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Inauguration Security Explained

We are about to experience a Presidential Inauguration unlike any other in American history. Having worked a couple as a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service, I can tell you it is always a massive undertaking and the logistics are hard to comprehend. There are a lot of moving pieces, many players are involved, and security is always tight. With the act of insurrection we witnessed during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021, the threat level for this inauguration went from high to off-the-charts. But what does that mean? Are President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris going to be in danger? How will all of this work?

None of what I’m about to explain involves sensitive information. In fact, you can find most of in the newspaper – if you can find an actual newspaper. But when an inauguration occurs, a secure zone is set up in Washington, D.C. This zone is actually divided into multiple zones for Secret Service purposes, but that’s simply for assignment and coordination purposes. The larger secure zone is where no general public will be allowed inside unless they are somehow credentialed, ticketed, and/or screened. Now for this inauguration, the zone is massive – larger than it has ever been and for good reason. Due to the act of domestic terrorism that occurred in early January and the intelligence out there that indicates there is intent to disrupt this inauguration or attack other government complexes, expanding the zone became a necessity.

Another necessity involved bringing in up to 25,000 National Guard troops. Many arrived shortly after the attack on the Capitol and have been stationed there and thousands more are flooding into the district. This should seem reassuring. Here we have thousands of soldiers teaming up with thousands of law enforcement officers to secure an event. So what’s the problem?

If you’ve followed the news, you know exactly what might be the problem. We have a trust issue in the law enforcement and military communities. In government speak, we call this an Insider Threat issue. It’s been confirmed many Capitol Police officers are under investigation for their actions during the attack on the Capitol. Many off-duty police officers were present and some have been arrested and/or fired for their participation. At least one military reservist has come under scrutiny and a lot of those who have been charged have military backgrounds. It is now being reported that the National Guard troops will be going through extra vetting in the hours prior to inauguration. This last minute vetting is a little disturbing, because it highlights the fact there isn’t a lot of vetting going on in the first place. Also, how thorough can the vetting be if it conducted on 25,000 troops in a matter of hours? We are simply talking about FBI name checks here that may pick up on criminal histories and watch lists and are unlikely to hit on most social media activities. So, will Biden and Harris even be safe?

I believe they will and this is why.

Yes, there will be tens of thousands of troops and officers in Washington, D.C. for inauguration. Not all will be in the protected zone. Of those in the protected zone, a vast, vast majority of those will never see Biden or Harris. Some may catch a glimpse of a passing limo, which is pretty much impenetrable. There seems to be misconception that Biden and Harris, and many other VIPs will be standing in the center of thousands of armed troops, any one of which could take a shot at any of them. This won’t happen. The Secret Service is really particular about who can be armed while near their high-level protectees. It is likely Biden, Harris, and many others will be spending little time in the open, will be seen behind ballistic glass, and if seen “exposed” then the only guns in the area will be those possessed by the Secret Service. Also, if there was some event that caused an evacuation to become necessary, then getting to the White House is no issue (it’s all within the zone) and there are ways to make sure the protectees are secure there (God, I hope you aren’t believing the movie Olympus Has Fallen).

This isn’t to say there isn’t risk involved for those involved in these operations and that softer targets around the nation are not at risk. Please be vigilant and do not hesitate to contact the authorities if you become aware of any extremist activities. In this environment, many individuals have felt emboldened and are not afraid to speak out about their criminal plans, so use that to save the lives of others by notifying the FBI or your local or state police. The people who wish to attack a rightfully elected government are not patriots, they are zealots. They are not supporters of law enforcement, they are enemies of democracy. True Americans encourage others to vote, they do not beat officers with American flags and then expect gratitude for their acts of insurrection.

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratch, Forgiveness Dies, The Better of the Bad, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Twitter @JJHensleyauthor

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It’s 9:10 PM in the Chatham County Communications Center. The dispatchers stare at each other, afraid to move, afraid to breathe. One minute to go. Will tonight be the night? The clock on the wall changes. 9:11. A phone rings. The screens indicate the 9-1-1 call is coming from a blocked number. The dispatchers hope and pray it’s a coincidental call for service. Perhaps a car break-in or a bar fight. With all eyes on her, one dispatcher presses a button, puts the call on speaker for everyone to hear.

“Chatham 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”

The distorted voice comes across the speaker. He gives the address. There will be a body at that location. That’s for certain. The killer dares the police to catch him and then, like before…he’s gone.

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway and new P.I. Bethany Nolan are enlisted to look into the case of the 9-1-1 Killer and the investigation takes an unexpected turn when Galloway suggests the murderer may be a first responder. Galloway is pushed to the limit as he wonders if his hallucinations are returning and if members of a drug gang that want him dead have tracked him to Savannah, Georgia.

Galloway soon discovers he doesn’t trust the police. He doesn’t trust his client. He doesn’t even trust himself.


“J.J. Hensley has pulled off an incredible feat: The Better of the Bad is a real rush with a gripping mystery at its heart. The Trevor Galloway series gets bigger, badder, and more energetic with every book.” —Nick Kolakowski, author of Boise Longpig Hunting Club and Maxine Unleashes Doomsday


Upon being released after three years of incarceration in a psychiatric facility, former narcotics detective and unlicensed PI Trevor Galloway has no idea how to begin picking up the pieces of his shattered life. Having lost the woman he loved and exacting revenge upon those responsible, he is irreparably broken, heavily medicated, and unemployable.

When former Secret Service agent Nick Van Metre knocks on Trevor Galloway’s door, the last thing he expected was a job offer. However when the head of Metal Security hands Galloway a stack of photos and asks for his assistance with investigating a series of threats against a controversial presidential candidate, the former detective is stunned.

Galloway initially takes the case, but eventually has to question his own sanity after he reports an encounter with intruders who seem to have left no trace in his home. When Nick Van Metre turns up dead and an attack is carried out against Dennis Hackney, the former detective with a history of extreme violence becomes the focal point of multiple investigations.

Galloway pulls clues from photos and searches for answers while dodging bullets in Pittsburgh and Savannah.

Get set for a mystery told at a breakneck pace, with each of the chapters being linked to photograph in roll of film.

Look for the hints. Watch for the signs. Trevor Galloway doesn’t trust himself. Can you trust him?

The answers won’t be revealed until the final photo is flipped.


“Is someone setting Trevor Galloway up, or is his own mind deceiving him? Forgiveness Dies puts a uniquely fascinating protagonist–a detective who can’t trust his own perceptions–into a complex political thriller, and the result is propulsive. Hensley starts with a punch, and accelerates from there.” –Joseph Finder, New York Times bestselling author of Judgment and The Switch

“Inventive storytelling meets propulsive action in this wild thrill ride from J.J. Hensley, who brings real-life experiences to the page and delivers an authentic tale of double-crosses and dirty dealings. Don’t worry if you haven’t stepped into Trevor Galloway’s shadowy world yet…start right here, and you’ll soon want to read them all!” –Daniel Palmer, USA Today bestselling author of Stolen and Saving Meghan

“A snapshot of humanity in perfect focus. Edgy, furiously paced, raw. From the whip-smart dialogue to the deeply flawed characters, Hensley has a voice that will stay with you long after the final exposure.” –K.J. Howe, author of The Freedom Broker and Skyjack

Forgiveness Dies is a non-stop, gut churning thriller that you’ll read in one sitting. Hensley has conceived a brilliant but almost fatally flawed protagonist in Trevor Galloway, a man so tormented by his past that in the battle for truth and justice he’s forced to fight enemies that are dangerously real, and some that only real to him. J.J. Hensley is one of the best thriller writers out there, and he sits at the top of my must-read list.” –Mark Pryor, author of the Hugo Marston series

“With Trevor Galloway, the tortured, likable protagonist of J.J. Hensley’s Forgiveness Dies, Hensley has created a character destined to remain with the reader long after the last page is turned. Not only that, but readers will find themselves inextricably pulled into a tight plot that bears a brutally close, and necessary, resemblance to today’s America. Read this book, and you’ll want to read everything else Hensley has written.” –E.A. Aymar, author of The Unrepentant


“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”

It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.

A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.


Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water

“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33

“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter

“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts

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Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

Official Book Announcement and Cover Reveal – The Better of the Bad

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.


Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.


So, You Want to Go to the GOP Convention…

No.  Don’t.  Stay away.

It’s not that I don’t like Cleveland.  I’m not saying this due to any political feelings.  I’m stating this due to my perspective as a former Secret Service agent who has worked events like the Olympic Games, a couple of inauguration’s, and the 2000 DNC Convention in L.A.  Stay home.  Unless your home is in Cleveland.  Then, you should leave.

Any major political event has challenges and all draw emotionally charged people with conflicting points of view.  Even in election years when our society seems to have become polarized and the Democratic and Republicans have platforms so far apart the Juno spacecraft would have trouble covering the distance, most of the security challenges can be overcome to a reasonable extent.  Normally, there are countermeasures and logistical solutions to potential threats and disturbances.  Normally, manpower can be added and technological tools can be utilized to secure a site.  This is not normally.

This election season, guns and violence are not just part of the rhetoric used by factions of supporters.  Some prominent political personalities have actually encouraged violence while, in the same breath, expressing a love of guns.  The situation in Cleveland is compounded by the fact that Ohio has open carry laws, meaning people will be able to carry guns outside the convention location even in areas where glass bottles and tennis balls are prohibited.  This creates an impossible situation for police officers and security officials who are supposed to be able to determine, in a split second, who might be the “good guy with a gun” as opposed to an aggressor while wading through a panicked crowd.

Ohio is an open carry state.

Ohio is an open carry state.

A few months ago, the Cleveland Police ordered 2,000 sets of riot gear.  My first question was:  Is that gear going to have to be used inside OR outside the convention?  My second question was:  Will that be enough?  Forgetting that multiple police jurisdictions (each with their own concerns) will be assisting the Cleveland Division of Police (the department’s official name), the host department is still under heavy scrutiny after the Tamir Rice shooting and other incidents.  They aren’t alone as police departments all over the country are on edge as anti-law enforcement sentiment is on the rise and there are serious concerns regarding how police treat minorities and use force.   Police officers are already under the microscope.  Now thousands of officers will be gathering in Cleveland in an effort to keep the peace among a public that does not trust them.

This is their nightmare scenario.

The Secret Service can’t do it alone.  The agency depends on local and state support and this is no exception.  As I’ve written previously, the Secret Service has a specific role in these events and have no political agenda.  Earlier in this election year, they received negative media attention when an agent was involved in a scuffle with a photographer, although only half the story was told.  Regardless, they are being faced with a scenario in which some level of violence is almost certain to exist and the agency has to protect not only specific individuals, but also ensure the security of the entire venue.

This is their nightmare scenario.

Those who wish to demonstrate outside the convention location in order to peacefully express an opinion are likely to be caught in between frustrated groups who not only dislike each other, but may be armed.  Many of those in the crowd will be carrying deep feelings regarding racial inequality, economic disparity, and religion.  Many will be carrying deadly weapons.  The peaceful and well-meaning will be right in the mix of things.

This is their nightmare scenario.

Regardless of what happens during the actual GOP Convention, one thing will not happen.  Healing will not be part of this process.  If anything, I expect more cuts to be made and more scar tissue will show after the event.  You can watch.  But, watch it from a distance.

Feel free to comment below!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

image1Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission.  Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.


An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.



In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered.  When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.

resolve-cover art CL (1)

Finalist – 2014 International Thriller Writers Awards – Best First Novel
Named one of the BEST BOOKS of 2013 by Suspense Magazine!
Top Ten Books of the Year – Authors on the Air

 And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology


Keeping Your Lips SEALed

It’s not an easy thing to strike a balance between National Security and Transparency.  Living in a democratic society necessitates the population enter into a social contract where some freedoms are surrendered so that many protections can be afforded.  Generally, this contract refers to the administration of justice and the fact criminal penalties are enforced for certain behaviors.  However some other rights, such as the “right to know” are surrendered at times.


In recent months, a couple of Navy SEALs have come forward to discuss information pertaining to the raid that took the life of Osama Bin Laden.  These revelations have not been authorized by the government and are most certainly in violation of non-disclosure agreements signed by the individuals who are releasing the information.  These events raise the question:  Are the disclosures acceptable because of the public’s right to know?  I argue the disclosures are unacceptable, illegal, and possibly immoral.



This argument is fairly obvious.  Anytime information is released regarding national security related tactics and procedures, there is a threat that adversaries will use that information to develop countermeasures.  Sometimes only a few details are all that are needed to reverse engineer and an operation or allow opponents to deduce what methods and equipment were utilized.


This is a gray area that is difficult to explain.  There may be times when it may be beneficial for a military or law enforcement organization to show that their employees are people with genuine emotions, hopes, and problems.  The U.S. military can use public relations programs for recruiting purposes and police departments can promote community policing programs that will help secure neighborhoods and build goodwill.

However, some specialized units and agencies that deter enemy action through some level of intimidation are less likely to benefit from public relations activities that demonstrate the humanity of their members.  This is the case with Special Forces units just as it was true in my former organization, the Secret Service.  Sometimes an element of mystery can manifest itself into an ominous feeling in the gut of an adversary, and that ominous feeling can result in dissuading violent action or at least in causing hesitation before an attack.  When a U.S. Navy SEAL pops up on FOX News to talk about a mission, that element of mystery is diminished and opponents no longer see an elite warrior.  They see some guy with a name giving an interview that shines a light on internal procedures and operational tactics.



My grandfather was a heavy machine-gunner in World War II.  Over time, I’ve be able to determine that he was active in campaigns in North Africa and Europe, but for the life of me I have no idea what he experienced.  He died many years ago and, like many WWII veterans, he never spoke of the war.  That generation accomplished amazing things and experienced horrors many of us will never fully comprehend, but they did their duty and few rushed to the media or sought individual credit for their actions.  Because of this, they have become known as The Greatest Generation and will continue to be celebrated as an example of sacrifice and bravery.   Perhaps one of the downsides to the silence by The Greatest Generation is that some of their lessons have not gotten through to some modern-day warriors.  In recent decades, some soldiers and law enforcement officials have helped define recent generations as the Attention-Seeking Generation.  Whether or not the people who defeated Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito were truly different or the temptations as self-promotion are more prevalent today, I’m not sure.


I own a cool little book I pick up from time to time.  It’s something like 128 pages, called CODE OF THE SAMURAI and in its pages one can read about Bushido – the JapaneseSamuraiWay of the Warrior.  The book details many Samurai warrior traits including:  Duty, Service, Education, and… Modesty.    These are terms many organizations use, but few have employed them like the Samurai did.  Those traits are the reasons that, for centuries, Samurai have represented the very best in military service.  As a unit, I have nothing but respect for the Navy SEALS, just as I respect our other military entities.  But, when it comes to having a resounding effect throughout time, it’s hard to top the Samurai.


To put things in perspective, some of the first mentions of the word “Samurai” appeared in the 10th century while the U.S. Navy SEALS have only been around since the early 1960’s.  Today we have weapons that can destroy targets across an ocean, but we are still writing books and making movies about the samurai.  That’s quite an echo throughout history.



It’s ironic that those who are the quietest seem to be heard for the longest amount of time.  The Samurai did it by creating a culture of honor and respect.  The Greatest Generation shaped the world with courageous actions and a quiet dignity.  Now our warriors are being tempted to reveal operational details and are being seduced by bright lights and book deals.  A few are probably thinking that conducting interviews and smiling for the camera will help them leave their own mark in history.  A vast majority of our soldiers and cops serve honorably and stand by their oath to keep secret information secret.  As far as military and law enforcement organizations go, they will continue to do their best to enforce non-disclosure agreements and to educate on the importance of confidentiality.  Maybe it’s up to the general public to reinforce the fact that we understand and accept the social contract and that we expect our protectors to protect information as well.

I for one will not buy any book or see any movie that financially benefits a person who broke their word by seeking the spotlight.  Only time will tell how recent generations of protectors will be remembered.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the modern-day warrior turned out to be a lot more Samurai and a lot less Sound bite?


What are your thoughts on the recent disclosures by two Navy SEALS?  Leave a comment!

J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, and Measure Twice – which also involves running.  Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

RESOLVE was a finalist for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers organization and was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.

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An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.

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