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Manhunt – Review

by: Maas, Peter

Publisher: ibooks, inc

Copyright: 2004

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/5/2004

Summary: Recommended. A story of greed, bringing to mind the Karl Marx quote that a capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him.

This book relates events in the life of one Edwin Wilson, specifically his business relationship with Libya’s Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime and the supply of weapons.

The author’s slant on the Edwin Wilson story is to run a parallel story on U. S. Attorney Larry Barcella, the man who brought him to justice. Wilson wound up being sentenced to 15 years in prison for smuggling handguns and M-16 rifles to Libya and another 17 year sentence for shipping the explosive, C-4.

This is not the best of Peter Maas’ books-“The Valachi Papers” and “Serpico” hold that honor–but in MANHUNT, Maas captures an underlying tone emanating from the life of Wilson that reverberates in the lives of others of similar ilk. Really the first of the post-Watergate era traitors exposed to notoriety, Edwin Wilson was a man who felt entitled. It is that one characteristic -a proclivity to feel entitled-that links Wilson to all the other spies and traitors shuffling their to a courtroom over the last twenty or so years.

Graduating from college in 1951, becoming an officer in the U. S. Marines, stationed in Japan and sent to Korea after the fighting was over, he spent his time leading patrols along the demilitarized zone. In 1955, he damaged his knee and was sent back to the states. By October 1955, he was sworn into the CIA with a civile service rating of GS-5 with a salary of $3,670 per year. Maas points out that this amount was not even half of what Wilson earned during his college summers when he ran a combine on the western farmlands of Idaho.

Money, as events proved, was to be the focal point of Wilson’s life. Starting out as just another security guard in the CIA’s Office of Security, he eventually, in 1960, moved into clandestine services. The International Organizations Division of the CIA was responsible penetrating student groups, the media and labor unions. It was here that Wilson laid the foundation for becoming a career contract operative for the CIA. In 1964 he was assigned to Special Operations, which is really the “A” in CIA. He became head of a CIA proprietary company, Maritime Consulting. What this company did was simply facilitate the shipment of high-end technology equipment to countries in which the CIA had a “plan for betterment”. While carrying out CIA directives, Wilson managed to finagle people, paper and policy in such a way that he was able to skim monetary profits for himself.

While most Americans have a general low opinion of government workers, there is also a willingness to accept some of these public servants as patriotic, conscientious toilers for the public good. So it is somewhat surprising when a public servant is revealed as an outright crook. It should not be surprising of course. There are those herded ten-percent in any walk of life who believe themselves entitled. It is a fascinating attitude, relying upon the mental magic of seeing oneself as a victim to fully blossom into acts and deeds. Edwin Wilson was one of the herded ten percentors.

The CIA’s strategy of erecting business “fronts” to ease implementation of the prevailing political agenda resulted in more than a hand full of Edwin Wilsons. Edwin Wilson took self-profiteering to an Olympus level. Prior to his arrest, he was encamped in Libya, far from the arms of a reluctant Justice Department that wanted to bring him to justice. The fact that he was brought to justice can be laid at the doorstep of one man-U. S. Attorney Larry Barcella. If it were not for Barcella, there was a very good chance Wilson would play out his CIA, national-security-business role indefinitely. For sophisticated traitors like Wilson, the juice of the role was like the ingredients of a made-for-TV-movie script with an alternate ending in which the protagonist proclaims nefarious deeds as endeavors for the safety and security of the United States, or spilling the secret beans on everyone if hauled off to court.

After reading MANHUNT, you get the feeling that there was more to Edwin Wilson than Maas presents-not much more, but something. While greed can explain Wilson selling weapons to the terrorist sponsoring Libyan government, greed does not fully explain why he would allegedly attempt to hire a hit-man to kill his former wife and the man who hunted him down, U. S. Attorney Larry Barcella. Maas does not flush-out the core Edwin Wilson. However, he has given us the surface with enough pits and troughs to mark the breed.




Without A Badge – Review

by: Speziale, Jerry & Mark Seal

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.

Copyright: 2003

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/2/2004


Summary: Recommended reading for picking up general information on the illicit drug trafficking business.

Skip the first three chapters of WITHOUT A BADGE and you get to the gist of this book.

Speziale and Seal seem bent on achieving two feats here: first, to show that drug cops are not your usual breed of cop. The feat is accomplished. The second objective seems to be rather mundane: the “suits” are against aggressive law enforcement and are determined to derail the path of any special agent or law enforcement officer who is inclined otherwise. This objective the authors don’t quit pull off. In sum, if you can read beyond the self-promotion aspects of the work, there is a really good primer on drug law enforcement operations.

Jerry Speziale spent fifteen years working on a New York City drug task force. A lot of that time was spent as a high-stakes narco-trafficker. His ordeal as an undercover law enforcement officer moving around in the world of Columbian drug traffickers highlights two aspects of the drug trade: firstly, drug trafficking is a business. Secondly, it is a business in which the various levels of law enforcement are temperamentally ill-equipped to oversee, regulate, control or eradicate. This leaves only the heroics of individual sentinels like Jerry Speziale, Michael Levine, Robert Stutman, (see TGBRJ, “The Big White Lie” reviewed in June 1993) and others. The “suits” or management being riled against never come across as solid, living flesh obstacles. But real life, like fiction, must always have a protagonist. The more protagonists the better. If one of the protagonists is a vaporous though restraining “wizard of oz”, the better. This is what the “suits” are to tales of the “war” on drugs.

But WITHOUT A BADGE is a cut above most works in this genre because it does reveal the business side of the drug trafficking trade. In the Epilogue, Speziale pointedly brings the point home. He recounts an offer made to him by one of the drug trafficking organizations out of Columbia after his stint with the New York task force was over. It was a business offer. Nothing distinctly illegal. They wanted him to provide background information detailing how a load of illicit drugs were seized. They wanted, like all good businesses, to learn from there mistakes. Naturally Speziale declined to be a strategic research hog for a drug cartel. But it shows how businesslike the real drug-threat barons are to civilization.

WITHOUT A BADGE is recommended reading.




Fabric of the Cosmos, The – Review

by: Greene, Brian

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

Copyright: 2004

Cover: DB Image/Brand X Pictures

Type: Hardcover

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/1/2004

Summary: Must Read. The foundation of modern (string theory) physics is not new. Greene unearths the old in an entertaining and enlightening work.

Suspend a bucket of water from a rope. Turn the bucket clockwise until there is enough tension on the rope so that, when released, the bucket spins. Your class assignment is to explain why the water in the middle of the bucket seems to be pushed out to the sides, leaving a concave depression in the middle.

If this seems a simple task, Brian Greene spends approximately 569 pages explaining why it is not a simple task. He starts by explaining that the term centrifugal force, the two word explanation that seems to sum the entire experiment, is merely a label that explains nothing. From there he goes on to explore gravity, the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics and, this reviewer’s personal favorite, the nonzero Higgs field vacuum expectation value -or Higgs ocean. What is surprising-and delightfully so-is that after reading this work, you still don’t have a definitive answer as to why the water in the spinning bucket develops a concave surface.

Greene has written an excellent introduction, or re-introduction if you’ve neglected the subject for some time, into the world of new physics. He does so by succinctly interweaving the physics of Issac Newton, Ernst Mach and others into the physics of Albert Einstein and Max Planck. As you read this book, there is seeding of a realization that the hard core of the new physics is not really all that new. What is new is the perspective. This in turn leads one to speculate beyond what the science is saying. That’s the hallmark of a good work. Greene has accomplished this while being entertaining at the same time.

In physics there is this theoretical particle called a graviton. The graviton is used to explain gravity. The graviton is also the foundation upon which the various string theories are built. Sprinkled throughout Greene’s book are tantalizing hints that science-we-have the entirely wrong perspective on the force we call gravity.

In Chapter 15, “Teleporters and Time Machines”, Greene makes a really provocative statement: “Thoughts, memories, emotions, and judgments have a physical basis in the human body’s atomic and molecular properties; an identical quantum state of these elementary constituents should entail an identical conscious being”. Recognizing an opposing opinion, he then goes on to discuss how a teleporter might work. In tackling the question of time-travel-forward and backwards-Greene presents possible solutions to the paradox of altering time by traveling within it. Tricky subject, but one which he handles with ironclad logic.

If you grew up on the literature of science fiction, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” is a must read book. Or, if you just have an interest in knowing where the world is headed-the science perspective angle-this is also a must read.



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