Friday, January 17, 2014




(Friday January 17, 2014 Jersey City, NJ)  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been taking a real pounding in the media ever since some of the details of the “Bridgegate” scandal have emerged.  The allegations are that Christie sought to retaliate against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D) for not supporting him in his reelection campaign last year. A series of damning e-mails have been made public between some of the Governor’s closest advisers and staff and Christie appointed official at the Port Authority, the bi-state agency that operates the George Washington Bridge as well as other vital infrastructure in the New York City Metropolitan area.  This likely would never have prompted the degree of scrutiny it has if Christie was not considered an up and comer in national Republican Party politics.  By some he was already viewed as a front runner for the GOP presidential race in 2016.  As of this time any presidential ambitions Christie harbored are in doubt and, depending on the results of several independent investigations, his remaining term in the State House in Trenton may also be in jeopardy.

By now the basic outlines of the series of events and their implications have been well documented in the media (see links below).  The appointment of a Special Prosecutor earlier this week and the 20 subpoenas handed down today indicate that this matter will be dissected and hopefully the truth will emerge.  Now, much of the discourse is about Chris Christie’s personality, character and political viability especially since he handily won reelection last November and was selected to head the Republican Governors Association.  Many in the GOP became enthused about the possibility of a Christie bid for the White House after his keynote speech at the Republican National Party Convention that nominated Mitt Romney as their candidate.  Many interpreted his largely self-centered speech that only mentioned Romney twice as Christie’s unofficially tossing his hat in the ring for 2016.  He was particularly as a popular, somewhat populist Republican Governor in a decidedly Democratic state.  Christie did appear to act with some measure of bipartisanship and has appeal for voters who self-identify as “Independent”. Some Party insiders, including many deep-pocketed donors are feeling much less enthusiastic about ever having put so much stock in Christie and their Party’s future.


New Jersey like some of the other “13 Original Colonies” is small by comparison to states further west.  It is home to almost 9 million people (2012 census data says 8.85 million) and is densely populated.  New Jersey is home to some of the country’s largest and most prestigious pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and petrochemical companies.  It has a long and storied history in areas as diverse as higher academics to inventors, innovators, industry and sports.  North Jersey is part of the largest media market in the United States, New York City, while the southern half of the state is covered by the Philadelphia based media.  In size it is among the smallest of our states but in importance and value it ranks among the most significant.

Perhaps because it is geographically awkwardly situated between New York City and Philadelphia, it has long been the brunt of inaccurate stereotyping, crude ethnic mischaracterizations, and an endless source of jokes based on misguided biases and unfamiliarity.  The New Jersey as often portrayed in stereotype is populated by Italian mobsters, Irish crooks, political corruption, strong-armed extortion and every other unsavory activity.  Where and how such stereotypes evolved is a discussion for another time.  Suffice to say at this time, they are all idiotic, narrow-minded and insulting.


Among the many and varied stereotypes about New Jersey is that it is a perpetual hotbed of down and dirty politicking run by corrupted old time Party machines and that its politics is a no-holds-barred, bare knuckled blood sport.  New Jersey has had more than its share of corrupt politicians but certainly in no way are corruption in politics confined to Jersey’s borders.  Various forms of corruption from nepotism to financial impropriety are still and have always been practiced on every level of governance in every state in the Union.  New Jersey might get more attention given the unrelenting klieg lights of its two neighboring media markets but only a fool would believe their politicians are all honest men and women serving only for the public, “greater good”.  Such noble concepts and aspirations have been drained out of American politics over the last 40 years.  One need not look too far from their own doorstep to see this to be the harsh, sad truth.

Politics today, be it in New Jersey or New Mexico, is all about hypocrisy, pandering, exploitation, power, influence and incumbency.  From local school boards and town councils to the Congress and White House corruption is the one constant element that clings to the corridors of power like so many coats of lead-based paint.  No one is innocent today, no one is beyond reproach, no state is nearly as squeaky clean as those who reside there would like to believe.



If the investigations unfold in such a way to prove the Governor did indeed abuse his power for retaliatory purposes, did strong-arm his political foes and endeavored to exact putative measures against those not on his personal bandwagon, then he is done.  It is that simple.  As has long been the case since Watergate, the problem is always “Not the crime.  It is the cover-up”.   Politicians from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton and countless Senators, Congressmen, Mayors, Sheriffs, Mayors and elected officials of every stripe have proven just how true this axiom is.  The media likes to preface some falls from grace saying “Americans are a forgiving people” and we might be at that.  What we are not, at least most of us, is forgiving when we perceive character flaws in our elected officials that impact their ability to carry out the duties associated with their Office.  Bill Clinton got a pass from the majority of Americans because his “scandal” involved his private personal conduct, even as tawdry as it was.  However, when a politician’s conduct in Office is of such a nature as to hurt or harm their constituency: that is an entirely different story with a decidedly different conclusion. 

There is a cautionary tale to be told about Chris Christie and the scandal he is currently embroiled in.  Certain personality traits that may be assets when seeking Office or as a matter of method of governance can also be a politicians undoing.  Christie, a large and larger than life character full of pugilistic bluster and bravado, an in-your-face roughneck wearing a white collar and a thousand dollar suit, was a welcome and widely supported Governor while the people of New Jersey perceived him to be working in their best interest.  His “take no prisoners” approach to the issues that plagued New Jersey when he first took the Oath of Office engendered a certain sense of shared identity between the Governor and the largely hard working, straightforward, blue collar New Jerseyians  who elected him in the first place.  That narrative is now subject to revision at best and may be his doom at worst.  If it is proven that he pushed the levers of government to the degree that many are alleging, he will have lost all faith with the people of New Jersey who do not suffer slights or insults easily.  If he acted in such a childish, petty manner, he is as good as gone from Trenton.

Of the 20 people related to the infamous GWB Lane Closure Scandal, if one testifies honestly under oath and the e-mailed trail of responsibility is proven beyond doubt to end on the Governor’s desk, it will be all over for Chris Christie.  He will become a victim of his own tough guy tactics; what were once viewed as his best assets will be the very same heavily weighted stones of his own demise and undoing.  And his fall from grace will be epic.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 16, 2014




(Thursday January 16, 2014 Moscow, RS)  From the heavily fortified United States Embassy complex here the city of Sochi Russia is 850 miles south.  Sochi, a resort town on the Black Sea will soon begin greeting athletic contingents and spectators for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.  While the location for the Games may be impressive there remain many serious questions regarding the security of the thousands expected to be in Sochi when the Games begin on February 7, 2014.  While Russia has put on a good show of force across their sprawling once divided nation many security, intelligence and counter terrorism professionals in the United States and some Allied countries are still expressing serious reservations regarding the Russian’s ability and resources to provide the level of security required.  The Olympic Games come at a time when many observers in the West see some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s domestic and foreign policy initiatives as less than progressive.  Some fear that Putin is slowly creeping back towards a more “Soviet Era” brand of totalitarianism and assuming a more belligerent posture towards the United States and other countries. The US Department of State has already issued a “travelers advisory” for any Americans planning to attend the Games and extraordinary security precautions will accompany American athletes to the Olympic Village as well as each specific sporting venue.

One need not look too far into the past to see other Olympic Games that have been more about geopolitics then amateur sport.  In 1980 both the Summer and Winter Games were boycotted by President Jimmy Carter as a protest against the USSR invasion of Afghanistan.  There were other countries that stood with the United States in the boycott. Jumping farther back in Olympic history to the 1930’s and, in particular, the 1936 Berlin Games were touted by the new Fuhrer of Germany, Adolf Hitler. Hitler was determined to show the world the best that his country had to offer while simultaneously demonstrating the athletic and genetic superiority of his “Aryan Nation”.  Much to Hitler’s chagrin American track and field athlete, Jesse Owens, an African American, won four gold medals. 

Between the nationalistic saber rattling of the Berlin Games played in the emerging shadow of a world war and the boycotts and protestations of the 1980 Games the 1972 Munich Games have gone down in history as an episode of terrorism and violence that the Olympic Games and the world were dramatically altered in their aftermath.  During the second week of the Munich Games pro-Palestinian terrorists infiltrated the Olympic Village and held 11 Israeli athletes hostage.  The siege ended in the death of all the Israelis held captive and a West German police officer.  What had quickly acquired the sinister designation of “The Munich Massacre” represented a paradigm shift in the world of terrorism and forever elevated security as the top priority of host cities, Olympic athlete’s housing and all sporting venues. 

It is quite an undertaking to play host to the Olympics.  Many host cities have learned this the hard way.  In recent years whatever economic windfall a host city was previously poised to reap, ever increasing costs associated with security on a grand scale and often widely scattered venues have offset, if not devoured, Olympic-generated revenues.

The Olympic Games pose a particularly appealing target for terrorists of every stripe.  Most of the countries of the world send at least a few athletes to compete in an event or they send large contingents composed of athletes that will partake in virtually every single event.  This is not just a grand stage for those competing or the host; it is equally as grand a stage as any terrorist could ever hope for.  Yes, there have been Olympic Games held in the post – 9-11-01 years and security was especially tightened.  What adds a layer of danger and complexity to the Sochi Games is time and place; Russia today is becoming increasingly volatile.  Once the unifying mortar of the old USSR eroded away and the Berlin Wall came crashing down burying the Cold War beneath the rubble, nation/states that had been independent sovereignties prior to the Communist Revolution wanted their independence back; they no longer would be repressed, oppressed, abused and ruled by an iron fist thousands of miles away.  Some of the most hazardous regions are in Central Asia known as the “Caucuses”. 

The Caucuses become better known to Americans after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda extremists were allowed to live, train, ploy and plan in the Taliban controlled perpetually ungovernable country of Afghanistan.  The countries immediately bordering Afghanistan are known as the “Other Stans”: Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Waziristan.  The Stans exist in some of the most rugged unforgivingly harsh environments on the planet.  The terrain itself is challenging; weather conditions can swing wildly from season to season.  This is no place for the uninitiated or uninvited.  The Soviet Union learned this lesson the hard way when the then CIA-backed mujahedeen warriors lead by bin Laden sent them devastated in defeat and retreat.  The Stans are predominately Islamic countries comprised of Muslims from the more moderate end of the spectrum to the ultra-zealous extremists. Russia has also had their former Soviet States of Chechnya and Georgia to contend with in recent years.  This very brief, crude synopsis of the geopolitical gears and levers of the region are presented only to emphasize the daunting task of keeping these Olympic Games safe and secure while terrorist activity has been on the upswing all across Russia, the Stans and Chechnya recently.


Within minutes of the July 4th, 2007 announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Sochi Russia would be the host of the 2014 Winter Games, the pistons and valves of our vast but still cumbersome Intelligence and Security apparatus went into motion.  From the very start in corridors from the stately CIA campus in Langley Virginia to the Pentagon’s Department of State Security Service, it was realized that having the Winter Games in Russia was going to be a challenge of immense proportions when it came to securing the athletes and spectators.  Some of the most vocal harbingers were in the CIA, seated at the Central Asia (The Stans) Desk, and they immediately began banging the warning drums that when the Olympics descended on Sochi they, along with a wide range of allied and cooperative security services were going to be in uncharted waters as the 2014 Games edged ever closer.

For some in our Foreign Service Security Detail, FBI, CIA and other Law Enforcement Agencies Russia is still an inherently dark almost evil land; some of the long time veterans see the Russia of today in the vein as the Soviet Union of yesterday. Certainly current events indicate that Putin’s Russia is determined to be a player on a larger scale internationally.  Russian leaders of Putin’s generation sometimes seem to long for the days when the USSR was a “Super Power” to the outside world.  We all learned after the collapse of the Iron Curtain that it was in reality a paper lion.

Putin has driven Russia incrementally down a retrograde path regarding personal freedoms, liberty and has enacted more repressive laws.  Now, with the eyes of the world prepared to focus on Sochi his domestic policies are under greater scrutiny.  Russia is a sovereign nation and as such has the absolute prerogative to enact whatever laws they see fit.  In some ways these tougher laws may have set the stage for the heavy military and security presence he has ordered for the duration of the Games.


Providing the necessary security for the athletes and spectators in Sochi and off-site venues is of course the responsibility of the Russian authorities.  As the host they play the lead role in all matters of safety and security.  That said, some matters of jurisdiction are a bit hazy; they are not as cleanly defined as one might think.

As has been reported elsewhere in the media the United States has dispatched a substantial contingent of security, intelligence and counter terrorism experts to Moscow and Sochi to liaise with their Russian counterparts.  It is the right of each participating nation to send security and protective personnel along with their coaches and athletes but the United States and some of our closest allies already have such personnel in place.  Over the course of the last six months American and allied experts have been in Russia coordinating the security efforts so that they will be firmly established by the time the Games begin.  Some reports have indicated that Russian authorities have been “less than cordial” regarding the presence of American personnel.  Whenever there is an event of this size with all its complex logistical elements and variables to consider, some degree of clashing is bound to occur.  Even here local Police Departments such as NYPD find themselves at odds with the FBI and Secret Service.  Inter-agency efforts are easy to map out on paper but the reality is often more clumsy.  Given the fact that the United States’ relations with Russia have been increasingly less cooperative, even hostile in some matters, it is vital that national interests do not interfere or impede in the implementation of security measures.  It is when some points of contention consume unreasonable amounts of time and effort that important details “slip through the cracks”, as one State Department Security Service official commented days ago.


By charter the Central Intelligence Agency is prohibited from conducting any operations on American soil; it has no jurisdiction in any way domestically.  But, since the Games are not being hosted here they have been very engaged in the planning of the Games.  Speaking not for attribution a CIA analyst who has worked the Central Asia Desk in Langley for many years recently said, “The Caucuses have been and will continue to be a nasty thorn in Moscow’s side until some of their concerns are rightfully addressed by Putin and the Duma (the Russian Parliament).  Now various groups have been conducting small isolated campaigns of terror.  A bus blown up here, a market attacked there and it does not seem like much.  However, if any one of these groups were to organize on a larger scale, they could really do some serious damage.  This is why we (the CIA) have been so active on the ground in the Caucuses”.


With the opening ceremonies in Sochi just 20 days away there are some positive items to report but they must be taken in context of the larger issues as have been discussed here.  For their part Russia is sparing nothing regarding security for the Sochi Games; they have assigned a host of their domestic law enforcement and security apparatus towards that end.  They realize that if anything of a terrorist nature was to occur during the Games it would transpire in front of a world-wide audience and that is a huge motivating factor for Putin.  He realizes just how much he has at stake here and appears determined to leave no stone unturned to assure the Games progress peacefully and smoothly.  Yes, he has been rattling his homophobic saber of late insisting that homosexuality is a byproduct of libertarian capitalism and contrary to Russian laws and society.  This is largely a cosmetic charade intended to poke a finer in the eye of the United States. 

Reports from American personnel already on the ground in Russia have been more cautiously optimistic than nervously pessimistic.  Hopefully there will be no unplanned events to interfere with the planned events and all will compete in the spirit of national pride and athletic sportsmanship.  That remains to be seen and , as one NYPD Detective stationed at Scotland Yard in a counter terrorism post commented, “We will all breath a huge sigh of relief when it’s all over.”

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved