With Roberts’s latest reports, I was meeting with Ben, Eric, Frank, Anne and Andrew. It was to be the last meeting until I returned from Portugal. The ISIS contact had emailed Tiam – therefore General Kadar – the pictures of the twenty girls and their chaperons; not only pictures but their travel plans – flight numbers and all. They were making the flight to the US the third week of July.
An enormous debate ensued. A couple of members – especially from the FBI – wanted to pick them up at the airport. I quickly shut that down; such a move would kill the intelligence source.
“How do you know that this is not them checking their communications for breaches? They could be waiting at these airports to see if we show up in force,” I said.
“We know when they are coming. What better information can we have than the information on their passports? Not only that, when they come through customs we could get weight, height, multipoint facial scans, full finger and hand prints and possibly DNA. Plus anything with them would be scanned for data; the customs search could be very thorough. We needed to make sure an agency specialist is working in customs the days they are to arrive,” I said.
I cornered Eric to have a new rule implemented that all persons arriving on either a student visa or a work visa had to submit to a mouth swab DNA sample to be added to the visa file at the point and time of entry.
Eric was not happy but when he saw how serious I was and the arguments for it, he agreed. The logistics were going to be a nightmare at customs entry points. Eric was going to issue an emergency rule effective in ten days.
Ten days was barely enough time to get the kits and training but it had to be done. I was sure I would hear more from the White House – oh well, I had big shoulders.
Back at the White House it was soon time to leave. I made one phone call to Hanna. Then I sent a Secret Service agent out to find Melinda Schaffer and her camera man Nick Cote to bring them to the side media room.
The side media room was where a reporter who was granted special access to administration VIP’s could do a one on one interview.
“Melinda, Nick are your passports valid?” I asked.
“Yes, but why do you ask?” Melinda replied.
“Be at Morton Field at 1400 so you can go through customs, the plane leaves at 1500 with or without you. Pack for four days – the temperatures are in the low 60s and daytime highs will be low to mid 80s,” I replied.
“Nick, bring enough equipment to do remote broadcasts” I added.
“Where are we going?” Melinda asked.
“I cannot tell you and you cannot tell anyone – not even your bosses – that you are leaving or for how long. To do so may mean the difference of walking down the plane steps or getting carried out of the cargo bay in a body bag when the plane comes back home. You will be able to do a live broadcast tomorrow. They will know where you are then,” I replied.
I felt sure Andy had all the possibilities covered but there was always the chance. One of those ‘never say never’ things.
Back in Section 12 I informed Anne, Andrew and Ben I was leaving and would not be back until Monday. On the way out I let Troy and the President know I was going to go to Portugal.
“Good luck, keep your head down and stay out of the headline news,” Troy said.
He already knew that was not going to happen.
I arrived home at 1230 and had lunch with the girls and boys, then went through the list of things that had been packed. Then there was the list of things that needed to be packed and it was down to a few items.
At two we were at Morton looking over the plane. All the seats were back in the plane; in fact, it had made several paying flights since it had brought us back from Israel. I checked to make sure the fancy dresses had been properly stored as well as all the other items for the State dinner Vicky and I were going to attend.
Gordon Decker was going to be my escort to the dinner and Sid Ortel was going to be Vicky’s. I double checked to make sure the tux, shoes and the like were packed. The jewelry was packed and locked.
When I went back into terminal, Hanna and Jed Hoover were waiting. While we were making small talk Melinda and Nick arrived with their baggage and gear.
To leave the United States on commercial flights one needs to go through customs here for departure inspection to prove you are not a fugitive, mass murder or wanted for other various crimes. When you arrive at your destination you will have a much faster trip through customs or you will have a very long wait with the customs process.
One of the documents that they needed was tickets with all the information to be processed. The tickets were labeled as JBG Aviation flight 725 Direct to Lisbon Portugal with return tickets in the packet. Hanna and Melinda would know where we were going as soon as I handed them the tickets.
Lorrie had started this procedure for tracking purposes in case the inevitable ever happened and we lost a plane; there would be a hard list of everyone on board. Marcy was onboard with it so she could have a written record and generate flight cost and prices for the future.
Every flight that I went on I was issued a ticket; usually, I did not pick them up unless the flight was out of the country.
“I’ll remind you – don’t tell anyone where we are going. Go through customs; we are soon ready to go,” I said as I handed them the tickets.
Everybody who was going was here and I was ready to go. It was a long flight, seven hours with five time zone changes. We would leave here at 3 PM and arrive in Lisbon at 3 AM Wednesday their time. It would be daylight by the time we were through customs and in the motel room to freshen up for the day that was planned.
The girls and I went to Lorrie’s office for a few more moments of affection and private good bye.
It was 1445 when the wheels left the runway. I did what I always did on a flight like this – reviewed with Vicky what we needed to do when we arrived and then went to sleep. I would need the energy and having my wits not clouded by the need for sleep. My entire team – to the man – did the same thing.
At three the copilot woke me up; we were going to be a little late landing. We were in a holding pattern for twenty minutes. I called Biff Leland to tell him that we would be a few minutes late.
Biff had been in the Special OPS team for four years and had been involved in practically all the ops missions. When Bill was killed he applied for the position of team leader to replace him. Andy and I had been pleased with his performance so he got the job. Biff was in command of the ground security team.
Terry Bozman was one of the Blackhawk pilots and in command of the four helicopters the C5 had dropped off – two Blackhawks and two Hueys. If necessary he could also draft the two from the embassy if needed. Both men reported to Andy when he stepped off the plane.
It was 0330 when we stepped off the plane and 0400 when Vicky and I walked through customs. All our luggage was labeled diplomatic so there was no inspection; a diplomatic courtesy.
All eight of the new Suburbans that the C5 had left off were in the passenger pickup line waiting, along with two from the embassy. Biff and Terry exited vehicle number four as we approached. Andy joined us as we placed our bags in the back.
We talked while the rest of the group made it through customs. Biff gave the schedule of today’s plans; it was almost word for word with the plans I had worked out on the phone.
Vicky and I were to walk up the steps of the Presidential Palace at 1000. I listened while Biff and Terry described all the precautions and placement of JBG security personnel.
By the time we were finished, everyone had made it through customs and was in a Suburban. The convoy stopped in front of the Corinthia Hotel of Lisbon. With today’s arrivals, Marcy was paying for fifty rooms; as usual she had negotiated a big discount. JBG has the two top floors again.
All the rooms had two full sized beds. All the men were two to a room and it was the same for the ladies. The two TV ladies had the same room and their camera men in another room.
Vicky and I had a joining room only because we needed the other room – possibly for a meeting and greeting room – the staff had removed the beds and replaced them with table and chairs. We were sleeping in the same bed; the other bed was to put things on.
It was in that meeting room those final preparations for the day was set in motion. I had Andy assign Craig Dexter to the TV people. He was to get them in place and set up before we were to arrive at the palace steps. Then all of us went to the hotel restaurant to eat breakfast.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.