A PATRIOTIC NIGHTMARE
A Tale of Domestic Terrorism
THE OVAL OFFICE
Friday Evening, March 14
President Carl Evans strode into the Oval Office where members of the Cabinet, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the NSC waited. Some stared at their notepads, others off into space. On this particular evening, with so much death and destruction visited upon the nation once again, the President's tight-set jaw and quick pace reflected his anger.
He began by stating, "I've observed Washington from various windows on the top floor of the White House. My God, it's like a war zone! Smoke and fire are billowing up all over the place. There are explosions every few minutes. And the evidence continues to be that these are not Muslim terrorists but our own damn crazies.”
Turning toward General Burcks and the Attorney General, he grimly stated, "Get the U.S. Marshals and National Guard units around sensitive federal sites immediately. I assume the order I signed earlier putting all National Guard units under federal control has been activated. Are the governors following through?"
Burcks replied, "To answer your second question first, some are, some aren't, Mr. President."
"Why aren't they all?" he said, his neck muscles bulging.
"Mr. President, as your National Security Council has reported on various occasions the last few months, these patriotic groups have neutralized many governors and National Guard units. We don't think you can rely on them even if they do take up defensive positions. Some would return fire, but many others would not. Some might even fire on our own troops." There was a moment of stunned silence.
"This means my only option is to mobilize our active military forces, is that right?"
"Yes, sir. That seems to be the case. In answer to the first question you asked, Mr. President, the fact that all these events are taking place earlier than the nineteenth of April, as we had assumed and planned, indicates we may have a leak."
The President stared at Burcks for several seconds, scanned the other members of his administration, and then in a steely, clipped voice said, "Damn! How did we get in this position? I've got to surround federal properties in every single damn state to protect them from our own citizens! Not from the Russians. Not from Mideast terrorists as we’ve recently had to do. No! Our own goddamn people. And you are telling me we can't even trust our National Guard units! And, as if that’s not enough of a kick in the ass, you’re saying that we have traitors in this administration. Ain't that a bucket of cold spit?" The President hammered the desk with his fist. ”
"May I suggest, sir," an aide said, seemingly unmoved by the President’s outburst, "that we move you and some key White House staff to the safety of the underground facilities?" Members of the cabinet nodded their agreement.
"Hell, no!" he shouted. Then, through clenched teeth, he droned, "I'll die here before I'll let those two-bit traitor-sons-of-bitches force the President of the United States to leave his office!" He glared at the group for a few moments, then turned, locked his hands behind his back and walked to a window overlooking the rose garden.
The Secretary of State whispered to the Secretary of Defense, "I think we better keep our mouths shut until he calms down." Finally, the President turned and slowly walked back to the table.
Calmly and softly he said, "Okay. How are we going to deal with this?"
The head of the FBI, Gordon Inglis, reported, "According to our terrorist task force, these people have not heretofore been organized. At least not in a conventional sense. One or two people carry out a bombing or an assassination and keep their activities to themselves."
"Just like Al-Qaida. Yet it's obvious that there's some coordination going on somewhere," the President said. “Who’s the Osama in our backyard?”
"Mr. President," Burcks said , "We think there’s a number of leaders. We know that some charismatic ex-military men have been traveling the country teaching phantom cell guerrilla warfare to militia and anyone else that will listen."
"Have we become another banana republic?" the astonished President asked, scanning the group and waiting for an answer, but none came. He then asked, “Didn’t we learn anything from the Al-Qaida attacks? How can these people do this after living through the World Trade Center attack? I find it incredible that Americans can passionately laud democracy with one breath, and in the next, damn the political leadership whom they’ve elected. My God, has everyone gone insane?”
"And not all of these military participants are exes," Burcks said.
"What do you mean?"
"I know it sounds crazy, Mr. President, but there's a lot of support for this new patriotism among the rank and file of our military and law enforcement personnel. For example, we suspect that the Warthog we thought had been downed in Colorado is really stolen. It was an act of defection by a pilot working with the extremists."
Looking across the table at the Secretary of Defense, the President asked, "Is that right?"
"Yes, sir, I'm afraid so."
Looking toward the Secretary of Defense the President asked, "How long have this pilot’s superiors known that he supported the extremists?"
"They didn’t know, sir."
"Oh, hell! Why haven't we arrested any of these people for treason?" the President, asked, rubbing his forehead in anguish.
"Mr. President, what we know and what we can prove in a court of law are two different things," the Attorney General said. "We can't arrest people for expressing their opinions or owning guns. They have to do something illegal."
"Aw hell, I know that. But a number of these patriots have robbed banks and committed all sorts of crimes. Why aren't they in jail?"
The Attorney General continued, "While there are warrants for the arrest of some of these men, getting to them without drawing fire and risking the lives of others has proven difficult."
"Also," the Director of the FBI interjected, "the warrants are for tax evasion, driving without license plates or driver's licenses and other such acts. While we can probably get a conviction once we catch them, the general public has been sympathetic to their cause."
"So we now we let these nuts bomb and kill?" the President shouted, as his right arm swept out toward the windows toward and the city of Washington. "It's a damn shame they're not working for the country. Any group that can smuggle millions of dollars worth of Russian weapons into the United States without being caught and carry out this kind of destruction right under our noses has lots of moxie!"
Another period of silence fell over the group as the President again turned, locked his hands behind his back as though in deep contemplation and walked back to the windows. Finally, he turned to the group and in a calm voice said, "Okay. Let's go clean out any and all ammo depots, and let’s move to take the leaders of this movement at all costs, even if we have to arrest them for loitering. Screw the public relations crap. Hopefully innocent people won’t get hurt, but Goddamn it, this shit’s going to stop." Turning and pointing at the Attorney General, he said, "Get your staff to prepare the legal stuff to support this immediately."
The Attorney General nodded.
Eyeing his chief -of-staff, the President said, "Get the White House staff working with members on Capitol Hill. They need to support this wholeheartedly. Then, let's get our message out to the American people. I mean, damn it, I want a barrage of information detailing every dastardly thing these people have done over the years. And wrap Al-Qaida’s shroud around them from head to foot. Understood? Then let's get at it. I don't want to go down in history as the last American President of a free, democratic society."
NSC OFFICES, OLD EXECUTIVE OFFICE BUILDING
Saturday, March 15
Darren arrived at his office Saturday morning, along with the rest of the NSC staff. He found Jo Clark hard at work. "Darren, wow, you look shot! Oops! Excuse the expression."
"Yeah," he replied, as they both laughed.
"The General wants to see you. Go on in. He's got some other staff in there."
As Darren entered, he found him engaged in a conference call with the President, the Director of the FBI, the Major General in charge of military intelligence and the Director of the CIA on a speakerphone, as a few other NSC staffers listened.
Over the speaker phone Darren heard the President say, "Yes, I've ordered regular military units to each state to take control of reserve units. If any governor gets in the way, arrest the SOB. But I also want all other projects put on hold and everyone to focus on the problems we're facing with these terrorists. When's the task force meeting again?” Before anyone could answer, the President said, “I want that bunch meeting around the clock. I want further solutions to this nightmare. We can't afford to look back and say, 'Golly, gee-whiz, wish we had done this, or wish we had done that.' I want to wake up soon and find it all behind me! Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Burcks answered, and each of the others in their turn. The President hung up. Burcks, speaking to the other members involved in the conference call, said, "Well, fellas, we've got our marching orders."
"Fine," the others echoed.
Turning to Hopkins as the other filed out of his office, he said, "Darren, I want you to stick with that terrorist task force like ticks on a hound dog.”
“Okay. Is there anything specifically I should watch for?”
“Just keep an eye on its general operation. See if action is carried out. All federal bureaucrats are subject to a disease called institutional numbness caused by career fear. And this numbness does not give birth to creative action. It’s crippling."
"I understand," Darren replied. "How are you feeling?"
"Oh, crap. I feel like the lady with twelve kids who was asked what the very worst thing she could get on her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and answered, 'Morning sickness.' I feel sick. Everyone I know is sick about all this. We've got to recover.”
“Yes, sir. I got a disturbing phone call and thought you ought to know about it.” Darren reported what he knew and played the tape from his answering machine.
The General listened intently. “Yeah, take that over to the Bureau next time you go and see what they can figure out.” There was a pause as the two men considered further action. Burcks broke the silence by saying, "You know these crazies are probably just playing with your mind. They love to intimidate and scare people.”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking. How would they even know about Ann? It had to leak from someone we know in the administration. How else?”
“That’s certainly true. Of course, they could have tapped into your phone conversations over the months.”
“That’s possible. Well, I’ll get this to some people who might be able to tell us something. And I'll call Bangkok again tonight.”
Darren left Burcks’ office and joined the task force in their basement suite, entering at the rear of the building due to the destruction of the main entrance. Security had been extremely tight since the attack. The room had a floor-to-ceiling size computerized map of the U.S. lit up like a Christmas tree. Huge TV screens dotted the rest of the walls. He soon learned that the system could handle live satellite images, TV, videos or computer images.
Agent Lenora Carlson waved Darren over. He nodding greetings to those he had met in other meetings, shook hands with those he had not met, then located a vacant chair. "Darren, glad you could make a meeting!" Agent Lenora Carlson said.
"Do I have time to look around?" he asked.
"Sure. We’ll get started in about ten minutes. There’s coffee and water at the back table."
Darren made his way to the large electronic map encircling a fourth of the room.
"Hi. I’ll be glad to help you interpret the map, if you’d like,” a young staff member said.
“Yes, I’d like that very much,” Darren responded.
“First, the red glows on the big board indicate federal facilities attacked and damaged. The numbers represent the nature of the facility. One is for a federal office building. You can see the ones in red sites in Dallas, Atlanta, Sacramento, Denver and so forth. The twos represent Air Force bases. Again, note the twos in red at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma City, Hector AFB, Fargo, North Dakota, Hill AFB, Ogden, Utah, Holloman AFB, Alamogordo, New Mexico, Duke AFB, in Florida, and so forth."
"Good Lord," Darren said . "I didn't know we sustained this much damage. How many planes did they take out?"
The Defense Department's General Craft heard Darren's question. "Darren, I'm Lewis Craft. We met last month. I may be able to help with that if the young lady doesn't mind."
"No, sir, please go ahead," she said.
"We received extensive damage to over five hundred and sixty-four aircraft. That means they're no longer air-worthy. Of those, we estimate that eighty-six can’t be repaired. The majority of the others will only need minor repairs."
"What received the most damage?"
"No doubt our AWACS, JStars and rivet joint aircraft," he said, as he used a laser pointer to indicate the bases housing those facilities. "These are most vulnerable because they’re too large to hangar but too delicate to be left on the field. Most of our AWACs are kept at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, and they've been badly damaged. Because of the complicated electronics in these planes, a fifty-caliber rifle can do extensive damage. It only takes one well-placed shot to the fuel tank and boom, a fifty- or ninety-million dollar plane is up in smoke."
"It's sad that these people had the capability to do this much damage," Darren said, shaking his head. “Is there any evidence of Mideast terrorist’s fingerprints in any of this?”
"Nope, this is all homegrown. And everything’s well planned. It took some good military minds to pull it off. No, no. All this has not been accidental or a game played by a bunch of stooges. No, sir. The people who planned this are familiar with our military capability and strategy."
"U.S. military or foreign?" Darren asked.
"I suppose some of both. Reports indicate they used U.S. and Russian weaponry.”
At that moment, Agent Wade, the FBI’s Assistant Director, called the meeting to order. Darren and the general returned to their seats. Lenora turned the meeting over to the director of the FBI, Gordon Inglis, who said, "I have no intention of co-opting the management of this task force. You all have done a fine job, and unfortunately, the nation will never pin medals on you for it. I've mentioned to the President and to others that over the months, we have not had one complaint of agency bias in your behavior. That is an exceptional feat!" Laughter rippled around the room.
"Keep up the good work. We must quell this violence and do it quickly. The rest of the world is watching us, so we must do it in a masterful way. We want to show them how a democratic system can handle this without resorting to dictatorial conditions. Okay? Fine. Get on with it."
Agent Wade took control of the group and thanked the Director for his comments. "Yes, sir. We appreciate your words and your presence. Let's review where we are and where we’re going. General Craft, would you bring us up to date on the military movements?"
"Yes, sir. As members of the group can see from the big board, the green colored flag icons represent military deployments." All eyes turned toward the large, electronic U.S. wall map. "Each flag carries the unit’s number and branch. The AFB flag icons indicate planes that are air-ready around the clock. Depending on the base commander's intelligence, any number of these planes are in the air at all times."
"Doing what?" an agent asked.
"Some are supporting ground troops and law enforcement working in a specific areas; others are monitoring an area, and others are flying in ready."
"We assume, then, that surveillance is being conducted by AWACs and similar equipment?" Wade asked.
"That's correct. Every AWAC plane that can still fly is in the air."
"I hate to be a spoil-sport, but do you think it wise to continue this full alert more than a few days?" Agent Lockney asked.
"What do you mean?" CIA's Henry Washington exclaimed.
"The damage has been done--carried out by a bunch of marginalized people from the back of trucks and vans. They used what they had been given, and then ran for cover. They’re back at their jobs, whether plowing the north forty, checking on herds, minding the store, or whatever. Just like most of the Iraqi soldiers did during that war."
A strange silence fell over the group.
"And? Craft asked.
Lockney continued, somewhat uneasy at going against the grain of prevailing wisdom among these elite government bureaucrats. "I'm not taking issue with the mobilization as an initial thrust. The country needed that. But, the point’s been made. If we continue a full scale mobilization, we’ll lose our advantage."
Another agent asked, "We've brought a modicum of peace to the landscape. What happens if we fold our tents and disappear?"
Lockney looked at the agent, nodded his understanding, and then continued. "Look, the bulk of the American people are now solidly behind their government. The rebels, or whatever you want to call them, have split their britches. Those who thought them harmless cranks are now wide-awake, and they're frightened and angry. But if we continue to maintain such a tight security blanket, people will get further stressed. The American people, while not remembering where the sentiment came from, share Julius Caesar’s view, and I quote,
Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.’”
During the ensuing silence, some leaned back in their chairs and stared at the ceiling. Others stared at the table in anticipation of a rip-roaring debate.
Finally, Wade said, "Lockney might be right." The group discussed the issue for fifteen to twenty minutes in a calm manner. The anticipated angry debate didn’t materialize.
Lucretia Martin, the FBI’s lead investigator of extremist groups east of the Mississippi, asked, "Won't a stand-down be interpreted as being soft?" This led to a further lengthy discussion of what makes a policy, or strategy, soft and what doesn't. Finally, the group decided to go back to their respective agencies and research the question.
Then the representative from ATF brought the group up short by asking, "I thought our task revolved around developing strategy, not advocating policy?"
All eyes focused on the FBI Director, who said, “Right now the door’s wide open. Nothing's out of bounds.” The members of the group looked at each other, then a number of private conversations broke out.
Wade, realizing that they had little time to bring the topic to a conclusion, brought the group back together by saying, “Okay. We’ll table this until later. Meanwhile, General Craft, why don't you have your people draft a step-down time table we can recommend if we decide to so recommend?” A ripple of laughter broke out.
"Yes, sir," Craft said, smiling at Wade’s Yogi Berra-like statement.
Still addressing Craft, Wade asked, “Could you summarize our surveillance of the last few weeks. We have a few newcomers.”
“Yes, Sir.” Approaching the wall map, he said, “There’s been intense construction and renovation activity taking place in the White Mountains outside Bishop, California.” He pointed to the area, then continued to point out the other areas as he said, “And more near Olney, Montana, at a large farm outside Bemidji, Minnesota, on an island in the Saint Lawrence River, at a farm outside Georgia Center, Vermont, a warehouse facility in Gloucester, Connecticut, a farm northwest of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, a warehouse in New Orleans, a large ranch near Laredo, Texas, and a large excavation is still going on at a ranch near Reserve, New Mexico.”
Agent Lockney asked, “But there have always been groups digging bomb shelters or stockpiling weapons for fear the Russians are coming. What’s different now?”
Agent Wade said, “Sam, maybe nothing. But these are large arms depots that far exceed a casual fear of bombs or foreign invaders. Nodding to General Craft, Agent Wade said, “Please continue.” Craft continued to spot newly developed arms depots around the nation as Darren took notes.
Finally, Craft said, “In addition, there’s an underground storage facility being constructed on a ranch near Elgin, Arizona.” He turned back to the group, tapped the floor with his pointer and said, “We calculate that once all these storage facilities are finished, if that’s what they are intended to be, they can warehouse enough arms to make life miserable for a whole lot of people for decades to come. Remember, these are new facilities. The extremists already had underground caches at Ron Chapmann’s and John Chudders’ properties. There are hundreds of small arms caches stored in militia members garages all over this nation.”
A hush fell over the room. A few continued staring at their scratch pads as if in a trance. Others looked at their colleagues in amazement.
"What are we doing to neutralize the rebel's arms depots?" an agent asked.
"We are quietly taking possession of those that have little loss of life risk," Craft said. “Sorry that we didn’t alert you to the anticipated action. The President felt it in the best interest to just quietly go do it. The operations have gone well. We are now using Cobra helicopters to drop Special Forces teams in to neutralize an area and seize the arms. the weapons are taken to the nearest army depot for sorting, cataloging, filming and heavy security storage."
"What about Davis Mountains and the other big ones?" another asked.
"We've got each under scrutiny,” Agent Carlson said.
"Is there a special task force set up to take them?" Agent Martin asked.
"We assumed we'd use the same military force that has been taking the others." Then, looking from Wade to Craft, she asked, "Isn't that right?" Wade affirmed her assumption by nodding.
“A lot more lives will be lost if we bomb the hell out of some of these places like we did in Afghanistan, especially the fortress that old preacher man in the Davis Mountains has built,” Agent Martin said. “There are a lot of women and children in some of those places."
Wade looked at Martin and said, "Put your thoughts on paper."
The meeting then disbanded and Darren sat quietly as others gradually filtered out. He stared around the room, looking past the glass partitions at the huge electronic boards, maps, TV monitors, and staff hard at work. He suddenly realized how surreal all this felt. As he walked out of the underground complex, he felt as if in a time warp. He had no training in all this.
When he returned to his office, he found Burcks standing there, hands on hips. "What happened at the meeting?" Darren briefed him as they walked to the elevator.
“Darren, get in touch with Colonel Tillman at the Marine Commandant’s office. He’s got some teams that are tops. See if he'd be willing to use them,” Burcks offered, as he started into the elevator.
“Will do,” said Darren. “And, by the way, they’re expecting to see a plan from Agent Martin by eight in the morning."
Burcks' voice faintly echoed down the hall, “Tell Tillman that. Tell him also that the President of the United States says this is a priority.”
Darren quickly called Agent Carlson to see what she thought of Burcks’ plan.
"Let's go see Tillman," Carlson said.
Tillman dropped everything to meet Darren and Carlson at his Pentagon office. Tillman's chief aides attended. After the preliminary social amenities and a briefing by Carlson, the group quickly sketched an assault plan. Tillman instructed the attack teams to report the next morning for preparation. They would be ready if and when the task force and the President signed on. Tillman’s efficiency stunned Darren and Carlson, who returned to their respective offices around 6:00 p.m.
As Darren walked into Jo Clark’s office to check his messages, he heard the beeping sound of the fax machine. He usually ignored incoming faxes, but his adrenaline still raced from the excitement of Tillman's meeting. He snatched the fax as soon as he saw it was from Watson in Tokyo. It read:
"Darren, your shadow is Chinese. A mercenary trained by the Chinese. We captured his girlfriend and she sang like a canary. She said he picked you up in Hong Kong and followed you to Thailand. He studied you well. Knew your Asian haunts, friends and hotels. He flew into L.A. via United Airlines that landed one hour before the flight you were supposed to be on. When he couldn't find you, he got lost in the city. His girlfriend didn't know who hired him, except they were ex-military out of California. Sound familiar? Your friend, Ted Watson."