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Crypto chips unique to the National Security Agency are found where they have no business being. Pressured to explain, NSA assigns Ellen Drew to perform an internal investigation and work with the FBI task force. She is a brilliant and experienced ex-LAPD Homicide investigator who quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of politics, duplicity, and treason.

 

 

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Crypto

a spy novel

 

James Stone

 

 

 

Prologue

Moscow pedestrians forced to walk past Number 2 Lubyanka Square generally do so on the other side of the street. It is not that the walkways are better on that side. It is not that the view is better. It is simply that citizens of Russia understand from the depths of their souls that the Russian Secret Police are hazardous to their health. Home to the Russian Secret Police for almost 100 years, the Lubyanka is the seat of contagion, a place to be avoided at all times and under all circumstances. Its current incarnation, the Federal Security Service, FSB, wasnít believed to be any different from its predecessors.

The normally minimal traffic had been further reduced to the vanishing point by darkness and a snow storm. This was even more so on the small street that ran behind the Lubyanka. No one witnessed a black ZIL limousine turn in at a narrow portal, curtains drawn for privacy. And another. And another.

The parade of quiet limousines disgorged, one after the other, a flow of equally quiet men who slipped into a doorway manned by guards who needed to see no identification. The quiet men made their ways to a top floor cloak room where they divested themselves of their overcoats. An astonishing array of braid and brass emerged. Generals abounded. There were some bear hugs of greeting, and some good humored banter, but they were mostly subdued, out of character for these normally demonstrative men. They waited, grouped together along lines of affiliation, and talked quietly. The director had not yet arrived.

An aide appeared and beckoned them into the adjoining conference room. He indicated that the director had entered the building and was on his way up. The men looked around and counted noses. They could be sure that those already present constituted the totality of the gathering. The director would not have arrived otherwise.

The conference table was in the shape of a long U. Cards were in place for each person. The directorís seat was at the head. The choicest seats were along the outside, at the extremities. The worst seats were on the inside. Those unfortunate to occupy the inside seats felt that they were in a fish bowl. People overlooked them from every direction. They felt especially vulnerable from the rear.

Each arrival looked with mixed curiosity and apprehension to see where he was placed. Some swelled with satisfaction. Others were stabbed with dismay. Those favored naturally felt that their positions had been mandated by the director. The others tried to tell themselves that the director had nothing to do with it, that the cretin who set up the table was at fault. None questioned their positions aloud. They stood at attention behind their appointed chairs.

The director was one of the most powerful men in Russia. As the head of the FSB, he controlled all overseas espionage, including an unknown number of exceptionally trained assassins. He also controlled all domestic intelligence and counter intelligence. Following time honored practice, he had set up a variety of sub-organizations, each with its own head, each intensely jealous of the others. The director balanced each against the other, thus keeping them mostly away from his own throat. Then too, there were always the assassins. Hence, the anxious readings of the entrails of a freshly slain conference table for omens of the future.

The director strode into the room and took his seat without a word. There was a general scraping as the others seated themselves. The director cleared his throat and spoke to no one in particular. "Comrades, the President sends his greetings. He asked me to tell you he appreciates the way in which you are carrying out the business of keeping our homeland safe."

There were polite smiles and nods. They recognized the opening ploy and flowed with it. The directorís gaze scanned the table and settled on a small, elderly man at the far corner of the table. "Comrade Alyushin, what can you tell us about the American Situation?"

The assembled group looked at Alyushin, the Director of Planning and Analysis, with wooden expressions.


They tended to treat him and his staff with contempt. His group was widely viewed as a pasture for those who didnít have the good sense to retire when they should. However, he and the director were old compatriots, so they would give him a polite hearing. Alyushin removed a pipe from his mouth and spoke quietly to the director as though they were the only two in the room.

"The Americans have severe internal political and economic problems. Their lawmaking bodies keep switching parties, and their current president is widely viewed as having little international affairs sense or strength. Their economy is in shambles, only slightly better than the Europeans. Their obsession with global warming, and other things they call Ďpolitical correctness,í has made them vulnerable to terrorism and increasing dependence on foreign energy and other natural resources.

The group as a whole seemed to become more alert and more focused on Alyushin. A thinking man might not know where this was leading, but would be sure the director was responsible for the direction. A prudent man would watch and listen carefully.

Alyushin continued, "In short, it appears the Americans are in the worst shape since just before the ĎGreat Warí and are basically paralyzed internationally."

The director looked around the room. "If I have understood this presentation correctly, we have to contend with a country that is seriously weakened, and a president who is not in a position to respond internationally. Does that conform to your understanding?"

There were general nods around the table. No one was willing to disagree until he knew the name of the game.

The director turned to a General of the Army. "Please report on the combat readiness of the Army."

"Highly satisfactory, Comrade Director. Regular combat divisions are at full strength. All are equipped with the latest combat weapons. Morale is high, especially in the division that recently completed an exercise."

"Did you use the new cryptographic equipment?"

"We did indeed. It performed flawlessly."

The director nodded his satisfaction. "You might explain this new system to the rest of the group."

"Yes, comrade." The general appeared to gather his thoughts. He began quietly. "What you are about to hear has been one of the most closely guarded secrets of Russia. Until the recent maneuvers, less than a hundred people knew even of the existence of the system. It went by the code name ĎSolid Ice.í Its concept is no less grandiose than the total security of all Russian communications, from those supporting our diplomatic missions down to the lowest radioman in a rifle squad."

Murmurs rolled around the room. The general continued, becoming more animated. "I can see that the significance of this breakthrough captures your imagination. With total communications security, we will be able to conduct the most sensitive diplomatic activities without fear of exposure. We will be able to exclude all outside intrusion into our affairs. And, best of all, we will be able to prepare for any military action without revealing the associated troop and logistics movements. I foresee the day, not long distant, when the despised U.S. National Security Agency will be put completely out of business." The general basked in a round of general applause.

A man in civilian clothes, whose applause had been more polite than enthusiastic, leaned forward and cleared his throat. "How long distant, Comrade? What is the nature of this new miracle, and how fast can it be fielded?"

The general looked modest. "Not really a miracle," he responded, "just the genius of our mathematicians and physicists. You see, since before the Great War, encryption has been based on the fact that any communication can be represented by a sequence of numbers. Further, the number set can be limited to ones and zeros. Scramble the numbers according to an algorithm known only by the sender and receiver, and the result is difficult to read. Not impossible, until a recent advance by our mathematicians. Our encryption is now unreadable by any practical method, even with the most advanced computers expected to be available in the next decade."

The man in civilian clothes spoke again. "Assuming I accept that the messages are unbreakable, what prevents someone from watching radio traffic between units and inferring what is happening?"

"Another of our advances. Our new radios hop frequencies at very high rates, so they donít stay on one frequency long enough to be detected. The same algorithms used to encrypt the core message are used to control the frequency hopping, so itís doubly impossible to see who is doing what and where, or even that anyone is doing anything."

"Next," said the civilian, "how do the systems ensure command and control from the top to the bottom?"

"There, weíve copied the American concept of combat net radio. Each unit, at whatever level, has its own network. The commander at that level is in his network and also in the network of the next level up. And so on, to the level of the prime minister. Also, weíve put in a twist that allows higher levels to override all lower levels and take direct control."

"Next," said the civilian, "when will the new system be completely fielded?"

"Twelve months. That includes not only the new combat radio, but also all communications by any element of the Russian government. All will use the new master encryption system."

"Impressive," said the civilian. "Two final questions. You mentioned Ďpractical methods.í What about impractical methods? And how did the funding for such a program sneak through?"

The general flushed slightly. "It is theoretically possible, given enough computing power, to break any encryption. However, the computing power to attack our new encryption is decades away."

The civilian stared at the general for a long time. The silence lengthened painfully. At last the civilian murmured, "You are certain? Absolutely certain?"

The director chose to step in at this point. The lack of love between the civilian and the general was well known. "As certain as anything in an uncertain world," he said briskly, looking around the room. "To answer your other question, no one in this room except me knows how the funding was Ďsneakedí through." He turned to the general, eyes cold. "Have the new system fielded within the year. Fully."

As if on cue, the door behind the director opened, and his aide entered with an arm load of folders. He began distributing them. They were dun-colored and marked "MOST SECRET." Each folder had the name of a department, or organization, inscribed in the corner.

After the aide had left, the director looked around the room again. No one had opened his folder. "These folders describe projects each of you is to set in motion. Each of you is to return to his organization and began work immediately. Completion is to be one year from now. If you have problems, surface them immediately. No excuses will be accepted a year from now."

The director abruptly stood and left the room. The others sat for a while wondering whether the meeting was over, wondering also what this new project might be. Finally, someone gathered sufficient nerve to leave. The logjam broke, and the parade of ZILs began quietly carrying their anonymous cargoes into the night.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

The sign on the door read, "Paul R. Johnson, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist." The man behind the desk was of medium height, about 30, and had thinning, sandy hair. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and chewed the stem of a dead pipe as he leafed through a folder labeled, "Drew, Ellen A." He turned to the page that contained photographs and viewed them with a bachelorís appreciation. Judging by the photos, Ellen Drew was an extraordinarily beautiful woman. Johnson felt a stirring of anticipation. She was being considered for a job with the National Security Agency, and an interview with Johnson was the first of many steps leading to the requisite security clearance. Her interview was scheduled for later in the day. Johnson reluctantly left the photos and reviewed the narrative contents of the dossier.

Ellen Drewís mother had been a beauty queen, but had been a little bit stupid. She believed all she was told about screen tests and movie contracts and stardom waiting in the wings. She shuttled from casting couch to casting couch, the big break always dangling just out of reach, until reality dawned. She recoiled from reality in horror. One foggy night she walked in front of a speeding car. The car was a Porsche driven by an amateur racing competitor, so he managed to miss her. The Porsche ran up a telephone pole and flipped onto its back. The driver, a young university physics professor, ended up in the hospital with multiple fractures. Ellenís mother developed a hero worship attachment to young Professor Drew. She refused to leave his side as he convalesced. Drew, under the influence of nurseís syndrome, proposed. He married his beauty immediately on release from the hospital. They suited each other very well. Drew was brilliant but scattered. Ellenís mother devoted herself to him with a passion verging on idolatry. She also showed a surprising talent for home management. Ellen was born a year later.

Ellen violated Shawís postulate; she inherited her motherís beauty, but she inherited her fatherís intelligence (I.Q. 150). Professor Drew was a popular teacher, and his house was right by the campus. Consequently, Ellen grew up an observer of informal academic debate. Throughout her formative years, she was exposed to every nuance of politics, from the frankly Marxist to the neo-conservative; from the amoral to the hyper righteous. In her mother, she saw the worst of the pre-liberation oppression of women--a drudge, living at the beck and call of her father and every student who chose to drop in. It did not occur to Ellen that her mother reveled in her role and would have been stupefied to know that Ellen considered her less than the luckiest woman alive. Ellen determined not to follow in her motherís footsteps. She also felt the womenís liberation movement had mutated into something like a new sexploitation of women, something invented by the Playboy set. Ellen had bloomed early and had been the subject of male attentiveness long before her father relaxed his supervision. She was well acquainted with the male predator and also refused to play that game.

Ellenís choice of career was interesting. Strongly competitive and almost neurotically responsive to challenge, Ellen found male dominance in certain fields an overwhelming provocation. Reality ruled out careers in the more physical sports, such as football. Other careers, such as broadcasting, looked too simple. Instead, Ellen chose law enforcement. She planned her campaign early and carefully. Her first step was a UCLA degree, with honors, in criminology. Then she entered the Los Angeles Police Academy. It was hard. Very hard! People, male and female, faculty and students, automatically discounted her because of her beauty. She countered by being twice as hard. Having laid her plans early, Ellen had taken up shooting and unarmed combat while still in high school. By the time she reached the police academy, Ellen had brown belts in both karate and judo and could shoot at expert level with virtually any hand gun or rifle. She was physically the match of any cadet at the academy. With the criminology degree as a foundation, the written curriculum was a snap. Ellen excelled at everything, which only intensified the resentment of her peers.

Ellen graduated at the top of her class, the doorway to her dreams, and was given a job in the police archives. Frustrated, she lashed out at the system, using the womenís organizations to gain access to the public media. Ellen had impeccable credentials. The bias was clear cut. Ellen was the perfect weapon, and the womenís organizations wielded her mightily. They huffed, and they puffed, and their pickets marched. The TV people were particularly delighted to have so photogenic a cause célèbre. Her name and face became easily the most recognizable in the L.A. area. Public (media) pressure became so intense that the administration caved in. The mayor dropped a word in the commissionerís ear. The commissioner made a call to the chief. Suddenly, Ellen found herself with a "routine" transfer to a police beat, in a two-man (now person) patrol car.

New problems arose. The dowdy wives of the men with whom Ellen patrolled took one look at their husbandsí new partner and screamed in outrage. New pickets marched, this time protesting immorality. This, too, passed. Ellen settled into the routine of the patrolman. She was accepted as a good partner. Some of the men tried to expand the relationship and were rebuffed. One of the more physical types tried too hard and suffered an accident. The rest took the hint, and Ellen was allowed thereafter to concentrate on her duties.

The duties were disappointing. Drunks, prostitutes, pimps, pushers, addicts, and thieves all went through the station house as though through a revolving door. And then there was the unending paperwork. Ellen had been reminded of the old Peggy Lee song, Is That All There Is? She had wrangled a transfer to plainclothes duties. Plainclothes detective work had the potential for intellectual challenge, but heavy caseloads left no time available for solving the more interesting cases. Ellen became more and more frustrated. She was honest enough with herself not to blame the system this time. Ellen began to consider the possibility that she had made a mistake.

UCLA invited its distinguished (or notorious) alumnus to conduct several seminars on womenís problems in police work. During one of these sessions, Ellen noticed a well dressed man sitting in the back of the lecture hall. He clearly wasnít a student, and Ellen didnít think he was faculty. After the lecture, he clarified his standing by inviting Ellen to become a member of the National Security Agency, as an investigator. Intrigued, Ellen tentatively accepted.

Paul Johnson looked forward with anticipation to Ellenís arrival for her entrance interview. He had already decided that she presented no emotional security risk. Her situation with the LAPD had led to extensive and frequent consultations with the LAPD psychologist. The thinly disguised excuse had been research on the psychological pressures to which female police officers are subjected. Ellen had winked at the psychologist and taken it in good humor. They became good friends, and Ellen used the psychologist to feed changes back into the system. Regardless, the relationship had resulted in a most comprehensive and long term psychological profile, and it had been provided to Johnson. Certain definite trends were evident. Ellen was moderating. The frustrations at LAPD, which had pushed many over the edge into psychosis, had worn the sharp edges off of Ellenís competitiveness. She had learned patience. Her response to challenge was less neurotic. A certain abrasiveness in personal contacts continued, but police work probably was an aggravating factor.

In all, Johnson realized that it really wasnít necessary to interview Ellen in person. He would learn nothing new. He could pass her on immediately. Still, there were those photos. Was she really so beautiful? Johnson felt obligated to see for himself, strictly from intellectual curiosity, of course. He waited impatiently.

* * *

Ellen Drew exited to the northwest from Baltimore-Washington International Airport onto Elm Road, as stated in the addendum to her orders. Ellen recalled the conversation that ensued upon her receipt of "Orders to Report" at such-and-such a time and location. She had demanded to know how a tentative arrangement for a job interview had led to her induction into the armed services. She was hastily reassured that the papers she received carried no such connotation. It was just that NSA was an agency of the Department of Defense. Money to pay for her interview trip could be disbursed by the military pay officers only on the basis of standard DoD orders -- a foreboding of bureaucratic inflexibility.

Shortly, Elm dead-ended at Elkridge Landing Road, and Ellen turned west, looking for 840 Elkridge Landing Road. The road was lined with a mix of warehouses and nicer buildings with the names of large aerospace companies blazoned on their faces. Ellen noted a shortage of street numbers. After meandering on Elkridge for a couple of miles, Ellen spotted a building number. It implied she had gone too far. Ellen retraced her route and found herself back at Elm Road. She retraced again, more slowly. At length, she saw some odd fencing. The outer fence was eight-foot chain link with razor wire on top. There was an identical inner fence. Between the two was a space that was empty except for a line of poles supporting several wires mounted on insulators. Ellen had seen less intimidating fences on prisons. A turn-off led to a small building set in the fence. Ellen took the turn-off, went to the small building, and was informed she had indeed found the NSA FANX. Out of curiosity she asked about the name, FANX. The answer? The airport had originally been named Friendship Airport; hence, Friendship Annex -- FANX.

* * *

Paul Johnson glanced up at his government-issue wall clock. Ellen had just raised her hand to rap on the door and get his attention. They both froze, motionless in time, while Johnson absorbed the view. Ellenís hair was raven black, long, and fell in gentle waves down to her shoulders. Two wings framed a face that was perfectly proportioned, with a complexion that was flawless and creamy. Her mouth was wide and generous. Full brows and long black lashes contrasted with deep blue eyes. No, her pictures donít do her justice.

Johnson rose from his chair and escorted Ellen to another chair. He noted with approval a figure that matched the face. This was definitely a female worth pursuit. Not that he was optimistic about his chances, having reviewed her psychological profile. She would take a very special approach, and Johnson wasnít sure what that might consist of. He seated her in the chair and went back to his own. Ellen appeared completely at ease. That could be due to her police training or indifference about the outcome of the interview.

"I hope you had a good trip," Johnson said. Brilliant beginning!

"Fairly smooth," Ellen replied, "except for actually finding this place.

Johnson looked concerned, and Ellen continued.

"I went up and down Elkridge. It was only my police deductive powers that sleuthed it out. Other than that, no problems."

"Didnít they put a map in your packet?"

"No, they didnít. They also didnít send me a packet. I was sent only some orders to report to the NSA Annex."

"Well," Johnson said, "Iím surprised you got here at all. We can obviously use you. He fished into a desk drawer and handed Ellen a packet. "They," he added, putting separation between him and the culprits, "should have sent you one of these."

Ellen looked at the sheaf of papers and found detailed maps and instructions. "Would have helped," she said with a smile.

"Itíll still help," Johnson said. "Youíll be here several days, and youíll need information on motels and eating spots."

"Whatíre you going to do to me that takes several days?"

Johnson became very professional. "First, weíll run you through the polygraph. Then weíll give you a battery of psychological exams, a language aptitude exam, a cryptanalysis aptitude exam, a physical, and a few other odds and ends."

Ellen frowned. "Language and what kind of aptitude exams?"

"Cryptanalysis, code breaking."

"Why? Iím a cop, by inclination and training."

"I know. Itís regulation. The agency has critical skill shortages in these areas. If I, even with a Ph.D. in psychology, showed a strong aptitude in cryptanalysis, theyíd hound me to switch career fields."

Ellen raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. When do we start?"

"We already have. Iím the first and last step. Normally, I would do an extended interview, but with your file from LAPD I wonít need to. Iíll just pass you on and save the rest until youíre finished." He rose from his chair. "If youíll just follow meÖ"

* * *

Paul Johnson led Ellen to cramped room, which she quickly surveyed. A small man, dark and thin, with a toothbrush mustache, sat in a chair behind a desk. He wore a dark business suit, and appeared to be in his mid-40s. On the desk was a laptop computer connected to a large screen. An electronic device about the size of the laptop was connected to the computer; a fat cable ran from this device to a somewhat odd looking chair. There was nothing else in the room but an outsized mirror on one wall. Who do they think theyíre kidding? A mirror like that in a room like this?

Johnson said, "Ellen, this is Richard Stern. He will administer the polygraph. Iíll leave you with him, and heíll bring you back when youíre done." Johnson left the room. Stern stood and extended his hand, which Ellen shook. They mouthed the usual platitudes, and Stern invited Ellen to sit in the odd chair.

"I believe you are familiar with polygraphs from your police experience." He continued without pausing for Ellenís response. "Ours is perhaps more advanced than youíve seen. In addition to the usual breathing, heart, respiration, and blood pressure electrodes, the chair is instrumented to detect motion. The seat and arms are instrumented. Your feet rest on a pad that is instrumented. Your slightest motion will show up in the record, which eliminates the supposed trick of putting a tack in your shoe to produce artificial responses. All of the sensors, including the ones I will attach to you, go to a box on the back of the chair, then through the cable to the control unit on the desk, and then to the computer."

Stern busied himself instrumenting Ellen, chatting as he did. He attached several clips to her fingers, indicating that they were conductivity sensors. A flexible hose went around her chest to measure respiration. A cuff went around her arm to measure blood pressure. When all was connected to his satisfaction, Stern went around the desk and sat in the other chair. He flicked a switch and began speaking in a formal manner.

"Our conversation is now being recorded. You are Miss Ellen Ann Drew of 1551 Black Hills Drive, Los Angeles, California?"

"That is correct."

"You have applied for employment at the National Security Agency?"

"Yes."

"You understand that a polygraph examination, as part of a general background investigation, is prerequisite to employment at this agency?"

"Yes, I do." Ellen recalled the form letter that had been sent to her in response to her application. "You have been selectedÖEmployment at the National Security Agency is a privilege, not a right. An exhaustive background investigation, including a polygraph examÖ" Ellen wondered what she had gotten herself into.

"Do you have any objection to my administering this examination?"

"No, I do not."

At this point, Stern turned off the switch and began speaking in a more conversational tone. Ellen had no doubt that the conversation was still being recorded.

"Very good," Stern said. "Now I will explain the ground rules. We will do things in five parts. First, I will take you through the questions I plan to ask. You will answer Ďyesí or Ďnoí to each question. Second, I will take you through one live session on the machine. Third, I will ask if there were any issues or thoughts we should clear up, and I will ask about any blips I spotted during the first run. Fourth, weíll give you a break to relax, but only in the chair and still hooked up. Fifth, weíll do a second live run on the machine. Any questions?"

"Yes. While we police use a polygraph when we can, we put very little faith in it. It seems a bit expensive to bring me here for something that is basically unreliable."

Stern smiled paternally. "You have a misconception of what you will go through here these two weeks. The polygraph is only the beginning. There are many and various psych and aptitude exams as well. As to the polygraph itself, we feel it is a very important part of a rigorous background investigation."

"Iíve been through background investigations."

Stern smiled thinly, "Not like ours. We have your complete history from your e-QIP submission."

Ellen shuddered at the memory of filling out the Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing, or e-QIP. Complete indeed!

Stern was continuing, "During the polygraph, I will be taking you primarily over your background, to see if it holds water. The results will be used by field investigators to indicate areas they should probe. You neither pass nor fail this portion of the investigation."

"Polygraphs can be spoofed," Ellen stated.

Stern nodded approvingly. "As a police officer, you would be aware of certain deficiencies. They generally show up under either of two conditions. The first is insanity, where the subject does not respond as a normal person does. The second is when the subject has had extensive training. We believe that our field investigation will uncover episodes of insanity. We also believe that the kinds of training required to spoof the exam would be so extensive that it would leave gaps -- unexplained absences -- or behavior pattern deviations that would be very difficult to conceal from our investigators. The polygraph is a powerful partner to the investigator. Besides," he said flatly, "weíve caught spies with it."

Ellenís curiosity was piqued by this last remark, but Stern showed no inclination to elaborate. Instead, he picked up a sheaf of papers and ruffled them to even the edges.

"Iíve prepared a list of questions from your e-QIP. The answer to each question will be Ďyesí or Ďno.í I must ask you to confine your answers to those two words. We want your vital signs to remain as stable as possible. Also, no physical movement, please, not even fingers or toes."

"But what if I want to elaborate an answer?" Ellen protested.

"We have made provision," Stern replied. "Before turning on the machine, I will take you completely through the list. If you wish to elaborate, you may do so. Then, when I ask the question during the exam, you think to yourself, ĎExcept for what we discussedí as you make your answer."

"What if I think of something during the exam?"

"Make a mental note. Iíll probably see a spike when you think of it and ask after I turn the machine off at the end of the first session. We routinely have two sessions, so you will have the opportunity to make corrections on the second pass."

"Okay, I suppose we might as well get on with it."

"Good. Remember to answer Ďyesí or Ďnoí unless you want to discuss the question."

Stern riffled the sheaf of papers again. He began asking questions in a totally flat and impersonal voice. "Is your name Ellen Ann Drew?"

"Yes."

"You reside at 1551 Black Hills Drive, Los Angeles?"

"Yes."

"You were born on December 1, 1987?"

"Yes."

"Your parents are John J. and Flora M. Drew?"

"Yes."

"You graduated from UCLA with a degree in criminology in 2004?"

"Yes."

"You are a patrolman with the Los Angeles Police Department?"

"No." There was an extended pause while Stern scribbled a note.

"You are with the LAPD?"

"Yes."

"You have been with the LAPD since graduation from UCLA?"

"Yes."

"Then why did you answer no to the earlier question?"

"Iím plain-clothes, not patrol."

"Ah! An important distinction, I take it?

"You better believe it!"

"Thank you. You have lived your entire life in L.A.?"

"Yes."

"You have never traveled outside the United States border?"

"No."

"What about shopping at the Tijuana border?"

"Oh! Yes. I have done that. Twice. But for only a couple of hours, and never out of sight of the border station."

"Thank you. There is a list of organization memberships on your e-QIP. Is it correct?"

"Yes."

"Have you ever been a member of an organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government?"

"No"

"Have you ever disclosed classified information to unauthorized persons?"

"No. Iíve never had any to disclose." Stern smiled slightly.

"Have you ever been an agent of a foreign power?"

"No."

"Have you ever been contacted by an agent of a foreign power?"

"I donít know."

Stern became totally still for a moment. Then he asked, eyes boring into Ellenís, "What do you mean?"

"Well, I flew from LA to Charlotte and changed planes. I was one of the first to board the new plane, which they had said was going to be almost empty. A man boarded behind me and took the seat next to me. This character began making a big play about how he was an important CIA type. I can think of only four explanations."

Stern looked interested. "Go on."

"First, he could have been totally lying. Second, he could have been a very dumb CIA type, making a big-shot play. Third, he could have been an agent of a foreign power trying to set me up. Or, fourth, he might have been one of your people trying to set me up."

Stern coughed and choked. "We wouldnít do that," he managed to get out before succumbing to another coughing fit. The coughing subsided, and he cleared his throat. "You are not now, nor have you ever been married?"

"No."

"Is there any personal conduct in your past or present that could make you subject to blackmail?"

"No"

The questions went on for quite a while. Finally, Stern shuffled his papers together. "That does it for my questions. Are you ready to proceed, or do you have any questions of your own."

"Letís have it over with," Ellen responded.

"Very good. Let me remind you to remain perfectly still. Donít even wiggle your fingers or toes."

"Okay." There was a click and then silence. Stern began asking questions in a flat monotone.

"Is your name Ellen Ann Drew?"

"Yes."

"Do you reside atÖ?" Ellenís mind began to wander as Stern took her through the questions frontward, backward, and sideways, always speaking in that flat monotone. Suddenly, Ellenís mind was jarred. The monotone had not changed; something else had. Her mind sought the last question; You were born on July 4, 1980? Ah! That was it.

"No."

"You were born December 1, 1987?"

"Yes."

"Your parents areÖ?" Ellen remained alert, suspicious of additional traps. The questions continued with no more traps.

Ellen suddenly became aware of a cramp in one of her fingers. She ached to move the finger. All of her consciousness concentrated on not moving that finger. It became the most important thing in the world. There was a snap as Stern switched off the polygraph.

"Okay, you may relax now, but Iíll leave you hooked up."

Ellen tried to see the screen on the desk, but it was turned just barely too far for her to see. "May I see how I did?"

"Not yet. We still have at least one more session before we are done. I could see that your overall stress level was going up. Thatís counterproductive, which is why we always plan a break. Just relax and rest while I go down the hall to check something."

Stern left the room, and Ellen was left alone. She looked speculatively at the mirror on the wall in front of her. I wonder how many of them are back there? What do they expect me to do? She leaned back and closed her eyes.

Stern opened the door and bustled into the room. Ellen thought he looked a little sheepish.

"Ready to go again?"

"I suppose. Letís get it over with."

"Okay," he said as he snapped on the switch. "Same drill as before. Is your nameÖ"

The questioning went just as before, frontward, backward, and sideways, with little traps thrown in for good measure. Ellen was relaxed and answering with only half of her mind when the alarm bells went off in her head. She seized on the last question, Have you ever, in your employment with the LAPD, used public property for your own purposes? A new question! One not on the list! What was he up to? Ellenís thoughts raced.

"Yes," she answered.

There was a long pause. When Stern spoke again, his voice had changed. It was hard as flint, threatening. "Do you have any objection to answering this next question?"

"No."

"You understand you have the right to remain silent?"

"Yes." Ellen could feel the stress. Her head felt as if it were expanding.

Sternís voice became menacing. "Have you ever, in your employment with LAPD, done anything of which you are ashamed?"

"No."

Stern was silent a long time. Ellen felt the pressure continue to mount, until her head felt as if it would burst.

Sternís next question, when it came, was in a light and somewhat plaintive voice. "Not even talk back to your boss?"

Ellen exploded in laughter.

"No laughing on the polygraph!" Stern said severely, as he snapped off the machine. He yawned and stretched and then got up and began unfastening the electrodes.

"How did I do?" Ellen asked anxiously. She was still unsettled by the last series of questions.

"Canít say until we run the results through a computer. However," at this Stern grinned conspiratorially, "I donít pull that last trick unless the run is going so smoothly that I need to provoke a reaction. Just to verify that youíre not drugged."

"Well, you must have gotten a beauty."

"I did, I did," Stern chortled, swinging the screen around where Ellen could see. "Respiration completely stopped. Blood pressure off scale. Resistivity practically zero. Perfect! I donít think you have much to worry about on this score. And letís look back to the first session," he said as he scrolled through charts on the screen. "See here how relaxed you were?"

"Whatís that blip?" Ellen asked, pointing to a spike on the screen.

"Thatís where I made you seven years older."

"And whatís that," pointing to a zone where everything was growing.

"Thatís the end of the first session. Your overall stress was going up. I imagine you were getting a cramp and trying not to move."

"Absolutely correct," said Ellen, looking at Stern with greater respect.

"What now?"

"Lunch time. After lunch, youíll report to a conference room for more exams. Let me look up the room number."

* * *

Ellen marked the last block on the computer-gradable exam and took it to the room monitor. As usual, she was the first to finish. In the past two days she had met a large number of people who were going through the same process as she, and had learned that about a thousand people a year were processed. NSA was a very large agency, and even a small turnover necessitated vacuuming up many candidates.

The room monitor looked up with a smile. "Finished already? The Crippies will be after you like ducks on a June Bug."

"Pardon?" asked Ellen with a blank look. "Crippies?"

"Cryptanalysts. You just completed their aptitude exam in record time. Theyíll be wanting you."

Ellen smiled. "How do you know Iím not turning in a blank paper?"

The room monitor shook his head. "If that were the case, youíd still be trying to figure what the test was about. Youíve either got it or you donít. Besides, I saw you marking answers." The monitor rummaged in some papers. "Iíve got a note for you somewhere. Ah, here it is."

Ellen took the note and read it with curiosity. It asked that Ellen come to Paul Johnsonís office as soon as she finished her cryptanalysis aptitude exam. Ellen set off down the hallway, wondering what had happened to interrupt her schedule.

* * *

Paul Johnson was behind his desk, as he had been the last time Ellen saw him. He smiled with genuine delight as she entered, and rose to place a chair for her. Ellen noticed that he positioned it measurably closer to him than it had been.

"Whatís up?" Ellen asked.

"Weíre sending you home," Johnson responded. He chuckled at the look of consternation on Ellenís face. "No, no, nothing like that. Weíve decided to waive the remainder of the testing normally required."

Ellen was still wary. "Why? You told me that two weeks of tests were regulation."

"They normally are," Johnson responded smoothly, "for the average walk-in. But for the person who has an established profession, we frequently waive the bulk of the aptitude tests. And thatís about all you have left. I assure you thereís no problem."

Ellen was unconvinced.

Johnson sighed and continued, "I might as well level with you. Weíre getting some heat out of the Government Accountability Office on our affirmative action program. Most of our personnel are in sensitive enough jobs that we donít have to release statistics on minority status. However, support activities, such as Security, have come under increasing pressure. We need to beef up the minority professional staff in these areas. You are a minority -- a woman -- in the professional investigative field. Even if you came up with a high aptitude in one of the other fields, we would want you in Security. The boss decided not to waste your time and our money on any further tests. Satisfied?"

Ellen gave him a deadpan. "I presume that token women are paid well at NSA?"

Johnson looked embarrassed. "As a matter of fact, I expect this token woman to be very well paid. Sheís so very highly qualified, you see."

Ellen was pleased with the compliment. "I take it that I can expect an offer?"

"I fully expect it, barring some off-the-wall problem with your clearance."

"Is that likely?"

"Not at all. From your e-QIP and polygraph, youíre a shoo-in. In fact, Iím emboldened to ask for a date when you arrive back."

"What did you have in mind?" Ellen asked warily.

"I thought I might invite you to our karate club."

"Karate club! How original. Are you into martial arts?"

"In a mild way. I hold a brown belt."

. "Bet I can take you," Ellen said challengingly.

Johnson held out his palms as if to ward off an immediate attack. "Iím not in your league. Itís a date then?"

"When?"

"Itís hard to tell. Three months is about the minimum. Nine months is average. Iíve seen cases drag on for two years. In this case, I would say four months, because of the urgency of our minority problem. Theyíll expedite your investigation."

"Four months, then. Weíll see who knows anything about karate."

Johnson personally ushered Ellen to the security gate and saw her off.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

The guard yawned and reached for the tuning dial of his radio. The work day was over. Only the occasional straggler came through and broke the monotony. "Tune in at seven," said the radio, "for a live discussion of the presidentís first term in office. Your Mutual Network has assembled a panel of experts in foreign and domestic affairs, who willÖ" The guard rotated the dial in search of a rock station.

A man came through the door from the main building, his badge held under his chin as specified in the regulations. The man was familiar, one who habitually left the building late. "Good evening, sir," the guard said ritually. "May I see the contents of your briefcase?" The man smiled and flipped the catches on his government-issue attaché case, turning it so the guard could paw through its contents.

"Remind me not to stay late if I want to smuggle out some secrets," the man said. "At this time of day, you have entirely too much leisure to check."

The guard grunted. "Youíd not be stupid enough to put them in your briefcase. Youíd stuff them into that overcoat youíre wearing, and Iíd never see them."

"Yes, thatís true," the man responded. "Iíve never seen you do a body search."

"We donít do body searches. The only reason we go through briefcases is to see if anything has been accidentally stuffed in with the newspaper. You regulars are all cleared, and we have to start trusting people somewhere." The guard closed the case and handed it back. "Youíre clean today." He waved the man through.

* * *

The man glanced at the sky. Heavy clouds were encroaching from the northwest, driven by a strong, sharp wind. Snow before morning, he thought, and hurried across the sprawling parking lot. He hopped into his vehicle and zipped out onto Savage Road. One of the benefits of working late, he thought. Otherwise, it could take a half-hour to get out of the agency parking lot. Working for a mammoth outfit such as the National Security Agency had definite benefits. Competing with seven thousand other cars to get out of the parking lot was not one of them.

Automatic reflexes took over as the car smoothly rounded the cloverleaf from Savage Road down onto the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, exited the Parkway onto Bowie Road, and headed toward Laurel. His mind reverted to the problem that had occupied it for several days: how to collect the payoff without being compromised. Passing secrets to a foreign power is simple, he mused, providing that you have access to them in the first place. If you plan to do that for a while and then defect, a little care not to be caught by your own side is all that is needed. If you want to get paid, and paid well, then you must conceal your identity from the other side. Passing the secrets is still pretty simple, because you can just leave them someplace and phone the other side where to pick them up. But it is very difficult to arrange for the other side to pass the money back without letting them know where you will ultimately be. So, the crux of the problem is how to collect without being compromised.

The man was jolted back to awareness when his car, as if on autopilot, swung into a lot and stopped in front of a cluster of condominiums. He was home. Getting out, he carefully locked all the doors and then looked up at the sky to check on the stormís progress. His attention was caught by a light plane scudding across the horizon in hope of making a landing before conditions got worse. He froze, watching the plane. He stayed, motionless, long after the plane vanished. Finally, he shook himself and strode to his door, barely pausing as his key hit the lock.

He went directly to the fireplace and set a match to paper laid under a pile of kindling and logs. Flames immediately leapt toward the chimney. Next he flipped a switch on the wall, and a Bach fugue began flowing from massive speakers flanking the fireplace. Several quick strides later, and he was at the refrigerator pouring a glass of milk. Finally, he went to a large drawing table, selected a pencil, inspected it critically for sharpness, and began to sketch electrical diagrams.

 

 

CHAPTER 3

Some consider the Ďnewí Russian embassy to be one of the most beautiful in Washington, D.C. It is certainly one of the largest. It sits atop Mount Alto, the third tallest hill in D.C. With nine levels added to the height of the hill, the top of the building towers to 500 feet, looming above the rest of D.C., including most government buildings, foreign and domestic. This was a point of significant scandal among the U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as all the countries not aligned with the Soviet Union, as it was called at the time. Its elevation made it a premium location for electronic snooping on everyone else.

Part of the deal with the Americans for the new Soviet embassy was that the Americans could build a new embassy in Moscow. For some reason, the Americans had allowed Russian labor to use Russian materials in building the new Moscow embassy. The Soviets had embedded so many listening devices in the new embassy that American intelligence recommended tearing it down and starting over, sadder but wiser. That hadnít happened, so numerous modifications had been made internally to make at least some of the embassy suitable for sensitive use.

The Soviets were determined the Americans would not do to them as they had done to the Americans. The first part of this strategy was to have all basic construction materials come from Russia and to have the construction done by workers imported from Russia.

The second part of this strategy was to take extra security measures for especially sensitive areas, such as the basement area occupied by the residency, where the large FSB contingent works. This area had a concrete floor, concrete walls, and a concrete ceiling. There was one concrete stair from the upper floors. There was one elevator adjacent to the stair for both personnel and things. The area was mostly open-plan, with what the Americans call ĎDilbert cubiclesí for the personnel. One corner opposite the stair contained an enclosed office. This was the residentís office. The resident, usually a general officer given the importance of the American posting, warranted his own private office. He also warranted his own secretary, stationed in a cubicle outside the residentís office. Much of one wall stretching out beside the residentís office was occupied by five-drawer safes, each equipped with a modern electronic combination lock. These safes were used to store classified materials for the whole embassy, but particularly those of the residency.

The residency area had received special attention during construction. The walls, floors, and ceilings had all been poured with multiple fine metallic meshes embedded in the concrete. The meshes were electrically bonded to each other and then bonded to electrical ground, so no radio waves could penetrate in either direction. The electrical service and communications cables all had filters installed where they penetrated into the area. The entire residency was swept for eavesdropping devices at the beginning and end of each work day. The whole residency was considered to be highly secure.

However, the Russian intelligence community is paranoid about tunnels. They know of at least two incidents in which the Americans had used tunnels under facilities to tap communications lines. The first was in the 1950s, when a CIA project tunneled under the East German telephone exchange and tapped the long-distance phone lines carrying Soviet communications. The tunnel was compromised by the British mole, George Blake. But while the Soviets dithered on how to avoid exposing Blake, the CIA collected some 40,000 hours of Soviet phone calls and 6 million circuit-hours of teletype traffic.

In the second incident, the Americans tunneled under the new Mount Alto embassy during construction. This tunnel was compromised by the FBI mole, Robert Hanssen, and never went into operation. Russia took the view that paranoia is not a bad policy when they really are out to get you, so all Russian embassies have especially protected areas.

The Mount Alto residency has plenty of space, so they had built a separate room in one corner called the referentura. The room, spaced a foot from the walls, had separation from the ceiling, and was set on six-inch transparent glass blocks. It is a true "screen room" designed to block all radio transmissions. It has strong sound deadening protection. Its electrical service is filtered, even though it comes from the already-filtered residency service. A split heat pump provides environmental conditioning (the condenser unit is mounted on the ground outside the building. Holes for the copper pipes are filled with hard insulating plastic, and the pipes are bonded to ground on both ends). All highly sensitive activities are conducted in the referentura.

* * *

The current resident, a Colonel Girov, was on a rampage. Girov was a large man, both in stature and in bulk. In earlier days he had been the perfect "Russian Bear" stereotype, the type Oscar Homolka made a fortune playing in the movies. In recent years he had run to fat. And he had grown cautious. He avoided any situation that posed a risk of failure that could cloud his retirement years. On the other hand, it galled him not to have been promoted to star rank. He felt such a promotion was his due, especially in light of his long tenure in the Russian Secret Police, a highly successful tenure in his view. Girov longed for a major preretirement coup to enhance the possibilities of acquiring at least one star to light his waning years.

This conflict of emotions had produced in Girov a distinct personality change. Previously gregarious and outgoing, he had become suspicious and uncommunicative. He had also become extremely short tempered. Coexistence with such a person is always difficult. With Girov, it was doubly so. He had direct access to high levels within the Kremlin. A mere suggestion from Girov that an embassy employee was becoming an issue was sufficient to cause that personís immediate recall to the bosom of Mother Russia. Recall under such conditions could be most traumatic, so it was natural that lesser beings should tremble when Girov was displeased, as he had been since arriving in his domain this morning.

Girov stamped his way toward his office, his eyes searching for the object of his displeasure. Girov had been led to expect a new assistant to arrive, but the new assistant had not appeared. The manís dossier had not arrived either. Girov hated meeting with a new subordinate without knowing his background. He felt it deprived him of advantage at a critical formative stage of the relationship.

Girov reached his office, noted his secretary was not at her post, and entered, closing the door behind him. His eyes fell immediately upon a manila folder centered on his otherwise empty desk. Crossing behind the desk, Girov observed a note attached to the folder which read, "Arrived in the evening diplomatic pouch." He opened the folder and began to read. His initial reaction was incredulity, but this quickly turned to wrath. He vented an animal growl of rage and boiled out of his office, waving the folder. Seizing the first person in sight, a hapless clerk, Girov demanded to know who was feeling his tail.

The clerk was petrified into silence, but Girov didnít notice and went on to describe in vivid detail what he would do the perpetrator of some outrageous hoax. Without pause, Girov changed the focus of his attack to the incompetent idiots in the FSB Office of Overseas Assignments.

This overt disrespect to an organ of the FSB, unthinkable to most Russians, appeared to terrify the clerk even more than the first onslaught.

Then, as suddenly as he had emerged, Girov vanished back into his office. The clerk wilted against the wall.

It was a different Girov who approached his desk than the one who had left it. In the midst of bullying the clerk, a thought had occurred to Girov that had nothing to do with hoaxes or incompetent assignment officers. The new Girov was alert and wary, like a suspicious old bear that has scented the hunter at his favorite fishing hole. Girov positioned himself carefully behind his desk and opened the offending folder. He forced himself to read calmly.

The folder purported to be the personal history of one Lieutenant Danov Iliavitich Malek, Girovís new assistant. Girov digested that tidbit for a moment. The position warranted at least a majorís rank. Assigning a lieutenant was idiotic or a studied insult. Girov read on. Malek was 35 and a recent graduate of the FSB Academy. Strange. Academy graduates were normally in their early twenties, which was also the normal age of lieutenants. The next several pages comprised a number of glowing reports from the academy instructors. Lt. Malek, it seemed, was a very promising graduate. Why so old? The answer to this question was buried at the back of the dossier. It said that Malek had been custodian of a large apartment building in Novosibirsk and had uncovered a cell of Islamists meeting in his building. Malek had reported them to the FSB. He had been ordered to observe the group and identify all their members. Malek had been imminently successful. Thirty-six adult members of the cell had been arrested and vanished. Their children, of course, had become wards of the state and were placed in institutions of a different sort, where they would grow up to be model Russian citizens. The local FSB in Novosibirsk was so impressed by Malekís effort, even though untrained, that it recommended immediate induction into the FSB.

Mystery explained. Or was it? Still unexplained was why a lieutenant would be given a majorís assignment and why, particularly, a critical overseas posting would be given to a new Academy graduate, regardless of his Academy record. No, there was more to this than was immediately apparent. Suppose the background was a fake, everything, in fact, but the age, which would be difficult to fake. The age would be consistent with a majorís rank, which would then be consistent with all other aspects of the posting.

But why a fake dossier? The only possible explanation was that he, Girov, the Senior Resident, personally, was to be deceived. If that were the case, it meant that some old enemy had come out of the woodwork of the Kremlin -- an old enemy with sufficient pull to control important FSB postings and to fabricate FSB dossiers. Someone who must think the old bear is losing his grip. Well! The first rule of bureaucratic warfare is to scout the opposition. Girov settled back to await Malek.

It was a short wait. The intercom interrupted his consideration of the long list of enemies who might have decided to move against him. Girov moved to press the intercom button. "Yes?"

"Lt. Malek is here, Colonel," said Girovís secretary over the intercom.

"Send him in." Very shortly a door opened. A man of about 35, tall, with short, dark hair and somewhat oriental features entered. He was dressed in a lieutenantís uniform. The lieutenant marched to a spot directly in front of Girovís desk, braced to attention, and saluted smartly. Girov studied him closely for a number of seconds before returning the salute. "Youíre late," Girov barked.

"Yes, sir. The snow, sir. Traffic from Reagan Airport is totally snarled."

"Hmmm, yes. At ease, Lieutenant." Girov did not offer a chair. Instead, he picked up Malekís folder and appeared to study it. He clucked to himself several times. "Impressive, Lieutenant. Very impressive. Your instructors at the Academy speak very highly of you."

Malek appeared completely composed and relaxed. "They were most kind, sir."

Girov suppressed a smile. "Kind" was not a word he often heard in connection with the Academy. Hard, ruthless -- even cruel -- but rarely kind. "Even so," he said, "it is quite rare to see someone just out of the Academy receive an important posting such as this. I have no doubt that your references, glowing as they are, understate your qualifications, and I can certainly use you. I have been short-handed since it became necessary to have your predecessor recalled." Girov paused to study Malekís reaction. There was none, beyond a polite interest.

Girov continued, "Now, your assignment. The Americans are fanatical publishers. They publish daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines, and periodicals of every description on every subject. Ninety percent of the information needed by Russia is published in the open literature. All we have to do is read. That will be your job."

Girov paused again as he saw a flicker of emotion cross Malekís face. "To read? Just to read?" Malek asked.

"Not Ďjustí to read, Malek," Girov responded jovially. "To search! To use the American weakness against them. Each day, a mountain of information will be delivered to you, and you must ferret out the critical elements."

"Which are?" asked Malek with barely disguised irritation.

"Multifaceted," Girov replied smoothly. He leaned well back in his executive swivel chair and propped one foot on a desk drawer. "I will put you into the picture as it relates to our situation here. For a number of years, American foreign policy was dominated by what the American press calls the ĎCold War Mentality.í That means direct confrontation and overt belligerence. We were relatively unsuccessful in expanding our agenda during those years. However, the Americans gradually began to be sucked into what was then called Indochina, first through logistical assistance and then Ďadvisorsí to train the anti-communist forces. John Kennedy substantially increased this support. After Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson replaced him. Johnson made a major blunder and got sucked further into Vietnam. He compounded the blunder by tying the hands of the military with the doctrine of escalation. The idea was to apply ever increasing pressure until the North quit. His actual words were, ĎWe intend to convince the Communists that we cannot be defeated by force of arms or by superior power.í Given the support to the North by both the USSR and China, the idea was foolish. The American war machine bogged down in the paddies of Vietnam, where friend and foe looked alike. Frustration in the field was compounded by growing lack of support at home. Johnson ultimately was driven from office in near disgrace.

"Nixon became president. He had a disillusioned populace, rioting students, a balky, opposition congress, and an extremely hostile press. To take the pressure off of Vietnam, Nixon invented détente. The Salt talks and trips to China all had one purpose: to buy time in Vietnam. We were not fooled. We knew Nixon from before he bleached his spots. There was never a more dedicated and devious cold warrior on the political scene, but we both knew where we stood. The steps taken were for both our benefits."

Girov paused and leaned forward to pour some water into a glass. He sipped it meditatively. Settling back even more comfortably into his chair, he laced his fingers across his chest and continued. "Nixon miscalculated. It took him longer than anticipated to disengage from Vietnam, and he left office sooner than he anticipated. What he had used as a temporary ploy became a settled policy. The U.S. was committed to arms reduction relative to the Soviet Union. The president who succeeded the Republicans was essentially pacifist. He accelerated the change in strategic balance by cancelling one strategic program after another.

President succeeded president. When the Democrats were in power, their military was cut and their social programs were increased. When the Republicans were in power, the military was increased, but the social programs were not cut, leading to big budget deficits. The president before the current one responded to terrorist attacks by getting into two wars. The wars were successful, but attempts to mold the peace bogged the Americans in a protracted asymmetric war, soaking up military modernization money.

"Their current president is basically a socialist. He wants to increase government control domestically, and increase social spending. That takes money, lots of it. In foreign affairs, he is basically an internationalist, meaning he wants to íreduce Americaís footprint,í giving him the excuse to cut the military drastically and turn most international matters over to the UN.

"Their budget deficit has been accelerating, and their national debt is nearing unsustainability. We have now reached the point where the U.S. is rapidly declining, and there is nothing their current administration can do about it, or even wants to do about it. All we have to do is wait for the collapse.

"Oh, I know that some of the sharper thinkers in the U.S. are waking up. Their Joint Chiefs are testifying that we are getting stronger while they are getting weaker, which is true, but people expect them to say that, and the administration is gradually replacing them with more accommodating people. The opinion makers still speak soothing words, words that the people still want to hear, and we I donít expect that to change soon. It is our job to see that the American opinion makers continue to soothe the people as long as possible. Above all, our leaders want the U.S. strategic missile defense system to go away."

Girov paused and gave Malek an earnest, searching look. "You can see, canít you, that we are dealing with a battle ground of the mind until our supremacy on the battle ground of reality is established. On a battle ground of the mind, ideas and control of the expression of those ideas are the weapons of warfare. Therein lies the importance of the work I have assigned you. You will be the spy who seeks out the weapons of the enemy in this war of ideas and shows us how to blunt them. You will identify trends of the enemyís thoughts and sound the alert if you see dangers arising. You will identify those who are most sympathetic to our cause so that we may cultivate and aid them. You will identify those who are most hostile to our cause so that we may undermine and vilify them. You will do this by reading everything the enemy says in public print. Is all of this clear to you?"

Malek had stood impassively throughout this lecture, betraying that it had any impact on him only through a slow rise in color. He responded with mild incredulity. "Is that all? Do I play no other role?"

"Oh, yes. You also play the role of dancing bear," Girov responded with a smirk. "You smile. You toast the Americans at embassy parties. You convince the Americans that we are harmless, if not lovable. Above all, you do nothing to jar the Americans into reality."

Malek looked shocked. "But my training! I should be recruiting agents, and--"

"And nothing!" Girov thundered, jerking upright. "It is absolutely forbidden. You are to make no move, no move at all, without my expressed clearance. Understood?"

Malek looked rebellious, and Girov slammed his fist down on the desk. "Understood?" Malek dropped his eyes and nodded assent. Girov stared at him speculatively for a moment and then dismissed him.

As Malek turned on his heel and marched stiffly from the room, Girov was already assessing the interview. There was nothing overtly inconsistent with the dossier he had received. However, there was one jarring note. Malek did not intimidate. Girov was accustomed to seeing people, even FSB officers, quail before him. Malek was not even nervous. It was most uncharacteristic, especially for a junior officer just out of the Academy. Girov decided that his first instincts were correct. The man is a plant. That being the case, it is necessary to have better intelligence on the enemy. He heaved himself out of his chair and crossed to a wall safe hidden behind a picture of the Russian president. He extracted a small book and returned to his desk. Girov began composing a message, transposing it into a code extracted from the small book. A slight smile played around his lips. If they wanted to play bureaucratic games, they would find Girov a past master.

 

 

CHAPTER 4

Hoyt Kellogg glared with impatience at the blank walls of his office and cursed the idiosyncrasies of the man whose whims he served. "Pictures are security risks," maintained the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and wouldnít allow them in the office, framed or not. Hence, the bare walls. The position of aide-de-camp to the present director of the Central Intelligence Agency was a mixed blessing.

On the blessing side, Kellogg could count on the tendency for female agency employees to turn up their toes at his slightest hint. There was that new computer specialist, for example. Kellogg had a tentative date to meet her for dinner. A choice little thing, she showed every evidence of willingness, even eagerness. Conversely, the worst of the job was being unable to plan oneís own time. Kellogg was totally at the beck and call of the D/CIA, as the director was commonly called, and he was notoriously erratic. This night was an example. The D/CIA was still in his office at six in the evening, with no hint that he might leave. Kellogg was stuck until the director left, and dared not ask when that might be. He grew pessimistic about the near-term prospects of dinner, or anything else.

The D/CIA ran a tight ship, not that he had ever actually run a ship in his 34 years with the navy. Strictly a Potomac sailor, a true "Perfumed Prince," he had amazed bystanders as he bulled his way to three-star rank without ever commanding so much as a gig. Ruthlessness and a keen sense of hierarchal politics were his vehicles. Vice Admiral Walter Grambling generally knew where the power lay and who was moving up. Realizing that more than one career has foundered because a patron fell or retired, Grambling tried to associate himself only with winners. He was also a genius at locating skeletons and rattling them at strategic moments. Admiral Grambling was a feared and hated man. But he was also a frustrated man. One of his patrons had been caught in a scandal. Without his sponsor, he had failed to get his fourth star and had to retire with only three. And there were other frustrations.

Prior to September 11, 2001, The Director of the CIA had been titled Director of Central Intelligence, or DCI, and had been nominally the head of the entire U.S. intelligence community, reporting directly to the president. The attack on 9/11, with the finger pointing and scrambling for position, had resulted in creation of a new position, Director of National Intelligence. The new DNI reported to the president, and the DCI became D/CIA, Director of the CIA, bureaucratically cut off from the president. Grambling had not been offered the position of DNI, only D/CIA. This alone was sufficient to frustrate Grambling. But there was more.

The National Security Agency was organizationally an element of the Department of Defense and protected by even stronger go-to-jail laws than the CIA. NSA had achieved an enviable degree of independence from the rest of the intelligence community by keeping their nose clean and on the job. Always favorites of Congress, NSA maintained an assiduous courtship spiced with intelligence coups, strategically marketed to Congress. The quality of CIA work contrasted poorly with NSA productivity, and the contrast was too great to ignore.

Further, the president at the time realized that his foreign policy, and to a marked degree his whole presidency, was hostage to the quality of intelligence provided to him. He decided that an agency with a modicum of independence from the DNI and the D/CIA was cheap insurance. While paying lip service to the idea of a single coordinator of intelligence, he made sure NSA was able to maintain this level of independence. The current president hadnít seen fit to change that.

Even worse, national policy makers had recently become very concerned about computer network security. Security professionals had been beating the drums about network security since the first computer was connected to a network. Now everything depended minute-by-minute on computer networks. Some very damaging network compromises had elevated concern almost to a panic level. NSA had long worn a second hat, specifically the agency officially chartered to promote computer security. With a panic in progress, it was not surprising that policy makers turned to NSA. The U.S. Cyber Command, CYBERCOM, was created in the Department of Defense under the U.S. Strategic Command, designated as a four-star operational command, and joined with NSA as a dual-hat organization. The Director of NSA was given his fourth star.

Whereas both the CIA and the NSA had strong restrictions against domestic operations, CYBERCOM did not. The DoD had concluded that computer network threats warranted creating a new "battlespace," that covered military networks wherever they existed, specifically including domestically. Thus, Grambling saw his rival not only retain an independent intelligence role, and was himself cut out from a direct relationship with the President, but also saw his rival acquire a domestic operational charter. Adding insult to injury, his rival was a "Commander," not merely a "Director."

Finally, Congress had inserted a clause into defense appropriation law that permitted CYBERCOM to engage in "covert action" in the new battlespace. Grambling considered this the ultimate injury, since the CIA had historically been the sole agency chartered to perform covert action. All of this was done so subtly that Grambling never quite understood how it happened. He only understood that his ambitions were frustrated. His soul rotted within him. He emulated the rich man who, denied a particular delicacy, turns his face from the feast available to him and starves to death. The CIA under Admiral Grambling was not a happy ship.

"Kellogg!" the voice coming over the intercom barked.

"Yes, sir," Kellogg responded.

"Iím expecting General Brooks shortly. Send him in when he arrives and then go home."

"Yes, sir. Iíll send him right in and then leave for the day."

* * *

Grambling scraped most of the papers on his desk into a pile, keeping a couple of highly classified budget documents in a separate pile. He stuffed the big stack into a small safe provided for his exclusive use. As he spun the dial on the safe, a red light on a console set into his desk began blinking. Grambling hurried to the console and activated a switch. "What is it?"

"Unidentified aircraft heading this way from north of D.C., sir."

"How long?"

"Ten minutes at present course and speed."

"What kind?"

"Canít tell. Fairly slow. Could be a small fixed-wing or a chopper, sir."

"Iíll be right down." With two strides, Grambling reached a panel set in the wall and pressed a button. The panel slid quietly to one side and revealed a small elevator. Stepping inside, Grambling pressed more buttons and within seconds was stepping out into his basement operations center. He moved to a group of men clustered around a glowing screen. "Report!"

"No change, sir. Target still proceeding on course for this facility."

The admiral fixed his look on the one who had spoken. "Hekimian, isnít it? You the Duty Officer?"

"Yes, sir."

"Update me," the admiral ordered. "What am I looking at here?"

"This monitor screen is a repeater tapped into the FAAís master regional air traffic control radar up at Leesburg. We see everything they see."

"FAA know?" the admiral asked.

"Of course not, sir," the DO responded in tones of reproach.

The DCI grunted with satisfaction. "Go on."

"As long as a flight is on the established flight paths, down the Potomac for instance, and is responding properly to Air Traffic Control, we donít worry about it. Any oddballs, we feed into the computer. The computer checks flight trajectory, altitude, and speed, and then makes an assessment of possible hostile intent. It reports anything suspicious. Thatís where we are now."

"What makes this one suspicious?"

"Two things. We spotted it way up in Maryland on a perfect course to take it over this facility. It hasnít deviated a hair from that course. Since there is a pretty good wind out of the West, the bogey has to be compensating for it."

"Could it be following a navigation beacon?"

"First thing the computer checks for, sir. Nothing in eastern Virginia or Maryland thatís within ten degrees of this course."

"Right. The second thing?"

"Altitude. The bogeyís flying too low. That airspace is reserved for military aircraft."

"Okay, what happens next?"

"In about two minutes, the bogey will be in range of our precision radar. As soon as that happens, we start interrogating for an Identification, Friend or Foe response. Thatís a crypto-based device that responds to interrogation with a coded response. If you donít have the code, it wonít work, and you get shot down."

"I know what it is. Get on with it," Grambling said sharply.

The DO paused for a long moment. "If it doesnít respond properly, then you will have a decision to make, sir. The precision radar is linked to the navigation controls of several antiaircraft missiles positioned on the roof. You will have to decide whether to launch."

"Suppose I werenít here? Then what would you do?"

The O.D. gave a bleak smile. "Then I would have a decision to make, wouldnít I, sir?"

The Admiral gave a bleak smile in return.

There was a stir at the console, and an operator turned. "Lock-on, sir. No IFF response."

Hekimian leaned over for a quick look at the display. "Whatís it doing?"

"Bogey losing altitude rapidly. Down to 500 feet and still dropping," responded the operator.

"Where is it now?" the DO asked.

"Just coming to the Potomac."

Hekimian looked at Grambling, who seemed to have turned to stone. "Decision time, sir. Itís almost here."

Grambling did not respond.

Hekimian thought Grambling had not heard and opened his mouth when Grambling spoke in a very low, intense tone. "Shoot the bastard down."

Hekimian seemed stunned, as though he couldnít accept that the time had actually come. He was about speak when Grambling said again, in a voice rising rapidly in volume, "Shoot! I said shoot! Shoot right now!"

Hekimian whirled to the console and snapped up the safety cover of the launch button. He hesitated a fraction of a second.

"Friendly! Itís a friendly, sir!" shouted the operator. Hekimian hovered over the button.

"Shoot!" cried the admiral.

"Positive response," cried the operator at the same moment. "Definitely friendly!" Hekimian paused for another fraction of a second and then gently lowered the safety cover down over the launch button.

A speaker crackled with static. "Military flight Oh-One-Oh with Long-Look as passenger. Request permission to come aboard."

Hekimian appeared startled. "Are you expecting Long-Look, sir? We had no notice that he was coming."

Gramblingís face worked in rage. He trembled with the effort of controlling himself. Finally, he spoke with a tight voice. "Yes. Yes, of course. Slipped my mind."

Hekimian gave Grambling a speculative look. The Commander of CYBERCOM/ Director of NSA had just had a very close brush with death. Hekimian wondered if it had been a near murder. He turned back to the console. "South Base here, Oh-One-Oh. You gave us quite a scare."

"Sorry about that," said a cheerful voice. "Transponder on the wrong setting."

"Fifty lashes with a wet noodle, Oh-One-Oh. Permission to come aboard granted."

"Rog. Out." Hekimian operated another switch and spoke into it. "Attention Helipad!. Flag officer coming aboard. Stand-to on Helipad deck, and escort to directorís office." He turned to Grambling. "All set, sir. I assumed you would be receiving him in your office."

The admiral had regained his calm. "Yes, thank you. Carry on." He turned on his heel and headed toward the elevator.

* * *

Grambling was behind his desk when Kellogg opened the door and announced, "General Brooks is here, sir." He rose from his chair and moved around the desk in greeting as Brooks entered. The two flag officers, one retired and the other active, faced each other with practiced hypocrisy. Grambling gazed at the man he considered his chief rival, U.S. Army General William Brooks. Brooks had been an Army special operations combat officer. As a special operations officer, he had an unpublicized number of medals with classified citations. It was generally understood that Brooks had several Purple Hearts, one or more Bronze Stars, and at least one Silver Star. He had served overtly as a combat commander in Afghanistan and both Iraq conflicts. He had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for classified acts of heroism. Wounded too severely to continue serving in special operations, Brooks had transitioned to intelligence and served brilliantly, which brought him to his current rank and assignment. Brooks wore only the ribbon for The Medal with his uniform, a habit Grambling considered an affectation. Grambling hated him with the passion of small men made smaller by the excellence of others.

Grambling led Brooks to a pair of leather upholstered easy chairs by a table at one side of the room. He was graciousness itself. The various tricks he had used trying to intimidate Brooks on previous visits had all rebounded. In the classical formal approach, with Grambling behind his massive executive desk and Brooks on the supplicant side, Brooks would simply stroll around behind Grambling to look out the window and compliment him on his view. This would force Grambling to swivel and look up at Brooks, which was something he hated to do under any circumstance. Grambling couldnít come to grips with Brooks. He cursed the lost opportunity to shoot Brooks down once and for all.

"Coffee, Bill?" Grambling asked.

"That would be nice. It was a little rough coming up. Weather moving in, you know."

"Is that right? I didnít know. What kind?"

"Snow. Weíve just missed having a white Christmas."

Kellogg poked his head back into the office. "Coffee for the director," Grambling said, deliberately not using Brooksí other title, and continued small talk until Kellogg returned with two cups and left them. "Well," he said, "down to business. Every thing set on your end?"

"I would say so, with one small proviso."

"Oh? Whatís that?" Grambling responded, immediately suspicious.

"Just a matter of a signature," Brooks said, pulling a paper from his briefcase. "Here, Iíll sign it first." He signed the paper with a flourish and handed the paper and pen over to Grambling.

Grambling read the paper and then looked up slowly. "I wonít sign this," he said flatly.

Brooks evidenced distress. "Oh, Iím truly sorry. I guess we wonít be able to do business after all. This is a take it or leave it situation, you see." He began looking around as if for his hat in preparation for departure.

Grambling squirmed. "I donít see the significance--"

"It isnít difficult. There could be some question of legality. I want to be sure that the D/CIA is on record as concurring in the necessary actions."

"Nonsense!" Grambling snorted. "Surely there canít be any question of my reneging on the deal?"

"Of course not," said Brooks smoothly, "but just think of all the movies where the hero went to the chair because the Governor died, and the hero couldnít prove he was a good guy. Humor me on this. It really is nonnegotiable."

Grambling read the document over again, very carefully. At last, with every show of reluctance, he signed it. "Now," he said, "letís talk details." An hour later, Brooks stepped into his chopper and signed to the pilot to take off.

 

 

 

Crypto Copyright © 2014. James Stone. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Dr. James Stone is a computer security engineer in private consulting practice, primarily for the U.S. Department of Defense. He has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and has held a professorship at a major university. He has several international certifications in computer security. He has belts in both Judo and Karate.

Dr. Stone and his wife have two sons, one of whom has a Ph.D. in engineering and the other a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. James quips that they have prepared their sons optimally for "Future Shock," a reference to Toffler's book of the same name. The older one causes the shock, and the younger one cleans up after him. James and his wife live in Arizona.

TTB title: Crypto

Author web site

 

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