Tom Clancy – Op Center 7 – Divide And Conquer

When he was growing up in Liverpool, Charles had often dreamed about wealth and how he might obtain it.

He thought about it when he swept the train station where his father sold tickets. He thought about it when he slept with his two brothers and grandfather in the living room of their one-bedroom flat, a flat that always smelled of perspiration and trash from the adjoining alley.

He thought about it when he helped his father coach the local men’s football team. The elder Charles knew how to communicate, how to strategize, how to win. He was a natural leader. But Maurice’s father, his family, his working-class people were held down by the upper class.

They were not permitted to go to the better schools, even if they could have afforded them. They weren’t allowed to work in the upper levels of banking, of communications, of politics. They had funny, common accents and brawny shoulders and weather-beaten faces and weren’t taken seriously.

Charles grew up feeling bad that the only outlet, the only joy his father had was football. Charles also idolized the Beatles because they had made it out–the same reason, ironically, his father and so many of his contemporaries hated “those young punks.” Charles realized that he could not escape poverty musically because he had no talent for that and it had already been done. He had to get out his way, make a mark that was uniquely his own. How could he have known that he would find his hidden skills by joining the Royal Marines, 29 Commando Regiment, Royal Artillery, and learning to work with explosives? By discovering the pleasure and genius involved in tearing things down?

It was a glorious feeling to put events like- this in motion. It was the creation of art: living, breathing, powerful, bleeding, changing, utterly unforgettable art. There was nothing else like it in the world, the aesthetics of destruction. And what was most rewarding was that the CIA had inadvertently helped him by sending that man to watch for him.

The agency would conclude that it couldn’t be the Harpooner who had attacked their man. No one had ever survived an encounter with the Harpooner.

Charles settled comfortably into his seat as the Cessna left the lights of the rig behind.

That was the beauty about being an artist, he told himself.

It gave him the right and privilege to surprise.

Camp Springs, Maryland Monday, 12:44 a.m.

Throughout the Cold War, the nondescript two-story building located near the Naval Reserve flight line at Andrews Air Force Base was a staging area for pilots and their crews. In the event of a nuclear attack, their job would have been to evacuate key officials from the government and military to a safe compound in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

But the ivory-colored building with its neat, green lawn was not just a monument to the Cold War. The seventy-eight full-time employees who worked there now were employed by the National Crisis Management Center, familiarly known as Op-Center, an independent agency that was designed to collect, process, and analyze data on potential crisis points domestically and abroad.

Once that was done, Op-Center then had to decide whether to defuse them preemptively through political, diplomatic, media, economic, legal, or psychological means or else–after gaining the approval of the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committee–to terminate them through military means. To this end, Op Center had at its disposal a twelve-person tactical strike team known as Striker. Led by Colonel Brett August, Striker was based at the nearby Quantico FBI Academy.

In addition to the offices upstairs, a secure basement had been built into the facility to house the more sensitive intelligence retrieval systems and personnel. It was here that Paul Hood and his top advisers worked.

Hood came directly from the White House affair. He was still dressed in his tuxedo, which earned him a “Good morning, Mr. Bond” greeting from the Naval officer at the gate. It made him smile. It was the only thing that had done that for days.

A strange uneasiness had settled over Hood after the president made his comments. He couldn’t imagine why the president had said the United States would offer intelligence assistance to the United Nations. If there was one thing many member nations feared, it was that the United States was already using the international organization as a means of spying on them.

The president’s short speech had pleased some people, most notably delegates who were targets for acts of terrorism.

But it struck some other attendees as odd. Vice president Cotten appeared surprised, as did Secretary of State Dean Can” and America’s United Nations Ambassador Meriwether. And Mala Chatteijee had been openly bothered by the comment. So much so that she’d actually turned to Hood and asked if she had understood the president correctly. He told her that he believed she had.

What he didn’t tell her was that Op-Center would almost certainly have been involved in or briefed about any such arrangement. Something might have been arranged during the time that he was away, but Hood doubted it.

When he visited his office the day before to catch up on business he had missed, he saw no reference to a multinational intelligence effort.

Hood didn’t bother talking to anyone after the dinner.

He left promptly and went to Op-Center, where he did additional digging into the matter. This was the first time he had seen the weekend night crew since his return.

They were glad to see him, especially weekend night director Nicholas Grille. Grille was a fifty-three-year-old former Navy SEAL intelligence expert who had moved over from the Pentagon around the same time Hood had first joined Op-Center. Grille congratulated him on the fine job he and General Rodgers had done in New York and asked how his daughter was.

Hood thanked him and told him that Harleigh would be all right.

Hood began by accessing the files of the DCI–the Director of Central Intelligence. This independent body was a clearinghouse of information for four other intelligence departments: the Central Intelligence Agency;

Op-Center; the Department of Defense, which included the four branches of the military, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency; and Department Intelligence, which consisted of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of State, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Treasury.

Once Hood was into the DCI database, he asked for recent agreements or initiatives pertaining to the United Nations. There were nearly five thousand listings. He eliminated those that did not involve intelligence gathering for the United Nations and its members. That reduced the list to twenty-seven. Hood browsed those quickly. The last was filed a week before, a preliminary report about the failure of the CIA field office to catch Annabelle Hampton’s terrorist-support activities in New York. Blame was placed on New York field office head David Battat and his supervisor in Washington, Deputy Assistant Director Wong. Wong was given a written warning, which was not entered into his record. Battat was given a sterner reprimand, which did not become part of his permanent dossier. But Battat would be hung out to dry for a while, doing what Bob Herbert had once described as “sewer rat-a-tat” jobs–dirty work in the line of fire. The kind of work that freshmen agents usually had to perform.

There was nothing about a United Nations operation involving any of the fourteen intelligence agencies.

Given the new detente the president was trying to establish with the United Nations, it wasn’t surprising that Lawrence would look for a way to help them. But presenting a desire or opportunity as a done deal was mystifying.

The president would have needed the cooperation of the head of at least one of these agencies just to undertake a study for such a proposition, and that wasn’t anywhere in the files. There wasn’t even any correspondence, electronic or otherwise, requesting such a study.

The only answer Hood could think of was a handshake deal between the president and the CIA, FBI, or one of the other groups. But then one of those persons would have been there at tonight’s dinner, and the only representative from the intelligence community was Hood.

Perhaps the president was trying to force the issue, the way John F.

Kennedy did when he announced, publicly, that he wanted Congress to give NASA the funds to put a man on the moon. But United States involvement in international intelligence-gathering was an extremely sensitive area.

A president would be reckless to attempt a wide-ranging operation like this without assurances from his own team that it was possible.

It could all be the result of a series of misunderstandings.

Maybe the president thought he had the support of the intelligence community. Confusion was certainly not uncommon in government. The question was what to do now that the idea had been presented to the world body.

The United States intelligence community was sure to be torn. Some experts would welcome the opportunity to plug directly into resources in nations like China, Colombia, and several former Soviet republics where they currently had very restricted access. Others–Hood included–would be afraid of joining forces with other nations and being fed false data, data that would then become part of U.S. intelligence gospel with potentially disastrous results. Herbert once told him about a situation in 1978, just before the overthrow of the shah of Iran, when anti extremist forces provided the CIA with a code used by supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini to communicate via telefax. The code was accurate–then.

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