Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Juan Carlos Mancino (ret.)
[Via secure video feed]
My role was the simplest but most critical — the assassination of the president. It really isn’t so important that the president be killed for their leadership skills or any of the other attributes that people deem important in a leader. Indeed it’s just because of the symbol that the president represents. No good revolution worth its salt can begin without the assassination of the country’s current leader.
I’ve always found it funny that the country has hung on every word or tweet from the president. The reality is that the government is so huge that the real work gets done by tens of thousands of people in the trenches. They have their daily role to play and they continue to play the role regardless of what happens at the top.
What a well executed assassination does is provide the moment of “what comes next?” that brings everything to a stop. It’s as if the entire country momentarily gasps for breath. In this moment, the revolution will either gain enough momentum to stand a chance of success or it will be beaten back.
If you’ve ever worked for a company that gets a new CEO, you’ve probably seen this phenomenon. The day to day activities continue but anything “new” or that requires additional budget, generally comes to a screeching stop. The mindset is that there’s no point in trying to figure out what the new CEO might want so the most prudent thing to do is surf the web or have gocomics.com serve you up random comic strips.
The secret behind an assassination is meticulous planning followed by total commitment. Additionally, it’s vital only a single operator execute the actual assassination plan. The mission must also not require the final “go” that’s so popular in the movies. Once the operator has begun their task, the mission goes forward to the end. If something unexpected happens and the mission fails, then the backup plan is to regroup and begin planning all over again.
By the way, the backup plan also requires that everyone involved have alibis for “the big day” and that all documents and other evidence be destroyed as soon as the operator is sent on task. There is always a need to retain certain documents but these will have been transferred to Switzerland well in advance of the operation along with the necessary seed money to begin the planning anew.
I want to spend a moment and discuss planning. Why haven’t Middle Eastern terrorists been more effective since 9-11? The reality is they’re not very bright. I don’t mean this in a racist sense but the reality is that if you’re willing to blindingly follow someone to your death, you’re just not very smart. The nice thing is that it’s easy to recruit people who aren’t very smart particularly when they’re not all that well educated. It also doesn’t hurt that your ideology is outrageously rigid so “thinking outside the box” is a bit of an oxymoron.
The leaders are a different matter, of course, with many of them having been trained in the United States and Britain. The best analogy I have to explain this dichotomy is if you hired Vince Lombardi to coach a college team, you’d get a very good college team. If you tried to put this college team in the NFL, what would happen is they’d get their butts seriously kicked.
But I digress.
My one and only job is to point a gun at the president of the United States and pull the trigger. And not miss. And, more importantly, make sure it’s a kill shot. If the president is only wounded, the number of contingencies required in the planning become too complex and the reaction of people becomes too undependable to allow the overall operation to continue.
My qualification for this mission are my number of kills as a sniper in Afghanistan. I can’t tell yu the details because that’s classified. I know it’s silly to not reveal classified information from a country I want to help overthrow but I’m a professional. We don’t kiss and tell. Well, not usually. Besides, there’s really no need to know and one of the ways I survive is keeping my mouth shut.
I certainly wasn’t at the level of the Canadian sniper who shot a militant from over two miles away in Iraq. Accuracy is important but more important is the ability of a sniper to block out everything around themselves and focus entirely on the target. I’m plenty qualified and you can take that to the bank.
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the mission details. What makes this mission have a reasonable opportunity of success is that the president has already used the same facility for two previous rallies. He’s been talking about coming back at least once more to support “his friend and great partner in Congress” for almost a month now. Since the venue is really the only one in the area that can support the crowd size the president likes to draw, there’s a very high probability that I will know exactly when and where he will be.
Another thing playing in my favor is that the stage setup has been virtually identical at all his rallies. At the two previous rallies in this venue, the setup has been exactly the same each time. It doesn’t hurt that the event uses one of the pre-planned seating arrangements that they post on the Internet. There are lots of logistics to pull off an event like this and once the president’s rally staff have figured out exactly what works, there really isn’t reason to change. That they know of.
The plan is for a simple, straight up assassination — no fancy stuff. However, I do need to get a weapon into the venue. The nice thing about a multi-purpose arena is that there are ample opportunities to stage a weapon before the big day. The planners spent considerable time considering how to do this and there were some really cool ideas I certainly would have never thought of! As a side comment, it’s rather surreal “going to work” to plan the assassination of a president but I guess it’s a job.
The weapon insertion plan was a bit more complex than I would have liked but it had the benefit that if anyone noticed anything suspicious, there were simple to understand explanations and the ability to abort if things looked dicey. Time is on our side in this entire endeavor but a breach of mission security would be “really bad.”
Wearing the uniform of the company who serviced the venue’s fire extinguishers, I entered the building two weeks before the event. If was also helpful that I had intel from inside the rally planning team that gave me the actual date before the venue was even told. I immediately was met by someone resembling a security guard and told him I needed to install a fire extinguisher in the concession stand at aisle L. A quick nod and off I went. Inside the fake fire extinguisher dangling from my right hand was the weapon.
We had some wonderful contingency plans that I didn’t have to use. The look in the guard’s eyes said “this is a tad unusual so I better check” but his stomach said “it’s almost lunch.” Stomach wins again!
I had purchased tickets to five different events in the venue prior to “the big day” to understand the patterns and the general comings and goings. The one consistent thing was that concession stands behind the stage were rarely used. I was able to verify that this was true at rallies in other venues. What we learned (by just asking someone) was that people tended to go to the concession stands near the the entrance to the buildings simply because those are the ones they noticed when they entered. The concession stands behind the stage were only used for basketball and hockey since people were pretty sure they could get a beer about anywhere.
You would have thought part of the reason these concession stands were closed would be for the security of the president. It turns out that is wasn’t the case and that there were pre-planned entries that made sure whoever was on stage could enter and exit the building without coming into contact with the public.
Just to be sure, we had people check at the five previous events to verify there was no security that would prevent someone from walking completely around the arena.
“The big day” I stood in line with everyone else and talked about the accomplishments of the president. I had working clothes on along with my fire extinguisher cap. One of the things we discussed at length was whether to wear my fake company uniform. In the end everyone thought it made more sense to just wear unmarked work apparel and the cap. It would blend in seamlessly with the crowd and I could use the cap as as form of ID if I needed to.
After going through security, it was time to put my game face on. It’s not something you have to will yourself to do. Training and repetition work their own magic.
The president was running late as usual so I paced around a bit reviewing for the millionth time exactly what I was going to do. Air Force One was already on the tarmac so I began working my way to aisle L.
Time begins to slow down and what happens next took only 5 minutes and 11.4 seconds by CNN’s piecing together of various smart phone videos. For me, it felt like an hour.
I simply walked to the concession where my planted fire extinguisher was waiting. There were a couple people milling about but if you look like you know what you’re doing, you’re completely invisible. The custom made weapon came in three parts that needed to be assembled. I simply took the extinguisher off the wall, leaned down, and unscrewed the fake fire extinguisher at the middle of the bottle. Snap, snap, snap. My best practice time was 14.3 seconds. I think I was more like 15 seconds but good enough for government work.
There was a second item I was supposed to assemble that I was never all that enthusiastic about and we’d argued about at length. It was in the plan and I was about to skip it when my training just kicked in that said “stick to the plan, idiot!”
Along with the weapon there was a cover that would make the weapon look like mostly look like a long, skinny bag. The sight on the weapon looked sort of like a handle and the muzzle looked barely noticeable. What I didn’t like was that the hole in the side of the bag made the trigger feel different.
The idea was that I had about 11.4 feet to cover in order to get to my shooting position which was about four strides. The idea was that unless you looked carefully, it would look just like a bag. Maybe a bit odd but not unusual. We tested the bag at the other five events to see what response there was. The bag had a banner in it so that would be the excuse if someone wanted to see inside. At the third event, an operative managed to walk directly down the aisle behind the president only to be told that this seating was for invited guests only. The Secret Service agent never questioned why he was carrying the bag.
After as many rallies as the president has done, there’s a pattern that develops particularly because certain punch lines work and so they’re delivered in precisely the same way each and every time. The crowd expects it and will not be denied. There is a particular line where the president always returns to the podium and places his hands on each side. He would let the tension build for an average of 7.5 seconds and then give the line. Applause lasted an average of 31.2 seconds where he continued to stand at the podium and acknowledge the crowd.
The president had the crowd whipped into a frenzy by this point. I put the bag over the weapon and fiddled with the feel of the trigger a bit. I knew he was building up to the line that would signal me to move.
And then I heard the voice that shook me from the top of my head all the way to my toes.
“Mister, do you know where the bathrooms are?”
Of everything we trained for, an eleven year old boy was not in the planning book! And then I heard the line.
I picked up the weapon, walked to the aisle, knelt down, pulled the trigger, and tossed the weapon four rows down and six seats to the left. Or so CNN said. Almost everyone looked in that direction and I just tried to look small.
I might have gotten away but an off duty police officer didn’t fall for the ruse and landed on top of me. I actually appreciated his act of bravely since the stampeding crowd stomped the shit out off him. It didn’t really matter since the job was finished. Quite professionally if I say so myself.
As we all know, I was immediately sent to the the Supermax U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. Given all the chaos that would soon unfold, I learned that no one wanted to make the same mistake of turning me over to local cops and repeating what happened to Lee Harvey Oswald.
I was immediately granted hero status by the majority of the inmates or so I was told. I was, of course, in solitary confinement, The real difficult thing for me was not having unfettered access to the news. Fortunately, several of the guards gave me regular updates so I could watch the dominoes falling into place.
How I am able to speak with you today is a story better told by those involved since I was just a passenger. It was remarkable to say the least and I am forever grateful.
© Mark Rosneck 2018