Their target was a small piece of land to the north of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island
As Tropical Storm Higos blew in from the Pacific, Stephen Stanek, a covert CIA operative, faced a decision. It was time to either cancel the operation he was running or go forward with it. The storm was barreling through the Philippines but was then projected to veer north and miss their area of operation. Stanek’s partner for the operation, a younger man named Michael Perich, had recently graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy. A football player at the academy, Perich was now at the beginning of his career in paramilitary operations and had just recently been trained as a scuba diver. Two other men were aboard their 40-foot vessel, Jamie McCormick and Daniel Meeks, both in supporting roles. Stanek, a retired Navy ordnance disposal diver, was highly experienced but had only recently attained his license to be a ship captain, according to those who knew him.
The crew had spent the last several days sailing up the coast of the Philippines after departing Malaysia in what was to be the maiden voyage of their ship, which was secretly owned by the CIA’s Maritime Branch.
Their cover story for the 2008 mission was that a client in Japan had bought the vessel, and the crew had been hired to transport it there from Malaysia. They had paperwork and documentation to back up the story if questioned.