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December 2014

Book Review and Exclusive Interview - W.E.B. Griffin's "The Assassination Option"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

W.E.B. Griffin’s latest book, The Assassination Option, has a riveting plot.  Being a Veteran himself, having served in Germany right after World War II and during the Korean War, he is very supportive of all veterans.  He writes a number of series of books with his son, William Butterworth IV. Although the authors consider themselves storytellers their books are much more as they weave historical information throughout their stories, involving both the military and clandestine services.

9780399171246_p0_v2_s260x420Being a part of “the greatest generation” Griffin, whose given name is William Edward Butterworth III, is able to incorporate his own experiences into his thrilling plots.  This latest novel is the second adventure in the new “Clandestine Operations series” about the origins of the CIA and the Cold War. Griffin’s admiration for those in the armed services and intelligence community can be summed up within the dedication of The Assassination Option: besides listing those who served, it ends with “Our nation owes these patriots a debt beyond repayment.”

Enlisting in the army in October 1946 Griffin became what he refers to as “General Bill White Jr.’s errand boy.” The books reflect his experience of serving with men, such as General Patton, General White, William E. Colby, and Max Taylor. Considering himself privileged to be around all those interesting and brilliant people he was able to be “a fly on the wall for the commanding general of allied land forces in Europe. I heard a lot.  I was just lucky to be around the command center as it was getting off the ground. I knew a lot of people involved in the military and clandestine service and admired them all.  As an Army Sergeant I was given top secret clearance since part of my duties was to read all memos before General White, and to determine what was important, what was not, as well as to decide what he should see first and last.”

Griffin emphasizes the point by describing how he was present when Bobby Williams, General White’s aviation officer, drew up a plan for the army to get its own air force.  Explaining that he had typed the communications, Griffin saw “that part of the army take off. Like most kids I was curious as hell and fascinated with what I was hearing.  It was an exciting and fun time that I try to convey within the plots in my books.”

The plot of his current book, The Assassination Option, includes some of Griffin’s learned lessons.  His son noted to blackfive.net, “The book characters are based on compilations of actual people my dad knew.  This series shadows history and shows how it repeats itself. Look how the Russians are once again on the march and Putin is attempting to re-create the Russian empire.  He is smart, dangerous, and has the mentality of the old KGB.”

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are the scenes that show how America’s allies are not really allies, and its enemies have become friends of sorts. During the early years of the CIA many of those officials were former Nazis who were considered useful because of the information they provided against the newfound enemy, Russia.  Griffin told blackfive.net he hopes readers will understand how “the Nazis were nasty people and after they lost the war no one ever admitted to being one.  They were all guilty; yet, denied it.  However, we needed these guys who had information and ways of getting it that we did not have.  For example, they knew who the Russians spies were in the atomic program before we did. The point of the book is to show how we needed to watch out for both the Germans and the Russians.  Both were as dangerous as hell.  It became clear that the day WWII ended the Cold War began and that we had to be wary of the Russians. The prologue goes into the back history because it is my belief that to better understand the story and the characters there is a need to understand the political situation.”

The most fascinating characters of the book are James Cronley, Friedrich Hessinger, and Claudette Colbert.  Because Cronley’s first mission for the new Central Intelligence Directorate was so successful he is promoted to captain and given more responsibility, the Chief, DCI, Europe; and in charge of a top-secret spy operation.

Readers will probably be able to connect the dots between the character Freddy Hessinger and Henry Kissinger; although, Griffin refuses to comment. The similarities: their names, both were in Munich after the War, both Jewish, both worked for the counter-intelligence corps, and both wore the officers’ pink and green uniform with the officer’s triangle emblem.  

The character Claudette Colbert was not based on the actress, but, according to Griffin, “on the women I knew who worked in the intelligence organization.  I knew a Betty Grable, not the actress.  She was a master sergeant. I gave my character the same duties as the military Grable, just changed her name to Colbert.  She was more than a secretary, but a spook working for the intelligence agency.”

The authors also gave a heads up about the next book in the series, The Curtain of Death, the title playing off the “Iron Curtain” speech by Churchill.  It is based on the dangers of Russia but also on the desire to shut down Operation Odessa, which moved Nazis to safety in South America. 

The Assassination Option is a classic Griffin book that combines history with fiction, creating a superb, suspenseful, gripping, and informative novel.  Griffin chose to start this series because of his respect for the OSS/CIA between 1946 and 1950, when the intelligence agency in Europe was very successful even though they had little to work with.  The cast of characters are remarkable, a new breed of warrior that found themselves on the front lines of a covert war.  Anyone who enjoys historical fiction and a military thriller will not want to pass this book up.

Sony hack- North Korea or not?

Kim-jong-unSony got hacked; that much we know for sure. There were some very embarrassing revelations about how much their senior executives, big Democrat donors, like to mock black people including President Obama and other Hollywood insider dreck. The government eventually told us that the hackers were part of an elite North Korean cyber attack unit working to stop Sony from embarrassing the Great Doughnut Eater Kim Jong Un. Once you stop laughing about elite and North Korean it is possible, but there is now some public pushback against that idea.

There is a piece in the Daily Beast by Marc Rogers, a gentleman with excellent cybersecurity credentials, and he seems to believe he has debunked this North Korean hack idea. The problem is that his logic does not seem as solid as his technical acumen. 

The FBI has released some information they claim leads to the North Koreans and Mr. Rogers says it is unimpressive and leads only to the semi-charted wilds of the internets. In reality those two things are not mutually exclusive. Firstly if the FBI & NSA actually released the data and technical means that led our cyber sleuths to the North Koreans, then all of them should be fired. Those things are secrets and telling everyone what they are makes them useless. I am well aware the Obama administration often leaks classified info when it suits them, but what would be their motivation? If they didn’t actually believe Big Kim was behind this, and have some better proof in private, then why pick a fight with him?

Another place where his argument falls well short is this.

2. The hackers dumped the data. Would a state with a keen understanding of the power of propaganda be so willing to just throw away such a trove of information? The mass dump suggests that whoever did this, their primary motivation was to embarrass Sony Pictures. They wanted to humiliate the company, pure and simple.

Exactly, but not in the way he thinks. This actually points to why North Korea is an excellent suspect. Sony makes a bad movie that mocks the Supreme Leader, the Norks decide to pay them back with some of the same. You do not poke fun at crazy dictators with impunity.

Another point that fails to impress is the idea that only an insider could have had access to the passwords and other intricacies of the Sony system needed to heist the data. All hacks that do not involve physically stealing the servers that information resides on are  done by insiders or someone successfully masquerading as one. Even if the actual data theft was done by an insider, the NKs could have co-opted a disgruntled Sony employee with money or a honey.

We don’t have access to all the info the NSA and Cyber Command do and it seems unlikely they released the actual “AHA!” clues that convinced them it was North Korea. That said, it is certainly possible that the government is lying or misdirecting us for its own purposes or just through its normal incompetence. This article raised some questions about that, but answered far fewer than it claimed.


Just saw this posted elsewhere...may pertain to some who frequent this site: 
OPERATIONS IN SOMALIA CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT. Announcement is made confirming campaign participation credit for the following units for operations involving Somalia under the provisions of AR 600–8–22, paragraph 7–18: 1. Designated Area of Operations: Limited to units deployed abroad to Somalia in support of Operations RESTORE HOPE and UNITED SHIELD


Book Review - "Asylum City"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9780062237538_p0_v1_s260x420Liad Shoham’s latest book, Asylum City, has a riveting plot that involves a mystery based around social issues.  This is not a typical thriller since the reader is engrossed not only in the crime plot but also the current issue facing Israelis, seeing the predicament through the eyes of the characters.

The story begins with the murder of activist Michal Poleg in her Tel Aviv apartment.  The policewoman assigned to the case, Anat Nachmias, wonders which of the possible suspects could be the perpetrator.  Was her killer a disgruntled African immigrant? Or the lawyer she filed a complaint against for causing so many migrants to be deported, or "The Banker" extorting the migrants, as he lends money to them illegally at exorbitant interest rates? The book allows the reader to be a part of the investigation, as Anat must decide if an “asylum seeker” actually committed the crime after his confession. 

Anat Nachmias is smart, motivated, more of a listener, and armed with a law school degree. An attractive woman who relies on her intelligence and training to succeed, and knows it is not easy being a woman in the men's club. She is a strong female character who handles herself well in a male dominated profession on a crime that her supervisors would like resolved regardless of the evidence. Besides Anat there are other well-developed characters although the overabundance of characters and the similarity of names are at times a bit confusing.

Since the author is a practicing attorney, the descriptions are realistic and accurate. He uses his job experiences to write a gripping novel that is in many ways similar to the US immigration problem: should border security be implanted before solving the immigration problem, what to do with those illegally in the country, and is there a humanity issue. The problem in Israel has arisen from the Eritrea Africans who are trying to escape persecution by migrating to Israel through the Sinai Peninsula. 

He told blackfive.net, “It does not matter the color of their skin, which is irrelevant.  Israel has accepted Jews from all over the world:  Ethiopian, Chinese, Hispanic, Eastern European, and Western European, but the underlying thread is they are all Jews. The government does not exploit them, but also do not grant them any opportunities.   The problem is those who try to exploit them, that is exemplified by the quote in my book, ‘I’ll never get how people who grew up in this country can exploit other refugees. The Bedouins that are hired to move them across the desert have kidnapped them for sex trafficking, held them hostage for ransoms, tortured the men, and raped 90% of the women. Israel is unable to control the crimes, because they take place outside our border.  Within Israel there are those who have set up businesses surrounding the asylum seekers needs.  For example, just as in the book, since they are not allowed to open bank accounts, Mafia bosses have become their bankers that transfer money to the asylum seeker’s family.”

Asylum City is a fast-paced and riveting novel that is more than just a crime story. It is a gripping thriller with engaging characters and an informative storyline.