Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI

The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists—quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans—that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation.

It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War . . . A small group of activists—eight men and women—the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan’s rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use a more active, but nonviolent, method of civil disobedience to provide hard evidence once and for all that the government was operating outside the laws of the land.
         
The would-be burglars—nonpro’s—were ordinary people leading lives of purpose: a professor of religion and former freedom rider; a day-care director; a physicist; a cab driver; an antiwar activist, a lock picker; a graduate student haunted by members of her family lost to the Holocaust and the passivity of German civilians under Nazi rule.

Betty Medsger's extraordinary book, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, re-creates in resonant detail how this group of unknowing thieves, in their meticulous planning of the burglary, scouted out the low-security FBI building in a small town just west of Philadelphia, taking into consideration every possible factor, and how they planned the break-in for the night of the long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier (war supporter and friend to President Nixon) and Muhammad Ali (convicted for refusing to serve in the military), knowing that all would be fixated on their televisions and radios.

Medsger writes that the burglars removed all of the FBI files and, with the utmost deliberation, released them to various journalists and members of Congress, soon upending the public’s perception of the inviolate head of the Bureau and paving the way for the first overhaul of the FBI since Hoover became its director in 1924.  And we see how the release of the FBI files to the press set the stage for the sensational release three months later, by Daniel Ellsberg, of the top-secret, seven-thousand-page Pentagon study on U.S. decision-making regarding the Vietnam War, which became known as the Pentagon Papers.
         
At the heart of the heist—and the book—the contents of the FBI files revealing J. Edgar Hoover’s “secret counterintelligence program” COINTELPRO, set up in 1956 to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the United States in order “to enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles,” to make clear to all Americans that an FBI agent was “behind every mailbox,” a plan that would discredit, destabilize, and demoralize groups, many of them legal civil rights organizations and antiwar groups that Hoover found offensive—as well as black power groups, student activists, antidraft protestors, conscientious objectors.

The author, the first reporter to receive the FBI files, began to cover this story during the three years she worked for The Washington Post and continued her investigation long after she'd left the paper, figuring out who the burglars were, and convincing them, after decades of silence, to come forward and tell their extraordinary story.

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI is an important and riveting book, a portrait of the potential power of non­violent resistance and the destructive power of excessive government secrecy and spying.

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

From National Book Award finalist David I. Kertzer comes the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. This groundbreaking work, based on seven years of research in the Vatican and Fascist archives, including reports from Mussolini’s spies inside the highest levels of the Church, will forever change our understanding of the Vatican’s role in the rise of Fascism in Europe.

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe tells the story of two men who came to power in 1922, and together changed the course of twentieth-century history. In most respects, they could not have been more different. One was scholarly and devout, the other thuggish and profane. Yet Pius XI and “Il Duce” had many things in common. They shared a distrust of democracy and a visceral hatred of Communism. Both were prone to sudden fits of temper and were fiercely protective of the prerogatives of their office. (“We have many interests to protect,” the Pope declared, soon after Mussolini seized control of the government in 1922.) Each relied on the other to consolidate his power and achieve his political goals.

In a challenge to the conventional history of this period, in which a heroic Church does battle with the Fascist regime, Kertzer shows how Pius XI played a crucial role in making Mussolini’s dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. In exchange for Vatican support, Mussolini restored many of the privileges the Church had lost and gave in to the pope’s demands that the police enforce Catholic morality. Yet in the last years of his life—as the Italian dictator grew ever closer to Hitler—the pontiff’s faith in this treacherous bargain started to waver. With his health failing, he began to lash out at the Duce and threatened to denounce Mussolini’s anti-Semitic racial laws before it was too late. Horrified by the threat to the Church-Fascist alliance, the Vatican’s inner circle, including the future Pope Pius XII, struggled to restrain the headstrong pope from destroying a partnership that had served both the Church and the dictator for many years.

The Pope and Mussolini brims with memorable portraits of the men who helped enable the reign of Fascism in Italy: Father Pietro Tacchi Venturi, Pius’s personal emissary to the dictator, a wily anti-Semite known as Mussolini’s Rasputin; Victor Emmanuel III, the king of Italy, an object of widespread derision who lacked the stature—literally and figuratively—to stand up to the domineering Duce; and Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, whose political skills and ambition made him Mussolini’s most powerful ally inside the Vatican, and positioned him to succeed the pontiff as the controversial Pius XII, whose actions during World War II would be subject for debate for decades to come.

With the recent opening of the Vatican archives covering Pius XI’s papacy, the full story of the Pope’s complex relationship with his Fascist partner can finally be told. Vivid, dramatic, with surprises at every turn, The Pope and Mussolini is history writ large and with the lightning hand of truth.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Can't Wait to Read "Doug Buffone: Monster of the Midway: My 50 Years Livin' and Dyin' with the Chicago Bears"

A beloved Bear’s tales of the epic highs and frustrating lows of the team over the last half century

In Doug Buffone: Monster of the Midway: My 50 Years Livin' and Dyin' with the Chicago Bears, author and former Bear Doug Buffone provides a behind-the-scenes look at the personalities and events that have shaped the franchise’s storied history.

Beginning in 1966, when Buffone was selected in the fourth round by the Bears, the book details his early playing days under legendary Coach George Halas all the way through the start of the new era of the franchise with John Fox. He takes readers through the exhilaration of being teammates with the legendary Gale Sayers, as well as the heartrending experience of losing teammate Brian Piccolo to cancer, which would go on to inspire the award-winning movie Brian’s Song. Before retiring as the last Bear to have played under Halas in 1980, Buffone also had the pleasure of sharing the locker room with the next superstar Bears running back, Walter Payton, helping lay the groundwork that would lead to the unforgettable 1985 Super Bowl champion squad.

Luckily, even after his playing days, Buffone never strayed far from the Bears organization, covering the team on television and radio for more than three decades. From the greatness of Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Brian Urlacher, and Matt Forte to the debacles of Rashaan Salaam, Dave McGinnis, and Mark Trestman, Buffone has seen it all, and this book gives fans a taste of what it’s like to be a part of the Bears storied history.

Two Charged for Attempting to Kill a Man Believed to be a Federal Witness Related to Sex Trafficking Organization

In a third superseding indictment unsealed, two men were charged with witness tampering by attempting to kill him and for conspiring with each other to do so. These charges were brought in addition to charges previously filed against one of the men involving a multi-state sex trafficking ring that victimized minor and adult women.

Jaquan Casanova a/k/a “Cass,” “Joffe,” “Joffy,” and “Joffy Joe,” 24, of Dorchester was charged for the first time in a third superseding indictment for tampering with a witness by attempting to kill him and for making false statements to a federal agent. Raymond Jeffreys, a/k/a “Skame Dollarz,” “Skame,” “Skamen,” “Define Dollarz,” and “Frenchy,” 27, of Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Portland, Maine; and Corey Norris, a/k/a “Case,” and “Jacorey Johnson,” 25, of Dorchester, were also charged in the third superseding indictment. Jeffreys was charged alongside Casanova with tampering with a witness by attempting to kill him and with conspiring with each other to do so. In addition, Jeffreys and Norris were charged again with the multiple sex trafficking counts brought against them in previous indictments.

Specifically, the third superseding indictment charges Jeffreys and Norris with the trafficking and transportation of nine victims, six of whom were under the age of 18, for the purposes of prostitution in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Nevada, Georgia, Florida and California. The charges of tampering with a witness by attempting to kill that witness are related to this sex trafficking organization. The initial indictment in the case, returned in March 2013, charged Norris, Darian Thomson, a/k/a “Bo,” “Dee Bo,” and a woman named Vanessa Grandoit with sex trafficking of a minor from Massachusetts to Rhode Island in December 2012. According to the allegations in the third superseding indictment, in April 2013, Thomson was released from state custody on unrelated state charges in New Jersey and returned to Boston, where he was shot in the head by Casanova at the direction of Jeffreys. The third superseding indictment alleges that Jeffreys believed that Thomson had cooperated with law enforcement in New Jersey and directed the shooting of Thomson with the intent to kill him in order to prevent Thomson from providing information to federal law enforcement regarding his and Norris’ sex trafficking activities.

The third superseding indictment also re-alleges that, at various times from 2006 through 2014, Jeffreys, Norris, and others trafficked the victims for prostitution by force, fraud or coercion and, in the cases of the minor girls, knowing or in reckless disregard that they were under the age of 18. The third superseding indictment contains specific allegations regarding the sex trafficking operation, such as that Jeffreys targeted vulnerable girls and women, including those who were poor and/or homeless, drug addicts, and those who were already working as prostitutes or who had done so in the past. Many of the women either had children when they met Jeffreys and/or became pregnant with his child. Jeffreys used a variety of techniques to persuade and manipulate the women, including making promises about providing for them and their children, and then only doing so if the women performed acts of prostitution. Jeffreys used a variety of techniques to control the girls and women through force, fraud, coercion and a combination of those means, including by threatening the women that he would kill them. The third superseding indictment also alleges that Jeffreys worked with other men as “pimp partners” or “p partners” to share resources, such as car rides, hotel rooms, and payment for online advertisements. Jeffreys taught other men, including Norris and Thomson how to engage in sex trafficking, and these men became “pimp partners” with Jeffreys.

The charge of tampering with a witness by attempting to kill him or conspiring to do so provides a sentence of no greater than 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and restitution. Each of the charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of a lifetime in prison, a minimum of five years and a maximum of a lifetime of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and restitution. Each of the charges of sex trafficking of a minor provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of a lifetime in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Watch The History of DEA's Specials Ops Division via the @DEAEdFoundation Museum Lecture Series

DEA Museum Lecture Series

Please join the DEA Museum for the first lecture of the Spring 2015 Lecture Series.

“A Look Behind the Curtain”

The History of DEA’s Special Operations Division

Wednesday, April 22, 11:00 AM Eastern
DEA Museum HQ Auditorium

with LIVE webcast on www.deamuseum.org

Operations Adam Bomb, Crystal Light, One-Eyed Mule & Angry Pirate - these are just a few of the many drug interdictions overseen by DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD). Please join us for a spirited discussion on the history of this division as we take a look behind the curtain. This program will feature panelists Michael Horn, former DEA Chief of International Operations; Joseph Keefe, former DEA Chief of Operations; Robert Nieves, former DEA Chief of International Operations; and John Wallace, former DEA Chief Counsel for International Law & Intelligence.

Sign language interpretation will be provided.

(Note:: Mark your calendar for the 2nd lecture on June 25, on Operation Tiger Trap.)

For more information, please contact the DEA Museum Education Department at 202-307-3463.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Black Souls" Italian Mafia Film Sizzles

It opens on a gray shot, with a cement shore forming the horizon between dark skies and cold water. Two men, shot from behind, stand far apart, looking like bookends in the frame. A boat approaches, and the men get in, beginning a journey across the channel and into the world of real-life southern Italian mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta.

From the opening shot, Francesco Munzi’s “Black Souls” (“Anime Nere”) is the type of film that, through intimate details and transportative landscapes, makes you feel as if you’ve been somewhere. The Italian-language mafia drama, based on Gioacchino Criaco’s novel by the same name, tells the tragic story of the Carbone brothers. Luigi (Marco Leonardi) is a muscled-up drug dealer with a penchant for goat stealing and folk songs. His brother, Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) is a smartly dressed businessman with a northern wife and a lavish home. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Ferracane convincingly emotes steel-eyed trepidation as the eldest, Luciano, a shepherd in the mountain town of Africo who is desperate to keep his hands clean and steer his foolish son, Leo (newcomer Giuseppe Fumo) away from a life of crime.

Despite his father’s stern efforts, Leo is drawn to the allure of the family business. He shoots up a bar after the owner — with whom the Carbones have a deep-seated blood feud — insults his family’s honor. Leo then flees to Milan in the hopes of becoming his uncles’ young protege, but he succeeds only in bringing the whole family back to the Calabrian mountain to settle the rivalry once and for all.

And so what begins as a transnational crime thriller develops into a family drama driven by grief. Violence darkens rather than enlivens the film, adding weight to the grudge under which the Carbone brothers seem destined to buckle. While the story tends to wander away from its focus from time to time, the familiar, lived-in quality of the set remains a constant throughout. The walls and drawers of the family home, with their old photos and yellowing obituaries, are the ghosts of generations of other black souls whose presences silently propel the film’s action.

There’s a calmness throughout “Black Souls” that separates it from glamorously violent mafia films like “The Godfather” and puts it more in line with Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” (2008), a neorealist triumph set in a Neapolitan wasteland. While Garrone masterfully details the connection of small-time Camorra gangsters to an international crime network, Munzi does not make nearly as strong a statement on the modern global mafia, choosing instead to focus on Italy.

“I made this film in a town that legal professionals and journalists stigmatize as one of the most mafia‐ridden places in Italy, one of the nerve centres of the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta: Africo,” Munzi wrote in his director’s statement. “Africo has a very tough history of criminality, but it can help us understand many things about our country. From Africo, we have a better view of Italy.”

Munzi’s view of Italy offers a critique on the traditionalism that keeps the ‘Ndrangheta in place. While the director’s previous work in “Saimir” (2004) and “The Rest of the Night” (2008) dealt with issues of immigration, “Black Souls” explores the experience of rooted Italians clinging to old customs while grasping at opportunities to grow. He presents an Italy where omerta,  a code of silence about criminal activity, is still the law of the land, where women keep quiet unless they’re in their own sphere and where generations of men perpetuate a system of vengeance and violence. It’s an Italy with a stark urban-rural divide and seemingly few options for young people like Leo to escape their ancestrally dictated peasant lifestyles.

It’s no sexy shoot ‘em up film, but Munzi’s mafia drama is an elegant contribution to the genre. Though it takes its sweet time to develop, “Black Souls” rewards its viewers in the end with a  spectacular payoff that sizzles long after the credits run.

Thanks to Grace Lovio.

Reputed Bonanno Mobster Vinny Vertuccio Indicted for Conspiracy Connected to One World Trade Center @OneWTC

A ten-count indictment was unsealed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging the defendant Vincent Vertuccio, also known as “Vinny,” with conspiracy to defraud the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in connection with the One World Trade Center project located in lower Manhattan, and related money laundering and tax crimes. The defendant Praful Pandya, an accountant, was charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns for Vertuccio. The defendant John Servider, a lawyer, was charged with Vertuccio with conspiracy to alter, and alteration of, records for use in a grand jury proceeding. The indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, New York, on April 8, 2015.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Shantelle P. Kitchen, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, New York (IRS), Cheryl Garcia, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (DOL-OIG), Diego G. Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and Michael Nestor, Inspector General, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Office of Inspector General (PA-OIG).

As alleged in the indictment, Vincent Vertuccio controlled and directed the activities of Crimson Construction Corporation (Crimson), a company that was awarded a contract for work at the One World Trade Center (1WTC) project in lower Manhattan worth approximately $11.4 million. In seeking the contract, Vertuccio directed an employee of Crimson not to disclose Vertuccio’s role in Crimson because of his ties to organized crime. After being awarded the contract, Crimson received more than $1.5 million in connection with the 1WTC project, of which significant sums were diverted into a bank account held by Vertuccio’s mother and used to pay for renovations to Vertuccio’s daughter’s house. As a result, Crimson was unable to meet its obligations at 1WTC and was terminated from the project. Vertuccio, with the assistance of his accountant Praful Pandya, also submitted false and fraudulent individual tax returns for tax years 2008 and 2011.

After Vertuccio became aware of an ongoing grand jury investigation into his conduct, he and his lawyer, John Servider, allegedly conspired to alter invoices and sales receipts issued by a Manhattan jewelry store so as to remove Vertuccio’s name from the records before they were returned to the grand jury.

“As alleged, Vertuccio and his team of criminal consultants, including his accountant and his lawyer, cheated the taxpayers and the criminal justice system for their own corrupt purposes. We will not tolerate self-serving exploitations of Port Authority projects. We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute such criminal activity,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.

“As the federal agency responsible for investigating tax crimes, IRS-Criminal Investigation works with our law enforcement partners on a variety of complex financial fraud investigations toward the mutual goals of protecting the American taxpayer and seeing that everyone pays their fair share. When individuals divert money intended for public projects into their own pockets, they risk committing tax and money laundering crimes in the process, inviting additional criminal sanctions. These consequences are magnified by the steps they take to conceal their actions and cover their tracks,” stated IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Kitchen.

“As alleged, the defendants defrauded the Port Authority and the construction of One World Trade Center. When they learned of our investigation, they altered invoices, changed names, and doctored receipts in a vain attempt to avoid detection. We have no tolerance for the shakedown of projects,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.

“Today serves as an unfortunate reminder that as alleged in the indictment, organized crime continues to plague the region’s construction industry. Accordingly, we remain vigilant in protecting Port Authority projects and programs from fraudsters who line their pockets at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” stated PA-OIG Inspector General Nestor. Mr. Nestor expressed thanks to his law enforcement partners for their dedication and skill in the investigation of this case and commended the One World Trade Center integrity monitor whose efforts were integral in detecting some of the alleged schemes.

Deeply Discounted Books

Chicago Cutlery