Monday was going to be one busy day for all of us. Vicky and I were at Morton Field at 0600 leaving for Minnesota in one G5. When I was finished there, we were flying on to Columbia SC. I carried my dress blues and portable office on the plane.
Howie and four of his helpers were going in another G5 carrying two of the new bigger drones and upgraded devices.
Both C5s were flying to Windhoek; Bob’s Construction and crews were ready to go with the cargo split up between the two planes. Included this time were six Army surplus Humvees that had been checked out and upgraded by the mechanics.
With so many cars, trucks and equipment at the office and Morton Field, Marcy had finally given into Jason and Dad’s prodding to start our own repair shop for our own equipment. Too much time was being wasted moving things to the repair shop and then waiting for our turn to be repaired.
There were six more Humvees at Morton for whatever we would need them for. I was afraid that they were going to be grabbed. Dad, Jason, Jenny and Vicky had already expressed interest in one for traveling in bad weather.
Two man lifts and a flat bed truck were also making the trip this time, along with a dozen Job boxes of tools and supplies.
A replacement Suburban was also loaded to replace the one that was destroyed. Bob was confident he had all the supplies he needed. As Marcy had done at other places, she had rented a hangar at the airport to store things in.
We landed at Minneapolis St Paul International general aviation section at 0730. Suburban from the MAAR site were waiting on us. Traffic was a mess that made us half an hour late getting to the farm site.
There was a pair of army guards posted at the lane entrance with M16s who stopped us. I showed them my Federal ID and badge, then asked, “Who is in command here?”
“Major Carl Betts, he is up there by the house. He said to send you there when you came. There is also Len Zimmerman from the DHS waiting for you,” Corporal Hayes replied.
I drove to the command vehicle. When I stepped out it was obvious they were not having a good day. There were two of those British invented open field mine clearing machines parked in disarray. One was near the house and the other on the side of the lane. Both had been damaged by an IED.
A third one was still operating and was nearly finished making the final pass around the buildings.
We walked up to where the Major, Len and Kent Dalton (commander of the MSP) and his group were standing. They were watching a tracked robot bomb disposal unit start up the steps towards the door. The steps were concrete and it looked that the porch floor was a solid concrete pad.
The robot had mastered the steps and was slowly making its way across the pad to the door. There was an explosion; when the dust and smoke settled, the quarter million dollar robot was upside down in the yard mangled and burning.
“Do you have another one you want to send in?” I asked the Major.
“The equipment said that was concrete; if he doctored the concrete, what did he do in the house? No and we are not sending teams in the house either. We have to think this thing out,” he replied.
“What is your opinion Kent?” I asked.
“I’m glad we decided to follow the Army in on this one,” Kent replied.
“Well, I don’t have all day for debates. Howie, do your thing,” I said.
“Ten-four Boss,” he replied.
“No pictures – and that includes everyone – unless you want me to use your phone for target practice,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear.
Howie’s group began unloading the drones, devices, and laptops to control them. I listened as Howie explained the new equipment. This was the first time I had seen the new drones set up. The audience was as captivated as I was.
Howie said, “They are capable of carrying 200 pounds and more with additional motors installed. It also carries more batteries and can fly higher and the targeting cameras are improved models that give a more precise clear video.”
“The devices are also new. For one thing they are bigger, 150 pounds compared to 100 of the old ones. They are longer because the drone was rectangle instead of circular.”
“The nose has been hardened to give better penetration, the fins are designed to tear away at impact to allow better penetration of hardened structures,” Howie said.
I came close to asking how one hardened aluminum but thought better of asking in public.
With both devices checked out and armed, Howie waited for me to give authorization.
“Mission approved,” I replied.
The first device was dropped from 500 feet into the east end of the house. While the second drone was positioned there were a dozen explosions from within the house.
The second device was dropped into the west end of the house and more explosions followed.
I had Howie drop one more onto an addition built off the end of the house. Within minutes the house was a raging inferno driven by even more explosions.
Then I ordered devices dropped on both separate out buildings. The results were the same. Fire and explosions, with the biggest building where we thought the truck was stored caused a massive explosion. It was a good thing we were well away.
All together there were 40 secondary explosions after the devices exploded. Saif had booby trapped the place well, not caring who he killed with them. I wondered how many were placed around the farm waiting for victims.
“Major, when you get those two machines repaired I want the whole area run over with them, if you can,” I said.
The Major was interrupted by a call from the two guards, “There is fire equipment wanting to put the fires out?” one of them radioed.
“Negative on putting the fire out, I want it to burn out,” I replied. Then to emphasize my point there was another explosion.
“Kent, tomorrow when this mess has burned out, get a contractor with an excavator and dozer to dig a big hole and bury the remains deep. Tell him to stay on the equipment and not to be wandering around picking up souvenirs. Send me the bill,” I said.
The drones had just been put away when a news chopper made several low slow passes over head.
“If you get any calls, divert them to the task force,” I said to Kent and Len.
Howie and the crew went back to Morton as Vicky and I headed to South Carolina. I changed into my dress blues in flight. There was one more medal on the Blues since I had worn them in public last time.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was presented to me in a ceremony for the Kampala Embassy attack, while I was in Washington for the Senate investigation and hearings. It was a civilian award for both military and non military individuals.
I had plenty of time left so I took a quick look at my emails, taking care of those marked as important or urgent.
Then I read the questions we had asked Saif and his answers. Vicky had taken everything down in her unique shorthand. It had taken a while for me to learn how to read it but now I had it mastered. There were 60 pages for me to read.
As I read I made my own set of notes on the margins, things I needed to direct others to follow up on.
Saif had been far more helpful than he intended. It would take days to investigate the data and the new leads.
There had been three ships participating in the terrorist pipeline. The Exxon Val Diageo that Saif had used: the Amoco Sea Voyager and the Majestic Sea Horse.
The Exxon and the Amoco were modified while they were getting engine upgrades in Surat India in 2013. That meant that this operation had been going on for 4 years. The Majestic Sea was the new kid on the terrorist pipeline modified in December. She was to replace the Exxon Val Diageo.
The Exxon Val Diageo was to be scrapped after its current voyage due to serious structural problems so bad that it could break apart in a major storm.
The CIA had seized a floating time bomb and it was at anchor off the New Jersey coast. I wondered if the oil had been off loaded. I understood why the owner was not contesting the seizing of the ship by the CIA.
The owner was free and clear of all liability if it broke apart now, free of all salvage cost and free of the cost to transport it to Alang India or Chittagong Bangladesh – the favored scrap yard for dying ships.
Chittagong was the favored site because of the huge tidal changes, as much as 30 feet with a full moon. The wreckers anchored the ships offshore, waiting for a spot on the beach to become open.
When a spot was open, they pumped off all the ballast and ran the lightened ship aground at full speed during high tide, driving it well up on the beach. At low tide hundreds of workers – for pennies a day – with nothing more than sledge hammers and chisels would go about the task of tearing it apart.
Accidents that killed or maimed the workers were often. Several years ago dozens were killed when a cloud of ammonia from a refrigerant line was severed, filling several compartments with the deadly gas. Explosions were a major problem.
I called Frank and asked him if the oil had been off loaded and if he understood what Saif had said.
He did not and was going to call the Coast Guard and Marine engineers to evaluate the ship.
“Frank, you better not waste any time. We are still in hurricane season and a winter nor-easterner could blow up at any time. If that thing breaks apart with a million barrels of crude, you are in big trouble from Virginia to Newfoundland.”
“The hell with the courts and rules! Off load the oil under an emergency directive then fill that thing with ballast and put the money in escrow. The courts can decide what to do with it later. And find someone who knows what they doing so the thing does not break apart in the unloading process,” I said then ended the call.
We were in the landing pattern at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport – just a few minutes from landing – when my phone rang.
Parker Stoddard was the local DHS director for the region. “The SUV is at the airport waiting. After this is over a couple agents that assisted in the raid want the four of us to meet a few minutes. They would not say why,” he said.
“OK, that is no problem,” I replied.
The SUV carried us to one of those Mega churches you see on TV that could seat thousands and park thousands of cars. The SUV dropped us off at the long covered walkway into the church. Parker and other dignitaries were waiting on us as we stepped out of the SUV.
This was a major news day for Columbia; the local and national media was out in force. Reporters, TV cameras and still photographers were everywhere. There were plenty of introductions and handshakes
Without the crowd control tape and the officers lining the walkway, I felt sure we would have been mobbed as we made our way.
The reporters were following along outside of the tape as we walked when one the Columbia police officers snapped to attention and saluted.
I stopped, executed a right face and came to attention and returned the salute.
After wards he said, “ Semper Fi, Ma-am,”
“Semper Fi, Soldier; hang tough, it is going to be a long hard day,” I replied.
“Yes it is Ma-am. Yes it is,” he replied.
We continued into the church and after a few introductions I joined the officers waiting their turn at the standing guard positions. Vicky found a seat in the reserved section. The six flag draped coffins were in a row.
At the head and foot of each coffin was a standing guard. Every three minutes a bell rang and the guard stepped to the next coffin. The process was going to take 40 minutes. Every three minutes a new officer joined the standing guard and one left.
After my turn Parker and the minister escorted me back to see the families. It was the hardest hour emotionally that I had in a long time.
The memorial service was short – all things considered – but there had been one this morning and one in the afternoon to help with the massive crowds.
After the memorial Parker, Vicky, Oliver Hamilton, Skip Brace and I went into a private room for the meeting they wanted.
“Ambassador Jones, Skip and I were the two that captured Saif and put him on a plane alive and well, yet 12 hours later you made a public announcement that he was dead. What gives with that – it looks shady,” Oliver said as serious as he could be.
“You have to understand and agree that this discussion is classified,” I said, to which they agreed.
“Due to the seriousness of the raids and connected events, Saif was subjected to aggressive and enhanced interrogation methods. We just did not feel we could wait weeks and months to get information from him.”
“Those methods were conducted by a handpicked team of specialist from four federal agencies. The interrogation yielded 60 pages of names, dates, places of other terrorist bomb plots, leaders and other valuable leads in the fight to end terrorism,” I said then continued.
“Saif gave up his controller, that’s right; his controller who we believe is over other terror cells and groups in the United States, Mexico and Canada. That controller and his second in command are in custody as we speak.”
“Saif also confirmed who is providing financing for US terrorist operations; a so called respected political figure in the Middle East. A special OPS team is on standby – if the opportunity presents itself – to eliminate that individual.”
“Saif did not survive the interrogation. His body was disposed of and that disposal was witnessed by the individuals of the four agencies. His ashes were sent down the flush. There will be no grave to draw and motivate other terrorists or the media blood-thirst; the same as with the disposal of Bin Laden.”
“Does that answer your concerns?” I asked.
“Good. There shall never be a word, not even a whisper about this conversation ever again. Understood?” I said.
“Yes Ma-am, thank you for clearing that up for us,” Oliver said.
“You may or may not see it on the news tonight but the place where Saif made the suicide vests and bombs was destroyed in a joint operation. It was led by the Army demolition team from Fort Riley, along with the DHS and Minnesota State Police this morning.”
“The Army lost 3 pieces of equipment to IEDs; Saif had planted over 40 at the site,” I said.
“Gentleman, I hate to run but my day is far from over. I hope to get back in a few weeks and hold a formal combined meeting with all the teams that raided the building,” I said.
It still took an hour to get away from the church. So many officials were playing the game of politics, even at a funeral.
Even I didn’t get to escape without a question from the media, “Ambassador Jones, when you stopped on the way in to salute the police officer you addressed him as ‘soldier’. Why?”
“The six men under the flags were all former soldiers. Today in mourning we are all fellow soldiers as I have been and in my heart, shall be forever,” I replied.
The flight was quiet. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and Vicky must have been too. But then there were still urgent emails to deal with.
My trip must have opened eyes at the White House; there was a lengthy email detailing the administrations involvement in the rest of the memorials and funerals. The Vice President and the Attorney General were going to the rest of them. That suited me just fine.
The hot tub, several Buds, the boys and quiet time together with my mates and a good night’s sleep was what I needed, and was what I got.
Morning still came too early but I was energized and anxious to get to Washington. There was a lot to do with Saif’s information.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.