The Economy and National Security

 In writing Necessary Assets, one of the points I wanted the reader to ponder is al-Qaeda’s singular determination to damage an already fragile US economy.

In 2001, al-Qaeda merely followed up their failed 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. They used a different mode of attack in 2001 but the outcome was designed to achieve the same goal. Take down the World Trade Center and destroy America’s dominance in the world economy. Destabilize Manhattan to the point where “Wall Street” is no longer synonymous with American economic power in the current world structure.

Mike Morell is the retiring Deputy Director of the CIA. After 33 years of service to that agency, he ends his career as one of those behind the scenes people who closely advised the last three presidents. His opinions on matters under the CIA purview are highly valued. He has earned the respect of those whom he advised.

You and I can believe this man knows more about potential threats to harm the US than anyone. So what is the threat he worries about most? Is it bioterrorism? Is it small tactical nuclear devices falling into the hands of terrorists? Is it cyber attacks designed to cripple our infrastructure or military security apparatus? Would he ever say what keeps him awake at night? Yes he would.

In a recent CBS interview, Morell stated that he is most concerned by our inability at the national level to make political decisions to push our economy and society forward. According to Morell, our economy is the heart of our ability to maintain our national security. Morell pointed directly at the political parties constantly at each other’s throats on almost every matter. It is that behavior that keeps him awake at night.

The Soviet Union collapsed almost overnight to everyone’s surprise. Our experts did not see it coming. Why this political collapse at that point in history? Their economy failed. This economic failure achieved what brute force and diplomacy could not. Is it possible we could suffer the same fate?  Morell seems to thinks so.

You Can Go Back

I had not considered the possibility Necessary Assets would be the medium to put me back in contact with so many former neighbors, friends, church members, and colleagues from the FBI. As we move through life’s journeys in our highly complex electronic society, we still don’t seem to be able to keep in contact with everyone we wish.

Bob Riley is an old class mate from Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore, Maryland. He took it upon himself to put our class back in contact with each other not just to celebrate our past but to help insure the influence of the Xaverian Brothers on young men remains strong and viable in the future. He also took it upon himself to highlight my book to the class which resulted in many great email conversations among us. It was not much different from high school when we gathered to eat our lunch sandwiches in the outside school courtyard many years ago. I was hesitant for a long while to make the effort to go back to this community, and that period of my life, but now am so glad I did.

I heard from Ron Lombard, an old Shrewsbury, Massachusetts neighbor whom I had not been in contact with for over 25 years. Ron was the first to teach me how to fly-fish the cold, springtime streams of central Massachusetts. I have loved all forms of fly fishing ever since.  It was just nice to learn we had not forgotten each other over the years.

A daughter of an old golf buddy and fellow church member, Gerry Nugent, called to get a copy of the book as a surprise birthday gift for her father. A former FBI agent whom I had not seen in many years wrote a warm and insightful review of the book on Amazon. FBI colleague Vic Reuschlein and I had not communicated in over 45 years. How great it was to find a message from him on my web site.

As a young FBI agent, I was transferred from my home area in Maryland never to reside there again. That was in later years by choice. Much about contact with family and friends I was forced to give up. I believed then in the expression “you can never go back.” You just moved on.

These are only a few examples from my recent book experience. However, I now believe you can go back. It may never be the same but it can still be a rich, warm, and a wonderful experience. You feel guilty about not having stayed in contact over the years but we all know it is impossible. What is possible is to return and pick up the conversation where it left off.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2013

The FBI is the lead federal agency in proctecting our cyber security within the US. Many federal agencies participate in this effort. This is the 10th year October is set aside to encourage citizens to learn more about how they can contribute to our national cyber security. Follow this LINK to the FBI news blog explaining the purpose of this effort and how each of us can contribute to our national cyber security. There are additional links to other government websites including information on how to report a cyber crime and how we individually can help protect our computers as we travel throug the cyber world.

Additionally the FBI website has a direct LINK to their cyber crimes investigation page which updates the public on the FBI’s effort against cyber crime.

Educating each and every citizen who uses a computer at home or at work on how to improve their cyber security is more a necessity today then ever before. Our lives and daily activities are more closely intertwined with the cyber world. What if your bank debit card did not work this afternoon. In fact no credit card of any type is working. The system is shut down because of a cyber threat or attack. How much cash do you have in your pocket?  Do you have enough cash for a couple of days, a week, longer?

Learn some simple steps you can take to join the effort to protect our national cyber environment.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that someone did have the correct answer for the origin and significance behind the wasp logo appearing on the cover of Necessary Assets. I regard it as bad news that our favorite sleuths Holmes and Watson failed in their effort. Watson somehow went down the wrong trail by reading Holmes’ monograph on bees and never came back. Holmes on the other hand got lost in ancient religious symbolism.

The correct link was provided by none other than Alan Ringgold who speaks several languages including some Italian. He noted that the wasp in Italian is a Vespa, the same spelling as the code name given to Maria Torino, the female leader of the modern Sicilian Mafia. It was “Vespa’s” sting that led to the discovery of The Engineer.

When I was discussing a possible logo with cover designer Leonard Massiglia, we initially both thought of the Italian motor scooter of the same name. However a draft cover with the image of a motor scooter for a logo just did not seem to fit the book. Mark Patrick on a motor scooter tracking down the terrorists just did not cut it.

I knew the motor scooter Vespa was named after the sound made by the very early model that “roared” down the streets of Rome. Its engine sounded like a wasp buzzing about your head. Hence the motor scooter was named a Vespa. It is now our logo.

More good news is all the positive feedback I have received from a cross section of readers commenting on Necessary Assets. Click Here to read some of the reviews on Amazon.

The bad news is the growing collection of lawmakers in Washington who seem to have lost all concept of the meaning of public service.

In Memory of John J. “Jack” Cloherty, Jr.

My former FBI colleague Jack Cloherty passed away September 13,2013. Yesterday his very loving family, friends, neighbors, and fellow FBI agents participated in his funeral Mass. It was a beautiful, meaningful service that Jack would have loved. I owe Jack a particular debt of thanks. Over a period of time Jack helped me understand the full meaning of the Serenity Prayer. It begins;  ” God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change; COURAGE to change the things I can; and WISDOM to know the difference.”

At the end of chapter 46, Mark Patrick has just appeared in federal court where AUSA Harvey Bottom is seeking a contempt order to force Patrick to identify his source of information and, failing that, to put Patrick in jail. Patrick is frustrated as this process will only help the terrorists. By innuendo Bottom suggests in off the record comments to a reporter, that when made public, will suggest Patrick is doing something illegal. The FBI makes no public comment and their efforts behind the scene are weak and ineffective.

When I wrote the end of this chapter, as set forth below,  I was totally inspired by Jack and the discussions we had over the years. To Jack, honor is due.

“By the time Liz got home, Patrick was all talked out. She was angry that his name was on the news associated with an adverse court action. She was afraid that was the only thing the public would remember. However, she did admit that her view as a lawyer was entirely different.

Patrick explained what people had said to him that afternoon. She reflected on the comments and they both decided the matter was eating up too much of their life. They would drop it for the time being. CONTINUE

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Sherlock Holmes and The Question of Ring’s Wasp

Sherlock Holmes was lamenting the fact that Mrs. Hudson had just removed the remnants of the tea recently consumed by Holmes and his ever present friend and colleague, John H. Watson MD. He left on his plate a small piece of scone which he now regretted not eating. It was enough of a distraction that made him desire that piece of scone even more.

This was the fourth day of heavy rain which limited the outdoor travels of both Holmes and Watson. It was a time for essential travel only, even wearing waxed cotton long coats. Their second floor rooms at 221 B Baker, Marylebone, London, were quite snug enough but Holmes’ long and lanky frame searched for more room to spread out his near lethargic corpse.

Suddenly Holmes bolted upright in his chair; “Watson, have you read the note we received yesterday from that author James Ring? I left it for you on the breakfast table this morning.”

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A Stark Warning-Two Suggestions

The commuter newspaper Metro ( reported on August 28, 2013, words offered by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano the day before when honoring first responders to the Marathon bombing at a ceremony here in Boston. After her words of praise, she reportedly stated that our nation will face a “major cyber event that will have a serious effect on our lives, our economy and the everyday functioning of our society.”

I was stunned. Have you ever heard such a warning before? What does this mean? What does Secretary Napolitano expect us to do in response to this stark warning?

Without a transcript I can’t place the statement in context. What does strike me is when someone in this high government position, with unlimited access to government’s best intelligence says, that such an event will happen, and it will negatively impact our entire country, there should be something more said. There is no hint or suggestion as what we can do right now to mitigate the effects of such a cyber attack.

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Our Subtle Prejudice

I started out to write a clever, witty blog to help brighten everyone’s day and to perhaps cause some pleasant introspection. It was not to be. The words did not come and my conscience said I was avoiding what I needed to write. Score one for the conscience. Next time it will be light and witty.

Necessary Assets is a novel where I highlight the importance of human relationships in seeking a solution to what we define as our “terrorist” problem. In Necessary Assets I promote the value of meaningful human relationships within our cities and neighborhoods. That same positive human interaction is needed in all levels of society and particularly in our international conversations.

We have submitted much of the conduct of our personal lives to the world of technology. We allow technology to obscure the value of face to face human interaction. As a result, this shift makes it easier for us to sneer at or demean someone not standing in front of us. I am concerned about the number of times I hear the word Muslim used interchangeably with the word terrorist. I worry when the word Muslim is clearly spoken as a pejorative term.

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A Question About Yemen

A Question About Yemen

Over recent weeks, there seems to be a growing undeclared war taking place in Yemen. This is a country where al-Qaeda chose to move much of its leadership in 2010. Shortly after, it is said, that the Yemen government only controlled two of Yemen’s largest cities. The rest of the country was under al-Qaeda control. A new Yemen regime seems to have taken a more effective stand against their al-Qaeda guests.

Recently the US intercepted a “communication” wherein the AQAP was told by its leader to “do something.” The US responded by shuttering its diplomatic offices in the Mid East and northern Africa and ordering all non essential personnel out of Yemen. Not a pretty sight. Certainly al-Qaeda has learned from this experience one of their communication systems has been compromised. It is also possible that such a message was disinformation to ferret out how good we were at counterintelligence. It created a scene of Americans running out of a country because of an al-Qaeda threat. This plays well on the Arab street.

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A Reader’s Comments Mid-Book

I received these comments from a reader I don’t personally know even though we attended the same Xaverian brother high school in Baltimore. For someone to comment mid-book I thought was unusual but I enjoyed what he said so I pass it on.
“Well, when the book is done I will know you as well as I know Tolstoy and Hemingway.
You already have my mouth watering for some of that food you eat. Nice life you live in Boston.
It is interesting and can’t wait to see how it twists and turns. Can you introduce me to Vespa?”