William Thomas / www.willthomasonline.net – 2007-11-08 21:30:23
My first question to the inside source I have come to call “Hank“ during our 15 year-collaboration concerning the Pentagon’s recent atomic SANFU was so instantly obvious, every other US news organization has been careful not to raise a corporate eyebrow and likewise inquire: “Does the official story fly? “Did 70 Minot minnows deserve to get swallowed by bigger fish that got away?
“The powers that be, all the way from the Commander-in-Chief down to the people who ran the two bases, all the people, from air traffic controllers — these things have beacons on them — if you were told, ignore it and you did, you are in trouble.“ Hank’s comments came in a characteristic rush of main points and asides that knew my own military mindset was locked in synch. In this case, I knew he was referring to the fact that America’s nuclear weapons are equipped with beeping transponders that should have been tracked in flight — and cross-checked with superiors. This did not happen.
So the firings were fair?
“All of the people who got fired should have been fired because they obeyed an illegal order, and they knew it, “ he replied. “And they went outside the chain of command after being told: ‘You’re going to turn off your alarms that tell people these things are being taken out to the tarmac. You are going to sit on this information until we tell you otherwise?We are going to do all these weird things and you are just going to ignore it.“
“They were taught to obey these things, “ he added, referring to strict nuclear verification procedures. “They had an opportunity to say no, and they decided to go along. Some of the folks who were smacked, let’s say they were collateral. A base group of 45 should’ve got the boot. At least 10 of them should have gone to jail, or been shot. “
“Holy crap! “ I exclaimed, borrowing one of his favorite phrases.
“Yessir! “ Hank said. “These are the people who got the keys, opened the nuclear bunker, put the bomb on the truck, drove it out — and didn’t see the guys with the guns and the painted faces°® who were supposed to be keeping eyes-on the surrounding environment. If no guards are present when you roll out a nuke, the rules are simple and direct: Do not proceed. Do not go for coffee. GO BACK INSIDE!
“Instead, “ Hank resumed, “it was ‘wink and nod, and nudge nudge.“ He assumed an enlisted’s whine: “They said, ‘go ahead.’ And I want to get back to my copy of I Dream Of Jeannie.“
“But during a nuclear loadout,“ I interjected, “it takes just one person raising their hand to shut the whole thing down.“
“Correct!“ Hank concurred. “One person raising their hand would’ve stopped it: ‘Can I see your orders? Can I have a receipt?’ would’ve stopped it.“
So why oh why, I wanted to know, in the midst of a full nuclear loadout never before undertaken by the United States Air Force — and with no announced threats incoming on any radar — didn’t one of the 70 people most directly involved ask the most basic WTF?
Or if they did, why weren’t they listened to, as strict nuclear protocols and procedures demand? Hank added.
“They must have thought they were following a legitimate order,“ I ventured.
“They could not have thought they were following a legitimate order, because the orders were so whacky,“ Hank shot back, segueing into the mimicry that is his expository trademark: “We’re going to put it all together and slap it on this plane, and we don’t know where it’s going to. And for several hours the guards who are supposed to be guarding this stuff just aren’t going to be there.”
°ßWhen it comes down to the movement of nuclear weapons, there is a totally different universe of thought,“ he later picked up this thread. And yanked. “The people selected to do this know that this could effect millions of people in an instant. Plus the fact that we’re on a war footing; we’ve got terrorist alerts left and right. Any extreme goes these days — six nuclear weapons loaded on an airplane bound some fuckin’ where, and we’re going to go bomb the crap out of somebody.
“We are not that at war,“ he added heatedly. “This wasn’t for transportation. These were locked and loaded weapons. It was a war loadout. This was getting ready to shoot somebody in the face. They were loading weapons and handing them to somebody to go shoot somebody. They had the opportunity to stop and think, What are we actually doing?“
Big news, guys: “Dr. Strangelove“ was not a training video.
HAVE A NICE WEEKEND
Hank could have been standing on the Minot apron last August, looking up with a group of wide-eyed Airedales at six “hot“ nuclear cruise missiles being fueled in place under a strategic bomber’s wings.
“It’s unmistakable. Somebody is going to get bombed,“ he voiced their thoughts. “These are SLAMS — stand off weapons. What possible place that we could be bombing at this very moment would require that much firepower? And we’re talking the permanent devastation of part of this planet?“
These were not just some worker bees lashing crates of oranges to the deck of a schooner. These were highly trained individuals handling nuclear freaking weapons! “It’s not just part of their job to affix it to a plane until the plane flies off, but to secure them until they are needed,“ Hank pointed out.
And yet, I reiterated, on a base mostly shut down for the Family Day weekend, “There’s no alert. DEFCON status hasn’t changed.“
“Correct, “ my source again affirmed. “Nothing’s happening to indicate a need to bomb somebody. What were they thinking? I would like to know. These things are supposed to prevent war.“
If Hank was a happy camper, you definitely would not want to get caught wandering around his AO wearing a bear suit.
“People need to get booted in the ass so hard their nuts fly out of their mouths,“ he suggested: “This is your job, asshole. This is what you get paid for.“
The combat veteran paused in disbelief — both at the professional misconduct of so many highly trained individuals, and the scale of retribution that he was told followed our Internet “outing“ of a FUBAR even more serious than an admitted Broken Spear nuclear “accident.“
“We didn’t need a few heads to roll, “ he continued. “This is a drum roll of heads rolling. Anything over 10, you’re shittin’ me. When I heard it was 70, I had to sit the hell down. This was one singular event cutting the largest singular swath through the military. Remember Pearl Harbor? How many people got court-marshaled?“
I knew the answer from writing Days of Deception. And before unjustly tarnishing his reputation, Washington had deliberately kept Admiral Kimmell away from their closely held intel tracking Nagumo’s approaching fleet.
“This was 70 people of different rank across the board,“ Hank continued. “But this went beyond the base commander. It should have gone all the way to the NCA.“
This means you, Dubya.
“At what level of incompetence did we stop at?“ Hank kept going. “Are you saying that a Lieutenant Colonel is capable of initiating a nuclear strike? Actually a colonel is. Did we fire a colonel? No. A five-star general? We have one of those. No. How far up the chain of command did it go, and why did it stop there?“
Whoa, I said, speaking through my journalist’s hat. Everyone involved says the National Command Authority did not know this incident was taking place. Bush and Gates were both notified as soon as six live nukes were found dangling from the wing of a B-52 parked alone and unguarded on the Barksdale tarmac. Of course, that little discovery supposedly did not come until the next day.
A FEW QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU’RE TAKEN OUTSIDE
Hank fielded my demur and lobbed it smoking toward the White House: “There is zero way they should not have been involved,“ he declared. “In order to take one nuke and fly it over the United States, the NCA would have A: had to be involved. B. had to be involved. And C: had to be involved. You get my point.“
“There are no other [authorizing] fingers. That’s it. There are only two. That would be the President, and the Secretary of Defense.“
He switched to sounding like a prosecutor at a military tribunal: “You ‘didn’t know.’ How was it possible that you didn’t know?“
Addressing the judges, he pointed to the NCA: “They’re supposed to be competent in their jobs. There are so many safeguards in place, it could not have occurred without them being involved. They either had to acknowledge a statement that someone else made — or sign a piece of paper put in front of them. Once you do something like this, it doesn’t go away. It follows you around. Its on your record that you deployed nuclear weapons.“
He paused before firing for effect:
“Or admit that they were out of the loop. That°¶s the rock and the hard place. There is no gray area here. Either you are in control of our nuclear weapons arsenal. Or not. And if you are not, would you please point to the person in the room who is. Whether the order came from within the system or outside the system °” this event occurred. Explain it. If it happened without your cooperation or acknowledgement or involvement, can you please point to the individual who did your job and is not being accountable for the “mistake”? You want to pin a nuclear weapon on an E-2. Really?
“They’re firing everybody,” he recapped. “Even if you came into the room while we’re firing people — we’re firing you, too.” How do you fire 70 people for a single event, and not be able to pin it on the highest person involved?”
Someone had to play Devil’s Advocate General. “They did get the Minot Base commander,” I suggested.
“Oh, please,” Hank came back. “No! The commander only sits on them. He doesn’t deploy them. If somebody shows up with a legitimate order, he supplies them °” three of these, five of those. Where did that plane originate? Where did the order to load that plane originate? A base commander cannot have a plane, and the weapons, and the release codes under his purview. That does not happen. Otherwise, if he was a loose cannon, he could load up and launch his own mission.
“Holding people accountable — I think that’s mandatory. Even Tailhook went all the way up the chain,” Hank pointed out, referring to the abrupt end of the Navy zoomies — female harassment parties that saw an admiral keel-hauled. “These are the guys who are actually in charge of the things that take cities off the map.”
NCA: NATIONAL COMMAND ACCIDENT?
Once again, he asserted, someone is avoiding responsibility for his mistakes.
“Either the order had to be signed by W. himself and somebody hand-carried it through the system, or there is zero possibility this could’ve gotten off the ground,” Hank asserted. “Why a full loadout under the wings and nothing in the cargo hold? We went right to the ‘in your face ready to fire/’ They went right for: We’re going to go kill somebody.”
“A lot of somebodies,” I said.
“How far up the chain of command should this have gone? And the answer is: The person ultimately responsible for nuclear weapons. There’s nowhere for anybody to hide on this one.”
Either an unelected president (whose political party controls the nation°¶s voting machines) — with or without the knowledge of his defense secretary — ordered six armed cruise missiles airborne for reasons as yet undisclosed…
Or, Hank finished, “The system was corrupted from within by the lack of leadership of the individuals in charge of this. Prior to 2000, this did not happen. Nowadays, with him swinging it big and saying, “Let’s be a cowboy — and everybody wants to be like him — so the Chinese send in an order knowing that it won’t be questioned. And they got it. The only way this could have happened is if someone posing as the NCA, or the NCA himself, put those pieces in motion. Both NCA set an example that allowed this to occur — set up the circumstances for someone to take advantage of the system. They are at fault.”
“What about China?” I wanted to know. “Everybody’s saying, ‘accident’. Do you have any more confirmation that Chinese military hackers were or were not directly involved?”
“On the confirmation side that would be a yes. It definitely was them,” Hank said, citing corroborating sources who have come forward since our story appeared. “That is a biggie.”
Hank was reconfirming that after “back-dooring” the Made In China microchips infesting the entire US civilian and military infrastructure, Beijing now has the capability to load an American nuclear bomber and fly it around CONUS like a remote-controlled model plane!
It’s public knowledge that the Chinese have hacked the Pentagon’s computers, Hank emphasized, referring to worldwide media coverage of last year’s digital raids by the PLA. “And while they were in the Pentagon they got access to — fill in the blanks. In a cyber attack, you either change something, or gain access to something.”
“Our computer systems are totally FUBAR’d,” he responded. “We’re so stupid, we can’t pour pee out of a boot when the instructions are on the bottom. There is no way this could have occurred, logically, neurologically — any kind of logically. The Chinese initiate this. They put it through the system, and it’s actually taken off and flying.”
I stopped laughing.
“Somebody saw it for what it was and caught it in time,” Hank went on. “The only thing that kept this thing from going any further was that someone saw this happening again and said, ‘not this time.’”
Not this time?
“This has happened before,” Hank revealed. “There is no guarantee that this was the first. This is the one that got caught — ‘turn around, land here, do not pass go.’ And there are four missiles missing from the national inventory.”
Four nuclear weapons are missing from the US arsenal? I shouted into the phone.
Where are they, for pity’s sake?
“Where they are I do not know,” Hank answered. “The same safeguards were shut down. The same methodologies were used. Everybody knows about it, nobody admits to it. Everybody’s doin’ the behind-the-hand thing: ‘Yeah, we know. But we don’t talk about it.’”
CAN YOU SAY, NUKULAR PROFILERATION?
Hank added that the four prodigal nukes went on walkabout — or flyabout — since Bush Jr. came on watch.
Did the Chinese swipe them? I was afraid to ask, but couldn’t help myself. Hank didn’t know. He was trying to find out. But his behind-their-hands sources were hanging up their phones.
“Somebody saw it for what it was, and caught it in time,” he reiterated, referring to the Minot caper. “I’m thinking the origination was the same. If they did the other one with the four — if they got away with that — what did they do with the missiles? And why come back to rob the same bank?”
“Because the door was still open,” I guessed.
“Right,” Hank said, morphing metaphors. “You’re shutting the barn door not only after the cow has fled, but has been butchered and sold for hamburger at the local Wendy’s.”
When I stopped laughing — with a kind of strangled moan — he went on.
“The fact that they are just now taking punitive action against basically two platoons of military personnel — 70 people out the door — that’s a significant amount of individuals. On top of that, you’re going to need replacement people. Are the same people who hired those 70, going to be hiring the next 70 to replace them?”
“One more thing,” I said, staring at a clock that could not be right. “We’ve got six or seven dead at Minot and Barksdale. What do you know about that?”
“Half of them have been verified as hands-on,” Hank replied.
“All I’m getting are local TV news accounts of car crashes and ‘unfortunate accidents,’” I reported. “Two were a married couple at Barksdale. Which is odd. And apparently, a pilot and a navigator from Minot are also dead.”
“Two were security — the people who would have been key to making sure that access was granted, that things went smoothly,” Hank supplied.
One of the deceased was Airman First Class Todd Blue, 20, who died while on leave in Virginia. Blue was assigned to the 5th Security Forces Squadron, which guards B-52H Stratofortresses at Minot. The base statement did not say how he died. According to an online source, the six air force personnel listed below were from Minot and “were directly involved as loaders or as pilots.”
“Is it possible that those were seven hands going up?” Hank wondered.
I suddenly felt even chillier than the temperature outside.
“One death could be attributable to shit happens,” my military insider reckoned. “One is a coincidence. Two is enemy action. They had seven.
“And if this wasn’t something fishy,” Hank went on, “the people entrusted with our nuclear weapons are so incompetent they all killed themselves? What were the number of deaths they had per year at this place? This many deaths in that short of time would have been a significant number of the 75 to 110 in charge of the nukes at Minot.
“Seven dead. In order to cover this up, our guys are getting killed by our guys,” he speculated. And if the order to arm and launch the B-52 did not come officially from our National Command Authority. “If it came from outside, there would be no reason to blow these people away. Unless they had seen that the orders had come from outside.”
If in fact, all or some of the seven were sacrificed in faked “accidents” — is that reason enough to kill them? The military community already knows that the PLA can penetrate the Pentagon’s, SAC’s and SecDef’s most sensitive computers.
Even Hank was puzzled. “The fact that China initiated this, and we killed our own people…. I’m really coming up blank on why this had to happen. What is there that we don’t know yet? What could have taken it to that level?”
And if they were not murdered, why was the official reaction to seven service deaths within 10 days of a high-profile nuclear incident at two air bases so glaringly wrong?
SEE NO EVIL
“Seven,” Hank repeated. “For those individuals to have gone that quickly, with no official investigation….“ His voice trailed off. This was not the military he’d known.
“A base commander gets one soldier on drunk driving, he or she has to look into it,” he resumed. “If there was an injury, there is a board of inquiry called, and the base commander has to attend to that. If a fatality occurs, the base commander can be put on suspension pending an investigation…. If you have something like that recurring — that’s the key. If it’s the second, and then a fifth, and then sixth — once it gets past a certain point, it becomes a homicide investigation. At the least, such recklessness must be brought under control.”
“They looked into it in the most cursorily possible matter,” he said. “When you’re talking someplace where nukes are concerned, people can be compromised in a heartbeat. Security is the key…. We are trained to look for patterns. This definitely fits a pattern: The same people involved in the same basic job, same base, same time-frame — all ending up dead, one after the other, at a nuclear facility. Oh, really? Seven of our highly trained individuals end up dying, and we don’t even look into it?”
After all, he added, military professionals are “supposedly more on the ball than the average civilian. We’re trained in survival. And yet they can’t seem to cross the street? I don’t know of any organization — the UAW for shit’s sake — who would see seven people croak and not launch an investigation. And the US military is losing people left and right and basically scratching their ass.”
We were not alone in suspecting foul play. As many as 30 people from both bases have contacted Hank, afraid their lives are also forfeit. “You want to take a bet on who’s next?” they asked him.
“Some of these folks had contact with these individuals on the post,” he explained. “Others with their family members.”
Why are some 30 serving members of the United States military afraid of being murdered — by the US military? According to Hank, the people who approached him said: ”Everything I eat, I look at. Everything I drink, I check. I drink bottled drinks. And I don’t get them from the same place twice.”
Having dealt with a contract on my own life for video some folks did not appreciate seeing aired on national TV, I can add that having to constantly check your car for lethal modifications also gets to be a drag. (Happily, my incoming assassin was picked up for speeding with an AK-47 and baggie of pot on his front seat. We later shook hands and shared a laugh in a courthouse washroom.)
Morale at Minot? Are you kidding? Far from any action or promise of promotion, this about-to-be closed North Dakota air base is considered in the air force as a redundant Cold War posting not far south from polar exile. “Why not Minot? “ is an air force expression guaranteed to shape up the most recalcitrant enlistee serving at another base.
Today, Hank commented, “It’s not really a happy-go-lucky kind of place. Not knowing if you’re next, or if the person next to you is going to cause you to be next. Not being able to trust the new people coming onto the base.’”
He was referring to the post-mass firing fear of being flipped inverted in the wingtip vortices of fresh incompetence, and auguring in like 70 fellow blue-suiters — including the base C.O. — who followed orders and did their jobs. Or what they thought were their jobs.
“These 30 individuals are not looking forward to the holidays,” Hank added. “They are wondering, ;Am I going to be reassigned?’”
“Accidents happen on holidays,” I suggested.
“More than ever,” Hank agreed.
But this time we’ll be watching. So be warned. Some very powerful friendlies are paying attention, too.
IF YOU’RE SEEING WHAT WE’RE SEEING,
JUST HIT ‘SEND’
“Command Override was a really turning point for a lot of people,” Hank concluded. He meant military personnel.
“These are calm, sober-minded individuals and they’re seeing it the same way we do. They’re asking questions. And they’re on the inside. They should have the answers. They were there. This to me is the most sobering thought of the whole thing: When the people who were physically there don’t know what was going on.”
For every military hit on willthomasonline.net, he further advised, our information is being forwarded to dozens of co-workers. °ßSome very hard-nosed people are looking back on what they know is not adding up, and seeing where we’re going — and concurring — and passing it on.”
And their basic military message, Hank translated into direct gruntese: “Everybody wake the fuck up and look around because some shit°¶s going down and you need to know.“
CLUELESS IN CYBERSPACE
I advised Hank to go get some breakfast. But first, one more thing I had to know: What did he think of that Cyber Command Center officially set up at Barksdale to “counter Chinese military hackers” just weeks after the PLA’s dramatic fly-by?
“They had the T-1, -2 and -3 trunking lines already installed. And it was in the dead center of nuke city,” he verbally shrugged. “They have wanted to set something like that up for quite some time.”
So are we good? Can the guardians of America’s skies now stop hackers sophisticated enough to download America’s nuclear launch codes?
“These cyber crime guys are the same ones who do what the FBI does,” Hank replied. “Before this, they looked for people breaking into a banking account. Or downloading Napster one time too many times. They’ve touched on the Russian mafia. But when it comes to something like hacking the Pentagon — no. These boys are outclassed.”
Will it happen again?
“There’s nobody left to do it again,” Hank said.
Then he reconsidered. “It doesn’t change a thing. What hasn’t changed is whether or not we deploy them.”
He meant nuclear weapons. He meant that thanks to a few helpful hackers and nearly six-dozen numbnuts banished to a dead-end posting with a reputation for flying one wing low on its readiness inspections, just having these things around has become so God-awful dangerous, every nuclear weapon in the US inventory — and anywhere else for that matter — should be gathered up immediately and fired into the sun.
Because back here on Earth, God’s own appointed Armageddon-expeditors, AWOL Bush and Shotgun Cheney, have just months remaining to try out their new “nukular” penetrators on families just like yours in Iran.
Unless they’re tossed into Gitmo as “enemy combatants” for a long list of felonies first.
FULL SERVICE PROVIDERS
“The biggest worry that they have nowadays is they will give a legitimate order, and be told, ‘fuck you,’” Hank concluded on a more hopeful note. “These are people doing insane things and trying to get people to think they are sane. This is waking people up to how insane things have gotten — that the people running the insane asylum should be inmates, too.”
If you are a serving member in the United States military — and more than one million people are — what[s the lesson here?
“Blindly following,“ Hank said. “A bad idea that will get you killed. You’re a thinking human being first and foremost. And part of the oath that you swore [to defend against all enemies] was domestic, and foreign. We could be nuking another country and starting the final world war because some nutbar up there wants to see Yahweh. And holy crap! – it’s the one running all of us! Whether the order came from the nuthouse, or was faked to look like it was coming from the nuthouse — it came from the nuthouse.“
Good night. And good luck.
GLOSSARY OF MILTARY TERMS:
AO Area of Operations
CIC Commander-in-Chief — President of the United States
CO Commanding Officer – the person you salute who tells you what to do
CONUS Continental United States
FUBAR Fucked Up Beyond All Repair
GITMO Illegal US concentration camp and torture facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
INTEL Military intelligence – not always an oxymoron
PLA Chinese People°¶s Liberation Army
NCA National Command Authority — the President and Secretary of Defense can personally launch wars
SAC Strategic Air Command
SNAFU Situation Normal, All Fouled Up
WTF What The Fuck