It was 1300 on the nose when Ben Smith, Lesley Holtman, Bobby Canterberry and I went through the Pentagon security station. We were directed to meeting room 4.
I knew where room 4 was; that was the room where I met General Walton when we were discussing the initial C5 contract.
The people we were to meet were not in the room waiting and we were only a few minutes early. Ten minutes after the scheduled time, they were still not in the room; clearly an example of rank and authority that had been demonstrated at most high level meetings I had ever been to. It was an unwritten rule that high ranking officers always made the peons wait a show of power and its perks.
In the hall outside the meeting room was a desk similar to the ones used by high school students years ago. They must have been Government Issue forever. The chairs never fit and the desks were too small for adults.
I sent Ben and Lesley to bring both in and placed them opposite the big table. We waited another half hour before the members arrived. I moved all the water pitchers and glasses off the table.
Army chief of staff General Fillmore, Marine Lt. General David Wright, Air Force General Marvin Houlihan and Army General Alfred Drake finally came in and took seats at the table.
I recognized Lt. General Wright immediately; the last time I had seen him it was Major Wright. I wondered if he remembered me? He soon would. I walked over to the mismatched desk and chair and sat in the chair.
“My, my how things seem to go around if you wait long enough. Five years ago on July 1, 2012 at Kandahar Afghanistan. It was a fact finding investigation, preliminary to a court marshal for the ambush of convoy 12630. I sat at a table identical to this one for four hours being interrogated on the first day without counsel or being offered even a drink of water or a bathroom break,” I said then added.
“Do you remember the investigation? You were Major Wright back then.”
The General’s eyes went to the ceiling then down to the table, before looking at me.
“I knew I recognized you from somewhere, those were not good times; the war was going badly. The pressure was on change that, find out why and put a stop it. Some things were just not handled very well, especially when the emphasis was on putting the blame on people who were following orders,” he said.
“Just about the way the war on terror is going,” I replied.
“Enough of ancient history, let’s deal with some current events. I just received the reports with redactions an hour ago, that I should have had days ago without redaction,” I said.
“Let’s start with the targeting information. How many sources do you use before you determine you have a valid target?” I asked.
“That’s classified,” General Houlihan replied.
“Who makes the target selections?”
“Classified,” General Houlihan replied.
“What is the time lapse from determining you have a valid target of opportunity and delivery of the munitions on the target?” I asked.
“Classified,” General Houlihan said again.
Ben was sitting at the table, slowly shaking his head at every answer.
“General Fillmore, the verification processes itself; do you get boots on the ground to do a visual on the body and collect DNA?”
“General Wright, do the Marines put boots on the ground to verify, or use third party verification?” I asked.
General Wright – taking a page from the others – replied, “Classified.”
The agreement with the administration was set up that all reports that I required were to be void of redaction, I was to have full access and cooperation when I accepted the task force job. Obviously that was not the case where this group within the Pentagon was concerned.
“Excuse me for just a minute while I make a phone call,” I said as I stepped out of the room.
“You do not know who you are dealing with, do you?” Ben said after the door closed.
“She is just a short term political appointee,” General Drake replied.
“Then you didn’t do any research on Ambassador Jones at all. She has a broader top secret clearance than either of you. Your top secret clearance is Pentagon and service specific,” Ben said then continued.
“Her top secret clearance covers DHS, NSA, CIA, FBI and the State Department. Why, because her security group has undercover OPS ongoing with all of those agencies; some are national and many others are international,” Ben said and continued.
“Her embassy security teams are all ex-military, most of them Special Forces or special operations; they are investigated and cleared by NSA and CIA before they are hired and sent to their locations. The work they are doing can be that sensitive.”
“They are assigned intelligence gathering, trained in hostage extraction, and in some cases mission ready. She has a Special OPS and a Rapid Response team that HER planes can deliver worldwide in 24 hours. Those teams have drones capable of dropping antipersonnel and dumb bombs as well as delivering covering gunfire.”
“She has been a team member on some of those secret operations. I have seen pictures and videos of her viciousness and brutality on those missions,” he said. “The JBG intelligence group INFORMED the agencies of the pending attacks on Kampala, Windhoek and the Minneapolis University; they knew and confirmed it before we knew anything.”
“It was not by accident that Jones was at Kampala; she volunteered with her OPS team to be Ambassador for what everyone thought was a suicide mission.”
“The JBG team at Kampala and Minnesota collected intelligence and surrendered individuals who are yielding a trove of information even today.”
“I guess you have not heard that three days ago she punched the assistant Chief of Staff in the face, knocking him over a chair, busting his lip and nose because of his mouth in the Oval office with all the staff there.”
“I’m willing to bet she is reading the President the riot act because you are not living up the agreement the President made with her. You do not lie to her, and believe me, you do not want to be on the wrong side of that lady – even on your best day,” Ben said.
I open the door just as Ben was finishing his speech, “Mr. President, I am back in the room and you are on speaker.”
“General Fillmore, your instructions – in writing – were detailed in that the Pentagon was to supply all reports requested without redaction and that all questions the Ambassador asked were to be answered in full detail. Ambassador Jones has the highest level of clearance. Are there issues that I do not know about?”
“No Sir, an aide read me highlights of your instructions and not the details. I will address that mistake with him. We will start over with the questions and I will have the reports in the expected format delivered immediately,” General Fillmore said.
“Thank you Mr. President, I hate to bother you with this kind of thing,” I said.
Three hours later I had all the answers I needed. The confirmation process – as it was being done – was unreliable, almost useless in some cases. In some instances the only confirmation was the video that the target had been blown up; there was no way to know for sure who was in it.
In other instances it was terrorist radio traffic that only confirmed that there had been a strike and possibly certain individuals were in the area. Excitement, haste and the fog of war made random radio traffic unreliable. In some cases there had been DNA collected by friendly forces; those that fought for who-ever promised the most and paid the best for today.
That is what the DOD had received to confirm that Saif had been killed: a tiny piece of an earlobe and a fingertip that showed no sign of burns from a missile attack. An earlobe or fingertip was an easy thing to lose for a terrorist to gain months in life.
Saif had escaped by playing the system; the terrorist were getting smarter. I wondered how much he had paid the friendlies and how much the DOD had paid the same people.
It was strictly forbidden in Islam for true followers to desecrate the body of another Muslim. That was one of the reasons the ISIS was so hated; they placed more emphasis on fear from gruesome atrocities of Muslims to keep people in line and afraid of them.
That was why there were no autopsies performed and the religion wanted the bodies buried as soon as possible. That was why there were no large body pieces for DNA; no hands, arms, feet or legs.
All said and done, the error rate was 20%. It was kept hush hushed; the opinion was they would get the target another day as soon as they slipped up and became visible.
Saif was the exception; the attempt on his life filled him with rage and determination to hit back at US soft targets and drove his exodus to the US. The question was, how big was his group that came with him and how entrenched? Were they recent arrivals or did Saif take over a sleeper cell that had been recruiting and planning for years?
General Fillmore, Army General Drake and I discussed the raid on the farmhouse then made out the orders. The Explosive Ordnance Teams and soldiers would come out Fort Riley Kansas. They would pre-stage at the Minnesota National Guard training facility at St. Cloud on 95 East.
The guard site was less than 50 miles from the farm. The planned deployment was two Cobras, four Blackhawks, 4 MRAPS, half a dozen armored Humvees and a total of 50 soldiers with live ammo, full battle gear along with full gear for the ordinance experts, including dogs and robots.
“Better be prepared for the worst and not need them than lose men because they were understaffed and unprepared,” General Drake replied.
“My sentiment exactly, I am a believer big guns, big bombs, plenty of ammo and men to make it work.”
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.