Archive for the ‘FBI’ Category

velvaleedickinsonVelvalee Dickinson (1893-1980) sounds like a name more befitting a Wisconsin cheese heiress than a WWII spy, but a spy she was and her undercover monicker of “The Doll Woman” is highly appropriate for this broad’s shenanigans.

Velvalee was born in Sacremento, California and educated at Stanford University. In the mid 1920’s, Velvalee went to work at a brokerage company in San Francisco where she met future husband, Lee. Velvalee became involved in social work which brought her into close contact with the Japanese community there. She became a member of the Japanese-American Society (fees paid by a Japanese Attache, thank you), well-entrenched with visiting members of the Japanese military and government, and hosted numerous soirees in her home for said same folks.

The Dickinsons moved to New York City in 1937 where Velvalee opened a doll shop specializing in rare and antique dolls. It was here, well under radar, that Velvalee conducted her treasonous activities.

dickinson_store1Velvalee used her doll shop as a front to send secret communiques, more specifically, steganographic messages, around the globe reporting on military activities and position. And example of an actual message: “Doll in a hula skirt is in the hospital and doctors are working around the clock”, which translated to “Light cruiser USS Honolulu is badly damaged and in Seattle undergoing around the clock repairs.”

The language of dolls apparently served up a myriad of ways certain activities could be discussed in front a casual observer without drawing too much attention. However, this was WWII. The government had a cadre of cryptanalysts on payroll examining the mail of everyday citizens and this is what led to Velvalee’s discovery.

The dame was busted by a piece of returned mail.

velvaleedickinsonfeb221942letterYup, she sent one her “letters” to Buenos Aires, but the intended recipient had moved on and the letter was returned to the US where it was intercepted by wartime censors. Thinking the correspondence was a little fishy, the censors passed it along to the FBI where it ended up in the capable hands of our favorite cryptanalyst, Elizebeth Friedman, and the rest is history.

The subsequent investigation uncovered all sorts of correspondence that had been bouncing around the country under a variety of different names in dozens of cities, but all traced their way back to Velvalee. The FBI uncovered her connections to the Japanese government in San Francisco and New York, about $25 thousand in payments made to Velvalee, and then they really went to town.

Velvaless was indicted in 1944 under a number of various charges and like the stand-up gal she was, she promptly blamed it all on her late husband who has passed away in 1942. However, medical records proved her husband’s lacked the mental faculties at the time in question due to a prolonged illness, and then the gig was up.

Maintaining her innocence until the end, Velvalee was sentenced to a ridiculously short amount of time in federal prison and was released in 1951, disappears from radar in 1954, and all we’re left with in the end is her date of death in 1980.

Maureen Baginski is a distinguished member of this Agent’s favorite tribe of dames: cryptologists. After a long and successful career at the NSA, Baginski left to take on the world of domestic intelligence clean-up at the FBI as the first Executive Assistant Director of Intelligence.

Baginski (1953-), who graduated from college with degrees in Slavic Studies specializing in Russian literature, joined the NSA in 1979 in an effort to pay the bills. She began as a Russian language instructor at the National Cryptologic School and through the decades, was assigned to a good deal of management posts including the NSA’s 24-hour Watch Center.

Baginski is known for a career of calling it like it is and suggesting reform from within. In 2003, Robert Mueller of the FBI tapped Baginski to enter their ranks and reform the way the bureau handles domestic intelligence from top to bottom.

Now let’s all step back a moment and consider this. Reform the FBI. Baginski was a career NSA gal and while intelligence agencies have certain things in common, Baginski was moving over to an entity where she didn’t speak the proverbial language and had to learn and understand the culture right quick in order to be effective.

And of course the question is always posed: what does “culture” have to do with anything? Every business, school, neighborhood, or in this case, government entity, has its own unique culture unto itself. Culture being defined by a dictionary as: the behaviors and beliefs, characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group, or the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

The FBI has operated as a law enforcement agency since its inception. It is a very male dominated, gun-loving place where intelligence analysis is a side dish of peas to the pot-roast of busting bad guys. To change the culture, the mindset of a nearly 100 year old institution, is no minor undertaking performed with one’s Easy-Bake Oven. To accomplish this task, Baginski is using nothing less than a Viking professional series range with dual fuel capacity…metaphorically speaking that is.

The end result? Well, that would be classfied now wouldn’t it? The old addage that successes go uncelebrated while screw-ups suffer very public indignities does apply. And in the five years since Baginski took the post, it’s been very quiet on the FBI homefront which I am sure we can all agree is very good thing.

Before I lambast this movie into the great hereafter, this Agent must make a confession: she laughed her hiny off when first she saw it…at the dollar show. And in retrospect, I think I want my dollar back.

Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a foul and unkempt FBI agent amongst a group of Frat-Pack FBI dudes who regard her warily. What we get to witness is Gracie being turned into a Sexed-Up-Fembot. Not of the Killer variety, but a Fembot nonetheless.

The plot goes that there is a beauty pageant that is about to go kaboom, literally, and the FBI is on the case. Gracie goes undercover as a New Jersey beauty queen after monumental help from Michael Caine who teaches her to masticate her food with her mouth closed.

Frivolity and hilarity ensues as Gracie tries to ingratiate herself with the contestants (all of whom are suspect), learn their bizare tribal behavior (like swilling fat-free hot cocoa, waving, and fluttering her hands while faking tears), all while duking it out with her pageant handler, Caine, who declares her to be an unfinished woman.

Hmmmmm….so it’s not enough to be competent, smart, and have to put up with the thinly veiled misogyny on the job, but you also have to endure it while looking “hot” as well? Any Intell analysis aside, what the hell kind of message does this send to all the young girls who saw this flick?

Back to movie: Largely, Gracie gets by using her gut instinct. Basically what we call Abductive Logic. And not to diminish finely tuned instincts for a job, but we’re talking bomb threats here and mass murder on a public scale, you’d think they’d use more than just a gut feeling to solve the case. Yes, I know, this is Hollywood…

As you might have guessed, Gracie cracks the case, gets the guy, and finds a balance between between her kill-instinct and her feminine side. Sigh, how sweet. How sweet that the FBI is portrayed as bunch of bumbling idiots not totally up to the task of matching wits with a psychotic pageant mistress. But I’ll give kudos to the film for being equally insulting to both men and women. Points for parity!

Personally, if this is how the film industry insists on portraying women, then this Agent sides with the La Femme Nakita course of action. Nakita learns refinement, but only as a tool and nothing more. At heart, Nakita is a goofy, maladjusted, awkward girl, and her alias “Josephine” is the one with the mascara and the lipstick. “Josephine” is not the end-all-be-all of Nakita’s existence as an agent or a person.

Like Gracie, Nakita operates on almost pure instinct, but there’s training, skill, technique and method to back it up- not a frilly dress and and antiquated sense on how a woman should handle herself.

And to this Agent, that’s one finishing school I think all dames should attend.

Laura Linney portrays the character Kate Burroughs, an FBI agent hunting the mole, Robert Hanssen, in the 2007 film “Breach”.

Robert Hanssen, less you forgot, is considered the most treacherous spy in the history of the US. He was arrested in 2001 after 16 illustrious years of espionage for the former Soviet Union.

Now whether Kate Burroughs is a real person or just a character based on a real person, we don’t know. However, Laura Linney plays one bad-ass, rocking Fed and this Agent doesn’t at all mind admitting that “Kate” almost kinda of scares her. Just a little bit.

What is most fascinating about Kate, and refreshing as well, is the fact that she is just a broad doing her job. How many movies or TV shows do we see where women in intelligence are trying to juggle their life, while finding a date, looking hot, or having all sorts of “feelings” about being a “girl” who works intel? Well, it’s either that or they are manifested into some girlfriend or mother figure, both of which are equally frustrating.

But not this sister. Not our Kate. We know she works hard and late, she doesn’t have cats, and is all about her work. She is most certainly not there to play the soothing mommy-type to Ryan Phillipe’s Eric O’Neil. She is a boss with a job to do and being a chick is the least of her. This broad is demanding, she is tough, she is unrelenting, and she is dispassionate about everything except for this: catching Robert Hanssen.

The most mind-blowing feature about the character of Kate Burroughs is that she could just as easily have been a male character. And when I say “mind-blowing”, and I mean this with all sincerity here, it is because Kate is doing a job just like a man would, just like a regular person would, just as women do every damn day without all these gender issues or sexed-up-killer-fembottery tangled up into the mix.

Aside from being an excellent movie about the massive resources it required to hunt down the most dangerous traitor of our time, this movie is also an interesting look into the life of an FBI employee and the sacrifices federal employees of this nature make for our country. Anyone who wishes to glamorize the trade really ought to give this movie a good viewing before signing up.

After yesterday’s entry, this Agent is requiring a little levity. Levity in the form of a guilty pleasure. Oh, guilty pleasures, they’ll get you in trouble every time…

Mary Gross and Rebecca De Mornay star as Elli and Janis in the 1988, fluffball comedy “Feds” as two FBI trainees who couldn’t be more different, but team-up to get each other through their training.

Girl Power and Sisterhood aside, the movie does has something to offer (other than co-star and former presidential candidate Fred Thompson) and that is: the recruitment process.

Now clearly, this Agent is not suggesting that a movie of this nature is going to be terribly accurate, but again, there has to be some element of truth to the proceedings. De Mornay is former military, Gross is a brainiac. If you want Special Agent status in the FBI you have to be a little of both. Rigorous testing, interviewing, and security checks are performed on potential recruits before they are accepted. And the story doesn’t end there. Recruits are then put through 17 weeks of intense training at the FBI Quantico facility, where by, at the end, you must learn constitutional law, investigative procedure, how to defend yourself, and how not to get innocent people killed in the process, less you want to get the boot.

The thing to remember is the FBI is a law enforcement agency. Aside from requesting their applicants to have a big brain, the FBI also puts their trainees through physical training that some say is more stringent than the military. Throughout the film “Feds”, one sees the instruction of hand-to-hand combat, firearms, interviewing techniques, forensics training, lots of test taking, enduring male chauvinism, and all while reliving the wonderful existence of college dorm life. You see a smidgen of training in Silence of the Lambs, but this movie is certainly a lot more fun.

And let’s get back to that male chauvinism bit: while the feds have come a long way in employing women, it isn’t without the occasional set back. The FBI only just swore in its first women (Susan Lynn Roley and Joanne E Pierce) back in 1972. Since then there have been charges of harassment, protests over lack of promotion, and allegations of discrimination. And let’s not forget that nonsense about the Feds spying on the League of Women Voters back in 2006. Seriously, what the heck was that about?.

The point is, no matter how long it took the gents to get their act together and include the dames, the FBI is a government entity, it does take time to catch up, and it is not going to be without its unique set of problems: just like the rest of the world.

And one thing to admire about this silly bit of cinema is this: sisterhood. It’s a tough life out there for the skirts of this world and instead of tearing each other down, women really ought to be helping a fellow sister out.

So watch the movie, enjoy Elli and Janis ripping it up, and then throw your hat in the ring, ladies. Change won’t come if all the good broads watch from the sidelines.

Nada Nadim Prouty, aka “Jihad Jane” is a Lebanese immigrant who over-stayed her welcome on a visa in 1990. She faked a marriage for citizenship which then allowed her to not only received clearance and a job at the FBI in 1999, this dame cross-channeled and went to work for the CIA in 2003 as well!

She must have very busy to-do lists.

So let’s get down to it: Overstayed visa? Crime #1. Fake marriage? Crime #2. Lied on application to FBI/CIA? Crime #3. Used position at agencies to check up on herself and the criminal activity of a brother in law who supports terrorist groups? Crime #4.

The list of offenses against this skirt is adding up.

Side note: Seems that Prouty’s brother-in-law, a Detroit-based restaurateur, had been funneling money into a charity operation that supports Hezbollah. He was about to get nabbed for tax evasion when he hiked up skirts and fled the country back to Lebanon where he currently resides. The question is for what purpose Prouty used her position to make unauthorized checks on herself, the family, and Hezbollah.

Wow, this whole story is one big twisted knot of yarn. And this Agent can see both sides of it. On one side, you could say this dame was crafty enough to find a chink in the armor of the security clearance process to infiltrate the FBI & CIA and use the place as her own personal playground for aiding and abetting terrorism.

The other side of this is that, yes, this Prouty did some bad things, like immigration fraud, but she is also regarded as one of the CIA’s top-guns and proved to be ever so helpful in all that nastiness in Iraq in the Clandestine Services. The FBI seems to think pretty highly of her as well. This broad was involved in the investigations of the USS Cole bombing, a high-profile kidnapping, and an overseas assassination of a US diplomat.

Obviously, the Intelligence Community leaned towards door #2, because Prouty, who fully cooperated, fessed up, had her citizenship revoked, paid a nominal fine, and is serving no jail time. Possibly in rewards for what was a job-well-done in service to this county.

The thing to take away from all of this seems to be the flaws in the background checks. Prouty was screened prior to an overhaul in 2001 of the Security Clearance process which was instituted after the whole Robert Hanssen affair. But she passed the polygraph and other checks into family in Lebanon seemed to check out. So this really comes down to a matter of ill-timing.

Last heard on Prouty: she is in Immigration Limbo. Because she is so heavily vetted with national security information, for her safety as well as the for the protection of top-secret info, she has not yet been deported.

Oh, you knew it was only a matter of time before we visited this broad. Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning performance as FBI trainee, Clarice Starling, in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”, still has certain friends of this Agent quoting “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”

Quick recap: Starling is an FBI trainee. Starling wishes to work in the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. She is called in to engage the infamous Hannibal Lecter in order to gain insight into the twisted musings of a serial killer the FBI is hunting. As Starling isn’t even a full-blown Special Agent, this complicates matters to some degree, but hey, she does receive the best on the job training a girl can get in profiling under the circumstances.

So let’s talk about what this movie brings to the table aside from an uber-creepy supervillan in the form of Anthony Hopkins: politics. It’s coming at Clarice from all sides, whether it is from the local sheriff not wanting the feds to invade their turf, or the Senator (whose daughter is taken hostage) wanting to side-step the feds and save her daughter her way, or the FBI’s own internal politics (which is much more explicit in the novel), or the social politics of dealing with institution director, Dr. Chilton, who craves respect and attention and uses his prize pet, Hannibal Lecter, as a way of fulfilling those desires.

That’s a lot of land mines to dodge while still trying to do your job and it requires a degree of Emotional Intelligence. In just a moment, Clarice needs to be able to read a room, a group, a person, and a situation in order to best know how react, get what she needs, and move the investigation forward. That’s a tall order and something that is not easily taught.

The other order of business in this movie is the sensationalizing of profiling. This idea that the way one commits a crime and the clues they leave behind says something about how the perpetrator thinks and thus assists law enforcement in apprehending them. Profiling has taken a bit of a hit since the Beltway/D.C. Sniper case back in 2003, but missteps in one case is not enough to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

By the end of the film, Clarice has most definitely been fed through the ringer, but the combination of being open to different ideas and the tough-as-nails determination of a long-term survivor, and this skirt most certainly gets her man.

Although, consequently, all that previously mentioned political infighting allows for the other man to get away. Ah, politics, gotta love it. You know Hannibal Lecter does.

Oh, what’s not to totally dig about TV’s “X-Files” FBI Special Agent, Dr. Dana Scully? The logical foil to Fox Mulder, she’s has to be the brainiest broad ever to ever to hit the small screen. But what I truly love about this character is her strict attention to method: The Scientific Method.

While Mulder is off ruminating about conspiracy theories that threaten to overrun the investigation like a whirling mass of entropy, his gal Scully is always there to talk him back down from the ledge with a scientific explanation for everything.

Intelligence analysis relies on good logic and proper methodology. Whether that is Inductive, Deductive, Abductive, or the uber-tricky Scientific Method, if poor logic is employed, the methodology, no matter how good it is, falls apart.

So Alien infiltration of the government via killer bees from outer space aside, suspend your disbelief and listen Dr. Scully. This dame’s got an answer for it all.

Mulder? Mulder?