I’d thought I’d seen it all, done it all, during a lifetime as a risk-taking correspondent.
I’d interviewed princes and pimps, prime ministers and police detectives, politicians and polygamists in pursuing a story, any number of stories.
I’d had a helicopter gunship shot out from under me during the Vietnam War and somehow also survived a forced landing of a two-seat Cessna when its single engine was struck by a steel-jacketed bullet over the Sinai desert on the eve of a war between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors.
I’d been beaten by company goons who thought I’d written pro-labor stories during a bitter strike in Detroit, and gashed on the head by a rock during a vest pocket revolution in Panama.
No question I was lucky to be alive. Kind of made you believe in fate. I was simply not fated to fall, not yet.
Truth to tell, I would not for a moment have traded my life, with all its perils, for a nine-to-five job in a Midwestern insurance office.
But there was absolutely nothing in my experience to compare with the story I encountered after I’d taken early retirement and started teaching on a quiet campus in the shadow of the nation’s capital.
Involved were an achingly beautiful blonde college sexpot, a brilliant but treasonous univerity professor, two unusually intelligent and determined Al Qaeda operatives who were masters of disguise and of hand-to-hand combat and who thought nothing of killing anyone who stood in the way of their mission, a Harvard-educated fBI man who was a veteran of covert Special Forces operations before he joined the feds, and the counter-intelligence agencies of five countries.
And then there was the matter of the angry copperhead snakes.
It was the story of a lifetime.
But the FBI warned me not to tell it, hinting that I might be prosecuted under some obscure national security law.
They contended that the details would scare the hell out of the American public, if they discovered how, a decade after 9/11 and after billions had been spent on suppposedly sophisticated detection devices, the United States was alarmingly vulnerable to nuclear and radiation weapons being slipped across our borders.
Now I’m as law-abiding as the next guy. But I believe, with every fiber in my body, that the public has a right to know what they’re facing. Perhaps they’ll be moved to demand that the White House and the Congress get off their duffs and shore up our protections against terrorists.
Therefore, I’ve decided to risk possible jail time and tell the story.
So fasten your seatbelt, and let me start at the beginning…