BREAKING NEWS: About Howard Blum's New Book - DARK INVASION


HOWARD BLUM is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner American Lightning, as well as such bestselling books as Wanted!, The Gold Exodus, and Gangland. He is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While at the New York Times, he was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

The Daily Beast
This Week’s Hot Reads: Feb. 24, 2014
Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany’s Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America
By Howard Blum

That Howard Blum’s latest non-fiction thriller, Dark Invasion, has already been optioned by Hollywood comes as no surprise.
Set against the backdrop of World War I, Blum’s account of a far-reaching plot by German agents to undermine the American industry, assassinate J.P. Morgan, Jr., and bomb the Capitol building is a spy thriller of the first order.
Written in the propulsive, narrative style of Blum’s previous works, bestsellers like American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century and The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush, Dark Invasion is another page-turner that is compelling to such a degree that one begins to doubt its veracity. Truth is stranger than fiction, however, and no one knows that more than Blum.

He has a remarkable talent for both uncovering history’s most inexplicably forgotten stories—Eric Muenter, J.P. Morgan’s would-be assassin, is a character out of Hitchcock, a chameleon who assumed several different identities after poisoning his wife—and for writing non-fiction paced like a big-budget thriller. Dark Invasion is an utterly compelling story; with its investigation of homegrown and international terrorism, global politics, and national security, it is also remarkably relevant in this day and age.

Fighting Terror—Long Before There Was an NSA
Much like today, New York's top cop griped about the feds' stinginess with information.
Howard Blum
Feb. 10, 2014 7:25 p.m. ET

Consider this harrowing scenario: A well-financed terrorist cell enters America. Its operatives launch a deadly sabotage campaign against weapons factories and munitions depots. A bomb rocks the U.S. Capitol.

The nation's richest man, who is at the nexus of business and the military, is severely wounded in a bold assassination attempt.

Anthrax cultures are cultivated in a covert lab 6 miles from the White House, and then used in a biowarfare attack against targets in three cities.

The president is informed by an anxious adviser that "attempts will likely be made to blow up waterworks, electric lights and gas plants, subways, and bridges in cities like New York."

In response, an overwhelmed federal government turns to the more experienced New York Police Department and an elite team is quickly assembled to find the terrorists. It's a manhunt that takes these city cops up and down the East Coast. Not a bad movie, perhaps. Yet these events are not the galloping beats in some Hollywood plot about terrorism today. They are the linchpins of a true story—from 1915.

It was a time when a still neutral and unprepared America had to confront a covert terror network of the Kaiser's well-trained spies and their operatives, who were determined to do whatever was necessary to keep this country out of the European war. The German narrow logic was that if America felt threatened at home, the country would be reluctant to fight abroad.

In the somber aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA in its in-house journal characterized the nation's response to these incidents before America entered World War I as "protecting the homeland the first time around."

The cop leading the NYPD effort in 1915 was Capt. Tom Tunney, whose handpicked 12-man team waged its war against the terrorist cells in what can be seen as the precursor of a gargantuan Homeland Security HOMS -0.74% Timios National Corp. U.S.: OTCBB $1.34 -0.01 -0.74% Feb. 11, 2014 10:10 am Volume (Delayed 15m) : 5 P/E Ratio N/A Market Cap $3.15 Million Dividend Yield N/A Rev. per Employee N/A 02/06/14 TSA Bans Carry-On Liquids on F... More quote details and news » HOMS in Your Value Your Change Short position apparatus.

Yet in the 99 years since these first terrorists attacks, our responses to threats to the homeland are fundamentally unchanged. Sure, we now have a daunting national-intelligence apparatus whose high technology gives it the wizard's gift of near omniscience. Nevertheless, the flaw in this vast federal operational commitment—and it would not be unduly rash to characterize it as possibly fatal—is identical to what left turn-of-the-century New York so vulnerable: There is insufficient sharing of information.

After discovering that his city was in the cross hairs of numerous terrorist plots, New York Police Commissioner Arthur Woods in 1919 offered a prescient warning: "The lessons to America are as clear as day," he wrote. "We must not again be caught napping with no national intelligence organization." The federal authorities—then the U.S. Secret Service and the unarmed agents of the Bureau of Investigation—were not only, he felt, incompetent, but they had not shared with his department what little information they had gathered.

He decided that New York had to protect itself. "Although city police forces did not usually take it upon themselves to do such distinctly federal work," he explained, "we felt it was necessary because of the commanding position of New York as the greatest city and the greatest harbor in the country containing thousands of people of different nationalities."

Nearly a century later another frustrated New York police chief had a similar reaction. "It was doom and gloom," recalled former Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly in an interview last month, describing the city after the Twin Towers fell. "Our prime lesson was that we couldn't rely on the feds alone."

Mr. Kelly appointed a former deputy director of operations from the CIA to head the NYPD's intelligence activities and sent police officers around the world as the city's eyes and ears. Yet more than a decade later, he found himself fuming again that the feds were not sufficiently forthcoming, this time regarding what the FBI knew about one of the men involved in the Boston Marathon bombing. "We want information right away," Mr. Kelly insisted.

The potentially catastrophic consequences of not sharing knowledge have vastly expanded since the attacks of a century ago. Tom Tunney had to confront a single terrorist doctor, who orchestrated a biowarfare attack from a basement lined with a few racks of test tubes and petri dishes. (The targets were largely horses awaiting shipment to the European front; doctors later deduced that three human deaths were attributable to the attacks.) Today the government has identified 75 potential biological threats, all of which can be relatively easily manufactured. And in this open society, an America busy with Super Bowls and marathons, the potential targets have grown exponentially. In Tunney's era, 375,000 people rode the New York subways each day. There are 4.3 million passengers today.

This is scary stuff. It is also infuriating. The salient truth that can be drawn from the march of events between Commissioner Woods to Commissioner Kelly is that the next terrorist attack is inevitable. The fear that New York—as well as other cities—cannot depend solely on federal authorities for protection is as valid today as it was a century ago.

Mr. Blum, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, is the author of "Dark Invasion: 1915—Germany's Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America," just out from HarperCollins.


“Dark Invasion is a must-read for lovers of suspense and anyone who wants to understand how the basis of our homeland security system was born.” (Tom Reiss, New York Times bestselling author of The Black Count and The Orientalist)

“A suspense-filled tale, Dark Invasion uncovers a fascinating corner of history when courageous New York City police officers fought insurmountable odds to defend America against sophisticated German saboteurs at the start of World War I.” (Ronald Kessler, author of The Secrets of the FBI and In the President's Secret Service)

“In his gripping and expertly crafted narrative, Blum demonstrates that the best stories are true. Told in the great tradition of spy thrillers, Dark Invasion is the startling tale of German secret agents operating in the United States.” (Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century)

“I read Dark Invasion without stopping. It is a well-researched and exceedingly well-written account of a pre-World War I series of terroristic attacks on the United States, in this case perpetrated by Germans. It is full of good stories and characters.” (Norman Stone, award-winning author of The Eastern Front: 1914-1917 and World War One: A Short History)

“This is a wonderful story, with a cast of characters out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic, told in a style that is lucid, lyrical, even electric. Narrative history at its very best.” (Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of FOUNDING BROTHERS and AMERICAN CREATION, on American Lightning)

“Howard Blum has given us a fascinating–and hugely entertaining–glimpse into early 20th-century America.…And–eat your hearts out, novelists–it’s all true.” (John Steele Gordon, author of EMPIRE OF WEALTH: THE EPIC HISTORY OF AMERICAN ECONOMIC POWER, on American Lightning)

“The author’s eye for scene-setting and subtle explication perfectly mimics a Griffith-style camera. Blum is at his best…. Unfailingly entertaining.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review), on American Lightning)


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