Clear and Present Danger
- Tom Clancy Clear and Present Danger ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
- B: WHAT? [AGITATION]
- TOP SECRET-EYES ONLY DDI
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Clear and Present Danger
As always, there are many people to thank. To "The Great Geraldo" for his friendship; to Russ for his second installment of wise counsel and amazing breadth of knowledge; to Carl and Colin, who never knew what they were starting, but then, neither did I; to Bill for his wisdom; to Rich for his contemplation of what matters; to Tim, Ninja-Six, for more than a few tips on fieldcraft; to Ed, commander of warriors, and Patricia, who named the Cabbage Patch Hat, for their gracious hospitality; to Pete, former headmaster of the world's most exciting school (the passing grade is life); to Pat, who teaches the same course at yet another school; to Harry, mentee, for his most serious irreverence; to W.H., who does his best in a hopeless, thankless job; and of course to a dozen or so warrant officers who could teach astronauts a thing or two; and so many others - would that America served you as faithfully as you serve her.
Law, without force, is impotent. - PASCAL
It is the function of police to exercise force, or to threaten it, in execution of the state's purpose, internally and under normal conditions. It is the function of armed forces to exercise force, or the threat of it, externally in normal times and internally only in times that are abnormal...
[T]he degree of force which the state is prepared to apply in the execution of its purpose... is as much as the government of the day considers it necessary or expedient to use to avoid a breakdown in its function and a surrender of its responsibilities.
- GENERAL SIR JOHN HACKETT
THE ROOM WAS still empty. The Oval Office is in the southeast corner of the White House West Wing. Three doors lead into it, one from the office of the President's personal secretary, another from a small kitchen which leads in turn to the President's study, and a third into a corridor, directly opposite the entrance to the Roosevelt Room. The room itself is of only medium size for a senior executive, and visitors always remark afterward that it seemed smaller than they expected. The President's desk, set just in front of thick windows of bullet-resistant polycarbonate that distort the view of the White House lawn, is made from the wood of HMS Resolute , a British ship that sank in American waters during the 1850s. Americans salvaged and returned it to the United Kingdom, and a grateful Queen Victoria ordered a desk made from its oaken timbers by way of official thanks. Made in an age when men were shorter than today, the desk was increased somewhat in height during the Reagan presidency. The President's desk was laden with folders and position papers capped with a print-out of his appointment schedule, plus an intercom box, a conventional push-button multiline telephone, and another ordinary-looking but highly sophisticated secure instrument for sensitive conversations.
The President's chair was custom-made to fit its user, and its high back included sheets of DuPont Kevlar - lighter and tougher than steel - as additional protection against bullets that some madman might fire through the heavy windows. There were, of course, about a dozen Secret Service agents on duty in this part of the Presidential Mansion during business hours. To get here most people had to pass through a metal detector - in fact all did, since the obvious ones were a little too obvious - and everyone had to pass the quite serious scrutiny of the Secret Service detail, whose identity was plain from the flesh-toned ear pieces that coiled out from under their suit jackets, and whose politeness was secondary to their real mission of keeping the President alive. Beneath the jacket of each was a powerful hand gun, and each of these agents was trained to view everyone and everything as a potential threat to WRANGLER, which was the President's current code-name. It had no meaning beyond being easy to say and easily recognizable on a radio circuit.
Vice Admiral James Cutter, USN, was in an office on the opposite, northwest corner of the West Wing and had been since 6:15 that morning. The job of Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs requires a man to be an early riser. At a quarter to eight he finished off his second cup of morning coffee-it was good here-and tucked his briefing papers into a leather folder. He walked through the empty office of his vacationing deputy, turned right down the corridor past the similarly vacant office of the Vice President, who was in Seoul at the moment, and turned left past the office of the President's Chief of Staff. Cutter was one of the handful of real Washington insiders - the Vice President was not among them - who didn't need the permission of the Chief of Staff to walk into the Oval Office whenever he felt the need, though he'd generally call ahead first to give the secretaries a heads-up. The Chief of Staff didn't like anyone to have that privilege, but that made his unlimited access all the more pleasant for Cutter to exercise. Along the way four security personnel nodded good morning to the Admiral, who returned the gestures as he would greet any skilled menial. Cutter's official code-name was LUMBERJACK, and though he knew that the Secret Service agents called him something else among themselves, Cutter was past caring what little people thought of him. The secretaries' anteroom was already up and running, with three secretaries and a Secret Service agent sitting in their appointed places.
"Chief on time?" he asked.
"WRANGLER is on the way down, sir," Special Agent Connor said. He was forty, a section chief of the Presidential Detail, didn't give a goddamn who Cutter was, and could care less what Cutter thought of him. Presidents and aides came and went, some liked, some loathed, but the professionals of the Secret Service served and protected them all. His trained eyes swept over the leather folder and Cutter's suit. No guns there today. He was not being paranoid. A king of Saudi Arabia had been killed by a family member, and a former prime minister of Italy had been betrayed by a daughter to the terrorist kidnappers who'd ultimately murdered him. It wasn't just kooks he had to worry about. Anyone could be a threat to the President. Connor was fortunate, of course, that he only had to worry about physical security. There were other sorts; those were the concerns of others less professional than he.
Everyone stood when the President arrived, of course, followed by his personal bodyguard, a lithe, thirtyish woman whose dark tresses neatly concealed the fact that she was one of the best pistol shots in government service. "Daga" - her Service nickname - smiled good morning at Pete. It would be an easy day. The President wasn't going anywhere. His appointment list had been thoroughly checked - the Social Security numbers of all nonregulars are run through the FBI's crime computers - and the visitors themselves would, of course, be subjected to the most thorough searches that can be made without an actual pat-down. The President waved for Admiral Cutter to follow him in. The two agents went over the appointment list again. It was routine, and the senior agent didn't mind that a man's job had been taken by a woman. Daga had earned her job on the street. If she were a man, everyone agreed, she'd have two big brass ones, and if any would-be assassin mistook her for a secretarial type, that was his bad luck. Every few minutes, until Cutter left, one or the other of the agents would peer through the spy-hole in the white-painted door to make sure that nothing untoward was happening. The President had held office for over three years, and was used to the constant observation. It hardly occurred to the agents that a normal man might find it oppressive. It was their job to know everything there was to know about the President, from how often he visited the bathroom to those with whom he slept. They didn't call the agency the Secret Service for nothing. Their antecedents had concealed all manner of peccadillos. The President's wife was not entitled to know what he did every hour of the day - at least, some presidents had so decided - but his security detail was.
Behind the closed door, the President took his seat. From the side door a Filipino mess steward carried in a tray with coffee and croissants and came to attention before leaving. With this the morning's preliminary routine was complete, and Cutter began his morning intelligence briefing. This had been delivered from CIA to his Fort Myer, Virginia, home before dawn, which allowed the Admiral to paraphrase it. The brief didn't take long. It was late spring, and the world was a relatively quiet place. Those wars underway in Africa and elsewhere were not of great import to American interests, and the Middle East was as tranquil as it ever seemed to be. That left time for other issues.
"What about SHOWBOAT?" the President asked while buttering his croissant.
"It's underway, sir. Ritter's people are already at work," Cutter replied.
"I'm still worried about security on the operation."
"Mr. President, it's as tight as one could reasonably expect. There are risks - you can't avoid them all - but we're keeping the number of people involved to an absolute minimum, and those people have been carefully selected and recruited."
That earned the National Security Adviser a grunt. The President was trapped - and as with nearly every president, it had come about from his own words. Presidential promises and statements... the people had this annoying way of remembering them. And even if they didn't there were journalists and political rivals who never passed on a chance to make the necessary reminders. So many things had gone right in this presidency. But so many of those were secret - and, annoyingly to Cutter, those secrets had somehow been kept. Well, they had to be, of course. Except that in the political arena no secret was truly sacred, most especially in an election year. Cutter wasn't supposed to be concerned with that. He was a professional naval officer, and therefore supposed to be apolitical in his outlook on the ins and outs of national security, but whoever had formulated that particular guideline must have been a monk. Members of the senior executive service did not take vows of poverty and chastity, however - and obedience was also a sometime thing.