Swann Dive: Classified Emails

Dear Mr. Eller,

Thank you for taking my call. Like I mentioned on the phone, my job is compromised. I may be going down. It’s still too early to say. As my father’s legal council before dad died, perhaps you could advise me whether I should retain a lawyer. You must know I’ve been with the Company for almost ten years, but am not sure just how serious a security breach this is. You be the judge.
Here is the email that began it all:

To: Special Agent DS672
From: TL418, CIA UAE Station Chief
Classified L2; Decrypt 413AC; Priority 1

Don– Attached files for matrix scan as per call. Unsub code named SKYWAYMAN. Transcript broadcast Al-Jazeera 10:28 local, below. Expect progress report prior 10 AM EST. Good luck. –Ted

An attack this morning has spiked panic among both investors and residents in the UAE, as an unmanned drone airplane has crashed into the newly completed Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The aircraft, suspected of being of U.S. military construction, did not contain a warhead, but nonetheless penetrated into level 150 of the building with a hardened steel nose cone. Although no injuries were reported, Gen. David Dockins of the United States Air Force called President Khalifa to reassure him that there are no other unaccounted for drone aircraft. Still, despite promises of a full investigation, neither men have been able to calm traders on the Dubai Stock Exchange, which is reeling from the hit. With only one week before another anniversary of 9/11, we will be demanding an answer to the question on everyone’s mind–is there a connection? And what does this portend for the future of the world’s fastest growing city? Stay tuned.

Of course I’ve left out the classified materials that were attached. But please note that the transmissions were mostly encrypted, and always in my case. Here is my first response:

To: TL418, United Arab Emirates
From: DS672, Hoover Building
Classified L2; Decrypt 886UR

Full report attached. Summary: Confirm drone construction indicates private engineering based on early military prototype. Skywayman possibly linked to prior Navy guidance system development as independent subcontractor. Currently assessing classified intel related to firms formerly residing World Trade Center, or associations. As yet no matches. Will update shortly.

See (by my reply above and the continuing replies below) that, although we’d both been assigned to cooperate as colleagues involved in inter-agency communications, my tone is less familial or congenial. I really do not know Ted Lefcourt as well as his emails may seem to imply, nor did our earlier conversations via phone suggest anything inappropriate.

To: DS672
From: TL418
Decrypt 613AE

Don– To supplement the President’s call to CIA director Bane (attached as transcript) I just can’t stress the urgency here enough to you. This really is a nightmare scenario. Al Jazeera is heightening tension with speculation of this being a test run for an attack by “American terrorists” with Navy drones equipped with incendiaries, if not warheads. Wherever the launch site was, there’s plenty of desert out there that an operator could drive to, unnoticed amid all the other construction trucks clogging the streets. The Burj Khalifa (or “Dubai Tower”) is the center of attraction, but we’ve also got 25 skyscrapers over 50 floors tall already, each one of them a unique, high-tech structure. For example, the Burj al-Arab is the world’s only 7 star hotel, with the highest atrium, and a bar up near the helicopter pad that serves $2000 cocktails. You’ve heard about revolving restaurants? Well, there’s a residential building here that can revolve every floor, changing its entire shape in minutes. With a huge free trade port, and all the oil money flowing, Dubai is like a paradise for architects. Talk about irony, though, if you link this to the WTC somehow! –Ted

To: TL418, United Arab Emirates
From: DS672, Hoover Building
Decrypt 747RP

Unable to pinpoint identity unsub Skywayman. NSA culling known U.S. rogue anti-terrorists for technical expertise linked to wreckage evidence. NCIS running internal audit. Next report prior 2 PM EST, or as warranted.

Question: has Langley a list of unsub’s probable targets within the Burj Khalifa yet, related to possible gains from this?

To: DS672
From: TL418
Decrypt 330GN

Don– No, I’m still collating. The building is just finishing the Armani hotel, which will have 175 rooms and 144 suites, plus 800 luxury apartments, four pools, five restaurants, a spa and a ballroom. There’s an observation deck on floor 124, with the top floor going up to 162. There’s also an observation deck near the top, and a private club above that. Where the drone managed to penetrate (at 160 MPH at level 150) was an conference area with no confirmed bookings. Even with a warhead, though, it’s unlikely that a single drone or cruise missile could produce enough of a punch to affect structural integrity, much less overwhelm the BK’s fire suppression system. Materials are fire resistant, and around 70,000 tons of steel rebar were used in construction.

Just received word that the USAF has an AWACS recon plane en route to the UAE. They’re requisitioning satellite surveillance of the ground, too, but it’s unlikely they’d be able to shoot down any drone aircraft, even with radar tracking. Not only is such a target small, but at the tower’s base are 19 other residential towers, a lake, 9 hotels, 30,000 new homes, and the Dubai Mall, (also the world’s largest, with an aquarium, skating rink, and indoor ski mountain.) Still, they should be able to identify the take-off site if it happens again, and/or jam the controller’s radio signal. Otherwise, do you know how many acres of plate glass are still waiting to be shattered? –Ted

To: TL418, United Arab Emirates
From: DS672, Hoover Building
Decrypt 641TR

5 PM EST Progress report attached. Summary: no red flags regarding WTC occupants or associates. Fourteen leads and followups near dead end. Procurement of aircraft parts judged to be secondary surplus aftermarket. Confirm your conclusion that engineering profile shows high level of sophistication, requiring CNC machine shop and significant investment.

To: DS672
From: TL418
Classified L2; Decrypt 559TT; Priority 1

Don– The attached video was taken by local TV reporter of new attack 8:14 this morning. Target building the SWANN tower, level 22 and 68 (top floor) by two unmanned drone aircraft, nine seconds apart. Both drones detonated with high explosives. Firefighters now at scene. Six fatalities reported, nineteen injuries, two on ground. Level 22 housed a health club, along with conduits for the sprinkler system. Level 68 is residence of builder and architect Greg Swann, apparently on safari in Kenya. His son Gilbert was in residence, and was forced to jump from the burning building when his escape below was blocked by flames. Birds flew in from ocean at undetectable low altitude until climbing into radar just before collision. Jamming was late and ineffective. Recovery of intact parts is unlikely. Bomb threats were called into Burj Khalifa and seven other towers minutes before first explosion. Gridlock is reported on Dubai streets. Urgent to move ahead with your investigation, Don. –Ted

It is with the following add-on that Ted begins dropping encryption from his emails. My sole error was in continuing the transmissions without calling him on it or reporting it to my superiors.

To: DS672
From: TL418

Don– We really do need urgent action on this. Dubai is in chaos. F-15s are in route, and I’m doing what I can to recruit assets here, but without an intelligence break, it’s like we’re just playing a board game. Get us something quick, buddy! –Ted

To: TL418, United Arab Emirates
From: DS672, Hoover Building
Decrypt 823PN

Attached file on Greg Swann, now en route to UAE. Preliminary audit shows no flagged ties to al Qaeda. He’s a Stanford grad, son of a refinery tycoon, friend of Donald Trump. No known enemies, other than the usual Earth First detractor or snubbed waiter. Need more intel from your end. Is Langley withholding any evidence that unsub Skywayman is linked to some U.S. headquartered anti-terrorist cell?

To: DS672
From: TL418

No, Don, I’m not withholding anything from you. What aren’t you telling me? There’s got to be something you can follow up on with those machined parts recovered from the BD. What is the NSA saying, anyway?

To: TL418
From: DS672
Decrypt 191VX

Nothing. They’ve got a Cray on the job, though. In case you don’t already know. And by the way, I don’t need any more blueprints of buildings there. I already have everything from the stylobate platform size to the stasis balance rendered from the pilotis to the horseshoe arches of every Islamic facade in Dubai. What I need from you is actual arrests of suspects in the streets, and some of those interrogation transcripts you’re famous for. How about one or two of those?

To: DS672
From: TL418

Been under a lot of stress here, my friend. This isn’t funny. The President is gearing up for a press conference, and heads are going to roll soon if we keep coming up empty, and looking inept. We have faith in technology, don’t we? Well, the Arabs have faith in Allah. Maybe we’re both deluding ourselves.

In case you didn’t know, I lived in New York before I was posted here, and actually saw the WTC fall with my own eyes. Was in the Chrysler building at the time, up around the thirty-fifth floor when the first plane hit. That moment keeps replaying itself in my head, now, like a loop of film. None of it makes sense. I mean, who would have thought that we’d spend trillions of dollars fighting bugs with a sledgehammer, only to end up broken, while all these skyscrapers here in Dubai are sprouting up like bean stalks in a fairy tale?

At this point the NSA takes notice, and files a violation.

To: TL418, DS672
From: NSA212GH
Classified L2, Decrypt 307ZQ

Alert violation Section 12: sending or receiving un-encrypted messages via ComSat considered a breach of National Security. A report has been logged and filed with your respective agencies. Expect to be contacted by your superiors within forty-eight hours.

Ted next sends me this email via the open internet.

To: DonS4344@aol.com
From: TLefcourt66@yahoo.com
4:22:16 PM

Listen, Don, I’m really sorry about this. Like I said, I’ve been under stress, as I’m sure you have too. Been trying to reach you by land line. Call me.

I do not respond. So he sends this via ComSat, encrypted.

To: DS672
From: TL418
Decrypt 509AX

Don– Did you hear the news? Of course you have. Anyway, I’ve attached the broadcast transcript, just for the record. If you have anything on this guy Secrest, please send it on. Need it for my own file documentation. Thanks, and sorry for not encrypting that message. I know it red flags us in case they need sacrifices for their ineptitude.–Ted

I am unaware that the NSA decoded his email. But since it was sent by proper channel, I do respond.

To: TL418
From: DS672
Decrypt 588BB

Attached file as per request.

At this point he responds with this regular email, which I again do not answer.

To: DonS4344@aol.com
From: TLefcourt66@yahoo.com
9:48:12 PM

Listen, Don, I really am sorry. I know what happens next is pretty much inevitable, since the Dubai police broke the story. I just can’t believe it. All the guys in the Abu Dhabi office are still stunned by it, and no one more than me. Even working together as we have, with all our connections and weaponry and supercomputers, how could we be expected to fathom the thoughts of men like Greg Swann and David Secrest, any more than we could Osama bin Laden? Did you actually read the file on these guys? They could have been twins. It’s certain, now, that they went to the same parties and building openings. Must have been quite a slap to our Skywayman’s ego when Greg decided to grease some palms and extend the height of Swann Tower by five floors while under construction right next door. Put David’s building in Greg’s shadow, and must have had him silently fuming. Quietly vowing revenge, bidding his time. I’m sure the followup on all this will show a history of systematic one-upsmanship, if not outright insults. Would have been nice to have that intel. Or intel about David financing his vendetta, before diverting suspicion from himself by attacking the BD first.

What I’ll probably take away from this, though, is just the sheer unexpected awe of what happened because we didn’t discover the truth until too late. Doesn’t matter that Secrest didn’t bring down the Swann building like he’d hoped, or even knock off those top five floors. It’s just imagining what it was like when Greg paid David a return visit, knowing who’d murdered his son, even if we didn’t. Can you picture that? Secrest’s wife murdered in front of his eyes. . .then the struggle up in that penthouse. . . then our Mr. Skywayman climbing up to his helicopter pad, right before Swann put some bullets into the gas tank and caught it on fire? I can see it all in my mind’s eye, just like I still see those people jumping off the World Trade Center as the flames rose. When Secrest jumped, I’m sure he had no choice either. I imagine he saw his reflection in all that glass and chrome on the way down, too.

Anyway, they’ll need a scapegoat, of course. I’m expecting a call any minute. If I don’t hear from you again, let me say I know we’ve never met, Don, but it’s been interesting working with you. Even if we never work again.

Since the incident, I’ve not been told what will happen with Lefcourt. What do you think? Do I need a lawyer too, or not?

Don Sherman, FBI


(This story was expanded into the novel The Miraculous Plot of Leiter & Lott.)


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