When I keyed up the MTAC call, Dick James – the Secretary of State – was already on the split screen with Troy and the President on the other side.
“What are you doing in Portugal?” the President asked.
“I am fulfilling contract obligations in our State Department contract, plus investigating complaints from my security teams. You are not going to like the results of the investigation report; there are serious problems to be addressed connecting embassy personnel to terrorists,” I replied.
“The Portuguese Ambassador is raising hell that you are holding meetings with other foreign dignitaries and that they were not notified or invited. He is on his way over here now demanding answers and to file an official complaint. What kind of meetings did you conduct at the airport?” Dick asked.
“We were all in the customs area waiting to go through the process and they recognized me and wanted to talk and take pictures. I didn’t think it proper to tell them to go to hell; after all they do vote with us some of the time at the UN. It was just general conversations about general topics,” I replied.
“When are you coming back?” Troy asked.
“Not for a week; I have three other embassies in the area with the same style complaints to check out, along with a courtesy visit and sightseeing tour of historic Israel before I head home. I intend to leave here and go to Spain after I interview the evening security team,” I replied.
“I have to step away to take a call from the Prime Minister of Portugal; stay on the line,” the President said.
While he was gone I gave a brief overview to the Secretary of State about what the investigation had reveled. He was as unhappy about the proceedings as I was.
“An operations assessment team just completed their work two months ago of the Portuguese embassy. There were minor problems but nothing reported like this,” Dick said.
“Who did your team interview? My men would have requested guidance from our office if they had been interviewed, especially if they thought they were going on the record. Our procedure is that they report operational concerns to us before they initiate actions there. Issues at one embassy certainly can involve other embassies. I received no request for guidance,” Vicky replied.
“I don’t know! If the directive was viewed as for leadership only, then the ball was dropped and we have horrible gaps in the assessment making it worthless. This assessment was result of the Korean embassy problem your people reported months ago. It was supposed to correct the problems that were brought to light there, yet problems continue it seems,” Dick said.
I did not tell Dick that I had with – the exception of a few – the videos of the interviews that Deputy Ambassador Barakat had done and green lighted their trip to America. I wanted Robert and the task force to run all of that through the systems. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the names already on the watch list.
We were still discussing the problem and how to deal with it when the President came back on the line, only to be interrupted.
Ambassador Taylor came busting through the door slamming it against the door stops, rattling the pictures on the wall into the MTAC center, “WHERE IN THE HELL IS THAT STUPID ASS BOSS OF YOURS AT?”
He came to a stop in front of the MTAC camera and screen; horrified when he realized who was on the screens.
“Just which boss do you want to talk to since you interrupted a classified private conversation?” I asked.
“Karl does the in-use light work on the outside of the door?” I asked.
“Yes Ma-am, checked at the beginning of each shift,” he replied.
I started to stand up.
Troy was yelling from behind the President, “BJ, don’t hurt him! He did not use any of the four letter words, just rough him up a little.”
“Taylor, sit down and shut up,” Dick ordered him.
“BJ – as you probably know – the Portuguese media has taken their total lack of information and blown it out the roof to damage the government; a little damage control is needed. Prime Minister Aleixo Cordeiro and I have discussed the situation and believe that a state visit to the presidential palace by you and Vicky is the best way to defuse the issue and smooth ruffled feathers.”
I hate to ask you to change your plans but can you make a visit to the palace for a discussion on terrorism with all the right individuals and a state dinner after? Prime Minister Cordeiro suggested 1700 hrs. I know it is an inconvenience; but please?” the President asked.
“Well, we will be there to smooth ruffled feathers, but you will owe me. I will send someone to get better clothes from the plane than what we are wearing. We did not expect to be doing state diners today,” I said with a smile.
“Dick – you and I need to have a face to face meeting when I get back; there are other issues you need to address ASAP and I’m not going into the details right now,” I said.
“I understand BJ; meeting at your office at the White House. BJ, will you excuse us while the President and I issue corrective verbal discipline, better known in lay circles as an ass chewing session with Taylor,” Dick said.
“Talk with you tomorrow,” I replied.
I sent part of the security team, two of the Mossad ladies and two men who would be our escorts for the evening back to the plane to get clothes suitable for Vicky and me to be at a state dinner. I was glad I asked all on this trip to bring at least two sets of upper crust clothing, just in case. You know that ‘Always be prepared’ scout motto comes in handy sometimes.
A text from Troy instructed that we were to go without Taylor. When he came out of MTAC he looked like a whipped puppy. Someone took the wind out of his sails.
“I’m sorry for barging in on your MTAC call. I have been recalled to Washington the end of next week for consultation meetings, one of which I was told that you are going to conduct. Troy instructed that I should stay at least out of arms reach of you for the time being,” Taylor said and then quickly left.
There were several more calls from the White House setting up the fine touches on my first state visit as guest of honor- or the pig in the barrel – depending on the point of view.
At 1630, the designated time arrival our convoy consisting of our two Suburbans and six Portuguese federal police and other cars stopped at the elaborate steps to the Presidential Palace.
The steps were filled with all kinds of reporters and dozens of TV cameras I even saw ZNN’s European unit. There were so many reporters that I was glad I was wearing the thin heavy duty vest that I liked so well.
A flash from my memory reminded me that not long ago an assassin had infiltrated the press pool at an affair similar to this one to kill a politician and was successful. Pig in the barrel may have been an appropriate thought after all.
There were dozens of palace police and I saw no weapons on any of them, other than the ceremonial sword. They were lined up on the steps, some facing the crowds and some facing us, giving us a clear path to the top of the steps where we were to meet and do the public greeting for the media.
My security exited the vehicles first and walked with us to the top steps to greet Prime Minister Cordeiro and a dozen assembled officials; all of them wanting to make the best of the free PR.
Vicky and I shook hands and were having a ‘how are you conversation’ with Prime Minister Cordeiro and the Vice Prime Minister when the distinctive automatic gunfire of several AK 47s erupted from down at the street level behind us. Bullets were ricocheting off the wall all around us.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.