For those of you tuning in for a light-hearted post or a restaurant review you’re going to have to wait a day or two.
For those of you who would like to read an original short story about what I think happened on September 10th and 11th, 2012, this is the place. Once again, I have no contact with active duty intelligence sources. I gleaned all of this from the news and threw in a little bit of personal experience. Below the fold you will find the story. If you read any further you’ve been forewarned on the topic.
There is nothing classified here. I found all of this information on government websites. So, if it’s good enough for Uncle Sam to put on an official government website, I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets by using it in my story. I’m publishing this in advance of the hearings on Wednesday because I can. I still have free speech rights. I’m also publishing it because it proves that this information is out there if the press had chosen to look for it instead of being lapdogs to the current administration. If you like what I’ve written, that’s a plus. It’s how my novels look and feel as well. If you’re easily offended, give it a pass.
This work is pure fiction – or is it?
September 10th, 2012 10:30 Zulu
Central Mediterranean, south of Malta
The Executive Officer (X.O.) shifted in his chair at the Wardroom table and set down the clipboard. The cover sheet was a bright red – Top Secret. “I’d like to tell you you’re right, but that’s exactly what they’re doing and they’re arguing about something besides Star Trek trivia for a change. Care to know the details, or would you like me to handle it for you?”
Captain Otte thumped down into his chair and ran his hand through what was left of his hair. Command of this Ohio Class cruise missile submarine was making him old before his time. If it wasn’t the embarked S.E.A.L. operators eating them out of house and home it was the intelligence team bickering and playing practical jokes that got out of hand. “Go ahead and give me the brilliant analysis they’ve come up with this time. I’m sure it will be worth the Chief bending my ear by the bug-juice machine.”
Lieutenant Commander Monson tapped the clipboard: “Seems they are of a divergent opinion as to what our friends inLibyaare up to this morning. The kid says it’s bad news, the First Class says the kid’s nuts. If the kid’s right, we’re looking at some major event in the next 48 hours based on what he’s picked up this morning.”
The Captain grabbed the proffered clipboard and read the message draft on the top of the stack. He turned bright red and slammed it down on the table. “You’ve got to be kidding me, X.O. He’s basing his intelligence on taxi cab driver’s chatter?”
The X.O. didn’t smile. It wasn’t funny. “Captain, if I’m going to pick one of those two to believe it’s the Petty Officer Second Class Shelton. He’s a bright guy and he is some kind of a savant. I’ve talked to him a lot in the last two weeks and he’s not a nut case. The L.P.O. (Leading Petty Officer) is kind of a dimwit. He’s just milking it until he makes Chief. Read past the first two paragraphs and you’ll see that the kid’s combined a lot of material from the commercial radio stations, the stuff he’s picked up bouncing off the atmosphere, and the estimates coming in from N.S.A. It makes sense when you read the whole thing.”
Captain Otte resumed where he’d left off. He pulled a pen out of his pocket and started marking the message up for transmission. After four minutes and a couple of deep sighs he handed the board back to Lieutenant Commander Monson. “I want to talk to him but he’s got a good argument. Kid must be a vacuum if he sucked up all that info before he leftFortMeade. Unless he makes me throw him out of here, send that thing Flash to the group and ask for guidance. Put the S.E.A.L. Team leader in the loop and I want all of them in here in two hours for a briefing. But get the twidget in here now so I can see what he’s made of in person.”
Monson reached beneath the table and punched a button on the phone located just out of sight. “Chief Hauser, send the Arlings (Arabic Linguists) to the wardroom on the double. Tell the kid to bring his notebook.”
Hanging up the phone, Monson eyed the Captain. “You realize this will set off a world-class feces storm in Washingtonif it is for real? Our political masters want us all to pretend that the rebels are our buddies instead of the murderous bunch of thugs they actually are.”
Otte nodded. A moment later there was a knock at the wardroom door. “Come!”
The two Cryptologic Technicians came into the room and stood at attention next to the table. “At ease. I hear you two don’t agree on what’s happening in Libya. Petty Officer Green, would you care to tell me why you think Petty Officer Shelton is full of it?”
Green launched into a planned five minute explanation of why he thought Shelton was just making up things out of thin air. He made it exactly one minute and twelve seconds before the Captain made a chopping motion with his hand and said, “Shut it. Shelton, explain your theory and why Petty Officer Green is a moron. I understand that’s the term you used in the radio room about an hour ago.”
Shelton colored slightly but retained his composure. “I set it all out in the message, Sir, but what it comes down to is that the Arabs think we’re weak and tomorrow’s a day of great significance for them. I think they’re up to something. I don’t know what, but there’s a lot of talk about where the “packages” are located in Benghazi. I can only think that they’re talking about our people on the ground in country. I’m not sure who our people are, but it’s clear that they’ve got a bunch of people watching somebody pretty darned close.”
Green started to speak but one look from Monson put an end to that before a sound escaped his lips. The Captain spoke again, “X.O., we got any people in Benghazi? I thought our people were all in Tripoli?”
“Not sure, Captain. I can fire off a message but chances are we won’t get a straight answer.”
Otte said, “You know they’ll cover their butts if it’s anything covert. Get the furry aquatic type in here. He might know who’s doing what where. In the meantime, Shelton, I want you to make a shopping list of stuff you need to put a comms plan for shore incursions. If we have to put that team into Benghazi I want all the hot spots monitored and no screw ups. Have Green help you if you need. That’s all. Be back here with that list in two hours.”
The two spooks left the wardroom as Otte stood up. “Stacy, I have a feeling we’re about to open Pandora’s Box. Get the Navigator in here now, and once we’re done with Lieutenant Ward I want him to brief the charts from here to Libya and all the way into the beaches and port at Benghazi. The full shot. I’m going to grab my tablet and I’ll be right back. And get the cooks to rustle up some burgers. I missed lunch again.”
September 10th, 2012 14:57 Zulu
“Get Silvis in here, will you?”
“Yes, Colonel. He’s on his way across the compound. I see his shiny noggin.”
Lieutenant Colonel Widmeyer put down his energy drink. It’s never good news when the intel weenie is stalking you. But since he wanted to find out what was going on with the world it was very convenient.
“Hey, Boss. Got a minute?” Silvis waited a beat and then taped up a map on the easel next to the microwave. He wasn’t waiting for any invites this morning.
“Sure, Gerry. What’s on your mind?”
“Sir, I’m getting nothing from back in the states about any alerts or info about the anniversary tomorrow. Something’s wrong with that. So I put together a quick force update for you so we can be ready. I hate it when they shut us out.”
Silvis was reading minds again. This was exactly what Widmeyer wanted to talk about this afternoon. September 11th had always brought on a heightened alert status in the past, but nothing this year. Given the insanity in the Arab world over the past two years that didn’t make much sense. There’d been more than a few attacks and suspicious events in the last few months acrossNorth Africaand yet nobody seemed concerned. Maybe Silvis could shed some additional light on the whole thing.
Silvis took the silence for approval: “We’re still the go-to unit for Commander’s in Extremis Force for Africa and the Middle East. There’s a Marine Corps unit in Rota,Spain that’s tasked with rapid reinforcement of embassies, but since we seem to be handing all of that off to local contractors in the last few years I don’t know that they’re much good when it hits the fan. Round it out with the Ranger unit that’s in Sicily right now and we’re looking pretty good for the moment. But no warning orders to any of those units, no alerts, nothing. I got on the “Bat Phone” to Benning this morning and they said it’s mighty quiet there as well. The guys in the intel shop said it feels like they’re being frozen out as well. Nobody seems too concerned. It stinks.”
Widmeyer looked at the map. “I don’t see any air assets or ships on that thing. What’s out in the Med?”
Silvis looked at his notes, “Not much this morning. There’s an amphib task force off Creteand they’ve got Harriers and Choppers but nothing else. No carriers in the area, and no carrier aircraft except a handful of F-18’s in Sigonella. Nobody else is on the radar, but you can bet there’s at least one Tomahawk shooter sub somewhere in the neighborhood. Probably has S.E.A.L.s embarked but nobody is going to tell us about that in our sheltered little dump.”
Widmeyer had to laugh. Friggin squids never said where the submarines were hiding. Couldn’t blame them, can’t find them, can’t kill them. “So, the question is what do we do next? Suggestions?”
“Yes, Sir. I’d like to suggest we make sure the C-17’s are ready to go starting this evening and that we curtail training for 48 hours. Let’s get everybody ready to mount up and go if something happens. Issue live ammo, get the camp secured, stage the new crypto we’ll need, the whole deal. If we’re ready when the orders come in we win. If we get all prettied up and nothing happens it’s good practice for the guys. Can’t lose.”
“Silvis, I never dreamed putting you in the same room with the Operations Boss would pay such benefits. Let’s make it all happen. But let’s do it now. I want everybody on full alert. This all feels wrong and somebody is “sandboxing” us for some reason. I don’t plan on being the goat if it goes south.”
Silvis smiled. “You know we’re going to catch hell if the brass wonders why we shut down training. Sure you want to follow my advice?”
Widmeyer knew the answer without doubt. “Damn right. Those idiots in Washington couldn’t find their butt with both hands if we spotted them the closet and the flashlight. Just get everyone moving right now. And as long as we’re going to go completely nuts here, get the “Little Birds” up and out of here on a training mission. I want them fully armed up and waiting for the next shoe to drop. Let’s move them to Sigonella. Those clowns are always bitching about the weather around here, perfect chance for them to get some navigation practice.”
Silvis was stunned. “Colonel, we’ll hang for that if it comes out. I might maybe get them there on a training hop, but not armed. Too much paperwork. Somebody would spot the weapons and ammunition when they stop to refuel. What if we send them “slick” and I send a C-130 with all the arms sealed in containers? We can explain that away if we need to do it for a good reason.”
“Silvis, your sneaky mind is just what I need around here. I want everybody moving in the next fifteen minutes. Get out of here and send Rogers in.”
Silvis rolled up his map and moved out smartly. Twenty seconds later Command Sergeant Major Rogers ambled through the door. “You sent for me, Sir?”
“Sergeant Major, I think it’s about to get really ugly around here and careers might be wrecked. If you’d like to put in your retirement papers I’ll date and sign them and hold them until after all this is done. You can tear them up if you want. But I know you have kids in college and getting court-martialed would ruin you. We’ve been friends too long for me to flush you like that. Interested?”
“Screw ‘em, Colonel. No easy day in this outfit. I presume we’re doing something technically stupid and dangerous as well. Count me in. What needs doing?”
Lieutenant Colonel Widmeyer lit a cigar and started making out a verbal checklist with his friend of the last ten years. Between them, they were bullet proof.
September 11th, 2012 04:30 Zulu
Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
“Commander Addison, is there some reason you don’t want that request getting chopped or did I make a mistake on it?”
“Chief, this thing is nothing but supposition. You’re basically accusing the Arabs of plotting against us and it’s outside of the diversity guidelines. So I’m not going to let you embarrass yourself with this thing. No, I’m not going to release it. Denied.”
Chief Surreb was stunned. He also had had enough of this political correctness. “Commander, that’s the whole reason we send requests to those guys. We need that information to make decisions and write intelligent products. You’re interrupting the process because it’s not politically astute? Sir, respectfully request you reconsider this and send the request. It can’t do any harm and it might answer the questions we have. That message from Sub Group was pretty clear. They have an asset in the area and things look hinky. Let’s support those guys and find out for sure.”
Addison didn’t even look up from his desk. “Chief, you’re a pain in my butt. I’m not sending it today, tomorrow, or ever. Last thing I need is for somebody to review that thing up above and accuse me of being anti-Islamic. Those are baby democracies, we’re not going to second guess them based on the prejudices of some bubble-head and his Direct Support crew. Take a break, Chief. This is nothing. If there was something there, don’t you think we’d have gotten direction from State or the C.I.A.?”
Surreb boiled. One more try. “Commander, they don’t usually know much at all. I looked at what that team has and it adds up with the stuff we have been hearing the last few months. I actually know those guys on that team, one of them was my student a few years ago. Smart kid, good kid. If he thinks there’s something it’s worth checking out. Please, Sir, let’s at least make a few calls and see if we can get some answers about what’s going on in Benghazi. We have too many indicators to ignore them.”
“Go sit down, Chief. I’m done talking.”
Addison jumped in his chair when the security badge hit his coffee cup. He looked up to see a very red-faced and angry Chief Petty Officer glaring down at him. “I’ve got Flash traffic for you, Sir. I friggin retire. I never thought I’d see the day when a pencil-necked little metro-sexual like you would have this kind of power in my Navy. I was working the Libyan problem while you were still fantasizing about getting a date with Britney Spears. Or Mark Wahlberg. You’re not just an idiot, you’re a dangerous idiot. We have a moral duty to follow up on this information. And nobody talks to me like I’m a friggin raw recruit. So stuff it.”
Addisonwisely stayed put in his chair. “I’ll put your request for retirement in at the end of the watch, Chief. You’ve got under two hours left on your career. Your choice – leave in handcuffs or take the time to clear out your desk.”
The heated voices had attracted the attention of the Senior Watch Officer. Colonel Evergreen walked up and said, “What the hell is wrong with you two? I expect more from my senior people. Look around you, gentlemen, you’ve got all the junior people involved in your melodrama. What is the problem?”
Chief Surreb grabbed the message and handed it to the Colonel. “This twit won’t chop the message so that you can see it and release it. I just want more information on what some of our collectors are hearing in Benghazi. It looks bad and we’re damn near blind, Sir. All I want is more information.”
Addisonlet out a theatrical sigh. “The Chief hates Arabs, Sir. Heard him rail about them myself. I think this is a vendetta and nothing more. I’m not going to encourage his nonsense. He just retired and I accepted it.”
Colonel Evergreen had finished reading the message asAddisonfinished. “I didn’t hear the Chief retire, I heard him say that you ought to retire. I tend to agree.” Evergreen produced a pen from his shirt pocket and signed the message.
“Send it, Chief. Then come to my office and have a cup of coffee.”
Surreb grinned and walked back to the communications desk to get the message sent. Evergreen looked down at Addison for a minute and said, “You’re an idiot. I never want to see that kind of crap again. That man’s a living legend. You were out of line treating him like that. Our job is collecting and processing intelligence, not squashing people for asking questions. Your P.C. crap is over in my watch group. Commander, your judgment sucks. I can’t have an officer sitting in that chair that won’t listen to his people. Especially when it’s over some nonsense like offending Arabs. For God’s sake, we haven’t been attacked by the Norwegians lately. Report to your chain of command tomorrow, I don’t want you here any more. I’ve got enough problems without having to baby-sit a turd like you.”
September 11th, 2012 10:30 Zulu
“Ambassador, we’ve got a problem.”
Ambassador Stevens looked up from his desk. “What is it, the militia asleep again?”
“No sir, not a joking matter at all. We’ve got watchers on the perimeter. I just checked the cameras and did some spot checks myself. The locals have people video taping us. And speaking of our alleged security, the militia guys are really antsy. I think they’re getting ready to bug out on us. This is bad, Sir. I think we ought to bug out ourselves. Let’s get you back to Tripoli. I can get a plane ready in just about twenty minutes.”
Stevens shook his head. “Can’t do it. I’ve got meetings with the Turkish guys today. Since they’re helping out with the Syrian stuff I can’t cut out on them. What if we just put the annex on alert and get some extra guys fromTripoli?”
Clements frowned and said, “We don’t have that many guys there and I’m not happy with cutting them short as well. Let’s just go home. We can take the Turk with us if you want. But when they start watching this closely it’s got to be an imminent threat. This is just a taste of what happened inCairo- and they’ve got real security. We’re screwed if they attack this place. We’ll last about ten minutes if they try to raise a black flag over the compound.”
Ambassador Stevens knew Clements was right. He’d been bitching to Foggy Bottom for months about the lack of security he had at the consulate. But it was falling on deaf ears. His boss wouldn’t even return his cables. The under secretary for the region had fed him some line about “being on the side of the angels and nobody will harm a hair on your head with what you’re doing.” But the bastards had just tried to take the Cairo Embassy and raise an Al Qaeda flag – and managed to get close.
Those idiots in Washington might believe their own B.S. but Stevens knew whom he was dealing with and he didn’t like it much. The rebels were Al Qaeda, or a branch office, and they’d kill him in a minute if they didn’t get what they wanted. He was funneling arms from the Qaddafi regime to the anti-government forces in Syria at the behest of the White House. It didn’t sit right with him. The clowns in D.C. thought they were in control of what was going on in the Middle East. Stevens knew better: he’d been here a long time.
“Derrick, I don’t think it’s time yet. Let’s just monitor it and see what happens in the next few hours. First sign of trouble we’re out of here. But Cairo is a bit different. Make sure State knows what’s going on, call Tripoli and warn them about your concerns and make sure the annex is awake. But for now we stay.”
Clements couldn’t force the issue and when Ambassador Stevens turned back to the paper he was reading he left. He had calls to make and begging Stevens wasn’t getting it done anyway.
September 11th, 2012 15:30 Zulu
State Department Executive Suites
“Madame Secretary, we’ve got alerts coming in from both Egypt and Libya about the situations there on the ground. Ambassador Steven’s security detail is requesting more people in Benghazi. Cairo is cooling off, the government there has backed the crowds away from the embassy buildings but it’s still pretty tense.”
“I thought I’d left word that I wasn’t to be bothered until it was time for the swearing in downstairs?”
Her aide didn’t know what to say. “Yes, Madame Secretary. You did. But this seemed like an item you’d want to see right away.”
“It’s a good thing you’re not in charge. Nobody is in any danger in either place. We’ve got friends in the loop and Stevens is just being panicky. Now get out of here and send somebody in with lunch.”
September 11th, 2012 18:30 Zulu
“Everybody ready to go?”
“Yes, Colonel. But we’re still not getting any orders to mount up. I’m waiting for our liaison guy with State to call back, but they haven’t requested us to load up or do anything at all. I figured after Cairo went to hell we’d get the order to at least stage south.”
“Well, they gave me oak leaves for a reason. Get the herd out to the airstrip, make sure everybody is tactical. We’re taking a joy-ride.”
“Sir, we need to let the locals have a flight plan. Where should I say we’re going?”
“Don’t know, don’t care. You’re the Operations Officer. Get that sneaky roomie of yours to make up a good lie.”
Widmeyer waited a beat and then smiled. “Tell them we’re going to Malta and back on a training exercise. I want them to understand nothing but still be happy. Think that will work?”
Timm smiled back. “I’m sure that’ll be just fine, Sir. They don’t believe anything we tell them anyway.”
“See – all that time I spent at the Pentagon is paying off.”
“You were never at the Pentagon, Colonel.”
“My point exactly. Let’s go.”
September 11th, 2012 19:30 Zulu
“Any updates, Sir?”
“Nope. Nothing at all. Pull the plug X.O. We’ll come back up in two hours for the next broadcast. We’re not even officially supposed to do that but commander’s discretion.”
“What do you want me to tell the spooks and the S.E.A.L. team?”
Otte stared at the overhead wiring as though the answer was lurking amongst the cables. “Nothing. We just wait.”
September 11th, 2012 20:30 Zulu
“We’ve got people over the wall. Everybody shelter. Grab the Ambassador and get him to the safe room.”
The duty officer picked up the direct line to the State watch office and reported the attack. He watched as rocket propelled grenades sailed through the air and the vehicle park caught fire. He was dead. It was just a matter of how much time until his body started cooling. In the meantime he was going to stay on the phone and keep the line open until they could get help rolling.
State issued a Critic alert which put the entire chain of command and the White House in the know within ten minutes. The duty officer called the annex and begged them to come over and help. They weren’t part of the security team – they had their own problems. But those guys were tough as nails and sorely needed.
Less than 2 miles away the security team at the annex grabbed their weapons and started loading up the Land Rover. Before they could pull out of the lot the communications guy came out and said, “Back off. Just got word to sit tight.”
That caused one of the operators to come unglued. “Back off! What the hell? Those guys are under attack. We’re leaving and you’d best get the hell out of the way or get crunched.”
“Don’t take it out on me. I’m telling you, command wants you to hang on a minute. Seems like they’ve got something cooking and need time.”
“Do they have a drone? Is there a force coming, what are we waiting on?”
“I don’t know. But they weren’t joking. Just hang tight while they sort it out.”
The operators all glared at the communications tech. This was insane.
September 11th, 2012 21:30 Zulu
The White House
The meeting with the Secretary of Defense was winding down and President Obama had already shifted his focus to the trip toLas Vegasfor a fundraiser. One of the military aides knocked on the door and entered without waiting for a response.
The President’s head snapped up, “Just what do you think you’re doing barging in here?”
The aide, a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, said, “Mr. President we have flash traffic of an attack on the Consulate in Benghazi- in Libya, Sir.”
Obama rolled his eyes. These military people were so superior yet knew nothing. “I’m aware of where Benghazi is, soldier. Anything else.”
Lieutenant Colonel Brooke was stunned. This was serious and the President was blowing it off. “No sir. But respectfully, sir, we need to know what you want done. This is the same as an attack on Washington, Sir.”
“I know that. I have the Secretary of Defense sitting right here. We’ll figure it out. Now go. And don’t ever come in here again without waiting to be asked.”
The door closed behind Brooke and Obama turned to look at Defense Secretary Panetta. “Leon, talk to Clinton and find out what she wants to do. Stevens is her guy. I’ve got some things to do before I leave. You can handle it, right?”
Panetta didn’t say a word for ten seconds. “Yes, Mr. President. We can handle it, but what do you want done?”
“I’m sure it’s all overblown. Let’s not make things worse with storming in there guns blazing. Nobody respects us when we do that. Make sure we reach out to the local government and the militia groups. I’m sure they’ll help out with whatever is going on down there. But no armed response. Is that clear?”
Panetta nodded. Obama was already headed for the door. “Sir, when do you want an update?”
Obama didn’t even pause as he walked out of the room, “Just fill me in at breakfast. I need some sleep before we go to Las Vegas and I don’t want to be bothered with this thing again tonight.”
September 11th, 2012 21:42 Zulu
The Secretary of State’s Office
“No, nobody moves. This will all blow over and I don’t want another war over Stevens and his people. We’re too close to the election to start something new. There’s nothing we can do now anyway. Let’s keep this in house. Just get back to Panetta and tell him to have his dogs go back to their kennels.”
September 11th, 2012 22:18 Zulu
Sigonella Air Base, Sicily
Widmeyer threw down the headset and stormed into the cockpit as the C-17’s engines began to wind down. “What do you mean grounded? We’ve got flash traffic that the consulate inBenghazi is under attack and you’re refusing to take off?”
The pilot looked up in disgust. “Look through the windshield, Colonel. They just pulled a fire truck across the runway to make their point. We’re being told to stand down and unload this aircraft by the base commander. I argued with him but he said it was from the NCA (National Command Authority) and that ends the argument. Take it up with the White House.”
“We’re only two hours out! My guys are rigged to jump. We can do this. Give me the headset.”
After ten minutes of screaming, threatening, pleading, and common sense arguments Lieutenant Colonel Widmeyer gently handed the headset back to the pilot. “Taxi to the hanger.”
Widmeyer stopped just before he left the flight deck. He couldn’t even face the pilot. “They’re going to let those guys down there die. Sorry I blew my cork at you. But this comes from the top and we can’t do a thing. Happy friggin anniversary.”
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