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THE JERICHO SANCTION A NOVEL
By Oliver North and Joe Musser
Broadman & Holman Publishers Copyright © 2003 Oliver L. North All right reserved. ISBN: 0-8054-2551-9
J. Edgar Hoover Building Washington, D.C. Monday, 26 January 1998 1050 Hours, Local
Captain Mitch Vecchio sat in the reception area of the FBI headquarters looking at his watch. He had worn his TWA pilot's uniform to the meeting both to impress the people he was about to meet and to save time. Vecchio had to be at Dulles for a listed flight and was hoping he hadn't scheduled his time too tightly. His appointment with FBI Special Agent Glenn Wallace wasn't until eleven o'clock, but Vecchio had hoped that by coming in a few minutes early he might get it pushed up.
"Did you tell Agent Wallace I was here?" Vecchio asked for the second time.
The receptionist nodded but offered no further information.
He had called the FBI earlier that morning after thinking it over for several months. He knew that they'd be asking why it took him so long to come forward, but he wasn't entirely sure himself.
It had begun on one of his TWA flights overseas with a layover in London. When he was changing out of his uniform in the pilots' lounge, he noticed a poster on the bulletin board near the lockers. It was an international BOLO notice, distributed by the FBI, Interpol, and various other lawenforcement agencies alerting one another, all border checkpoints, transportation authorities, and local law enforcement to "be on the lookout" for fugitives wanted because of their involvement in serious crimes. In his years as an airline pilot, Mitch Vecchio had seen dozens of these bulletins hanging in briefing rooms and airport offices-and had never given them more than a cursory glance. But this time Vecchio was stunned to recognize the picture on the poster. The "criminal" being sought was someone he knew.
The caption beneath the photograph stated that the fugitive's name was Gilbert Duncan, an Irish terrorist wanted by Interpol for placing a bomb on a UN airplane in March of 1995, causing it to explode over Iraq, killing all aboard. Mitch vaguely remembered something in the news about an incident in Iraq involving the loss of a UN plane. But that wasn't what had caught his attention. Mitch Vecchio knew for certain that the "terrorist" in the photo was not Gilbert Duncan. He was Pete Newman, the husband of a former TWA flight attendant. And the reason he knew it was her husband was because he had seen the photo in her wallet-the wallet she left on the dresser on the occasions when they shared a hotel room.
Vecchio recalled when Rachel Newman came to him to break off their yearlong affair. It was right after she "got religion." He had thought she'd get over the religion thing and come back to him-at least he'd hoped she would. But Rachel disappeared shortly after that, and Vecchio hadn't seen Rachel or her husband since-almost three years now.
Mitch remembered driving by the Newmans' Falls Church, Virginia, home one Sunday, a month or two after he'd seen Rachel for the last time. He was surprised that there was a For Sale sign out front and that a realtor was holding an open house. Vecchio stopped, went in and met the realtor, and asked discreetly about the reason the couple was selling their house. The real estate agent shrugged and said, "I'm not sure what happened. I'm told that there was a death in the family and a sister from out of town is selling the house."
As he drove away from the Newman's home, Vecchio's imagination played that information over and over. At first he wondered if Pete Newman had discovered his affair with Rachel, maybe even killed his wife in a jealous rage. But no, Mitch would have read about such a thing in the papers. Then he thought maybe Rachel had killed herself because she felt such guilt and remorse about dumping him. His ego liked that theory, but even he had to admit that it wasn't anymore likely than the first idea. Mitch was troubled to think that, in either case, Rachel might be the one who was dead. He had wondered about the Newmans, off and on, for many months.
It wasn't until he saw that poster that he began to put things together.
An FBI agent interrupted the pilot's reverie. "Captain Vecchio? I'm Special Agent Glenn Wallace. Would you like to come with me into a conference room where we can talk?"
"Hi ... Mitch Vecchio ... glad to meet you." He stood and shook Agent Wallace's hand. Mitch followed him into a nearby room where the two chose adjoining seats at the end of a long, oval table.
"You said when you called that you had some information regarding an international fugitive who's wanted for murder and terrorist acts?"
Vecchio nodded. "But you've got the wrong name on the wanted poster. He's not Irish, he's American," he said. "And I don't believe he's a terrorist."
Agent Wallace looked up from his legal pad. "Just who are we talking about?"
"The guy you're calling Gilbert Duncan. He's not Irish-I know him. He's a U.S. Marine officer. His name is Peter Newman. He lived in Falls Church until a couple years ago. I-I was ... uh ... a close friend, I mean ... a coworker, with his wife. I think her husband was a Marine major or colonel-something like that-and he worked at the White House. I do remember that. She told me a little about him but not all that much. I got the idea that her husband's work was secret or classified or whatever."
The FBI agent was giving the pilot his full attention now. "Go on."
"Well, no ... that's it. That's all I know. Gilbert Duncan is Peter Newman. I mean Pete Newman is Duncan. Duncan's not his real name, and he's not an Irish national. I just thought you ought to know."
Agent Wallace was not content with such sketchy information. And he was savvy enough to recognize in the pilot's stammer that there was likely a good bit more to this story. When Mitch stood to leave, Wallace tugged at his uniform sleeve and pulled him back into the chair. "Just a minute, Captain Vecchio. I have a few more questions about this matter, but I need to check on something first. Can you give me a few minutes?"
"Uh, well, I've got a flight at three o'clock this afternoon out of Dulles. How long will this take?" Vecchio was beginning to regret having come.
"Not long at all. Wait here. I'll be right back." Agent Wallace spoke the words like an order and not a request; then he rose and left the conference room by a back door.
* * *
Special Agent Glenn Wallace hated walk-in duty. Every junior and midgrade agent assigned to the Hoover Building had to stand a shift of this duty a couple of times a year. In addition to doing their regular jobs, the younger agents were required to spend a day responding to inquiries and taking down information brought to them by any citizen who strolled through the front door. It made for great breakroom chatter: people talking about receiving covert messages through fillings in their molars, reports of alien abductions ... you name it, and you were likely to hear it on walk-in duty.
Outside the back door of the conference room, Agent Wallace went to a computer terminal reserved for the duty officer's use and typed the names Peter Newman and Gilbert Duncan into the Search field. There was a brief pause while the computer crunched information from a server located far off in the mountains of West Virginia. Suddenly, the borders of the display on the monitor turned red, and a box appeared in the center of the screen:
An instant later, a phone next to the computer terminal rang.
"Special Agent Glenn Wallace."
"No sir, it was in response to information from a walk-in."
He listened some more.
Wallace hung up the phone, clicked Exit on the computer screen, and grimaced. Just my luck. This nut case Vecchio has to show up on my watch. You'd think he was coming in here claiming to know the identity of the shooter on the grassy knoll. Whatever he said, the FBI head shed went nuts. Sounds like I'll be writing this one up for weeks.
Agent Wallace walked back into the room where Mitch Vecchio sat with a sheen of sweat on his forehead. He looked as if he hadn't moved.
"Mr. Vecchio, I think you'd better make a call to whoever it is you report to because it's quite likely you aren't going to make your flight this afternoon."
"Wh-why is that?"
"We need some more information on this Peter Newman or, rather, Gilbert Duncan character. You can use the phone at the reception desk. I'll be right here, waiting."
The airline captain had a sick look on his face. He got up out of the chair and walked slowly toward the reception area. A minute or so later, he came back into the conference room. This time, he put the width of the conference table between himself and Agent Wallace.
"Why don't we start at the beginning and you tell me how it is you know this person?" Wallace turned to a fresh sheet of paper and leaned forward, staring in anticipation of Vecchio's answer.
Almost two hours and nine pages of legal tablet later, Special Agent Glenn Wallace leaned back in his chair and looked Vecchio squarely in the eye.
"Now ... what I want to know is for how long you and Newman's wife were having this affair."
Vecchio slumped back in the chair, and his mouth dropped open. Wallace knew he had him; Mitch Vecchio was ready to tell the FBI anything they wanted to know.
Office of Foreign Missions FBI Liaison Office U.S. Department of State Washington, D.C. Thursday, 29 January 1998 1935 Hours, Local
Three days after Agent Glenn Wallace in D.C. started the file on Peter Newman following his interview with Mitch Vecchio, FBI Agent Robert Hallstrom, a twenty-one-year veteran, was surfing the computer files in the FBI data bank. Most of the other people in his section had left for the day.
The Newman file had been forwarded to the FBI's Counter-Terrorism Office in New York and on to the FBI Counter-Terrorism Liaison Office at the State Department. Wallace had poked around some more, trying to learn about Gilbert Duncan, aka Peter Newman. The young agent had done a little more digging in the Bureau's main Criminal Index files and in LexisNexis, but after running into various firewalls he gave up and submitted what he considered to be a rather cursory report to his superiors. Within a day, Wallace was busy again with his regular cases; the so-called terrorist with dual identities was forgotten.
The file languished in an overflowing electronic in-box for only twenty-four hours before an FBI computer analyst entered it, without comment, into the FBI's Counter-Terrorism database.
And now, only eighty-one hours after Mitch Vecchio had walked into the Hoover Building, FBI Senior Special Agent Robert Hallstrom was reading the file.
The reason Hallstrom was working late had nothing to do with his conscientious nature; FBI Agent Hallstrom was a Russian mole. He'd started spying for the Soviet Committee on State Security-the KGB-in 1979, when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. At the time, Hallstrom had some serious financial problems and decided selling secrets might prove both financially lucrative and intellectually challenging. The KGB recruited Bob Hallstrom only four years after he joined the Bureau in '75.
The fledgling spy had begun his espionage career audaciously. Because he was familiar with U.S. counter-espionage techniques, Hallstrom refused to identify himself to the Russians, other than the fact that he worked for an American intelligence organization. Using the alias Julio Morales, Hallstrom had written to the home address of a Russian GRU agent operating undercover as a UN diplomat in New York. He told the Russian to deliver a sealed envelope personally to the KGB. The GRU agent's home address was covered by diplomatic immunity; his mail wouldn't be intercepted and read by FBI "flaps and seals" technicians. Also, by keeping the Russians in the dark about who he really was and where he worked, Hallstrom was confident he could effectively eliminate any risk of getting caught by his Bureau colleagues.
The KGB officer who opened Hallstrom's letter was Major Dimitri Komulakov. Hallstrom had found his name on a list of Russian diplomats that the FBI suspected of spying for the KGB. Komulakov was indeed a rising star in the Soviet intelligence apparat, having been awarded the Order of Lenin for his spycraft and overseas work, especially in the United States. In 1979, when Hallstrom first wrote to him, Komulakov was assigned to the Russian Embassy in Washington as a cultural and trade attaché.
The first package of secrets that Hallstrom delivered to Komulakov immediately caught the eye of the KGB hierarchy at Moscow Center. And over time, Komulakov earned ever-higher accolades from his Moscow superiors for the quality of intelligence that Hallstrom was sending them. Komulakov's career had spiraled ever upward after that.
Hallstrom's first package, to prove his capability and sincerity, contained volatile information. He gave the Russians the names of Soviet military officers who were double agents for the United States. Eventually, he also betrayed other American spies overseas, and the Russians, thoroughly impressed, left huge sums of U.S. currency at his designated dead drops.
In the ensuing years, Hallstrom sent the KGB hundreds of packages of national security secrets, including reams of classified documents and countless computer disks with volumes of data about U.S. weapons, military equipment, covert military plans, and details about intelligence operations including the names of the U.S. and foreign national personnel involved. From time to time, Hallstrom would hear about agents who were killed or captured-agents he had betrayed-but the KGB's mole never accepted personal responsibility for their deaths. "It's a mean business," he would tell himself. "They knew the risk. People are bound to get hurt."
Hallstrom was promoted several times, not so much for his proficient FBI work but simply due to his seniority with the Bureau or because some superior in his then-current position grew tired or irritated at Hallstrom's odd personality and habits and had him "promoted" to a new assignment just to get rid of him; ironically, each time the spy was moved, it was to another sensitive area. This gave Hallstrom access and opportunities to compromise more and more of his nation's most sensitive secrets-secrets ranging ever wider in scope and intelligence value.
by 1997, Hallstrom was one of the FBI's most senior counter-terrorism agents, with access to information and materials from other U.S. intelligence agencies as well.
Excerpted from THE JERICHO SANCTION by Oliver North and Joe Musser
Copyright © 2003 by Oliver L. North
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.