Friday, October 31, 2003

Back in the Saddle - 188

[Another 'life changing episode,' removing a character, adding another and nobody seems too happy.] Commander Carolyn Imes was prosecuting Petty Officer Lawson for neglecting his assigned gun mount maintenance and causing injury to three sailors when MPs stormed the court room, ostensibly under Chegwidden's orders, and arrested her. In line for a new security clearance a background check revealed that she had changed her name to a recently deceased member of the Michigan bar, requested a duplicate certificate, and claimed she had passed the bar on her JAG application - instead of having missed it by one point. C ordered all her defended cases to be reversed - needing re-evaluation for re-trial. Mac pointed out that Harm had been the prosecutor in 27 of the cases so he could be helpful. C said "expedite all you want, get it done by end of the week." Turner said he "almost missed Rabb" when he was assigned to prosecute Imes; because he "used to take most of the heat." Imes told M, her defense, that she "didn't think it would matter." The UCMJ just said "graduate OR member of state bar" and she was accepted in '88, three years before JAG reg's clarified that the bar was mandatory. She tried to beat M at her sad "I've fought up from nothing" life; but, M won. Imes said she had 14 years of outstanding fitness reports and wanted a trial so she wouldn't have a record for civilian life. M went to Harm's apartment to ask for help because she had "left 17 messages in 5 months." He told her "I thought we'd done our talking, you made that clear." She didn't engage his combativeness and he was surprised that her boyfriend Webb hadn't told her that he'd been fired from the CIA because of the press coverage in the previous episode. Even though he had flown 37 missions in 6 months, the TV cost him his job and he said he "was done with government work"! H said he'd "beat Imes 6 times running" and M left the records for him to review.

Catherine Gayle came for "advice," she was pregnant. She claimed that M had given her a "get away from my man" look, probably because H had hinted that they had gone through a "marriage ceremony" at the bedside of her dying mother. Her mother rallied and was now in a care center, but she hadn't been told about either the "marriage" or the pregnancy. H went to visit Gayle's mother and was surprised to be told "It's too bad you're not in love with my daughter." She had known about the charade all along but didn't want to prevent Catherine's chance for a kindness. She also recognized the pregnancy and H told her that "he was told" he didn't have anything to do with it. H proposed that they "give it a shot, and see what happens," to Gayle. She told him that he was "too high risk" and to call her when he really knew what he wanted. H went to Blacksburg to take a flight in "Sara," his Stearman, and found that "Pop's Grahowsky" had sold out to "Grace Aviation" run by Mathilda (Mattie) Grace a 14-year-old. Mattie latched on to H, helped him change spark plugs, told him they had something in common by being given "goofy names," and offered him a job crop dusting for $300 per day. She followed him to the field in her truck, with an arrangement with the local sheriff, and told him that he was a good flyer for avoiding a tree.

T told M she was "crazy" for wanting to go to trial and that he would "expect that from Rabb but not you," because she usually took the conservative, safe route. Stunned, she asked him to "list my other faults" and he called her "sanctimonious and a bit of a prig." She asked, "where did that come from," and he responded "It's been building for awhile now," and walked out. She asked Bud if he thought she took the narrow view? He said, "no." Find me sanctimonious? - no maam; priggish? - no maam; would you tell me if you did? - no maam. She told B that she was "failing to communicate" with C; he told her they were doing great, "the admiral yells at me and I say I'm sorry." H came to JAG to go over cases and coolly deflected Ts offer of a beer. Coates offered to inform C, but H said "don’t bother I've nothing to say to the admiral" then saw C, who was behind him, just walk away. He told M and B that he was busy, this was a favor, and let's "get on with it." Coates tried to take H's part with C, and the admiral told her to mind her own business. Then, when she told him she was still trying to "define her job" he asked "did you just try to 'handle' me?" And told her she was "parsing the truth like a lawyer." M also tried to take Hs part with C and was told she was "so pathetic and transparent. He's done here. Don't sing his praises cause they fall on deaf ears." On Ms exit, Coates told her "when someone's that angry, you know they're hurting inside"; and, of course, C was standing behind her. When Coates, yet again, told him to "go talk to him," C read her the riot act and said he wasn't interested in her opinion or what she had to say. "Don't say it," he yelled, "even if you wanted to call me 'unreasonable,' or 'pig headed,' or 'unfair'." She said "I don't need to, because you already know it." In her face he told her "people don’t like to be 'handled,' so if you do it you better be damn sure you are right… as you are this time," and he left to go see H.

"Mr. Rabb" was called to testify to Imes' character. T was hateful in the trial and even tried to make H look foolish. He even claimed her "so help me God" oath meant that she had lied to her god; but, H resisted, until asked if he considered breaking the oath "conduct unbecoming." H had to reply "yes." C appeared at Grace Aviation to talk to H, which made Mattie unhappy. "Is this bald guy the jerk who fired you?" she asked. Going "Dutch treat" to a bar, C said "apparently there's more to say"; then, when H was being flippant, called him "annoying." H said "yes and 'not a team player' and 'controlled by my emotions' as well," (using C own words when he fired him). C said he would ask the SECNAV to reinstate his commission "under the right circumstances." H said he was listening and C continued: "Stop acting like Peter Pan who wants to fly and never grow up. You'll not have the life you want until you take responsibility for your actions - at work, with women, or any facet." Seeing H shake his head, C just got up and said "let me know. Come back, we'll start fresh" and walked out. Imes was found guilty of conduct unbecoming but only given a discharge, not brig time. Mattie was upset at hearing H was going to go back to JAG. When he wanted to comfort her, she said "I don't know you well enough to let you see me cry." She then said she had lied about her dad, that he had really been drunk the night her mother died in their car crash, and that he had abandoned her. She was living in the house bequeathed to her by her mother, and was making payments by running the business. H advised that she would eventually be found out, and said that he would: call her every day, see her every week, find a neighbor to check in on her, talk to the court about becoming her guardian and get her into school. He took her flying to seal the deal. [closing credits were to 'soaring' music instead of the JAG theme]

Friday, October 24, 2003

Touchdown - 187

[Very interesting follow-up to previous episode showing the degradation of the Sturgis Turner character. Harm and Mac still were in parallel stories requiring "flip-flops" which made the plot complicated. Harms story was based upon an actual landing of a C-130 on the USS Forestall by Lt James H Flatley and Lcdr W. W. "Smokey" Stovall on October 30th 1963] Still flying for the CIA, Harm and Cdr Beth O'Neil were assigned by Blaisdell to "extract" Saed Labdouni, the highest level "asset" in Libya. He had information of government involvement in the Lockerbie plane crash. The only plane available was a C-130 transport and there was no backup or contingency plan. H was told he was the "lead" this time, and had to fly down at 200 feet to avoid Russian tracking. He had to turn off his radar to avoid detection and fly "visually" in the dark. At rendezvous one of the nav satellites went out making his GPS inaccurate so he had to turn and make another run before he found the signal. On landing he found that Labdouni had brought his wife, Aziza, mother-in-law, Ismitta and cousin Fadil with his family. Telling him that extra passengers weren't authorized, they were fired on by machine-gun wielding jeeps so had to board fast. Unfortunately they were shot at during take off and engine #1 began to flame. Instead of "blowing it," O'Neil insisted on shutting it down, in case they needed it later; H complied and told her that she was "lucky this time." Just then, they were attacked by a Russian MIG. Not being able to out run it, H had to drop flares to avoid a missile. They didn't avoid his gun fire however; so, at the last minute, he positioned next to a mountain, and mass fired all his flares at once just at the time of "pull up." The MIG pilot, using night vision enhancement, was unexpectedly blinded, and crashed into the mountain. Now engine #2 was loosing oil so needed to be shut down or "freeze up." They then restarted #1 and luckily it didn't start fire. H had to "fight" the plane knowing that they couldn't abandon because of all the extra passengers, including children, who didn't have parachutes. H asked Blaisdell the coordinates of the Seahawk, and to get help with the captain, from Washington.

Sturgis Turner was assigned the capital prosecution of seaman Weston for treason after trying to kill his fellow soldiers as a secret member of an al Qaeda cell. He flailed at Bud for not noticing that the Xerox machine had missed page three of a document. B offered to withdraw, saying he knew the only reason he was second, was because of Chegwidden's insistence. He further pissed off T by observing that the case was a "slam dunk." Mac was assigned the defense but didn't have her heart in it. Weston claimed that he was innocent. He kept a low profile on his religion (wasn't hiding it) for fear of prejudice; the email to his cousin from his base in Bahrain, about it being "easy to kill soldiers in the chow hall" was merely a comment on the laxity of security; and, the "confession" of a prisoner implicating him, was a "complete lie." M reviewed the interrogation tapes where Sabet admitted that he had met with Weston three times and had been asked for Sarin nerve gas to release in the chow hall on Friday where over 100 men would be killed. M noticed a trigger device in the interrogator, Abu Kamel's, hand and demanded to talk to him. Kamel was a haughty, arrogant man, glib about all the equipment the American's had bought him. He gloated in the 50,000 volt stun belt that he used and said that it was "better than the older method." He bragged that "we in the middle east have been dealing with terrorists longer than the US" and that "you will come around to our ways." M seemed to only argue the morality issue, not the "finding the real truth" issue, and T told Bud that his opinions were irrelevant. Chegwidden had to defuse the argument and told them that he was bringing Imes back from Europe to replace H. Before the hearing M argued to suppress Sabet's testimony on moral grounds, T cited previous allowed torture testimony but got flummoxed at the judges questions. B bailed him out with logical responses. The judge said that he did believed Sabet's testimony would be under threat of torture, but it wasn't from the US so he would allow the members (jury) to decide for themselves of its truthfulness. M didn't seem upset with the ruling, said "I thought I had you there," and "now I'm stuck defending him." She complimented B, so did T except with "you had my back, unlike last time."

M, trying to calm Weston down, said she could bring witnesses to show his testimony can't be trusted. Weston replied, "I shouldn't have trusted him either." Then he whined that "they'll kill me," and M said "I guess since you just confessed to me, you can't complain." He pontificated that his only complaint would be that he "couldn't do anything useful before I got caught." He went into a diatribe about "his peoples" oppression of slavery and "his prophets work." He wanted to cop a plea to guilty to avoid the death penalty because he "didn’t want to die, could do the prophet's work in prison, and be alive when the great American Empire is destroyed." M merely, disgustedly, said "who ever taught you to hate like that should be in prison too." She tried to get T to deal but he refused. She got into it with him in the hall asking him "what's the matter with you? last week you wanted to throw a guy in the brig for refusing to kill a 10 year old boy, now you're being hard nosed to point of absurdity." They were intercepted by C, into his office. M continued - you support torture even though you wouldn't do it, then you want to electrocute him, even though you wouldn't pull the switch." T told her, "I see no contradiction in that." C agreed with T in the presence of M, then excused her to talk to T. He told T that "you've been under stress since your conduct unbecoming case. You may be trying too hard to prove yourself all over again." T said, "I don't see it." C said, "Well I do, you don't have to prove yourself to me." Regarding the plea bargain, he pointed out that, even though he would like to see him executed as well, T should consider the possibility that M would win - and he should "make the best choice." T went immediately to M and accepted the offer, to her puzzlement.

The joint chiefs flash messaged Capt Johnson of the Seahawk to provide all feasible assistance. C-130 doesn't have tail hook, 3 times bigger than any previous landing plane, wings so big all aircraft needed moving in less than 25 minutes. O'Neil guessed at a "lens angle of 4.0, more or less," H presented it with certainty to the Captain. The Seahawk shot off all excess planes, moved all others so their tails were off the deck, reset the lens to 4, removed the landing wires so the nose gear wouldn't get caught, and couldn't put up barriers because the cable might hit the cockpit. O'Neil gave their only three life preservers to the kids. Then they realized there was a hydraulic failure so they had no brakes. They dumped all but 1000# fuel to slow approach and would reverse engines at the threshold. The captain told them that there was only 3 knot's of headwind and the ship could only give them 45 knot's with speed. H told him to give them all they've got and the Captain demanded to know what was going on. H told him their predicament and that they would use "reverse thrust at threshold and a stiff headwind." They dumped more fuel as they got closer then found that their landing gear wouldn't go down. O'Neil had Labdoni manually crank down the wheel. There was no lock on the gear until after they had already gotten so close that they engaged flaps. When throttling back on their only two good engines, one engine flamed out. They hit the deck with screeches taking them to where their nose was off the end of the ship before they stopped. H got out first and helped everyone down, he was carrying a child when the CNN reporter shoved a camera in his face, (not good for a CIA spook)!

Friday, October 17, 2003

The One That Got Away - 186

[An interesting double story, where Harm and Mac do their own thing; but, one story's credibility breaks down at the end.] Force Recon Sergeant Christopher A Ambrose was with his squad in Iraq destroying some fiber optic cable when they were attacked by the Iraqi army. During the battle his life was saved from a close explosion by his ruck sack and radio. He tried to retrieve them but shells prevented him from doing so. His squad was captured by the Iraqi's but he made it across 200 miles of desert into Syria. Two were killed during capture and the remaining three were released after the fall of Bagdad. Maj Gen Kubin pressed an article 32 hearing against Ambrose for dereliction of duty and unrealistically shortened Mac and Turners deadline for investigation and trial. Mac had to remind him that when he was charged with undue command influence for his aggressive pressure and investigation of his daughters death he left no stone unturned for justice; and, he should afford Ambrose the same courtesy. None of the remaining squad were pressing issues in their after action reports; however, Maj Spain "let it slip" to T that Ambrose had disagreed with Spain wanting to call on their radio beacon for an extraction because the Iraqi's would hear it too. Then Ambrose disappeared in the sandstorm when he was calling. The squad remained at their position for 20 minutes waiting for Ambrose to return but the Iraqi's captured them. Ambrose told M that he had gotten separated in the storm and tried to back track but ended up in the desert.

Bud was shown worried about not being able to contact Harm. M said "that's what they do in the CIA - disappear." T coldly told him that "the words 'Harm' and 'everything will be alright' don't usually go together." T said that he couldn't get comfortable in H's old office. M told him that "if H's ghost is going to haunt anyone it will be me." M talked to T about his resentment of B. T told her that "my credibility as an attorney can't just be turned back on… neither can my friendship with B." Then he completely refused to even talk to M about a plea, obviously revealing his own personal revulsion for Ambrose. M caught Chegwidden between his meetings with the caterers for his wedding about Turner's refusal. C refused to intervene but said that "T feels he has more to prove than just winning a case and considering recent events I can't blame him." He advised that if the squad was protecting him it was out of loyalty "or something else."

M [the defense] cross examined Spain and pressured him until he said the squad wouldn't have died if Ambrose had…" then she kept on pressuring until he revealed that they were staged 100 yards from the enemy when Ambrose was told to take out someone who was unknowingly walking closer. Ambrose jumped up to kill the person and found that it was a small boy herding his goats. He didn't kill the child and the boy ran to tell the army. M continued to question and found that Spain routinely disregarded the rules of engagement and had made an agreement with his men for this time too. He claimed that "anyone with two eyes and a mouth was the enemy." Amazingly T added to the charges claiming "willful disobedience and misbehavior before the enemy"! On the stand T began attacking Ambrose personally calling him a coward. M only objected once but T continued relentlessly [unopposed] calling him a coward and claiming that he didn't live up to "semper fi" but only "saepe fi - sometimes faithful." During Ts barrage Ambrose asked him if he could kill a child. Arrogantly T told the judge he wanted to answer and said that "from a distance he could but he probably wouldn't face-to-face" but he wasn't in Force Recon and again called him a "coward." The judge acquitted Ambrose on the original charge but incredibly bound him over to court martial on the willful disobedience charge claiming that killing the child was a valid order. M told Ambrose that the government wouldn't be able to prove the court martial charge; but, he replied "they won't have to because he was going to plead guilty." He said that he felt he did right but basically believed Ts ranting about how he shouldn't have been in Force Recon. Disgusted, M went to T and said "it must be great to be above it all… I wouldn't do it but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done… NOW THAT'S A COWARD"!

In the CIA Harm was assigned to agent Blaisdell to test a new supersonic spy plane with "Pulse Detonation Wave Engines - the Aurora" and given Purdue graduate and civilian test pilot Andy Watson as his co-pilot. During their orientation mission to test their "foliage penetrating" and "ground penetrating" radar they spiked near-insults at each other. Watson knew that H had "abandoned his navy career to undertake a personally financed, unauthorized, undercover mission in a country he didn't speak the language." At mach 6 (4,000 miles per hour) they were at 98,420 feet altitude when Blaisdell reclassified their mission to tactical and sent them to recon over North Korea. There were reports that two divisions (50 thousand men) had entered tunnels that had been dug toward the DMZ. They had been warned about "unstarts" of the engines and when they slowed down to use their radar both of their engines flamed out. During their fall Watson continually complained that they needed to abort and eject. He was told to just get the radar and let H fly. When they got so low that missiles were fired at them H had slowed enough to restart the engines. A missile was shown exploding on their plane (but after the commercial H reported that they had escaped. They turned around and made another pass, this time slowing more slowly and found that the tunnels were actually full of water not men.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Secret Agent Man - 185

Harm is flying for the CIA. Blaisdell assigned him to fly a "drop" into the Philippines then H found that he was "second" to Cdr Beth O'Neil who had been flying for them since H got her cleared of harassment charges. Felix Paraiso was a former colonel in the army who had previously tried two coups against sitting presidents and still had enough support to be elected to the House of Representatives. He "was planning something" and had tortured and killed the CIA's previous agent Greg Ortega. As he did most of his business in his car Blaisdell was going to switch cars with one having implanted GPS, Surveillance and chemical sniffing equipment. H and O'Neil were only to fly a C130 to a remote, lawless area and drop it but their contacts had also been killed so Blaisdell told them to land and make the switch themselves. They almost crashed landing on a short strip. They stole clothes from a farmer for their disguise but H left some money. O'Neil posed as a hooker and enticed Paraiso's driver, Petto Santos, into the woods while H made the switch. She tried to leave and needed to knee him in order to get away but was arrested and charged with attempted murder. They used the homing device to track Santos to a massage parlor and H confronted him there telling him he was working for Santos' wife. Santos thought O'Neil had been hired by his wife and made a deal with H so he wouldn't tell his wife about the massage parlors. Paraiso met with an accomplice military man who had C3 explosives on his clothing and were planning an explosion. Blaisdell talked H & O'Neil into a building by cell phone which faded out leaving them to disarm the bomb and failsafe alone. O'Neil told H that the failsafe wouldn't use the normal black wire for neutral- probably. They disarmed the bomb but were noticed escaping and chased. They barely made it back to the plane and took off amidst a hail of gunfire using JATO jet boosters. Paraiso and accomplice were "neutralized" by the Philippine army. They were offered field agent status- H said he was thinking.

Capt Tally charged Kevin Dupree, Mikey's roommate, with plagiarism on an English assignment. Dupree asked Mikey to go before the honors board with him as a character witness claiming he had only done what everyone else was doing and used books for ideas. Mikey was worried that if he was in Dupree's corner the reputation would rub off on him. He went to the christening of Bud and Harriet's baby and asked Big Bud what to do. BB told him not to testify for Dupree, B told him to make his own decision and BB belittled him for it. The baby was going to be named James Kirk Roberts after the star trek captain and B hadn't told Ht about the connection. BB commended Chegwidden for "dumping that pain in the ass Rabb" and C asked him how he had managed to stay in the military so long. M talked to Mikey then had Coates do some follow-up research. Coates pushed M into going to talk to Tally thinking he was being prejudiced. It turned out that Tally was black as well and told M that Dupree cut corners and was insubordinate. He said that people must have passed him without undue examination because he showed promise. In fact Coates called Dupree's retired English teacher who said that he'd done it before; but, because he was already accepted to the academy, the charge was made to "go away." Mikey promised to appear for Dupree but after M had told him of Dupree's past he told the board that he couldn't go against the honor code even for his best friend. Dupree apologized and Tally recommended 1-year honor remediation.

Friday, October 3, 2003

Shifting Sand - 184

Harm, Mac & Webb came back from So America in time to tell Tiner goodbye to Officer's Candidate School then Naval Justice School. Coates is Chegwidden's new administrative assistant. M told H that the "earth doesn't stop spinning just because you leave the room" and B said "that's not what he tells me." M & H visited W in the hospital with nerve damage and they got "lovey dovey" so H walked out. C asked Turner to start giving him progress reports because "there have been calls" regarding his "inefficient council." Then, over Ts objections, C had to shout to take Hs office and "put up pictures." B dogged T to apologize but T told him to "leave him alone" to work it out. C welcomed M back but when H asked to come back too, C said he had forwarded his resignation immediately and H had been a civilian for 72 hours. He told H that he was "fed up with his lack of dependability; not being a team player; and being ruled by emotions." M argued but H said "he's just finally accepted that I'm unchangeable, as YOU have." T told H that C took it as a personal insult that "your respect for his authority had a ceiling." Dept CIA Director Kershaw called H and offered him a job explaining that Catherine Gale was his sponsor. He declined "because your world is too fluid" and he "needed moral consistent environment." Because the legal department was full, Kershaw asked him "what else do you do?" M overheard H telling W that he was going to be a CIA pilot from outside Ws hospital room. W welcomed H "to the brotherhood" and M left.

PO Allison La Porte, daughter of Rear Admiral Richard La Porte, fell out of a medevac helicopter in Kuwait and spent 12 years w/ the Bedouins. She was captured stealing Doxycycline, an antibiotic, from a military truck. Chegwidden sent Bud as sole investigator because there were "hardly any other senior officers." B whined and C finally had to back him down. He found that she had lain in a ditch with a broken pelvis for three days until the Al Hadi tribe found and cared for her without anyone to translate. Gradually the son of the Sheik, Jamal Ben Fahad, took a liking to her and played backgammon with her. Over the year she fell in love with him, embraced the Muslim faith, took the name "Hiba" and married. When the Sheik turned over the reigns she became the wife of the sheik. During the "black years" 10 years ago when Saddam undertook a wave of oppression against the Bedou he blocked off the rivers to prevent them from getting water. Allison treated her father rudely and he told Mac to "lock her up," it turned out so that she would be forced to stay and not go back to the dessert. He described her as trying to "save the world with love," "apolitical," and "guileless" after her mother had abandoned them. B prosecuted and Mac, back from Paraguay with Webb, defended.

W told M that Allison's tribe was spying for Saddam and that her father knew it. M confronted Adm La Porte for more evidence much to his consternation. She promised him that the info wouldn’t go beyond the room but accidentally gave B the file. He then blew up at her and C called her incompetent and purposefully blowing her case. When she said that it was an accident he said instead of having followed her convictions she was sloppy and stupid. C had to back him down in order to get him to stop ranting. The witnesses were pretty strong against her but M countered them on cross examination until B called Allison's father. He revealed that they knew the tribe had followed the troops with sophisticated listening devices. B made him realize for the first time that the troops were speaking English and Allison was the only one in the tribe who could speak English. He said that he had never even considered because of her nature. Allison said that she had brokered a deal with Saddam to open a river which he did but it had been so contaminated that it was brackish and they all got sick with Leptospirosis which is why she needed the antibiotics she was stealing. She was bound over for court-martial on both desertion and aiding the enemy charges and the admiral told her he would "find her husband and tell him that he was looking out for you."