disapproval, and called me a candy-ass and a puke excuse for a sailor. I stood rigid and said nothing, but I had a fine thought about punching this old man's lights out if I ever encountered him outside the base.

Calhoun placed his ugly, twisted face nearly up against mine and screamed, “What is the 5th Order of a Sentry?”  

"To quit my post only when properly relieved, Sir!" 

Calhoun looked disappointed that I knew the response. He walked into his office without another word.

Over the course of the first week, I saw many other recruits draw a mental blank through nervousness, and some broke down and stammered, and some even cried when Calhoun screamed, cursed, waved his hands about, and stomped his feet in an effort to confuse the sentry.   

Having been raised by a former Navy chief who ran our house like a ship, I felt like I grew up in the Navy. So this was not new or especially intimidating to me.

 "Did you eat shit for breakfast?” I recall Calhoun asking one recruit.

 “No, Sir,” the recruit replied.

 “Then why you got a shit-eating grin on your fucking face?”  

 Calhoun didn’t take particular notice of Lorino and I, thankfully, but he tormented Louis Lupre, a tall, gangling and soft-spoken 20-year-old black recruit from Louisiana.

 Calhoun seemed to always find fault with Lupre, from the way he made his rack, to the way the tall recruit stood at attention. At least twice a day, Calhoun would be on Lupre, mocking his name and his looks, and criticizing the recruit’s actions. Lupre took it all in stride, and this appeared to infuriate Calhoun.     

 “You got kerosine rags around your ankles, Lemonade?” Calhoun asked Lupre while we were all at attention for an impromptu inspection by the crazy company commander.

 “Sir, what?”

 “You got kerosene rags around your ankles to stop them ants from crawling up your leg to eat your candy ass.”

Lupre frowned and shook his head, “No, Sir.”  

 “You eye-balling me, boy?” Calhoun said as Lemon stood at attention.

 “Don’t’ call me boy,” Lupre said in a low voice.

 “Don’t call me boy - Sir!” Calhoun yelled back. “I ain’t calling you boy because you is colored. I’m calling you boy because you is a boy – a young boy Boot!”

 I was one of many, if not all, who silently urged Lupre to strike Calhoun.

Thankfully for Lupre, he did not. 


 At the end of that long first week, Calhoun told us to go to afternoon chow. 

“I don’t care if you just drink a glass of chocolate milk, I want you back here in fifteen minutes at 1300,” he screamed, his face red and distorted, saliva spitting out from his rubbery libs. “I want to see you in full uniform at parade rest with your sea bag in front of your rack ready to march across the river.” 

 We quickly gobbled some food and then rushed back to the barracks. “Full uniform” meant a Navy-blue wool watch cap, a Navy-blue wool turtleneck sweater under our chambray shirt, bell bottom dungaree pants, “BoonDocker” boots, and a heavy, double-breasted Navy-blue peacoat. After about a moment or two of standing at parade rest, our arms folded behind our backs, legs apart, we discovered that the insane company commander had raised the heat up in the barracks. 

 The barracks was like the proverbial oven and with our layered clothes, the sweat poured off of us. The barracks had a wall clock and out of the corner of our eyes we watched time tick on slowly as we remained at parade rest. No one moved, as we were terrified that Calhoun would sneak in and catch us off guard.   

 It was not until 1400 that a grinning and prancing Calhoun swept into the barracks. He appeared to enjoy seeing our discomfort.       

 "I got some bad news for some of y’all,” Calhoun announced to the sweat-soaked and weary recruits. “We are splitting the company up. Some you pussies will not have the pleasure of serving in my company.” 

He explained that those he called out would be transferred to another company under another company commander. 

“When you hear your name, fall out.” 

After the fourth name was called, I heard him say “Davis, Paul.” 

“Thank fucking God," I said aloud without thinking.  

Calhoun was on me in a flash. His twisted face, which no doubt housed a twisted mind, came within an inch of my own. 

“You don’t like me, do you boy?”

“No, Sir. I don’t” I replied.  

“Well, at least you’re fucking honest. Move out!”


Lorino remained in Calhoun’s company as I joined Lupre and the other recruits outside of the barracks. We met our new company commander, a stout Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Petty Officer with thick glasses named Schmidt. He was no sweetheart, to be sure, but he was certainly less manic than Calhoun. 

The new company commander lined us up and marched us across the mythical “river’ that separated the old base from the new. “Across the river” was often mentioned that first week and we were all taken aback to discover a body of water more accurately described as a small creek than a river. And the bridge across the shallow water looked like the kind of “bridge” one would see at a miniature golf course.     

Thankfully, the new barracks we moved into was recently constructed and we felt much more comfortable. Lupre’s rack was across from my rack in the barracks, and we became friends. Lupre told me that he was glad he was no longer in Calhoun’s company. 

“At some point, I would have punched that cracker and ended up in the brig.”

Lupre told me that I was his first white friend. He said that in the rural Louisiana area where he was born and raised, he had seen the occasional white man, but as his neighbors and his schoolmates were all black, he had no real contact with white people. Lupre, who didn’t say much, told me he got a kick out of my stories and old jokes.

One humorous story I told Lupre, and a couple of other recruits cracked him up.

“I passed this old guy on the sidewalk the other day. “How ya doin?” I said to him in passing.”

“Sailor!” I heard the man call out behind me. I turned and asked, “Are you talking to me?” I wasn't sure if he was talking to me, as no one ever called me a sailor before.”

That got a big laugh from the other recruits. 

“Look at my uniform, sailor.” The man bellowed in a commanding voice. 

“Hey, don’t feel bad,” I replied. “Look at the one they gave me.”

That also got a big laugh. 

 “The man looked frustrated and angry. He sputtered and finally said, “I’m an admiral!”  

“Yo, that’s a good job. Don’t fuck it up.”

My fellow recruits laughed heartily.

I also told my fellow recruits about the time I saw a Navy corpsman in sick bay and told him I had a back problem. 

About a half hour later the corpsman ushered me into the Navy doctor's office. The doctor consulted a sheet and asked, "You have a back problem? 

"Yes, Sir," I replied. "I wish I was back home in Philadelphia."

Another time when a recruit mentioned that he joined the Navy to see the world, I responded, “Well, I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I joined the Navy so the world could see me!”

That made Lupre laugh out loud.


On one cold and gray day, Schmidt stood in front of us on the “grinder,” a football field-sized cement parade ground across from our barracks where we marched, ran and performed physical training, called PT. Seeming out of the blue, Schmidt told us that the best tool our enemy the Communists have is “McHale's Navy,” a popular TV comedy that aired in the mid-1960s. He did not elaborate and moved on to another subject.

Back at the barracks, I told Lupre that “McHale's Navy” was one of the reasons I joined the Navy. Lupre never saw the show, so I told him that “McHale’s Navy” starred actor Ernest Borgnine, a real Navy veteran, as the commanding officer of a PT boat in WWII with a crew of rough and roguish sailors. McHale’s sailors were wild and undisciplined on shore, but when it came to fighting the Japanese at sea, McHale’s PT boat had the best combat record. McHale’s nemesis in the show was Captain Wallace Binghamton, portrayed by actor Joe Flynn. Binghamton was an incompetent and ambitious officer who resented McHale’s combat success. He was called "Old Lead Bottom” contemptuously by McHale and his crew.

I told Lupre about one particular episode that I loved. In that episode, Binghamton was sucking up to an admiral at lunch. Binghamton told the admiral that McHale and his crew were pirates. He said he had to watch them all the time.

"You have to be ruthless with them, " Binghamton explained.

The admiral responded that his style was less adversarial, and the men under him loved him.

"But that's me, admiral," Binghamton proclaimed. "Lovable and ruthless."

Lupre laughed.


Despite a rigorous schedule of physical training and classroom instruction, we had some humorous moments in Boot Camp. As part of the recruit uniform, we carried a folded 8x5 notebook tucked under our belts. Schmidt often pulled out our notebooks to see what notes we were taking from our classes. 

One afternoon in the barracks, while we were all at attention in front of our racks, Schmidt pulled out the notebook belonging to this odd, quiet recruit named John Trevor.

The company commander was furious to discover that Trevor had drawn several crude pictures of female anatomy in his notebook.

 “What the fuck is this, Trevor?” Schmidt asked. “You defaced Navy property with your stupid drawings of tits, ass and pussy!”

Trevor looked as if he were about to cry.

“You like pussy?” Schmidt asked.

“Yes, Sir,” Trevor mumbled.

“Then eat that pussy.”

Schmidt tore out a page from the notebook, crumpled it up and shoved it in Trevor’s mouth. Half of the page protruded from Trevor’s lips as he stood rigid at attention. We all started laughing.

“Anyone who thinks this is funny, get down and give me 20,” Schmidt yelled.

I hit the deck, like Lupre and most of the recruit company, and began doing the 20 pushups as we continued to laugh.

The following day our company was ushered into a gymnasium where we were addressed by a Navy Captain. The big, red-faced Irish Catholic Chaplin said he was from Philadelphia, and he asked if anyone was from Philadelphia.

I raised my hand.

“What part?”

“South Philadelphia, Sir.”

“What are you, a South Philly hoodlum forced to join the Navy because you stole a car?”

I stammered and started to respond, but the Chaplin moved on, speaking to someone else.

Back at the barracks, I was approached by Ronald Watts, a 22-year-old tall and muscular black recruit from Chicago. Earlier, Watts had been pointed out to me by another black guy from Chicago. Watts, I was told, was a notorious drug dealing gang leader and supposedly a hit man. When he was arrested for various crimes, his lawyer greased palms - the Chicago way - and the bribed judge offered to drop charges if Watts joined the military. Although Watts was a veteran of gun battles on the streets of Chicago, he feared gun battles in the jungles of Vietnam, so he joined the Navy.

“So, you a hoodlum from South Philly?” Watts said to me with a broad smile. “A judge let me join up in this here Navy to avoid prison too. Better the Navy than the joint, huh?”

I agreed.

 Watts was a bully and he enjoyed tormenting the other recruits who were afraid of him, but he left me alone, thinking I was a fellow hood. But Watts made a mistake in ridiculing Lupre. Like Calhoun, Watts thought Lupre was an easy target. Watts would tear into Lupre whenever he passed by, mocking him for being a country boy and calling him “Stepin Fetchit,” after the black vaudevillian and film comedian whose stage persona was billed as “the laziest man in the world.”   

While we were in the head brushing our teeth one cold morning, Watts started in on Lupre, calling him a “country boy retard.” Without a word, Lupre turned and hit Watts. Watts fell to the deck and was out cold. Several recruits, including me, laughed.

Watts was picked up and taken to sick bay, where he told the corpsman what he had told the company commander - that he slipped and fell.


Later that day, I told Lupre that I was impressed with the punch he threw at Watts. 

“I boxed at the Boys’ Club in South Philly. Did you train as a fighter too?”

 “No,’ Lupre said softly. “That was only the second time I hit somebody.”

  “Wow. That was a good punch. Good snap. But I was taught to throw combos, a combination of punches together, not just one punch.”

 “I only needs one punch.”

 “So you do,” I replied.   

 “The first time I hit a boy was in school,” Lupre said. “This boy was always calling me a slowpoke. I didn’t pay him no mind until he shoved me into some lockers. I punched him.”

 "Don’t tell me: you knocked him out?”

 "Yeah, I did.”

 "You should go into the ring. You’re a natural.”

  “No. I don’t like fighting.”

  “Tell that to Watts.”    


 The following week, perhaps to redeem himself in the eyes of the company, Watts took on a big, white country boy named Baines. Without provocation, Watts punched Baines square in the face. Baines absorbed the punch and grabbed Watts around the arms, which prevented the Chicago hoodlum from throwing another punch.

 Schmidt witnessed the entire altercation in the barracks. He broke up the fight and ordered Watts to go to the building’s quarterdeck and report to the company’s lieutenant. Watts did not return to the barracks, and someone gathered up his personal belongings and took them away. We later heard that Watts was kicked out of the Navy.


Schmidt didn’t like me. I asked too many questions, made sarcastic comments, and talked too much, as Schmidt told me several times over the course of our training.

“You’re a real smart ass, Davis,” he said.

But I scored high on the classroom instruction weekly tests, and I could march, shoot, and do PT, so Schmidt tolerated me.

On the last day of Boot Camp, as we were preparing to go home on a week’s leave before reporting to our assigned ships, stations or service schools, Schmidt looked at me and Lupre as we were packing our seabags.

    “You got plans to fuck a girl when you get home, Davis?”

   “Several, Sir,” I replied.

 Lupre chuckled softly.


Once the Kitty Hawk’s brig prisoners were seated together with their trays of food, the cooks began to serve the rest of us. Henry was happy because they were serving ham, so he was able to make a ham sandwich for himself. 

I looked over at Lupre. With the Marine guards watching him and the other prisoners closely, Lupre’s eyes faced straight forward as he chewed his food.    

Henry leaned over and told me that he heard that Lupre was going to be kicked out of the Navy with a dishonorable discharge once he got out of the brig.      

I felt bad for Lupre. As I recalled from Boot Camp, he was a friendly, unassuming guy - until he was pushed. 

© 2022 By Paul Davis 

Note: You can read the first two chapters of Olongapo via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: 'Butterfly'

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction: 'Salvatore Lorino'