Authors: Frank J. Derfler
Finally, the present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs walked in carrying a putter. He came over and shook the hand of everyone from the Project and had special words for Sally and Janet. Then, he lifted his putter and said, “Let’s get started. I know some of you have legitimate T-times.” He waved everyone toward the seats.
The Chairman started talking even before they were settled. “I’m not going to introduce everyone because none of us was ever here. Everyone in this room knows or at least has read pretty much the same information so we’re all on a level playing field. I don’t think there is anyone in Washington who knows about the Project and its capabilities who isn’t here.”
He fiddled with the handle of the putter and said, “This thing is supposed to buzz any recording device that anyone might have succeeded in carrying in here. It’s a hell of a deal when you have to carry jammers to the golf course. But,” he added, “the weight of the batteries makes it a damn good putter!”
He paused to scan the room. “I’ve had a couple of meetings with General Arthurs and General Landry over the past few months. I received a good briefing from doctor Wirtz about the state of the Country that made me… made a lot of us think. The people in this room who live and work in Washington range from worried to terrified over the national security and financial situations this country is in. In many ways, The Project is an ace in the hole against chaos. We’re here, meeting like this, because we want you to know that we have your back, but from a distance.”
The Chairman put the putter against a chair. “So far, we are all satisfied that every use of the Project’s resources that we know of was just and justified. We intend to keep it that way. The problem is, everything in Washington leaks. The last real secret we kept was the F-117 Stealth Fighter in the 1980s.”
This reference raised both smiles and frowns around the room. The Internet in particular makes it difficult to keep any big project secret. People leak secrets just to gain a moment of social networking fame. It was no coincidence that the Stealth Fighter, a pre-Internet development, was one of the last secret projects to stay secret until it was needed.
“So,” the Chairman continued, “we’re cutting your funding and cutting your ties.”
Ted, Sally, and Fred had some idea of what was coming, but no one else from the Project did.
“First, we want you to pull down the Homestead facility. Phase out the people as best as you can. Take your time, but do it completely.”
“Six to nine months,” a voice said from a few chairs over. Ted wasn’t sure who said it, but it let him know that there was a committee process behind this thinking.
The Chairman nodded. “Yes, that’s the time frame. In the same time frame, we want you to add more analysis capability in Boulder City. Bill and Janet, I hear land is cheap in Nevada. Sorry, but you’ve got to move. General Landry tells me that he wants a lot more computer power in Boulder City. Make that happen. And then, in about twelve months, expect your government funding to be zero.”
This was a new wrinkle to Ted. He raised his eyebrows. The Chairman explained, “You’ll be able to keep your military personnel under the flight school ruse for a while, but eventually, Colonel Valenzuela and anyone else on active duty will have to move on to a new assignment.”
“You’ll become a private research firm: A think tank. Funding to keep the technical operations going will come from an annual grant from a private corporation. But, understand this, that private corporation has no operational control. Ideally, you will never hear from them.” The Chairman allowed himself a little smile, “That’s not hard since they really don’t exist.”
“The Astronaut.” This time it was a different voice from the chairs.
“Ah yes, Dr. Dunnan. I’m not so sure you should have briefed her in, but Fred claims she’s smart and loyal. Now, she’s your problem to solve.”
The Chairman paused for effect, “The way we feel right now, we would be happy if we never heard from you again. We want you to go dark. We want you to cut almost all ties.” He waited for an expected voice from the side of the room, “All ties.” He nodded. “As those great warrant officers retire, put them on your own payroll.”
Another pause, “Now, here are our orders to you. Protect the Country and protect the Constitution. They are one in the same. Know that we will try to protect you in every way possible, but any contact with us is dangerous and could look bad if it comes out during the fur ball we are going to have inside the Beltway in the next few years. Go away, go dark, pull the hole in after you. But, continue to do good.”
The Chairman looked to his right side, saw a raised eyebrow and remembered that person’s priority topic. “Oh, strategic warning. If some other entity should start to use time tunneling, as Fred calls it, in a way that hurts the US and you need resources to take it out, then we’ll give you an emergency contact. Otherwise, go away. Any questions?”
Ted wasn’t surprised that it was Sally who spoke up, “I’m going to need some good non-bureaucratic paper-pushing contacts in acquisitions and personnel to make this happen. We’ve got good people at our end, but we need to be plugged into the system in a way that let’s us move people and things and acquire some things within a quick time frame.”
The Chairman nodded, “How about we put you under CENTCOM for a while? They’re in Florida, they’ve got high priority acquisition authority, and I happen to know the guy heading it. And, I’ll give you Commander Rivera… well, at least part time. She can get things done.”
Sally nodded. Honestly, she wasn’t sure that CENTCOM, a command that was fighting two wars, was going to give her priority, but at least they were in near-by Tampa, Florida and more likely to cooperate than anyone in Washington. If Rivera was well connected, Sally welcomed the help.
Bill Wirtz asked, “Intel? How do we get NSA, CIA, DHS, and other feeds when we need them?”
“We have a while to work on that, but we think we can give you access to classified networks as a defense contractor. Your people have the clearances, so it’s just a matter of changing status. I hope…” he added.
Ted just looked like he was going to say something and the Chairman said, “No Ted, when you leave Homestead the white jets go away. They’re too visible. Besides, you wanted to retire anyway, go be a Beltway bandit.”
There wasn’t much more to say. The members of their shadow support group gradually filed out of the room using two different doors.
Janet was the first to speak up, “Nevada, eh? You sure know how to show a girl a good time, Bill.”
“I know Realtors,” Jose said innocently.
“I’ve heard that about you!” Janet replied. Julia looked slightly puzzled and then seemed to figure out the joke all on her own.
Ted smiled and then shook his head, “Jose, book yourself to Miami. Let’s go back to Florida and get to work.”
Chapter 18: "Is This Our Job?"
1900 Sunday, May 2, 2010
Project Headquarters, Homestead ARB, FL
Excerpt from the Personal Narrative of Mr. Jose Valenzuela
Recorded April 2014
CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET/ TA
"Initially we didn’t think the Times Square bombing was something that involved us. As our sensors and data analysis techniques improved, it became apparent that a successful bomb attack must have led to something bigger. We have projections, but of course no solid evidence of what we caused or prevented.”
This time Ted was working late while Sally was at home. Lately it had often been the other way around. Only a couple of weeks had passed since their meeting in Washington, but they were well underway with plans to draw down the Homestead facility. Much of the burden of making things happen had fallen on Sally as the Director of Administration over a tiny staff of three people. Tonight, Ted was endorsing fitness reports when his desk phone rang. The duty controller said, “General, there’s a news item that you should see.”
Ted walked down the hall to the operations room. The on-duty team had the main screen divided into news feeds from two different networks. “A car bomb in Times Square,” the controller reported tersely. “People were coming out of two theaters and walking by at eighteen thirty-five. The bomb went off with a big fireball. Some people blown apart and many burn victims. Shrapnel and flame damage all around that part of Times Square.”
“Okay. Thanks for the heads-up. Monitor the situation. I’ll be in my office, so I’ll be back in to see what develops. ”
The next morning, the Times Square bombing occupied the media. There was wall-to-wall coverage. Slightly over one hundred people were killed by the blast, but the horror came from those who were badly burned. The press focused on the burned and hospitalized children who had just come out of a theater showing “Lion King.” They became icons and then martyrs.
On Monday morning the Governor of New York State and the Mayor of New York City gave interviews saying that there were no signs of links to Muslim extremists. Monday noon, the FBI issued a warrant for the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistan-born Muslim resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut who had become a U.S. citizen in 2009. Despite attempts to remove all identification from the vehicle, the FBI recovered enough information from the engine to trace the ownership to Shahzad.
New York City and some factions in the Nation were already caught up in a controversy over a mosque being built close to the 9/11 ground zero. When Shahzad was arrested at JFK Airport on Monday May 3, after he apparently shook off an FBI tail and made it on board a flight bound for Dubai, his comments made it clear that he was acting as a Muslim on Jihad. When Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed credit for training the Pakistani Muslim to make bombs, the beatings and burnings started. Interestingly, they didn’t start in New York, but in Detroit.
The Times Square bombing took place on Sunday evening. By Monday evening some Muslim parts of Detroit and the Bronx were on fire. Muslims, and often Sikhs and Hindus, were attacked in the streets and even dragged from their cars.
On Tuesday morning Ted and Sally met with Fred, Bill, and Janet in Ted’s office. The news was even grimmer this morning than it had been the night before. The violence spread to other rust-belt cities and the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security threatened to use DHS and other Federal forces against U.S. citizens.
Jose and Rae were on a secure speakerphone. Ted started with, “It happened sooner than any of us anticipated. We’re on our own. We have to decide on our own if this is a job for us. Rae, we have a tradition in the military that the most junior speaks first. We don’t want good thinking to be smothered. Although somehow I don’t think that would happen with you.”
Rae said, “Thank you. Yes, stopping the violence is our job. We should do no harm, but we should help if we can.”
Jose quickly spoke up and added, “The preamble to the Constitution talks about insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth amendments all deal with fair treatment. If we’re going to follow the Constitution, we should do something… while making sure, as Rae said, to do no harm.”
Ted quickly scanned the room and saw nods of agreement. “Well said!” came from Janet.
Bill Wirtz twirled a pen in his right hand and asked, “So what do we do? Take out the bomber before he acts? What does that accomplish?”
Sally responded, “Come on Bill. Those were rhetorical questions and you know it. What’s the plan?”
Bill smiled, “Go after the bomb. It was a kluge. Similar or identical to a bomb found in London in two thousand and seven. We know what it looks like and we know precisely where it was and when. It should be easy to disrupt.”
Ted looked at Fred and Sally. They both simply nodded so he said, “Jose, some of us… probably all of us will be on a plane to Vegas as soon as possible. Work with Bill on targeting.”