Jack and Storm were putting the first search plan together when the TV monitor on the wall, tuned to Fox, interrupted programming with a news alert. Jack took one look and called the others over the intercom to come down to the command center. Kathy said, “No doubt the guy we are after is here. I’m only surprised he didn’t hit more bridges.”
In Iraq, snipers were often there to spread the chaos and kill the first responders. What is the plan here? Surely this can’t be the end game.
Kathy said, “We know the mantra is ‘the goal of terror is to terrorize.’ This bridge stuff must be only a beginning or … it’s a diversion.”
Kelly asked, “A diversion for what?”
Storm said, “The vulnerability of all cities is their need for the movement of goods and services. Throughout history, population centers were attacked by shutting off supplies into the cities under siege.”
“Storm, good approach,” Jack said. “The terrorists involved here are led by a man who has a deep historical understanding of warfare and the role of terror. He knows he doesn’t have the resources to block supply routes, there are just too many of them. His aim may be to spread chaos and terror among the people, just as their doctrine teaches. So what can he attack?”
Kathy said, “He can attack the streams of traffic that occur every day in hundreds of places. He doesn’t have to stop the flow of goods and services. He only has to disrupt them. Attacks could be at a different place every day. It would drive the police units crazy. If the attacks could be sustained for a few months, DC would be turned in to a city under siege.”
Lou looked at Jack and said, “You know what I’m thinking?”
“Yes! You’re thinking he can’t use car bombs to put the city under siege and spread chaos and terror through the population, because he couldn’t keep it up. Not enough resources and widespread car bombing is very complicated. Preparations are critical and you need a safe area to prepare the cars and train the people who will not survive the attacks. So you need a steady supply of vehicles and people. They are not reusable. It just so happens that we know the answer. Teams of snipers. Snipers can escape after the attack. There is a need only for ammo resupply and transportation. Targets are everywhere and anywhere. Firing positions 500 or 1,000 yards from the target are very difficult for fast reaction teams to attack. By the time we figure out where the attack came from, the snipers have moved.”
Kelly said, “Makes sense to me. You told us a highly skilled al Qaeda sniper is in the country. Your analysis fits the intelligence we have.”
Storm asked, “But why the car bombs?”
Kathy replied, “Because they wanted to start with a diversion. This guy knows no one could convince the security world that the real attack will come from teams of snipers. Even after the snipers begin, the security people will be worrying about car bombs and will not be willing to switch their resources to counter sniper teams. In a nutshell, that’s why we were asked to take on this mission, because the very smart people tasking us know how security and law and order organizations think.”
Jack said, “Okay. We ignore the car bombs and concentrate on the sniper threat. Storm and I will lay out the first search area. Kathy, wait until Lou and I come back with some lessons learned before you and Kelly work on your search pattern with Storm. Before we all get to work, did you and Kelly learn anything yesterday on your ground tour to the west?”
“Yes, we did. I already was familiar with the terrain but it was all new to Kelly. She can now look at a map of the area and have a better understanding of ground truth. Also, we checked county courthouses for small farm property transactions in the last three years. The badge helped with the record search. The clerks were very responsive. In Loudon County west of Goose Creek, there were 100 transactions. In western Montgomery County, 75 small farms under 20 acres changed hands in the same period. Kelly and I will work with Storm to mark these places on our maps. We’ll need a little luck to get much from a property search. We also need something to narrow down the area. Kelly and I will ponder that problem.”
Meeting over. People turned to their own tasks.
Jack went up to the master suite and called Frank. When he came on line. Jack said, “I know you’re swamped but give me a few minutes to tell you our thinking.”
Jack then gave Frank a full rundown on the meeting consensus.
Frank said, “That’s why I wanted your group up here working the problem. I agree. It will be snipers, probably starting tomorrow. The Professor won’t give us any breaks. He will feast on the chaos he caused today. What are your plans?”
“I believe the sniper attacks will take place in the areas of the two car bombs. I don’t mean the bridges themselves but the resulting traffic pattern from bridge closures or limited use. I doubt he has more than four or five teams. He won’t want any teams captured or killed. So Hasani will plan for long-range shots, probably nothing less than 300 yards. You know the closer the shooter is to the target, the more likely the target will be hit, but also closeness puts the shooters in greater danger. Good snipers are hard to find or train. He won’t want to lose any right now. So he will only want targets that can be hit with long range shots.
“I remember Hasani favored .50 caliber rifles, the Barrett specifically. There won’t be much if any sound suppression. My guess is that he’ll position a team upriver in the Potomac River Gorge where the shooter can be higher than Chain Bridge. Most likely on the ridge below the George Washington Parkway where there is a clear shot to the bridge area. The trees are still bare. Visibility should be good. He won’t want rain or high wind. There will have to be a good escape route. Probably have the snipers climb to the Parkway and get into a vehicle. At least that’s the way I would do it. The attack could shift to the Parkway itself, if Chain Bridge is closed. The same kind of logic fits the area of the Cabin John Bridge or whatever it’s called today. We’ll need to know what the traffic situations on those bridges will be tomorrow. We need to be able to focus on the most likely target.”
“Good. I’ll call you about planned bridge traffic for tomorrow. The entire effort of all the security forces will be to prevent another car bomb attack. When one doesn’t happen, they will say, “See, we stopped the terrorist car bomb attacks. I don’t drink anymore, but they may drive me back to the bottle.”