Special Access

The ramblings and ruminations of suspense-thriller novelist, Mark A. Hewitt

Month: November 2015 (Page 1 of 3)

Today’s Headlines–Airport Employees on Terrorism Watch List

A recent article and headline has the Duncan Hunter books looking like a Nostradamus manuscript.

“The Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris has forced France to examine its security policies, including at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, where it was recently discovered that 57 employees who had access to airplanes and runways were on a terror watch list. Now, the security passes of 86,000 workers at the Paris airport will be reviewed, according to a report by the Sunday Times of London. Police carried out extensive searches of the airport under state-of-emergency powers after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed and 350 injured by Islamic State militants.”

From Special Access: “I know how they did it.” Hunter’s voice was forceful but hushed. He called Greg Lynche two minutes after watching the second 767 fly into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
“Good morning to you too. What do you mean you know how they did it? No one knows anything yet, at least no one is saying anything. This is unbelievable” as he continued to monitor the live television feed of, now, both of the Twin Towers burning.
“Greg, I don’t know anyone at the FBI but I think you might know someone.”
“Hunter, you’re scaring me again.”
“Here’s the deal, those two airplanes had to be hijacked and New York is just one target—Washington has to be next. Then maybe Chicago and LA but there are going to be more of these. I know how they did it and the guys that helped facilitate the hijackings were Muslim pre-board screeners at the departure airports. There will be significant chaos and I doubt the FBI will be able to do it quickly but if they don’t they will lose contact with the accomplices and the evidence will all be erased.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…..slow down, what are you trying to say?”

“Greg, the only way to get a weapon aboard an airplane so you can highjack it is if the pre-board screener—the guy sitting at the x-ray machine on the concourse—either doesn’t catch a weapon in someone’s hand carry baggage when it comes through the machine or if the pre-board screener is in on it from the get-go and is told to ignore anything coming through the x-ray machine, say from 8:30 to 9:00. Hell, they can even look up from their screen and see who is in line and is on their way to their x-ray machine. It is probably too late to do anything but this is what the investigators are going to find…..”
Lynch was writing wildly—when Hunter got into one of these outpourings of consciousness, he knew he needed to take notes and hang on. They would talk about it later.
“….a group of Muslims were manning the x-ray machines at every one of the airport concourses that the hijacked aircraft departed from.

Those on a terrorist watch list are just the ones authorities know about. Duncan Hunter would say, “Commies infiltrated the State Department while some of the more radical elements of Islam infiltrated the nation’s airports. And then we have 9-11. Why do you think the government federalized airport security? Contractors couldn’t adequately perform an FAA background check for potential airport screening employees; too expensive and too lengthy a process. But Uncle Sam could. That the French have almost 60 people on a terrorism watch list begs the questions–how many more should be on a watch list that their officials don’t know about and why are those that have been identified, why are they still working at an international airport?

Duncan Hunter is a genius and was again, on top of the problem before the press became aware of “the issue.”

More to follow.

Politics, part 2

In Special Access, after Hunter interrogates Osama bin Laden and releases the President’s CIA file, he reveals the truth behind several conspiracies hidden behind the firewalls of top secret security clearances, CIA files, and Special Access Programs. The Hunter books are designed be “real world” and to show conflict between the conservative Hunter and his best friend, but liberal boss, Greg Lynche. Hunter’s conservative versus Lynche’s liberalism. Instant conflict. Between friends. The mild, urbane, and polished Lynche is the political counterweight to the sometimes brash, aggressive, not-so-polished, type-A Duncan Hunter. Hunter grew up in a household where his parents didn’t have enough credits to make a high school diploma between them. Lynche is graduate school Ivy League. A wine connoisseur. Comfortable in executive or foreign relations settings or in a tuxedo. Hunter plays racquetball and races an old race car competitively. Lynche sails; from a yacht club. He gets sweaty from being in the sun on his sailboat. Hunter was a Marine Corps fighter pilot. One is rough, one is refined. Conservative versus liberal, and somehow they find a way to work together in the crazy world of communists, terrorists, and the radical liberals trying to take down their country.

A reflection of the real world, the world we are living in.

More to follow.

Ripped from the Headlines

It would be unfair to say there isn’t an element of “today’s news” in the Duncan Hunter books. Shortly after Osama bin Laden was reportedly found and killed, The Drudgereport ran a headline that suggested Osama bin Laden wasn’t dead when he was spirited out of Pakistan. Of course, readers of Special Access were presented with an alternative to the government’s proclamations.

From Special Access: Ox flashed the red-lensed flashlight into the night. Seconds later two men carrying a stretcher with a body passed Hunter and the Ox. Ox spoke to ground as the men wrestled with the stretcher up the airstairs. “You want to ask me a question Maverick?”
“I do. Why did you do it? Bullfrog wasn’t sure.”
“The President called me in Afghanistan and strongly suggested he die in Pakistan. We trained for months to take him alive so we could interrogate him and at the last possible moment POTUS said, ‘Kill him.’ With all the intrigue surrounding our commander in chief, and the fact that I saw a file on him at Langley, killing him was probably an illegal order or at least a high crime. I was convinced there is something in that asshole’s head that our very liberal POTUS wants squashed, and my SEALs were the instruments to make it so. Americans deserve to know the truth about their President; especially this one. What about you? How did you get pulled into this?”
Hunter was surprised. “Me? Bullfrog and I were at the Naval War College and I’ll let Bullfrog fill you in on the rest of the story. Let’s just say it has been a long and strange journey to get here. My view is that I see what our enemies are doing to good people and fighting them is a full time job. Whatever flavor of enemy—liberal, Marxist, socialist, commie, radical, Islamofascist—I see them for what they really are. It is a battle between good and evil.”
“The democrats have the devil as the head of their party.”
“You’re right Ox, something is definitely wrong with that guy. You did the right thing, Sir.”
“Welcome to the fight Maverick.”
“You’re a great American, Sir.”
“Thank you Maverick. Let’s get you out of here.”
“I hope we can finish what you started and gave us.”
He offered his hand, Hunter tried not to have his crushed as SEALs are wont to do, gave the man a good shake and saluted the patriot. “I have all the trust and confidence you can. Fair winds and following seas, Maverick.”
“Semper Fi, Ox.” Hunter turned and ran up the airstairs, and pulled them up behind him, trying hard not to look like a wimp as his damaged ribs screamed back at him. At the sound of the door closing, Lynch started an engine. Hunter witnessed the two men in black discarding their gear to get comfortable in the huge chairs. In the aisle rested a stretcher with a man. Hunter signaled “thumbs up” to the two SEALs and they responded, quietly, in kind. Four minutes later Hunter raised the landing gear passing 180 knots and said into his microphone, “Feet Wet.” Lynch nodded and scanned the instruments bathed in red light.
Passing through 10,000 feet Lynch chortled, “That wasn’t so bad. Now what are we going to do?”
“I hope you set the course for Djibouti.”
“Of course. I understand they have a nice hotel now.”
“Maybe next trip we’ll check it out. Your turn to get some sleep. I’ll wake you in four hours.”
“Do we really have Osama in the back?”
“It was dark. I didn’t see a beard.”
“Could be a rumor!”
“I hope he doesn’t piss on the carpet.”
“Ugh. Don’t fall asleep.”
“Goodnight dear.”

Today’s Headlines….

CUnJsLyWUAEE_00Shoot Down full cover

Shoot Down synopsis: Shortly after takeoff, a jumbo jet explodes over the waters of Long Island. Witnesses claim the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile; the government insists a mechanical malfunction brought down the airplane. An old CIA file is uncovered which details the President was warned-to preclude commercial airliners from being shot out of the sky either pay a ransom or suffer the consequences.

Just as the Agency identifies the shadowy man responsible for the shoot down of the airliner, the Libyan dictator Gaddafi is overthrown, sparking a race between the CIA and terrorist networks to win the ultimate terrorist prize-hundreds of man-portable, shoulder-launched, anti-aircraft missiles.

Duncan Hunter and his top secret airplane once again team up with an expert crew to find the anti-aircraft missiles ahead of the al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood, and kill the man who shoots down airliners for profit.

More to follow.

Politics, part 1?

Many thriller-suspense novels understate the importance or impact of politics. Authors and publishing houses are reluctant to alienate their readers with a heavy dose of political thought or dialogue. Authors can’t portray democrats in a negative light and don’t even try to suggest some of them are diehard communists. Just tell a story without all of the political BS, don’t alienate the reader base, sell some books, apply, rinse, repeat. The Duncan Hunter books are not like that. I don’t want to ignore the real-world differences between the political parties in America or their different approach on counterterrorism and counterdrug efforts. And we’ll accurately portray the influence of communism and radical Islamism has on policy makers; in this specific regard republicans are anti-communist and anti-radical Islamist and the democrats are pro-communist and radical Islamist. This is real world and it is also that way in Duncan Hunter’s fictional world with an anti-communist and anti-radical Islamist president.

Hundreds of books were written and numerous movies were made during WWII that hammered or ridiculed (in some fashion) Hitler’s Nazis (Casablanca, anyone?) and curiously, to a lesser extent, the murderer of 100 million people, Stalin’s and Mao’s communists, and Mussolini’s fascists. Yet today if you have a strong anti-communist or politically conservative protagonist in your article, book or movie, one is accused of playing into the liberal media caricature of conservatives as simpletons, idiots, or backwoodsmen terrified of commies under the bed. I would have thought they’d inform their readers/watchers of Lenin’s/Stalin’s gulags, where political prisoners were forced into slave labor to work the gold mines; the output of which went directly into the pockets of Lenin and Stalin. So in book four, I touch on this third-rail issue. Remember, it’s a fictional world.

So in the real world, today, England and France are now putting people in jail for expressing their thoughts, just like in the days of Stalin, essentially announcing to the world, “Be careful, watch your tongue. No longer is there freedom of speech here.” Example: In Europe, one learned a group cannot (ever) publish or draw a cartoon of Mohammad without fear for one’s life. In Texas, when some murderous jihadi-wannabees tried to kill people at a draw Mohammad event, heavily armed police dispatched them like coyotes trying to raid a chicken coop. This is also Duncan Hunter’s dynamic world. And we cannot forget the great Mark Steyn was hauled before a tribunal in Canada for the temerity to ridicule the bogus work of a global warming “scientist.” Yes, I’m making quotation marks with my fingers.

Whittaker Chambers vs Alger Hiss proved the US government was infiltrated with communists. In the Duncan Hunter books, in his fictional universe, he acknowledges, at the very least, the State Department is infiltrated with communists and those communists have taken over the Democrat Party. And now the Islamists want in on the action.

I can no longer tell if Duncan Hunter’s world is now reality.

More to follow.

Duncan Hunter calls it like it is….

The Duncan Hunter books chronicle his journey from an apolitical member of the military to a politically conservative, unapologetic right-wing, patriot. In Special Access, he is tired of the obfuscation of the truth by the Left and their embrace of radical jihadists.

From Special Access: Before anyone could respond, Duncan yawned and stretched his arms before saying, “The situation is this, these guys have been telling us, day in and day out they are going to kill us. One day you open your eyes and find some version of Dr. Evil holding a .44 Magnum to your forehead; the barrel and front sight jammed right in the middle of your forehead. What do you do? If you’re a liberal, Marxist, socialist, communist, Islamofascist, environmental whack-job, radical or any of the other dumbass panty-waisted bed-wetters out there, I suppose you let the asshole shoot you. But if you’re a conservative, a capitalist, a patriot; an American, Israeli or British Special Forces or even if you just have half a brain you snatch the gun away from Dr. Evil and beat the shit out of Dr. Evil, and then you shoot Dr. Evil—six times—and put the film of what is left of Dr. Evil’s gray matter on the internet. If you have to piss up Dr. Evil’s nose to get him to tell you where they are hiding the keys to the Mark Ten thermonuclear device, you keep the water coming until Dr. Evil calls uncle. You title it, ‘Negotiating with Dr. Evil.’ So when this turd has not only been threatening me, my family and friends, my fellow Americans, and my country’s friends and I find myself in the proverbial position of having that gun to my head, I’m going to do something about it and I’m not going to worry or second guess what those idiots on ‘the other side of the aisle’ think of me. 9—11 was the day that opened my eyes.”

And then he shocks his future wife and future boss with a pair of battery cables and a Die Hard battery. Then he secures a five star rating on Amazon.com.

More to follow.

International Spy Museum Book Signing and Duncan Hunter

Another fantastic book signing at the International Spy Museum in downtown Washington DC. Sold a boatload of books and met some amazing people. Lawyers from Napa and Nashville, blonde-haired blue eyed goddesses from Sweden and Switzerland and Toronto, soccer moms from Texas, and even a distant cousin. I dedicated a book to another aviation geek named Mark Hewitt, brother to Chet. That was both great and weird. Cannot make this stuff up! Yes, I had a glorious time. I thank the Museum for having me–they are the best in the business hosting authors.

And I cannot forget the day before; my book and I were “the surprise gifts” for a gentleman at the FAA on the day of his retirement. Much fun and excitement was had by all and the key lime cake was simply awesome.

Some observations from the book signing. A month ago there was a single book on the terrorist group ISIS on the rack at the Museum. Today there were no fewer than a dozen, and one on the African (Nigerian) terrorist group Boko Haram. Noteworthy, Boko Haram is mentioned in Shoot Down and in No Need to Know, Duncan Hunter conducts an operation in northern Nigeria to eliminate Boko Haram leaders who decimated a town, killed the adults, and kidnapped a couple of dozen Christian girls. Not just in my book but in real life they are a murderous bunch.

Very many book buyers were interested in the “goings-on” in the Middle East and especially Paris in light of the ISIS successes in Syria and Paris. We talked counterterrorism operations at a very basic level, not just the fictional world of Duncan Hunter. The general consensus was that the Administration hasn’t a clue as to what to do; it was obvious to those that came by my table had an opinion that to defeat ISIS requires more “boots on the ground” (meaning ground troops) but they cannot go there for political reasons, which is a pathetic display of presidential leadership. In No Need to Know, the fictional President doesn’t have any such qualms and sends Hunter and Bill McGee into the belly of the beast.
No Need to Know Cover bmp
From No Need to Know: Hunter said, “Tally ho! I would say the top dogs are in the lead vehicle. What do you think? Big Toyota SUV.”
“I agree—they’re in the nicer truck and the leaders aren’t about to suck on dust for miles.”
“Double checked, gun armed,” said Hunter.
“Roger. You have the LD (laser designator), I have the gun. I recommend we wait until they stop; we’ll watch the behavior of the leaders, prioritize them, and then eliminate them. Then the other men.”
“Sounds like a plan, sir.”
“Duncan, I hope you brought enough bullets.”
“We’ve got twenty.”
“That might not be enough.”
“I have faith in your expertise to kill scum,” offered Hunter.
McGee lifted his eyes from the screen and turned his head, to the blackness of the night. Something was bothering him and he struggled to articulate his thoughts. After returning his gaze on the FLIR image, McGee asked, “Do we have to let one go?”
Hunter knew what McGee was intimating. The plan was to kill all the terrorists, all but one. One lucky bastard terrorist would live to tell the story of how his friends had died, ambushed by an unseen rival tribe or group. But in this case, there was an obvious solution. “No one needs to know, Bill, and besides, the girls will report it was something or someone unseen.”
“They’re stopping. Showtime.”
Hunter placed the dot of the laser designator on the chest of the first man to step from the big Toyota. “You’re cleared hot. I say kill them. Kill them all…and their pet goat. Let Allah sort them out.”

More to follow.

17 Nails, Part 2

The origin for the concept of “17 Nails” came from an aptitude test during an executive development teambuilding exercise.

From No Need to Know: A set of blueprints opened up to reveal an airplane design. Very long wings with a canopy atop a fuselage with an extended nose and no propeller marked the aircraft as unusual and odd. To the uninitiated OSS man, the design was perplexing. “Outré,” uttered Dulles. He tossed the blueprints to the side.
A small black leather bag lay before him. It tinkled inside when he lifted it to inspect it. Dulles was confused by the contents of sixteen penny-nails with a seventeenth embedded into the center of a small block of wood. A manila file was attached to the pouch with a clip. With the thick red rubric Siebzehn Nagel, 17 Nails, dozens of looseleaf, lime-green sheets—from an engineering tablet—listed names, addresses, occupations, and time. “Time?” thought Dulles. He dropped the file and left the nails to rest atop the pouch.

Ortiz placed the block of wood with the nail impaled upright on the table and scrutinized the vertical nail with the one in his hand. He rubbed the nail between his fingers to get a sense of what material made up the nail. Convinced the nail was a standard penny-nail, he placed the loose nail atop the other, until it balanced perfectly on the flat nail head. “It’s a test of some kind,” he said. Ortiz’s demeanor instantly changed as he assessed the challenge, like a detective who realized he had just found the first murky clue surrounding a murder investigation.
“Are you sure?” asked Dulles, spinning from the window to the table. He wasn’t convinced the nails represented anything important and remained wary of the man’s outburst.
“Quite. The folder has a column to record times. It must be a test. Intelligence. Aptitude. Likely complex problem solving. Something. For it to be in the satchel, it must be very important. At least it was to someone.”
“What does it mean? Can you solve it?”
“I’m not sure. It seems the most improbable task would be to balance all of the nails on the head of the other.” Ortiz banged two nails together. “They’re not made of a special metal nor are they magnetized.” He then tried to hang them, one on each side, from their large flat heads on the nail suspended atop the other.
“But…that’s impossible!” objected Dulles as he scrutinized the man in uniform as he tinkered with individual nails.
He tried to hang two nails over a third but they wouldn’t hold. Ortiz watched intently as the two nails swung in opposite directions and slipped off the balanced nail, sending all three loose nails crashing onto the table. As Dulles barked, “See—impossible!” Ortiz subconsciously rocked on his heels. He saw something. Something very subtle in the movement of the opposite nails swinging…unbalancing the top balanced nail before falling. His mind raced at the possibilities, juggling options and discarding the obviously wrong solutions. Once he discerned the proper sequence, he broke out into a broad smile. Ortiz’s hands flew over the table as he arranged nails left and right on top of one nail. Then he put another nail on top of them, then lifted, and gently placed, and balanced sixteen nails on the head of the seventeenth. He turned and smirked at the OSS man.
“My God!” whispered Dulles once he composed himself, “I never could have done that. My man, that was…brilliant.”

An example of Hunter’s CIA 17 Nails test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=weoPxqz0tF4

More to follow.

17 Nails?

For those readers that haven’t read Special Access, to find how Duncan Hunter got onto the CIA’s radar scope as someone special, someone they wanted to recruit, the answer is found in the basement of the CIA.

From Special Access: The man in the gray suit and dark tie entered the access code into the programmable keypad, pressed down on the door latch and entered the SCIF. From under his arm he withdrew the jumbo brown kraft envelope and tossed it on the work table. He sliced through the double-wrapped cover with a sharp box cutter and removed most of the thick package from the FBI; immediately removing the heavy clip from the two-inch thick stack of documents. The man scanned a completed blue fingerprint card; processed, stamped, and approved by the FBI. Several ten-panel urine screens were stamped NEGATIVE; no trace or history of amphetamine, barbiturate, cannabis, cocaine, or opiate use for the last ten years. A heavily marked up questionnaire for national security positions provided the backbone for the fifty-five DSS investigator’s interviews of the subject’s acquaintances, friends, co-workers, and family as well as copies of military, medical and school records. The man reached into the jumbo envelope and spilled out two dozen photographs, clipped together. “Let’s see what you look like” said the man. He adjusted his necktie before flipping through the black and white 8×10 photographs of the subject in his Marine uniform or in a racquetball court or engaged in some other physical activity. He stopped at the color photograph with the subject in a flight suit, standing on the boarding ladder of a Navy jet, helmet in hand, broad smile. Short dark hair with no receding hairline, the man in the photo was a very handsome lean, mean fighting machine. “Probably the perfect build, weight and height for a fighter pilot. Not a bad little hero shot,” said the man.

After three hours of reading and making notes in the margins, he reached across the table for a large stamp and like-sized ink pad. He flipped opened the ink pad, grabbed the stamp and pounded the ink pad three times before centering the stamp on the bottom of the cover sheet. APPROVED in red letters remained from the ink transfer. The man initialed the page then separated the disparate sections of the package and placed the sections into an accordion file folder, popped the top of a black ink marker and wrote HUNTER, DUNCAN USMC across the top of the file flap. He scooted his chair back from the table, picked up the file folder and placed it among other like-folders in the four-drawer safe. Culled from thousands of subjects which took a battery of simple aptitude tests across America during the 50s, 60s, and 70s the CIA Science & Technology Directorate was interested in the outcome of a single test—how quickly could a subject balance 16 penny nails on the head of another. Under three minutes was noteworthy; under two exceptional. Balancing 16 nails on the head of one in under 60 seconds and the National Clandestine Service wanted to talk and take a look at the feasibility of recruitment. HUNTER, DUNCAN USMC was the first person in almost five years to break the code and deliver the solution in 58 seconds. The man charged with identifying unusually capable and talented people for unique and time sensitive special access programs closed the safe marked 17 NAILS, spun the dial, and left the tiny SCIF.

More to follow.

Duncan Hunter’s Airplanes, Beechcraft Staggerwing

Sometimes the intrepid Duncan Hunter has to improvise, especially when he is trying to escape some murderous Libyan special operations soldiers. When someone shoots him out of the sky, he kills the bastard that did it and steals his airplane to get off the African continent. Fly first and ask questions later, like, “Where’s the landing gear handle?”

From Shoot Down: The Staggerwing was still in the hangar when Hunter fired up the nine cylinder radial, filling the structure with white oily smoke and deafening noise from the engine exhaust. Hunter shouted with glee that he didn’t have a backfire or blow off any of the exhaust stacks. He programed the throttle to get the airplane moving out of the hangar, flipped on the landing light, caged the gyro, and checked that the flight controls were free and not obstructed. I forgot how loud these things can be!
Sixty seconds later Duncan Hunter tried to raise the landing gear but couldn’t find a landing gear handle. He didn’t know much about Staggerwings and thought this version could have fixed gear. He smiled at himself for not noticing whether the aircraft was a fixed-gear model or a retractable, and turned the aircraft to the north toward the sea. He settled into a flying rhythm of an airplane he’d never flown before. The excitement of learning a new airplane, especially one as rare and iconic as the Staggerwing, distracted him enough and he began to settle down. In his rush to get off the ground as fast as possible, he bypassed all of the normal checklist items and did not preflight the aircraft. He had no technical knowledge of the G-17 and wouldn’t have even known where to check the oil level or where to add a quart. He gambled with his life that the owner of the Beechcraft was as diligent about maintaining his airplane as Hunter was with his. As he leveled off at 3000 feet, it appeared the gamble paid off.
cropped-Beech_D17S_Staggerwing.jpg

More to follow.

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